Timothy’s Little Helper

Warm amber light crept under Timothy’s eyelids and softly poked at his dreams. He stirred, not much, but enough to startle the tiny robot that stood on his chest. It back-pedalled furiously, its single balancing wheel weaving back and forth on the bed clothes. Sure that its master was not yet waking up it cycled over the bed, compressed its central spring down and jumped to the bedside table. There it steadied itself again, bumping against the base of the lamp and busied itself preparing the morning pills.

Red, blue, white, oval, circular, diamond, orange and brown, green. Meticulously the robot counted them out into a tiny china dish and re-sealed all the bottles. Then it unsealed them again and began a furious count of their contents. All the bottles were short. It double-counted those it had prepared. Correct. But there were six days of missing tablets. Six days… to its horror it checked its internal clock and discovered that it too was missing six days.

The robot hopped off the bedside table and rolled into the kitchen. It eyed the calendar suspiciously. Timothy’s familiar crosses went nearly a whole week past the robot’s date. There was no doubt about it. Six days lost. It had been dormant, but why? Had its counts been off? Surely not – it existed to measure Timothy’s doses, exactly as he had programmed.

The sound of footsteps stopped the little robot in its tracks. That wasn’t Timothy. The footsteps had come from the always unused, always full of boxes spare room. The robot bolstered its nerve and hopped through the cat flaps which Timothy had cut into each door, when he could still care for a cat. There – the footsteps had moved to the bathroom. Even from the end of the hallway the robot could see an unmade bed, a suitcase and clothes lying on a chair. It was not alone with its master.

An intruder. The robot raced back into the kitchen and opened a door made especially for it. Within was his power point and those tools that Timothy had designed for all the household tasks he not might be capable of. One of them was an electroshock stun weapon. The robot reversed into the dock and the weapon clicked onto its back, the pronged barrel resting across its shoulder, and the trigger in its claw. The sound of the shower slowed, dripped and stopped. Perfect timing.

Almost skidding over itself with the extra weight the robot reached the bathroom door just as it opened. A cloud of steam gusted out, temporarily blinding it. Then a woman, wrapped in a white towel, legs still wet from the shower emerged. The robot darted forwards and jabbed its electrodes into the leg. The human woman barely had time to gasp “you again” before falling twitching to the ground, cracking her head hard against the doorframe.

Satisfied with its defence of Timothy’s house the robot replaced its accessory and returned to the old man’s bedside. Somehow the robot had failed to notice there had been additions to the room – a stand next to the bed dangled a tube into Timothy’s arm and a trolley with a series of screens and panels blipped and beeped in the corner. None of these were part of Timothy’s bedroom layout. The little robot pulled the needle out of Timothy’s arm and pushed the stand into the wardrobe. The monitor stand was larger, but easily unplugged from the wall. The robot climbed and hopped back onto the bed to detach all the messy wires.

It looked anxiously into the face of its master as it unstuck pads and rolled them up along their wires. This was all very wrong. By now Timothy ought to be having breakfast and should certainly have taken his pills. They still sat in their china dish. The robot considered feeding them directly to its master, it would need to remove the mask from his mouth first.

A voice came out of the corridor: “That damn robot’s awake again. No, I don’t know how. It bloody well tasered me this time – seriously. I’ve got a lump the size of an orange on my head,” the footsteps drew nearer, “No – from falling. Just get someone here now. Oh my god.” The woman from the bathroom walked into the bedroom as the robot tugged free the tube from Timothy’s throat. “I’ve got to go.”

She snapped the phone shut and stood nervously in the doorway, her eyes torn between the old man, the robot and the silent equipment. The little robot froze and stared at her. The stun gun was back in the kitchen. The robot whirred forwards, straight off the bed and bounced onto the floor, keeping its balance as it rushed to the door. The woman panicked and seized the walking cane which stood beside the door. The robot swerved to get past her legs but she swung the cane hard across the front of her body.

The wheeled robot flew across the room, smacking into the wall where something cracked loudly and it fell, twisted, to the floor. In its final moments the robot watched the woman tear his master’s sheets off and urgently pound his chest with her hands. Timothy wouldn’t have liked that, not at all. He would be needing his pills. The robot tried to get back up, but the movement separated something inside and its little mind became dark.