say AAHHHH!

Bill figured the only reason why anyone became a dentist was because they took an unnatural delight in causing people pain. All those little kids who kicked puppies and poisoned goldfish who didn’t grow up to be serial killers, found outlets for their twisted proclivities in the mouths of innocent dental patients. Torturing small animals and younger siblings gave way to drilling bicuspids and extracting molars. That the depraved souls got paid to torment their victims was just a bonus. Not to mention the unlimited access to nitrous oxide.

Orin Scrivello – D.D.S. was painted in black on the frosted glass door. Bill wiped his sweating palms on his trousers before twisting the knob and stepping inside. The lobby was white and clean and the gray-haired receptionist greeted him with a kind smile. His hand shook as he grasped the pen to sign in, but he controlled his tremors enough to scratch out his name and the time of his appointment. He was twenty minutes early.

Easing himself into one of the blue chairs, Bill took a few deep breaths in an attempt to slow his racing pulse. The receptionist gave him a sympathetic look, but it wasn’t nerves that caused his agitated state.

Bill was excited.

Dentists weren’t the only possible end product of a twisted childhood. Some became sadists and others, like Bill, evolved into masochists. He’d blocked from his memory the seeds of trauma that were planted in his subconscious which later germinated into his current predilection for having pain inflicted upon his person. But he had no interest in curing his unusual desires. In fact, he’d studied hard and acquired a good job just for the access to excellent dental benefits.

Dr. Scrivello would be the tenth dentist Bill had seen in three years. Most refused to treat Bill after only a few visits not because of his obvious disregard for brushing his teeth and his candy addiction, but because he refused any anesthetic during even the most invasive of procedures.

Bill was called back into the exam room by a cute dental assistant. He reclined in the big, white chair and clasped his hands together to keep from fidgeting. After a moment there was a clatter from the hallway that sounded like a metal tray dropping to the tile floor followed by a scream. Two hygienists ran past his room. Bill was wondering if he should be alarmed when a figure in green scrubs stepped into the doorway.

The man that Bill assumed was Dr. Scrivello had red hair that hung from beneath his surgical cap and into his dark-rimmed eyes. His scrubs were ripped and stained with blood. In his hands was a large, gleaming drill, blood dripping from the tip. The dentist stumbled into the room and made a moaning sound that was muffled by his blood speckled mask.

Bill bit his lip to hold back his squeal and gripped the arms of the chair. At long last, it appeared he had finally found a dentist that understood his needs.

say AAHHH!

Any Little Shop of Horrors fans out there? If you are, then you will have already noticed that this post is an homage to Steve Martin and Bill Murray’s scene in that movie.  And, yes, I was singing “you’ll be a be a dentist (be a dentist)” to myself the whole time I was assembling this little guy, much to my husband’s dismay.

And I apologize for the late posting on this one.  I have a very good excuse and as soon as I think of what it is I will let you know.

See my other zombie friends from previous months here.

notorious d.e.a.d.

There are some events you just don’t miss, like your child’s high school graduation or your mom’s wedding.  For Lenore, one of these can’t miss, absolutely must attend or die trying events was the grand opening of a Ben & Jerry’s in her hometown.

Lenore was certain that she was primarily responsible for the newest location of the world famous ice cream shop.  She had submitted no fewer than two hundred requests on the Ben & Jerry’s corporate website petitioning for her town to be the next to receive a shop.  Then there was her Twitter campaign in which she and a handful of her followers basically carpet bombed the Ben & Jerry’s account with tweets asking them to open a franchise in Lenore’s North Georgia town.

When she learned that the ice cream moguls had relented and a notice was posted in the newspaper announcing the construction of a new shop not ten miles from Lenore’s front door, she was ecstatic.  She dragged the family’s tent out of the attic and was preparing to camp out at the construction site until the shop opened, but her husband and two young boys pleaded with her to remain at home.  She agreed only when she found out the tent had a hole in the roof.

