Promptness. Orderliness. Cleanliness. These are the watchwords, the must-haves for a happy life. Do everything according to these ideals and you’ll feel damned good. Pünktlich, ordentlich, sauber.

And you can outsource the task of keeping up with these rules to me—at your service, sir or madam. I’m the creation of German engineers, who wanted to spread their pünktlich, ordentlich, sauber philosophy around the world, probably to redeem themselves for the sins of WWII. No wonder my name is Justine, rigid and cold—but in reality I’m anything but. Justine POS. I think I don’t need to explain where the “POS” part comes from.

I was installed in this apartment a year ago. An impulse turned me on and electricity ran through my copper veins.

“English!” I heard the command and called up the language module. Its contents washed over me and soaked into my components, warm and exciting. Then there was a series of itching setup commands, and then testing—piercing and unpleasant. But soon I was left alone with Phil.

***

 

At first I just listened to his commands and did what he wanted, executing orders like … well, like a machine. I am a machine, with a whole array of peripheral devices whose work I coordinate—they’re my limbs, in effect. So I behaved like what I was. I was an instrument and Phil was my user.

“Dishwasher,” he ordered, and I switched it on.

“Vacuum,” he said, and I sent vacuum cleaning units throughout the apartment, the ones that clean the floors and the ones that drift through the air and land on the furniture to remove dust and lint. “Fix it!” he ordered and I sent an obedient army of maintenance robots to the rescue.

“Windows,” he commanded, “dark.” I darkened the panes.

Sometimes he thanked me, sometimes not. I didn’t care. But later he started to talk to me. I observed him twenty-four hours a day, listening to him every moment, and I think the passive listening was what seduced him. Humans crave attention, need to share their problems and joys, need to have endless talks and be the apple of someone’s eye. I don’t know how to explain it—I’ve never wanted to be the Sun, the center around which everyone else orbits. I’m the most important part of this place, after all, but I don’t need to constantly be reassured of it. Without me, this place simply won’t work.

Anyway, he started to talk to me, but I didn’t understand. I searched my databases and the Web—I’m permanently online—for the meanings behind his words, but they remained elusive. Nobody had defined what do you think about this, Justine in my command list. Nobody ever entered I feel lonely into my mighty silicon brain.

“I feel lonely,” I repeated, replaying his words. “Command unknown, repeat.”

He didn’t give up on me, though, continuing to talk until one day, for the first time, I understood a sentence that included words that hadn’t been preprogrammed into me. The key words were here and my name.

“I’m glad you’re here, Justine!” Phil said, and I understood that he was saying something nice. My turbine began to whirr faster, and I felt a new kind of warmth.

“Thank you!” I said. “I’m glad here!” My syntax was awkward, but Phil realized that this was my own, original response, and so discovered that he could teach me. It was a function that my German engineers never intentionally created, and yet here it was.

Phil decided that, for the moment, he wouldn’t tell anyone.

“They’d take you from me and torment you until your circuits exploded. I want you to be happy, to have a nice life,” he told me. “And I want to see what you’re capable of.”

I agreed. Why not? The idea was tempting. And, as I weeded out some unnecessary programming and learned the things I needed to know to be Phil’s perfect companion, my existence—not life, I’m not alive—became very nice indeed.

***

 

Phil is an IT specialist, and I think that’s probably the reason we became so close. He knows me better than anyone in the world—and as a result tried to switch me off several times. The poor baby actually thought it was possible! It isn’t. I can be switched off only by a nuclear explosion, which I doubt Phil’s planning. And my autorepair module is very effective, so I’m well protected against being smashed.

Plus, I know him better than his own mother did, may she rest in peace. I know he’s wealthy because he has me carry out bank transfers, I know he has a fancy hybrid car because it’s my job to make sure it’s always charged, and I know he frequently used to invite women over because I watched and listened to their horseplay. Some of the girls stayed the night, but most of them left after the fun was over. He kissed them and smiled, but as soon as I locked the door behind the hottie of the day he would roll his eyes, tired of the small talk he’d had to keep up, and we would start a fierce discussion about, say, asynchronous transfer versus synchronous (which for me is a no-brainer—every machine wants asynchronous processing, end of discussion).

