Category Archives: Short stories

2081 – The To-do List

“Replay, to-do list, current.”

“Would you like me to replay the to-do list in order of priority?”

“Yes.”

“You have two priority 1 tasks. The first is to  visit your Mother. The second is to visit your Grandmother. Then there are three priority-…”

“Cancel and return to cupboard.”

“As you wish.”

I know most people love their AI’s but I’ve never  been one of them. There’s just something about those smarmy, computerized voices that makes my teeth ache. I mean I know AI’s are meant to simulate real people but why do the manufacturers have to make them sound so… cheerful. And polite.

When I bought my first AI I tried swearing at it. I  even slapped it around a bit and all it said was, “Please do not hit me. You will injure yourself.”

The fact that the damned thing was right just made  me even angrier. I know it’s stupid to get angry with a machine but the disconnect between how it looks and how it behaves annoys the shit out of me. A pile of e-plas and electronics just shouldn’t look like the sexiest man alive. It really shouldn’t.

I tried a female AI for a short while. I dressed  her/it up in my ugliest ‘fat’clothes but the damned thing made them look good. It had to go. I mean, for real!  I’m not crazy vain but what sane woman wants to be woken each day by a vision of perfection when she knows she’s got bed hair and sleep lines?

So now I’ve got a male AI again but it’s one of the  older models, not one of those new walking, talking dildos that my Mum has. Her AI really gives me the creeps, especially when she calls it ‘Elvis’.

I guess I’m more like my Nana that way. We both think machines should look and act like machines.

Mum says Nan is just too old-fashioned for her own good but that’s not completely true. Nan isn’t anti-tech, she just prefers ‘bots that look like boxes on castors. Her appartment is full of them. Some vacuum the floors, some crawl all over her shelves dusting the knick-knacks and she even has one that lives in her cooler, sniffing out off food and composting it in this weird expandable tummy.

Mum is forever at Nan to get the cooler replaced  with a new model that does all the food disposal  automatically but Nan just smiles and keeps her antiques anyway. And they are antiques in their way. How she keeps them going I’ll never know. I think she must have a network of other oldies who still know how to repair things.

The trouble is that Nan and her oldies are getting old too.  What is going to happen when they get too old to fix stuff?

I hate to say it but Mum is right about this. We  have to get Nan modernised a bit, starting with the cooler. Off food is no joke, especially now that Nan’s sense of smell is not what it was. If her sniffer ever malfunctions the food in her cooler could kill her.

That’s why I have to go over to Nan’s place. Today.  She doesn’t know it yet but in a few hours she’s going to be getting a brand new cooler and I have to be there to sweet talk her into letting the delivery ‘bots in through the door.

It’s not going to be easy but I have a plan, of  sorts. I found this place that sells reconditioned box coolers. They’re the kind that the old vendor ‘bots used to carry around full of ice-cream in the summer. They don’t take up a lot of space and I’m hoping Nan will agree to retiring her sniffer to the box cooler. Then, instead of putting her food scraps down the composting shute she can feed them to the
sniffer. Sort of like a pet.

After old Rufus died Nan swore she wouldn’t get another cat but I know she misses having something to look after so maybe, just maybe the sniffer can take Rufus’ place. Sort of.

Just thinking about turning a ‘bot into a pet makes me squirm a bit but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the people you love. And I do love my Nan.

Today is not going to be a good day though.

“AI?”

“How may I help you?”

“Update to-do list.”

“I am ready. Please go ahead.”

“Tag Nan, visit equals done. Reschedule Mum, visit for next week.”

“Oh I am so pleased you will be visiting your Grandmother today and I will reschedule the reminder to visit your Mother for Monday, July the 16th, 2081.


2080 – a short story

Emmi lay rigid with misery. Her eyes were closed but tears still leaked into the biofluid in which she lay. She couldn’t feel them anymore because the electrodes attached to her temples had switched off the moment she keyed the quit switch but she knew they were there because her throat ached in that awful way it does when you want to cry.

