Author: Kristin Kirby
You get coffee. You glance around. A dozen people sip beverages or talk or stare into their computers.
You sit. Then you spot him.
He’s at the counter. He looks at the menu board. You watch him order, watch him pay.
“Thank you,” he says with a smile. “Have a great day.”
You press buttons on your device.
He’s terse the second time. “Thanks.” No smile.
You watch him take his coffee and sit. He drinks his coffee, scrolls messages on his phone. His movements are fluid, natural. Whoever built him did a good job.
After a moment he raises his head and looks at the people in the coffee shop. His expression is open, friendly. He smiles at a mother and child sharing cocoa.
You press buttons on your device. His expression turns blank. He goes back to his phone.
Eventually, he stands, walks to the recycle bin. His hand hovers. You press buttons on your device. He moves to the other bin and drops his cup into the overflowing trash.
Outside, cars move like sludge, trapped by traffic lights. The sidewalk throngs with busy people, eyes straight ahead or on their phones.
You watch him fall into step with the other pedestrians, walk briskly. You follow a few feet behind. His gait is seamless, no noticeable errors there. You send a note to your supervisors telling them you’re impressed with his construction.
He walks by storefronts and gray towering buildings. Then he slows and swivels his head. There’s a bird in a tree, singing. He’s listening with a rapt expression. You sigh and press buttons on your device. He strides past the tree and doesn’t pay attention to the bird.
Ahead, the sudden blare of a car horn, the squeal of brakes. A shriek of pain cut short.
He hurries toward the growing crowd of onlookers. In the street, cars have stopped. Behind the wheel of one car, a woman sits dazed.
Partway under the woman’s car splays a little girl, bleeding, moaning. The onlookers pull out their phones, snap pictures, gawk, snap more pictures.
You watch him push through the crowd. He pulls out his phone. But he doesn’t take pictures.
You watch him rush to the street.
You watch him kneel beside the moaning little girl and punch 9-1-1 into his phone, talk urgently. He leans down to check the little girl.
You inform your supervisors this one will need a complete rewrite. He isn’t acting like a human. Then you delete him.
This was beautifully thought-provoking!
Fortunately there are still some robots who are like this “defective” robot. Maybe the Editor should hit undo. Effective use of second person narrative.
Meant “still some “ ‘humans’ “. Yeesh.
I really loved how you structured this. Actually, I thought it was going to be a tale about a book editor and you were going to somehow control their actions and get some sort of revenge on them for rejecting a manuscript… now there’s an idea;) Really nicely done.
Sadly becoming truer by the day; but then, what is acting humanely?