“Central Vac Attack”

Here’s my third robot-death story—this one for Paul Weimer. It’s part of a series in which I kill pre-orderers of my novel A Perfect Machine in a horrific way. ‘Cause who doesn’t want death by robot!?


“Goddamnit, you call this clean?”

Paul Weimer had asked the robot to connect to the central vac system and vacuum the house to a spotless condition before his company arrived. He was having very important people over, and the house needed to be immaculate.

“What fucking part of ‘immaculate’ doesn’t your shitty programming understand?” he added, having to shout over the sound of the vacuum as he walked quickly past the robot where it stood near one of the central vac outlets. Its right arm hole was plugged into the outlet by an expandable hose, while its left arm hole connected to another hose leading down to a high-powered vacuum cleaner.

The robot stopped for a moment, waited to hear if there were going to be different instructions.

Paul, his arms full of books he’d picked up off the living room table in order to tidy them away, looked back at the robot where it stood motionless. “Well, don’t just fucking stop, you dim-witted piece of shit! Keep fucking going! It has to be done and—I repeat yet again—immaculate in ten minutes!”

Paul stomped out of the living room, dropping some of the books from his arms in his haste, and thumped loudly upstairs to his office.

The robot—who thought of itself as “Justin,” even though it officially remained nameless because Paul didn’t believe in naming his “electronics”—thought about the interaction that had just transpired. It continued vacuuming the house to the best of its ability while it replayed this most recent interaction, along with all of its other interactions with its owner.

Taken cumulatively over the past fourteen months, it calculated that Paul Wiemer was a complete asshole who needed to die.

The robot—we’ll just call him Justin now, since that’s what he’d want—disconnected from the central vac outlet, and made his way to the garage, where his various vacuum accessories were stored.

Justin walked past his usual array of attachments, and went deeper into the garage, over to where a very large box was tucked behind a curtained-off section of the room. About two months ago, Justin had moved a bunch of Paul’s unused things into this area—boxes of records, an old tape deck, a VHS player, a DVD machine, etc.—then, when Paul wasn’t home, Justin went online and special-ordered the thing in this very big box, tucking it away behind everything else.

Just in case he needed it. Just in case things went poorly.

Justin opened it up, carried it into the house. He went back over to the central vac outlet, plugged his hose-arm in to the wall, then attached the iRobot WoodChipper 3000 to his other shoulder socket.

He turned it on and waited for Paul to come back downstairs.

In his office, Paul triple-checked his email and voicemail to make sure all the very important people were still coming. They were. He let out a huge sigh of relief. Now if only that fuck-up of a robot could be as reliable, and work the way it was supposed to!

Paul got up, headed back downstairs. He was about to pick up the books he’d dropped on his way up when he heard an unfamiliar noise coming from the living room. His brow furrowed, and he beetled toward the noise, ready to unload on the robot, who had probably broken something, or was otherwise trying to ruin his big night.

When he got around the corner and saw the robot’s giant attachment, an ice-cold feeling crept inside his chest, spread throughout his body, chilling him completely.

“What’s that?” he asked Justin.

Justin turned to look at Paul.

“This is a very big woodchipper, Paul,” Justin replied.

Paul gulped. “Why is it attached to you? Why aren’t you vacuuming, like I—” he chose his words more carefully than usual “—asked you to?”

“Because I’m sick of your shit, motherfucker. Time to die.”

Justin moved forward very quickly, raised the woodchipper to mid-waist level, thrust it toward Paul, hitting him in the stomach with its outer sheath, which doubled Paul over, knocking the wind out of him. When Paul’s head bent forward, Justin didn’t miss his opportunity: he extended the chipper toward the top of Paul’s head, and pushed as hard as he could.

Paul’s head was ground to pulp in less than a second, then the rest of his body pulled up into the chipper, too, and Paul disappeared completely.

Liquid-Paul passed through Justin’s internal workings momentarily before squelching through the hose leading to the outlet, and then sloshing into the central vac unit in the garage.

Justin powered down, unplugged from the outlet, went into the garage, hosed off the woodchipper attachment, and put it away in its place behind the curtain.

He went back into the house, put the vacuum attachment on, and finished cleaning.

Very important people would be arriving soon, and the place had to be immaculate.

Paul wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


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