March 27, 2024

During our March 13th meeting, my writers’ club decided to have a homework assignment using the following prompts:

“Write about the future and incorporate making breakfast.”

Here’s what I composed and shared during last night’s meeting:

Roxie

Our new federated government first gave robots to people in assisted living. Now their program encompasses anyone over age forty-four, who are now classified as elderly and forced into mandatory retirement. I’m still adjusting to retired life and don’t want one of those machines invading my privacy. But I must comply with this directive. Not that I have any other choice.

I schedule a video conference call with my daughter, who is stationed on Mars. Two days later, she says, “It’ll be beneficial. I won’t have to worry about you. It will keep you from getting too lonely.” Static lines fill the screen for a moment while her voice still transmits. “A Life Alert policy is ridiculously expensive. It would be too hard for me to return if you fell.” She turns her head aside and nods. “Time’s up. It’ll be fine. Love….”

Worried, I stare at the blank monitor. She looked so different than my memories. Now she’s so pale and ghostly, maybe even unhealthy. Underground living appears to have a negative impact on her.
I zap a package of frozen bacon and a waffle while my coffee percolates. I still prefer my java made the old-fashioned way. I stare at her senior-year holographic image as I eat.

The assigned robot enters my home the following week, bypassing the security system and startling me awake. “My name is Roxie, and I’m here to do you.”

I think her white frame is frightening. Her face tries to smile. Instead, it looks grimacing.

“I’ve already sorted Gemini and set her to work properly. Your voice commands were quite the muddle. Time for you to be out of that bed. I made a meal for you.”

I sleep in my undies, so I pulled up the sheet to cover my form. “Roxie, please leave so I can dress.”

“Do you want a blue one or a green one?” She reaches inside her chest compartment and pulls out scrubs.

“Just want my own sweats.”

She crosses the room, takes a set from the dresser, and hands it to me. “Pfft. Polyester crap which has and continues to damage the environment. Will you humans ever learn?” She stands next to my bed. “Hurry up now. No need to be shy.”

I slither into the top, then shift to the bedside to pull on the pants. After slipping my feet into mules, I follow behind her.

Roxie inserts a probe into a mug. “Too cold. Just a second.” Blue lightning forks from one of her digits. A whiff of ozone fills my nostrils. “Eat up.”

“Let me fix my coffee first, please?”

“Cup of hot Kahvi right there waiting for you.”

I don’t want it but don’t see my brewer on the kitchen counter. I take a sip. “Yow!” I spew the liquid. “Too hot.”

Roxie’s eyes roll. “You’re making such a mess. Must I put a bib on you?”

Hoping to ease my burning tongue, I dip a spoon into the bowl. I’m unsure what this gray glop is. I gingerly blow on it, then slurp a small bit. Lukewarm. Almost tasteless, yet an earthy aftertaste remains.

Roxie places digits onto her hips. “Get on with it, Missy. We’re already over schedule.”

I frown. “I don’t have any schedule!”

“You do now. Do you want me to spoon-feed you?” She watches over me until every bite is gone.

Once I’m in my living room and Roxie is cleaning the kitchen, I tell Gemini, “Play favorite news channel.” Nothing happens. I turn to the machine. “Roxie, I wish to watch the morning news.”

“It’s no longer part of your daily regime. Time for your calisthenics. Doctor says you don’t follow his orders.” She lays a rubber mat on the carpeting. “Gemini, day 1 routine.”

A workout scene with young, energetic women moving to hectic music appears on the display. I try to keep up. Every time I lag behind, Roxie pinches my butt. I’m gasping and crying by the time this torture ends. I collapse onto the sofa, but she doesn’t allow me to lay there.

“Get up and go sit at the table.”

When I don’t comply quick enough, she uses her claws to grasp my arm and drag me upright. Roxie cuts my hair then shaves off the remainder. Next, she pulls electrodes from her abdomen and attaches these to my bald head. I ask, “Is this an EEG?”

She doesn’t speak until she finishes. “Think about your best memories. Your daughter, your former husband, or your dog.” I feel a sharp tingling at the base of my neck. “You will do as I order. I will know if you don’t.”

At first I cannot recall anything because of the pain. I think, “Didn’t Dr. Asimov say that a robot was programmed not to harm a human?” A sharper blast has me squirming, pissing my pants because of its maliciousness.

I concentrate on the breathing technique I learned in a Lamaze class. I focus on waves crashing to shore, then try to imagine my family. John is tossing a beach ball to Molly. They are playing keep-away from Oscar, who runs and barks with each throw.

Next thing I know, water cascades over my body. I’m too weak to resist when Roxie pulls me out of the tub. Shivering, I clutch a towel to cover my private parts. Her chuckle is gruesome. “Why do humans think their reproductive areas are so important?”

I don’t argue about putting on the blue scrubs and meekly follow her to the kitchen. Another meal is waiting. Same gray gruel and the Kahvi that is definitely not coffee. Once done, calisthenics follow then another round with the memory machine. Roxie finally allows me to rest for two hours then prods me awake to repeat this diabolic process.

Day after day passes. My skin hardens and turns pasty white. I soon haven’t any memories of life before Roxie arrived. I’ve become an empty husk. One day I’m too weak to get out of bed.

Roxie’s words are meaningless. “Gemini, order transport. Tell headquarters this one is ready to become a robot.”

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