Virgil and I were at a carnival and volunteered for an act. We were placed inside a structure like a water tower. It was strange because we did nothing, and no one could see us.
Suddenly there was a light and a mechanical voice calling, “Clear!” When the excitement was over, Virgil had disappeared, and the panel to the outside wouldn’t open. I understood that something was about to happen in the tower that was dangerous or life threatening. I saw a woman at some controls and knew her to be a robot. I asked her what was going to happen.
“The chamber is about to be flooded with [unrecognizable chemical-sounding name beginning with a ‘t’],” she said.
I asked if it were harmful, and she answered, “It will burn your lungs and sting your eyes, but it will not kill you. Do not breathe it.”
“How long will it last?”
“But I cannot not breathe for several minutes.”
She shrugged subtly and left as she had entered — mysteriously.
I banged the door with my fists, but this only hurt my hands and made little noise, and there was no answer. I took off a walking show and slammed it against the door repeatedly. It made a little more noise, but no one came, and although I had a sickening sense that the robot woman had lied about the gas, I realized that all I could do was to see what happened.
I don’t remember the gas, except that I took her advice and breathed as little in as possible. It burned and stung a little, but not remarkably.
The robot woman returned finally and this time let me out. I had a flash of insight that I had been punished for being too slow to grasp the meaning of the “Clear!” warning and how to act upon it.
It also flashed on me that the robot woman hated me, so I asked her point blank. As she fiddled with the controls, she said, “I liked you well enough at first.”
I continued to look at her questioningly.
“The more you talked and the more you worried, the less I liked you,” she said both coldly and passionately. I tried to recall the conversation and what had turned her to hatred, but couldn’t remember meeting her. I senses that she hated my emotions and my honesty about them.
I got out and saw her talking to her robot brother. I couldn’t hear their words, but I could hear in my mind the one important thought that I needed to act on. “She seems to be all right; wait until next week’s newspaper comes out with the photo of her with Clark Kent.” But I was not Lois Lane, and I knew of no such sexually incriminating photo. I knew, however, that they could produce one if they wished, and that the public would accept a fake as real even knowing the ease with which it can be done. I didn’t know what to do.
I noticed that when I breathed hard (with the emotional excitement), a fog came out of my mouth and enveloped people and things in its path in what seemed to be a harmless cloud. I experimented to make sure that it was really my actions and not coincidence. I confirmed that I was the cause.
I had a creepy sensation that the robot siblings were watching my every move and would be able to hear my every word if I spoke. At the same time, I was certain that they did not know that I had “overheard” them and that I was producing the odd fogs and clouds. To test this, I followed the robot man discreetly and enveloped his head and sometimes his followers in a cloud. I sensed his conviction that this was his own doing.
Satisfied with my tests, I sought help about the newspaper threat from — Virgil? Clark Kent? (I didn’t know him.) Someone else? I don’t know; I thought I talked to someone, although I’m not sure how I evaded the knowing eyes and ears of the robot siblings (perhaps the clouds I produced hid us?). I do not know if the fabricated photo was published. Most important to me, I do not know why they hated me and my honest emotions so.