Long moments passed as the biofluid slowly drained away and was replaced by warmed air, except that it was never quite warm enough. When Emmi had complained about feeling cold the support tech had explained that that was a built in safety factor so users would know when it was safe to remove the breather tube but she remained unconvinced. How many alerts did they need? The tank always chimed when enough fluid had drained away and then that smarmy computerised voice would state the obvious just in case you were asleep or deaf. Having that first touch of air cold was just overkill and she hated it.

Of course Emmi hated having to leave the tank at the best of times and bitterly resented the two hour limit that framed her life. She understood why the manufacturers would impose that limit. They must have lost millions after those early models had allowed addicts to starve to death but it was ridiculous to impose such arbitrary limits on people like herself. At one hundred and twenty-two just exactly how many years did they think she had left? If she wanted to die online then she should be allowed to do so. But not today. Today she had fled back to the real world with half an hour still to go.

As Emmi’s face and chest began to tingle with goosebumps she lifted one shaking hand and pulled the airtube from her mouth. Like a genie escaping from a bottle her angry sobs filled the coffin-like tank with flat, animal noises. They sounded horrible even to her own ears but at least they were real and today she needed the slap of reality to validate what she had done, or not done. Yet even with her stroke-garbled sobs to remind her of who she really was the need aching in her groin was still intense.

The advertising blurb tip-toed around that aspect of the biofluid with the propriety of a 1950’s matron. “Trillions of nano particles giving that life-like sensation” was one of their favourite phrases. Cybering was closer to the mark, not that anyone under ninety called it that anymore. The young laughingly called digital sex ‘stimming’.

Brehak had not said anything about stimming. He had been all seductive touches and soft murmurs and she had found herself paralyzed with indecision. And shocked by how much she had wanted to abandon herself to the moment. She hadn’t felt that way in decades. Yet even as his fingers had begun peeling away the layers of soft black leather covering her body a part of her had known that letting him continue was madness. And wrong. Wrong in a way that only someone from her lost generation could understand.

The young called it OR, online reality and they frolicked in their digital bodies as happily as newborn lambs once frolicked in their meadows of lush spring grass. But of course there were few places on earth where lambs frolicked anywhere any more. Most lived and died in multi-story manufactories that recycled everything from poop to farts in an effort to keep the weather from getting even worse. Top restaurants had to pay a small fortune for free-range meat because it cost thousands of credits to let lambs out onto domed meadows free of pollution.

Maybe that was why the young embraced OR so fervently, because it was the only place where they could live in a way her own generation had once taken for granted.

I’m a dinosaur. That’s what I am, a rich, bloody dinosaur.”

The garbled sounds coming from Emmi’s throat were almost drowned out by the sound of servos as the lid of her tank slowly retracted to reveal the anxious faces of her personal attendants Gem and Mira.

“Is Madame unwell?” Gem asked in that strange, archaic diction he favoured.

“Nngh,” Emmi said with a slight shake of her head. “Gowgh!”

“Madame wants to get out of there you great fool,” Mira said as she reached down into the tank and gently wiped the last of the biofluid from Emmi’s face.

There was another soft whir as the mirror foam base rose up level with the top of the tank.

Mira wrapped warmed towels around Emmi’s naked body before stepping back to allow Gem to lift her out.

Since her stroke five years before Emmi had had to get used to being handled like a lump of meat – there was nothing sexual about her wrinkled, useless carcass after all – but she was still grateful for Mira’s understanding, especially today when her sense of self was already in tatters. How could she have come so close to forgetting who she really was? Ktah might be young and beautiful but Ktah was not real. Neither was Brehak for that matter but whoever animated that avatar was young. Had to be. Probably one hundred years younger than her.

A shudder of revulsion made Emmi’s body twitch and squirm as Gem lowered her into the gentle bubbles of her bed. She settled into the mirrorfoam and warm water with a sigh. She might be a dinosaur who had outstayed its welcome but she was a dinosaur with principles. That was who she was and that was who she would stay. Ktah would have to be deleted. Maybe she should try a male avatar. That should be safe enough…


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