Bonabot by Robert Levett-Millett

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

When we at 1s and 0s launched our annual ‘Shed Bots’ competition 11 years ago, we did not anticipate the sheer volume, quality and creativity of the machines you, our dear readers, would send in. Over the past decade and a bit, we’ve been bowled over year after year at the machines you’ve blessed us with. All in the name of spurring technological progression and a week’s all-inclusive holiday to someplace in Lincolnshire.

However not every bot is built equal. We have a few that just aren’t up to the high standards of our prize-winning entrants. They might have a few bugs, they might be a bit aesthetically displeasing, or they simply might be a bit dull. This year saw the creation of the least equal bot ever sent to in to our humble tech magazine. Marvin Beauchamp of Crawley’s ‘Bonabot’: possibly the worst constructed and most horribly named piece of electronics we’ve ever had the displeasure of reviewing.

At 1s and 0s, we take pride in the rigorous and thorough testing processes we use to give you, our dear readers, the best idea of what you’re spending your hard-earned cash on. Because of this, I have had to endure the torturous experience of living with Bonabot for the last month. The result of which has been insomnia, frequent calls to my therapist in the small hours and a brand-new smoking habit.

Bonabot is intended to be your run of the mill household assistant. With one notable quirk. He has the personality of the deceased French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonabot’s hardware appears to be an amalgamation of parts taken from long obsolete vacuum cleaners and white goods. His software is evidently characterised by one of those bootlegged home-made personalities of the deceased. In case the process of uploading the personalities of your deceased loved ones to robots hadn’t been controversial enough, you can now have your very own version of the great general himself, albeit riddled with adware and broken streams of consciousness.

Upon bringing Bonabot home, I tried to break him in easy. I gave him the simple task of making me a cup of tea. “BON!” he yelled and whizzed off into the next room. All that came from that room was the horrible clattering of his plastic case as he slammed into the coffee table. A sound that would later become commonplace. He did not make tea. Whether it was his undexterous, spindly metal arms that prevented him from making it or his poor programming preventing him from doing anything useful, I quickly learned that he would not be much use as an assistant. But perhaps he’d be a comforting militaristic presence. Like a housecat with a pertinence to artillery-based warfare.

Bonabot has an English dictionary. But employs it with great inefficiency. Most of our conversations consist of him whirring into the room on his tiny wheels and yelling at me in garbled French followed by raucous laughter. I’ve learned that with Bonabot, you must play along and pretend you understood. If you react wrongly, he gets upset and writes terrible novellas on any flat surface he can find. Our conversations were made doubly tedious by the fact that every now and then his voice would change in both tone and volume and bellow “USE PROMOCODE BOTS AT THE CHECKOUT AND GET 10% OFF YOUR FIRST 6 MONTHS OF SUBSCRIPTION TO AUDIBLE”.

This story was originally published by Bandit Fiction as part of the Bandit Fiction Presents… series of digital issues. These issues remain freely available, and by purchasing one, you’ll be supporting us to continue doing what we love doing: bringing the best works from new and emerging writers to the masses.

Bonabot has trouble climbing stairs. Indeed, he has trouble doing anything but elevation is especially tricky. He drags his flimsy body up step by step. The struggle is horrendous to both watch and listen to. Oddly, he employs some level of stealth at night. He somehow manages to climb the stairs without waking me. He creeps into my room quietly enough to send me into cardiac arrest when I finally awake and see those cold, glowing blue eyes looking over me and that ridiculous hat. The first time he woke me I yelped. He didn’t react. He just whispered that the Prussians were coming and we’d hold them at the bridge. I thanked him. Hoping he would leave. But he just stood over my bed in silence until the morning when he tumbled gracelessly down the stairs.

The second time he woke me was perhaps the most memorable. In the middle of the night I was stirred by the cold metallic prodding of his hand on my cheek. I looked up into his face. In a sensual voice and comical French accent, he whispered, “Sleep now Josephine.” He then placed his cold hand over my face. This was disconcerting in many ways.

One of which being that my name is actually Craig. As odd as this all was, it got odder. He then clambered on to my bed. If I were to describe a night being spooned by a mechanised 19th century statesman, I would call it ‘long’.

As all-round terrible as Bonabot is, I feel attached to him. Hence why after he went haywire and sped out of the front door into the path of an oncoming lorry, I have been attempting to reassemble him. He’s inept, illogical, tragic, flawed and ugly. He’s the most human robot I’ve ever encountered. So, thank you Mr Beauchamp of Crawley. Your entry to our competition was an absolute insult and you are far from in contention to win. But be proud that you have made something so beautiful. Please never contact us again.

About The Author

Rob writes in his free time primarily exploring the themes of history, politics and the general futility of everything. He is currently working on an anthology of alt-history short stories. Although presently studying for an MA in international security, he dreams of one day making a living from his hobby.

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