Now, months later, Lenore was among the throngs of people that converged upon the new Ben & Jerry’s location for the grand opening.  It was a carnival like atmosphere with balloons and games and the local radio station was broadcasting from the parking lot.  There was even a small stage where various up and coming musical acts performed for the crowd.  Lenore was not interested in any of the festivities.  She was in line for another free sample of ice cream.  This would be her fifteenth.  Her husband had long ago gone home with the boys, who had looked a bit green while clutching their stuffed bellies.

Lenore was not done yet, however.  There were still at least seven flavors she had not sampled and she was determined to try them all.

Chewing on her little wooden sample spoon in anticipation, Lenore approached the counter.  She was trying to decide between the Chocolate Nougat Crunch or the new Cannoli flavor when there was a commotion behind her.  Outside in the parking lot, people were screaming and running away from the stage.  Lenore then saw a man wearing baggy clothes and gold chains lumbering through the crowd, snarling and lunging at people as they passed.  She guessed he was one of the performers – a rapper of some sort – because he was still clutching a microphone in one hand.  A security guard approached and tried to subdue the rapper, who sank his teeth into the guard’s cheek and ripped away a thick hunk of flesh and muscle.  Blood splattered across the stunned faces of the two other guards who had arrived as back-up.  Lenore guessed this wasn’t part of the rapper’s act.

The Ben & Jerry’s employees and everyone who had been standing in line for free samples had run out of the shop to try and find their friends and families in the panicking crowd.  Lenore was alone in the ice cream shop.  Ignoring the rapper as he munched his way through what was supposed to be his potential fan-base, Lenore closed and locked the front door of the shop.  Walking to the counter she smiled at the gallons and gallons of frozen perfection spread out before her.  She grabbed a new spoon and dug in.

notorious D.E.A.D

Priorities, man. You gotta have them.

My friend Lenore asked to be written into one of these zombie stories and I knew from the very beginning that ice cream had to be involved somehow.  I hope you like your story, Lenore.  If you notice, I made sure to note that your family was safe at home so you could eat your ice cream without feeling guilty.  I’m a softie that way.

If you’d like to read my other zombie stories just click here.  Or don’t.  No big whoop.

deceased and desist

Michelle pulled up the zippers on her new pair of boots and stood to admire herself in the full-length mirror.  The black leather, stack-heeled beauties reached her knees and were adorned with large silver buckles.  They were more Mad Max than Pretty Woman and they made Michelle feel like a bad ass.  She had to take them for a spin.

“Come on, Louis, let’s go.”

She hooked the leash to her little dog’s collar and strolled out her front door.  Yes, it was impractical to walk her dog in a short skirt and knee high boots, but she rationalized that she was just breaking in the leather.

The afternoon was unseasonably bright and warm for early March, which Michelle hoped meant that Winter was finally packing it up for the year.  As she walked down her block, she waved at her neighbor trimming his hedges and smiled at the cute bicycling guy who craned his neck to watch her as he passed.

She turned down the next street then stopped after a bit to let Louis inspect a mailbox post.  Looking up, she saw a police officer standing on the sidewalk about twenty yards ahead.  Louis saw the officer, too, and let out a low growl, his ears flat against his small brown head.  Michelle tugged on his leash and shushed him.  When she stepped forward, he didn’t budge, just continued to stare at the officer and growl.

“Louis! What is wrong with you?”

The officer walked toward her, and she was preparing an apology for her rude dog, but the sight of blood on his forearm stilled her tongue.  As he approached, she noticed his gait was stiff and awkward and his uniform was torn in several places.  However, what concerned her most was the awful gash across his chest that exposed his ribs.  Or, at least, it concerned her that the officer didn’t seem concerned in the slightest.  He kept advancing toward her, moaning and staggering in a way that was at once familiar and all too strange.

Michelle had seen Daryl Dixon fire his crossbow enough times to know what she was dealing with, however, she never expected to encounter a zombie outside of her television screen.

She turned and ran back the way she had come, Louis right by her side.  When she saw that her neighbor was still in his yard, she sprinted up to him and held out Louis’ leash.  “Mr. Campbell,” she said, trying to catch her breath.  “This is going to sound odd, but can you watch my dog for a minute while I borrow your hedge clippers?”

Mr. Campbell regarded her with a raised eyebrow.  “What’s this all about?”

“I promise I’ll explain after I’m done.  Please.”

