The grey light did nothing to soften the harsh edges of the apartment, which sat high and square above the city. From within, the sky seemed only an extension of the silvery and fluorescent decor, and the whole scene shown like two distant moons in the glass of the unit’s optic sensors. It strode softly and mechanically from the kitchen, supporting the dinner tray with a level precision only it could attain. The points from the overhead LEDs swam and danced in the sheen of its moulded polymer head. It rounded the corner and entered the main living space, where she sat curled on the white couch. She was gazing at the picture again. It came to a gentle halt, bending forward at the waist and delicately placing the tray on the ottoman. She glanced up with her kind and longing eyes, then fell her sight upon the tray, which held ten perfectly arranged pills and a glass of fine merlot.
“Thank you,” she said, casting a personifying look at the unit once more. “Will you run the bath now?” It offered a slight nod, the subtle motors of its neck whirring and whispering. It left the room and she looked at the picture.
The bathroom came to life with ambient luminance as it entered. It moved to the tub and engaged the water, which came forth at an exact ninety-nine degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature was pre-set to her liking, but it used its thermal imaging anyway to ensure the exactitude. The water had dropped to ninety-seven degrees when she entered and disrobed, her cheeks flushed and her knees swaying. It offered a benign hand, which she clasped and used to steady herself into the water. She slid down until the surface kissed her chin.
“Thank you,” she said, then let forth a sigh. She closed her eyes and rested motionless, hair wafting about her shoulders and collarbone. Minutes passed, quiet save for the moving of water and the distant hum of passing city transports. The unit’s optic sensors purred noiselessly in focus. As if returning from a trip, she opened her eyes and spoke.
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“Did I ever tell you about my mother’s garden?” Her voice was dreamy. It shook its head. “She grew tomatoes on the rooftop. There was an herb garden too. It was so fresh and nice smelling up there.” Her lids closed and her face radiated with distant memory. She looked almost content, an expression it had not seen for some time. “We watched the sun set from that garden, she and I. The view was…” She opened her eyes and the look of dreams was gone, replaced now with a wet veil. She turned to it and a tear slid down her cheek. Her gaze was distant and aching, and she held the unit in her eyes as a child would view her rescuing father.
“Thank you,” she whispered tiredly and with the utmost quivering gratitude. Then she closed her eyes once more and rested her skull gracefully against the white porcelain. It watched silently as her breath slowed and rose to her chest. It waited a long time, until she was in the deepest point of slumber, then reached forth and pushed her head under the water.
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— Martin Hooijmans