Shall it stop now?

My brother’s robot was really starting to get on my nerves. “Shall it stop now?” it kept asking, as it grabbed my wrist in its pincers and made me hit myself. Jamie must have been experimenting with natural language generation again.

“Jamie, can you get this robot off me?” I yelled in the general direction of his bedroom. I was trying to do homework at the dining room table before dinner, but it was hard with only the use of one hand, and the constant, metronomic slapping was, like I said, really getting on my nerves.

Finally, Jamie slinked out of his bedroom. He was all curly hair and bottle-cap glasses, not that anyone would catch my reference any more. I was the only person I knew who read those old, mid-twentieth-century kids’ books from the library, with tattered covers and ripped pages. Sometimes I had to look up scans of missing pages on the libronet, even though that didn’t always work, either: if the scans were of a different edition and were, themselves, missing pages, I might miss the part of the story that overlapped voids. Anyway, Jamie was fiddling with something in the robot’s access panel on the back of its neck. It kept slapping me, but changed what it was saying.

“Shall it stop now?”

“Now it stops, yes?”

“Will you be stopping?”

“Stopping is an action?”

“You are stopping?”

“I can’t make it stop asking questions,” sighed Jamie, under his breath. He wasn’t thinking of me at all.

“Just make it let go of my hand!” I slapped him on the arm with my non-robotted hand.

He looked at me, surprised I was even there. “Oh, right. Haha.”

He flipped a couple of switches and pulled something (Jamie never made things easy), and the robot stopped hitting me.

“Finally,” I said, and tried to pull my hand away. It wouldn’t move. The fingers were still wrapped, vise-like, around my wrist.

“Make it let go!” I was panicking a little bit now. Was the robot’s hand tightening, or was it my imagination?

“Working on it –” Jamie pulled a foldable keyboard from out of his pocket and plugged it into the robot’s access panel. He started typing.

“Why don’t you just have an off switch?” I asked. “This thing is really starting to hurt!”

“Just relax,” Jamie said. He seemed totally unfazed that his robot was about to break my wrist. I grabbed its fist in my hand, tried to pry its fingers open. They wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t get the hand loose –

With a puff of air, the robot’s grip loosened. I slipped my wrist from its metal grasp and rubbed it. “What is wrong with you?!” I screamed, pushing Jamie.

“I’m sorry!” he said. “It was just the hydraulic controller on the fritz again –”

“Again?” I yelled. “This happened before?!”

Jamie stammered. “Well –”

“Forget it! I never want to see this thing again!” I stood up and stormed out of the room, shoving the robot’s head as I did so. I threw the door to my room open, stepped inside. As I was about to slam it I looked back at the kitchen, at Jamie, fussing with the robot’s neck panel, muttering to himself. The robot’s red eyes stared at me as I closed my door.