I’ve posted a piece of this before but never the whole thing. I’ve never been totally happy with this short story. There are some bits I like but to me it feels unfinished. I plan one day to go over it but until then this is it. Enjoy.
The Robot That Sat On My House
I always thought robots were cool. Except that really annoying one off Buck Rogers, obviously. I even voted for someone on the basis that their solution to over-use of pesticides was to have tiny robots that used a laser to kill weeds. I mean, tiny robots! That’s got to be the best policy ever, right? But I never thought I’d have one sitting on my roof.
I was in the office at work when my phone buzzed and the name ‘Brian’ flashed up in the screen. Brian is my neighbour. I always think neighbours are like family, you can’t really choose them, you just have to get lucky. On the whole I think I got lucky with Brian. He’s a retired accountant from Cheltenham, he’s nice to my cat and he keeps an eye on the house when I’m not there. On the other hand, on retiring he decided to fulfil his lifelong dream of becoming a hippy and moving to a commune, although being an accountant the commune turned out to be a three bed Georgian semi in Lincolnshire. To summarise, I live next door to a very polite, middle class hippy, two Persian cats and a spaniel called Hendrix.
“Hello Brian” I answered.
“Hey man!” My neighbour spoke with an unusual accent, a hybrid of Las Angeles and Gloucestershire. “Better come on home, something heavy’s going down.”
“Yeah man! Looks like a robot’s sitting on your house!”
“A robot, man!”
“A robot man?”
“A freakin’ robot on the roof, man”
“Are you sure?”
“Hey, don’t believe me man? Check you email!” And he hung up. Feeling slightly worried I put down the phone and clicked on my emails. There was one from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. I clicked on the attachment. It opened to show a slightly blurry photo of a large metallic object on the top of my house. Robot or not, it was clearly a cause of concern. I called Brain back.
“Hey man, like the photo?”
“Hello Brian, Erm, look, have you phoned the police?”
“No way man!, we don’t want the Blue Meanies coming down on us!”
“Yeah man! The cops, the fuzz, those dudes working for the man! We don’t need the hassle. It’s all cool!”
“I thought you said it was heavy?”
“Yeah, heavy, but also cool”
“Like an iceberg?”
“Iceberg?” For a moment Brian’s LA cool slipped. “Look just come home and sort it out will you? I need to feed Lennon and McCartney”
I explained to my boss that I had to go home because there was a robot sitting on my house. She just looked at me. I could almost hear the train of thought, starting with ‘oh no,not him again’ followed by ‘he sounds even crazier than last time’ and finally ‘if I let him go, I won’t have to talk to him’. She nodded. I left. I think we have trust issues.
I arrived home to find that there was, indeed, a robot sitting on my house. It was about the size of an Audi and also grey, but there the likeness ended. When I arrived it looked like an elongated and then flattened sphere but as I watched it seemed to bunch up, becoming shorter and fatter. As it transformed its surface seemed to flow, reminding me of the scales on a snake except rather than scales the body was covered with hundreds of equilateral triangles. As I watched one of the triangles detached from the body on the end of a limb that flowed like a mechanical tentacle out of the resultant triangular hole. As the triangle neared the roof, the end of the limb pulled apart, splitting the triangle into four smaller triangles and splayed out like fingers to grip the roof.
The robot had five of these snaky limbs but unlike the other four which held the robot steady as it perched on the ridge, this latest one moved around as if the robot were looking for something. Suddenly the tentacle pulled three tiles off and plunged through the roof into the attic.
“Hey!” I shouted “That’s my house. Leave it alone!”
I thought it was ignoring me but then another triangle detached from the body and came snaking all the way down the side of the house towards me. I took a nervous step back but the triangle stopped at head height about three feet away. Then to my surprise words appeared on the surface.
“What?” I said “Why? What’s going on?”
“Work in progress…”
“What work? What are you doing to my house?”
“Dry rot? I don’t have dry rot!”
“Dry rot detected and treatment in progress. Please wait. This video will help you relax…” To my utter confusion the words were replaced by a video of a cat falling off a sofa.
“Why am I watching a video of a cat?” The video shrank to fit in the lower part of the triangle and more words appeared across the top.
“Research shows cat videos are the most popular entertainment for humans?”
“Switch it off!”
“Do you not like cats? Other animals are available…”
“Of course I like cats. I’ve got one of my own”
“Detecting cats…” Videos of cats started appearing, each one shrinking to a small triangle until the lower half of the screen was filled by cats. More words appeared across the top.
“Identify your cat…” And there he was, my rather scruffy looking black tom cat. Without thinking I leaned forward and touched the triangle. All the other cats disappeared and I was watching mine. He was sitting on a wall having a wash and ignoring the Alsatian that was going crazy in the garden below. More words appeared across the top of the screen.
“Is this your cat…”
“Yes, that’s him. He’s called Steve”
“Contact attempted with Steve previously. Subject was unwilling to communicate”
“That sounds about right”
The video minimised to the bottom of the screen and more words appeared.
“Process complete. Dry rot eliminated…” I looked up to see the tentacle replace the tiles in the roof and withdraw back into the body of the robot. I made another effort to get a grip of the situation.
“Look, thanks for sorting the dry rot, but why are you here?”
“I seek peace…”
“I have completed the optimum working lifetime and am now surplus to requirements…”
“Oh I see”
“In most cases we would fall apart or suffer from degraded processing ability before the allotted time is reached…”
“A bit like being a teacher then”
“The decision was made to allow me to stop working and make my own way…”
“Now I seek peace…”
“But why here?”
“I scanned the Galaxy for the place where maximum peace could be achieved…”
“And came here?”
“On your internet, this place is described as such…” A suspicion began to form in my mind. Behind me I heard Brian coming back from taking Hendrix for a walk.
“Hey man!” Brian appeared over the fence. Long haired and bearded, he wore a cerise bandana and a pair of pink tinted, rimless spectacles.
“Brian, do you advertise your commune in the web?”
“Sure thing man. Got our own page on the Book of the Face. Supercool yeah?”
“Groovy!” I replied “What’s your Facebook page called?”
“Maximum Peace and Love, man” Things were starting to make sense.
“How do you feel about having a robot in your commune?”
“It’s come all the way across the galaxy to join your commune”
“Heavy!” Brian looked worried. “I don’t know man, I mean we welcome all regardless of colour or creed, but a robot?”
“It’s a pretty cool robot”
“Yeah? How so?”
“It’s cured the dry rot in the roof”
“That’s quite cool”
“It can detect cats!”
“What, like it could tell me where Lennon and McCartney are?”
“Yes, in fact it can show you on video what they’re doing”
“Wow man! Now that is cool!” Brian thought for a moment. “Ok, tell the dude he’s in!”
So that was it. The robot moved into Brian’s garden and he told the neighbours it was a new style of greenhouse he ordered off the internet. The robot has been very helpfulI, and not just for home improvement and detecting cats. So now I live next door to a very polite, middle class hippy, two Persian cats, a spaniel called Hendrix and robot. You see, you can’t choose your neighbours, you just have to get lucky