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Arden reactivated after an unknown amount of time had passed. When he checked his internal clock, it had turned out that he had shut down for 24 hours. Arden was a bit surprised to see this passage of time, confused that Mr. Phiasty had not come in to check on him. Arden got to his feet and paced around his room. He did not have a window, nor a closet, and there were few things in the room – an unstable metal-frame bed and a vanity dresser. There wasn't a lot to do, and Mr. Phiasty purposely planned it this way. According to the human, Arden’s existence revolved around satisfying humans and being the beast of the building. Arden found this misuse of his technology to be inconvenient, as he was only intended to be a companion bot with the specialty of being a roommate, but Arden accepted it like he was programmed to do.

The sound of the security devices on the door got Arden's attention, and he turned to face the door, a hand up to protect his eyes from the painful light, and his eyes closed. A lighter set of footsteps entered the room, sounding like a woman's. Arden lowered his hand and opened his eyes, making out a figure before him. A low-powered flashlight turned on and the beam lazily started along the floor and stopped at his bare feet. He wasn’t supposed to be having any visitors at the moment, so he held off on advancing on the visitor. Besides, he wasn’t feeling the greatest right now, and was too fatigued to act aggressive. The beam slowly traveled up his body and he abruptly asked, "What do you want?"

The light beam quickly veered off its steady path and was cast on the head of the bed, as if the controller of the light source was startled by Arden's quick response. A feminine voice the equivalent of warm honey responded with, "Mercy me! At least give me a warning first!"

"Are you one of my clients?" Arden questioned.

"Oh no dear, I'm just filling in for Mr. Phiasty while he's absent. Are you the monster that's supposed to be in here?" The voice had a Southern accent, alongside a secondary accent that Arden had only heard out of black Americans.

Arden thought the question was painfully obvious and therefore stupid. He sarcastically said, "No, I'm just a random guy that decided to squat in this place."

"No need to be such a dick about it. I can see why Mr. Phiasty locked you in here."

She suddenly directed the flashlight to his face, catching Arden off guard and causing him to swear and cover his eyes. The woman kept the beam trained on his face, and he turned around and quietly faced the wall. She shined the beam onto the wall, in Arden's line of sight, which would cause his eyes to burn a little longer had he looked at the light reflected on the wall. Some time had passed when the woman finally directed the beam back onto the bed and she said, "Keep in mind that I can still throw your ass out. Learn to treat people with respect." Arden was tempted to say something unkind, but he kept his mouth shut. Tempting words tempted fate. He did not move from his position, and he kept his eyes covered.

The woman said, backing up towards the door, "You can call me Miss Johnson. Mr. Phiasty informed me that you had a punishment going on and that you were not to have a bite to eat for another day. You are also forbidden to speak to anyone but me, Mrs. Weldon, or him. I have his permission to make you suffer as much as possible, and with that smartass attitude of yours I can think of just the punishment..." She opened the door behind her and stood in the open door. "I am temporarily letting you out of this room, but you cannot speak to any of the other workers. Of course, since your reputation is shit anyway, I doubt anyone will want to talk to you. If you misbehave you are going back into this dark room." She slammed the door, leaving Arden in darkness. The security devices did not re-enable.

The cyborg looked over his shoulder, eyes uncovered and opened now. Did he hear her right? It wasn't a smart move to let someone like him out, but it wasn't every day that he got an opportunity like this. He headed for the door, cracked it open slightly, and let his eyes get adjusted before cautiously stepping out of the room. Miss Johnson was waiting for him, an arm supported by another arm that supported her head in the form of a fist. Miss Johnson was a black American, with a full-figured body type and dark brown skin with a golden undertone. Her fashion sense could be described as laid-back professional. She wore her hair short but flat, her hair stopping at the base of her neck. It was hard to tell if it was wig or not. She wore a pair of beautiful golden earrings. She wore some makeup, as expected of her role as the substitute manager of this business. Her choice of clothing consisted of blue, white, gold, and black. She wore a form-fitting, high-waisted skirt seemingly made of a silk mixture. The skirt stopped at her knees. She had a white, short-sleeved shirt on. A gold bracelet that appeared to consist of many smaller and thinner chains was on her right wrist. She looked to be around Arden’s apparent age – mid-twenties, but possibly older.

She looked up at Arden and said, a bit surprised with his looks, "You actually aren't half bad looking! You aren't drop-dead sexy, but you aren't ugly either." She started down the hall, turning a corner to the door that led outside, her arms crossed, saying, "Follow me. You need to get a shower."

***

Arden stayed close to Mrs. Johnson as she escorted him downstairs to the unisex restroom. He got some stares, mostly because of his outfit, he was certain. After all, who in the world wore all-white outfits in such a revealing style? He didn't even have shoes on. However, while some people gave him the suspicious side-eye, others were not shy about checking him out. He didn't mind either kind of attention – he just wanted to get clean.

The unisex restroom was tiny, as expected out of a petite building. It was just a room, no stalls or anything. A new shower had been installed, and a grate was directly below a shining silver showerhead. There was a shelf below the showerhead that contained shampoo. One was clearly marketed towards men, while the other was marketed towards women. To Arden, shampoo was shampoo, so it didn't really matter to him. He would just choose whatever smelled better.

Both bottles looked new, so he figured that he would do a quick scent test to see which he personally preferred. He opened the men's shampoo first and took a quick whiff of it. He drew back in disgust, finding the scent too overpowering. He closed it up and set it on the shelf, then sniffed the women's shampoo. Preferring the more subtle scent, he nodded in approval then made sure the restroom door was locked.

***

Miss Johnson was standing outside, arms crossed and still looking unhappy with Arden. However, her serious resolve faltered slightly once Arden moved closer to her, damp from having just showered. A bewildered expression crossed her features as she caught the subdued floral scent, and she edged a bit closer to Arden. She jumped up to grab at Arden's hair, and she tugged him down to her level. She took a quick whiff of his hair before she let him go and burst into laughter. The serious front just seemed to evaporate. She laughed so hard that she had to lean her back against the wall. She seemed to barely be keeping herself upright. Confused and a bit unnecessarily irritated with the situation, Arden asked, “The hell is so funny?”

Miss Johnson had to catch her breath and wipe away some joyful tears. She remarked, “Boy, you used women's shampoo?”

“Yeah, it didn't smell like shit.” Arden didn't see what the big deal was.

Miss Johnson was trying to recompose herself, and she was eventually able to shakily clear her throat and put on a serious expression. She shifted her weight to one leg, and she said, “We're heading upstairs.”

 


Submitted: December 25, 2018

© Copyright 2022 A. Rhetters. All rights reserved.

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