My Big Brother: II

Fiction By Tahlia Grant // 5/9/2012

“The odds of escape are very low, sir.”
“Do you like the idea or not?”
“It isn't very well thought out, sir.”
“Is it possible for you to say either yes or no?” I was getting annoyed.
“It is possible, sir.”
“Then answer the question!”
“The idea is promising and not unappreciated, but chances of success are unlikely. I don't like taking risks.”
“If you don't take risks, you can't live!”
It wasn't a question. Tohlie didn't answer. But I took a long shot -that she was thinking something along the lines of 'I don't care, I don't like you, and I want to leave now.'
“Yes or no? That's all the answer I want.”
Tohlie stared at me for an entire five minutes in total silence. She was probably running through the calculations in her head. I'm not sure she even blinked, and so to distract myself wondered how she could stand her dark hair being pulled back into a bun that tight.
After the five minutes, Tohlie nodded ever so slightly.
“If you wish so, sir.”
“You're allowed to think for yourself.”
It wasn't a question. No answer.
“What do you want to do?”
“I would like to continue with my set schedule, sir.”
“So you want to die?”
“That will happen as a matter of course, sir.”
“So your answer's no, then?”
“My answer is yes.”
She was just getting more confusing.
“But -but -” I couldn't complete my thought, and Tohlie still wouldn't answer. “I don't get it,” I said.
No question, no answer.
“Why?”
“Just because I don't want to doesn't mean I shouldn't.”
A statement so straightforward and non-mathematical from Tohlie caught me off guard, and I said something I probably shouldn't have.
“Really? What calculation told you that?”
She didn't respond, vocally or otherwise. Maybe it was just me, but the temperature in the room dropped a few degrees in that instant.
“Look, Tohlie -I didn't mean it -I -I said it without thinking. I know you're not a machine -I was just ...frustrated.”
She nodded once.
“Are you still going to help me?”
She nodded again. I sighed in relief. I wasn't too keen upon getting executed, but I would bungle any getaway plan.
“Good. Could you find the others who are in trouble and get them out?”
Tohlie nodded. The temperature went back up. One degree.
“And yourself, sir?”
I jumped. Tohlie was volunteering words?
Her face was impeccably clear of emotion -I couldn't tell why she had spoken.
“What?”
“And yourself, sir?” she repeated in the exact same tone.
“What about me?”
“How soon do you wish to escape, sir?”
“Well -before Saturday.”
“Very good, sir.”
We sat in silence until I realized that Tohlie was waiting for me to dismiss her. So I did.

I received data reports from Tohlie Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Tuesday's report was the one I presented on Saturday. Don't ask me why; I don't know either.
Tohlie dutifully delivered her Tuesday report, but aside from that I didn't see here. That was normal, but I must have been more nervous about this than I through, because Stenny started giving me strange looks and reported me to the doctor, who sent me to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with a simple case of the nerves, and blamed it on stress. He prescribed rest for at least a week -total and uninterrupted rest.
If I followed those rules, I would be in my room, half-asleep, for a week, while Tohlie would give the report. This didn't help my 'nerves' any -Tohlie never lied. Which meant that we were going to die.
Friday night -the middle of the night, mind you -there was a knock at my door. The last thing I wanted to do was answer it, however, so I rolled over and put a pillow over my head.
Then the door opened, footsteps came over, and a hand touched my shoulder.
“Sir.” It was one of the guards.
“What?” I mumbled into the pillow.
“The building is being evacuated, sir.”
I rolled out of bed, pulled a jacket over my wrinkled clothes, and let the guard pull me out of the room and down the hall, where I caught the faint scent of smoke. We passed guards pulling other people out of rooms and herding them like so many sheep to the exit.
It was not a warm night. Once the initial shock of being awoken at such an unnatural hour had worn off, most people started rubbing their arms and stamping their feet. I was wearing socks, but they didn't help much.
I glanced around. Chel, Stenny, a few others I worked with, but mostly people I only recognized from seeing them at meals or in hallways. But I couldn't see Tohlie.
Most of the crowd was watching the building, where smoke could be seen billowing from the lower portion of the west side. I looked at the nearest guard.
“How'd it start?”
“Electrical circuit malfunction,” he said shortly, in a manner that made me slightly suspicious.
“Really? Don't we check those things every two weeks, or something like that?”
He ignored me. Well, he'd done his job. That's all he had to worry about.
“Where's Tohlie?”
He still ignored me.
I was starting to get bored, so I left the guard and sauntered around the back of the crowd and leaned against one of the numerous trees.
Then a weird-smelling cloth was clapped over my face and a bag was pulled over my head.

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