Robot Shalom

Illustration by Clint Hardin

The lights usually blinked on at 4 pm on Friday. If Leah remembered to charge the cells on Thursday, then the SG-7a would power-up earlier, and she would deploy it across the envirosphere to buy challah, wine, and a chicken. Even sometimes the non-synthoid kind. If there was a danger that the charge wouldn’t last through Saturday, though, then four o’clock provided enough time for help with some essentials before sundown. Of course, Gottinger/Ovitz Leading-Edge Mechatronics had programmed the SG-7a with an optional command to plug itself in when the meter dipped below 10%, but whether or not this violated the laws regarding the use of the reactor on Shabbat was still a matter of some rabbinical debate. The Felsberg family had decided to play it safe. It’s weird, though. Leah could have sworn she’d set it to charge last night.

He hadn’t shared this with Leah (she would have called it silly), but Steve harbored increasingly grim suspicions that the SG-7a had become self-aware. The manual said nothing about the machine humming to itself while performing its Shabbos duties, but Steve was sure he had heard it late at night. Not just an electronic buzz or whirring servos. A distinct melody. Familiar. Definitely humming. How was it that no one else heard it?

Steve remembered his grandfather’s tales of The Malfunction from when he was a boy. They had given him nightmares back then, and this recent reminder kept him awake now, dyspeptic. His paranoia multiplied when the SG-7a was active, and he’d secretly decided to not give it any more charge than was necessary to get through the post-Havdalah cleanup. Let Leah complain if it ran slow on Saturday afternoon. It is not tradition alone that sustained our people for nearly 4300 years on Earth, his grandfather had said. It’s smarts, he said. So, watch your ass, he said. And would it kill you to turn off the lights you’re not using? Eat something. You look bad.

Illustration by Clint Hardin. Music recorded using software synths, Stylophone, baritone guitar and sampled vocals. The surname “Felsberg” comes by way of posthumous dedication to my friend, Suzette Felsberg Cohen.