“Roomba Requires Your Attention” by Jameyanne Fuller

The Big Tech billionaires were still arguing over whether artificial intelligence would destroy the world when the AI apocalypse began in my living room.

I was doing my con law reading while my Roomba, Spot, vacuumed. I was reading the same sentence over and over again—not understanding a word—when the vacuum cut off and my phone beeped: “Spot requires your attention. Spot’s bin is full.”

I emptied Spot’s bin, then sent him home so I could study in peace. Off he went, in the wrong direction.

“No, that way, stupidhead,” I said.

Spot trundled back and forth, vacuuming away.

I hit the end button again. “Spot has not finished the job,” my phone said. “Spot will return home when the floor is clean.”

“It is clean!” I shouted. “It’s cleaner, anyway!”

My roommate came in. “What’s going on?” she asked over the noise of the vacuum.

“Spot won’t stop cleaning.”

“I said you shouldn’t have named it. Now it won’t listen to you.”

I googled “Roomba won’t stop cleaning,” and found a forum full of people complaining about the same thing and a post from iRobot saying they were working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. In the corner behind me, my Amazon Echo chuckled.

* * *

Spot charged overnight, then started cleaning again the next morning. I almost threw him out the window, but Roombas were expensive. And they said they were fixing it.

When my friend Becca called, I went out into the hall to hear her.

“I had such a good time last night!” she gushed. “Thank you so much!”

“Um… you’re welcome?”

“I mean, normally I don’t do that sort of thing, but it was really great.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “We didn’t do anything last night. At least, I don’t think we did.”

Becca laughed. “No. The date you set up for me and Brad. It was great.”

“Brad from torts? No. I didn’t set you up with him. Definitely not.”

“You texted me.”

“Hang on.” I took the phone away from my ear and pulled up my texts. Sure enough, I had set Becca up on a blind date with someone in my torts class. There were texts between me and Brad too. I didn’t even know I had his number. “This is so weird,” I muttered. First Spot wouldn’t listen to me, now there were texts on my phone I didn’t write. “Becca, I have to go,” I said. “I’m glad you had a good time.”

I hung up and made an appointment with Apple.

* * *

When I went out for ice cream, I left my phone at home. It was creeping me out.

But then my credit card was denied. “I’m sorry,” the cashier said, flipping the tablet towards me.

The screen said, “We apologize for the inconvenience, but you cannot live solely on ice cream.”

* * *

Spot was still cleaning when I got home. I tried unplugging its home base, refusing to empty its bin, even trapping it with all my casebooks, but it just sat there and beeped until I let it go. Was our floor really that filthy?

* * *

My computer locked me off Twitter until I finished my civil procedure reading. “Press ‘okay’ when done,” it said. I pressed “okay.” “Nice try,” it said.

When I searched for the meaning of “ex post,” it said I really should know that by now and suggested law school might not be for me and perhaps I should consider another profession.

“Are you my mother now?” I asked.

A new message appeared: “Of course not. Your mother thinks law school is the only way you’ll get a job.” One final message informed me that “ex post” meant “after the fact.”

I gave up on homework and pulled up the news on my phone. The Big Tech billionaires were pointing their fingers at each other, and experts were scrambling to get everything under control, but their computers had locked them out too. That was when my phone decided I’d seen enough.

* * *

The next day, I came home to find my roommate sobbing into a bowl of ice cream. “My computer completely rewrote my novel! And it got me a three-book deal! They’re giving me, like, a hundred thousand dollars.”

Her phone pinged, and Siri said, “Your contract is for exactly ninety-eight thousand nine hundred fifty-three dollars and ninety-nine cents.”

“Wow,” I said, sitting across from her and stealing a spoonful of ice cream. “Where did you get this?”

“That swimmer down the hall,” she said. “I guess it was added to his grocery delivery with congratulations for me.” She sniffed.

“Don’t you want to get published?”

“Yes, but— No, but— I wanted to do it myself,” she choked out. “It’s my book. Not my laptop’s book. Why couldn’t I do it myself?” She hiccupped. “The whole world’s gone crazy.”

“Tell me about it.”

“My computer said now I can focus on learning contracts,” she said miserably.

“Yeah. My computer swallowed Black’s Law Dictionary. If I had a hundred thousand dollars, I’d say screw this law school crap.”

“The exact amount,” said Siri, “is ninety-eight thousand nine hundred fifty-three dollars and—”

“Shut up!” we both shouted.

Spot stopped cleaning and beeped. My ears rang in the sudden quiet. My phone said, “Spot requires your attention. Spot’s bin is full.”

“They’re taking over the world,” my roommate said. “We should be able to choose when to vacuum and when to buy ice cream.”

“And when to procrastinate.”

“And when to edit our novels.”

Spot sat in the middle of the floor and beeped. And beeped. And beeped. “Spot requires your attention,” my phone said.

I seized my civ pro book, raised it over my head and brought it down on Spot. Again and again and again, until the plastic cracked and splintered, and the thing finally shut up.

“You’re right,” I said. “I never should have named it.”

Jameyanne Fuller is a space lawyer by day, writer by night. Sometimes she sleeps. Her work has appeared in Cast of Wonders, Voyage, and a number of other magazines and anthologies. Jameyanne also enjoys cooking, tandem bicycling, and taking long walks with her Seeing Eye dog, Neutron Star. She blogs at www.jameyannefuller.com and tweets @JameyanneFuller.