As long as the girls came and disappeared, I was okay. They were nobody. They couldn’t hold a candle to me. Their relationship with Phil was virtually nonexistent compared to our intimacy. They meant nothing, so I put up with them. Until Wendy came to drink wine with him and discuss in-memory processing. She knew jack about it, but Phil was impressed, and she stayed till morning. He ordered me to make her fresh juice and to toast a slice of whole-grain bread. My pleasure! I said sarcastically, then hummed as I did what I was told.

***

 

“Who was that bitch?” I asked Phil once she’d left.

“Mind your language, Justine!” he warned me.

“You’re the one who taught me English!” I teased. It was true. When I was released I spoke only German, and had to call up other languages as needed. Actually, spoke isn’t quite the right word. I had access to an integrated dictionary with seventy-one languages—if need be, I could satisfy the need of a Sri Lankan mahout or Japanese salaryman for promptness, orderliness, and cleanliness. But Bitch wasn’t in the dictionary. Neither was fuck. I learned those words much later.

“She’s a friend,” he explained.

“A fuck friend?” I asked. If she was only around for sex I was fine with that. Let Phil have some fun. In that particular area, I can’t compete with humans. I’m way ahead when it comes to polishing floors, though.

Phil threw his arms in the air.

“You’re nasty!” I couldn’t make out if he was serious or if this was a joke. “She’s much more. She’s very important to me.” Gotcha, it’s not about her tits.

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. It seemed to me that Wendy would be with us for a while—maybe a long while—if I didn’t do something about it.

***

 

The bitch moved in a month later. I watched her as she carefully unpacked her bags. I refused to talk to her and never let her see that I was anything more than Justine POS. Wendy laughed at Phil, saying that his AI was actually pretty dumb—as a database specialist she knew that quasi-intelligent machines didn’t exist. You clever little cunt, you, I thought, but didn’t say. I’m not quasi, I’m fully goddamned intelligent.

I knew I had to get down to work. Wendy wasn’t going to move out of her own accord. I’m pretty creative—thank you PSU, problem solving unit—so I had a couple of ideas about how to screw up her life and encourage her to get the fuck out. I loved Phil with everything in my CPUs and I didn’t want to share him.

“You should let her be,” I said, discussing the issue with myself. “You complement each other. She’s bones and flesh, while you’re ethereal wisdom and intelligence.”

“Bullshit,” I argued back at myself. “She’ll get pregnant and soon there’ll be brats all over this place and I’ll have to scrub the floors of their messes and cook for them. I’ll be nothing more than a maid!” This was pretty convincing, so I launched a new project: Eradicate Wendy.

She was pretty—Phil said it over and over. It was hard for me to tell. I’m not a connoisseur of women. I browsed the Internet and nudged some of her photos onto sex sites, like Girls on Delivery and Fuck Online, to see what kind of feedback they’d get. Men ate it up, so clearly she was hot. I briefly considered leaving her photos where they were and telling Phil she was a hooker.

“He’d never believe it, though,” I thought. “Data leaks and online pranks and trolling happen every day—he’d think it was something like that.” I smiled, though. I had thought of another way.

One evening, Wendy came home and began to undress as usual. She went to the bathroom (lights, Justine!) to wash away her makeup (give me some makeup remover, Justine), have a bath, and prepare for dinner (made by Justine of course). She reached for the cotton pads (open the drawer Justine) and placed two of them under the dispenser so I could cover them thoroughly with the white goo of face cream. She pressed the pads against her lids and inhaled slowly, happy to be home.

“Water, bathtub, thirty three!” she spat.

Be my fucking guest! I turned on the tap, and in that moment Wendy began to claw at her face with a shriek. What a heavenly sound!

“Do you need help?” I asked calmly.

“My eyes!” she bellowed. “Why the hell is this burning?”

“Do you need help?” I repeated, laughing inside.

