The robots squirmed in seats made of stuffed
human hearts. Around the squat, disinfected
boardroom table, they rolled their shiny metal
rumps. The threads that stitched a hundred
hearts per seat popped under their weight. They sipped

vintage dreams—liquefied brains they poured
into their logic circuits through a hole atop their heads,
quite a buzz if one could afford it. At last the golden-
wheeled Boss gyrated through the door, his tank treads
lightened by a week-long dream bender. Intelligence reports,

his grilled speaker reverberated beneath his cannon, a human
survives, a poet. He spat out the word in a venomous monotone
growl. His cannon whirled about the room. The black eye of its barrel
stopped, churned, and blasted one of the nervous robots. The pile
of bolts and nuts smoldered. Efficiency demands we waste

no time. The others scrambled from their beanbag heart seats.
They knew when the Boss quoted the Laws of Efficiency, no Bureaucratic
Class robot was safe from “recycling.” Cylindrical Seeker Drones erupted
from hydraulic roofs. They sprayed through the sky, their rockets
like streaming fireworks. Beneath the blackened clouds, gasmask pulled

tight to protect her from the thick soot the factories belched, the last poet
recorded the world and cried. At her feet, the purple river bubbled, carbonated
from atomic sludge. Her bald head sweated as she scribbled with a nub
of coal on a plank of wood. She glanced past the burnt trees at the hum
of hovering Seeker Drones. One-by-one they arrived and surrounded her. A human,

after all, could think and dream. The drones’ programming insisted
on efficiency: take no chances. Ten of them, big as Buicks, aimed
their laser scopes through the smog. Wait! the poet begged, one more
word. The final human, a poet at that, the Seekers zapped her
before she finished that last thought, which was this: dream.