I wrote this for a competition which gave a choice of opening lines (the same competition as for this, and the same opening line – I obviously didn’t like the other options). It was for Halloween, but doesn’t really have any connection to pumpkins etc., which is possibly why it didn’t win.
“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”
Yeah, thanks Dad for yet another piece of disturbing and ultimately useless advice. If only he’d taken less acid when he was younger. If only he was still here.
“I said, goodbye dear, and have a good day.” His wife had a bemused frown on her face.
“Sorry, love, you too. Knock ‘em dead!”
“Of course, and don’t forget, we’re having the Renquists to dinner tonight.”
Damn, he had forgotten.
“All planned, don’t you worry, I know exactly what I’m cooking.”
She smiled, perhaps a little uncertainly, and then after glancing at her watch rushed out with a passing air kiss.
This was his first day of being an official house husband. His gardening leave was over, not that the garden had seen any of it, and his wife was back at work. He’d looked for another job, but there just wasn’t anything for someone of his age, and qualifications, or lack thereof. The world had changed, tablets, virtual spaces and social presence rooms were all the rage, and he didn’t have a clue what they meant any more.
He shook himself, and decided to take the day by the horns. First step, shopping. Laura had shown him what to do. She’d learnt all the new ways, and when it came to finding a job she’d been beating them off with a stick. Not that he minded really. He was all for feminism really. Anyway, shopping. It was easy, he just needed to get the tablet thingy, click on the Isquibo icon and click go. Then apparently it would all arrive.
There was no Isquibo icon. Or anything else that made any sense. He tapped a few things randomly before giving up. This was just like work, why was nothing named properly anymore? He’d go out to the local supermarket later, they were still around he thought.
The cleanerbot wandered into the room. Made a sort of hello beep and then started vacuuming, or mopping or whatever. He wondered where its brain was. He wondered where his had gone. Trusting the machines was easy for everyone else, they’d not woken up to the new world with a hangover and a fear of rounded icons. Or any icons.
Right, he should load the dishwasher. Except, the dishes were gone. The cleanerbot had already taken them. He couldn’t help himself, the anger began to build. How he hated it. This horrid square box which was making him feel ever more useless. He walked into the living room.
It was spotless. There was really nothing for him to do. He wondered what his dad would say. He decided to go for a walk. As he left the house he could vaguely recall Laura mentioning something about an alarm, but he figured he wouldn’t be gone long.
The trees were lovely in the autumn, and he spent a restful half hour sitting on a bench watching the world go by in the park.
When he got home all was much as he had left it. He checked in to see that the kitchen was now clean. Suddenly there was a loud beep behind him, it was the cleanerbot.
“Go away, stupid thing!”
It followed him into the lounge, and beeped at him again. He had no idea what it wanted. Laura had told him how to check, but it had all seemed so easy, and yet now the concepts had slipped from his mind, like all these technical things did.
There was another, more angry sounding, beep, and the cleanerbot advanced on him again. This was getting a bit worrying. Hadn’t she said there was some kind of pass phrase?
It continued to advance, and he backed away, tripping over the table and falling over. In the process he managed to knock over a vase which smashed. Maybe the cleanerbot would sort that out and stop bothering him.
The bot stopped still. Its front bot opened up and an arm extended, and he relaxed. This was obviously the vacuum. He started to get up when something jabbed into his side and all his muscles spasmed. He fell to the ground, and darkness took him.
His wife arrived back that evening, tired, but excited by her day.
She looked around. The house was absolutely spotless, not a mark or stain to show that anyone was there.