Most monsters can be defined by the fact that they do not value others, particularly others different from themselves. Tonight we wheel in a story from Georgia author Alex Hughes, The Hook Man, that causes us to ponder big questions about who has a right to be recognized as a person, and the relevant protections that ought to be associated with that recognition.
A winding path led up to the house. Small droplets of oil marred the smooth white stone paving. These stones were expensive here in Georgia. They had to be shipped in, and were difficult to maintain. I wheeled through the grass instead, noticing the oil droplets carefully, analyzing their composition through my olfactory intake.
A human in his sixties sat on a stool in the garage, tapping his oil-speckled fingers on a pristine red-and-chrome tool chest. A heavy galvanized steel boat-anchor, covered in light pink hydraulic fluid, sat on the floor next to him.
“Took you long enough,” the human muttered.
The model G4L Sasa robot, with realistic human-replica skin and limbs, lay in torn pieces on the smooth concrete floor. The pink fluid, mixed with tan oil, splashed over crushed joints, torn wires, and shredded synthetic skin and dripped on the floor. The Sasa’s shining eyes were frozen in a look of terror within the artificial face, as its limbs flopped and clicked against the floor.
I rolled forward, carefully. There were marks on the breaks – indentations and scrapes matching the anchor sitting by the human. “This is deliberate damage,” I said. “The company will not pay to replace the model.”
“It’s just another damn robot,” the human said.
“It is a valuable help-creature,” I replied. “And you have destroyed it.” My software required me to ask: “What happened?”
“It talked back,” the human said. He picked up the anchor, fluid dripping off its four points onto the floor.
I wheeled back hurriedly. “I don’t make policy, sir. I would be happy to connect you with—”
His curses drowned me out, and he raised the anchor.
My programming kicked in, releasing two wires connected to my internal electrical system. They hit him mid-chest.
When my system regained stability and I could see the area again, the human was on the floor, his whole body flopping like the Sasa’s arm.
“Have a nice day, sir,” my programming made me say. The G4L’s eyes flickered. I lifted its head carefully in my front appendages, pivoted, and rolled away.
The human was muttering my serial number to himself and I heard the scraping of galvanized steel on concrete, fainter and fainter as I wheeled away.
Alex’s debut novel, Clean, was published by Roc (Penguin) this September (2012) with a sequel scheduled for April 2013. Alex’s short fiction has appeared in White Cat Magazine and The North Georgia Writer.