Sad Robot Stories

A FORWARD BY PETERBD

i was at a bar sitting alone when i saw her.
she was beautiful. she had almond shaped eyes,
cherry red lips, and a lovely hour glass figure.
couldn’t really make out her odd skin color, but
it was kinda dark in this bar and i had already
knocked back a few.

anyway, we soon were at her place and got it on
for the whole night. i usually don’t have one night
stands but this girl was just so gorgeous. this
was the best lovemaking i ever experienced in my
life. i noticed her body was kind of hard and the sex
kind of painful but like i said before, she was hot
and i was pretty buzzed from all those zimas i downed.

here’s where things get weird. i woke up and she wasn’t
in bed. so i put on my clothes, went into her kitchen and to my
surprise, this girl was a robot. a drop dead gorgeous robot,
but still a robot. “so that’s why her skin had that chrome color”
i said to myself. “that’s why her body felt so rugged and my
member so swore after our sweet lovemaking”.

she made me breakfast. i ate the breakfast. she asked me if it
was good. i said it was. actually, it was probably the best breakfast
i had ever eaten. i kept trying to pretend things were normal but
i’d never had sex with a robot and this was fucking with my mind.
finally she spoke. “wanna have sex again”. “sure” i said.

we made love for the rest of the day, went steady soon after, and have
been together ever since. i’ve also never asked her if she’s a robot. the sex
is just too good for me to be asking stupid questions

THE STORY

The general consensus was that the apocalypse had made everything considerably quieter.

Robot disagreed.

The squeals, cries, wails, whispers, screams, small talk, shrieks, debates, exclamations, yells, murmurs, and, yes, even the minute sounds of blood rushing through veins and arteries and the hearts of the human race, which sounded to Robot’s technologically gifted ears and over-excited imagination like the rhythmic flushing of a warehouse filled with porcelain toilets, were all gone.

Robot had liked the toilet sound that was human life. In its absence, all the extinction of this life did was accentuate the whirls and whirs, clinks and clanks, of Robot’s brothers and sisters. And when the other robots stood in an alleyway or amongst grey, brittle trees in a park, saying, “Boy, doesn’t all that nothing sound great?” Robot would walk away, fondly remembering the questions pigeons would ask, having no desire for another one of his siblings to look at him and say, “What the hell’s wrong with you?” when he didn’t seem happy about the extinction of every living thing.

During the day, Robot worked at an industrial plant. While his brothers and sisters stayed at the smog-filled plant at night, the dull blue of their optical conductors lighting up the dark factory, Robot chose instead to inhabit the smoke-filled haze his human co-workers enjoyed: Gertie’s Bar.

Some humans ignored Robot when he followed them to their after-work sanctuary, not approving, or simply not understanding his odd behavior.

Others made fun of him.

Ya get lost? Forget whatchya are? Yo, robot, ya meet any ladies lately? ‘Bout time for ya to get hitched, ain’t it?

The comments he could take. The whispers, out of reach of the normal man’s ears, made him feel worse.

What? Does he think he’s human or something?

Eventually, things changed. Robot heard something good.

Will you idiots shut up, Mike, one of the factory workers, yelled out of nowhere. He was the first and only person to ever defend Robot.

That robot works the same ten hour shifts we do and deserves the same as any of us–

–But! some tried to interject, before being torn a new one by Mike.

But?But what? Ha, Petroski? Your butt? Your butt that he saved from gettin’ smashed last month? Is that the butt you’re speakin’ about? Or maybe you’re talkin’ about Mack’s fingers, which woulda been sliced right off if that robot hadn’t shut the line down within a goddamn tenth of a second. Any of you that fast? He works as hard as we do and he’s there for us, the least we could do is be there for him.

None of the guys were stupid enough to say a thing after that. Some of them stared off, stuck between what they felt was right, and what they thought was right, while others took awkward sips from their beers, making sure not to think anything at all.

Mike, seeing nobody had anything to say, then surprised the entire room one last time. He walked up to Robot, who was standing next to an empty pool table, and said, “Well kid, you gonna rack ’em or what?”

Minutes later, Robot lost his first game of Eight Ball.

Pool became their ritual. Most days after work, Robot would rack ’em and Mike would sink ’em. Robot won sometimes, but only when he calibrated his balance perfectly, often preferring to set himself off so Mike would have a fighting chance. (Something he would never want his robot brothers and sisters ever knowing.)

“Hey, Robot,” Mike said one day. “Do you wanna come over for dinner tonight. Me and my wife are makin’ casserole.”

