The robot kills an afternoon at the movie theatre

August 27, 2013

the robot and the canary

The robot shuffled into the country movie theatre. Its expectations were low. It was winter and the place was rundown, so it wasn’t surprised to learn that the heater wasn’t functioning. But the robot had a Saturday afternoon to kill, so it bought a ticket anyway and settled into a threadbare seat in the middle of the third row from the back.

The robot and the canary had the day off from the game they played with each other. They both enjoyed following the stock market. They found it intriguing to watch the ups and downs and imagined that profiting from it was much like making one’s fortune with a sword in medieval times, or at least the robot did. The canary wasn’t old enough to know anything about medieval times.

The robot, having traveled from the next inhabited system over, was very old. Its planet had the technology to build it itself and to build a ship to send it off on an adventure, but not to speed up the travel much. So the robot figured it was, well, it didn’t know exactly, so it chose the level of the Nasdaq on the day it arrived, and declared itself to be 3,578 years old plus two, for the two years it had been tested after being built. The robot was 3,580 years old.

The canary had a much easier time with its age. It knew it was the same age as the child in its house, and that was simple to remember because once a year the child’s family would have a party and the canary would count the number of candles on the cake thrust before the child. The canary was four.

The robot and the canary had met purely by accident. The robot’s first assignment was to locate 81RTHD47, another robot. The robot’s capsule had landed in the front yard in a suburban cul du sac, and it couldn’t believe its luck when it stumbled out of the pod and immediately laid its visual sensors on a sign that said “JEREMY’S 81RTHD47 PARTY HERE!” It didn’t know what a JEREMY or a PARTY was but it thought it very fortunate that 81RTHD47’s whereabouts were so conveniently labeled and immediately activated its retrieval mode.

The robot crashed into the building behind the sign. Its auditory sensors registered vocal music that included the word JEREMY. It moved toward the sound but was momentarily held at bay by rubbery pods of air that floated around JEREMY.

The robot quickly ascertained that 81RTHD47 was hidden somewhere in the building. It began smashing any compartments or walls that might be concealing the other robot. When the entire interior of the building was in shambles, the robot reluctantly concluded that 81RTHD47 was not on the premises after all.

As the robot picked its way through the debris, feeling like a failure for lack of success in the mission, it was distracted by a flash of yellow that flitted past its visual sensors. The color was accompanied by a different form of music, this more lighthearted and uplifting than the previous vocal sounds. The canary wished to thank the creature that had toppled its metal prison and set it free. And so the robot and the canary had become acquainted. They shared a beer that had rolled out of the toppled refrigerator and found they had much in common, not least an interest in both swords and numerical patterns.

So the robot and the canary had combined their ages. They were 3,584. For 3,584 minutes at a stretch, they would each play the stock market separately. At the end of the 3,584 minutes, or sixty days (they rounded to the nearest whole number), they would come together and see which of them had played the market most skillfully. The loser had to buy dinner the following weekend. On Monday they started the next round.

And so it was that the robot was passing a Saturday afternoon in an unheated theatre waiting for a bad movie to start, before its dinner date with a canary.

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My blogging topic tonight was the worst movie I ever did see but since I generally don’t get too worked up about movies, I instead went with a random word generator short story. I use randomly generated words (country, heater, robot) to get started, and every time I get stuck I generate another word to move the piece along. The random words are in bold. I try really hard not to censor the words or myself. It’s a good exercise and in the spirit of today’s blog subject prompt, I worked movie viewing into it. Here’s a previous story I wrote this way. This is the random word generator I used tonight.

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