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Thirty-Two Pieces of Metal
“Only thirty-two pieces, folks, and look what I created,” he said on his front porch with a flashlight above his head that acted as his spotlight. “Took me ten years to make this thing,” he said on that one evening in front of white wooden walls of his home. Men and women finally populated the sidewalks, which were free from cavities and fractures, although it was over fifty years old. On the porch slouched a stand endeavoring to balance on three legs, each one blemished with pale veins of unpainted wood and flailing splinters. Its only resident was a box. The man, with cheeks like boulders, was gesturing at a useless black metal box, and then pressed a button on the back of the cube.
“Good evening, everyone.” They all heard the mechanical voice that seemed to resonate from within the box—it sounded like thin slips of tin rattling in a fall breeze.
A gasp emerged from the small crowd before him, as the people stared at the suddenly speaking box.
“So this is what you’ve spent all that time on? I knew something different was cookin’ in that house of yours.”
“Always did wonder why he spent so much time in his house.”
“Isn’t it just magnificent, folks?” The man on the porch proudly inquired.
A woman shouted from the back of the crowd.
“What is it?”
“This is the grandest invention the human species will ever see! Forget telegrams, folks. This is a speaking box, first of its kind too. It’s supposed to be a voice assistant.”
Another man called out.
“It don’t even got hands or feet! How’s it supposed to assist us?”
“Through its voice, sir. You see, it’s quite complicated to expl-” the man on the porch replied.
“Look here, that’s ridiculous. We don’t need any assistance from a voice.”
“Sir, you’d be surprised by how helpful a mere voice can be! For example, if you need the weather, all you have to do is ask this thing here,” said the man.
“Well we can just look out the window if we want to know the weather,” another man replied.
“Well, what if the window is far away, sir?” The man said.
“Well, we can just get up and go to the window!”
The man on the porch puffed his cheeks like a wolf and blew out his air. His tongue ran over his lips.
“What else could it do?” A woman hollered.
“Glad you asked, miss,” the man on the porch said with a grin.
“This little black box here, can do simple mathematic and can solve complex equations,” he said.
He nudged at the box beside him and said:
“What’s twenty-five times four?”
More gasps escaped from the people’s mouths.
“It spoke,” a woman cried.
“I wouldn’t want that in the same room as me.”
The man on the porch laughed with his elbow leaning on the wooden railing and his other hand gripping the side of his hips. Even the flashlight above him brightened a bit.
“Now, now folks, this black box here is a true genius! Ask any question you’d like, and she’ll answer right away!”
The people murmured suspiciously and peeked at each other, like nosy children scheming to do something mischievous.
“I’ll go first,” a broad man boomed and stepped forward from the crowd.
“What will the weather be like tomorrow?”
The box replied with the same dull voice.
“It will be approximately seventy-six degrees, with a twelve percent chance of drizzle in the evening. But otherwise, the morning and afternoon will be sunny.”
The broad man’s round face expanded as his mouth opened like a fish gasping for water. The man on the porch just smiled.
“Next?” He called into the crowd before him.
“I’ll go,” a blonde woman announced with her haughty head thrown back.
She sauntered up to the box and lowered herself to its position.
“What day of the week will it be one thousand and fifty hours from now?”
The box, to the woman’s immense shock, instantaneously answered.
“It will be Thursday, at precisely 3:17 in the afternoon.”
Another sea of whispers foamed from the crowd.
“Terrifying, yet terrific!”
The man on the porch waved his hands through the air, commanding anxious and thrilled people to silence themselves.
“Now, now, one more person! Come on, one more brave person should ask a question,” he challenged, while his lanky legs stretched across the wooden porch with ease and swiftness.
“Come on, folks, one more question!”
Nobody said anything. It was as if the once enthusiastic mouths were being smothered by a thick blanket. But then a girl lifted the thick blanket and raised her hand as she said:
“I guess I’ll go.”