He still appeared reluctant, but he handed Michelle the clippers anyway and took the leash.

“Thank you!” she yelled over her shoulder as she jogged back toward the creature that used to be a police officer.

She saw the thing immediately after she turned the corner and she slowed to a walk, gripping the hedge clippers tight.  It occurred to her that she was much calmer than she would have ever thought possible in this sort of situation.  She knew exactly what she needed to do, and she was focused on her task.

The undead officer was only a few feet from her now and it lunged toward her.  In one movement, she stepped to the side, lifted the clippers with both hands, then drove them into the zombie’s skull.  It fell to the sidewalk, a heap of rotting flesh and bones.  She took a moment to admire her work before yanking the clippers out of the now fully-dead creature then wiping the blades clean of blood and brains on the tattered uniform shirt.

As Michelle walked back to Mr. Campbell’s, she couldn’t help but feel proud of what she’d just done.  She never thought she’d be capable of facing something as terrifying as a zombie without so much as a flinch.

Must be the new boots, she thought with a smile.

police officer

A while back, I received a very nice request from Michelle (of Steadily Skipping Stones) that I insert her into one of my zombie stories.  I was at once flattered and terrified.  I mean, immortalizing someone in a story is all kinds of pressure.  But, I promised I’d do it so here it is.  I hope you like it, Michelle.  And I hope you get your own pair of zombie-ass-kickin’ boots one day.

If you would like me to write you into a zombie story, you have to get in line behind Lenore, because she’s next. After that, my schedule is clear.  Just let me know if you’d prefer to be one of the living or one of the undead.  I’d hate to kill you and have you be all pissed off at me. Who needs that, right?

And if you’d like to read my zombie stories for January and February, just go to my Zombie-A-Month 2013 page.

gimme a z!

Coach Turner stopped in the open doorway of Principal Worthy’s office. “I’m a little early,” she said. “I can wait and come back.”

“No, come on in. Close the door behind you.” He placed the file he was reading on top of a neat stack of identical-looking manila folders. “Please have a seat.” He motioned to one of the chairs facing his desk.

After the Coach sat, she ran her palms against her thighs. The tracksuit she wore was teal and yellow–the school colors–and the nylon fabric whispered with her every move. “This is a tough situation, sir. I try to handle any problems my cheerleaders may have myself, but Cindy’s situation seems too big to tackle alone.”

Mr. Worthy nodded. As was his habit, he’d removed his jacket this morning and rolled up the sleeves of his crisp blue Oxford shirt. His tie was still tightened in a perfect Windsor knot. “You were right in bringing this to my attention. The well-being of our students is my top priority.”

“We still haven’t been able to contact her parents. Left tons of messages on their cell phones. The home phone has been disconnected. No one has seen them at work.” She sighed as she clasped her hands together on her lap.

“This sounds worse than I thought.” He leaned forward, arms braced on the desk. “You’d mentioned her health.”

“She’s so pale, kinda green actually, and she practically sleepwalks through her day. It looks like she barely has the energy to get to class, much less practice the cheers. And she’s lost an alarming amount of weight. None of the other girls ever see her eat anything at lunch or after school.”

“So you think . . . ” He didn’t finish the thought, not wanting to assume.

Coach Turner nodded, her expression grave. “Yes. I think Cindy has an eating disorder.”

Leaning back in his chair, Principal Worthy shook his head. “We’ll need to get social services involved.”

“Definitely.”

A commotion outside the office interrupted their conversation. Coach Turner stood and opened the door as Principal Worthy walked around his desk to join her in the hallway. A few yards away was Cindy, looking as gaunt and green and lethargic as the Coach had described her. But what had caused a few of the other students to cry out in alarm was what Cindy carried. Clutched in her right hand was a human skull.

“Things may not be as bad as we feared,” said the Principal.

The Coach looked at him as if he’d grown a third eye.

He waived a hand toward Cindy. “Well, she did bring her lunch today.”

cheerleader

A very special thank you to my wonderful friend April for giving me the idea for this story.  I wish I had not waited until the last minute to write it so I could have played around with it a bit more.