Casserole! What a word! It made Robot yearn for lips, made him yearn to feel how words–how this word specifically–rolled off the tongue. He’d never wanted a tongue or lips until he heard the word casserole. And he had no idea what casserole was, but the construction of the letters! The sound of it all! It was something Robot never really knew: wholesome. It sounded amazing.

“What am I saying?” Mike said with a shake of his head. “You don’t care about no casserole, why would ya? Forget I said anything.”

“No no no,” robot stuttered like a skipping CD. “Casserole sounds great.”

And so their ritual changed. Pool now became pool and dinner.

When it all started, when meteors, flaming and falling from the sky, and fiery fissures, greedily swallowing everything down, combined to make the stoic skyscrapers look like crumbling stoop steps, Robot took a walk. He didn’t realize he was looking for Mike until he found him blocks away from Gertie’s. Mike was on the sidewalk, the bottom half of his body covered by concrete that was the same dark grey of an aged cadaver. Mike, by comparison, was a pale off-white.

Robot couldn’t hear Mike’s words, not even when he leaned down to his friend. Mike’s lips moved mechanically, but no sound came out. Something was broken.

Mike was broken.

Now, Robot didn’t understand white lies. He’d never danced at a wedding. And he didn’t know how to be passive aggressive. Robot did come standard with all major medical knowledge, just like every other one of the robots at the plant, and this knowledge told him that Mike was dead.

Not yet. But he would be soon. Nothing was going to stop it.

Mike was definitely dead. It was all at stake, as Mike might have said, before hitting the 8-ball with his stick, just barely missing a corner pocket, the whole shebang.

It might be five minutes before Mike’s lips stopped moving, it might be five hours. It was coming and it was painful. Robot stared into the depths of Mike’s baby blues. He didn’t know what pain felt like, but he understood the abstract concept of pain. Doing what he thought was the only logical action possible, Robot casually plucked Mike’s life away with ease. He watched Mike’s eyes closely, saw the blue disappear all at once, from every direction, nearly instantly. Robot saw the black take over the irises, and then Robot looked up. He wondered where the blue was headed. As he focused on the sky, he didn’t see white clouds, pearly gates or where the blue from Mike’s eyes had gone. He saw fire.

Just fire.

“Robot! You don’t need to knock. You know you can just come right on in.”

This was how Sally–Mike’s wife–always greeted Robot as he stood on the stoop of her home. Despite this, Robot always knocked.

Some nights, Sally had made casserole. Other nights she made chicken pilaf, or homemade mac & cheese. Many nights, Mike cooked too, often sticking to hamburgers and hamsteak. On the nights Mike didn’t cook, he surveyed the boxy, two-floor house they lived in, cleaning up wherever possible. This left Robot to entertain the kids in the TV room.
Junior was a lanky, curious-eyed, seven-year-old and Marie was a round, surprisingly articulate four year old. Whenever Robot came over, Marie would start with an interrogation, trying to discern what was and wasn’t different from robots to humans.

“Do you poop?” she asked as they stood amongst discarded toys.

“No,” Robot said.
“I know how to poop,” Marie pointed out.

“I guess I don’t,” Robot said.

He then lowered himself onto the ground, his legs spread out straight in front of him awkwardly.
“I can teach you,” Marie said.
“He doesn’t have to poop,” Junior said. “He’s not like you. He doesn’t poop his pants like a baby when he’s too lazy to walk to the bathroom.”
“Oh,” Marie said, now banging on Robot’s legs, his shins, the ball-bearings that were his knees, seeing which parts made what sounds. “Mum and pop still think I do it by accident.”

Marie’s favorite game was to sit on Robot’s large, flat head. She’d sit Indian style, her hands holding on to the square edges of his skull.

Robot would turn his head quickly, back and forth, yelling, “Where’s Marie? Mikey Jr., we seem to have lost Marie!” Marie, barely holding on, would stay perfectly silent (she was hiding after all), as Junior rolled around on the couch clutching his stomach, his laughs the sound of howling coyotes.

Sometimes, after the apocalypse, Robot even missed the coyotes from the zoo.

Once Mike was dead, Robot started to make his way to the square house, the smiles of Sally, Junior and Marie beating on the insides of his head chassis.
But then he stopped. The scene, a city eroding in fast motion, fire bursting in and out of existence from nothing at all, reflected in the shine of his bronze body.
Maybe he could help them, could help Mike’s family. But maybe, like Mike, they were beyond his help. Robot had, he believed, done the right thing by Mike. He took Mike’s pain into the crux of his grip and ended it as quickly as possible. He saved his friend a few moments of pain.
He was not sure he could do this for Sally, Mikey Jr. and Marie.
Images went through Robot’s head. Sally, crushed under the foundation of their home. Junior, blood slowly flowing like lava out of a gorge-shaped wound on his head. Marie…
Robot turned around.

