Thursday, March 15, 2018


By Carl Perrin

I heard a strange noise in the kitchen. Mr. Fitz told me later that a human being would have gone to investigate. But I was not programmed to do that so I just stayed where I was, sitting on a chair in the bedroom.

I heard footsteps coming through the living room and a rough, gravelly voice said: “There ain’t nothin’ here worth takin’. That TV is a piece of junk.”

A high-pitched male voice answered, “We might as well check out the bedroom before we go.”

The two of them walked in. First a short, hunched-shouldered man with practically no neck. His hair was cut close to his skull. He looked like a gnome. The other man seemed tall at first, but I realized that he was so thin that he looked taller than he was. He had a scar down his right cheek.

Scarface looked at me and said, “This must be Old Man Fitzpatrick’s robot companion.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna do us no good,” the gnome said.

“That’s cause you don’t use your head, dummy. We can hold it for ransom.”

“We can’t get much ransom from Old Man Fitzpatrick, can we?”

“We can get some. These old guys love their robot companions.”

The gnome shrugged. “I don’t know, Francis.”

Scarface turned on him. “I told you not to call me that!” he snapped.

“Sorry, Frank. I slipped.”

“Well, grab his feet. I’ll take his shoulders. We better get out of here before Old Man Fitzpatrick gets back.”

So they picked me up and headed out the back door. Of course I could have stopped them, but I hadn’t been programmed to do that. And one of the first things a robot learns when he is registered is the golden rule: never hurt a human being.

I’m not that heavy, but they were moving awkwardly as they moved from the back yard to the alley. “You don’t have to carry me,” I said. “I can walk.”

The gnome went, “Yikes!” and dropped my feet. “The thing talked!”

Francis let go of my shoulders and I stood up. “Yes, I can walk and I can talk. So where are you taking me?”

“Oh, ah, we’re just taking you on a little vacation. It must be about time you had a vacation, isn’t it?” Francis tried to smile, but you could tell he didn’t mean it. “Don’t pay any attention to the dummy here.” He gestured at the gnome. “He’s afraid of his own shadow.”

In a few minutes we crossed a lawn littered with trash to enter a frame apartment building. On the second floor Francis unlocked the door to let us in. Francis invited me to sit with them at plastic table in the small kitchen. The gnome said, “I’ll find some paper to write a ransom note.”

Francis turned to the gnome and said, “Geeze, you’re even dumber than I thought you were. You don’t write a ransom note.”

“Well, how do you let them know about the ransom and stuff?” The gnome’s face twisted in despair.

“You cut the words out of a newspaper and paste them into the note. That way the cops can’t analyze your handwriting and prove that you wrote the note.”

For the next hour they toiled with the message, cutting words out of an old magazine and pasting them onto the paper. When they were finished, Francis said to me, “I’m going to have to chain you to something. I’m afraid you’d get lost if you went out by yourself.” We went into the bedroom, and he chained me by the ankle to a heavy chest. I didn’t tell him that I wouldn’t be likely to get lost because I had a built-in GPS. The two men left, and I sat on the floor by the chest.

About a half an hour later I heard a sharp knock on the door, and a loud voice called, “Open up! Police!”

“I’ll be right with you,” I yelled back. I lifted the chest so I could free my ankle. Before I could do anything else, the police crashed through the door with raised pistols. “Where are they?” one of the policemen asked.

“They’ve gone to deliver the ransom note,” I answered.

The other cop went back into the hallway. “It’s okay. You can come in.”

Mr. Fitz ran into the room and put his arms around me. “My dear friend, Rupert,” he said. “I’m so happy to see that you’re all right. They didn’t hurt you, did they?”

“No, I’m fine. It’s a good thing they didn’t know I could send you an email just by talking and give you the coordinates of this place for the police.”

A few minutes later Francis and the gnome came back to find the police waiting for them. They both seemed quite puzzled by the turn of events.

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Carl Perrin started writing when he was in high school. His short stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, Northern New England Review, Kennebec, Short-Story.Me, Mad Swirl, and CommuterLit among others.

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