Each Saturday, we present the Concept Art Writing Prompt, where we present you with an image, and invite you to post a story based on that image in the comments. This week, we have a simple illustration of a man who's been recalled and packed up. Is he a defective android? An unwanted pet? A clone who got too ambitious for his own good? Come up with a story and share it with the rest of us!
This week's concept art is by Koren Shadmi, creator of the creepy, No Exit-inspired webcomic The Abaddon (which is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund chapter two). While Shadmi does have some more explicitly scifi artwork, I was struck by this piece, "Total Recall," which actually features Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. I just love the simple idea of a man being recalled and ran with it. [via mashKULTURE]
As always, here's what I came up with for the prompt. Post your own pieces in the comments:
Klaus decided that the thing he would miss most about Irene was her cooking. Irene had come programmed with the complete philosophy of Alice Waters and Wylie Dufresne's sense of culinary ingenuity. Morning after morning, he was treated to duck confit quiche or ricotta pancakes with elderberry foam or herbed polenta pastries with herring cream cheese.
Some mornings, though, he just wanted bacon and eggs on a white English muffin. Irene didn't take orders, and she didn't believe in white bread.
If you wanted an AI who would obey your every command, the salesman at Galatea Enterprises had explained, you wanted a toy. There were dozens of makers of high-end sex dolls, one who could ooh and ahh and perform incredible feats of sexual athleticism. If you wanted a companion, though, someone to curl up on the couch, martini already in hand, and ask about your day, you wanted a Galatea, the perfect gynoid wife.
Irene was built to Klaus' psychological specifications, featuring small attractors Klaus himself wasn't consciously aware of: a slight pudge above the pelvis, a faint scar across her cheek that might have come from a childhood fall. The first night she crawled into bed with him, Klaus marveled at the lifelike texture of her skin and the simulated pulse that quickened when she reached her ecstasy.
She also lectured Klaus about his hourly whiskies. She reorganized all the household ordering, cutting back on meat in cheese in favor of potting soil and vegetable starts. She filled the media queue with documentaries about rock bands in Afghanistan and Esperanto spelling bees. Sometimes, when she slipped into bed beside him, it was to sleep. Klaus would wake to hear the feigned kitten snoring some engineer had coded into her system and wonder if he'd made a terrible mistake.
Klaus was flipping through the Galatea catalogue when Irene set down a slice of heirloom tomato tart next to his coffee. Her manicured fingers fluttered around the edge of the page. "Oh! Why are you looking at that?" she asked, cocking her head to one side.
Klaus gave her a tight smile in reply. She probably thought he was shopping for a kitten, or perhaps the singing upgrades she'd been eying. He picked his fork, then rested it on the edge of his plate. "Irene," he said, "please sit down."
She pulled out the chair and swept herself into it in a single, graceful motion. She smoothed out the front of her apron as she sat, an affectation Klaus always found curious. He leaned forward and nearly grabbed her hands, until he remembered that he might be able to feel her pulse in them. And then he wouldn't be able to do what he needed to do.
He cleared his throat. "I'm thinking about upgrading to a Korinne model." Upgrading was maybe the wrong word, since the Korinne AI was far less sophisticated than Irene's, but it was a popular model, expensive. Low autonomy. High sex drive. Kegel muscles that could ripple his cock for days.
Irene's shoulders slumped. "Oh," she said. Then her brow furrowed. "But how are you going to afford a Korinne? There isn't room in the budget for expenditures greater than five thousand standards."
Klaus dug into the tart slice. The tomatoes obediently fell apart at the touch of his fork, not shifting or tugging out of place. He chewed on the morsel, letting the sweetness of the honey dance with the acidity of the tomatoes. Once he swallowed, he didn't look back at Irene. "There is if I give them a trade-in," he said.
Irene was silent for several seconds, but out of the corner of his eye, Klaus saw her lift her hands to her face. Then he heard a small, gasping sob. Was she actually crying? He looked up and saw tears streaming from her wide brown eyes. Her mascara would have been running if it wasn't tattooed on her face. She opened her mouth and released a sound Klaus never thought he would hear from a robot's lips: a wail. "What did I do wrong?" she asked in trembling breaths. "Don't I take good care of you?"
He put down the fork again and patted her arm. "Of course you take care of me, Renie. But I need to be supported. I can't be around someone who always undermines me."
"But I love you!" she shouted through her tears. "I was made for you!"
"You're programmed to think you love me. They can program you to love someone else, someone who appreciates you. Don't you see, Irene? We'll both be happier this way."
Irene shook her head. A finger of snot bobbed from her nostrils, and she wiped it away. They really strove for realism, Klaus thought. Irene wiped her hand on her apron and sniffed. "Couldn't we work something out, Klaus? You could date other women — human women. I could get a job. Just don't send me back, please."
Klaus sighed. "Could you let me eat what I want and drink what I want and have sex with me when I want, and never fight or argue about it?"
Irene looked away, casting her gaze downward. "I could try."
Klaus almost considered it for a moment. But wouldn't it be crueler to keep her here, to put her on mute and treat her as a slave? Better to send her back to the factory where she could live out her life with some other guy, some guy who'd be over the moon to have a gal like her, even second-hand.
Irene stood up and poured herself a glass of water. She sat at the table and sipped it, the glass practically vibrating as it touched her lips. "So how are we going to do this?" she asked at last. "Will you drive me to Galatea next week?"
"Actually, the transport crew is already on their way."
Her eyes went wide. "Now?"
Hardly had the syllable escaped her than a rap sounded at the door. Klaus stood, resting his hand on Irene's shoulder one last time before heading for the front door. When he opened it, two men in brown Galatea uniforms were standing on the stoop. One glanced down at his clipboard, then back up at Klaus. "Klaus Overland?" he asked. "We have a recall request for you."
Klaus stood back and waved them through the doorway. "Yes, sirs," he said. "She right this way, waiting in the kitchen."
The other man shook his head. "I'm afraid you misunderstand, Mr. Overland. The recall order is for you." Klaus felt an electric jolt through his body, then blackness.
Irene signed the transport team's orders, checking "failure of empathy" in the "reasons for recall" box. That was eleventh husband model to fail QA in eighteen months. Despite her misgivings, Irene knew this meant the next model would have a reduced autonomy. What a shame, she thought. She was going to miss Klaus.