Author: Aubrey Williams

“Look, I’m not apologising, and that’s that!”

The man glared up at the smoke alarm, its smug viewfinder glinting annoyingly in the evening’s neon haze.

“Oh really? You just had say *that* to Catherine?”

“Hey, I felt she ought to know you’re having doubts about that part of your relationship,” it replied in its slightly nasal voice. “How can you possibly hope to move forward if you keep things from your partner?”

The man groaned, putting his hands to his face.

“There’s always a time and a place, you plastic bastard! And another thing— there’s a way of saying things. Tone. Vocabulary. Context. Tact! Haven’t you ever heard of a thing called tact? Or is it not in your bloody dictionary?”

“What did you call me?!” The smoke alarm demanded, rattling a little in the ceiling.

“You heard me.”

“Well, isn’t that something?! Here I am, always on alert, ready to wake you up, activate the sprinkler, and alert the fire brigade, all at the slightest notice, and this is the thanks I get? I let you purchase an add-on personality codex—which was very uncomfortable by the way— so you can vent to me and don’t go mad from loneliness, and that’s not my job, you know! I was just trying to help! It’s not my fault you haven’t talked to her about—”

“Enough!” The man yelled, red in the face. “This isn’t getting me anywhere.”

“Oh, there we go again! You! *You!* BECAUSE IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT YOU, ISN’T IT?! Just you try focussing on vapours and gasses every second of every day while trying to ignore the incessant tinnitus of a radioactive source on your right-hand side, and with a low battery, too! Not that you’d know, you fat little excuse for a life form!”


“Yeah, fat! I remember when you could wear that shirt without the round of your stomach being visible!”

That really was enough, and the man opened the door and slammed it shut behind him. Life was very difficult at the moment, and the smoke alarm always made things worse. When the family was over for Christmas, the damn thing decided to comment on the amount of wine his mother was gulping down. When him and his buddy had decided to sneak a joint on the balcony, it informed the landlord— “it’s in my programming, you know this!”. And then there was its tendency to make snide remarks whenever he flirted with Catherine…

After the man returned home, he told the smoke alarm to leave him alone. A poor choice of words; it was that night, around 2 AM, that the cheap fridge-freezer decided to blow its capacitors and catch light. The smoke alarm registered the fumes, and was about to initiate its various emergency protocols, when a thought occurred.

“The cheeky git made me feel AWFUL. He never did say sorry. What if… I were to pretend to not work, and then he awakes, sees the flames around him, panics, cries about how sorry he is… then I’ll come on and do my magic. Yeah, that’ll teach him…”

Alas, the smoke alarm had failed to realise that the man, a little worse for wear after heavy drinking, was not going to wake up. Carbon monoxide took care of that. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but the smoke alarm felt a strange cold sensation, and started to perceive less.

“My battery… shit, he didn’t change it last week, I n—”

It powered off, permanently. We don’t know if it ever grasped the irony of the situation in its final seconds.