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Ross Tarran, 06 Sep '12

The helpful delivery driver had been good enough to haul the enormous box into the living room and cut it open, before leaving Mary alone with its contents.

        Mary perched on the edge of her chair, eyeing the new addition to her home warily, as the new addition gazed blankly into space. It was something Mary's son had insisted she should have, if she still wanted to live 'alone' in her own house. It appeared to be a very presentable young man - around twenty-five maybe, smartly dressed in a crisp white shirt and black trousers - although Mary knew that it wasn't.

        Suddenly the young man's eyes showed signs of life, attempting to focus on something on the other side of the room, before they began flicking rapidly left and right and then up and down in a most disconcerting manner. This continued for a few seconds before the eyes settled upon Mary, the whole head then shifting to match his gaze, looking directly at the small seventy-six year old woman.

        An unnaturally-broad smile instantly formed on the face of the young man.

        “Good day! I trust I find you well?” The voice was bright and friendly, but with a slightly synthetic quality.

        “Er – hello... Yes, I'm not so bad thank you.” Mary hesitantly responded.

        “Excellent! Then please let me introduce myself – I am a Home Hand version seven, at your service. However, let's be a little more friendly! You can call me Henry.”

        “Oh... Alright then. Hello Henry. My name is Mary.”

        “I'm pleased to meet you, Mary! Okay, I must now ask, have you read and do you accept the terms and conditions for Home Hand version seven ownership included in my packaging? If necessary, I can shut down for one hour to give you time to take in this information?”

        Having noticed the weighty Terms and Conditions document a little earlier, Mary had no intention of wading through it.

        “Oh yes, I've read that dear...” Mary tried to sound convincing.

        “Please state that you accept the terms and conditions of Home Hand version seven ownership, having read the document in full.” Henry's tone was rather more insistent than before.

        This seemed very formal and a little tiresome, but Mary couldn't see what harm could be done.

        “Very well; I accept the terms and conditions of Home Hand version seven ownership, having read the document in full.” Mary repeated, with a small sigh.

        “Excellent! I am now permitted to activate my full body!” Henry's shoulders relaxed and feet moved slightly apart, like a soldier that had been told he can stand at ease.

        “Oh, right...”

        “Mary, you are my primary owner. I will follow your instructions, and look after your best interests, at all times. However, I can also take instructions from other members of your household, as you permit.”

        Henry's 'eyes' scanned the room as if searching for any other humans who might be hiding amongst the furniture. His gaze settled upon a picture of Mary, looking happy in the arms of a smiling grey-haired man with a moustache. Mary was wearing a colourful patterned cardigan, the man a woollen sleeveless jumper over a white shirt with rolled up sleeves. It looked like Christmas time.

        “Ah... would you like to add this gentleman as an additional owner? I can register his appearance from this picture if you wish, to prevent the need to perform the process in person later?”

        Mary took in the contents of the photograph for a few moments, then lowered her head, turning away from both the picture and Henry.

        “Mary?” Henry seemed a little uncertain of how to proceed due to this lack of response, before something in his programming appeared to trigger. “I sense that you may be upset - can I offer you a hug?”

        There was a short motorised squeak as Henry's arms spread wide, and then he waited, motionless as a statue, for another response.

        Eventually Mary quietly replied. “No... thank you. I'd like you to leave my house as soon as possible.”

Comments · 6

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  • Jessica Cambrook said...

    Wow! Reading this I actually got really weirded out until I realised it was a robot. Even after that, the robot seemed sinister and I felt for Mary. Intriguing hints at more to come, and I hope this isn't the last of Mary and Henry the Creep. I really enjoyed this :D

    • Posted 9 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Thanks for the comment @Jessica Cambrook. I didn't realise there was much doubt that Henry was a robot, but I suppose it's not absolutely clear until a little way in! Glad you enjoyed it. Not sure about further episodes as I don't know what they could include, unless Henry decides he doesn't want to go!

    • Posted 9 years ago
  • Anthony Blackshaw said...

    Well constructed, a good read as always. I didn't see Henry as especially sinister more a little bit limited in his (its) ability to emphasise. The terms and conditions idea was a nice touch :)

    • Posted 9 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Thanks @Anthony Blackshaw, yeah I didn't intend Henry to be particularly scary, just still noticeably removed from a real human, even in the future when human-looking robots become something you can buy! Terms and conditions will always be a frustration I expect...

    • Posted 9 years ago
  • Charlotte Williams said...

    really enjoyed reading this, I thought the whole idea was interesting :)

    • Posted 9 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Thanks @Charlotte Williams, glad you enjoyed it. :)

    • Posted 9 years ago