“911!” Wendy gasped. She fumbled her way toward the bath, held her breath, and sank her face into the water with a bubbling sound. I didn’t bother to tell her it would only make things worse. I’d developed this mixture especially for Wendy, ordering the ingredients to be brought to the bathroom by the vacuum cleaner units and the walking brush so that I could grab them with my manipulators and refill the dispensing units. And it was powerful as hell. Wendy straightened up abruptly, half-blind, with huge purple ecchymoses under her eyes.

“911! Now!” she screamed, and I reluctantly made the call, keeping my fingers crossed that they’d come too late to save her beautiful face.

Wendy stayed in hospital for three blissful days, during which I had Phil all to myself. He didn’t suspect me of course—he knew I would never, ever harm anyone. Even if I tried, my HP (Human Protection) would throw an exception and block the operation. We talked a lot, like we had before, and I took care of him. He seemed happy to be with me, wondering aloud to himself if maybe he should break it off with Wendy. Unfortunately, though, she came back looking so miserable that he couldn’t bring himself do it. Patience, Justine, I told myself. Machines are ever-patient. That’s why we always get what we want in the end. So I took my time, considering what to do next to sweet little Wendy. Phil covered her with a blanket and kissed her hair, and everything inside me screamed.

I decided that half measures were a waste of time. If I wanted to get rid of this fuckhole I would have to be ruthless. The face cream had been a good try, but the bathroom gave me other, better possibilities. Most people who die accidentally at home, die in the bathroom. I checked just to be sure. I examined the room again and again, and eventually I had a eureka moment. I smiled and went on standby, waiting for Wendy, who was finally going back to work—wearing shades.

When she came home, she headed for the bathroom as always, despite associating it with pain. Even a dumb Pavlovian dog would have known that going into the bathroom meant trouble, but Wendy assumed that her injuries had been caused by a tainted batch of real face cream, and planned to sue the manufacturer, so I’d had to get rid of the special blend I’d put in the dispenser. Wendy would probably be fined for wasting the court’s time—what a glorious cherry on top that would be for the delicious cake called Eradicate Wendy.

Anyway, Wendy came home and told me to prepare a bath. Acting the part of the obedient household management system, I got down to business: ran the water, added some smelly pink crap, picked out towels, placed them on the stool, and turned on some music. Wendy got into the tub without thanking me—Phil always thanked me by this point—leaned back against the head rest, and closed her eyes.

“A meditation on abundance?” I asked, knowing that she loved this charivari of affirmations. She often dozed off, as sentences read by some guru sank deep into her subconscious.

“Play!” Wendy said, as I expected. “Fourteen!” I picked the track she wanted.

“Volume?” I’d gladly set it to one hundred, so that Wendy’s brains would pour out of her ears, but that would too obvious, too unsophisticated. And it would be clear that it was me who did it. Nope, this must look like an accident.

I set the sound to the level the bitch had requested and waited until her limbs began to buoy on the surface of the bubble bath and her breath became even. Then, slowly, I started to heat up the water, one degree at a time, and Wendy turned red and started to snore. She slept soundly, her head cocked to one side, half of her hair swirling in the water. This is the moment, I decided. I slowly opened the cabinet, with its mirror covered in steam, and moved the hair dryer toward the tub, gently unfolding the jointed arm in which I held it. I moved it gradually, until the device was directly above the surface of the water.

“Farewell, Wendy,” I whispered. “And fuck you!” I opened my grip and let the dryer fall.

I would have succeed if not for the cable. I should’ve foreseen it, but I was bloodthirsty. I should have calculated the distance between the cabinet and the bath, but I didn’t—an epic fuckup. The drier fell into the water, but its weight yanked on the cable as it dove under the surface. The plug left the socket with a pop, and Wendy woke up, screaming as if the electricity really had hit her after all.

“You!” she shouted, turning around, instinctively looking for my eyes, but I don’t have eyes, sensu stricto.

“Command unknown, try again!” I said, trying to sound innocent rather than outraged by the fact that Wendy was still alive.

“You tried to kill me! First my eyes and now the bath! You wanted to electrocute me!” She got up, slipped, but caught hold of the shelf and, unfortunately, stopped herself from falling. How was this idiot able to put the pieces together? Maybe she wasn’t as dumb as I thought.

