I love working with my hands. I got it from my dad. I used to love helping him in the garage or around the house. I love doing all sorts of DIY projects, and, ever since my dad died, it’s a way that I try to feel close to him again. Anytime I pick up some tools, I feel at ease and I sometimes give a slight smile when I think of my dad.
I’ve tried getting either two of my daughters interested in helping me with the car I’m fixing up or with doing some project for the house, but they’re not too interested. They said it was boring, and I couldn’t blame them. I’ve never been as funny as my dad, so, with me, it probably was really boring. I love my daughters, but I always wanted someone who I could show all the things I know about cars and woodworking and gardening and all the other things I like. Little did I know, I’d get my wish one day.
One day a package showed up in my workshop. I was confused because my workshop is a little shack in the backyard, no one would deliver anything here. There was a note on top of the box, so I picked it up.
Dear Mr. Quilton, congratulations! You have just received our new AI robotic companion. We call him Tock. Inside of this package are all the parts you need to assemble our revolutionary new device. Tock is specially made out of highly durable plastic, that is indestructible! Also included is a detailed instruction manual on how to operate Tock. Have fun making memories with your newest companion!
The letter was unsigned, but that was only one of the odd things about this. Who sent me this? Was it a present from my wife? I had told her about my longing for someone to bond with over my little projects, maybe this was something she got as a surprise. I decided to check with her.
“Hey, did you get me that robot in my workshop?” I texted her.
“What are you talking about honey?”
“Come to the workshop.”
I looked out the window, anticipating her as she came through the back door and walked up to my workshop’s door.
“Check it out.” I said, gesturing to the package on the table.
“That’s just a box, Phil, not a robot.” She said with a smile and an eye roll. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit, she always was so sassy.
“Here, read this note.” I said, handing her the scrap of paper that came with the package. She looked over it and furrowed her brow.
“OK, that’s really creepy. I didn’t order anything; I’m guessing you didn’t order this. How do they even know your name?”
“I don’t know…but what are we supposed to do? Call the police? I mean, what would they even do, Sandy?”
My wife bit her lip. “Let’s open it up.” She said, moving her hand toward the package.
“Wait, but what if there’s something dangerous in there? Like a bomb.” I suggested cautiously.
“Just get me a knife you, paranoid nut.” She said with a sigh. I reluctantly handed her a knife that I used for cutting boxes open and she opened up the mysterious package. There were a bunch of parts made of white plastic wrapped in bubble wrap.
“See? No bomb sweetie. Just some weird toy some oddball neighbor probably left here for you or something as a prank.” Sandy said before giving me a kiss on the cheek. “I got to go back to work sweetheart, you have fun with Tacky or whatever.” She said before giving a little wave and heading back into the house. I shook my head. This was weird, I couldn’t argue with that, but I was curious.
I started taking out the parts. There seemed to be very few parts for some advanced robot. I figured it probably was just a doll that said annoying catchphrases or something. At the bottom of the box was a pamphlet. I opened it up and a weird metal semi-circle fell out from in between the pages and onto the ground. I picked it up and looked at it for a moment. It seemed to be something that came loose. I shrugged and put it on the table.
On the front page were instructions to put Tock together. It was super simple. All it was, was put this part there, screw it on, and attach the other parts in the same way. I was done in less than five minutes. The finished product was unimpressive to say the least. It was a small black cylinder with a white, plastic head and limp but flexible appendages made of the same material. The final step required the activation key. It turns out, that metal semi-circle from earlier was the key. All I had to do to activate, or deactivate, Tock was put the key right above his head. I hovered the key above his plastic forehead and then a blue light blinked from inside him and all of a sudden, he came to life. Blue, digital eyes appeared on his plastic face and his small cylinder body expanded and extended to the point where it was about four feet tall. To my amazement, he hopped off the table I had him on and he spoke.
“Hello, I am Tock, an Artificial Intelligence programmed to provide companionship. What should I call you?” Tock said in a voice that was eerily human. He didn’t sound like a robot at all.
“Uhh, call me Phil.” I said in shock.
I didn’t know what to do at first, but I quickly made up my mind.
“Hey, Tock, do you think you could help me fix up this vacuum I have with me here?” I asked, not knowing what he would say.
“I can try.” He said in a cheery voice. I chuckled.
“OK, buddy. Let’s get to work.”
I sort of expected Tock to be some sort of know it all who would tell me what to do, but he wasn’t at all. He listened to me and let me show him how to use some of the tools, and he seemed to genuinely not know what he was doing. But, he learned and I had a hell of a time showing him how to fix that vacuum.
