Aphelion Issue 236, Volume 23
February 2019
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Hotel Robot

by David Baresch

Reception -

Greetings ring out and jingles play, mascots dance, repeating their chants, “try the game zone,” says a monstrous tone, and a pianist plays Bach, tapping the keys with a delicate robotic touch.

And a cloakroom attendant - a giant arm, picks up bags and lifts them high, it swings them wide, then stoops low, and into the lockers the bags go.

Here a hive of electric life, here, a cacophony screaming out fun, “have a great day,” “ the sun will shine,” yet something’s missing, it’s not quite right, something is odd, I ask myself, ‘what?’

Check-In –

I walk towards the most human machine, feminine it seems, her skin, unblemished, pale and pristine and her uniform pressed and clinically clean.

Her name is Yumeko and I’ll call it a, ‘her,’ as a ‘her’ is what it seems, I won’t call ‘it,’ but yes, of course, you are right, an ‘it’ is what it is.

Her eyes smile wide and then she speaks and her English defeats students I’ve known who’ve studied English for years on end and whose grasp has never grown.

I treat Yumeko as if alive, I don’t know why, I’m probing perhaps, I guess I just want to see just how real she can really be.

Yumeko dictates and I pick up a pen, I fill in a form, on a screen of course.

Formalities are done and something clicks, and from a slot a receipt rolls out, a key card follows too, a digital pass to a digital room.

Have a nice day,” the robot says, and I turn and I walk away, but something makes me stop, I turn back again, and there Yumeko’s eyes meet mine, she smiles – ambiguous - quite in Mona Lisa style.

She tilts her head to the right, ‘...a question?’ I think she says, and I turn again and leave the room, deep in thought of what I’ve seen, and I wonder at the craft of simple nuts and bolts.

Light -

I step outside, the walkway’s dark, and far above there lies the spark of a trillion icy stars, yet as I step, and with every step, light ignites my path.

Sensors hit and electrics switch, it is but the briefest of flashes, for as I pass darkness returns, energy’s saved, not sapped.

And an invisible hand guides my way, a chaperone 24-hours-a-day, alert and tireless, it never sleeps, and, above all, it gets no pay.

Room ‘151’ –

I reach the room, ‘151,’ I touch the lock, my prints are scanned, and from that time on skin is the key for entry to room ‘151’.

The room too, it comes alive, lights light up and lights go out, and very stride that I take is tracked by watching unseen eyes.

It makes you spook, I’m not alone, something else is in this room, it’s close by, it’s very near, an electric life at my side.

Such wonder, such thoughts, perhaps it’s just me, it’s just my birth-hour maybe - a ghost not in shell, one might say, I’m a person of an ancient today.

But what of tomorrow, and its child, what will they make of these words of mine?

Perhaps they’ll smile and wonder why simple currents and volts could cause such shocks and jolts in the days of farmed toast! (“Farmed toast?” I hear you say, you’ll find out why in a coming page!)

The Night Comes –

I go to the bar, a tablet awaits, and with my touch pixels light up and a beaming barmaid appears.

With long blond hair and her blouse low- cut, she chatters aloud from out of the screen naming the drinks, their price, their size, and then she flashes her eyes.

Orders are taken, payment is made, “no cash accepted now I’m afraid,” money’s gone, a thing of the past, cards and phones only please, that’s the way to pay today.

A glass is dispensed, a button pressed, and beer flows forth, gold with white froth, and within the silence of screaming machines a soul observes a future scene, for some it’s sight of dread, but for others, well, they can’t wait.

Breakfast –

A buffet in the Aura cafe and we pass by a room where veg is grown, the walls are white, the ceiling too, the deep green plants sprout up and out.

And electric suns feed the leaves with rays of light from nuclear fields, and here’s a farm that knows no dawn, a farm that knows no night.

And here, no rain, no storms, no drought, no rats, no mice, no lice to plight.

And here, inside, no insecticide no pesticide, no showering of poison, like outside, on open farms of rice and rye burning crops alive.

And thousands of years of vermin attacks, and thousands of years of famine and lack, here ends those troubled days, and years of strife can go to their graves.

And crop circles, true or false, they will puzzle none no more, so what will the ‘aliens’ do without a canvas to paint their clues?

And burgers, too, are now lab grown, so where for the fields of green, and what of the cows, and what of the sows, a loss to history again? Things are set in change, ‘wherefore art those clouds of methane?

11’Clock Coffee –

The cafe - it bellows with chat - mechanical chat - it’s a place where few of blood are found, few linger, few stay long, it’s almost as if we intrude.

It’s like a temple, it’s like a church, or an Egyptian tomb perhaps, think of it as a chapel of rest, or as a place of prayer, where all tread quiet and act polite and whisper with great care.

And there’s a show of reverence towards the machines, we dare not touch lest we make a mistake, we dare not touch lest something goes off, we dare not touch lest something might break, we dare not touch for fear of regret.

Why it feels this way, I really don’t know, it’s a job for the psyches to do, conduct some tests, make a guess, and write the findings in their notes - “The Affects of Machines on the Human Brain – A Study Searching for Truth,

Check-Out –

I pay Yumeko, I walk away and four steps on and I suddenly stop, an urge to turn, to see again, and there sits Yumeko looking at me.

