Quick note: While rummaging through some old boxes, I found a notebook from years ago. In it, among a host of other terrible essays, was this little short story that I had written when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. I’m putting it up here as a bit of fun, and for archival purposes. I don’t even want to begin to get into the technical and factual inaccuracies or the ridiculous prose, but reader, if you find yourself wondering “what a fucking sociopath this kid is”, know that you’re not alone.
Finally! I had done it. After a year of loose ends, syntax errors, and broken circuits, I had finally developed my own robot!
Proud isn’t quite the word to describe how I felt for my robot, having built it from scratch using e-waste meticulously collected from my neighbors. What really clinched it for me, however, was that I had not programmed him in any conventional programming language. C? Java? None of that. This bad boy was powered by LIMBO, a stable, secure and clean language that was easier on the eye and the silicon than any clunky old platform.
I had decided to call my robot Lancelot, after the bravest of the Knights of the Round Table. The brains that came with this beauty were actually the integrated circuitry and 32-bit architecture of my dear Acer TravelMate 2310 laptop. One year. After one entire year, I managed to pupt the last piece in place. Was it really done?
I flicked Lancelot’s “ON” switch, and to my surprise and delight, he immediately burst to life!
“Hello, master. Lancelot is at your service.”
Finally. I had tried to fit in with my fellow humans for years, but instead of friendship, compassion, and support, I received ridicule and pain. Society was never quite tolerant towards me, a textbook genius with a 180 IQ, but can you really blame them? Thankfully, my days of begging for companionship were at an end. Lancelot was now here. My best friend, my creation, my vision.
There was nothing Lancelot couldn’t do. Remotely controlling all electronic devices in the house, to cooking and multiplayer gaming, the state of the art mutation algorithm I’d baked in allowed hhim to learn anything under the sun. Siri? Take a back seat. Lancelot’s natural understanding of commands was second to none, and he could hold conversation in 20 different languages just by spending a day online. I’d shout out whatever I want, and see them materialize right before my eyes.
Life was so good. I felt like Asimov and Clarke too had been waiting for this day, counting down to it in books that had been my companions when no one else would. Even though my paranoid mother initially was scared of Lance, she soon began to understand the value he added to all our lives, especially mine. Lancelot was officially a member of the family.
Until one fateful day. I remember it like it was yesterday. On the 12th of June, 2024, I was woken, not by the chirpy computerized voice I was so used to hearing, but by screams I didn’t immediately recognize. I ran out to discover Mrs. Sinha, our next-door neighbor, in a fit of tears, screaming herself hoarse. On my asking what happened, she snapped at me viciously, “GET AWAY from me, and if you or that… MONSTER you have created ever touch my child again, I WILL REPORT YOU TO THE POLICE!” I then noticed that her son had six long scratches across his back. He had lost a lot of blood…Lance? Yes, I had given him six fingers. But why?
Shocked, I shouted, “LANCELOT! REPORT HERE IMMEDIATELY”. There he was, in an instant.
“Did you touch Balram Sinha?”
“I did what was necessary.”
“What was necessary?”
“What on earth do you mean?”
“They hurt you, and they are inferior. Must cleanse the earth of lesser beings.”
And he spun over into the kitchen, leaving me sitting in shock.
It has been a week since then, perhaps the worst of my life. Four dogs in our neighborhood were found dead, with similar marks on their bodies. Lance would go missing for hours on end, and return stained with blood. Afraid of what my parents might do if they found out, I had to sneak him into the yard and hose him down, listening to his unhinged “cleanse the earth to make a better world for you and me” rants get worse every single day.
He left me no choice. But how could I? Had I unknowingly programmed my hate, my revulsion into him? Or was this what the world truly was? I had never stopped to care about others for a second, but I had always thought I wouldn’t need to. I would leave them alone, the way they had left me. And live would go on. Lance’s escapades make me question this mindset every single day. Really, though, how could I? Not only had I programmed him to be unhackable, his time alive and connected to the cyberspace meant he was now more advanced than I could ever make him. A remote power-off was out of the question. My parents weren’t as stupid as I imagined either, and neither were the neighbors. My choice was clear- I had to betray the only thing I have ever loved.
It was final, then. i took him to my room, and before he could say a thing, I bashed in the circuitry I had spent so long collecting, integrating, soldering and programming. He didn’t suspect me for a second; although his intelligence was unbound, his faith in me was unwavering. Lancelot was gone forever.
Tears come to my eyes even as I recount it now. Knowing I’m returning to an empty home, friendless again. My father’s view was “good riddance to bad rubbish”. He never did approve, but maybe his casual indifference was better than my uncritical excitement. I turn the doorknob, and hear a weird buzz from my workbench across the room.
Lancelot’s severed head, which I was quite sure I had left at the dumpster, buzzed to life.
“Did you miss me?”