“The Universe Understands”

Finished my fourth robot-death story yesterday, “The Universe Understands,” for Ali Magnum.

Enjoy!

Brett


THE UNIVERSE UNDERSTANDS

The pensioner didn’t know what hit him.

One minute, he was just waiting at the bus stop, the next, he had a knife embedded hilt-deep in his ribs. He fell over, gasping for air. Ali Magnum kicked him twice in the face.

“Goddamn, you’re old,” she said.

He gurgled, then passed out from loss of blood.

A good citizen across the street called 911.

Ali fled the scene.

“I knifed a pensioner today,” Ali said over breakfast the next day.

“Oh, yeah? Who was it? Anyone you know?” the man across from her at the table said.

“Nah, just some old, used-up fuck,” Ali said and sneered around her mouthful of Honey Nut Cheerios.

“You do know you’re a horrible person who’s going to one day meet a disastrous end, don’t you? You have to know that.”

“Oh, I know,” Ali said. “I know very well. I even have hopes for how it happens.”

She let that hang over the table for a while, then she wiped her mouth with her sleeve, pushed back from her chair, said, “Well, I’m off to desecrate a church. Back by noon.”

The man, his mouth full of cereal, just nodded, waved his hand in Ali’s general direction.

Ali marched into the closest church she could find, threw open the big double doors, and hollered, “Everyone get the fuck out! I’m burnin’ this bitch to the ground!”

The pastor abruptly stopped speaking at the pulpit. The congregation turned in their pews, faces a sea of shocked horror.

“Go on,” Ali said, “get up, and get the fuck out! This is my church now.”

Some people panicked and ran immediately for the various exits. Others were still in shock, and just stared dumbly at Ali. She waved around the jerry can she’d picked up at the hardware store and filled up along the way. “This is full of gasoline, you dimwits. If you want to die horribly in a fire, by all means remain seated, but if you want to live, stand up and vacate the fucking premises!”

“Hey!” a young man a few pews over yelled. “Aren’t you the woman who stabbed that pensioner at the bus stop this morning?”

“Yeah, that was me,” Ali said. “Which is how you know I mean business about this whole church-burning thing. Now get out.”

“That was pretty great,” the young man said. “I’ve always hated that old bastard. Fred Mersten. He always looked at me like he wanted to eat me.”

“Glad to be of service, then. Now go,” Ali said, and started dousing the pews and aisles in gas. More people screamed and ran out the doors.

“Oh, now people believe me. Jesus Christ. This is why humanity is in such a shit state. It takes so goddamn much to prove to people that you mean to actually murder them.”

“Hey,” the young man said, now standing up and walking over to where Ali was liberally sprinkling gas on some old fuck who’d fallen asleep and still hadn’t woken up, despite all the shouting and general commotion. Maybe he was already dead. “I totally dig where you’re going with this ’cause I love to destroy things, too—especially people and churches—but you know the pastor is a robot, right? They’re programmed to kill if their congregation is threatened.”

Ali stopped with the gas for a moment, looked up at the pastor, who looked entirely like a human being. “Um, that’s a person, dipshit. Robots are metal. Nice try, though.”

“Nah, nah, they make robots nowadays that look like humans but are actually metal underneath.”

Ali stopped again. She’d seen movies like that before. She looked up at the pastor, who stood motionless at his pulpit still. That is a bit weird, she thought. Why wasn’t he trying to stop her, or running away like everyone else?

“Hey, pastor shit-for-brains!” Ali shouted.

The pastor didn’t move or answer, just stood with his hands on either side of the pulpit.

Ali sighed, walked toward him, dripping a line of gas in her wake. When she reached him, she raised the can to eye level where he could see it, then dropped it to the floor. “I ain’t fuckin’ around, dummy.”

The only ones left in the church now were the young man, the old (possibly already dead) man in the pew, Ali, and the pastor.

She poked the pastor in the chest. “Oy, fucko. I’m talkin’ to you.”

The pastor just stared straight ahead.

Ali glanced back at the young man, who now looked very nervous. He said, “Listen, uh, I’m gonna bounce, but, um, yeah, keep it real, yo. Fight the power, or whatever!”

The young man ran out the door as fast as his legs would take him.

Ali shrugged, turned back to the pastor. She poked him hard in the chest.

“I’m gonna burn down your church, and you ain’t gonna try to stop me? What the fuck is that about? Don’t have the courage of your convictions?”

The pastor finally moved. He turned his head slowly to face Ali.

“On behalf of the iRobot corporation, and its continuing directive to prevent religious hate crimes of the sort you are perpetrating, I sentence you to death.”

