“Duh Human ‘N’ Duh Robot”
by Andy Simmons
X7R8 came later than normal to pick up Fig Carson from the Agency. It saw Fig stunned as he stared at his open hands like there was blood plastered over, but there was only cheese crust, salt, and cornmeal covering each of ten fingers. Fig shot up once he heard X7R8 knocked on the plastic window of his cell. He showed his orange, powdery hands and said worriedly, “Uh oh, I forgot again.”
“C’mere,” said X7R8, waving his newly augmented prosthetic hand. “I don’t want to yell at you.”
Fig walked with his legs closer together than normal. The sides of his shoes scraped together with each step. X7R8 had a glassy white face and near the mouth and eyes, Fig was able to see the florescent blue circuitry inside. “Do you know what I’m thinking?” asked X7R8.
“Are you mad at me?” asked Fig.
“Does it look like I’m mad?”
“I don’t know. You don’t change facial expressions like I do and you don’t sound different ever.”
“I’m not mad at you. I was due for an update three months ago, but that jackass from FED217 got it instead because he lives with two humans. I hate charity cases.”
“But you like living with me, right? Like I don’t make your life harder?”
“You definitely don’t make it easier. You know this is your ninety-eighth curfew you’ve been caught?”
“I just forgot. I usually remember to leave handprints on the walls with the poofs on my fingers. I just got distracted by how the maze pattern on the floor.”
The hydraulics in X7R8’s limbs wheezed as it sighed and poked its head with its finger. It poked harder with each prod, but after much tapping, X7R8 decided to scare Fig straight. “You do know what happens after you’re castrated, and it’s a castration – not one of those sprays the weeds with the pesticide sterilization. It’s like a bot grabs some shears and snip away kind of sterilization.”
“But they use pain killers though, right?”
“I hate to tell you, but since we’ve started taking care of you guys, pain killers have kinda gone out of the market since you’re second class citizens.”
Fig’s whole body shook from head down to the small digits on his toes and back up. He then stuttered, “W-what are they going to do after they castrate me?”
“They’ll make you one of us, and you’ll forever be a virgin for the rest of your consciousness – which is unfathomable as a human. It is quite boring to think about as a robot though – not really worth it.”
“Are you a virgin, X7R8?”
“We don’t think like that, Fig. In fact, it wouldn’t even be in our lexicon or even a concept if you humans didn’t exist.”
“So, you never got it in?” Fig laughed.
“It doesn’t work like that, Fig.”
“Not even once?”
“I don’t – no, Fig. I never got it in because I don’t have it.”
“Weren’t you once a human though?”
X7R8 looked away then realized how ridiculous it was of him trying to hide a face that was incapable of expressing an emotion. “I think it’s time to get you out of here,” it said.
Back in room FED209, Fig Carson was in the pantry and wearing the bowls as hats. He smiled over at X7R8. “If they put some straps on these, they could be helmets,” said Fig.
“That’s just as protective as filling a plastic bag full of broken glass on the top of your head, Fig,” replied X7R8.
“Not a bad idea. Anybody who tried to slap the top of my head would surely receive a severely cut hand full of blood.”
X7R8 tapped on the bottom right on the main Telescreen. With its prosthetic finger, it swiped the settings from eighty-percent brightness to about a forty-five for all three Telescreens. Fig closed his eyes and shook his head. “Oh man,” he said. “Those lights make you think some crazy things.”
“That’s what happens to an organic species that microwaves its brain with radiation for centuries.”
“I read somewhere that Telescreens were used as a way to control over-population because there wasn’t enough air or food for the people. It also killed a lot of ugly people.”
“Ugly people is what they called them, huh?”
“So it’s true?”
“About the Telescreens? I don’t know. I wasn’t programmed with doctorate knowledge in Home Economics.”
Fig hung his head low. He refused to look at X7R8. Then in a sulked moan, Fig bluntly told X7R8 that he was ready to mate. “I just wanna get laid,” he said. “I hate reading about how pathetic I am.”
“The internet isn’t for everyone, Fig.”
“Easy for you to say. I don’t get to see my kind everyday like you do. Maybe once or twice a week I get to see a human. And I have to say I like you more than I like them.”
“Hey, don’t let that get you down. I like you more than I like some of my own kind. Y’know, humans thought that Artificial Intelligence would be their extinction because then Bots would start to become self-aware but they never took in the fact that with intelligence, there is boredom. We really need you guys. You provide a good entertainment.”
“Can I just get laid?”
“Are you asking to use our room as a mating chamber?”
“If you permit me?”
“Yeah – sure. I’ve never seen a human mate before.”
