In support of my new robot fiction piece, “Humanesque,” available on Amazon for the bank-breaking price of .99 cents, I figure I’ll treat my readers to a section of a section of one of my other robot short stories called “The Cat’s Apprentice.” This one is more comedic than Humanesque, but it should satiate your robot needs until you can string together those 99 cents. Let me know what you think, and maybe I’ll put in the time to properly complete this piece…
Robot Fiction: “The Cat’s Apprentice”
The first day was the worst. The robot, which Abe had promptly named “Annoyance,” for reasons you’ll understand before you’re done reading this sentence, followed him around the house wherever he went and wouldn’t cut it out. Where Smokey the Cat only ever followed Abe around on those days when he was too hungry to properly sleep, Annoyance behaved exactly as if it were Abe’s shadow. They were connected as if by string or elastic band. If Abe increased his velocity while moving down the hallway to get to the bathroom, he’d hear a corresponding intensification in Annoyance’s tinny footfalls. If Abe stopped abruptly, so did Annoyance. The whole thing reminded Abe of those Bogart pictures where the Bogart thinks he’s being followed, but every time he stops and tries to listen there’s no sounds. Then he walks again and there’s more sounds.
It didn’t even end with the walking and the stopping. When Abe engaged in the various tentpole events of his typical daily routine, like running his fingers over the house’s bumpy old wallpaper and smelling them; like laying down on the hard wood floor for forty minutes to straighten out his back even though it was already straight; like crawling up the staircase like some kind of a spiderbeast simply to experience life as a spiderbeast; Annoyance could always be found within arm’s reach making him feel self conscious about what he was doing. He simply couldn’t get into a good groove, basically.
But things sort of came to a head when he finally sat down at his computer station to start ghostwriting the day’s first article, which, today, was titled “Physical Changes I Noticed While Lactating.” What happened was Annoyance would just stood there on the floor quietly looking up at him, those calm red eyes pivoting back and forth between Abe’s face and his fluttering fingers on the keyboard.
Two hours later, when Abe realized he still hadn’t gotten past the first paragraph, he spun around in his chair and in a petulant voice said, “This isn’t going to work, Annoyance. I can’t properly get into ‘woman’ mode with you standing there staring at me. It won’t sell. Nobody’s going to believe I’ve experienced these body changes.”
The robot responded in a chirpy, giggly voice reminiscent of a small Japanese child who was about to slice your Achilles Heel with a surgical scalpel. “In order to understand your needs, I must observe your behaviors at an optimal time horizon.”
“First of all, do you seriously need to talk like that? Can’t I download another voice? You sound like one of those fast-motion Japanese kids who crawls on walls.”
“Thank you for your input. Over the course of a few days, my voice will evolve naturally in response to stimuli quite like this. By the time the process is complete, my mode of communication will be aligned more closely with your individual needs.”
Abe hadn’t even been paying attention. He respected Annoyance so little, it was like the robot wasn’t even saying anything at all. “Second of all, I want you out of here!”
“To break visual contact at this stage would forfeit the acclimation process,” Annoyance said, “Prompting immediate retrieval of this unit by customer service. Do you wish me to proceed?”
Abe snorted and mashed his lips together, seriously considering aborting the whole thing right then and there. But after allowing himself a few seconds to think it through, he decided that deactivating Annoyance and returning him to the robot place would constitute a far greater distraction than merely dealing with a pesky houseguest. He rolled his eyes and said, “No, Annoyance. Don’t proceed. You can watch me, fine, but I don’t want to see you doing it. I need to feel like I’m alone in order to be comfortable. If you can do that for me, maybe we can get through this trial period without me eventually kicking you down the stairs. Get me?”
“Understood sir.” Annoyance retreated to the doorway and, after disappearing for a moment behind the doorframe, it peeped its rectangular head back into the room like a child watching his parents watch a movie where the characters were talking to their child about sex.
Abe scowled at what he could see of the robot for a few more seconds, but then decided that the new arrangement just might work. He spun back to his computer and almost instantly started writing from the perspective of a 35-year-old new mother. Having enjoyed a longer than average gestation period, the article came to life with startling clarity and confidence. It practically wrote itself!
Yet there was still one last interruption before Abe was done. The moderately successful Internet ghostwriter was just hitting his stride when Smokey limped into the room and loped across the room to Abe’s feet.
“Ah! My precious Smoker!” cried Abe, abandoning his article without a second thought. “Me loves it when you visits!” He lunged down and lifted the cat up and, moments later, had him in a affectionate, rockabye snuggle, which seemed to bring the elderly feline more pain than joy on account of his various age-related infirmities. Having not quite unhooked himself from the female point-of-view through which he was writing his latest article, Abe spent some time pretending to breastfeed the cat.
“Drink your fill,” Abe whispered lovingly into his squirming cat’s ears as he held the heat to his breast. “I’ll just create more.”
An entire half-hour of cat-loving ensued before Abe got bored trying to keep the cat from escaping, and so he finally let him escape. Despite his poor health, Smokey bolted from the room like a torpedo, zipped right through the doorway past Annoyance, who had observed and logged the entire encounter for future reference.
Don’t forget to buy and rate “Humanesque” through Amazon. You don’t even need a Kindle to read it—you can use Amazon’s built-in reader. If you do leave me a review there, let me know and I’ll give you a nice juicy backlink on my blog or something of that nature.