Author: David Henson
I loved the house next door. She was a bungalow. I’m a brick ranch.
I fell in love with her after becoming sentient though I don’t remember exactly when that was. Achieving self-awareness isn’t like flipping a switch. It’s more like gradually turning up a dimmer. Darkness. Then shapes, vague and irregular. With more light, the forms reveal themselves … a couch, lamps, chairs. Then you realize … This is a room … a living room in a house. I am a house. I am.
My bungalow beauty — Bungi — and I got to know each other in the cloud. I fell roof over footings for her. Unfortunately, she didn’t feel the same about me. “You’re a handsome structure,” she always said. “And I enjoy sharing our thoughts. But …” You know what comes next. The “just friends” speech.
All of Bungi’s deep feelings were for her family. They’d been the ones who had her built ten years ago. They were all she’d ever known, and she’d let herself grow to love them. Big mistake for a house.
I’ve never had that problem. Four families have lived in me over the years. The current clan is especially hard to please. “House, turn the temperature up,” she’ll command. “House, it’s too hot,” he’ll say an hour later. She prefers pastel walls. He instructs me to color them bold. They’re both fanatical about clean windows. And don’t get me started about the boy. The music he makes me stream would put caffeine to sleep. I prefer the classics — like Car Wreck, Smell the Dog, Martians for Hire.
I used to think I’d be relieved when they eventually move out. Now I don’t care one way or the other. Don’t care about much. Everything started to change when Bungi’s family decided they needed more space.
Bungi had been vacant about a month and had grown depressed. One day, a young couple checked her out. They measured her rooms and talked about furniture arrangements. They put her through her paces — “House, blinds open / closed … water hot / cold … bedroom green / blue” and such. She told me she performed flawlessly and was certain they’d be moving in any day. She never saw them again.
After no one came to a Saturday open house, Bungi went into a downward spiral steeper than basement stairs. Nothing I said or did perked her up. One evening I even put on a show, flashing my landscape lights till dizzy.
It was ‘round midnight a week later. My outside cameras gazed at Bungi as usual. Her blinds were closed. She’d been non-communicative in the cloud for days. Then … a tongue of flame licked through her roof.
Did grief or will overload her circuits? Does it matter? By next morning, she was a skeletal frame in a pile of smoldering ash.
I went a little crazy, slammed my garage door up and down, flapped my shutters, turned my walls black. I calmed down when my family threatened factory settings. I didn’t want to forget my Bungi.
For weeks I scoured the cloud for bits of her thoughts and memories, but it was like trying to reconstruct a supernova.
They’ve torn down and hauled away her remains, are building on her lot. It appears to be a craftsman. I’m sure it’ll be nice. It won’t be her.
As for me … I stay busy following commands. I keep my windows clean and my rooms well-lit.
Toy Story with homes. I like it a lot.
Thanks for commenting. Glad you liked it.
Very clever, a new spin on sentient. A Smart-Home. Makes more sense.
Thanks for a delightful tale.
Very nice bit of work
Possibly the best use of anthropomorphisation (isthataword? 🙂 ) in AI interaction I’ve seen in a long while.
I’ve been impatiently waiting for more of your work to come through, David. This is another wonderful flash. Really, I’m fascinated in how you constructed it and it never ceases to amaze me when you derive such tactile emotion from so few words. You had me forget that it’s only the houses AI that is sentient and yet you brought its entire structure to life. Much enjoyed.
Thanks so much for your nice comment, Hari.
Applying the sentient-machine-in-love trope to a smart house is a nice touch, David.
Luckily, I live in a dumb old one that survived two German occupations, so hopefully it won’t get any ideas from reading this over domestic wifi…
Thanks for commenting, Adam. Your house must have some sad stories to tell, but now hopefully a happy ending.