When the three moons sit one on top of the other in the sky, we decorate the trees in our greenhouses. Shiny ornaments, peppermint sticks with hooked ends, and streamers of four leaf clovers for good luck. Through the transparent plasteel dome, brightly colored lights reflect on the sheets of ice covering our planet and make it a decoration itself.
At this time of the year, I forget I’m the last of my family, and loneliness flees my heart. The horrible names teenagers call me or the events people exclude me from don’t matter. It’s the Holiday. I can’t help but smile and sing merry songs as I paint eggs to hide.
The other day, two daring youngsters jumped out from behind a bin to scare me on my way to a scheduled maintenance check. Why do people pick out nightmare faces for their costumes? My lack of reaction last year didn’t deter them from doing it again. I blinked and waited for them to move on. Same as I did a year ago.
They laughed and made a joke about my red eyes before pushing past me and running to school.
He knows when they’re sleeping or awake and whether they’ve been bad or good. Isn’t that the way the song about the jolly, old saint goes? I don’t worry. It’s easy to follow the directives. I’ll even send the boys cards with hearts on them to show I forgive their antics.
I don’t see them as I walk downtown clad in my costume. Other families hold hands as they make their way to the city’s center. Alone, I look up at the ice and smile.
Sometimes the ice above us shifts and ruptures. A great crack and rumble will shake us, but everything our ancestors built was made to withstand the moodiness of winter. We’d have been frozen like the rest of the colonies if they hadn’t.
Now at the Holiday Festival, the city’s bells drown out the distant thunder of two ice sheets colliding. Steam puffs from the sidewalk grates and chases away the harsh chill. Over our heads, a thin mist ripples, but the moisture gathering system does its job and keeps a constant rain from drenching us.
No one looks at me. I’m happy to blend in and watch the fun.
People decorate cookies, bob for apples, and roll eggs in races. Their laughter and joy fills the air more thickly than the scent of the baking turkeys.
In the middle of the Festival, the fat man sits on his throne. The mayor dresses up every year, but this time, he’s plump enough without extra padding. His costume fits perfectly. The red coat, fluffy beard, and rabbit ears.
Would he mind if I sat on his lap and asked for a wish? Funny how I’ve never contemplated that before. Just the thought makes my grin stretch wider.
I find the end of the line and clasp my hands together as I stand to wait.
The small child in his mother’s arms ahead of me stares. He wipes his nose on his mother’s shoulder, points, and giggles. “Holiday eyes!”
His glee is beautiful.
The mother turns and frowns. She adjusts her son’s position to face away from me. “Don’t stare. Don’t even peek at him.”
As the line inches forward, the boy does sneak a few peeks. I wink, pleased my eyes remind him of the Holiday.
Twenty-one minutes later, I’m thirteen people closer to the mayor as the ground quakes. Shouts of alarm have everyone looking down for the source, but I tip my head back and look up.
No. Our city is strong.
Snow floating down from the mist. No, flakes of frozen plasteel.
A second monstrous crack and rumble. One of the support columns tilts. I can barely see the cause. A small crack in the dome above has allowed it to break free.
Others have noticed it now. A few bark orders while others run and scream. With the lights shining on the shiny flecks, I wonder if that’s what people once thought magic to be.
With a great screech, the beam jerks and falls slowly downward into the square.
“You!” The fat man hollers and points a finger at me. “Hold it! Don’t let it break through the ground.”
He needs help. My help.
I rush forward and stand underneath the pillar. When it’s near enough, I wrap my arms around the top as it presses against my chest and dig my feet in. It halts, but my body strains.
Around me, most people flee, but a few brave souls confer with the mayor and launch into action. I struggle to hold the shaft, and as the others collect steel panels from nearby buildings, the fat man tells me I’m doing a good job. I smile as my feet slide backward a few inches.
The panels are positioned around and under me, or as under as they can put it without me lifting a foot. It will help keep the beam from penetrating the precious earth and breaking through the to the underground level if I cannot hold it. But I will. I have to.
More people come to discuss what to do. The dome must be supported. A balk shall be built around me.They don’t hesitate to deem that the best decision.
And they build it, working fast for humans. My arms are numb, but I don’t protest nor do I let go. It’s not like I need to eat or sleep, and my battery is powerful enough to last hundreds of years.
I will make sure everyone has a happy Holiday. Androids like me were made to serve, after all.
Wrapped in a steel cocoon, the weight pushes me back against one side. It holds. The city will be safe. I can’t stop smiling as I’m locked in my metal tomb.
I literally can’t. It’s against my directives to stop smiling during the Holiday.