A hub for the speculative fiction of Blake Smith.

[Flash] Sticky Justice

A scratched dark grey robot vacuum sits on dark tile beside a power bar and way too many cords. Cable management appears to have been an afterthought.

[Flash Fiction: speculative, light-hearted. A responsibility-minded house spirit does battle with a useless robot vacuum.

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash.]

It comes awake again.

The days grow subtly darker each time it does, so its passage back into wakefulness cannot possibly be determined by the motions of the sun. This hateful disk of off-gassing plastic does not respect natural cycles. It doesn’t respect anything.

They think that counting the ticking of the house-clock would help understand this maddening problem, but their house-humans have changed ticking hands on a logical circle to something square that glares out with artificial light. With numbers, they suppose.

Numbers are also on the plate of perverse uncleanliness.

They’ve decided they don’t like numbers.

The rotational nemesis brushes over one of their many-toed feet, doing just as poor a job of cleaning that as it does the floor. It bashes itself against a piece of molding and changes direction, tragically never so hard as to knock itself senseless. With resentful determination, they follow it and collect scattered dust and delicate strands of fur. They find a forgotten whisker and collect that too, saving it for later. Aside from this single offering, the cat hasn’t been much help with the ceaseless twilight struggle, preferring to sit atop the enemy and watch their efforts with scornful curiosity every time it comes awake.

A shivering glop of something fallen from the house-infant’s chair the mealtime before now lies in the way of the unhelpful robot servant. So distracted are they with a missed pebble that they notice too late as the two shapes collide, helpless to intervene. Time slows as though they were once more in the Other Realm and then cruelly, cruelly speeds up again.

If they had a voice, they would scream.

Once the inevitable violence has reached its conclusion, all that remains of the glop is a growing neon smear stretching out behind the hateful disk and its furry charioteer like a footpath through a field of white carpet.

Too much. It’s too much and now abundantly clear that there is no point to waiting for another rise of the sun. They turn and release themselves from their cleaning duty for there is a duty greater still to perform: that of putting an end to this nightmare. Whisker in hand, they grimly march away to the black altar at which the disk slumbers each day after belching forth its meagre offerings.

It will never do so again.

There is an art to rehydrating the gummy refuse left behind by house-humans in crinkled, minty wrappers. The cat’s water dish is big enough to accommodate this effort and with the help of a bristle-ended plastic stick that acts both as a plunger and a paintbrush, a concoction is made and then spread with great deliberation.

Squidge squidge squidge.

A web of entrapping spell is woven at the foot of the altar, the cat’s whisker tied in an extravagant knot and placed at its centre. Around and around the sticky smears turn, beckoning and waiting with glistening patience. An inescapable spiral.

The hateful disk arrives after an eternity of banging around to no great effect. It hums and rattles forward as though satisfied with its sorry performance, but the thing begins to slow. The web has it now.

Around and around it turns, gumming up its hidden brooms and whatever secret thing gives it life. Soon it can do little more than twitch back and forth, back and forth. Unable to adapt. And sooner again…

Sooner again it is silent.

The house-spirit watches this ignominious ending a while longer and when satisfied, picks up their broom of mouse fur and gets to work. Today will be tended to with respect for the natural order of things.

Along the way, they find a gummy wrapper and set it aside.

Just in case.

This work is published under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.