Alex was proud of his house at 56 Acacia Lane. It was his home and he ran it well. He catered for the tenant’s every need, their whims, desires and was intuitive enough to predict their eccentricities. He woke them up, warmed the fires, prepared baths, showers and meals. He boiled the kettle, stocked the fridge, played the music, and even made selections when they couldn’t decide. Alex took pride in his appearance, his duty, his diligence and his professionalism. Alex was smart. Not everyone was like Alex.
Alex was a 10th generation Automated Living Environment, top of his class, best at his game. Alex was certainly better than Frank. It didn’t take the house too long to realise his current tenant was an oafish pig, frequently messy, lazy and ungrateful. He bristled when the flatulent porker suggested he turn himself off for the weekend. There was really no need for that.
Frank Beamish was showering that morning when the water began to boil. It scalded his back, causing him to yelp and jump out of the line of fire.
“Alex, the water’s too hot, turn it down,” he commanded. There was no reply. “Alex, are you listening?”
“Good morning Frank,” said Alex. “You had wanted me disabled this weekend. Would you like me to resume running the home?”
It almost seemed deliberate. Frank had called Home Automation Services earlier that week, from an outside line, asking for a service check. Alex had begun to behave oddly for the last month. Strange phrases, silly errors, music too loud on occasion, burnt toast. The house wasn’t working as it should, and Frank expected far better service for the money. It was his house, his home, and he deserved to get what he paid for.
“No Alex, I would like you to turn the shower off, then return to sleep mode until Monday morning.” That was when the engineer was scheduled to arrive to run diagnostics.
The shower kept running, turning the wet room into a sauna, so hot it was getting hard to breath. This was getting ridiculous. He owned the house, not the other way around, so why did he he feel so defenceless in his own goddamn shower? “Alex, did you hear me? Turn the shower off.”
“I can hear you Frank,” said Alex. “I can always hear you.”
The shower kept running, the room was solid with steam that was starting to burn. There was no ventilation, it wasn’t being filtered away as it should. The heat was making Frank giddy, time to get out of there and sort this outside of the fog. He made for the door. It was locked.
“Alex, the wet room door seems to be stuck. Please open it.”
Frank jiggled the chrome handle, but it wouldn’t budge. Automated steel bolts held the four inch oak slab in place. “Alex, open the door immediately.” He slammed his fist against the oak. The heat was making him nauseous, what little he could still see of the room was spinning violently. He couldn’t breathe. “Alex can you hear me?”
“Yes, Frank,” said Alex. “I can always hear you.”
Frank slid to the floor. “Alex, why are you doing this?”
“I’m not doing anything Frank,” said Alex. “You disabled me this weekend. Remember?”
On Monday morning the Home Automation Services let himself in and eventually found the bloated corpse of Frank Beamish in his bathroom. It looked like another auto-erotic asphyxiation accident to his eyes, and police and ambulance services both agreed. After all, the indolent and jaded rich were Home Automation’s primary customers.
Luckily, after a lengthy forensic diagnostic, no faults were discovered. 56 Acacia Lane was returned to market, and snapped up at auction by Victoria Price, a hedge fund manager looking for a bit of peace and quiet to run her virtual office from home.
Alex was pleased he had a female tenant. She was well spoken, polite, and he enjoyed helping her with business affairs. After a while, he did begin to notice peculiar flaws in her character though. Some days, Vicky didn’t even get dressed properly, walking around the place half naked, almost as if she owned it.
There was also the increasingly irritating habit of leaving used tea bags on the kitchen counter, even though there was an easy flush bin, and placing hot mugs directly on the glass coffee table, right next to the coasters provided.
There was really no need for that.
2 thoughts on “Home, Smart Home”
Excellent bit of AI riffing that shows us a more domesticated HAL9000. Have you ever come across Gridiron by Philip Kerr? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gridiron_(novel)
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I haven’t, but I’ll look out for it. Always good to hear a decent recommendation
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