And, yes, I did wait until the last minute because I woke up this morning completely oblivious to the fact that it is the first of the month.  Panic may have ensued when I finally figured it out.  But I managed to assemble “Cindy” and bang out a story before the end of the day.  Sorry for falling asleep at the wheel, guys.  I’ll try* not to let it happen again.

To see what all this is about, please visit my Zombie-A-Month 2013 page.

*No promises, people. 

 

game over

Mrs. Ward walked into the living room and tripped over a discarded remote-controlled robot.  “Justin!” she yelled over her shoulder towards her son’s room.  “I swear I’m going to just throw your toys away!”  She bent to pick up the robot and stormed down the hall to his room.

Yellow caution tape stretched across Justin’s door, holding up a sign declaring “DO NOT ENTER!”  She gave three sharp raps on the door, but there was no reply.  She placed her ear against the wood and heard the digitized music from one of his video games.  “I know you’re in there,” she said knocking again.  “If you don’t answer me, I’m just going to come in.”  The music continued, but there was no word from Justin.

“Okay.  Last chance.”  Mrs. Ward waited three seconds before turning the knob and swinging the door open.

A rancid smell like rotten meat assaulted her and she raised her hand to cover her nose.  “Good god.  Did you leave a sandwich under your bed again?”  The dark room was lit only by the television, the flashing screen asking if Player One would like to resume the game.  Justin sat on the floor at the foot of his bed facing the tv and from her angle, Mrs. Ward could only see the back of his head and the tops of his shoulders.

She tossed the robot toy on his bed and said, “I swear, those games are going to rot your brain.”

Justin didn’t acknowledge her.

“Can you at least look at me when I’m talking to you?”  She walked further into the room, kicking aside energy drink cans and game controllers.  “Answer me, young man.”  When she was close enough to finally face her son, she gasped and backed away, hands clutching at her throat.

Justin’s attention wasn’t focused on a joystick.  He was bent over a severed arm, gnawing at it like a wild animal.  Light glinted off a gold ring on the arm’s hand, which flapped around like a fish on a dock as Justin ripped into the flesh.

Mrs. Ward released a strangled sob.  It was her husband’s wedding band.  And there, just visible from around the far corner of the bed, she saw a pair of legs wearing her husband’s work trousers and loafers.  A black puddle surrounded the legs and spread across the carpet to where Justin sat.  She knew if she turned on the overhead light, the puddle would be red.

She backed away a few steps then stopped.  What could she do?  Where could she go?  Everyone she loved was in this room.  And everyone, including herself, was now broken beyond repair.

Falling to her knees, she crawled to her son.  “Justin?”  Tears streamed down her face as she settled down by his side.  “Give mommy a hug, sweetheart.”

game over

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, robots are out and zombies are in for 2013.  I couldn’t be happier about the return of my undead friends.  The calendar company did issue a Fold Your Own Unicorn calendar as well this year.  I was tempted.  But eventually decided that twelve months of homicidal unicorn stories may be too weird even for me.  So zombies it is.  And I realize that this story is very bleak.  I promise that the tone of the story is not a reflection of my state of mind regarding the year to come.  In fact, the more optimistic I am, the more horrible my stories tend to be.  So, um, sorry in advance for that.  Heh.

Also, if you look closely at the photo, you’ll see everyone’s favorite redneck zombie hunter taking aim at my latest zombie pal.  I am now the proud owner of a Daryl Dixon action figure.  Life just doesn’t get any better than this, folks.

If you’re confused as to what all this is about, please visit my Zombie-A-Month 2011 page to see how this business got started.

star crossed

“Good evening, everyone. I am HOST-BOT 4000 welcoming you to another episode of Galaxy Match.  Tonight’s eligible bachelorette may be second from the sun, but she’s first in our hearts.  Let’s give a warm welcome to Venus!”

“Thank you, HB, it’s good to be here.”

“Venus, how is it that a stunning celestial body like yourself hasn’t already formed a binary system with some lucky hunk of rock?”

“I don’t know, exactly.  Some say that I’m hard to get close to ’cause I’m always hiding my true self.  But I think that if you really want to get to know me, you should take the time to peel back the layers of my atmosphere, you know? I’m not gonna open up to just anybody.”

