Author: Hillary Lyon
“Would you look at that,” Clarence said, with enthusiastic admiration. “The last remaining Orion series robot—what a unique example of animatronics united with early computing! Like something out of a mid-20th century, black and white sci-fi movie.”
“This thing?” His manager scoffed. “It’s hideous, from an aesthetic perspective. Too crude for my taste. Look at the boxy construction, the elongated, rectangular limbs. An aluminum block for a head, the rough seams, light bulbs for eyes, treads for feet . . . ugh, it’s like cubism come to life.”
“But it still operates, right? Like one of Edison’s original light bulbs in that New York firehouse, it might well run forever. So it’s body should be considered vintage, it’s internal components should be described as—”
“As garbage,” his manager interrupted. “It’s memory is minuscule, it’s processor is primitive.” He snorted. “And no wi-fi whatsoever.”
“I was going to say it might be described as ‘antiquated,’ yet—”
“Enough! Turn it off, cover it, and don’t forget to lock up when you leave.” His manager turned on his heel and marched out of the warehouse.
“Well,” Clarence murmured to the robot as he unfolded the coverlet, “I think you’re a fascinating piece of history, as well as a beautiful machine, in your own way. You belong in a tech museum, some place where the public might interact with you.” He stood back and looked the robot over. “Maybe I can arrange that.”
He reached for the robot’s on-off switch, but stopped short of flipping it. “I want to see for myself just how long you’ll run.” He covered the robot, straightened the corners of the sheet, smoothed the front.“I’ll come back to visit in a year—hell, I’ll come every year.”
In the quiet of that dimly-lit warehouse, Clarence listened to the faint clicking, whining, and whirring noises suddenly emitted from the robot’s inner workings.
* * *
On the 25th anniversary of the death of Clarence Oort from a cerebral aneurysm, the last Orion series robot stood beside the man’s grave, and unfurled a small linen sheet. No one else came to pay their respect, as Clarence’s biological family had long since died out.
“Disappointed your program was prematurely terminated due to a corrupted wet-ware component,” the robot said in it’s newly integrated 8-bit voice. It moved closer to Clarence’s tombstone, and laid the sheet over it.
“Humans are fragile, with built-in obsolescence.” The robot stated, straightening the cover’s corners, smoothing the fabric. “Like contemporary, mass produced light bulbs.”
The robot held out its rectangular limbs in an awkward pantomime of a hug, something it had learned from decades of interacting with curious human visitors to the tech museum where it was housed. “You were unique, Clarence Oort.”
As the robot dropped its limbs to its side, its inner workings made clicking, whining, and whirring noises. “You had a good run.” It then rolled away across the newly mown grass of the cemetery, leaving deep tracks behind.