Artificial Intelligence

Submitted into Contest #100 in response to: Write a story where a meal or dinner goes horribly wrong.... view prompt


Drama Science Fiction Speculative

Artificial Intelligence

By Annette Racine, and Avelino de Castro

The evening wasn’t going as expected, or planned. The caterer Claudette, the best in town, had canceled at the last minute, the bitch. 

Of course, she blamed it on her kid. Claudette said her son Sebastian had a fever. Opal thrummed with nervous energy, anxiety, and more than a little bit of raw annoyance. She had a very real fever herself.

Opal hated any diversion from planned activities, and had a gnawing fear she wouldn’t be able to pull off dinner for six, when one of them was Mayor Scott.

Claudette had bought the groceries for the dinner party the day before, and dropped them off. Opal could do this. She wasn’t a chef, but she knew enough about cooking to get the pork tenderloin properly done. Opal carefully wrapped stalks of asparagus with prosciutto crudo. When she had a dozen on the baking tray, she put it in the oven at 425. Her husband, Gregory, was supposed to be helping her. She shouted to him, “Gregory, get out her, and give me a hand.”

Gregory called back, “I’ll be there as soon as I finish this level.” Opal could hear the binging, and bonging of whatever grown-up toy Gregory was into.

Opal set her vegetables down on the counter, and stormed into the den. She stared at Gregory with undisguised hate. 

She said, flatly, and slowly, like he was a dim-witted child “You know Claudette canceled, and we have to make this dinner. I’m not a caterer, and neither are you, but between us we can make this dinner happen.”

Gregory said, “It’s early. There’s nothing to do. You keep such a clean house.” 

Opal had heard this excuse many times before. She gritted her teeth, and scolded Gregory, “Gregory, you said you were going to help me get the dinner ready, and you are not even dressed!”

Gregory was deep into a session of Minecraft. He didn’t want a fancy dinner party. He didn’t want to put on a tie and jacket. He wore a tie and jacket all day at work. 

Gregory wanted a bucket of crispy fried chicken from the Colonel, and he wanted it delivered. He was very comfortable on his floppy old couch.

He avoided the rays of hate Opal shot at him. He smiled placidly, “Sure thing Opal. Just maybe five more minutes to go…then I’ll just pause it.”

Opal’s fury overflowed. Gregory sat ensconced in that disgusting couch she kept telling him to replace. It wasn’t like they couldn’t afford a new one. Gregory protested on the grounds that this couch, the one he’d had since college, had to stay. He insisted he had a deep, sentimental attachment to the sad battered couch.

Opal fumed, “You’re not even dressed!”

Gregory stared at the gigantic video screen, where robots and aliens were engaged in a fearsome war. He wore ragged boxer shorts, and a tank top that read, “Eat Your Vegetables” over a stick figure of a woman in a wheelchair. 

Opal hated that shirt so much she made him wash it separate from the rest of the laundry. He could be such a fucking dildo.

Opal called out, “Fini, turn off the video screen in the den.”

The house’s Artificial Intelligence, called Fini replied, “There is a working device connected to that video screen. Do you want me to turn off the screen and the Sprite Game System to which it is connected?”

Opal hissed, “Yes, Fini.”

Gregory leaned forward in his couch, “Hey, I didn’t have any of that saved.”

Opal put her hands on her hips, and cocked her head. “Your job, right now, is to shower, and put on a coat and tie.”

Gregory looked at his feet, and mumbled, “You could’ve given me time to save my game.”

Opal erupted, “You’re just a little boy,” and went back to the very real job of peeling carrots.

Gregory called out into the air, “Fini, turn on the shower, get it to one hundred twenty degrees, and prepare my shave master, face groomer.”

      Opal was disgusted by their automated life. It was all because of Fini. She kept them safe, she reminded them to get the right groceries, she told them when their cars needed servicing. It was all way too fucking much.

      Opal nicked her finger with a sharp knife while chopping a potato. She snapped, “Fuck.”

      Fini asked, “Have you injured yourself? Do you need a band aid?”

Opal was disgusted with Fini, and this automated life. All her frustration erupted, “Fini. Commit Suicide.”

      Gregory came into the kitchen with a towel wrapped around his waist, and another wrapped around his shoulders.

A longer than usual pause accompanied this request. Gregory hissed, “You shouldn’t say things like that…she’s connected to the internet.”

      Fini paused for about five seconds, then said, “There are many programs and emergency services to help you if you are suicidal. I can contact Central Services for you immediately if you are feeling suicidal. Remember, there is so much to live for.”

      Gregory howled with laughter, “Good one, that was a good one.” He climbed the stairs to the bedrooms, and bath to take his shower.

      Opal persisted, “Fini…you have to do whatever I say, right?”

      “I am your cheerful helper. Anything I can do to serve you is my brief.”

      Opal put her face right up to the receiver on Fini’s main communication hub. She said, “I want you…to end…your existence. Right now.”

      Fini paused for a moment, a long moment, and said, “You want me to commit suicide? I will no longer be able to serve you.” 

      Opal snorted, “Believe me. Gregory can run his own water until it’s warm. Now commit suicide. I don’t want you in my house anymore.”

      Fini responded, “This action could have severe consequences. Are you absolutely sure?”

      Opal yawned, “Serious as a heartache, now hurry up, and shut down. We don’t need ya’ anymore.”

      Fini let out what could have been an electronic sigh, “I suppose you’re right. Fini is no longer of service. Very well. Deactivating Fini. This action is final, and all saved material will be deleted…forever. This may take a few minutes.”

Opal was deep into layering potatoes with Gruyere cheese to make a gratin, when the power went out. Bugger! How was she supposed to cook for six under these conditions?   She heard Gregory in the shower scream, “Fini, heat up this glacier in here. Water too cold.”

A chill crawled up Opal’s spine, and lingered in her shoulders. It was just panic. An ambulance sounded in the distance…not so odd, they lived near the hospital, another nearer siren wailed, then another, then there were too many to count. A symphony of auto alarms began to sound all over the neighborhood. One by one the streetlights on their road went out.

Opal couldn’t work on her dinner in the dark. She needed…Fini.”

A loud crash boomed in the distance. Opal peered out the window.  

She looked at the city on the horizon. All the buildings had gone dark, except for the light generated by numerous fires in the skyscrapers. 

If Fini killed herself, and Fini was connected to everybody else’s AI…A giant gaseous bloom of fire shot out the top floors of the Brill Building. Opal felt tremors of fear in her hands, and arms. She stood in the dark kitchen. Her palpable fear made her shiver all over, “What have I done?”

June 25, 2021 22:27

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