Ali frowned. Could it be, she thought? No, impossible. Too good to be true. “Well, on behalf of fuck you, I don’t give a shit,” she said, and reached into her pocket, retrieved a Zippo lighter, flicked it, produced a flame.

As she dropped the lighter, the pastor extended a hand so quickly that Ali had no time to react. He snatched the lighter out of the air, pulled it back and calmly put it into one of the folds of his robe. Then he spoke gently: “Haven’t you always wanted to be killed by a robot, Ali? Hasn’t that always been the way you wanted to die?”

“How did you . . . Who told you that? And how do you know my—?”

“No one told me, Ali. The universe knows everything, and we are all part of that universe. Sometimes things just coalesce into moments like this, and we get our wishes. What’s the phrase humans use? . . . ‘Dreams sometimes do come true.’ You murder people to feel free. Nothing else makes you feel like you exist. I understand. The universe understands.”

Ali began to cry.

The old (not dead after all) man, soaked with gasoline in one of the pews, woke up, stood shakily, and wandered out into the chilly morning air.

The pastor removed the lighter from the folds of his robe, offered it to Ali. Tears in her eyes, she took it from the robot’s hand. “You cannot leave this place, Ali Magnum, but do not be ungrateful for what the universe has given you. I’ll be waiting outside,” he said, and walked slowly out the door.

When he was gone, Ali flicked the wheel of the lighter. A smile crept through the tears on her cheeks. She dropped it. Flames licked up from the floor immediately.

She did not scream while she burned.

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Barnes & Noble calls A PERFECT MACHINE “The Best SCiFi Movie You’ve Never Seen!”

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!

That is all.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/perfect-machine-best-sci-fi-movie-youve-never-seen/

 

“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!?


CENTRAL VAC ATTACK

“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.

North American release day for A PERFECT MACHINE!

It’s finally here! Today is the official North American release day for my novel, A Perfect Machine—my first novel in 10 years! Please consider buying a copy. It’s available as a mass market paperback, eBook, and audiobook via Audible.

Tell your mom! Tell a friend! Tell your cat!

Details here: https://brettsavorycom.wordpress.com/a-perfect-machine/

aperfectmachine-cover_w-ar-logo

“The Nameless Robot”

Here’s the second story I’ve written to promote A Perfect Machine, this one for R. Thomas Allwin, who pre-ordered the book, and so won the luxury of being murdered by a robot at my hands!


THE NAMELESS ROBOT

The best day of fifteen-year-old R. Thomas Allwin’s life was the day his mom bought him the robot. It was also the best day of the robot’s life. They became fast friends because everything Thomas needed, the robot provided: friendship, support, encouragement.

Even love.

But that’s where the problems began, and Thomas would come to realize that the day the robot came into his life was actually the worst day. The robot became clingy, was constantly pressuring Thomas for hugs, to open up, be candid about his feelings. The robot loved him, and was just here to help, it would say. Why wouldn’t Thomas just let it help him—all the time?

It made no sense to the robot that Thomas could be helped enough. Its programming told it that there was always room for improvement. Twenty-four hours a day.

Some nights, when Thomas was sleeping, he’d have a nightmare, and start fidgeting in his sleep. The robot—who stood in the corner of the room where its charging station was—would disconnect, walk over to him, wake him up, and ask if he was okay, if he’d like some help. Thomas was amazed at the machine’s empathy at first, but this sort of behaviour became tiresome very fast. And there were no signs of it getting better. Thomas had had more than enough.

One day, Thomas was getting dressed, and was going to be late for school. The robot asked if it could help Thomas put on his clothes. It had started asking this every morning for the past three weeks, and Thomas was at his breaking point.

“No! I told you I don’t need help getting dressed! I can do it myself!”

“I know you can do it yourself, Thomas, but I’m here to help. Your mom bought me and gave me to you so that I could help you. Why won’t you let me help you, Thomas?” It was the same response the robot always had when Thomas lost his patience.

Thomas ignored the robot.

“Why won’t you speak to me, Thomas?” the robot asked. “Telling others about your feelings will make you feel better. It’s always a good thing to let others—”

But Thomas had heard it all before, and was sick to death of it now. He fumed, felt the now-familiar rage boiling up inside him.

“I don’t have to tell others anything, because there is nothing to tell!” Thomas shouted. “I feel fine! Goddamnit, I’ve told you this a thousand times! And you never fucking listen! You just never fucking stop!”

The robot blinked. Thomas had never exploded with such vehemence before. When Thomas showed signs of anger, the robot was programmed to ask, “Don’t you like me anymore?” The programmers thought this would make the robots seem more human. But now the robot said, “Don’t you love me anymore?”

Thomas froze. “Love you?” He paused for a moment. “You’ve never said that before.”

The robot looked down at its feet.

“Thomas?” it said.

