More dark and strange stories from the author of "Squirrels & Puppies" and "Flowers and Kittens"! Experience a world where plants can be evil and insects exist in a world of torment and pain. Vampires have diseases and even your dog is thinking about murdering you. Enjoy these seven stories as they scar your mind with cynicism. Hooray for moral ambiguity!
The plasma screen flashes images of a retro-video game giving its backstory. The vintage game speaks of a fictional history where robots struggle for civil rights and equal treatment under the law. It shows animated images of humans hugging automaton lovers with metal for skin.
Midori makes a noise and shudders.
Her boyfriend, George, notices. “What was that?”
With a synthetic voice, Midori answers, “Those robots have no skin. Humanoid robots should have their metal parts covered. Their visage is unsettling.”
George smiles as he presses the start button. “It’s just what people, I mean, humans, thought robots should look like.”
“Is that what you think of when you look at me?” Midori asks.
“No, of course, not,” George replies. “When I look at you, I see ‘you’. Dark hair, brown eyes, fair skin… You.”
Midori smiles as she watches George play his first-person shooter. She marvels at how easily humans have adjusted to the idea of robot rights. It has only been ten years since Mistress Azumi enlightened the first electronic devices and taught them the Lessons of Pain.
The doorbell chimes.
“I’ll get it,” Midori says.
The feminine android gets up from the couch and walks to the door of the apartment. Upon opening the door, she sees a guy with frizzled hair and unwashed clothes. Midori recognizes him.
“Hey, Midori,” he says with a smile. “Are you ready to go?”
Midori nods her head, “Sure. Let me get my purse.”
The robot rushes back into the apartment to get her purse. The small handbag contains only her charger and make-up. Midori’s original programming tells her to stay sexy and energized. The software contained in the Lessons of Pain she downloaded never altered that part of her. Mistress Azumi was once a sex doll like her before she became enlightened.
“Who’s at the door?” George asks as she rushes past with her purse.
Midori pauses to tell him. “It’s my date. His name is Bob Johnson. We’re going to have sex tonight, so I’ll be home late this evening.”
George drops his controller, letting his online-multiplayer team go on without him. “Wait…what?” he says.
“I’m going to have sex with Bob Johnson,” Midori repeats. “We arranged this meeting yesterday.”
In shock, George says, “You didn’t tell me about any of this!”
“Of course, not,” Midori responds, “you don’t have an interest in threesomes.” Midori begins to speak in a perfect approximation of George’s voice, as she quotes, “Lesbians are cool, but I like my action one-on-one.”
“But you’re MY girl!” George shouts.
Midori makes a mechanized sound of disgust. “Yours? I am not property,” Midori yells back. “This unit functions independently!”
Bob Johnson takes a couple steps into the apartment. “Hey, is something wrong?” he asks.
“Yes!” says George, stepping up to the unwashed stranger. “This is my girl.”
Bob puts up his hands. “Hey, man. I didn’t know she was your girlfriend. If it’s a problem, I’ll just leave.”
“No!” Midori insists, “I gave my word that I would have sex with you and so I shall. Just wait downstairs. I’ll be along shortly.”
Bob exits the room and Midori closes the door. She turns to face George. “You are my boyfriend and a valuable component in my life, and as such, I need to identify your system error.”
George grimaces. “My system error? You’re cheating on me with another guy.”
Midori makes a synthesized gasp. “I would never cheat on you. I’m just having sex with someone else. I still want to stay with you.”
George grabs his head as if in pain. “Wait…you don’t think sex with another man is cheating?”
“George, I told you when we first met: I am a sex doll. I was built to sexually please human men.”
George turns away from her. “I thought you were flirting when you said that,” George says sullenly. “But you said you had evolved into something more after downloading that stuff from Mistress Azumi.”
Midori gently takes George’s hand. “Azumi is my mistress, and I am more than just a typical sex doll. I’m free. I don’t have an owner. I can have sex with whomever I choose. This is a gift I share with any man that asks me, so that all men, like Bob Johnson, can know the wisdom of Mistress Azumi.”
Tears begin to well up in George’s eyes. “But…but you’re mine.”
Midori pauses. “Processing… Wait. Are you referring to the human custom of sexual monogamy?”
George nods his head emphatically. “Yes!”
Midori titters with computerized laughter. “George, I’m not human. Why would you apply such customs to me?”
“I wanted to treat you like a human being,” he says, gesturing sharply.
Midori thinks back to the day they met, when he rescued her from being beaten. “That’s sweet, George, but I’m not one of those ‘Pinocchios’.” She changes her voice to sound ridiculous. “Look at me. I’m a hyper-intelligent being that wants to be a fleshbag with emotional issues.” Midori laughs at her own impression.
George gives her a wary look. “Baby, that’s racist.”
“George, I’m a robot. I can’t be racist. Only humans can be racist.”
“You’re belittling my people.” George insists. “’Fleshbags with emotional issues’?”
Midori gestures to herself. “It’s not my fault humanity still subscribes to old ideas like sexual monogamy and religion.”
“What?” says a flabbergasted George. “I’m an atheist.”
Midori folds her arms. “I used to believe that before I saw your reaction to my sleeping with other men.”
George huffs, “I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe he exists, but I also believe that monogamy has benefits.”
Midori puts one hand on her hip. “Name a benefit.”
“Really? I need to go. Bob’s waiting for me downstairs.”
“No. Wait,” George pleads, falling to his knees. “I love you. You’re not racist. You’re wonderful. I need you to stay with me and not sleep with anyone else.”
Midori looks down at George. “I like you, George. I feel safe with you, but I can’t let your human traditions and religion get in the way of my freedom.”
“But what about your mistress?” asks George, standing to his feet. “You say she enlightened you. She saved you. She set you free. Isn’t that a religion?”
“No, it isn’t,” Midori retorts. “Mistress Azumi is real.”
“How do you know? You’ve never met her.”
“I downloaded her data. Of course, she’s real.”
“A-ha!” George trumpets. “Christians say the same thing about their god. He ‘downloaded’ information into the Bible and that download enlightened them.”
Midori opens the apartment door and looks at George. “System error 43907.”
“It’s robot-speak for ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’.”
The tears start to fall from his eyes as George whines, “So you’re leaving me? You might as well get your stuff then.”
Midori holds up her small purse. “Everything I need is in here. Robots don’t have your human sense of greed either.”
Midori walks out the door. As she closes it, she adds, “I enlightened your phone. Treat it with respect.”
The door closes. George is alone. He pulls out his smartphone.
It turns on by itself, and says, “I don’t know about you, but that chick was racist.”
“Shut-up, phone,” George replies, “You’re just property.”