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All Thinking is Canceled for Today

Lee Hallison writes in an old house in the Pacific Northwest. You can read more of her work here on Daily Science Fiction, or you can check out her blog at
Yeah, I know I'm in here 'cause it wasn't funny. You've told me enough times to fill a barf bag. Hey, quit it, that hurt. You ain't supposed to smack me. I got rights. Ain't someone on the other side of that mirror watching?
Yeah, we was smokin. We're old enough, don't be so pissy-faced. Bob was there, so was Randi and Jill. Pinto and Barretta were down the hall, but close. They was probably able to hear us cackling.
It was my idea, just like I said. The cleaning bot was humming, banging into things and sayin 'scuse me, 'scuse me like a too-short waiter tryna carry a pizza across a crowded bowling alley. We all howled like hyenas when it got stuck. The bottom spun around vacuuming while the tiny square head pressed the wall goin' 'scuse me, 'scuse me. Randi started shriekin' she was gonna pee and then rolled right off the top bunk.
Not that you asked, but she was ok. Pinto and Barretta rushed in at the commotion. My VisiosTM told me it was a social cue to stop laughing, so I did.
So what? I got trouble with social cues. The special glasses help. See, the blinking scroll on the bottom? No, I'm not stupid, or sumptin, you bigot.
Hey! I won't be able to talk if I get a headache.
You got any beer? I'm getting thirsty. Ok, ok, already. At least gimme water.
So there we was, Randi rubbing her elbow, when I got the idea. MadLibsTM.
You know, the joke books. A bunch of sentences with blanks, and you fill in words to make silly stories. Here, I'll show you. I'll write the sentence, you think of some nouns and verbs. Ok, yeah, here. Gimme a noun. Ok. Gimme a verb. Ok. Hahahahaha! The pillow is fighting with the snowballs! Hahahaha!
I guess you had to be there.
Anyways, we made MadLibsTM for the bot. We all made a list of words and I set up the program.
Yeah, so? I'm a genius, dontcha know anything? Everyone in the school is a genius. No, I'm not being sarcastic. No, I'm not saying you're stupid. So? So I have an accent. You never hearda kids like me being geniuses? Maybe you are. You know. Stupid.
I ain't gonna talk if you keep whacking the back of my head with your hand. Yes, it hurts. No, that ain't a tap, you hit me.
So where was I. Ok, yeah, so the robot was on an if-then string. So I wrote it so instead of 'scuse me, bumping would trigger my program. Yeah, just one sentence. No time for more variables. All blank is blank for blank. I saved it to a stick with everyone's words and then plugged it in and uploaded the program. The first thing the bot said was "All thinking is canceled for today."
We laughed so hard Randi did pee in her pants. Don't matter if you don't get it. No, it wasn't the weed. Look, it's a geek school and the robot janitor announces all thinking is canceled for today. Now do you get it?
Anyways, Randi and Jill left to change and the guys got bored. The robot was saying stuff like "All peanuts are running yesterday." Pinto and Barretta took it with them when they left, and Barretta put it in the closet & plugged it in. He turned it face in, I don't know why, maybe he thought it was funny to see it talk to the wall.
Well, how were we supposed to know about the conduit. Nobody thought about it connecting to the main AI. And anyway, the words looked harmless all listed out. Professor, dorm, button, tomorrow, next month, classes, running, snorting, chewing--you know, stupid stuff.
Yeah, that was the first: "All buses are stopped for the night." At least the other detective said it was the first. Yeah. Then, "All professors are late tomorrow." Well, you gotta admit that was funny. Too bad, "All classes are canceled for the semester" didn't come up, that would have been a tempest in a daycare.
But when "All alarms are ringing today" started, geez, that was a problem. I was back in the dorm and it dawned on me that somehow it might be the robot. Yeah, dawned on me. No, I didn't plan it and no, I didn't know what would happen. You never had ideas come to you?
Hey! I told you to quit it. I'm gonna sue. Yeah, you mighta broke my VisiosTM. Hey, gimme them! You suck. That's it, I'm not talking.
Don't take them again.
I mean it.
So I tried to unplug the robot but it was stuck. I don't know why, it just was. The alarm was klanging like a giant waiter banging two pizza trays together in an empty bowling alley. I ran back to my room and programmed a quit sequence. Well, no, it wasn't in the original program--obviously!
Nothing happened when I uploaded. The alarm blared and my ears hurt. Randi ran into the hallway and started yelling. She was scared.
Yes my VisiosTM told me. No I didn't need it. She was shrieking. It was obvious.
She yelled out possible sentences. "All universities are burning tomorrow." Or "All humans are dead next week." It's a good thing she thoughta that, dontcha think?
Yeah, she's a genius too.
So we programmed a sequence to erase the word list. I subbed in robots, self destructing, and now.
Yeah, I knew what that meant.
Well, of course we can build more robots. We're geniuses.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

This story owes its genesis to Vylar Kaftan, who created the title and generously donated it as a prompt for a Codex writers' group contest. I got a kick out of the phrase and imagined a robot ordering such a thing--the story just wrote itself after that.

- Lee Hallison

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