“But I don’t want you watching.”
Fig sulked again. “Fine, you can watch me.”
Fig saw one girl online he did like. She played mostly dress up in her spare time and had a bundle of countless photos – 12,745 to be exact. Her name was Sally Q the Suze, but she went by just The Suze. “The,” she wrote in her profile. “Was a classical term. The meant status. The meant worth and value.” So, she was The Suze. She had dyed her hair multiple times for fun with multitude of colors. The Suze also wore other interesting artifacts: glasses without lenses, earring earrings, eyeblack, and a fake cap toothed that she sometimes chewed on when she nervously video chatted with Fig over the computer. “You look like a nice person,” she said to Fig, breathing hard into her microphone.
To which Fig replied with, “You look like a nice person.”
“I like nice people.”
Fig clutched his chest. “I like nice people.”
“What kind of nice people do you like?”
“The kind that don’t make you feel bad about yourself.”
“No way, I don’t like feeling bad about myself either.”
X7R8 threw a small ice cube at Fig and told Fig to mute his mic. Fig did so after telling The Suze to wait for one second. “Are you going to ask her?” asked X7R8.
“No, I’m going to seem desperate.”
“Just invite her over.”
“Say, ‘Do you want to come over? I got some cool board games.’ Board games are fun, right?”
Fig shook his head and before turning his mic back on, he yelled at X7R8, “You’re ruining this for me.”
The Suze stared smiling with the same smile she had at the beginning of the call. Fig smiled back, embarrassed and eyes closed. “You look like a nice person,” he said.
“You look like a nice person,” said The Suze. “And I mean that.”
“Do you like to have fun?”
The Suze melted in her seat. “I love to have fun.”
“Would you be willing to come over to my place to have fun sometime?”
“I would,” said The Suze. “But if I break curfew one more time, I’ll be sterilized.”
Fig grabbed his chest again. “I’m at ninety-eight. You’re one capture above me.”
“Oh, you’re ninety-eight? Why don’t you come over then to my place?”
“Is that an invitation?”
Gasping, squealing, and almost asphyxiated, Fig cracked, “I gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow. Send me your address.”
Fig closed his laptop before The Suze could say goodbye. He was beaming in the cheeks. X7R8 watched Fig prance around the room. It rubbed its nose slightly. It didn’t notice it until now, but guessed that it might’ve been rubbing the whole time during Fig’s conversation with The Suze.
“I’m going to her place tomorrow.”
“Are you sure it’s worth the risk?”
“I’m gonna get laid finally.”
“Are you sure? I’m pretty sure stuff like that doesn’t just happen. I’m pretty sure she has to be your girlfriend first.”
“Well, she’s a friend of mine and happens to be a girl. Anyway, yhat’s what everyone talks about on the internet – Getting laid. It must happen all the time.”
“Can I give you some word of advice?”
“You’re not gonna get laid – I mean, she’s not going to mate with you just like that.”
Fig arrived promptly at eleven in the morning at The Suze’s place. She was wearing cowboy boots, a black skirt, and a red woven Christmas sweater under her baby blue bathrobe. The right side of her hair was curly and the other hung down straight. Fig had shown up in jeans, sneakers, and a plaid shirt – but he hid his face under a cardboard box. “Oh, you look pretty,” he said once the door was open. He was actually speaking to bot CC9er.
“The human you are looking for is on the couch,” it said.
“Yeah, I was talking to her, numbskull. Couldn’t you see that, ya dingus?”
Fig had trouble squeezing through the door but after mush persistence and trying different angles with his cardboard box, he was able to pop his way through. He crept slowly on the carpet until his foot kicked the side of the couch. He put his hand down and felt something warm, slightly hairy. Fig looked down. It was one of The Suze’s arms. “Oh, you’re sitting on that side of the couch,” he said. “I guess I’m just gonna scoot right on by you.”
The Suze pulled her legs into the fetal position and leaned back as Fig brushed by her. Fig sat on the opposite of the couch and took one or two breaths. When Fig spoke, he sounded like he was speaking through the opposite end of a wooden megaphone, “I got lost on my way here. I didn’t realize you just lived on the other end of the hallway from me.”
“Where do you live?”
“You don’t live down the hall,” cracked CC9er. “You live right next door, Fig Carson.”
“Oh that’s crazy. What a small world.”
“Hopefully not too small,” said The Suze. “We might fall off if it gets any smaller.”
“And luckily it’s flat too.”
“So it’s just not me that thinks the world is flat?”
“Does your bot think the World is round too?”
