New Fiction – What’s That on my Doorstep?

There was something on his doorstep.  He looked at the screen, it was a black lump.  Maybe it was a dog – a big dog.  He kicked against the door to see if he could scare it away.  It didn’t move.  He didn’t dare kick again.  You could get away with making one noise, any more than that and you were sure to attract attention and get the police called on you.  He went into the bathroom to finish getting ready for work.  He came back out while brushing his teeth, hoping the thing was gone.  It was not.  He stared at the screen willing the thing to move on.  “I have things to do today,” he thought to himself.  Toothpaste ran down onto his t-shirt, he quickly walked back into the bathroom to finish his morning routine.

George liked his routines.  They kept him sane.  Every day for as long as he could remember, he followed his same set of routines.  The last time his routines had been interrupted had been due to a freak snowstorm in the area.  It didn’t snow much there anymore, maybe once every 10 years, but that year, six inches of snow had fallen overnight and George had wakened to realize that his day would be different.  He panicked and did nothing that day. The snow melted and the next day he went right back into his normal set of routines.

How could he leave his house with that thing on his doorstep?  It might attack him, he might contract some sort of disease, or worse.  He was making coffee.  George preferred to make his coffee by hand.  It was an old method he had stumbled onto a few years back, but the extra time each morning allowed him to experience more of his routine.  It was more involved than just hitting a button.  He had to grind coffee beans by hand, and pour water over the grounds at just the right temperature to get his coffee just the way he liked it.  Finding coffee beans had been difficult for a while, but now, all the fancy machines ground the beans right before they brewed coffee, so his challenge wasn’t the beans anymore.  It was finding filters to fit his glass carafe.  He finally gave up trying to find them and figured out how to make them himself.  He bought several different types of fibrous media and printed off different types of filters.  This allowed him to run a taste test across filters of different materials and thicknesses.  To his surprise, the thick hemp filter had become his favorite.  It seemed to make the coffee smoother than the others.   

George checked the screen in the kitchen three times while making his coffee.  The thing had moved – it was alive.  But still at his door.  “Why my door?” he thought.  “Why couldn’t it go next door to Cotton’s house?” 

Once he had his coffee, he sat and started to zoom in with his screen.  He detached the kitchen screen and sat at the table with it.  He zoomed in on the “dog” and realized that it probably was not a dog.  Whatever it was, it looked like it was wrapped in a blanket.  even with the high resolution of his over-door camera, it was hard to distinguish what was a blanket and what wasn’t.  He turned on the sound to see if he could hear anything.  There was a faint noise, but he couldn’t make it out.  It wasn’t regular, and the outdoor noises were interrupting his analysis.  He wanted to open the door, but was afraid of what this thing was.  What if it was some crazed wild animal and it got into his house?  He’d have to call someone to remove it, he’d need help. That would run the risk of making someone mad.  Plus, the noise that would generate.  Cotton would be upset – maybe enough to report him.  No – he couldn’t call anyone.  He could go out the back door and get to work.  He didn’t think the thing could be seen from the street – that was one good thing at least.    He didn’t have to deal with it this morning.  Yes, that’s it, he could go to work and not worry about it.  It would all be better when he got home from work.

He finished up his breakfast and coffee – and went out the backdoor to catch his ride to work.  As he walked to the front of his house, the thing looked like a bag of trash on his doorstep.  He wished that were the case.  Still, with the little faux porch he had at his front door, no one would see the item behind it from the street.  It would be gone when he got home.  Still, even if someone did see it, he could claim he hadn’t seen it.  He’d wipe the footage from his security system when he got to work so he could prove that he couldn’t have known it was there.  

George got to work at his normal time, walked to his desk with his eyes focused on the floor a little more than normal.  He was deep in thought about the thing at his front door.  What if it was still there when he got home?  In his haste to deal with getting it gone, and not dealing with the issue, he had completely overlooked the real possibility that it would still be there when he get home from work.  What would he do, then?  His workstation lighted up as he sat down at his desk.  The AI printed a message to him on the screen welcoming him back to his office – “How are you today, George?” the message said.  He clipped the biofeedback module onto his right index finger and thought, “I’m fine today, how are you, Gracie?”  He giggled a little inside every time he said her name.  He had given her the name Gracie because he had stumbled on some old footage of George Burns and Gracie Allen.  He thought Gracie was just about perfect – if she wasn’t so dumb.  He knew it was an act, but it made him smile none the less.  It was a simple inside joke that he shared with no one.  The AI was busy taking his vitals and comparing them to all other days to come up with a projection of how he really was today.

“You’re a little agitated today, George.  Did you want to do a puzzle before you start for the day?”  “Yes, that would be nice.”  George spent the next 20 minutes working on a complex Sudoku-based puzzle that required his full concentration in order to solve.  Logic and predictability were what he needed to keep his mind calm, and these puzzles did it every time.  That was the benefit of the new AI, it knew what you needed based upon full analysis of your history.  Gracie “knew” George better than anything living. That’s what she had been designed to do – to keep his moods in check – to help him operate at his prime.  He was lucky.  He had enough resources to be able to afford to keep Gracie upgraded with the latest algorithms – so he was always able to benefit from the AI’s help.  He should have consulted her this morning he thought.  He realized that he needed to clean up his home footage as well.  He asked Gracie to handle it for him.  

After a few seconds, Gracie came back and asked George why there was a woman on his doorstep. 

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “New Fiction – What’s That on my Doorstep?

      1. No, Bob hasn’t been around, but there is one large ginger tabby, a calico, a solid white cat with no tail due to an injury, a black tuxedo, a white tuxedo, a grey spotted tabby, and a grey stripped tabby, but no Bob.
        I will keep my eyes peeled for Bob though.


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