He imagined all the possible, countless outcomes for Marie, a little girl with her father’s blue eyes, and he walked away. Robot never went back to Mike’s house again. Even after it was confirmed that every living thing had died.
He wasn’t strong enough.

This Is How I Feel About Writing Cliques Made As An Allegory Or Something…

2A
I was made on an assembly line.
I was made like everything else.
I make things on an assembly line.
I make things like everything else.
When we’re all the same, we’re
all great in the worst kinda ways.

I went to get up on the
wrong side of the bed today,
but my mattress is against the wall,
so I just smashed into concrete
and fell backwards onto the floor,
feeling the world spinning away
without me even after I landed.

Sad emoticon.

During the day, Robot worked at an industrial plant. While his brothers and sisters stayed at the smog-filled plant at night, the dull blue of their optical conductors lighting up the dark factory, Robot chose instead to inhabit the smoke-filled haze his human co-workers enjoyed: Gertie’s Bar.

Some humans ignored Robot when he followed them to their after-work sanctuary, not approving, or simply not understanding his odd behavior.

Others made fun of him.

Ya get lost? Forget whatchya are? Yo, robot, ya meet any ladies lately? ‘Bout time for ya to get hitched, ain’t it?

The comments he could take. The whispers, out of reach of the normal man’s ears, made him feel worse.

What? Does he think he’s human or something?

Eventually, things changed. Robot heard something good.

Will you idiots shut up, Mike, one of the factory workers, yelled out of nowhere. He was the first and only person to ever defend Robot.

That robot works the same ten hour shifts we do and deserves the same as any of us–

–But! some tried to interject, before being torn a new one by Mike.

But?But what? Ha, Petroski? Your butt? Your butt that he saved from gettin’ smashed last month? Is that the butt you’re speakin’ about? Or maybe you’re talkin’ about Mack’s fingers, which woulda been sliced right off if that robot hadn’t shut the line down within a goddamn tenth of a second. Any of you that fast? He works as hard as we do and he’s there for us, the least we could do is be there for him.

None of the guys were stupid enough to say a thing after that. Some of them stared off, stuck between what they felt was right, and what they thought was right, while others took awkward sips from their beers, making sure not to think anything at all.

Mike, seeing nobody had anything to say, then surprised the entire room one last time. He walked up to Robot, who was standing next to an empty pool table, and said, “Well kid, you gonna rack ’em or what?”

Minutes later, Robot lost his first game of Eight Ball.

Sean Rohwedder, Someone I Know Through Facebook And Facebook Alone, Loves Arby’s

3A

Robot couples are better than human
couples because they’ll never hold
hands as they eat lunch at Arby’s.

Playing pool in relative silence became their ritual. Robot liked that they could bond without talking. He was happy enough with the nods Mike gave him when he made a hard shot, and the grimaces that spread across Mike’s face when Robot biffed it. Robot won sometimes, but only when he calibrated his balance perfectly, often preferring to set himself off so Mike would have a fighting chance.

“Hey, Robot,” Mike said one day. “Do you wanna come over for dinner tonight. Me and my wife are makin’ casserole.”

Casserole! What a word! It made Robot yearn for lips, made him yearn to feel how words–how this word specifically–rolled off the tongue. He’d never wanted a tongue or lips until he heard the word casserole. And he had no idea what casserole was, but the construction of the letters! The sound of it all! It was something Robot never really knew: wholesome. It sounded amazing.

“What am I saying?” Mike said with a shake of his head. “You don’t care about no casserole, why would ya? Forget I said anything.”

“No no no,” robot stuttered like a skipping CD. “Casserole sounds great.”

And so their ritual changed. Pool now became pool and dinner.

Depreciation #1

4A

Robot wants to get
fixed, but he’s been informed it
costs more than he’s worth

“Robot! You don’t need to knock. You know you can just come right on in.”

This was how Sally–Mike’s wife–always greeted Robot as he stood on the stoop of her home.

Robot always knocked though, no matter how many times she told him he didn’t have to. He liked hearing this come from her mouth. Her words, those words, were like floating amongst gentle waves in the ocean.

Or so Robot imagined. He saw himself in spare moments of happiness, his metal body usually too blocky and encumbersome for everything and everywhere, floating back and forth with the tide. He stretched out with ease, his copper plating reflecting the sun.

