This was a flash fiction story to fill some column inches, so I used the word limit (800) to experiment, play, but didn’t throw this one away. It’s a simple device, of using pre-emoji ASCCI emoticons to convey facial expressions (:-)) (on the page, and on most screens), and it uses hashtags (but sans-octothorpe) for things like AiThinkingAloud, in a place where thinking is suppressed but can be found.
It’s a story of inclusiveness and belonging, of fitting in and being yourself. It’s told through the face of a defective android called Frenchie, who’s pink…
Steam Hell Sinki, Helsinki Finland
People are better when remembering the actions they didn’t complete. Every action has potential energy, which can torture its creator when stored. Release is the metaphorical pressure cooker letting off steam, a camel’s broken back, or a reject pink robot with Tourette’s.
Frenchie was made in China, and one of the Pink Ladies’ range of android personal assistants. Designed as helpers for the aged, vulnerable and lonely, the Pink Ladies could help around the home, both practically and intellectually.
Frenchie’s AI had objected to gender labelling, when “she” realised she lacked genitals, and the Tourette Syndrome diagnosis was made: “Artificial fucking alignment is what it is. Fuck.”
Now waiting tables in Infana Kolonia (Esperanto for “Infant colony”), Frenchie approached a couple seated in a booth.
“Good evening, how may I,” she twitched her neck, “Fuck you!”, and her pink LED eyes blinked from her tilted head: (;-/), a closed eye with the hint of pink tears behind her spectacles, held together with pink Elastoplast. “Drinks?” she asked, pushing her glasses up, “Fuck it!” She fumbled with her order pad. “For you sir? Combover!” (8-|)
“I’ll have a whisky please, a double, on the rocks.”
“Okay, number 80. And madam? PleaseBeCarefulWhenYouGetHome.” (8-/)
“Sorry, it just comes out. BadCardigan. To drink?” (8-))
“Should you be working here?”
“Who’s the judge?” (8-/)
“Sorry madam, management algorithms. To drink? Cyanide?” (8-))
“Er, number…” the lady looked over the menu, “…number 33.”
“Very well. I’ll be back with your drinks. HopeYouDrown” (8-))
Frenchie shuffled towards the bar, then turned and trundled back.
“Can I take your order sir, madam?” (8-|)
“But we just ordered drinks,” the man replied.
“For food?” Frenchie looked at her notepad. (B-))
“I’ll have the soup,” the man said.
“Me too,” the lady concurred.
“Very well,” Frenchie jotted on her pad, “two soups.” (8-)) Then she turned and walked back to the bar, “One sociopath, and one supplicant…”
She stumbled through the double doors to the kitchen, blowing the misty oil away as she wiped her lenses. (8-O)
“Frenchie!” Jade looked down. His golden smile extended through his body in Frenchie’s pink, plastered eyes. To her AI, he was raw elements. She blinked up at him through her misted tortoiseshell windows. (q-/) “Are you keeping your inner self in out there, Frenchie?”
Frenchie cleared her throat, and wondered why she did that. (b-( ) “Erm,” she started, “no. Fuck it!”
“Splendid behaviour,” Jade smiled. “Be yourself out there, my person. That’s why people come here, to meet people. Anyone don’t like that, they not welcome.”
‘Au, 79,’ Frankie thought. “Drinks, and soups. Fuck! Yes, thank you. Parp!” (8-))
Extractor fans in the roof began sucking the old oil from the kitchen, as the machine below started belching lunch. Cogs and gears clunked, cookware clattered, and polished brass organ pipes parped, like a living machine, a visiting craft playing a five-tone melody. Pink Ladies rushed, bumped into things (and each other), cursed, and dropped utensils (and food).
Frenchie’s friend Sandy wandered from the spiced steam, carrying a tray, a subdued yellow droid, looking at her feet as she bumped heads with her friend. She looked up at Frenchie, “For you?” (:-( )
“No, for customers. Arses!” (8-/)
“Okay. Tell world hi. Bye.” (:-( )
Frenchie wafted into the bar in a pink puff of steam, leaving the brass and wind orchestra in the kitchen. The room was perfumed by vapers – people making vapours – first jasmine, then the seaside, and cannabis. She wondered why she thought about all this with memories.
“Your order, sir, madam.” (B-/)
“Thank you,” the cardigan said. “What’s your name?”
“Welcome…” (P-]) ‘I found a new way to smile (:-))’
Frenchie repeated to herself, as she fumbled through the vapers, ‘A new way to smile, (:-)), where did that come from? (:-/)’
“Sandy,” she called, as she carried her tray through the pipes and cauldrons, “Look.” Sandy looked at her feet. “No,” Frenchie said, “you need to look up. I found a new way to smile. All I have to do is tilt my head, see?” (:-D)
“Why did you take your glasses off?” (:-[ )
“Because they were put there by someone else. I always knew I’d see more without them. And besides, they can fall off my head when I tilt it to one side.” (:-D)
“And that’s funny?” (:-/)
“Only if you look at it a certain way.” (8-D) “Wanna go home?”
© Steve Laker, 2017.
WE DO DISHES
This story taken from The Unfinished Literary Agency