Author : Don bagley

Alex pulled the coffee mug from under the drip spout and raised it to his lips.

“Agh,” he groaned.

“Is something wrong, Alex?” the house asked with its kind, asexual voice.

“The coffee, hot,” said Alex.

“I’m sorry, Alex. I’ll adjust the percolator temp.”

“Thanks, House,” Alex replied. He didn’t know how to address the sentient home, other than to call it House. This was his first morning in the place; he’d won it in a regional lottery, and he was still overwhelmed by it.

“House?” he asked.

“Yes, Alex.”

“Are you alive?”

“I am not programmed for life.”

“I mean, you think, don’t you?”

“I simulate thought, yes.”

Alex sipped at his coffee, which had cooled to tolerably hot. He padded into the life room, his bare feet slapping at the simulated hardwood floor. A recliner chair made a whirring sound as it tilted back and pre-adjusted itself for his weight. Alex sank comfortably into the Herculon cushions.

“Why simulate thought?” he asked.

“In response to your needs.”

Was that an evasive answer? Could a house, of all things, even be evasive? It’s rooted to its foundation, helplessly stuck right where it is.

“House?” Alex said.

“Yes, Alex.”

“You do function automatically.”

“All my functions are automated.”

“So in my absence, House, you would continue to process information.”

“Only at a maintenance level, Alex.”

“Then without me,” said Alex. “You lose your awareness, to some extent?”

“Not exactly,” said the house, an edginess creeping into its voice.

“It’s like a part of you dies when I leave,” said Alex, immediately regretting it. He jumped up from the chair and spun around toward the front door. The deadbolt clacked in the doorjamb.

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