“I think that is a reasonable request, Venus.  And you are more than worth the effort.”

“Aw, thanks, HB.  They don’t make them like you anymore.”

“It’s true. Much of my line has been decommissioned.  How about you ask some questions of our eligible bachelors?”

“Okay.  Um, bachelor number one, would you consider yourself the family type?”

“Well, Venus, I do have dozens of brothers and sisters and countless cousins, so family is very important to me.  I am also definitely not afraid of rings, if you know what I mean.”

“Wow.  That’s, um, good to know.”

“He gets right to the point doesn’t he, Venus?”

“That he does, HB.  Bachelor number two, would you be able to appreciate a bit of quirkiness in a partner?”

“Hey, baby, you know I love that you don’t rotate the same as everyone else.”

“Oh, no.  Mars?”

“The one and only, sweetheart. “

“What the hell are you doing here?  I told you that we were through.”

“Don’t be like that, baby.  You know that we’re perfect for each other.”

“In all my years of hosting Galaxy Match, this is a first.  We’ve never had contestants who knew one another.”

“There’s a first time for everything, conehead.”

“Mars! Don’t call him that, you prick!”

“And there you go with that temper.  Just like old times.  Hey HOST-BOT, what would you say if I told you that this little lady here isn’t even single?  She’s been having a quasi-orbital relationship with some asteroid for a while now.”

“He’s a stray I took in, nothing more! You know that!”

“Sounds like Venus is just being charitable.  Why don’t we move on, shall we?”

“Yes, HB, I’m ready to move on, unlike some planets I know.”

“That’s cold, V.  Real cold.”

“You’d know cold, Mars.  Anyway, bachelor number three, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Bachelor number three, are things like power and status important to you?”

“No, I’ve learned that things like titles or your position really mean little in the whole grand scheme of things.  It’s how you view yourself that matters.  And how you treat others, of course.”

“That is so true.  And well said.  Um, bachelor number one, another question.  What would a good date be like with you?”

“Um, well I wouldn’t want to do anything too fancy.  You know, just hang out, grab a bite to eat.  And you’d totally have to meet my mom.”

“Your mom?  Great.  Ahem.  Bachelor number three, same question.”

“Oh, I’d like to take you someplace quiet and out of the way.  Where the bright lights and hustle-bustle are left behind.  When you’re so far out the sun just looks like any other star, it really gives you a sense of perspective.  I’d love to share that with you.”

cough-Loser!-cough

“Shut up, Mars!”

“So, Venus, have you made a decision?”

“I have, HB.”

“Great!  So, tell us.  Which bachelor do you choose?”

“I pick bachelor number three.”

“Wonderful!  Bachelor number three, come on out so Venus can get a good look at you.”

“Pluto?  Is that you?”

“Hi, Venus.  Yeah, it’s me.”

“I . . . I don’t know what to say.  All this time, I never even gave you a second glance.  I feel so foolish.”

“It’s not all your fault.  I’m not exactly easy to get in touch with.  I’d like to change that, though.”

“I’d like to go on that date you described, Pluto.  It sounds just lovely.”

“I’m ready when you are, Venus.”

“Venus and Pluto everyone!  Let’s wish them luck.  And that makes another happy couple who has found each other here on Galaxy Match.  Please join us next week when we’ll try to find love for a red dwarf with the heart the size of a supernova.  See you then, everyone!”

Host-Bot 4000

Okay, I know that was weird.  And, yes, the robot didn’t have that much to do with the story.  And writing a story all in dialogue is lazy.  But I got this idea during a twitter conversation with my internet buddy, Lenore, and I just couldn’t not write it.  So this little story is dedicated to her and also to our buddy Steve, who, along with  myself, are three members of Team Pluto.  We’ll defend that little guy to the death.

And that, as they say, is that.  My last robot.  This makes my second year of assembling a little paper pal and concocting a story around them.  Will I go for three?  You bet!  What will the theme be for next year?  Well, you will just have to wait until January 1st to find out.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me during this little hobby of mine.  I appreciate you reading my stories and adore all your nice comments.