“Yeah, and I told it, ‘If the world is round, why’re we still here?’ Like, I said, ‘Have you tried to stand on something round?’ It’s nearly impossible.”
Fig let out a moan as he melted into the couch. His hands were jittery and shook as they held together. “The Suze,” he crackled. “I gotta – I gotta tell ya something. I think I – I think I love you.”
“What does it mean?”
“I actually don’t know. I just hear it on the Telescreens a lot.”
“Well, whatever it means, I think I can agree. I love you too.”
“You mean it?”
The Suze nodded gladly then Fig started to sulk.
“So you don’t mean it?” asked Fig.
“No, I mean it even though I don’t know what it means.”
The Suze touched the cardboard box with her finger. “So what’s under there?”
“Darkness. Also, I’m under here.”
“Do you think I can come in?”
It is one minute before curfew when CC9er kicked Fig out of the room. Fig left his cardboard box with The Suze as a token of appreciation. He didn’t want to leave though. It felt wrong, so his survival instincts kicked in and started crying, “No, I don’t have enough time to go back. Let me stay for the night.”
X7R8 opened the door to Fig’s room. It was wearing an apron. “What’s going on here?” it said.
“Your human is refusing to leave the premises,” said CC9er. “He has exactly fifty-four seconds to get inside before curfew.”
X7R8 reached out for Fig’s hand but was slapped down. “No,” said Fig. “It’s too late for me to go back. I don’t have enough time.”
“Fig, it takes the same amount of time to get into your room as it does her. Just come in. I baked you a cake.”
“I can’t. It’s too far. Tell CCniner to let me in.”
“CCniner isn’t going to let you in.”
“Twenty-two seconds,” said CC9er.
“Now, I don’t wanna have to come and get you, but I’m gonna get you if you don’t come in right now.”
“I would, x-seven-r-eight, but it’s just too far.”
X7R8 took three steps outside the door next to Fig then three steps back. “Took me literally two seconds,” it said. “You can do it.”
“But you’re a robot. You can walk faster.”
“Ten seconds,” went CC9er.
“Alright, I’m grabbing you.”
X7R8 approached Fig and snatched his arm. Fig fought to break free, but X7R8 strengthened his grip. “You’re coming with me,” said X7R8.
“No, I don’t wanna.”
Holding onto Fig Carson’s arm, X7R8 turned to walk and drag him in. After three steps, X7R8 felt a sudden lightness. It stopped to look down at the arm and as its eyes scanned up the Ulna to where the humorous was supposed to be, he saw a clean tear. Blood was dripping from stringy tendons, and even with the up-to-date computer processing memory X7R8 had, it wasn’t quick enough to register what had happened before the doors automatically shut because of curfew.
X7R8 was told there was nothing wrong with its memory processor by the technician. It must’ve been a glitch, it theorized. Maybe X7R8 had too many applications open for it to work at full capacity. Whatever it was, X7R8 knew there is never not a reason for memory processor’s to be slow. Something had to explain it.
After the technician visit, X7R8 went to go retrieve Fig from the Agency. Fig’s body was wrapped in a triangular cravat bandage that supported what was left of his stumpy arm. Fig was wiggling his arm when he X7R8. “I have invisible fingers,” said Fig. “I can still kinda feel ‘em.”
“So,” went X7R8. “You’re on your last one.”
“I was thinking about it last night after losing my arm that I kinda just want to get sterilized.”
“So I can become one of you guys.”
X7R8 slid the glass door open for Fig. “I was messing with you, Fig. You don’t get to become a Bot.”
Fig was silent for most of the walk. X7R8 glanced over and noticed that Fig hasn’t changed his dopey and confused face to any other expression. “What’s eating you, Filgert?” asked X7R8.
“Am I stupid?”
“Not for a human. You’re pretty average.”
“But to you?”
“Let’s not compare each other. We’re a complete different species.” X7R8 stopped mid-step and crossed its arms. It never considered Bots a species before until now.
“That’s why I want to be bot,” said Fig. “Because you get smarter automatically without even trying. The smartness is just there.”
“You think all Bots are smart?”
“Smarter than me.”
“I can get you a new arm. An arm like me.”
Fig stopped walking and held onto his sagging pants as he turned. His cheeks were plush red as was his nose. “Will the arm make me smarter?”
X7R8 thought the fan blowing on his CPU was not working. He felt this hot surge of energy like something burning inside of it. But there was no smoke. Incoherent noises sounded out its mouth. Noise it never heard.
“Why’re you laughing at me?” Fig asked. “I thought Bots never laugh.”
X7R8 patted Fig on the back and said, “This is why you’re the dumb species, Fig. This is why you are dumb.”