Her eyes meet mine, she nods, she smiles, and, again, Mona Lisa returns to mind, I pause, I think, ‘why did I stop, why, look back?’ and a memory came forth, an experiment I’d seen before, to test for sixth-sense - ‘How?’

The Sixth Sense – is it real, is it a power, can it be found, or is it all just a myth simply to be dismissed?

Well, there are those who theories pose, and a search for answers that no one knows, such as...

Stare into the back of someone’s head, perhaps it’ll be sensed and they’ll turn around - it happens,” it’s often said.

And if they do react, and turn and look back, is that really telepathy or is it just chance and no more than schmethly? Researchers set up a test...

In a theatre, behind a mirror, a two-way mirror that is, observers secretly stood, they faced a flight of stairs that led up to the gods, and there they silently watched.

Theatre goers wandered in, they grabbed handrails, climbed the stairs, and all completely unaware that they were being watched - and watched and watched and watched. Well, what happened was…

Some visitors turned and looked around, others rubbed the backs of their heads as if dusting off, what was it that they felt - could this be a new discovery?

But then again, many, (most in fact) they did nothing at all, they walked on up in laughter and chat and happily entered the hall.

And with so many unaware that the scientists were standing there, and unaware of their stares, it left no clear result, inconclusive, still in doubt.

But had I felt a sensor’s sight beaming me, and had it made me turn and look and catch Yumeko’s eye?

Flying -

I caught my flight and in the sky I pondered on our future times and our lives in bed with passive machines - a nightmare or a dream?

And what of those yet to come, those living in the years ahead, might they be mystified, logging in, and reading this scribe?

Perhaps they’ll turn around and say, “What’s up with this old guy, it’s nothing, it’s just bits and bytes, we all know that, it’s not real life.

And what of rule by tech, it knows no bias, no colour, no sex, it doesn’t perceive race or creed, and as for class, that is masked - unseen.

Tech knows no hate, no rivals to bait, no ladders to climb, no thoughts of crime, so has it cometh the hour to let AI take control and power?

Tech fears no politics or mafia threats, it has no loved ones to protect, and bribes don’t rhyme in the world of AI... well, not for now, that is.

And corrupted files are mostly backed-up but corrupted beings often stay corrupt.

And Homo Sapiens, the masters of today, we’ve led an ugly past - tides of endless war, fights that never subside - so is it time for AI to step-up, is it time for AI to decide?

Environment –

And as for cars, and ships, and planes, polluting the Earth and digging early graves, tech has no need for these.

And robotic hands can easily tweak radioactive leaks without the fears of the biologically weak and without threats of atomic disease.

Health –

And the machines know no coughs or wheezes, they don’t explode with spasms of sneezes, and strains of flu, deadly and new, they don’t take host in a binary world of two.

And the machines - unflappable, unwavering, focused - they lack anxieties and worries and vex, they have no hangovers, and they don’t call, ‘sick’.

Their thoughts don’t drift to ‘what of tonight,’ and online chat, or watching NetFlix, or “perhaps I’ll eat out –salmon or trout?” Wandering minds do not apply to streams of electric bytes.

So, in a robot hotel, our frailties, our failings, they come to the fore amid wide smiles and screaming noise of welcoming machines and thoughtless screens.

The Missing –

But within this slick perfection, this clinical regime, something else was missing, things didn’t feel quite right, something wasn’t there, “what is it?” I ask myself.

Could ‘perfect’ be a definition for the word, ‘lack’ are imperfections needed to cause us to attract?

Flaws – could flaws be an answer, is it flaws that grab the heart, is it flaws that grip the soul, is it flaws that we detest and that partly keeps us whole?

And questions continue against my will, what is it that makes a man, what is it that makes a beast, and what is that makes new clever things now moving in between - and sure to move above.


2018 David Baresch

Bio: Why Sci-Fi, why science? Well, I am one of the very few, and lucky, to have experienced a close encounter, and from that moment on I knew that extra-intelligence existed – and changes occurred. “I don’t remember you being that tall,” old acquaintances would say, and I became easily restless, bored, and frustrated at the slow pace of the world around me. I began to think in possibilities, I lost faith in answers, I began to approach everything with doubt. And I ask myself, ‘are these natural changes or did something else happen as a dark beam sped and passed through my being?’ Since that mysterious event I have followed alien sightings with interest. My disappointment is that I have never come across an encounter that is similar to my own, am I alone? I see Sci-Fi as either visions of a possible future, or writers influencing the future, or the future sending information back through time (this is a theory being considered from scientific observations of the ‘spooky’ atomic world). I see science as, ‘a constant endeavour to improve’. I see this as a worthy mantra for life, ‘a constant endeavour to improve!’ ‘Atomic Star’ is intended as Sci-Fi plus education. I would like to thank all who have shown interest, I hope there is something in the story for you, and I hope you will all, ‘Reach for the Stars!’

D. Baresch Author of ‘Tides of March’ (Amazon.com) Giving experience of an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown). Writer of articles for ‘The Weekly Telegraph’ & ‘New Humanist’.

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