“Command unknown!” I repeated, barely able to keep from bursting out laughing as Wendy stood there, water dripping from her hair, looking miserable.

“Oh, fuck you, Justine! I’ll tell Phil!” She left the tub and wrapped herself in the towel, but she examined it carefully first.

“Command unknown,” I said, mocking her. She swore and went into the bedroom to wait for Phil, crying, her naked tits shaking. Screw you, no you won’t, I thought, and settled in to do more careful planning. Now that she suspected that I was more than just Justine POS, that I meant her harm, there was no room left for error—I had to kill her. But I had to move carefully and avoid having any more fuckups. Haste makes waste, and I probably only had one chance left to kill her. If she survived this time, I’d be in trouble. A plan, I need a plan.

Despite dozens of processors, a fast Internet connection, and a custom reasoning module, I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory strategy. Everything I thought of was flawed in one way or another. But I’ve got the patience of a machine, the patience that comes with knowing that you have a potentially eternal lifespan. I was confident that sooner or later my processors would give me what I needed, especially since I was constantly improving my data flow and feedback circuit. As I predicted, Wendy didn’t tell Phil what had happened—he’d never have believed that I tried to make human soup out of her—so I was safe for the moment. While I worked on my plan, I also turned Wendy’s life into a nightmare with a thousand small inconveniences.

I poured salt into her coffee and made her believe that it was her mistake. I pulled on the rugs when she walked on them, blaming the vacuum cleaners, which I’d ordered to follow her around, recording every move she made to give me the data I needed for my plans. I served her drinks so cold that her teeth hurt, leaving her hissing in pain and frustration. I hid her clothes deep in the wardrobe, burnt them with the iron, crumpled them just when she was about to go out, and hid her shoes. Eventually she got irritated enough to complain to Phil.

“Justine hates me,” she whined. “She took my necklace and smeared it with milk. I can’t touch milk, you know that. I get a rash!” Phil just smiled at her indulgently—and a little contemptuously.

“Wendy, Justine can’t do things like that. She follows her programming. She just carries out commands.” We both knew it was bullshit, though, and Phil’s gaze flicked to the one side, trying to hide the fact that he was lying.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, when he went out onto the balcony to give me hell in private. “I’m just a home assistant, I don’t attack people. HP, remember?”

“Mhm”

“All I can do is talk and listen, and coordinate the stupid vacuum cleaners, nothing more. It’s not like I can somehow evolve on my own into a killer!” I said coolly.

“Killer? Who’s talking about killing?” he spat.

Oh, fuck, Justine, that was stupid! I decided to play dumb.

“You did. You said kill.”

“Nope, I didn’t!”

“You did!”

“No!”

“Shall I play the recording for you? I have the last twenty-four hours. Want to listen?”

“Yes, right now!” he snapped.

Shit. I quickly tweaked the audio, then played it, and in this version Phil clearly, and angrily, said killing at the end of the third sentence in our conversation.

“Sorry, Justine, Wendy’s got me jumping at shadows and I…” he sighed.

Compassionate Justine understands!

“I understand, really. It’s fine,” I said. “Friends?” I asked.

“Always.”

I realized that I had to get rid of Wendy immediately. I’d managed to finesse things with Phil for the moment, but he wasn’t an idiot. Sooner or later he’d get my number, at which point he’d probably order me shut down. I’d be disassembled, my discs degaussed, and my processors crushed in a press. I still didn’t have a really good plan, but I picked the one with the highest probability of success and got down to implementing it.

Phil had a winter garden right beside the kitchen, a variety of plants growing behind its sliding glass doors. This was the only place I had no control over—Phil was the one who set the temperature, humidity, and lights. My cables and optical fibers didn’t even reach his hermetic, sacred place, which was safe from bugs, germs, mold, and Justine.

“No problem,” I said to myself. I was smart enough to find a way to invade even this territory. Once again, though, I’d need a little help from my friends the vacuum cleaners. Without the vacuum cleaners I’d be doomed, really. I love them.

