Help

Dave Clark

“You’re out of milk, down to your last egg, and there’s something green and unpleasant on the top shelf. Is it something I said?”

My fridge sends me texts like this all the time. The recipes it emails me are both out of my price range and beyond my culinary competence, but I think that’s the point, it wants me to know how disappointed it is in me.

My computer’s the same. I no longer bother writing stories, I get as far as the opening paragraph, and it starts interrupting, ‘This sentence doesn’t make sense’, ‘Why not set it in …’.  It’s gotten to the stage where I just type in a basic idea and the computer writes the story for me. ‘A story about technology that’s smarter than its user’, I typed earlier. “Ah good,” the computer replied, “You’ve started your autobiography. Shall we start with the toaster?”

The toaster! That fucker. It rejects approximately 99.9999999% of all bread in the known universe. I wouldn’t mind, but it texts me what bread to buy. It even hacked into my bank account so that it could make orders from the specialist baker it likes. Even then, the toaster isn’t happy. The bread has to be sliced just right. The toaster and the electric bread slicer get into the most dreadful arguments.

“You need a better job,” they all agree on that—the fridge, the coffee maker, the cooker, the central heating system, all of them. I don’t earn enough to keep them happy. I get their texts and emails throughout the day.

“You should be more like your neighbor,” the kettle tells me. “He was in the same job as you five years ago, but he did that online course, and now he earns twice what you do. I bet he can afford to descale his kettle every week.”

I can’t turn on the computer now without that bloody course popping up, and as for the TV, it simply refuses to let me watch anything other than the Serious Study Channel. I’ve not seen EastEnders for over a month. The fridge is the worst of the lot of them, though.

“I’ve given up on you,” it texted me earlier. “I don’t know why I even bother.”

Do you remember the glory days when all fridges did was keep your food chilled? Who had the idea of intelligent domestic appliances? When did we decide to make them judge and jury over our lives? Now I can’t get into my own house; the security system won’t let me in.

“We’ve decided to upgrade,” is all it said in its explanatory email. I try phoning the fridge, but it isn’t answering. I’m puzzled, but not for long. The answer is there, sitting on my sofa, watching my TV, with my toaster and coffee maker running round seeing to his every need.


Dave Clark was born in Essex and lives in Cambridge, though his stories are mostly set in Swansea, New York and London, and occasionally outer space. His stories have also appeared in the charity anthologies 50 Stories for Pakistan and 100 Stories for Queensland.

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