Skip to main content
Read page text

mount and leads his men up the salt bank. The hunt is on! The robot mounts’ feet stir the white dust. Heat. Salt falling.

Take a new page. Draw an explosion of white to represent a rising storm. Or just leave the page white. The tracks of the fugitives disappear in the dust. (Reaching this place, the headhunters will pull up their mounts, stymied.) The road itself disappears; the robot takes the boy into its arms and covers his nose with the skirt. Salt sports with the skirt, beats against dry leather and resonant steel. The robot paces on through the numbing white, a patient, presidential figure. Its brain is playing back the Circumstances.

Simon says, now imitate a human.

It was summer and the president had a new companion. Helen No. 9—rescued, it was said, from an Australian genocide suspect—was exquisite. Her nose was Roman, her machinery Swiss. Her face, smiling, was fair as a sunny afternoon; her arms, clinging, were as the recovery of health after injury; her feet were as two young leopards pacing; and her perfume was of oranges. She was jewelry in motion and she was toxic, for it was the irresponsible heart of Helen No. 9, people say, that led to the Circumstances.

It is possible that people are not fair to Helen, who did not even have a heart, but an advanced emotional/ethical software program. Whose idea were the reprogramming therapies, the rules and checklists? Whose idea was Moving Day? Not Helen’s, who had already staged her famous disappearance. Not even the president’s, though he had a hand in it. It was no one human’s. It was not even an idea as such, but a mood—the old divide between man and the race of robot, reopened.

Workers whose jobs, they said, robots had taken, protested in the streets. Mothers whose children, they said, robots had taught, protested in Congress—”Who knows what they are capable of?” Robots were jeered at parties by people chanting “ro-bot, ro-bot!” Rarely now did anybody stop to help an injured robot, to offer oil or vocabulary. Central Intelligence called artificial intelligence “a potent rival.” The New York Times called it “a costly experiment.” The president called a state of emergency. “It is time to draw a line,” he said. “To protect what is ours. Troubled times call for strong measures. We look disaster in the face; it would be irresponsible not to act. Future generations will recognize this as the moment the human set aside his age-old fixation on technology to embrace, at last, the human. Embrace the human,” he said more slowly, turning to the members of the press and smiling for his picture.

Robots, except very basic household machines, were expelled from human cities and relocated to reservations in the desert. Simon says, rotate the page and draw a slow line across it showing how the robots, in single file, left the cities.


My Bookmarks

    Skip to main content