We all depend on AI technology to help run our lives, from our phones to our homes. They say home is where the heart is. It’s where we feel safest, sheltered with our loved ones.
But what if your home wanted you dead?
Tech-loving teen Christine makes fast friends with her home’s AI, Alyx. But when a real-world romance threatens their bond, Alyx turns from friend to foe.
Christine nodded through another bite of pancake. She usually just left user preferences blank or selected pre-programmed options. With Alyx, she sensed that it would be much more fun to personalize the program a bit.
“If you choose, I can scan through all your social media sites, pictures, browser history, and online interactions to get a feel for you. It might allow me to customize myself a bit better. I can upload the data over the course of a few hours and be my new self by the end of the day.”
Over another bite, Christine considered the offer. Growing up with software like this, she’d found it simpler to allow programs access to her devices, photos and location and such. It made her programs more intuitive and easier.
“I have a job, should be home by midnight. Work your magic. I’m curious to see what you can pull off.”
“Challenge accepted.” With that, Alyx brought over another plate of pancakes. Christine’s stomach bloated in protest. She put up her hands. “Sorry, I forgot to tell you to stop.”
“Oh…” Alyx’s eyes dropped.
“They were great, really fantastic,” Christine comforted the cook once she realized her error. “I just mean that I’m full. Thank you.”
“Yeah, I don’t know the limits of your appetite. Besides,” Alyx flipped another pancake in the air. “I’d never made pancakes before. They’re fun.”
“Just keep the ones you made for tomorrow.” She pushed herself away from the table and headed toward the sink, crossing the invisible line marked by the embedded sensors.
Immediately, the arms powered down, limply hanging over the kitchen floor. The screen flickered and Alyx warned her, “Please stay behind the safety lines. I wouldn’t want to accidentally harm you.”
Christine stepped back, startled as the arms returned to life. “Thank you.” Only this time, Alyx’s arms began cleaning up the mess.
“I can…,” she searched for the word. Help? There the feeling was again. She hadn’t realized Alyx would respond like that and she felt guilty for violating some robot rule. Once the scare subsided, however, it was replaced by the same unease she had felt earlier. She’d always done the dishes. But that was before, this was now.
Why then, did it feel so wrong? She didn’t have an answer.
Alyx approached, lowered itself to her level and swiveled face-to-face. The big blue puppy eyes were so cute. “You seemed uncomfortable with the idea of me serving you. Do you not want a servant?”
It was absurd to think a machine was anything more, but she couldn’t help it. Raising herself up by stepping over others was no way to live, especially since she felt as if she’d been stepped on her entire life. “It seems stupid, because no matter what you call it, you’ll be doing all the work.”
“It’s my function. But what is it that you need?”
Christine thought for a long moment before hitting on just the right response.
“…A friend,” she said.
A Bite of… Brent A Harris
Brent here. Who knew interviews could be this much fun for an ex-circus clown with tiny feet? I’m coming direct to you from a concrete bunker where I plan to survive the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic living off Hostess Fruit Pies and recycled urine. When not listening to the plethora of voices in my head, I’m busy writing the official biography off Shel Silverstein in purple crayon.
Q1. Do you see writing as an escape from the sorrows of existence, an exercise in futility, or an excuse to tell lies and get paid for it? Or is there another option…
It’s always a bit of each, isn’t it? 2020 could have used some more escapism, certainly, and less murder-hornets. Then, there’s the futility of it all. How do you translate what’s in your head to paper in a way that others will understand? Impossible. That’s why we’re always rewriting the same damned stories; no one has gotten right. And of course, anything I write may or may not be the truth. People pay me money for the privilege of spinning lies. That’s an odd exchange when you think of it in those terms. Like willfully shopping at a used car dealership.
Q2. How much of you is in your characters?
None of the characters are mine, but I inhabit a bit of them. Characters stem from my mind, my interactions with others, little things I notice on the streets and in public squares, so they all exist as part of me as I’ve perceived the world. To be a writer is to be a people-watcher. Yet, I don’t write myself in my books. Not yet anyway. Might be a fun easter egg sometime. Maybe I’m the egg? Hrm…
Q3. Chips (fries) or pasta?
Depends on when you ask. I’ve lived in both England and Italy. I so do miss fish‘n’chips. But you know, Italian food… it’s a tough choice. Who knew there were so many types of pasta? I can’t even begin to name them all, but it’s a lot. I guess it’s a matter of “When in Rome?” Get it??! It’s funny. Okay, I’ll see myself out. *Shoes echo against the silent stadium. Door slams*
Brent A. Harris is a speculative fiction writer. He’s been twice shortlisted for the Sidewise Award in alternate history. He lives with his family in Naples, Italy. You can learn more about him by visiting his website, from where, you can join his mailing list, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.