They spread from my feet up to my chest before I realized what was going on.
My wife had been giving me a foot rub, caressing calluses, muttering about how the programs on reflex therapy had been “totally worth it, don’t you think?”
“Sure. Whatever.” I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. They had cost a lot.
Hands flat, rub between each toe, palms at acute angles to the foot.
Twist each toe; pull each toe. Put your forefinger and thumb in a pinching position to rub the Achilles tendon. Doubling the effort with a foot in each grip was appreciated, though not necessary. It’s just a cool dexterity trick.
“I hate the smell of that foot scrub, though,” I said.
There was a sharp pain in my foot, a pinprick, and numbness started snaking up my legs.
“Ow! What the hell happened?”
“I don’t know, baby. A pneumatic cylinder must have misfired.” She got up and started scooting away. The tread on her left foot was ripped and her body was stained from my neglect. She crushed a can on her way out, my trailer trash robot.
Then I heard them scurrying around inside me. It wasn’t the movement that alerted me, it was the whispering and murmuring and laughing that got louder and louder as my chest began to swarm with them.
I had read a story recently about a new STD, one that could hop between robots and people. I can’t remember exactly, but I guess it had started off as just a nanomechanical infection in the male-female ports of worker drones.
Anyway, since infected bots’ ability to perform manual labor in factories and plants wasn’t affected, none of their masters really noticed or cared. They just let it spread. No reason to interrupt the manufacturing process, no need to waste money by wasting time having the robots health checked out and repaired. Go-go gadget capitalism.
After several generations, the nano-disease was beginning to turn up inside the higher bot classes who had partaken in unprotected data transfer with the working classes.
People started saying the bug was becoming self-aware, mutating, changing; that maybe it was HIV for robots.
Turns out that was all true.
Worse, since it was self-aware, it was a conversational disease that talked to members of itself—weird as that sounds. Sometimes it drove infected machines mad with ceaseless dialog before screwing up any of poor metal creatures’ physical processes.
The rule of thumb became: if your robot is acting wiggy, euthanize it.
Then, of course, Smalley’s Smirk (I have no idea who came up with that stupid name) turned up in a human and everything started going downhill. It happened for the exact reason that one would expect: some geek saw a dark hole that reminded him of hanky-panky hoo-ha weeeee doggie. Stupid, simple sexual frustration.
And because of that idiotic drive we have to find new and entertaining things to have sex with, millions had already died. See, in robots, there wasn’t and really noticeable damage. The bots could function. In humans, it was another story.
Smalley’s Smirk did horrible things to people when it got inside them. The insanity was bad enough, but the changes, the wretched physical changes it caused to the human body were beyond comparison. Imagine your organs being chewed on by millions of tiny teeth. Imagine limbs necrotizing before you know what’s going on. And they kept you alive throughout this whole process. You felt yourself go mad, and then you watched yourself writhe and wither and die.
Then the little bastards would hijack your body—puppet you with only your brain to yourself. They kept you going while you were trapped in your own head.
The only reason I learned all this about it was because I had to have my TV put down last week. The technician said that the bumbling second-hand Sony had picked up a case of Smalley’s Smirk and, well, he was infected. It was a close call, he had said. Blammo. Goodbye. That’s all she wrote.
And then it hit me.
My wife—that cheating trailer trash robo-gal—had been screwing the television.