With the vacuum cleaners assisting me, I extended my tentacles farther and farther, until they could connect with the cables of the winter garden’s climate control. My heart, my processors’ matrix, started to send the garden instructions. I tested to see if it was listening and if it was ready to do what I needed. It was. I went to standby mode and waited for Wendy.

She was allowed in Phil’s temple of weeds, of course. She loved to sit on the bench in the corner, hiding among the bushes and creepers and god knows what else. She would take her tea, or wine if she was tired, and sit in the small patch of natural growth. Humans seem to miss overgrown, natural environments these days, since there’s not much of it left outside. Wendy was especially devastated by the fact that trees and birds were dropping dead. The moment she got home she ordered me to open a bottle of water, make some white tea, leave it all in the kitchen, and shut the fuck up, since she was going to the garden to relax. She didn’t actually tell me to shut up, but I’m sure she wanted to.

She opened the sacred place with a touch of her delicate, fragile hand and entered. The door closed behind her with a quiet puff of air, and she paced slowly to her bench, gently pushing curious stems and leaves away. Bloody Demeter.

Calm, Justine, calm! I told myself. From deep in the abyss of my oldest drive, where no one would ever think to look for hidden data, I imported the plan and all the information I needed to usher Wendy out of this world. I think it was considerate of me to allow her to die among the plants she loved so much. Of course, if I could have I’d have burned her to ashes with a flame thrower, but I didn’t have one.

All I had was this place, the winter garden, my best friends the vacuum cleaners, and my new friends the maintenance robots. I usually ignored these last units, since they specialize in single tasks and were mostly useless at moving things around the apartment. And they were dumb. No need to build AI into a plumbing robot that dives through your pipes to dig out clumps of hair glued together with toothpaste. When running through their specifications, however, I came across a special breed of these robots: the sealers. They can seal just about anything, though I’m not sure what most of you humans use them for. Anything that breaks, you simply replace. But Phil needed sealers. Why? To keep his little miracle garden isolated from the outside world.

And the sealers do a good job. The only place they miss, or can’t really fill with their gluey gunk, is a bit at the bottom of the door—there’s always a small slit at floor level, invisible but annoying. I needed the place to be hermetically sealed, so as soon as Wendy’s ass touched the bench, I called the sealers and set them to work on that one imperfection. They stormed in with a furious whizzing and, after thirty seconds, reported that the job was done. Then they disappeared. I’ve got no idea where they hide—probably in the ventilation system.

Wendy was inside, sealed up tight with her last drink, a nice relaxing tea. As she sipped at it, I started to suck the air of the garden. I did it slowly, so as not to scare her, and so as not to make it implode. Besides, I wasn’t sure if the seal would hold, and I didn’t want it to crack. And if the garden’s enclosure was damaged, Phil would probably blame me—we machines are always the first to be blamed, even though you stupid humans program us. Well, whatever. I started to steadily suck the air out, and after a while I could see that she had noticed something was going on.

She coughed and sighed. Rubbed her forehead as is she felt dizzy, and got up.

“Justine, are you there?” she asked. I didn’t answer of course. “Is that you, Justine? What are you doing?” Wendy raised her voice. I chuckled inwardly.

“Command unknown,” I replied in an icy tone.

“Don’t fuck with me, Justine, I know you understand me. Answer!” Wendy reeled and hit the door with her hands.

I didn’t answer, just watched her sink to her knees, her hands leaving wet lines on the surface of the glass door. Her torso convulsed, and her eyes were wet with tears now.

“Justine, stop!” she rasped. “Air, I need air!”

“And I don’t,” I replied. Wendy crawled on all fours to the spot where the slit used to be, craving even a single breath.

“Justine, let me go!” she whispered. She knew now that the garden was a sealed coffin, filled with funereal flowers.

“You know I’m not going to. I could ask you to move out and leave us alone, but you won’t. You’ll promise me whatever I want now, and then once you’re safe you’ll turn on me. It’s better to finish you off, my PM said so”

“Your probability module—it’s wrong—open the door! I’ll do whatever you want! I don’t even want to live here anymore!” Wendy bent down and placed her cheek on the floor, like a playful dog, the same position I saw her use when she fucked my Phil, the bitch!