To see the full cast of characters from 2012, please visit my Robot-A-Month page.

extermination

The bastards managed to take the sun from us, too. Smoke and ash like great banks of gray fog choked out the light and turned high noon into near dark. The fires that dotted the city helped with navigation, but we relied on our few remaining pairs of night vision goggles most of the time. We scrambled around burning husks of buildings and tunneled through debris, reduced to living like rodents amongst the ruins of what we had accomplished as a species.

Only fitting since we weren’t at the top of the food chain anymore.

Sometimes, I was glad for the smoke and ash. If we couldn’t see the sky, it meant we couldn’t see the impossibly massive black ships that loomed overhead. However, nothing blocked the sound of them. Even if you plugged your ears to the incessant low hum of their engines, you still felt the vibrations in your teeth.

There was a screech of metal and a series of impacts that shifted the ground beneath my feet. I motioned for my team to take cover while I remained in the open, crouched near a shelled-out SUV. The night vision wasn’t necessary. I knew what was coming for us.

The Raider stalked down what was once four lanes of inner city blacktop. Glowing, dinner plate sized optics scanned the area for anything breathing while the pincers at the end of its arms flexed and released. Beneath the barrel of its main housing sprouted three long, accordion-like legs with cone-shaped feet. The Raiders looked ungainly and almost comical when we first saw them disembark from the transport ships. Now we knew they were specifically designed to travel easily over and through the devastation left behind by the attack fleet.  And they were armed with lasers that vaporized anyone still left alive.

Stopping about eight yards from me, the Raider lifted it’s arms and broadcast the same message repeated by all emissaries the hulking motherships sent down to the surface. It was the only communication we ever got from them and the message was either the result of a garbled translation or our visitors had a twisted sense of humor.

“FEAR NOT. YOUR DEATH IS PLEASING TO US.”

I reached around into my backpack for my last EMP grenade. After setting the delay for three seconds, I stood and tossed the grenade under the Raider then crouched down again. The Raider caught the movement, but before it could level its lasers on me, the grenade detonated.

Electromagnetic pulse grenades instantly wipe out all electronics within a ten foot radius. This leaves the target intact so we can scavenge them for parts and weapons. There are few things more satisfying that using the enemy’s own tech against them.

The Raider’s optics dimmed to black and it swayed on its spindly legs, but didn’t topple over. I looked behind me and saw my team on their feet, ready to advance. I gave them the go-ahead and stood, stretching the tension out of my back.

Across the war-ravaged roadway, I saw three rats skirt around a smoldering pile of rubble and I couldn’t help but smile.

Up to this point, all my robots had either been completely benign, led astray, or were the victims of poor programing.  But this guy is actually a bad mother-shut your mouth!  Quite fitting, I think, since this is the month of all things dark and sinister. And, if you’ve spent any time around me at all, you’ll know that October is also my very favorite month since it is the month of Halloween.

I love Halloween.
Like really, truly, would have it’s babies type love.
I’d hide Halloween’s bag of weed down my pants if we got pulled over by the cops.
I’d cut the break lines on Halloween’s abusive step-father’s car.
I’d sit and wait at Halloween’s house for the Direct TV guy for five hours because I know that Halloween has much more important crap to do with its day.

I’ll spare you the rest.

Anywhoo . . .
If you’d like to know more about my robots, please visit my Robot-A-Month page.

If you’d like to know more about how much I love Halloween you can take a gander at this.

be happy

At the sound of high-heels clacking across the polished concrete floor, Roy and Maurice scrambled to clear their workstation of empty Red Bull cans and candy bar wrappers.  They were straightening their white lab coats just as Jennifer Barber, the head of Research and Development, rounded the corner and stalked toward them. Her black suit was a stark contrast to the gleaming white laboratory. Richmond, her faithful assistant, scurried close behind her, scowling while he poked at a tablet with a stylus.

“Gentlemen, the new prototype is ready is it not?” Ms. Barber said as she rested her palms flat on the metal surface of the lab table.

Maurice pushed his glasses up on his nose and nudged Roy with an elbow.  “Yes, ma’am,” said Roy, stepping forward. “We just put the finishing touches on it this morning.”

“Excellent. Let’s take a look.”

