#KillSwitch excerpt: Mow-Bot by Dana Hammer
by Emerian Rich
As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future?
Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time?
A sneak peek inside…
Mike ran his hands over the cardboard box, prolonging the anticipation for just another moment. He pulled the box cutter out of his pocket and cut, slicing through layers and layers of packing tape, ripping out the bits of Styrofoam and plastic like a hunter pulling out a deer’s entrails.
This was his quarry. This was his reward. This was victory.
Finally, he unearthed it. The Mow-Bot. Three thousand dollars and worth every penny. The Mow-Bot promised to act as an all-in-one gardener; mowing grass, plucking weeds, and irrigating as necessary. No longer would Mike be forced to labor under the tyranny of the Homeowners Association’s excessively strict lawn-care regulations. His Saturdays were free from now on.
Giddy, he pieced his new machine together while Roger, his husband, watched the proceedings with his arms crossed and his eyes rolled. Roger was never supportive of Mike’s gadgets and technological improvements. If it were up to Roger, they’d live in some backward cabin, fetching water from a well and brushing their teeth with hay or whatever.
Mike ignored Roger’s negativity and completed the assembly. The size of a Rottweiler, the Mow-Bot was round and sleek, with retractable blades extending out from the bottom.
“All done?” Roger asked, his voice pleasant.
Mike smiled at him, appreciative that he was making at least this one tiny effort.
“Yep. Now let’s go try this baby out!”
The Mow-Bot worked great. At least, Mike thought it did. Yes, there were some kinks that needed to be worked out. There was a learning curve as the bot figured out where the boundaries of the yard were, what constituted a weed, and all that. And yes, it was also kind of noisy. And slow.
Still! It did work. And who cared how long it took to mow the lawn? It was no longer Mike’s problem.
He programmed it to water the lawn every other night and to do the mowing and weeding every Friday, while he and Roger were at work. That way, they would be spared the loud chopping and grinding sounds, and their lawn would be fresh and well-maintained for them to enjoy on the weekends.
It was a perfect plan.
The first Friday, it worked like a dream. When Roger and Mike came home, the aroma of fresh-cut grass permeated the air and the lawn was neat and tidy. Unfortunately, the Mow-Bot had attacked one of their rose bushes, but not in any serious way. Although it was a bit mangled, it was still standing. Some minor pruning brought it back to a state of lovely symmetry.
Overall, Mike couldn’t have been happier with his purchase and Roger had no complaints. It was a win, win.
“So, the Mow-Bot nearly killed the neighbor’s cat while you were out last night,” Roger said one morning over eggs and toast. They were sitting at their small dining table in the breakfast nook. It was a lovely, sunlit room, and rivulets of steam lifted from their matching coffee mugs. It was not the kind of morning for discussing cat-death.
“What?” Mike asked.
“It did. It was really weird. Like, the cat was in our yard—”
“I hate that cat,” Mike interrupted.
Roger patted his hand. “Yes. I know. Anyway, the cat was in our yard last night when the Mow-Bot started irrigating. It’s as if the thing knew the cat was there, or something. It actually seemed to be following the cat. Chasing it.”
Mike scoffed. “If that stupid cat can’t outrun something as slow as the Mow-Bot, it deserves to get wet.”
“Didn’t you hear me? It almost killed the cat. It wasn’t spraying water, it was mowing.”
“Mowing? Are you sure?”
“Yes! If you’d been here, you’d know what I mean. It was making those horrible whirring, grinding noises. It was trying to mow the cat down.”
“It wasn’t trying to kill the cat,” Mike said. Honestly, Roger’s imagination was one of the things Mike loved most about him, but sometimes it was a bit much. “I’ll go check the settings and make sure it’s programmed to mow on Friday afternoons only. It’s probably just a glitch.”
& EMERIAN RICH
H.E. ROULO, TIM O’NEAL, JERRY J. DAVIS, EMERIAN RICH, BILL DAVIDSON,
DANA HAMMER, NACHING T. KASSA, GARRETT ROWLAN, DAPHNE STRASERT
PHILLIP T. STEVENS, LAUREL ANNE HILL, CHANTAL BOUDREAU, GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