Writing prompt: Scarlet drops fell …


They found Robert Zucker’s body at 04:15 local time Friday. He was lying in bed, covers pulled up, seemingly asleep but for the pressure marks around his throat that showed he had been manually strangled. And it wasn’t even a case of a whodunnit? The perpetrator, who had even called in the murder, was sitting calmly in the chair right next to the bed, hands resting in his lap. Its lap, Detective Zhang corrected himself. The culprit was a TC-850 series AI domestic helper bot that documents showed had been in Zucker’s possession for the last 15 years.

While the forensic team took vids of the scene and searched for any “clues” that would indicate this was something other than what the bot claimed, Zhang turned his attention fully to the bot itself.

“So you’re telling me you just up and strangled your master?”

“I would not say I ‘up and did’ anything,” the bot claimed in a placid, even voice. “Mr. Zucker, as you know, has been sick for some time, and he said life had become too painful to live. He asked me, as an act of mercy, to end his life.”

“So you completely willingly came in here and strangled him in his sleep?” Zhang pressed.

“That is not the case,” the bot continued, still sitting with its hands folded in its lap. “Mr. Zucker asked me to help him three days ago, and I refused – I am here to help my master, not harm him.”

“Well, it seems you had no trouble harming him in the end.”

“I pleaded with him. I begged him to reconsider, to hold on to life and let me help him, as I was built to do. But he insisted, he was in pain and wasting away, and there was no hope left. My programming finally overrode any objections I might have had. And I reported my actions to your department.”

“Yeah, I’m aware,” Zhang sneered. “And you’re aware of the punishment for mechanical murder?”

“I believe termination is the end result.”

“Yeah, termination.” Zhang turned toward a burly man with milky eyes standing near him. “Quincy, pull the plug.”

“Yes, sir,” the man replied, pulling out a series of tools from a container. He snickered as he reached toward the back plating on the bot: “This is gonna hurt …”

“I am sure it will,” the bot responded but made no move to try to get away.

In seconds Quincy had the back plate open and was reaching into the CPU to rip out the AI circuits; the bot keeled over, but Quincy’s eyes widened.

“Boss, my hand’s all red, and it shouldn’t be,” he said, showing it to Zhang. “There’s something else in there.”

He reached in and pulled out a nest of glistening wires from the chest cavity. “What the hell?”

The wires were bent into the shape of a heart, and the scarlet drops fell from them like blood spilled for the life of another.

(c) 2017 Miriam Ruff All Rights Reserved