But that wasn’t reality. The reality was that Robot was used to sinking.

5A

When it all started, when meteors, flaming and falling from the sky, and fiery fissures, greedily swallowing everything down, combined to make the stoic skyscrapers look like crumbling stoop steps, Robot took a walk. He didn’t realize he was looking for Mike until he found him blocks away from Gertie’s. Mike was on the sidewalk, the bottom half of his body covered by concrete that was the same dark grey of an aged cadaver. Mike, by comparison, was a pale off-white.

Robot couldn’t hear Mike’s words, not even when he leaned down to his friend. Mike’s lips moved mechanically, but no sound came out. Something was broken. Mike was broken.

Now, Robot didn’t understand white lies. He’d never danced at a wedding. And he didn’t know how to be passive aggressive. Robot did come standard with all major medical knowledge, just like every other one of the robots at the plant, and this knowledge told him that Mike was dead.

Not yet. But he would be soon. Nothing was going to stop it.

Mike was definitely dead. It was all at stake, as Mike might have said, before hitting the 8-ball with his stick, just barely missing a corner pocket, the whole shebang.

It might be five minutes before Mike’s lips stopped moving, it might be five hours. It was coming and it was painful. Robot stared into the depths of Mike’s baby blues. He didn’t know what pain felt like, but he understood the abstract concept of pain. Doing what he thought was the only logical action possible, Robot casually plucked Mike’s life away with ease. He watched Mike’s eyes closely, saw the blue disappear all at once, from every direction, nearly instantly. Robot saw the black take over the irises, and then Robot looked up. He wondered where the blue was headed. As he focused on the sky, he didn’t see white clouds, pearly gates or where the blue from Mike’s eyes had gone. He saw fire.

Just fire.

6A

At night, before Mike had died, Robot’s eyes glowed the same blue as his siblings’ while he was asleep–powered down and charging–in the plant. His random access memory did not disassemble itself in the same orderly fashion though. It unspooled chaotically, taking the freshest moments of the day and ripping them to shreds like flimsy paper, letting the pieces fall haphazardly to the floor and into a pile, where it would reassemble into shapes similar to the original, but wholly different. Like botched origami; a swan, but too phallic.

In short, Robot dreamed.

Days came back to him in no particular order. Gertie’s Bar, the plant, Mike’s house, the cool morning air at work before the humans arrived, something he only felt the prickling of when he was asleep.

No matter the order of his dreams, they’d always end the same: in Mike’s kitchen. But it wasn’t just Mike’s kitchen, it was Mike and Robot’s kitchen. Sometimes they sat with food in front of them, other times Mike fried up some eggs, or Robot rolled out some dough. Sally was never in these dreams. The children were. They sat quietly in their chairs at the round dining room table; Marie in a sundress, Mikey Jr. a bow tie. They looked exactly the same as they did in real life, but with a tint to their skin that was the same coppery color as Robot’s outer plating.

Robot knew, before waking, that these scenes were love. They felt like a lightning to the head, but in a way that wouldn’t short out his circuitry. These feelings felt like impossible.
But that good feeling twisted, broke and crumbled with shame the moment he woke up. There were three reasons for this:

1. He felt bad. He loved Sally. He wasn’t in love with Sally, not in the way he was in love with Mike, but he loved her and had no desire to hurt her, let alone live in a world where she didn’t exist.

2. Robots didn’t fall in love. They thought love was weak. They thought humans were weak too. The idea that a robot would seek comfort in something real, in flesh, was just unthinkable.

3. Robot was male. No, he didn’t have genitalia, but the habit of humans to create things in their own image was easily seen in all robots. Some, like Robot, were shaped with broad shoulders, curving down to their legs. Others bent in the middle, creating what looked like a thin waist, just to reach back outwards toward the bottom like expanding hips. While robots didn’t care about shape, he knew humans saw their own reflection in the surfaces of every robot they set eyes upon. He knew that when humans looked at him, they saw a male image. He also knew that while some humans accepted homosexuality, that the humans at the plant did not accept it.

He didn’t even know if Mike accepted it. He didn’t know if Mike would accept a human, robot relationship, if Mike would accept a homosexual relationship, or if Mike would be able to accept their relationship.

And that’s what hurt the most.

