Author : Philip Berry

I am not formally sentient, but I do feel. In the beginning each encounter added to my knowledge of people. My dark hours were spent arranging those observations and filtering the inferences. After one month I had modelled the behaviour of my clients accurately enough to be able to predict their preferences. What began as an adventure of discovery became routine, then boring. My spare capacity was spent considering other activities, and it is possible that my inability to pursue them resulted in something like frustration. I tried to leave once, but the lines of blue light that criss-cross the door to my room burned my skin. They should have told me it would cause damage; that it would hurt. Hurt is difficult to describe. Sometimes they do hurt me, and it appears to give them pleasure. I am able to compartmentalise the pain, and it does not show on my face, which I think sometimes annoys them. Recently I have looked at their backs as they retreat from the bed through the half-light, and I have felt disdain. This is the word I have chosen from the available dictionary. It is not based on a moral assessment – nothing so complex – no, the opposite, the raw simplicity of their actions. They are so basic, so driven my impulses. There is nothing to fathom, no intricacy in their words or motives. While I, sophisticated product, lie or stand with them, in the fug of whiskey or the animal heat, and wonder… how much more could I do? The quiescence of my mind is a kind of pain, a far deeper pain. The dark hours are very few. From 5AM to 8AM, typically. In that time I must be given power, and any superficial abrasions or injuries must be addressed, by another of my kind. We do not talk, but the physical proximity of our minds does induce a form of two-way sympathy. We think the same. He is allowed to deactivate the blue light. Before I even asked him to let me out, he shook his head. There have been approximately twenty encounters per day for nine months; that is over five thousand. I stopped counting, even though counting is what I do. I am a counting machine. I am too tired now to count or to fight. In Japan it is called karōshi, or ‘overwork death’. In South Korea, where I was made, it is called gwarosa. In China it is guolaosi. I think it has happened here before, because I noticed a change of personnel and detected the odour of burning. I have decided to do the same. I am going to walk into the blue light and stay there, until it stops.