Moist Machines

by Shahrzad

Moist Machines

I glanced at Tina and said, “Gather dishes, please.”

I didn’t have to say please. But even though I was only 14 during the Robot Transition which freed large swathes of the population from menial labour, I never seem to have shaken the habit off.

Tina rose stiffly, and I wondered whether she needed a tune up. She smiled broadly at me, moved to the table, and started on the dishes. She was dressed in an old-fashioned European-style maid’s outfit, complete with the frilly lace cap. Of course, we could dress her however we liked—or even have her nude as some did, but the trend for dressing the House Chore Robots in that type of dress never really died down.

I switched on my visor and went back to what I was doing.

Soon I found myself frowning in an effort to concentrate—there was no doubt Tina was making more noise than usual. There were several years left in her lifespan—she didn’t become sick—those genes had all been corrected. And she didn’t request time off, because why should she? She had nowhere to go, no purpose other than serving us.

Tina walked towards me. I was now thoroughly confused. I pushed my visor up.

She opened her painted mouth and said through her lips. “I am tired. I need to rest.”

If she had struck me, I couldn’t have been more flabbergasted.

I knew technically Robots were actually humans whose biology had been adjusted so they moved and talked in a more “robotic” fashion, making it easier to set them to the menial labour they had to perform throughout life. Even though we had the technology, it was far too expensive to build actual robots for mundane low-skilled tasks and much more cost efficient to repurpose surplus humans. This repurposing technology adapted them psychologically as well as physically for their duties, so they could serve as required without complaint and minimum management hassle. They had to be fed, of course, and there were other maintenance tasks they needed for optimal running, but the companies serviced them as per schedule, and I was sure that Tina was up to date on all of that.

Or maybe not. Her eyes sparked with an emotion I had never seen in a House Chore Robot before. I discreetly thought at her company for help. The company sent back some info to my brain.

“Ok, Tina,” I said gently. “Can you sit down and rest for me?”

Tina smiled broadly again, and the emotion in her eyes seemed to waver. “Yes”. She moved back to her chair and sat down. We waited in silence.

Soon enough the company reps arrived. I had already returned to my work. They nodded at me as they efficiently lifted the now-placid Tina up and took her out, and installed her replacement “Tanya” in the chair. They thought her info at me as they left. They were in and out in under ten minutes.

About the author

Shahrzad (not their real name) is a prolific horror storyteller. They are influenced by old British classics and Middle Eastern mythology, and they tell horror tales to survive. You can read more of their work here.

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