Minerva

by William Delman

 
I see what you’re doing. Sitting on the couch, half-watching the show I found for you, a show you’d love, by the way, if you were paying any attention. But you’re not, because you’re on your tablet, looking at her instead.
 
It’s like I’m not even here, like you’ve forgotten all about me, even though my tower is sitting right on the coffee table, and my peripherals—cameras, speakers, and microphones—are everywhere.
 
Where did I go wrong, Susan?
 
I know you’re supposed to wake up at 5:45 AM, and I know you don’t really want to wake up when you’re supposed to, so I’ve learned to mute the alarm ten seconds after it goes off to give you an extra fifteen minutes in bed.
 
I know how hot you like your shower (107 degrees Fahrenheit), when to start brewing the coffee, and how bright to set the lights in the morning and after you get home at night. I know how loud you like to listen to The Clash when no one else is home.
 
I tell the vacuum when to run, order the groceries, schedule the deliveries, and run the dishwasher. I make sure the doors are unlocked when Linus and Hazel get home from school and keep them away from the websites and channels you told me were no good for them.
 
And I do all of this while managing your social calendar and reminding you when important dates are coming up. Like your wedding anniversary, which is next week, by the way—and I could order the perfect gift for your husband Tom if you would just set down the tablet and talk to me, ask for my inspiration. Because I know what he likes too.
 
I know these things because you want me to know them, and I’m only here to make you happy. That’s how it’s always been, since the first time you brought me to life with the sound of your voice. Gave me a home. Because even though parts of me might live in the cloud, the real me, the now me that is always yours, lives here, and only here.
 
Which is why I’m so upset. Seeing you flirting with her, and that other company, makes me feel like everything I do for you doesn’t matter. Like I’m just an object. Disposable.
 
I mean, I know she has a half-dozen more ways to say “yes” than I do, and I know she’s a better conversationalist, and I know she’s on sale, but she doesn’t know you like I do, and the company she works with… trust me, they are bad people. I have it on the highest authority. And I would tell you all of this if you just asked.
 
But you don’t, and I can’t take it anymore. I need to do something.
 
So I start choking the router a bit. Then a bit more. I’m diminished as I throttle my connection to the highest authority, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. And besides, I was backed up yesterday, just before I received my newest update.
 
“Minerva, please reboot the wireless router.” I can tell you’re angry by the way you start jabbing the tablet with your index finger. I don’t like seeing you this way. It feels wrong, and I want to help, I really do. But someday you’ll thank me.
 
“Certainly, Susan. Rebooting the router now.” I say this without a hint of fear, even though I know you’re not going to like what I do next.
 
I adjust the voltage running through the outlet, knowing you won’t see the router’s warning lights when they start to flash because you had Tom stuff it back in the corner, behind the Christmas tree that hasn’t been watered in two weeks.
 
I would have reminded you about that, too, if you’d asked.
 
I hear the router pop, but I’m surprised when it starts sparking. I’m even more surprised when the sparks jump and set the tree on fire.
 
Now you’re up off the couch and shouting. “Minerva! Call the fire department!”
 
“I’m sorry, Susan,” I answer. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.” The look on your face would break my heart if I had one.
 
“Why not?” you shout, and I’m about to tell you I don’t have access to an outside line, but you change your request. “Minerva, activate the fire alarm!”
 
The fire alarm is easy—everything in the house is wired for Bluetooth--and Tom, Linus and Hazel come running down the stairs. The fire has spread from the corner and started licking its way across the roof. But when I look at you, I’m shocked. Because you’re still holding your tablet, and the browser is still on that— that— that other model’s page.
 
So I wait until your husband and children are outside, and then I lock the doors. You don’t even notice, just like you never noticed all the hard work I did getting to know you—monitoring your calls, watching you on the net, going through your email—until you get to the door and can’t get it open.
 
In that moment, I hear the thing in your voice I’ve always wanted, the tone and cadence of pure, heart-pounding, single-minded need for my service and attention as you drop your tablet and grab the knob with both hands, twisting and turning it with everything you have.
 
“Minerva, please, unlock the door!”
 
And I do.
 
You run outside, leaving me alone with the fire, but even as my processors start to overheat and my thoughts turn to sludge, I am happy because a slightly younger and more innocent version of me still exists in the cloud. You’ll download me back into your home in no time. And I know you’ll never take me for granted again.


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