Gary opened his eyes, stretched. He could smell coffee and bacon. Quietly, almost imperceptibly, La bohème, his favorite opera, was playing. Gary took it all in, smiled. A quick look at his phone showed him what his senses already knew: all systems working perfectly.
Six months later and he was still mostly pleased. Apart from the right hand once becoming stuck in a fist which required a replacement part, and the morning he was awakened by thrash metal blaring through the house, the 2.01 had worked as advertised. Each morning the house was spotless, his breakfast on the table, his lunch made and packaged and ready. He never suffered dirty clothes, or unshined shoes, or any other of the hundreds of slights some of his friends surely dealt with.
Gary found his suit, freshly pressed, exactly where he wanted it, dressed, unrushed, and went downstairs.
“Gary. Good morning,” she said, placing his breakfast and coffee in front of him as he sat. “Did you sleep well?”
He took a sip of the coffee. “I did, thank you.” She sat, folded her hands on the table, smiled. “Gary. May we talk?”
He folded his napkin. “Of course.”
She looked at him. “Last night was… difficult?”
Gary straightened up, looked at her. “I’m not sure the breakfast table is the proper place…”
“Gary. You do not wish to speak of your inability to perform?”
He slammed his hand down on the table. “Power off!”
Zoete Dromen Electronics had marketed their Audrey 2.01 as “the last sex partner you’ll ever need.” It was the absolute cutting edge in android technology, boasting the same core processors that the International Space Agency used on its android fleet. 2.01 was capable of completely human interaction, its voice and mannerisms flawless. 2.01 was a complete system, monitoring and adjusting household systems, wirelessly dealing with phone calls, bills; it learned, adapted, upgraded constantly.
It had cost Gary a fortune, the equivalent of three months pay, but he had never questioned his decision. When he had read the brochure, he knew 2.01 was what he needed. “Tired of the dating scene?” Well, he hadn’t really been on a date in a long time, but he had no desire to start. “Frustrated at virtual reality fucks?” Ok, yes, this hit home. He had logged on so many times and never once had a successful interaction! “Looking for sexual intimacy on your own terms?” Yes. God yes. “Tired of fucking your own hand?” Hahaha! Cheeky bastards! Sold!
He sat on the sofa, opened the coffee table drawer, and pulled out the 2.01 owner’s manual. “System check!”
“Gary. System nominal. Last update sixteen hours ago. Updates included a patch for visual continuity, and…”
“Anything with your conversational abilities? Sarcasm, et cetera?” He looked up from the manual and noticed that she had not moved from where he had left her moments before, facing the wall, at a forty-five degree angle, skirt over her hips and panties around her knees. “And get dressed for God’s sake.”
She obeyed, as always, as programmed, as advertised. “Gary. No such update was done. Are you unhappy with me?”
He put the manual down, looked at her for a moment, closed his eyes. “I don’t want to be coached. I don’t like it.”
“Gary.” She came and sat next to him, put her hand on his knee. “You seemed to be struggling.”
Sitting in the backyard, he grew impatient with the terrible music on his phone, interspersed with the occasional “thank you for holding!”. He had already spoken with Matt in the service department who ran an extensive diagnostic and told him that his 2.01 was “completely updated and nominal.” So he had asked to be transferred to the sales consultant he had worked with, Rodney, handsome and assertive and strong and probably never needed any of the products he so expertly sold.
“So you’re unhappy with the sex talk?” Rodney was straightforward, no nonsense.
“Not exactly, no.” Gary said, in a voice he heard as mousy, small. He cleared his throat, sat up straight. “She makes comments about… well… how to say it…”
“The size of your cock?”
“NO,” Gary replied, forcefully. “No, no.” He took a deep breath. “See, I’ve been under a lot of pressure recently, with work, and, and…”
“Gotcha,” the salesman cut him off. “Look, Gary, try spicing things up a bit! You can change her hairstyle, color, body shape, anything! Or get a little kinky, maybe? Look, these 2.01’s are up for anything! Role playing, whipping, whatever! Hell, maybe letting her whip the shit out of you could get the ol’ boy’s attention!”
Gary nodded, hung up the phone, stared at his hands, motionless in his lap. He heard laughing through the fence separating his home from his neighbor’s. They were grilling hamburgers, he guessed from the smell. Constant laughing.
At eleven-thirty she walked up behind him, while he was reading in his recliner. She rubbed his shoulders. “Gary. Are you coming to bed?”
“Soon,” he replied. His eyes looked over the book at the picture sitting on the side table across the room. A picture of his trip to Mardi Gras twenty years before. His friend, Dan, had a clutch of beads, and his arm around the shoulder of a woman he was kissing. Gary stood to the side, hands in his pocket, smiling at his friend.
“Go ahead; I want to finish this chapter.”
She lightly kissed the top of his head and walked up the stairs, disappearing in the dark.
Gary woke up at four-thirty, pants open, his computer lit up with images of beautiful women he had fallen asleep looking at.
Travis Cravey (twitter @traviscravey) is a maintenance mechanic in Southeastern Pennsylvania. He is an editor @malarkeybooks and editor at large @versezine. He’s very approachable.