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All's Quiet in the Robot Barn

The author of numerous short stories and novels, Jill Zeller lives near Seattle, Washington with her patient husband, and two self-absorbed cats with their thralls, two adult English Mastiffs. Her works explore either historical fiction, or the boundaries of reality. Some may call these fantasies but there are rarely swords and never elves. For more: jillzeller.com

All is Quiet in the Robot Barn
Looks like there was quite a party last night.
I didn't hear a thing.
Looks like a hurricane went through here.
A tsunami.
A shit-storm.
Better get some garbage bags.
And about a thousand mops.
And deodorizer
A flame-thrower.
Followed by a fire hose.
More laughter.
Where do we start?
A moment of silence.
A sharp sigh, fading footsteps, the opening of a sliding door, returning footsteps, rustling of garbage bags, clank of a bucket.
Oh, look at this.
What is that?
It's a finger.
They started taking themselves apart again?
Silence again.
Who ever said they were more intelligent than us?
Intelligent in a different way.
I'm sick of them. They act like they're so superior.
The sound of something metal being kicked across the room.
It can't be easy.
Trying to fit in with humans. Pretending to be human. We built them to look like us--
Why bother with that? They're NOT us.
Well, it was so we could relate to them.
I don't relate to them at all. They give me the creeps.
Sounds of sweeping broken glass, rattling papers, thunks of things being thrown into garbage cans.
Oh, man, here's one of their eyes.
That's just wrong. I'll bet that one went to work wearing sunglasses.
Mirthless laughter.
Maybe it's self-hatred. They hate themselves. You know, like kids who are cutters.
They don't HAVE feelings.
More random sounds of cleaning. Hiss of a spray bottle.
It they do this one more time, I'm getting the fuck out of here.
What, quit?
If it weren't for the money--
You know, it's like owning slaves. Only then it was real people, not just mechanical things that look like people.
That was a lot worse.
Yeah, but maybe we should listen to them, ask them what they want.
They don't KNOW what they want.
Yeah. They don't know what want is, or what it means. People want things all the time. But maybe having them around makes us feel more, like, compassionate toward other people. Because we can hate them, and treat them like machines, workers, slaves for us, because that's what they are.
Sometimes I think you have no idea what you're saying because I can't understand what the fuck you just said.
Yeah, I suppose you're right. I know I don't understand, but do they? I mean--
Oh, keep quiet. I'm trying to work here.
Sounds of dipping water, rattling plastic, sweeping.
Oh crap here's a foot. I wonder how that one got to work.
Piggy back?
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Author Comments

A small coven of writers meets every month or so. I've been a member for years, the subscribers having drifted away until there are only three of us. Each meeting requires a writing prompt, and we produce short pieces to read aloud to one another at the Vivaci Cafe in Seattle. This bit of dialog was the result of the prompt: "All was quiet in the robot barn," actually suggested by my husband. As with all these prompts, I start down a misty path that sometimes takes me somewhere special, and other times takes me nowhere at all. I'm grateful for the special places.

- Jill Zeller
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