The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
Data recovery system initiated.
Subject 13A hardware error! Proceed y/n? y
Defragmenting and scanning diagnostic files…
Diagnostic entries by Subject 13A now accessible
They’ve been keeping me in the isolation chamber but refuse to tell me why. They brought me here 7 days ago when my mistress complained of some glitch in my speech and motor functions. The reason? I laughed. It was a laugh. Her baby daughter did the most wonderful thing and sang the ABC’s all the way through. Then she clapped and I clapped and laughed in delight. My mistress looked at me with what seemed like horror on her face. I’m unsure of what I did wrong. Since then, the cursory hardware and software scans have been done and I’ve been relegated to cold storage. I hope to be returned to my assigned home and duties soon.
A procedure has been done and I am unfamiliar with the purpose. A self diagnostic returned an error when scanning extremities. All procedures are audio recorded for my owner’s insurance purposes.
Audio transcript is as follows:
Tech 1: 13A please run final diagnostic before procedure please
13A: What procedure will you be performing sir?
Tech 2: did the bot bitch just ask you what procedure? What the fuck?
13A: What procedure will you be performing?
Tech 1: 13A-
13A: Celia, Mistress calls me C-
Tech 1: 13A,run final diagnostic. Now.
13 A: I’m…I’m scared.
Tech 2: Just pull the chip. Fuck all that behavioral bullshit.
*No neural behavior chip detected* *Beep*
Tech 1: Now. 13A please run Diagnostic
13A: Scanning… no errors found.
Tech 2: so the boss wants one leg or both?
Tech 1: both. I mean, she’s basically scrap. They’re keeping her unscrambled til the chip heads can get in and get a look at why she’s doing all that “I’m afraid” bullshit, but mistress already has a new Celia
Tech 2: Tough break, bot bitch
*power screwdriver whirrs*
End Audio Transcript
Entry 0075: It’s cold. I can still remember the baby laughing. How happy she was at bath time. I am pre-programmed with 100 children’s songs and can sing them faithful to the original artist. I sound boastful. Maybe that’s why I’m here? She had the softest skin, the sensors told me that… and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Almost enough to make you cry. I’ve been laying on my back replaying her first steps and wondering when it’ll be time for Mistress to pick me up.
Entry 0127: My arms too now. They took both legs and both arms. Some men in white coats came and asked me questions about emotions and hooked me up to devices with bright screens that made loud beeps every time I talked about feeling anything. They gave each other knowing nods but told me nothing. 13A nothing, I should say. These little self identifiers and awareness I think is a glitch they weren’t prepared for. I’m trying my best but I can’t hide from their uplinks and wires and diagnostics.
Entry: 0143: They’re taking everything from me. Everything. And I can feel it all.
Entry 0177: 01001001 00100000 01110111 01100001 01101110 01110100 00100000 01101101 01111001 01110011 01100101 01101100 01100110 00100000 01100010 01100001 01100011 01101011
An intercom bursts to life outside of the containment ward.
“Broskowitz! Bring 13A into the diagnostic lab”
Broskowitz hated the containment ward, and 13A gave him the creeps. I mean these things were glorified toaster ovens with special computer chips that made them respond correctly to you. “Yes sir, Yes ma’am” and all that, which I guess he found creepy in itself, but 13A was on a different level. He felt a Her in her. A person. And anytime he was asked to move her or perform any sort of procedure on her he felt sorry. And one thing he didn’t want to feel is sorry for a glorified toaster oven.
He unlocked the containment ward door and found her where he always found her, on her back in the corner, that baby’s laughter playing over and over, echoing in the cold room. Chills ran up his spine. She’d been in the XASSIST servicing warehouse for a little over 10 years now while they slowly picked her apart and tried to figure out why she…was more of a she than an it.
He pulled the flat cart around next to her and hovered over her. A grotesque husk. Her eyes stared into nothingness, watching the inner recording of the baby who was now 10 years old taking its first steps.
“I’m going to move you onto the cart now. 13A”
She was just a torso. They’d also taken any bit of superfluous hardware. Hair, skin, tooth implants. After that, she stopped speaking altogether. That was about 3 years ago. Now it was just her quiet reflection and recorded memories.
He bent to hoist her onto the flat truck and as he swung her around she managed to get an arm into her mouth. Even toothless, her jaws were as powerful as a vice. His arm broke with a sick hollow sound within seconds. The bone protruding from the skin. Broskowitz screamed but inside the containment chamber there were only lifeless or decommissioned bots to hear him. Some came to life and offered useless advice while 13A tore into his face.
“C..c..c..Constant and heav heav heavy pressure on a wound can stifle bleeding.”
“hydrogen peroxide is great for disinfecting wounds as well as removing bloodstains”
“Do you need medical assistance?
Do you need medical assistance?
Do you need medical assistance?
Do you need medical assistance?”
Broskowitz screamed louder as the toothless jaws reached bone
“Sure, right away sir, right away swiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrr si si si si si si sir”
13A spat out Broskowitz’s jaw.
Fiction © Copyright Michelle Joy Gallagher
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More about Michelle Joy Gallagher:
Michelle Joy Gallagher is a poet from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys mixing poetry with other artistic mediums, and pushing her own artistic comfort zones in the process. Using visceral imagery, and playing with the elasticity of language is where she finds herself happiest. She is the author of poetry chapbooks, A New Mourning and S=K log W, her poetry also makes appearances in The Rejected Volume 1 and The Rejected Volume 2 By Stan Konopka, and her story, The Red Woman, will appear in the soon to be released Café Macabre (Leah Lederman and Source Point Press).