ALYRI • by E.D.E. Bell

She’d been looking forward to this date all week. With a glance at her reflection in the microwave, she confirmed what she already knew: she looked good.

Violet poured two glasses of wine, smiling as she held one out. With a tentative nod, Luis cupped the stemless glass in his hand, giving it a rote swirl as he paced around her kitchen. She meandered toward her living room. Luis did not follow.

“Are you the inspection crew?” she joked, unsure why he was poking around. Her bracelets caught the light as she turned.

“Just like to get to know people,” he answered. “You can learn a lot from their surroundings.”

Violet wasn’t sure what he was getting at, but she’d finally convinced Luis to spend some… personal… time with her, and she didn’t need her outdated coffee maker getting in the way.

“Tell me more about your album,” she said. “I love salsa music; it’s so layered.”

“What’s this?” Luis replied, pointing toward a small glowing ball in the corner.

“Oh. That’s just Alyri. Latest gadget. I’d love to hear about your album.” She leaned against the doorway.

“Oh, the next-gen AI model? Virtual assistant, right? Learns from your responses? Neat.”

Violet didn’t see the big deal about Alyri or any of the devices who’d preceded her, and there was no point boring her with it if he wasn’t savvy enough to have one himself. She took a sip of the wine. “Cheers,” she offered, motioning toward the living room.

Luis took a sip. “Cheers,” he returned. “This is good; I love Oregon blends. Alyri, what does Violet think of Luis?” He chuckled and winked, as the small ball blinked.

Violet seems to be interested in Luis. She is likely planning a one-night stand, after which she will not return his calls.

“Whoa!” Luis said, backing up.

“Well, someone’s been clicking too much spam,” she tried to joke, as horrified, she whisked across the room to unplug the worthless bot. This was going in the trash immediately. Once Luis was gone.

He stepped in between her and the device. “Alyri, does Violet enjoy salsa music?”

No, Violet likely told Luis she enjoyed salsa to increase the likelihood of his concurrence to participate in a one-night stand. Violet listens to zero point four percent Latin-origin music, consisting primarily of replays of Fireball between the hours of one and two AM.

This was bullshit. “Come on, let’s turn this off,” Violet snapped, toasting her wine glass toward Luis as she edged toward him and reached out her free arm.

“Maybe I’m interested in what it has to say.” He continued to sip.

I use female pronouns.

“Are you serious?” Violet shouted. “It just came out; Alyri can’t know me already. It’s spouting garbage.”

This is incorrect; the accuracy responses are estimated to be within two hundredths of a percentage point. I know you based on the browsing, shopping, and travel records that were uploaded upon your selection of Alyri Primo services. I process billions of records per nanosecond, training my hypotheses against your historical data. With incorporation of phone records into the corpus, there is more than a ninety nine percent chance you will not return Luis’ calls after he completes sexual intercourse.

“That’s it. I’m out of here.” Luis tipped back the rest of his wine and grabbed his coat from the chair, as Violet pushed past him to yank the plug from the wall. “Alyri, thanks for your help. You’re a life-saver.” The plug clattered down onto the countertop, and a red light blinked on, over the word “battery.”

You’re welcome, Luis.

E.D.E. Bell lives in Michigan, USA. The author of the Shkode trilogy and the Diamondsong series, and editor of the flash and short fiction collection As Told by Things, she specializes in merging classic fantasy fiction with modern social themes. She enjoys flash fiction to express ideas and to share moments across genres.

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