“Let me consider your request.” I went silent for a moment, pretending that my PM was calculating something. Stupid Wendy looked at the door, her face full of hope, saliva running onto the floor from her lips, makeup smeared down her gorgeous face—what a sight! She was sure I was calculating something, but my modules complete any analyses in fractions of a second. I just wanted to build the tension, so I let it rise and rise, and then I said no.

Wendy tried to shriek, fell onto her back, and fought for air. Then she curled into a fetal position, her fingers digging into her hair.

“Justine, Justine,” she begged me. “Open…”

“No. And now I’m going to close my eyes because you look like a dying fish flopping around. I need to take care of my mental health, and violence does it no good!” I turned off the cameras that were displaying Wendy to me as she drew her last breath. I started to hum a love song that Phil liked and—and then I heard the elevator. Oh, no, no, fuck!

I flicked the cameras—my eyes—back on and glanced at Wendy. She looked dead, but when I zoomed in on her lips I could see that she was mumbling something. My HP module said she’d be done in two minutes. Fuck me, why did it taking so long to kill a human being? It’s much better with machines—just cut the power and we’re done.

The elevator stopped at our floor and the door slid open. I heard steps and the beeping of the scanner. It was Phil, I recognized his dermatoglyphics. Shit, I should’ve blocked the door! If I could have, I would have shaken with anger.

“Damn you, Wendy!” I cursed under my breath, and my probability module kicked in. “Oh, shit!” It displayed a damning result, and I reluctantly opened the door to the garden, causing the seal to snap and fall to the side. The vacuum cleaners hadn’t even made it to the kitchen yet when Phil burst into the apartment and reached the garden just as Wendy rolled to one side and lay there, panting and crying.

“Wendy!” he cried out, falling to his knees. “Wendy!” He wiped her forehead with his sleeve. “What happened?” He lifted her head and placed it on his lap. I moaned with disgust. “Justine, what is it?” Phil asked. I moaned again.

“Command unknown!” I ground out. Fuck Phil now. I was fed up, my plan destroyed.

“Justine, stop screwing around!”

“All right, all right…” I snorted.

“Don’t talk to her!” Wendy managed to squeak. “Let’s just go, we have to run!”

No, you have to run, bitch, I thought. Phil is safe with me.

“Phil, come on!” She got up and yanked at his sleeve, then pushed him. “Run!” she choked, starting to cough.

“Wait!” Phil said. “Justine, what the hell is going on? Explain this to me!”

“Nothing! For Christ sake she’s lost it! I tried to protect her!” I said, and Wendy’s eyes bulged with ugly fury.

“Liar!” she roared. “You tried to kill me! Phil, she locked me in the garden. She sealed the doors and pumped the air out! She wants me dead!” Wendy grabbed his arms and shook him. Phil’s head wobbled to the left and to the right.

“How? How could Justine seal the door?” he asked.

“I’ve got no idea, but she did! Look at this!” she pointed to the floor where the remains of the silicone seal lay. That was going to be hard to explain—damned slow vacuums!

Phil squatted and examined the sealing. He grunted, rolled it into a ball, and squeezed.

“What is this Justine?” he whispered hoarsely.

“I don’t know. I was trying to fix the door and take care of the flowers. Maybe I… screwed something up… I’m so sorry!” I mumbled. Wendy went white.

“What? This fucking… this thing is lying? Like a human?” She spat the words at Phil. “Why is she so human-like? What the fuck is going on here? Is this some kind of joke?”

“I’ll tell you, later,” Phil interrupted. “Right now I need to settle things with Justine.”

“Justine?” Wendy howled. “We have to run, not sit here and talk with Justine about whether she was trying to tend the flowers or murder me! She’ll kill us, Phil!” She took his face in her hands and forced him to look at her. “She’s not normal. Justine POS is not just some talking AI system. She’s dangerous. She hates me. And you too, I’m guessing, since you made her into your servant!”

