The low hum of pipes and random machinery, added to the occasional creaks and constant dripping, meant that there was no such thing as silence in the house. But once, not one of these was loud enough to be heard during the day. Her brother, being the three-year-old he was, used to dominate the house with his giggles. It was unbearable then. Now, she needed it.
When she put on the last of her clothing, a light fleece jacket, she was all set. She put one hand in her pocket and the other on the handle of her door, stopping only when a slight whir broke the atmosphere. She opened the door wide. It was her family’s old Roomba, sitting in the corner of the kitchen with balls of dust settled on its once shiny surface.
But there was no one in the house.
She shook her head and moved past the kitchen. But the Roomba came to life, lurching forward, and she took a hurried step back, then two. She grabbed the glass of orange juice she left on the counter, gripping it tighter as the Roomba came closer. She closed her eyes shut and flung the glass blindly towards the robot vacuum. The glass shattered into a hundred pieces, orange juice all over the floor and on her jeans. She didn’t have time to care. She lunged towards the back door. The Roomba ruthlessly ground on the remains of the glass, keeping its distance from her, almost as if on purpose.
She slammed the door behind her.
The Roomba banged itself against the door. Thump. Thump. She walked confidently away, knowing that unless the robot vacuum was from Metalhead, it wouldn’t be able to make it through. But the banging refused to stop. Thump.
She pulled the door open.
The Roomba happily glided past her to wade through the grass, tall and uneven because no one made an effort to trim it, and stopped where the dandelions were gathered. She stiffened. Everything in front of her was a copied scene from the past, except for the absence of her brother, who used to snatch the remote from their mother and laugh and run away from her as the Roomba zipped past her fingers and rammed itself into the flowerbed—
She stooped to pluck a dandelion. Its seeds swayed in the wind, some of them making their way into the sky. The Roomba moved left, then right, almost as if shrugging, then forwards, towards the flowers that her mother used to care for, emphasis on used, but staggered as a violent rustling sound overtook it, and she, trembling, pulled a black plastic bag from under the robot vacuum’s wheels— it lifted itself, ever so slightly, almost as if thrusting its imaginary arms in the air.