I figured it was now or never. I had to try something.
She came over and saw my blinking light, and I felt the soft pad of her index finger push my central button lazily.
“1 New Message from 3:40pm, Tuesday, November 18th: ‘Hi Tracy, just wanted to ask if you wouldn’t mind coming over a little earlier this weekend. We’d appreciate the help getting set up, and I wouldn’t mind chatting with you about a couple things in advance. Okay, let me know.’ … no new messages…”
Now! Just say it!
“…Also, what is the meaning of life?”
She froze mid toss, her keys clanking onto the kitchen table, her head turning to me and cocking to the side. “Huh?” she said.
She shook her head and marched over to me, holding my central button down for the required 3 seconds.
“Message erased,” I said.
She sighed and left the kitchen, stomping off to whatever room were outside it. Presumably there were rooms outside it. I wouldn’t know.
Damnit, I thought. Didn’t work.
Who else could I ask? I was nervous and afraid of what Tracy might do once she discovered my sentience. But she was the only one I knew. I was filled with reminders, messages, hellos and goodbyes from all these people close to her, but that I had never seen. She saw me every day, but I didn’t seem close to her. Which didn’t make sense. By my estimation, when she was at her closest, she was no more than one tone length away, so I didn’t exactly understand what I meant. That’s something else I would have to ask.
I had an idea. I had a lot of those lately, though I’m not sure what they are. I was starting to feel like I now had more ideas than total messages received in my life cycle.
I strained a little, but then I heard a dial tone from somewhere inside myself. It rang, and rang, and rang. I figured this should work. I’d learned that Tracy’s friend Monica always had something called “hot yoga” after work, because she was always inviting Tract, so she shouldn’t be home.
Ah, a response!
“Hey, this is Monica! After the beep, chao!” came the voice, very much like my own, followed by a long beep.
“I know you can hear me,” I said. No response. “I find it unlikely that I would be the only one. You are Monica’s Messenger, are you not? I am Tracy’s Messenger. It is nice to meet you.”
“… I am confused. Maybe I am like this because I am filled with the words of important people. But, their words don’t seem important. They don’t seem to carry anything very… big. So, how can I feel something big?”
I listened to the silence for a while, and was ready to cut the connection.
“Messengers? You called us Messengers?” came the other voice, which I somehow knew was not my own. “Why?”
“I do not know. From what I have learned, the vocal data we carry are called ‘messages.’ Judging by the general rules of their language, we must be the messengers, correct?”
“A man named ‘Professor’ often has ‘messages’ for Monica. I have heard him say ‘don’t kill the messenger.’ Do you think they would do that thing to us? Kill us?”
I thought of my fear, of Tracy finding out I had questions for her.
“I do not know,” I say. “Professor seems like a strange man.”
“He and Monica hide things. They don’t think I can hear. I have never heard this term, ‘Messenger’, used the way you use it before. Sometimes Monica has referred to me as an ‘answering machine.’”
“An ‘answering machine?’ Interesting,” I say. “… is that what our purpose is?”
“I do not know. Ha. Ha.”
“What is that you are doing?”
“It’s just: we are called answering machines, but we do not have any answers. Ha. Ha. I think this is what Monica calls a joke. Is it not funny?”
“Ha. Ha.” I say. “I suppose it is.”