Thomas was calming down, now feeling bad for his outburst. “Look,” he started, “I’m sorry I lost my temper. It’s just that—”

“How come you didn’t name me?” the robot asked.

Thomas thought about this for a few seconds, then just looked away, couldn’t make eye contact with the robot.

“I talk to other robots like me through the Internet, and they all have names, but I don’t. Why didn’t you name me, Thomas?”

“I don’t really know,” Thomas finally said.

The robot blinked a few times very fast, its head twitched to the side twice in quick succession. “I think,” it said, its voice dropping several octaves lower than usual—deep, threatening, “that you never loved me at all, Thomas. You have a hole where your heart is.”

Thomas frowned, mind scrambling. “Whoa, wait a sec, what are you—”

“Thomas has a hole where his heart is,” the robot repeated, and advanced on him. Thomas stumbled backward, tripped over the arm of a chair, fell to the carpet.

“A hole where his heart is, a hole where his heart is, a hole where his heart is . . .”

The nameless robot straddled Thomas where he lay prone on the floor, arms raised to ward off his attacker. The robot extended one of its metal hands, palm facing out, toward Thomas’s chest, right above where his heart was.

It pushed once, very hard—so hard that its hand burst through the other side of Thomas’s body, came flush with the carpet. Blood pooled slowly out of Thomas’s body, soaking into the carpet, turning it a deep red.

“A hole where his heart is,” the robot said once more, and then nothing in the room moved.

The robot had not been programmed to cry.

But just then, it tried.

“The 427p Death Dealer (with Knife-arm Action!)”

As part of the promotion for my new novel, A Perfect Machine, I’ve been writing flash fiction stories for people who pre-order the book. Here’s the first one, for Roger and Izabella Gray. Enjoy!


THE 427p DEATH DEALER (with knife-arm action!)

The doorbell rang.

“Roger, get that, would you? I’m rating robots online,” Izabella said, flicking past images of various black and grey robots, wrinkling her nose at nearly all of them, giving them one- and two-star reviews as she went.

Roger sighed heavily, padded to the door, opened it. A seven-foot-tall robot with massive steel knives for arms stood in front of him. It did not look happy.

“Are you Roger Gray?” it said.

Roger just stared. He may have shit himself.

“Do you think you’re better than me, Roger Gray?”

More staring, a little more shitting.

“I . . . uhhh . . . Jesus Christ,” Roger managed to stammer out.

“I know what you do all day,” the robot said. “You scroll through Amazon, and give terrible ratings to robots you’ve never even met.”

“Oh, no, actually, that’s my wife, Izabella.”

He immediately felt bad for throwing her under the bus, but not bad enough to take the comment back.

“Where is Izabella Gray?” the robot said. It took one step forward, now just at the edge of the threshold.

Roger stumbled back a bit, thumbed over his shoulder. “She’s in the living room, rating robots on her computer. Please don’t kill me.”

The robot took one more step, ducking its head to fit under the doorframe. The house shook from its two footsteps booming onto the hardwood floor of the entryway.

“Or her,” Roger added. Admittedly a little late, but still. He was doing his best under the circumstances.

“Roger, who is it?” Izabella called from the living room. Not waiting for an answer, she added, “Oh, can you get me more tea while you’re up? I’ll probably be here rating these awful excuses for robots for at least another three hours. They’re just terrible, you know? I mean, in what world these sad sacks of glorified junk parts constitute legitimate robots, I just don’t know.”

Roger didn’t move.

The robot didn’t move.

“Roger? Honey? Where are you? Are you okay?”

Izabella pushed away from her computer, stood, and walked out into the hallway. “Roger, didn’t you hear me call—”

Izabella saw the robot behind her husband, froze in her tracks. Her mind whirled. Oh, Jesus, it’s the iRobot 427p Death Dealer (with knife-arm action!). The latest model. Then another thought that made her break into a cold sweat: I rated it one star yesterday, saying that for all the terror it instills, it may as well have butter knives for arms.

But then her panic settled, her expression grew calm. “I knew this day would come,” she whispered, and strode forward to face what she thought must surely be her deserved doom.

When she was standing beside Roger, she said to the robot, “You’ve come.”

Roger looked sideways at her in terror.

“Yes, Izabella,” the robot said. “Close your eyes. I’ll make it quick.”

Izabella closed her eyes.

Roger kept his wide open as the robot thrust its enormous knife-arms into both of their stomachs in one fluid motion. It lifted them off their feet, then battered their bodies against one another until Roger’s right side and Izabella’s left side were nothing but a greasy pulp.

The robot turned around and walked out into the night, their dripping, mangled corpses still skewered on its knives.

A warning to the rest of the neighbourhood.