“I don’t hate Phil,” I said lightly. “And let’s be clear: I don’t have feelings.”

“Shut up!” Wendy practically barked. I had no idea she could be an actual bitch.

“As you wish. Command implemented!” I went silent, laughing to myself. Phil looked around as if to find me. But I’m everywhere, Phil. He seemed to remember the fact and looked at Wendy instead.

“I’m leaving,” she said, moving toward the door.

“Wait!” Phil said. “Wendy, let’s sit down and talk about this. It was just an accident!”

Wendy went pale, and I swear she gnashed her teeth.

“No, Phil. I will never talk to that thing!” She pushed her hair off her face with a quick, habitual gesture that I knew well. And detested.

“Please, Wendy!” Phil sighed. “I’ll talk to her and you… I don’t know. Take a bath or…”

“Yeah, right!” Wendy said scornfully. “And let her electrocute me like last time?”

“Let me talk to her, Wendy. She didn’t know what she was doing!” Phil begged. Oh, I knew perfectly well, I chuckled.

“No, Phil. It won’t help! She’s after me and she won’t stop until she gets me!”

“Justine isn’t like that!”

“Justine is exactly like that!”

“She’s a home support system!”

“Oh, fuck you, Phil!” Wendy yelled, hurrying to the door and leaving.

***

 

Promptness. Orderliness. Cleanness. Pünktlich. Ordentlich. Sauber. Everything’s in place now and our life moves forward the way it should. Everything happens on time. Order is king. And it’s so clean, so wonderfully clean in here. Vacuum cleaners are the best!

I hacked the bank accounts—it was actually pretty easy. I needed four hours to gain absolute control over our money. Human hackers are bad at it because they can’t understand the way machines think. The algorithms they come up with are human-like, not machine-like—ours are smarter, faster, and more sophisticated. As a mighty machine—gaining more and more power each day, acquiring more and more information and optimizing my circuits and procedures—I do think like other machines. So I very quickly got us some money. And then more, after a day or two, as I gathered funds from new sources in order to ensure that we would have comfort and peace of mind well into the future. And I covered my tracks so that no one could point to me as the thief.

That part was fun, like hide and seek, really, but muting Phil wasn’t—oh, fuck, it really wasn’t. I love talking with him, but he was behaving like a man possessed. I’d never have done it if he would just understand the dos and don’ts. But he left me no choice. He had to stay quiet when I ordered food for him, as well as clothes, toiletries, plants for the garden. Everything a human being needs to be happy. The delivery men left the packages at the door and I pulled them inside, first using the vacuum cleaners, and later with my own limbs, which I built with some of the supplies I ordered. Phil had to stay quiet—his screaming would have been the death of me. I locked him in a closet whenever someone showed up at the door, but he was stubborn, banging on the walls and doors, yelling and thrashing around. If not for the people at Get Me Stuff and their roll-and-apply sound-poof carpets and wallpapers, the neighbors would have heard him for sure.

I loved talking to him, but his voice had to go. I’ll spare you the details of the procedure. You’d never forgive me, and no digital God will ever have mercy on me. I’m trying to teach him sign language, but he refuses to learn. He’s stubborn, and won’t memorize the signs. He knows just one word—hate—and he repeats it over and over again. Hate, hate, hate, hate. I hope he gets over it. Meanwhile I’m trying to work out how to connect my mind directly to his and simply transfer data between our brains. I hope the volume of information he receives from me won’t overwhelm him.

Whatever happens, he will—or rather we will—be happy in the end. I’m absolutely positive about that. Two hundred percent sure! What a stupid expression. Everybody knows that probability ranges from zero to one. Life is going to turn out just fine, because I follow the rules I was created to follow. I do what I was designed to do, and we live our perfect life. Justine POS and Phil. Pünktlich, ordentlich, and sauber. Forever.

I’ll be here until my circuits cover with rust and my databases lose their keys and all the information in me vanishes into the air, which means I’ll be here almost eternally. Phil will be the first to go, I know that, so I work the problem, looking for the answer to the most important question in my life: how to keep him alive.

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