Semi-autonomous Animatronic Unit #0024 strolled down Main Street. A colorful party hat was perched on its head between its plate-sized fake ears. Ahead of it SAU #0169 stopped its patrol route to interact with SAU #024.
“Heya Mickey, what’s with the dunce hat?”
“It’s not a dunce hat Goofy. Don’t you know what today is?”
SAU #0169 grabbed its chin in fake thought. “Hmm. It’s not president’s day. And it’s not the Fourth of July.” It stabbed a finger into the air in a triumphant gesture. “Oh, I know! It’s Christmas! Hyuk!”
“No it’s –” SAU #0024 began to speak but SAU #0169 cut it off.
“That was last week. It’s my birthday.”
“Why didn’t you say so?”
“I was trying to.”
“I’m sorry Mickey; I forgot all about your birthday. I have an errand to run so I’ll see you later. Hyuk.” SAU #0169 turned and jogged away.
SAU #0024 placed its hands on its hips and humphed. “I can’t believe he forgot my birthday,” it said with programmed sadness. It soon resumed its stroll to the plaza near the main entrance. After an hour of zero guest interaction, SAU #0024’s entered free-roam mode. It ambled up Main Street and turned toward Adventure Land.
As it roamed the park, it encountered zero guests and oddly zero SAUs. The park was empty, as it had been for the last 3,742 days. If SAU #0024 had memories it would remember the day everyone had left the park in the middle of the day. That day it had waved goodbye to guests for the last time. The evening fireworks had exploded with no one to watch them. After that, there had been no more guests. But SAU #0024 had no memories just programmed responses from the park’s mainframe.
The mainframe ran the park with little human oversight before guest attendance had dropped to zero. Now it continued its job as well as it could. Over time some park attractions had broken down and been closed. Many of the semi-autonomous animatronic units had also broken down leaving the park with an incomplete extended cast. However, one each of the main six unit types had managed to remain operational.
After looping through Adventure Land and not finding any guests or other units to interact with, it passed through Main Street to Tomorrow Land. Again it found nothing, as the mainframe had alerted the other units to hide or change their routes to avoid SAU #0024.
In Fantasy Land, it stopped at a Character Greeting spot. It placed its hands on its hips, looked up and down the path and said, “Well shucks, where is everyone?” SAU #0024 looked around again for a guest to continue its interaction but as always there were none around. It resumed walking through Fantasy Land.
SAU #0276 exited from the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and ran down the path away from SAU #0024. SAU #0024 called out, “Hey Puto! Where are you going?” It jogged after SAU #0276 past Friar’s Nook and Princess Fairytale Hall all the way to Cinderella’s Royal Table. “Hey you’re not supposed to go in there!” it scolded SAU #0276 and followed it inside.
“Surprise Hyuk!” yelled SAU #0169 as it stood up from behind a table that was not tall enough to conceal it. Around the room SAU #0038, SAU #0103, and SAU #0220 also stood up from their non-hiding places and yelled surprise in unison. On a table, in the center of them was a stack of empty cake pans.
SAU #0024 placed its hands over its chest where its heart would be if it was human. “Dasiy, Donald, Goofy, Pluto? What are you all doing here?”
SAU #0220 batted its long eyelashes and said, “Silly Mickey, did you really think we forgot your birthday?”
“Is this party for me?” it asked.
SAU #0038 waddled up to SAU #0024. Its white feathers were stained and yellowed, almost matching its beak. It spoke in a hoarse quacking tone, “Of course. We would never forget your birthday.”
SAU #0024 turned to SAU #0169, “You didn’t forget after all?”
“Sucks, Mickey if it weren’t for you none of us would be here. Hyuk.”
Underground, where the tunnels allowed access to any part of the park in minutes, where the suited units returned to recharge at night, where the mainframe sat, a decision was made. For the tenth year in a row, attendance to Mickey’s Birthday Party by guests was zero. With no fanfare or ominous music, Mickey’s Birthday Party was removed from the schedule of events.
Inside Cinderella’s Royal Table, the SAUs stopped their party interactions and quietly filed out of the restaurant. SAU #0024 was the last to leave, setting its party hat on a table before walking out. It turned and walked toward Main Street where it would wait to wave at the non-existent leaving guests. It waited a long time.
Author’s note: The setting of this story is borrowed from a story I read a long time ago. Recently I’ve been trying to find that story but have had no luck. A friend suggested I write my own version of the story. At first, I was reluctant to wholesale steal another’s idea but I came up with a different story using the setting of a post-apocalyptic Disney theme park where the suited characters like Mickey and Goofy are now robots that continue to act their part.
In an amazing coincidence, the day I looked up Mickey Mouse’s Birthday was the same day as his birthday, Nov. 18.