But before he could finish the thought, a premonition came. He felt a sinking in his heart. The news would come while I'm out here, he thought. Out in this godforsaken patch where nothing is well and all luck is bad. It was time, wasn't it? Overtime.
"Andy," he said.
"Yes!" Andy said, smiling. "Andy, your friend! Back from a goodish wander and at your service. Would you like your horoscope, sai Tian? It is Full Earth. The moon is red, what is called the Huntress Moon in Mid-World that was. A friend will call! Business affairs prosper! You will have two ideas, one good and one bad -- "
"The bad one was coming out here to turn this field," Tian said. "Never mind my goddam horoscope, Andy. Why are you here?"
Andy's smile probably could not become troubled -- he was a robot, after all, the last one in Calla Bryn Sturgis or for miles and wheels around -- but to Tian it seemed to grow troubled, just the same. The robot looked like a young child's stick-figure of an adult, impossibly tall and impossibly thin. His legs and arms were silvery. His head was a stainless-steel barrel with electric eyes. His body, no more than a cylinder, was gold. Stamped in the middle -- what would have been a man's chest -- was this legend:
NORTH CENTRAL POSITRONICS, LTD.
in association with
Design: MESSENGER (Many Other Functions)
Serial # DNF-44821-V63
Why or how this silly thing had survived when all the rest of the robots were gone -- gone for generations -- Tian neither knew nor cared. You were apt to see him anywhere in the Calla (he would not venture beyond its borders) striding on his impossibly thin silver legs, looking everywhere, occasionally clicking to himself as he stored (or perhaps purged -- who knew?) information. He sang songs, passed on gossip and rumor from one end of town to the other -- a tireless walker was Andy the Messenger Robot -- and seemed to enjoy the giving of horoscopes above all things, although there was general agreement in the village that they meant little.
He had one other function, however, and that meant much.
"Why are ye here, ye bag of bolts and beams? Answer me! Is it the Wolves? Are they coming from Thunderclap?"
Tian stood there looking up into Andy's stupid smiling metal face, the sweat growing cold on his skin, praying with all his might that the foolish thing would say no, then offer to tell his horoscope again, or perhaps to sing "The Green Corn A-Dayo," all twenty or thirty verses.
But all Andy said, still smiling, was: "Yes, sai."
"Christ and the Man Jesus," Tian said (he'd gotten an idea from the Old Fella that those were two names for the same thing, but had never bothered pursuing the question). "How long?"
"One moon of days before they arrive," Andy replied, still smiling.
"From full to full?"
"Close enough, sai."
Thirty days, then, give or take one. Thirty days to the Wolves. And there was no sense hoping Andy was wrong. No one kenned how the robot could know they were coming out of Thunderclap so far in advance of their arrival, but he did know. And he was never wrong.
"Fuck you for your bad news!" Tian cried, and was furious at the waver he heard in his own voice. "What use are you?"
"I'm sorry that the news is bad," Andy said. His guts clicked audibly, his eyes flashed a brighter blue, and he took a step backward. "Would you not like me to tell your horoscope? This is the end of Full Earth, a time particularly propitious for finishing old business and meeting new people -- "
"And fuck your false prophecy, too!" Tian bent, picked up a clod of earth, and threw it at the robot. A pebble buried in the clod clanged off Andy's metal hide. Tia gasped, then began to cry. Andy backed off another step, his shadow trailing out long in Son of a Bitch field. But his hateful, stupid smile remained.
Copyright © 2003 by Stephen King.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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