There was something wrong with Harry. Not a little wrong, mind you, like a malfunctioning gyro, or a battery that needed recharging, or even a rotor that needed oiling. No, Harry was definitely wrong, and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it.
The first day I noticed it was at the beach. Harry was busy doing what he’d always done for me; rubbing lotion on my back, working the kinks out of my calves from a long week’s work on my feet, making sure I drank plenty of water and kept hydrated. But between those times, as I lay in the sunshine reading a summer mystery novel, he would just sit there in the shade, and turn off. Not in any mechanical way, mind you. His eyes would just drift off into space, staring at the ocean or ignoring the other couples that passed by.
Now, Harry wasn’t usually like that. He was very much a social companion. He would normally strike up a conversation with just about anyone, about anything. He loved pets and animals of all kinds, and he had a finely tuned sense of nature, he could tell when it was going to rain an hour before it ever did, just by reading the clouds. But this day he missed the thunderstorm rolling in and we nearly got caught in a downpour.
Now, rain isn’t good for robots, and Harry knows that. But he missed it, and that was not like him at all.
I decided to take him to the doctor. After the examination, the doctor came out to talk to me.
“I’m sorry, Marion, but I’m afraid there isn’t much we can do. They get this way.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. The doctor made a grim face.
“Their parts get old,” he said. “They can’t be replaced like they used to, they just wear out.”
So I took him home. He didn’t say much on the ride home, and his driving was kind of squirrelly. I decided it would be best if he didn’t drive anymore, but I didn’t tell him straight away. I didn’t want to hurt his pride.
He went to bed that night, and the next morning he didn’t get up. He apologized, and I told him it was okay, I knew he was sick. Later, I tried getting him to make love, which he’d always enjoyed, but he just couldn’t — not this time.
He lingered for a few days, but finally one morning he didn’t move at all. I called the doctor again and he came over for a house call. He examined Harry quietly for several minutes, using strange-looking instruments that I could only guess at the function of.
The doctor came out of the room and shook his head. “I’m sorry, Marion, he’s gone.”
“Gone?” I asked, not understanding. “Gone where?”
“How can I put this so you’ll understand? He’s no longer functioning. Harry won’t be working anymore.”
I felt a great sadness in my heart. “What will I do?” I asked.
“You’ll have to get a new one,” said the doctor. “This is the first time this has happened to you, isn’t it?”
“Well, yes,” I admitted. “So I can just go order another Harry?”
The doctor looked back at Harry, then shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid. They’re unique. The next one will be different.”
“And this will happen to that one too?”
“Yes it will,” said the doctor. “They call it death.”
“Death? What an awful word.” The doctor took me by the shoulders and kissed my forehead.
“It will be all right, Marion. You just go down and pick out a new companion at the breeding camps. Now, promise me you won’t brood over Harry?”
I smiled. “I promise. I’ll go get a new one right away.”
“Good,” said the doctor. “Just tell me when you have him and I’ll come and examine him first thing.”
“Thank you doctor,” I said.
“I promise I’ll do it tomorrow.”
Dave Bara writes out of Auburn, Washington.