I, ROBERT • by Chris Ovenden

I protect Isaac. That is my purpose.

The blizzard has let up somewhat since I left camp. It is still too heavy for anything organic to risk being outside, but that is no obstacle to me.

Ahead, I can see the farmhouse where the group I am tracking are sheltered for the night. A dim light flickers in a ground floor window. I can see its heat signature through the wall, along with the body beside it.

He will not see me coming. He does not have my eyes.

I have been following this group for a week now, watching them on my long range scanners. I have not told Isaac about them. They might be dangerous and Isaac would want to meet with them, to join with them perhaps, and I must protect Isaac.

I was broken when Isaac found me. He dug me out of the ruins in the old city, from beneath the wrecked buildings and bodies of my brothers. I suppose I must have been a part of the war. A soldier. I am different now.

Isaac fixed me. He found me new parts where mine were broken. He gave me a purpose. He gave me a name.


By day we travel. I pull the cart and scan for supplies whilst Isaac sits behind talking about the war and the bombs and the old world before the endless snow.

Isaac is always happy on days when I find us supplies. He calls them our lucky days. He says he does not know how he would survive without me, that he cannot believe anyone would leave so much behind.

By night I watch over Isaac as he sleeps. I scan the horizon for danger, and I guard him until morning. Except for nights like this, when I must leave him.

I must do this, for I must protect Isaac.

I slip into the house through a gap in the southern wall and head towards the room where the group are gathered. The howl of the wind covers my footsteps.

The room is lit with an orange glow from an oil lamp. An old man sleeps against the far wall next to a younger man and woman curled up under a blanket on the floor.

By the window, the lookout sits watching the snow, a rifle propped against the wall beside him, and another in the corner by the sleepers. Old bolt action weapons from before the war.

I look at their tattered clothes and gaunt faces. These are not bandits. They are a family. Survivors, like Isaac.

They have supplies, too: rucksacks full of food and medical provisions. They could take us in. They could protect us. They could protect Isaac.

I do not remember what my purpose was before Isaac found me. I do not know why I exist. Isaac says that makes me just like everybody else.

But I am not like everyone else. I must have a purpose.

I kill the lookout first: dash across the room and snap his neck before he can make a sound. His body goes limp and slumps in the chair.

I douse the light.

I take the older man next. The crack from his neck wakes the other two, but in the darkness they don’t realise what is happening until my hands are at their throats. Once they have stopped moving, I lay them back down together.

I drag the bodies outside, away from the house, and bury them a few feet beneath the snow. The blizzard will cover my tracks. It will be like they were never here.

In the morning I’ll bring Isaac to find their supplies. It’s going to be another lucky day.

Chris Ovenden teaches philosophy at the University of Manchester, UK. In his spare time, he writes stories about robots, time travel and possible worlds.

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