Georgie watched curiously as the tiny robot rolled out of the shipping container in which it had arrived at his apartment.
It stood less than a foot high, a box of shining chromium plates on treads topped with a small oblong metal head ringed by a fantastic array of sparkling sensors.
The little metal head rotated once as the robot’s arms twitched like a symphony conductor’s baton; abruptly a series of multi-colored beams flashed from the sensors and bathed the room in pulsing laser light. When the robot had completed the laser scan of the interior of the apartment a high note chimed in the air, and then the beams ceased, leaving Georgie blinking in confusion.
“Are you my new robot?” Georgie asked, holding his hands together nervously.
“Yes,” the robot replied in a high-pitched mechanical voice.
“I thought you would be larger.”
“A larger model is unnecessary for your needs.”
Georgie nodded, though he really didn’t understand. When he ordered the unit he envisioned a majestic machine commanding the room–
The robot advanced a few inches along the table.
“Please remain standing during the bio-scan,” the robot chirped.
A series of beams spun from the sensors in the little robot’s head, bathing Georgie’s large, sweaty body in cascading spikes of light. The light felt warm where it touched his face and skin, as if a thin summer breeze were blowing over his flesh. Then the beams abruptly ceased and the sensation vanished.
“The bio-scan is complete,” the robot said perfunctorily.
Once the effects of the scan subsided, Georgie felt a shock of regret. As innocuous as the small unit seemed, he was suddenly aware of his own humanity in the presence of so powerful a machine, and the thought frightened him. Only five days previously he had looked in the mirror, as the advertisements often advised him to do, and recognized the sad, pathetic man he had become, loveless, hopeless, purposeless, and believed he had nothing to lose. It was time, his reflection seemed to say, as he often heard the experts in the infomercials say, to change his life in a positive way.
But now that the little robot actually stood on the table in his apartment, his mind began trying to solve a different set of equations–
“Is it too late to send you back?” Georgie heard himself saying.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the robot said. “You don’t want to send me back.”
“I think I might want to,” Georgie said, though the uncertainty in his voice betrayed his true feelings.
“You know you need me,” the robot said, raising its little arms. “There is no longer even a question of it.”
Georgie wanted to disagree, but the little robot sounded so certain, and he hadn’t been happy for a very long time–
“Change is difficult,” the robot said, “but necessary. I am the change you need.”
“I suppose that’s true,” Georgie said, though for the life of him he didn’t know if it was true or not. Then, more optimistically, he said, “I guess introductions are in order. Do you have a name?”
“My name is Georgie,” the robot replied.
“That’s a coincidence,” Georgie said, trying to smile. “My name’s Georgie, too–”
“Nonsense,” the tiny robot said, “you no longer have a name. Shall we begin?”
Lawrence Buentello has published over 90 short stories in a variety of genres, and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. His fiction has appeared in Compelling Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories, Ares Magazine, and several other publications. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Betty Rocksteady is a Canadian author and illustrator. Learn more at www.bettyrocksteady.com.