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art by Richard Gagnon

The Touch of Love

Day Al-Mohamed is co-editor for the upcoming anthology, Trust & Treachery, and hosts the multi-author blog, Unleaded: Fuel for Writers. Her most recent publications are in Space and Time Magazine, Comets and Criminals, and the Malicious Malpractices anthology. She is an active member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, and Women in Film and Video.

When not working on fiction, Day is Senior Policy Advisor with the U.S. Department of Labor, heading up the Add Us In initiative. She has also worked as a lobbyist and political analyst on issues relating to Technology, Health Care, Education, Employment, and International Development. She loves action movies, speculative fiction, and drinks far too much tea. She lives in Washington, DC with her wife, N.R. Brown, in a house with too many swords, comic books, and political treatises. You can find her online at DayAlMohamed.com and she’s on twitter @DayAlmohamed.
***Editor's warning: This story is potentially disturbing. For mature readers only.***
"But I love you!" Joel said, resisting the urge to shake the robot, a Loveland Companion, model 6739. This one had the rather unusual appellation--Honey. Joel gently ran a hand over Honey's body. The stitches had only just begun to heal. And he would know. He was her doctor and mechanic. He'd taken care of her for the last three years of her marriage to Stan Brumfeld. But Joel wanted to be so much more.
"I love you," he repeated more softly. There was no need to whisper. The repair bay was empty, all the other staff long gone for the day, but Joel didn't want to break the intimacy.
"I understand, I love you too." Her response was placid, mechanical.
It made Joel want to shake her, slap her, do something to get a response from her, a real response. He was beginning to understand why Stan had felt so inclined to abuse Honey. After all, that is what she had been created for. It was designed and built into her software--her love, her need for this kind of treatment. It was in her programming.
But Joel loved her. She made his heart beat faster and his palms sweat. She made him feel things he'd never felt before. He stared into the robot's eyes and he could see it in there. She loved him too.
"Show me." Joel demanded.
Honey cocked her head slightly, her brown eyes staring at him, into him, "What would you like me to do?"
"Show me how you love me."
Honey lifted up one of her pale hands and rubbed it gently down the side of Joel's face. He turned his head, bringing his lips into contact with her fingers, kissing them gently.
It was only at the last second he saw the work lamp, clutched in her other hand, as it came crashing down on him. And he only vaguely felt the following rain of blows, and screams of obscenities and abuse that followed.
He knew later she would feel contrite and snuggle up against his beaten and bruised body and whisper endearments and speak of love.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 6th, 2012


12 Hours. 12 Cues. 12 Stories. The Touch of Love is a story that I originally wrote during Flashathon. Hosted by Unleaded: Fuel for Writers contributor DL Thurston, Flashathon is a 12-hour flash fiction marathon where writers try to produce a new story each hour for twelve straight hours. The hourly prompts are solicited from authors and writers who we respect and admire. The first rough Touch of Love story came from “Flashathon Hour 8” and the prompt was from none other than science fiction luminary Bud Sparhawk. The cue--It’s not that complicated to conceive of robots that people love and have sex with. What is really going to teach us about human nature is when we begin to think about what it takes to build a robot that can fall in love with people.

The initial concept was fascinating and really pushed me to think about the idea of love and what we might teach a robot about it. But human nature is a strange and fickle thing, and we might discover that we teach things we never intended.

- Day Al-Mohamed

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