Author : J.D. Rice
“Do you really think it needs a scarf?” I ask, watching my daughter try to wrap the thing around the robot’s neck. It kneels patiently, unmoving, allowing the tiny mammal to dress it up like a doll. My stomach turns just looking at it.
“Of course, daddy. How else will he keep warm?” she says it like it should be obvious. Unknowing. I never should have let her come so close.
“We’re just going downtown, sweetie,” I say, trying to coax her away. “I’m sure he’ll be warm enough.”
She looks almost hurt, “But the weatherman said to wear a scarf today.” It’s true, of course. The news did say that anyone exposed to the coming blizzard would likely die of exposure. But a robot isn’t somebody. And we don’t have time for this.
Apprehensive, my eyes dart from my cheery daughter to the silent, stoic golem kneeling in my foyer. Household robots. If only we knew the danger a few years sooner, my wife would still be… We’re running out of time.
“Honey,” I say. “This is your favorite scarf. Why don’t you choose another from the closet?”
She gets teary-eyed, “But momma said we should always give our best, not just the things we have leftover.”
I look at her hopelessly. I can’t explain it to her. I can’t explain to her that the robot will never be coming back, that her mother will never be coming back. I can’t explain why I’m going with the robot downtown, why I’m leaving her with her grandparents. I can’t explain, so I don’t.
“Fine, honey. You win. We really should go now.”
At my words, the robot stands. Its arms move quickly, mechanically, adjusting the scarf into a perfect knot. It doesn’t speak, but politely opens the door. I say goodbye to my sweet girl and follow it out the door. The streets are filled with people following household robots to the subway. All the middle-aged adults are going downtown.
“Thank you,” I say. “For waiting.”
“We are not without mercy,” it says in its cold, synthesized voice. “You programmed us well. Your daughter will be well nourished and then incorporated into our new society.”
“And the rest of us?” I ask, knowing and fearing the answer.
It pauses, staring at me with its dead eyes. Takes off the scarf my daughter gave him. Wraps it around my neck.
“You’ll need this,” it says. “It’s going to be a cold night.”
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