Short Fiction Contest Winner – Shelter
by Robert Winters
The other Robots shunned Seemore. They considered it a snob, an oddball, and possibly deranged. And they loathed it in some inexplicable fashion because it refused to choose a gender.
“That’s so anthro,” Seemore said, “I don’t reproduce, so…?”
Its human owner had set it free and given it a small cottage on his property. Seemore enjoyed a quiet life, gardening, reading, and tending its chickens. It didn’t know why it kept chickens. Seemore thought of considering them “company.” It was something he pondered, that word.
One day Seemore found a mouse outside. It caught it gently in its super fast six-fingered hand. It sensed the body warmth and heard the mouse’s tiny heart racing.
“There there,” it whispered, “no one will harm you, little mouse.”
Seemore’s center, the part humans call their abdomen, was hollow, there was a small door that opened for storage. It filled this with leaves and put the mouse inside. Then it gathered various seeds from the garden and placed them in a small dish in its belly.
The mouse burrowed down into the leaves and huddled silently.
Later that day, the mouse crawled out of the cooling slit in Seemore’s shoulder. Seemore experienced the one emotion he had mastered, pleasant surprise.
Something whirred in Seemore’s chest.
At the spa, another robot criticized Seemore for keeping a mouse on its shoulder.
“We’re Robots, man, Robot’s.” the snobby thing said.
“I am shelter,” Seemore replied, enjoying pleasant surprise at the critic’s unpleasant surprise.
Wayd: It had touches of Asimov, as far as following the rules of robotics, and then having a breakthrough in the program. It’s a story that’s never been told before, about a robot finding higher purpose. I was left wanting a little bit more about the owner, why he let him go to pasture. But it wasn’t super-important to the story.
Josh: A lot of the stories submitted had nature themes, and this one pulled an interesting trick by incorporating the technological angle into those nature themes, on top of having compelling, fully-realized characters and conflict. ,Also, ain’t gonna lie, I teared up a bit at the end.
Chelsea: Generally, I have a real problem with sci-fi imagery. I’m very old school in narrative in sense of place and sense of self. But this story brought it all together for me.