The police had been again in the night. Tommy's bedroom was right near the stairwell, so he could always hear their footsteps thundering up before the sound of glass smashing and the screams. In the morning he went into the corridor to see which door it had been. There were always glass shards crunched into the linoleum afterwards, so he wore his slippers.
"The neighbors from Flat 705 have gone," he informed his mother as he came back. "The Wallaces." Robot's first memory was wreckage partially obscuring their view of the sky. They could not move; one of their legs was missing, the other crushed, and their arms were pinned. They could not remember exactly what they were meant for, or where they had come from, but they knew that they were unable to do anything.
That bit them deep, in what humans would call a soul. Robots were supposed to have purpose, to do something; but all Robot could do was lie there. The gap between Ted's front teeth opened onto a solar system buzzing with civilizations of light and power. Every once in a while it would glint and draw the eye of Becky Cooley, the shy paralegal with the 84% compatibility rating from the dating website.
Ted found that trying to laugh behind his hand was awkward. Trying to tilt his head down while he spoke was awkward. He'd lost dates to awkwardness and to the bushy mustache he had used to curtain his upper teeth for a few weeks in June. They love the chess clock; it practically screams sophistication and nation-states. I put it down on the bulkhead, where it will look especially incongruous; polished maple and brass on top of carbon fiber dyed an obnoxious shade of blue.
"45 mins, rite?," she texts to my phone. "Rents paid 4 45 mins."
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