‘m back for some flash fiction. Chuck at Terrible Minds used a random sentence generator that produced this: “The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.” Therefore, that became our challenge. We had to use the sentence as the opening sentence, and write whatever came after. Hope you enjoy.
The Android and the Wondering Chamber
“The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.”
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
Jim shook his head. “Who knows what half these fucking fortune cookies mean?” He tossed the fortune, if you could call it that, with the cryptic message onto the table.
“How can a chamber wonder?” Maggie asked. “Unless by chamber they mean a chamber in the heart. I supposed a heart can wonder, can’t it?”
“The noticed robot walks past a wondering heart?”
Maggie sipped her wine. “Well, wouldn’t your heart wonder if you noticed a robot walking by you?”
Jim scoffed. “My brain would wonder.” He finished his wine. “More?”
She shook her head. “Not yet.”
Silence overcame the living room. They sat watching the muted television for a minute.
“Thank God robots don’t exist yet. Human-looking robots, I mean,” Maggie said.
Jim glanced sideways at her. He hated lying to her. If she knew what this big project at work was really about, she’d probably ditch his ass at the curb. He told her they were working on revolutionizing robot machinery, like those used for welding. She believed everything she told him. She was too busy with her own job to question his sincerity.
“Remember that movie? That Will Smith movie? With the robots? I hope our world never becomes like that.”
It might, Jim thought, if I’m being paid five million dollars a year for my expertise.
That five million didn’t stop at production, either. It was a continuous investment in his knowledge. After all, software and hardware always needed to be refined. This was good news, because, at work, they were just weeks away from pulling androids off the factory floor for pre-sales testing.
“Robots aren’t so bad, are they?” Jim asked. “Non-cognitive ones, I mean. If you had a robot to do all the cleaning, the cooking, the menial chores, wouldn’t you prefer that? They’d have strength beyond that of humans—” He added a “probably” to the end of that thought so that it seemed hypothetical. “—And they could clean with a perfect ability humans just generally lack.”
“You sound like you’ve already got a prototype sitting in the closet,” Maggie said with a smirk.
More than a prototype, Jim thought. And it’s not in the closet, but in the back seat of my car.
A car that sat in the indoor parking lot just five floors below their apartment.
“Just a thought,” he said. “How did we get onto this conversation, anyway?”
Why does she have to get up so often?
That was the first thought Jim had when he woke up to the darkness and creaking across the bedroom floor. He was a light sleeper, should be sleeping with ear plugs with the frequency of her late-night trips to the washroom.
He turned over to face the doorway.
Maggie was lying beside him, passed out cold, breathing loudly, almost snoring.
The dark shape in the doorway could not be his wife.
Heart thundering, he sat up and stared into the darkness of the hallway, wondering if his eyes were playing tricks on him. When he could not determine what he was seeing, he flew from the bed and flicked on the bedside table lamp.
The DR04956-5, also known as “Bill”, was standing partway between hall and master bedroom, head down. He might be peering at the floor had he been activated, awake. It appeared, however, that his batteries had died as he was making his way towards their bed.
Jim glanced at Maggie. She was still sleeping. He turned off the light and decided to do this in the darkness. The last thing he needed was her to start screaming and waking up the neighbours. He technically wasn’t supposed to have Bill here with him, but locked up in a special room at work, one that kept his batteries continuously charged, ready for action, but also contained behind a series of locks, should anyone try to steal him.
Another company had tried to steal him, though, and rather than risk another break-in, they sent Bill to be moved to a different facility. Jim hadn’t made it that far. He figured no one would ever know he had Bill, so what better place than an underground parking lot in the middle of the city?
And now Bill had somehow made it all the way to his bedroom, through locks and all. Yes, Bill had the capability to open locks without keys, but only with the appropriate programming, which he did not yet have.
It was impossible for Bill to have activated himself, broken out of the car, out of the parking garage, into the building, and into Jim’s apartment. Unless someone had programmed these actions into him without authority. One thing was clear, though: he should never have taken Bill home with him. What if the robot had wandered into the city streets?
He stepped towards the android and flicked up the ‘on’ switch just below the nape of Bill’s neck. Lights flickered on in Bill’s eyes and he raised his head.
“Please return to my car, Bill, license plate number AYRT 756.”
He planned to accompany Bill, but Jim was not able to lift the robot as easily as that. The android had do carry-out the command on his own.
“Understood,” Bill replied. He backed out of the bedroom doorway and turned towards the front door. Jim shut the door to allow Maggie to sleep, and to conceal his actions.
Out in the hallway, Bill took quiet, long steps towards the elevator. Jim followed.
Inside the lift, Bill stood still, peering at nothing, simply awaiting the moment to carry out his next command.
“It was dark in your car.”
Jim’s heart jumped into his throat and he turned to the android. Someone must have tampered with Bill’s programming.
“I was frightened. I wanted to be with you.”
The elevator door opened to the underground parking lot. Bill stepped into the dim lighting of the garage while Jim, frozen in his place, stared after his creation.
His heart wondered.