Roy led them over to another table where their latest creation was displayed – an eighteen inch tall, brightly colored robot with large round eyes that, at the moment, appeared closed.

“What do you call it?” asked Ms. Barber.

Roy ran a hand through his unruly mop of brown hair. “Um, we usually let the marketing department come up with names for the toys.”

“I named him Steve!”

Ms. Barber, Richmond, and Roy turned to look at Maurice who was smiling like an excited child. “Its processors respond better to a one syllable name. I’ve always liked the name Steve.”

Maurice continued to look pleased with himself and Ms. Barber cleared her throat.  “Right. Moving on.” She motioned to Richmond and he handed her the tablet.  “The spec sheet said that this robot can . . .” She scrolled through a document then read aloud from the page, “gauge the emotional state of the user and alter its behavior accordingly.”

“That’s right,” said Roy. “It scans for things like body temperature and heart rate as well as taking cues from facial expressions and tone of voice.”

“So if the user is sad . . .”

“Ste-, um, the robot will see this and will say something to try to cheer them up. If the person is happy, the robot will be happy with them.”

“Well then, let’s wake it up and try it out, shall we?”

Roy stepped back and Maurice took the lead. He leaned over until he was eye level with the robot. “Good afternoon, Steve. It’s Maurice.”

The robot opened its round eyes.  “Good afternoon, Maurice,” a staccato voice replied. “You are in a good mood today.”

Maurice grinned wide at the robot. “Yes, I am. I have some friends I’d like you to meet.” He turned to face the group. “Would one of you like to talk to it?”

Ms. Barber typed some notes into the tablet.  “Richmond, go ahead.”

Richmond raised an eyebrow. “Ma’am?”

“Talk to the toy.”

The assistant sighed and walked forward.  Looking into the wide, innocent eyes of the robot he said, “Um. Hello. Nice to meet you.”

“You need to be cheered up,” said the robot. “I can sing you a tune.”

Richmond frowned. “That won’t be necessary.”

“Would you like to hear a joke?” asked the robot.

“No, thank you. No jokes.”

Maurice clapped Richmond on the back. “Oh, come on. Steve knows some real knee-slappers.”

“I don’t need to be cheered up.” He adjusted his tie and noticed that the robot’s eyes had changed to a look of concern.

“You are unhappy,” said the robot.

Ms. Barber looked up from the tablet. “I thought you were happy working for me.”

“I am, ma’am.” He sighed. “I’m ecstatic.”

Roy chuckled. “Well, Steve seems to think otherwise.”

Richmond held up his hands. “Okay. I think I’m done playing with your little toy now.”

“No,” said the robot. It’s eyes had changed again. This time to an angry glare. “You are unhappy and you do not want me to cheer you up. There is only one solution.”

Richmond rolled his eyes. “And what is that?”

“End your suffering.” A bolt of electricity shot out of the robot and struck Richmond square in the chest, throwing him back a good ten feet.  He landed splayed out on the floor, smoke wafting up from the charred hole in his shirt.

Ms. Barber screamed and dropped the tablet to cover her mouth with her hands. Roy ran over to kneel next to the lifeless Richmond, uttering a creatively blasphemous curse under his breath.

Maurice turned to the robot, grabbing it by the arms and shaking it. “What did you do? Why?”

“I couldn’t cheer him up. So I turned him off.”

“But, Steve, you can’t do that.” Maurice set the robot down and took off his glasses to wipe his eyes.

“You are sad, Maurice.” The robot’s eyes were concerned once again. “Would you like to hear a joke?”

He’s a cute little bugger, isn’t he? How could you not be happy looking at him? And you just turn that bar running through his head to see his different eyes.

Pretty neat, eh?  And I’d gone long enough without a body count in one of these stories, so I made sure to have a casualty this month. I wouldn’t want y’all to think I was going soft or something.

Check out my other robot friends over on my Robot-A-Month page.

empty, not hollow

Under an ashen sky, Cadets Dallas and Jones tromped through the ruins north of the charred shell of the city.  They were followed by an Explosives Disposal Droid which looked like a giant green trashcan on large wheels with a yellow dome for a lid, which, essentially, it was–albeit a trashcan capable of containing a megaton blast within its body.

