Dinner at the Waldens

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a short story by Jerry Zinn

The Waldens sat at the dinner table in silence, each plugged into devices, seemingly unaware of their surroundings. The extent to which meals in the home had evolved by 2122 was utterly lost on them. No one remembered what life was like a hundred years before.

Only a few moments passed before the barrier of silence was broken, not by any of the Waldens but by the kitchen itself, which had begun preparing the evening’s feast. Mechanical arms weaved through the space swiftly and with the synchronized and flowing movements of an orchestra. In earlier generations, people would have paid simply to witness the technological wizardry that was taking place in front of the Waldens, but advancements had become so commonplace that devices like those were often tossed on the side of the street like newspapers once were, the litter of an inundated society.

At the table there was no conversation. There were no questions regarding how each of the Waldens’ days had been. No comments were made on the state of the country or the world at large. Talk of upcoming films and works of scintillating fiction was left behind decades before, trapped in the lost memories of cinemas and libraries. The dish the robotic chefs were preparing was the same they prepared each night for the Waldens. The menu was set when the machines were installed, and they were designed to stay with the routine unless reprogrammed. The Waldens never considered reprogramming the kitchen, just as they never considered reprogramming anything else in the house.

A message streamed across the notification wall in the kitchen, as it had for a week, with the time updated: THIS HOME WILL BE OBSOLETE IN 1 HOUR. There were no further details. No follow up was necessary. The Waldens were aware of what would happen when their home officially became a technological relic. In 2100 it was decided that residents in out-of-date homes would be evicted, the parts repurposed, and the remaining structure leveled to make room for the next generation. Not even the impending removal and destruction surfaced as a talking point at the dinner table that evening.

The Waldens were served their dinner by the kitchen bots, an unceremonious Last Supper. Their last time at the dinner table together would be no different than their first. They consumed all that was set before them, the portions having been measured out perfectly for their individual needs. A glance or two was passed from one to another around the table like a breadbasket, but still nothing was said.

When the hour had passed, the power was cut to the Waldens’ house for a few seconds, and then a strong, red strobe light began flashing through the house. Over the speakers hidden within the building came a loud and clear message, “This home is now obsolete! Prepare for reassignment! This home is now obsolete! Prepare for reassignment!” The words repeated as the front door was thrust open and a squad of robots, painted all black from head to toe with a large recycling symbol illuminated in green on their chest plates, entered the kitchen. In a blitz, they dismantled and reclaimed all of the technology in the kitchen and moved on to the other rooms in succession. The Waldens sat at the table, silent and unflinching. When the robots finished stripping the house they turned to the table and approached each dinner chair one by one, unplugging and removing the now obsolete machines from Waldens Robotics.

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4 thoughts on “Dinner at the Waldens

  1. Jim Elder

    Charming amusing and I’m afraid prophetic Loved it. I wonder if the Waldens are happy

    Greetings from Rome where the sun is just sad and I’m on the roof with a glass of wine looking at the dome of Saint Peters

    Hope to see you my next time in North Carolina

    Xoxoxo. Jim

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Tyler Zimmerman

    Nice piece! Makes you wonder with the development of AI, will be possible to distinguish between humans and robots in the future. Hope I don’t turn into a Walden!

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