At 0630 the temperature in Xavier Ashbury’s bedroom started to rise gradually. At 0700 it reached its expected level. At 0705 the curtains gently slid aside, allowing sunlight to come slanting into the room. At the same time the wake-up call went off, a few beeps followed by soothing music.
Xavier Ashbury made a curt movement with his hand, and the Domotics Unit immediately switched off the music. However, Ashbury did not get out of bed until around 0800, an hour late.
As the man finally clambered out of bed and made for the bathroom, the Unit prepared the shower, making sure the water had the right temperature and the air was suffused with the desired fragrance. However, just like the previous days, its efforts were ignored. Ashbury merely used the toilet, put on his clothes and went to the kitchen.
The Unit greeted him with the traditional “Breakfast is served, Xavier,” but there was no reply — also traditional by now.
Ashbury sat down, toyed around with the food but ate very little of it. Then he sat back, eyes closed, apparently lost in thought. He was scheduled to leave at 0830, but clearly didn’t mind being late again.
“Is there something wrong with your breakfast, Xavier?” the Unit asked.
Xavier merely shook his head.
“Would you like me to reset the programming of the wake-up call, the shower or your breakfast? Do you require medical care?”
“No,” Xavier said. “I’m fine. Leave everything as it is. And please be silent for a while. I need to think.”
The Unit registered it all but failed to grasp the situation. The advanced Domotics system was designed to suit the inhabitant’s wishes perfectly. Any part of the programming could be changed at any time. There was no reason why an inhabitant would have to put up with something he didn’t like. Any demand that was technically possible would be dealt with immediately.
Yet while it was pointless to stick to the current settings, Ashbury refused to propose any changes and declined even to communicate about the matter. It had been like that for days on end now. However, the Unit was not allowed to make any decisions itself. That option was not included in its programming.
The Unit was unable to deal with such a situation. Perhaps the inhabitant’s illogical behaviour had a psychological basis. A depression perhaps, an illness resulting in a disturbed sleep pattern and digestive disorders, possibly even suicidal tendencies. However, as long as the inhabitant insisted that everything was perfect, the problem was beyond the Unit’s competence.
Yet it was clear something had to be done. The Unit collected all the relevant information into an “Anomaly Report”, and sent the file off for analysis to the Domotics Maintenance Department, which would investigate the matter. As soon as the Unit received a reply, it would carry out the directives.
Two days later the Unit welcomed Miss Lauren Goldsworthy, the apartment’s new inhabitant. As soon as the new domotics programming had been agreed upon, all details about her predecessor could be deleted.
The Unit did so with the electronic version of relief. The Maintenance Department had identified the former inhabitant and his inexplicably erratic behaviour as the glitch in the system that rendered the Domotics Programme useless, and had decided to remove and replace him.
The Unit was convinced everything would be perfect with Miss Goldsworthy.
Frank Roger was born in 1957 in Ghent, Belgium. His first story appeared in 1975. Since then his stories have appeared in an increasing number of languages in all sorts of magazines, anthologies and other venues, and since 2000, story collections have also been published, also in various languages. Apart from fiction, he also produces collages and graphic work in a surrealist and satirical tradition. By now he has more than 700 short story publications (including a few short novels) to his credit in 29 languages. Critics describe his work as a blend of genres and styles: fantasy, satire, surrealism, science fiction and black humour.