Hugh was always the first one in the family to try any new techy stuff. He was the first to have a smart phone, a smart watch, a smart home, and a self-driving car. He even had a robot companion so he would have company when Sylvia wasn’t talking to him. When Cybernetics, Inc. opened an office in Freeport and offered to keep people alive forever in the body of a robot, Hugh was one of the first to sign up. It cost a lot of money, but, as my mother used to say, “Hugh always had more money than brains.”
We learned later that Hugh had had the contents of his mind downloaded onto a neural network years ago. Then every six months he would go to Cybernetics, Inc. to get the network updated. When the time came, the network would be embedded in a robot’s hard drive. The robot would then become Hugh in a new body that could last forever because broken parts could be replaced or even upgraded to a newer model.
When Hugh died in an automobile accident a couple of weeks ago, Sylvia didn’t even think about the neural network waiting at Cybernetics, Inc. She had never paid much attention to his talk about living in a robotic body anyway. She thought it was just more of his ranting about “the Robot Revolution.”
Someone at Cybernetics, Inc, however, read the obit in the Portland Press Herald, so they put the network into the pre-selected robot body and gave Sylvia a call. Sylvia wouldn’t have anything to do with that gadget, as she called it. She said to the Cybernetics people, “I put up with his shenanigans for thirty-two years, and gave him a decent burial. I am absolutely not going to put up with a robot that has all his bad habits.”
That’s when they called me. I had no desire to take in a robot, but I couldn’t say no. After all, he was my brother. I drove to Freeport to pick him up. When I got there, they introduced me to this handsome robot, who they said was my brother. It was a strange situation, to be reintroduced to my own brother. He talked about some of the things we had done when we were kids, but I was still dubious. I knew they had smart robots and ways of finding out all kinds of things about anybody, but I couldn’t turn him down. I took him home and put him in Sid’s old room.
When Marian came home, I introduced her to Hugh.
“How can that be Hugh?” she asked. “Hugh died two weeks ago.”
I explained how Hugh had contracted years ago with Cybernetics to make a neural duplicate of his mind so it could be placed in a robot body after he died. She still looked puzzled.
I followed her into the kitchen where she lowered her voice and asked, “How do you know this isn’t some kind of trick? Maybe they’re putting that thing in our house to spy on us.”
I assured her that the robot remembered things that only Hugh and I would know. She still was not convinced.
“Why isn’t he with Sylvia?”
“She didn’t want him.”
“So you just let him come to live with us? Did it occur to you to ask me first?”
“I couldn’t turn him down. He’s my brother.”
“He’s a robot!”
We found over the next few weeks that it was not easy living with a robot. He didn’t need to sleep, so he would be up, making noise, all hours of the night. Then he started having his robot friends over. They didn’t seem to make any effort to keep their voices down when Marian and I were trying to sleep. He left things lying all around the house. The worst thing was his conversation. I had forgotten how dull my brother was. He would tell us the same thing three times within an hour. He would go on and on about the wonders of modern science. He loved to tell everyone how smart he was and how dumb everyone else was.
“If people had any brains,” he would say, “they could live forever, like me. You just have to plan ahead.”
Finally Marian had had enough. Hugh was looking for something in the hall closet. He pulled everything out and just left it on the floor. Marian stumbled over it when she came home from work. She was in a bad mood anyway because Hugh and his friends had woken us up with their loud talking the night before.
“That’s it,” she said to me, “Either he goes or I do.”
I was getting tired of him myself, but he was my brother.
“Let me at least find someplace else for him to go.”
“You have one week. If he isn’t out by next Friday, I’m leaving.”
It was not easy trying to find a place for him. He did not have access to the money he had had when he was alive, and Sylvia was not going to give up any of what had been their money without a fight. None of his friends was willing to take him in. I would have paid the rent on an apartment for him if I could, but money was pretty tight for me.
Then just before Marian’s deadline, Hugh said he wanted to talk to me.
He hesitated and then began, “This is hard for me to say. You’ve been so good to me. I don’t want to seem ungrateful. But I’ve met someone, another electronic person like me. I’m going to move in with her. I’ll be leaving tomorrow.”
BIO: Carl Perrin started writing when he was in high school. His short stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, Northern New England Review, Kennebec, Short-Story.Me, Mad Swirl, and CommuterLit among others. His book-length fiction includes Elmhurst Community Theatre, a novel, and RFD 1, Grangely, a collection of humorous short stories. He is the author of several textbooks, including Successful Resumes, and Get Your Point Across, a business writing text. The memoir of his teaching career Touching Eternity, was a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award.