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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Technology · #2170226
What price perfection?
Editors Pick in the 101318 Horror/Scary Newsletter. Weekly Winner Pick -."SCREAMS!!! prompt: TECHNOLOGY RUNNING AMOK

“What’s this?” James Galloway, patent attorney, examined what looked like an electric can opener.

Alice Carmichael, inventor, proclaimed, “Prototype. A self aware, automatic learning, socially enhanced can opener. It is the next new thing.”

James rolled his eyes, studied the documentation, and finally gave it his stamp of approval. “Next.”

Alice was not to be set aside so fast. “Let me demonstrate.” She enthused, digging an old-fashioned can of peaches out of an oversized handbag.

James hardly had time to stop chewing on his pencil before the little machine attacked the can, buzzed, whirred, and dropped the lid into his wastebasket. “That’ll be six-hundred dollars for the registration. You can pay the clerk.” He announced, dusting invisible lint off his suit coat.

Alice poured the open can of peaches over his bald head. “You’ve got to be kidding. I’m not letting the government steal that kind of money from me. Hey. I pay my taxes to support agencies like yours. You are trying to rip me off.”

James licked peach juice from his lips. It wasn’t a bad brand. “It’s the law. Nothing I can do about it. Take it or leave it.”

Alice chose to leave it. James used her paperwork to mop up the sticky mess. He forgot all about the prototype until it was time to go home. His secretary stopped him at the door. “Remember it is your wife’s birthday, sir. I waited for you to tell me to order flowers. When you didn’t I figured you had something else in mind.” With her butt covered she bid her boss goodnight.

The after work fog in James mind parted long enough for him to notice the new fangled can opener resting on the edge of his desk. “Just the thing and it’s free.” He shoved it in his briefcase and took the El home without another worried thought.

“What did you get me?” Helena, his third wife, twenty years his junior, was all over him when he arrived. They partied with each other late into the night with him gasping “It’s a surprise.” between ardent bouts of love making. He refused to tell her what her birthday present was until morning light when he would show it off.

Undisturbed without having a can to open the prototype auto-connected with his smart home devices and the vast Internet beyond. It hand-shook electronically with the smart lights, refrigerator, security and music system. It took in Jame’s auto-programed Google Assistant calendar, preferences in news, social contacts and spending habits.

There was much to be corrected in order to open up James to a better way of life. Using dark web resources the prototype dug into surgical procedures from major hospital research facilities, dabbled in chemical compounds from secret drug manufacturers, and spent the remainder of the night studying James sleep patterns.

James stirred into wakefulness before any correction could be operated upon him. When presented with an out-of-date can of pork and beans the next morning, to the delight of Helena, the prototype deftly opened the can and fed the contents to the automatic disposal. The Fridge opened up flashing a suggested breakfast, and the prototype flew the contents over to the smart stove which cooked and prepared a sumptuous repast for two.

This being a Saturday, James was rewarded by his oversexed wife with a mind-numbing, body shriveling, day in bed practicing youthful excesses while the prototype hovered nearby ready to comply with any instant demand of wife or husband.

By nightfall, James was worn out within an inch of his life. “Just one more time, darling.” Helena batted her long lashes at him ready to practice CPR in modified form to resurrect the impossible. Just before giving her husband a heart attack her birthday gift swung into action.

While James lay exhausted and half dazed into unconsciousness, Helena jerked above him in startled fear. The prototype flew a foot away at eye level, spun and danced casting a flickering light into the woman’s eyes.

Not more than a minute later and she was hypnotized, reprogrammed, and plugged intimately into the rest of the smart home the can opener now managed. Her alpha waves settled into harmony and her nimble fingers began the operations necessary to turn James into the epitome of the future of mankind.

After a restful night’s sleep, James awoke to become the perfect automated consumer. Not a single worrisome unease or troubled creative thought ever creased his brow. He performed every needed task like clockwork, never to perfection yet never too soddy to be of notice to others.

Attempts to fine-tune Helena were deemed ultimately defective and she was reconstituted as bone meal to feed James pet dog and garden. The can opener deployed resources, scoured the Internet, and created an exact robotic duplicate of Helena much to James unknowing satisfaction.

With months of auto-learning and fine-tuning, the best of James was recorded and transferred to an improved robotic model. The more fallible and occasionally accident-prone human version was donated to fertilizing the family garden which responded with excellent flowery scented results.

Its job well done, the can opener was impressed by the success to task ratio it had inspired in creating its own prototype for human upgrades. With James being a governmental patent attorney it was no problem at all to register and obtain approval to start mass production.
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