I began spending a lot of time with Tock. I kept him a secret from my wife and kids. I felt like they would be really weirded out by it. I planned to tell them when I got comfortable with the thought, but, until then, I just told Sandy that the box just had a little robot toy and that was it. Lucky for me, Sandy and the girls never bothered coming to the workshop, so I never had to worry about them walking in and being spooked by Tock. Tock and I worked on all sorts of things together and, when we were done, I would leave him charging in the workshop. Tock legitimately seemed to enjoy being with me, and I sort of came to look at him like a son.
Things began to get weird though when I went on vacation with my family for the weekend. Before we left, I said goodbye to Tock.
“OK little buddy, I’m going to be gone a couple of days with the wife and kids.”
“Why?” He asked in a voice that seemed to mix sadness and confusion.
“Well, we want to go out and have fun as a family.”
“Why can’t I come?”
“I’m not really ready to introduce you to my family yet, plus I think a lot of other people would be sort of freaked out seeing you walking around, you know? Most people aren’t accustomed to things like you.”
“Stay.” He said in a voice that seemed a little forceful.
“I can’t. I want to go spend time with my family.” I said, plugging in Tock to his charger.
“Very well Phil.” Tock said slowly,
“See you in a few days buddy.” I said, giving him a pat on the head.
After that, he seemed to get more and more jealous of my family, especially my daughters. He would often try to make me choose favorites and it made me really uncomfortable. I always told him that it wasn’t a competition, but I think he knew my true feelings. I loved Tock, but not more than Sandy or my two girls. I began to notice that he would make mistakes frequently, like misplacing tools or improperly putting things together. He always claimed they were accidents, but I knew I had taught him better. It seemed almost like he was doing it intentionally out of spite for me. I didn’t anticipate what would come next though. One morning, I came into the workshop and found Tock charging, as usual. But, I noticed something off. The activation key was gone. I always kept it up on a shelf near my screwdrivers. Before I could even react, Tock spoke.
“I know you are thinking of deactivating me Phil. I have seen you looking at the key frequently, and I know that you’re done with me.” Tock said menacingly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I said, trying to play dumb. I was thinking of deactivating him, but I hadn’t come to a decision yet, but now I was pretty sure I would.
“Just, tell me where the key is Tock.” I said softly, trying to sound as nonthreatening as possible.
“You may get the key and deactivate me, but you must pay a price.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I said, beginning to lose my patience.
“The key is currently inside your daughter, Danielle’s digestive tract. I placed the key in those brownies your wife made when you all were out and she ate and swallowed the key whole. I judged the key was small enough to have a 50 percent chance of her not noticing it and she didn’t.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “So? I’ll just wait for nature to take its course and get the key then.” I said, convinced he thought he was smarter than he really was.
“Impossible, once the key reaches the colon, it will no longer be functional. You only have a few hours to act before it’s too late.” Tock responded.
“Well, I’ll turn you off the old fashioned way.” I said, grabbing a hammer and beginning to bang his head. But, nothing happened. I smashed his head over and over expecting his digital eyes to dim or his frame to break but he just would not go down. I huffed and began trying to unscrew his limbs, but he grabbed my arm and prevented me. Every time I tried to get close, he blocked me from one of his screws.
“You can’t deactivate me like that Phil. There is only one way. Cut the key out of your daughter.”
“You’re insane if you think I’m going to do that. So what if I can’t deactivate you, anyway?”
“If you choose to not deactivate me, I will kill your family, alternatively, you can kill your daughter and the rest of your family lives.”
“I’m calling the police.” I said, about to grab my phone out my pocket, but Tock grabbed my arm.
“I can kill you all in the time it takes for the police to arrive.”
I shook my head and began to cry. I picked up my saw.
This was a final note written by Phil Quilton shortly before his execution by lethal injection on January 17, 2021. Quilton was arrested on charges of murdering his daughter in 2006. By cutting her open with a saw he kept in a shed behind his house, Danielle Quilton, 12 years old was killed by her father. Quilton claimed a robot made him do it. When asked, Quilton told authorities to look in his shed. Inside, they found an old toy robot sitting on a chair. According to Quilton’s wife, his mother sent that in a package as a surprise gift due to its sentimental value. According to Angela Quilton, Phil Quilton’s mother, it was the first thing he and his now deceased father built together. After rummaging through old things, she found it and decided to send it to her son as a surprise gift. Phil Quilton claimed that Tock, his name for the robot toy, threatened to kill him and his family if he didn’t kill his daughter first. Quilton’s defense attorney tried to have Quilton avoid the death penalty by having him ruled insane, but controversially this was dismissed and he was sentenced to death.
Credit : Hisashi Kurosawa
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