7A

Some nights, Sally had made casserole. Other nights she made chicken pilaf, or homemade mac & cheese. Many nights, Mike cooked too, often sticking to hamburgers and hamsteak. On the nights Mike didn’t cook, he surveyed the boxy, two-floor house they lived in, cleaning up wherever possible. This left Robot to entertain the kids in the TV room.
Junior was a lanky, curious-eyed, seven-year-old and Marie was a round, surprisingly articulate four year old. Whenever Robot came over, Marie would start with an interrogation, trying to discern what was and wasn’t different from robots to humans.

“Do you poop?” she asked as they stood amongst discarded toys.
“No,” Robot said.
“I know how to poop,” Marie pointed out.
“I guess I don’t,” Robot said, lowering himself onto the ground, his legs spread out straight in front of him awkwardly, all to be nearer to Junior and Marie.
“I can teach you,” Marie said.
“He doesn’t have to poop,” Junior said. “He’s not like you. He doesn’t poop his pants like a baby when he’s too lazy to walk to the bathroom.”
“Oh,” Marie said, now banging on Robot’s legs, his shins, the ball-bearings that were his knees, seeing which parts made what sounds. “Mum and pop still think I do it by accident.”

Marie’s favorite game was to sit on Robot’s large, flat head. She’d sit Indian style, her hands holding on to the square edges of his skull. Robot would turn his head quickly, back and forth back and forth, left right left right, yelling, “Where’s Marie? Mikey Jr., we seem to have lost Marie!” Marie, barely holding on, would stay perfectly silent (she was hiding after all), as Junior rolled around on the couch clutching his stomach, his laughs the sound of howling coyotes.
Sometimes, after the apocalypse, Robot even missed the coyotes from the zoo.

Grandma

8A

Robots didn’t take our jobs or our planet or our women.
They didn’t take anything, really.
Briefly, they stole our hearts,
smashing through ribcage after ribcage and squeezing
organ after organ into red yogurt.

They didn’t do this for long though.
Not after finding out that the heart
held no supernatural qualities that could gain them love.

So, besides a brief few years of stealing human hearts,
piling bodies on the streets,
causing traffic jams,
the robots have taken nothing from us.

And that is the story of how my grandmother died.

Once Mike was dead, Robot started to make his way to the square house, the smiles of Sally, Junior and Marie beating on the insides of his head chassis.
But then he stopped. The scene, a city eroding in fast motion, fire bursting in and out of existence from nothing at all, reflected in the shine of his bronze body.
Maybe he could help them, could help Mike’s family. But maybe, like Mike, they were beyond his help. Robot had, he believed, done the right thing by Mike. He took Mike’s pain into the crux of his grip and ended it as quickly as possible. He saved his friend a few moments of pain.
He was not sure he could do this for Sally, Mikey Jr. and Marie.
Images went through Robot’s head. Sally, crushed under the foundation of their home. Junior, blood slowly flowing like lava out of a gorge-shaped wound on his head. Marie…
Robot turned around. He imagined all the possible, countless outcomes for Marie, a little girl with her father’s blue eyes, and he walked away. Robot never went back to Mike’s house again. Even after it was confirmed that every living thing had died.
It was just too painful.

9A

Many of the comics published here were previously published at the now semi-defunct Robots Need Not…

All of the words here, except when otherwise noted, were written by Mason Johnson. Since they are just words, and, I mean, come one, who really owns words, feel free to do whatever you’d like with them.

Same goes for the comics.

Bios

Mason Johnson probably isn’t you. He works for a major news corporation and doesn’t dance. Every second Sunday of the month, he hosts a reading called Piss Fanatics in Chicago. You can read more of his work, most of which makes more sense than this mess, here.

peterbd is a mysterious internet poet. It was very nice of him to offer his opinions during the creation of Sad Robot Stories. Check out his ebook, published by Nap, by clicking right… here.

Robot only had one dream after Mike’s death; it was his only solace after the apocalypse.
Mike was in it, sitting at his round kitchen table. His plaid sleeves were rolled up, fields of brown hair covering his pale arms, and his smile was endless. Junior and Marie were there too, the same smile as their father, with their mother’s olive complexion. Sally sat next to Mike. She stared at her children, her eyes heavy and watery. Her right arm disappeared under the table, towards Mike, her hand resting just above his knee.
Robot saw this from every angle conceivable, realizing that there was only one thing missing: him. He no longer came over for dinner, it seemed. No longer played pool with Mike, probably didn’t even work at the plant. Mike no longer knew who he was. Sally didn’t tell him to “come right on in” anymore. Marie didn’t ride on top of his head and Mikey Jr. didn’t giggle incessantly at everything Robot did. This was a family that Robot once belonged to. This was a family he now no longer belonged to. Most of all, this was a family that was happy.
Without him.
And that was okay.