“Excuse me, but have you got a spot to plug in my dog?”
“No. Be on your way.” The broom handle chatted with the metal spindles at its end. The scraping of steel against stone followed Jak as he and his dog walked down the street.
“Well boy,” Jak said to his dog, whose gears whirred. “We’ll find you a place soon. A place to plug you in.”
And the world around them was grey and silver, always and forever, before and after, then and now: a replication of steel and stone, a fabrication of glass and other earth’s bones, all intertwined with a glowing epoxy that lit the night. Rain came and dripped down silver steel to grey gutters, into underground conduits that housed electrical cables and water pipes, depositing their burden into the Sea – the Sea that was covered in a sheet of grey steel, and that housed fish glittering silver and grey.
A tower rose before Jak, grey to its peak, and beyond it, a silver dome hung glistening. And when it rained, when the sun penetrated clouds of grey lined with silver, a casing of metal closed over the city, until the rumoured rainbow curled up and went to sleep in a box of diamond and starlight, for rainbows were not allowed here, not permitted for the eyes of boys like Jak, who was merely looking for a spot to plug in his dog.
“Well Jak,” came the voice of Officer Sandy, who pulled up and retracted his wheels into his bumpers so that he could stand, “why are you so glum?”
“My dog is hungry.”
Officer Sandy detached his hat. “What’s the problem? Just go home and patch in.”
Jak sighed. “I can’t. We have a shortage of power today.”
“Oh, I see. Well, there is a finite amount to go around underneath the dome. I’m sorry, Jak. Wish I could help.”
“By any chance, Office Sandy, do you have a spot on your bumper for the plugging-in of dogs?”
“Naturally, Jak, but I’m afraid I have a matter to attend to currently.” Officer Sandy lay down and revved his engine. “There appears to be a hail storm brewing. Possible bad news for our precious dome.”
Officer Sandy moved on, down a street both silver and grey.
“Oh boy,” despaired Jak, “what will become of us if we carry on like this?”
When he came to the lamppost and found the ruined tank, it was teeming with life: little bots racing about on pincers, rending the sides of the vehicle as they sought to create new companions. In the middle of the tank lay a beating heart that performed a pulmonary function on the new creatures, giving them life. Jak peered in. The heart beat and beat, but all he could ask was: “Have you got a spot to plug in my dog?” Heedless, the little bots went about feeding, and when they were done, they scurried up the frame of a building that leaned over a street once gold and now grey, over a road once living and now silver.
“Will no one listen?” asked Jak, the little boy’s voice circling the city spires. Jak raised his antenna and unhinged the clasps on his jaws so that his mouth could open wider. But the bots on the street roared their disapproval at Jak, the small boy with the dog that needed some spot to put its plug. And when he didn’t find that spot, he brought the dog to a building that towered over the road. He took the cord that provided his dog’s nourishment and touched it to a column of silver that suddenly took on a haze of grey. In the hole that opened, he slipped in the cord that was usually reserved for the finding of spots meant for the plugging-in of dogs.
The dog whirred with heat. Heat leaked and the dog’s heart started to beat. Shadows moved over buildings grey and silver. And that’s when Jak saw what he had done, the incalculable damage of his antenna-up cry of hardship. “Oh dear,” he said, as the bots about him paused to see the cloud descending upon the dome. “I did not precisely mean for this to happen.”
Sweeping swooping butterflies of blue and dark blue and green-blue approached the city from the west. These were non-mechanical creatures spun in far-off lands by lightning bugs stored in boxes blue and green. Compressing air with lithe wings, they made a breeze that blew the silt off the slit through which the sun spun a magenta net. The moving cloud descended on the city of greys and silvers.
“What are they holding?” cried Jak, pointing. All the bots, little and large, turned to watch the heavens that had been summoned by Jak’s dog, who had wanted nothing more than a good plug-in spot.
The butterfly army carried little marbles. Down the round objects fell, smashing open and depositing their colours on the colours silver and grey, wherever they lay. Crawling creeping little bots emerged from the splashing shades, working at constructing bright matter out of metal and glass. Converting, creating, they bred, spreading as though this were their home, rather than those locked boxes where rainbows churned and spun and snapped at passing birds with metal wings wearing slivers of silver tin rings.
Colour dripped and dashed, stains upon silver and grey. “Oh dear, what is happening?” asked Jak, as his hands grew bigger and were overcome by a fleshy colour. His feet were purple, his hands orange. “All I wanted,” he said, as the colour became a rain that Jak had never known, “was to find a spot to plug in my dog.” Bots about the street tried in vain to stop the creeping softness that suddenly overcame their guts as the marbles fell and fell and fell. But the dome was open, graced by a rainbow through which the butterflies came despite any protest, an army of colour, an assault that pushed even against the harshest wind – and perhaps indeed, did that very thing because that very wind pushed so hard against their lithe little wings.
This is an older story that used to be on this blog but vanished. I always liked it, even though it’s more an exercise in writing than a narrative. Next week, a sequel will be posted to this – I wrote it just a little while ago. Thanks for reading, everyone. Hope you enjoyed this short little fancy.
By the way, I have finally entrenched myself in the Twitter world, so if anyone’s interested, I’m at @trent_lewin.
11 thoughts on “Ro-Bot: A Short Story for Bots and other Human Beings”
I’m excited for the sequel.
This one seems familiar. Maybe I read it before it disappeared? Maybe I just identify with the search for something I can’t find or I’m not allowed to… And the hope that remains.
I hope it’s the latter… but you did probably read the initial one. The sequel was written some five years later or something… it’s got a different vibe and more sing-song to it (a lot more). Will have to see what you think.
Living in in a domed city doesn’t seem so far off theses days. A type “O” made that “doomed city” at first. That doesn’t seem so far off either. I look forward to the sequel.
The property taxes are probably brutal though.
Colour is not how civilized people spell color. Also, no responsible person will ever let you near a robot, you sick pervert. Love you, man.
Love you too, mate. Also, robots love me. And I love robots. Convenient. And yes it’s spelled ‘colour’!
Robots love you because of the twisted way you program them… aund I louve youu touo
Them robots got it coming. They gotta stop trying to take over humankind. It’s rude.
Saving the world… one robot molestation at a time. You are a hero for the ages… the coming dark ages…
I’m strangely optimistic about the coming ages.
Is that what they are calling it these days?