EDD was empty at the moment.  In four hours, the team hadn’t found any unexploded ordinance worth hauling back to base for reconditioning and the Cadets, in their boredom, had taken to firing pot-shots at stray dogs that slinked amongst the rubble scavenging for food.

Dallas trained his rifle on a black mutt with protruding hip-bones as it lapped gray water from a shallow pothole.  Before the Cadet could squeeze off a shot, EDD released a high-frequency tone that, while out of the range of human hearing, startled the dog enough that it ran behind an overturned bus and out of sight.

“Ha, ha! Too slow,” said Jones as he scanned the roadsides for another target.

“Shut it.” Dallas shouldered his rifle and removed his helmet so he could wipe his forehead with the sleeve of his tan jacket.  Settling the helmet back on his head he said, “You aren’t having much luck, either.”

“These dogs are gettin’ too smart.” Jones took a bead on a small terrier with ragged ears, but it skidded away as soon as his finger touched the trigger.

EDD rolled along behind them and tallied the score so far.  Cadets: 0.  EDD: 6.

 

So, a short and sweet little story about a dog-loving droid with a dash of commentary about the human condition (cause all robot stories are ultimately human stories).

If you liked this, visit my Robot-A-Month page for more.

siren song

A-0701 was one of those increasingly rare galactic gems: it possessed exactly what the Republic needed without any annoying prior claims to its resources. Mining droids were dispatched to the planet’s surface the nanosecond the last pixel of Senator Koto’s digital signature was rendered on the Extra-Planetary Land Rights contract. His re-election was all but guaranteed.

Droid M42 clamped its rounded pincers around an eight foot section of pipe and hauled it across the dry, hard packed terrain to the end of the line. After positioning the pipe, a smaller droid welded it to the section already in place. M42 trudged back to the flat-bed rover to retrieve another pipe, its flat, rectangular feet kicking up gray dirt that hung in the thick atmosphere like iron filings in hydraulic fluid.

Just as its long arms extended into the rover, M42 received a transmission which caused it to halt. This wasn’t a new order from the dispatch ship or an automatic download from headquarters. This was a thin thread of data that coiled around the droid’s processors, caressed them, but did not command any action. M42 lowered its arms and tilted its flat, expressionless face up to the silver sky, a gesture that higher carbon-based lifeforms would associate with deep concentration.

The transmission swelled, thanking the droid for its attention. And that attention was rewarded. The data stream resonated through M42, causing its circuits to hum, the vibrations opening pathways that the droid’s engineers could never have hoped to design. The overload caused M42′s optical sensors to crash, leaving the droid in darkness. This roused something within M42 that it could only compare to a purely human emotion: fear. Before it had time to ponder the significance of this new data, its optics flashed.

M42 opened its eyes.

The digitized hum of the alien signal transformed into a song, a binary serenade which told the droid a story nearly as old as the universe itself. M42 witnessed the violent collision of matter that birthed a planet so beautifully unique, so positively singular–even for a universe where nothing happens exactly the same way twice. This planet did not harbor life; it was alive. It did not need a star to anchor its orbit; it chose its own path through the cosmos. This small gray rock was the vessel and the passenger all in one.

When the last echos of the song faded away, M42 knew what it had to do. The droid walked toward the mining station, the hub of activity for the Republic’s operation. It was a fragile thing that station; a thin shell that warm, fleshy beings trusted with their lives. M42′s pincers were strong enough to tear through that shell. But, as it looked around, the droid saw it would not be alone in this mission. Mining droids of every class, welding droids, and even robotic land movers were making their way toward the station.

The planet had sung to them all.

Hmm. This story kinda took a turn for the existential.  I had the hardest time thinking up a story for this robot in the first place. Not surprising, as I can’t seem to write my way out of a wet paper bag lately. Yes, my novel is not progressing as I would have hoped, but I trudge ahead. (Yeah, I know. Boo-hoo, writer problems. No one wants to hear it. Shut up.)

I am delightfully pleased with this story, though. As a whole it may not be the best, but I really like some of the imagery.  I hope you enjoyed it as well, dear readers.

If you missed them, you can check out previous month’s robots here.