Joe the Beeper

Does it work? Asked the little girl to her sister.

I supposed, she looked anxiously to the oval-shaped beeper.

There’s no more light though, sissy! She grabbed her hand a little tighter, showing that the battle of the room’s anxiousness is actually won by her; the little sister.

Without light, some things can still work.

Are you sure?

Yes, beside, we can always repair it later… I know it will cost a lot, but we’ll find a way.

There they are, kneeling down in front of the beeper, a machine that has been their friend for some times now. A beeper is indeed a human-like machine. Sure its only shaped like a glowing plate with colorful decoration, but what makes everybody loves it is the thoughtfulness and how it can surprise everyone with weird words and sudden jokes.

An artificial intelligence for family, a friend that can never be replaced.

What do you say if we buy a new one? repairing a beeper is more expensive these days.

NO! If someone’s sick, you don’t replace him! you try to make him better, right?

I see, but, the beeper is not….

Joe is Joe! He is a beeper, and we are going to repair him!

Joe?… Sissy… He’s not…

Can you please just try to repair her?

She was quite shocked by her sister’s reaction. But she understood how her sister must felt. So she tried to fulfill her wish. Yes of course. But I will do it tomorrow, will that be OK sissy? I need some sleep and I cannot think clearly now.

She tried to hold her tears from coming down, but she managed to say a sad OK. Her sister then kissed her in the forehead, saying that she must try to sleep too, everything will be better by tomorrow. Then she went to the bed on the corner of the apartment, trying to get some sleep.

It was not actually OK for the little sister. After pretending to sleep for a few minutes, she made sure her big sister sound asleep and dig for beeper manual book inside the cupboard under the TV. It took her more than half an hour to find it, and another half an hour to understand the whole instruction. After that, she does all the reboot process and tries to recover Joe’s voice.

She followed the instruction page by page. She tried not to miss any steps, and every detail that might caused complication to Joe. Until finally she arrived on the last page, before she pushed the reset button, she read a warning. A warning that made her understand and very very disappointed.

Joe the beeper might be repaired, but Joe the beeper would never be the same. Its memory core was broken, and the last remaining piece couldn’t hold on.

She cannot hold her tears down anymore. In front of the dimly lit machine, she cried. She dropped the manual book, but she cried while still standing. She couldn’t understand why he kept leaving him. She thought since this one is a beeper, it won’t leave. Her sister said that humans are fragile, that is why some things must end without her consent. She also said that the only way to stop feeling the pain is to accept that he is gone. It did not make her feel better. Joe the beeper did. Yet even the machine showed her that everything in her world capable of an end.

I am sorry Joe. I am sorry that I disappointed you. I am sorry that I made you like this. Cried the girl. When she was playing with her baseball bat, she accidentally threw it towards joe. Since then, Joe never greeted her or beeped happily everytime he was plugged to power source. Joe grew silence, despite that it still works as daily reminder and oxygen emitter.

And for that she is sorry. Among other things she shouldn’t have done to Joe. She musn’t kicked him around when Joe swirled around the room after receiving new set of wheels. She must have never said shut up stupid Joe! Every time Joe welcomed her home. Its not Joe’s fault that her friends at school bullied her. She mustn’t slap Joe as hard when it beeped the morning alarm. He just tried to stop her from being late to school. But she cannot apologized to Joe now. Joe can’t listen now. Joe’s about to forget her forever.

And suddenly, without light or even power to keep him on, Joe whispered. He did in an entirely new set of voice, one that sounds exactly like human voice.
But I forgive, I really I do. Nothing’s forgotten, all the best we ever had. Its just… human worries, that’s all. And in time without light, I cannot stop myself from being human.

The little sister froze. She knew it, she knew that her beeper is not just a program. Joe is just pretending to be one all this time. Despite hidden behind robotic tone, she could feel the compassion every time Joe said “good morning”, “welcome home!” or “be safe at school today!”. Joe did not emit oxygen because he was programmed, but because healthy air means healthy life for both her sister and her.

So when Joe’s last words are said, when it is finally turned off entirely, the little sister cried harder. She kept saying Goodbye Joe! Goodbye! Goodbye Joe! I will miss you. The loud voice and cry made her sister woke up.

When the big sister found the little one crying in front of her beeper, she hugged her and try to calm her down. I know, sissy… I know you missed him. We all do… But we cannot keep him alive like this. He’s in much better place now. He’s in peace.

Look, she lift the beeper to show the cables under the plate, he’s just a machine. The one we truly missed is no longer here. I know its hard, but we have to let him go, sooner or later.

The little one kept crying, but now she’s no longer standing alone. Her sister is there in her knees, hugging her so hard so she wouldn’t feel alone. Everything is going to be allright, said the big sister again and again. She said that in such cheerful voice, so the little one won’t know that she was actually crying harder than her.

Among the cables, under the plate of now broken beeper. The label is still there. The one their friends put to keep both sisters through the days.

In memory of Jonathan. A cheerful brother, a loving husband. May he always be in our hearts.

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