This week’s challenge from Terribleminds: Sub-Genre Tango. This one’s a cross between Cyberpunk and Black Comedy.
Ensen Johnson wasn’t what you’d call an optimistic guy. Losing the lower half of your body to a pulse gun would make anyone sour. Especially when the gun belonged to some old broad who thought he was after her purse. Everyone kept reminding him that at least he was still alive. For what that was worth. Laying in a hospital bed for six months wasn’t much of a life. Knowing there was nothing left below his hips just plain fucking sucked. At least he had his dick. Even if no one ever touched it again, he still had the option. There was always that.
The social worker who’d done his “discharge planning” had strongly suggested a service animal. Ensen thought the idea was ridiculous. His arms worked, which meant he could still use a computer and he had no problem getting a beer to his mouth. What he didn’t need was some fur-ball shitting all over the place.
Not to worry, the social worker clapped. Just wait. Just wait until you see what we have for you. She’d brought in a small robot, squat and segmented like a bug, the size of a dachshund. She jawed on about the “dog’s” fucking pincer grasp and his ability to balance upright. Runs on dog chow, she said. Just like the real thing.
Ensen suspected that the whirring eyes hid cameras. The government took every available opportunity to spy on folks. If they couldn’t watch you piss, someone wasn’t earning their money.
Despite some natural curiosity about the dog, Ensen wasn’t buying. If the thing ate dog chow, reason said he’d shit it out afterward. And Ensen’s father hadn’t raised him to clean anyone’s shit.
The social worker insisted. As did the doctors. So, to compensate for his missing lower half, Ensen was released from Room 113 with a high-tech wheelchair and a mechanical centipede-dog that could operate a fucking can opener. Just what he needed.
The damn thing was a nuisance. It didn’t carry groceries, didn’t answer the phone and never once brought home a dime. Ensen tried hacking it, just to see if he could, but a loud warning projected from the dog’s throat, cautioning him that tampering with state property was a crime. Yet another strike against the dog who he’d named Bug.
The middle of July was hot, the air conditioner was broken (yet another thing Bug had failed to remedy), and the last beer was out of reach in the far back of the refrigerator.
“I need a goddamn beer,” Ensen told Bug. If nothing else, Bug was a good listener. With the exception of the recorded warning, Bug never talked back. Ensen knew plenty of women who could take lessons.
Bug chittered into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. The single beer lay on its side against the back wall. Bug’s arms were too short; he just stood there reaching and whirring and letting all the cold air out.
“Watch out.” Ensen nudged the control on his chair with a disregard born from an ongoing desire to “accidently” run Bug over and save him from buying anymore dog food. Just thinking about the smell of chipped liver in gravy made him mad.
“Stupid fucking thing. Eating my food and getting in my way. Probably been drinking my beer when I’m asleep, too.” His chair jerked forward but only succeeded in hitting the refrigerator with a loud cracking noise.
“Break my chair? Who’s going to pay for that?” Ensen’s blood boiled. “How about I take the cost of the repairs out of your fucking food? Nothing but a damn waste of money.” Ensen tried to reach the beer but the chair couldn’t get him close enough. He unlatched the harness and leaned forward, his fingertips brushing the cold bottle, just enough to tease.
Bug made a helpful clicking sound at his feet and Ensen lunged forward, trying to clear that last half-inch. He snagged the bottle but without the seatbelt, he tipped out of the chair, smacking his face on two shelves, the vent grate and the floor on his way down. He smacked his head in just the right spot and didn’t regain consciousness for almost ten hours.
He woke hot, nauseous and still pissed off. At least Bug had closed the refrigerator. Ensen’s long shirt, his concession to getting dressed, was hiked above his belly button. He lifted his head to find Bug staring at him, eyes whirring. Something red hung from his mouth. Ensen blinked. It looked like…his dick.
“You little bastard,” Ensen growled. Bug made a mechanical whining noise, or maybe he was just choking on a bit of veiny gristle.
“It is a punishable offense to withhold food from a cyber-assistant.” Bug had no problem making himself understood, even with food in his mouth.
“That’s my dick. It’s all I had left. I’m going to kill you.” As soon as he could get off the floor and stop his crotch from bleeding.
“It is a punishable offense to threaten a cyber-assistant.” Bug dropped the half-chewed meat on the floor in front of him so his metal glare would be unimpeded.
“Alright, alright.” Already sick, the sight of blood was making Ensen woozy. “At least fetch me a damn towel.” He’d run the dog over later–as soon as he got back in his chair.
Bug wagged his stumpy mechanical tail before skittering off to the bathroom. Always glad to be helpful, that one. Why couldn’t they have given him a cyber-parakeet? Or a bunny. Something vegetarian.
Ensen grabbed what was left of his love-life and tried to pull himself up. The doctors fixed his crushed spinal cord, they could surely take care of this.
Bug returned just as Ensen was pulling himself back into the chair. He dropped the towel in Ensen’s lap and sat back–a patient assistant, ever-ready for his master’s next command.