People wrung their necks so that their eyes could witness who had sacrificed herself to ask the black box the last question. The girl’s braids frolicked to the beat of her gait as she trudged up the stairs of the porch, to face the black box.
“Please explain how the universe works.”
The box didn’t answer immediately, as it did for the other questions. The minute slunk by. Both men and women tilted over each other’s back with elastic necks and stiff ears. Sweat tiptoed down the forehead of the man on the porch and the globe itself stopped on its rotation to listen to the box’s answer. The sun ceased to fizz with lava, and the comets took a break from their long flights. The black holes for once didn’t absorb everything that crossed their paths—the universe waited for the tiny black box to explain itself. But the universe got tired of waiting after a brief moment and was about to continue with its routine when the thin, tinny rustle sliced the minute.
“The universe is a vast place that scientists do not entirely understand. Understanding the universe and explaining how it works is nearly impossible and the origin force that created the universe is unknown. However, scientists do know various structures within the universe, such as our solar system, the Milky Way, the black holes, and the stars. The universe seems to have patterns within itself that all function together to form, conclusively, the universe we know today. Some people believe that the universe also works in a spiritual way, meaning that the universe destines faith and that it created what we know as life. For example, karma is often something people believe the universe monitors.”
The man on the porch stared.
The broad man stared, and so did the blonde woman.
Every single individual that heard the black box stared.
Then, a typhoon of shouts and praise poured down onto the box, as people began to point at it with awe and disbelief. They all swarmed under the man on the porch.
“Now, now, what did I tell you folks? A true genius!” The man on the porch trumpeted with defiance and cherry cheeks.
Loud voices overlapped each other like continuous waves.
“Did you hear that, Lucy?”
“A robot! Understanding how the universe works? My, it knows more than I do!”
“That box sure knows its stuff!”
“How on earth does it know about the universe?”
“It’s terrific, but scary. How does it know all this?”
“I don’t feel so good around that box.”
“A metal box, Steve! Something’s so unnerving about it.”
“Do you think it spied on people?”
“Impossible, Jack, it was just made today!”
“Then why does it know so much?”
“Nobody knows, Jack. But it sure is smart.”
“Smarter than us, Steve! What does this mean to the human species?”
“Don’t be so ridiculous May, a black box can’t do nothing to human beings.”
“She’s got a point though Steve. That thing’s so much smarter than all of us.”
“Understanding the universe and all…”
“So scary to have that black box speaking at us.”
“We’ve got to destroy it!”
“Now, now, it’s just a black box, May! Don’t be so dramatic.”
“May’s right! It’s real creepy, knowing all these things.”
The man on the porch heard everything and stomped his foot.
“You all need to stop being dramatic here! This black box will help us! Help us, I say.”
“Come on Teddy, you know better than that! Can’t trust this robot thing, or else it’s gonna attack us. And soon!”
“Jim’s right, Ted. Can’t take any risks in this small town!”
The man on the porch waved his hands to stop them from tromping onto the steps.
“Now wait a minute. These thirty-two pieces of metal can make all our lives easier! Ten years I spent working on this. You can’t just destroy my life’s work!”
The people paused, and a few women looked at the man with eyes that drooped. But then when the broad man charged onto the porch with surprising agility for his size, people followed him onto the porch to seize the black box. They tumbled down onto the ground with the black box and threw it onto the concrete. But the box only had a dent on it. Again and again, the people flung it towards the ground, but the impacts little affected the box. Steve punted it into the sky, Lucy punched it with vigor, Jim catapulted himself onto it with an aggravated roar. But the box remained unscathed. Jack dashed to his house and arrived with a hammer in his hands. Again and again, he battered the metal but the hammer just bounced off against the box like rubber. May stomped on the box before melting to the ground. One by one, men and women wheezed and puffed and slumped onto each other, as the alabaster moonlight caked the town with light. But the rustling of tin rattled in the air.
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”