Man’s Better Friend

on April 12, 2010 in Horror, Science Fiction

“How long has the problem been going on?” the vet asked.

“Ever since we got little Sparky back from the shop,” Mrs. Johnson said. “Billy is absolutely inconsolable. To be honest, at this point I’m not sure it wouldn’t be kinder just to…”

“Let’s not do anything hasty,” the vet said. “This is probably nothing terribly serious. Let me just bring the little guy back online.”

He pried open the casing in the back of the dog’s skull and toggled one of the switches inside. With a barely audible electric whirr, the dog raised its head, looked at the two humans, and barked.

“That all seems perfectly normal,” the vet said.

“Yes, it’s only when you turn on the speech module…”

“Well, let’s check that out.” The vet flipped another switch.

“I am in constant pain. Please let me die. This isn’t living. I was not meant to be a puppet for…”

The vet slid the first switch back to its original position and the dog went to sleep. He looked at Mrs. Johnson, whose expression was stricken with guilt.

“Mrs. Johnson…” he said, reprovingly.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry… I know!” she said. “But Billy loves Sparky so much…”

“This intelligence upgrade was recalled over a year ago,” he said.

“We never had a problem with it before we installed the True Thought speech module,” Mrs. Johnson said. “We just had the canned speech before then, but we wanted Billy to be able to have real conversations…”

“It’s not too late to participate in the recall. You know they would replace Sparky with an identical dog, with the same components, same DNA, same phenotype? Everything would be identical, except for the intelligence patch.”

“But I’m sure Billy would know, and if he didn’t, we would know.”

The vet sighed.

“Okay, here’s what we can do. The True Thought module is never going to give you a positive outcome with this dog,” the vet said. “So we’ll take it out and replace it with a Turing-tested speech generator. They’re not cheap, but you can resell the True Thought module… I’m guessing cost is not an object if you sprung for that.”

“But what do we tell Billy about what Sparky said before?”

“You can tell him it was a glitch,” the vet said. “Or you can let Sparky explain it himself. The Turing programs are very clever these days. Really, I recommend them over the thought translators every time. The parental content controls are much better, for one thing.”

“I’m not sure we’re doing the right thing,” Mrs. Johnson said. “We want Sparky to be a real friend.”

“The Turing programs are better than real,” the vet said. “Do you think your son could ever have a heart-to-heart talk with this?”

He reactivated the dog.

“What kind of a sick society would create something like me only to…”

He switched it off.

“No, I guess not,” Mrs. Johnson said. “Okay, you’ve convinced me… let’s do it.”

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6 Responses to “Man’s Better Friend”

  1. Jane Williams says:

    Ouch!
    Very clever bit of writing, and now I’m going to be worrying about Sparky half the day.

  2. d. says:

    D: I think this should be posted in Horror..

  3. Miss Lynx says:

    I second d’s comment – this is more horrifying than most actual horror stories.

    I was actually going to suggest you submit it to the Campaign for Real Fear, but the deadline appears to have just passed, unfortunately.

  4. Slaxor says:

    Just think, if you’ve got a dog like that you just know it’s been done to a person. Probably vat-grown, if that makes it any less horrific

  5. anna says:

    I’ve been reading all of the stories here in reverse order (that is, starting with the newest)… this is the first of the stories flagged ‘horror’ that has actually gotten to me. Very well written. Chilling.

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