"Aoi, I told you to put away your games and clean up!" Haruko yelled from across the house.
Aoi winced at the sound of her mother’s voice. It was a lazy summer afternoon, and she had spent it the same way she'd spent every other day of college summer vacation: Sitting at home, playing video games.
"Uhh, sorry! I'll do it later!" she yelled back.
Her mother's nagging grew worse every day. Not that one could blame her; Aoi was a mess. The living room was littered with empty plates and discarded candy wrappers. Schoolbooks and untouched printouts were sitting in piles around the couch.
"You always say that, and I end up having to do it!"
"Sorry! I'll clean up later, promise!"
"Hmph," Haruko sighed. It was an exchange that played out daily. She had all but given up on getting her daughter to pick up after herself.
Haruko turned away and picked up her bag. "...Well, I'm going out on some errands. Look after the house while I'm gone, and for god's sake at least throw away some of that trash."
With that unhelpful comment, Aoi's mother exited the house.
"Phew, finally. Time to relax..." Aoi breathed a sigh of relief and unpaused her game. The thought of cleaning never even entered her mind.
* * * *
A few hours later, the summer sun had set. Aoi heard a shout from the front of the house.
"Aoi? Help me carry this!"
Hearing the unusual strain in her mother's voice, Aoi paused her game and went to check the door. What she found there was Haruko, dragging a very large cardboard box over the threshold.
“Whoa. What’s in the box?” she asked.
“You’ll never believe what happened,” her mother replied, wiping the sweat from her brow. “You know those high-tech cleaning robots that have been popular recently? Your aunt got one for her birthday, but just last week she won another in a supermarket lottery!”
“Wow, some people get all the luck.”
Aoi recalled seeing a demonstration of the ‘bots on a daytime talk show. They really were impressive: They could tidy up rooms, wash dishes, take out the garbage, and even pack luggage! The talk about algorithms and A.I. was too complicated for her to understand, not to mention boring. But she knew this was some seriously expensive stuff.
They both pushed the heavy box into the living room. As her mother paused to catch her breath, Aoi finally got a good look at it.
For a cardboard box, it was pretty industrial-looking. Apart from the prize stickers and ads that the supermarket attached to it, there were no obvious markings for brand or manufacturer. The cardboard itself felt tough and unyielding as she pressed on it. And at 75cm, it was half her height!
Finally recovered, Haruko left the box at the entrance and headed to the bathroom to wash up.
“You know I’m no good with machines,” she shouted back. “Could you get it working for me? From the looks of this room, now would be the perfect time for a test run.”
“Oh, yeah, I hadn’t… gotten around to cleaning yet.” Aoi feigned guilt the best she could.
But her mother didn’t fall for it. “Luckily for you, it’s supposed to have an automatic function. You’ll never have to worry about cleaning again! Now you can just sit on your butt for the rest of your life.”
Aoi could tell it was an insult, but she didn’t care. It was her summer vacation and she could spend it any way she liked.
Haruko poked her head out once more. “Oh! Before I forget, your aunt invited me to the hot springs tomorrow. We’re staying overnight so I’ll need you to look after the house again.”
“Aww, why wasn’t I invited?” Aoi whined. What was the point of a rich Aunt if she never bought you anything?
“Sorry dear, she only had one extra pass.”
Haruko ignored the complaining and eventually retired to her room, leaving Aoi alone.
Aoi couldn’t help but be curious. She paused her game and searched for a boxcutter. After a bit of a struggle she had it open and was digging through the packing peanuts in search of the device. One by one she pulled out a charging cable, an instruction manual, warranty info, and… something really heavy!
Using both hands she lifted the object out of the box and dropped it on the floor. It looked like an anthropomorphic bunny rabbit covered in short pink fur. It was cute, in a boring normal-cute kind of way that didn’t interest her at all. She turned it upright and saw that it came up to about her knees. Was this the cleaning robot? The only other things in the box were some cleaning implements surrounded by styrofoam – a broom, some sort of beige tape, and the like.
Aoi grabbed the instruction manual and started reading. “Setup is simple! Just plug in the charging cable. When it is finished charging, it will accept all commands from its owner and follow them to perfection. Clean! Sweep! Mop! It does it all!”
Aoi skimmed the rest of the pages, but didn’t find anything interesting. Besides, the small print was hurting her eyes.
So basically, I just need to charge this thing? Seems easy enough, she thought. Running her hands over the robot, she found a charging port on the nape of its neck. She plugged it into the wall and returned to her game.
* * * *
Haruko woke up bright and early to prepare for her trip.
Passing the living room, she saw Aoi sleeping on the couch. She must’ve been playing games late into the night, again… she tried not to let it bother her. That girl will learn her lesson one day or another. But before she left, she noticed the doll-like cleaning robot leaning against the wall.
It’s cuter than I expected, Haruko thought to herself. She leaned in for a closer look, only to be surprised as the robot’s eyes lit up yellow!
“GREETINGS. PLEASE BEGIN MASTER REGISTRATION,” the robot demanded in a tinny mechanical voice.
“Woooow, this is amazing!” Haruko exclaimed.
“VOICE REGISTERED. MASTER REGISTERED. GOOD MORNING, ‘Woooow, this is amazing!’,” the robot repeated.
Haruko either didn’t notice or didn’t mind the error. She swept her arms around the room. “You see this, cleaning bot? I want you to clean up this mess. I want this house to be spotless when I come home tomorrow morning.”
The robot hesitated for a moment as mechanical sounds emanated from within. Finally a short cheerful jingle played, followed by the robot’s voice. “ORDER RECEIVED: CLEAN UP THIS MESS.”
Satisfied, Haruko grabbed her bags and walked out the front door.
* * * *
As Aoi stepped out of the shower, something felt… odd. Out of place. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Pushing the thoughts from her mind, she reached down for the clothes she threw on the floor only to find them neatly folded in a pile. She was rightly creeped out now. She shook off her morning drowsiness and returned to the living room, trying to find out what was bothering her so…
That’s when it hit her.
The house was clean! Every loose piece of paper, every speck of dust, even the dishes that were in the sink – Everything was where it was supposed to be. She was so lost in wonder that she didn’t look where she was going until she felt her foot collide with something solid.
Ignoring the pain, she looked down and saw the cleaning robot.
“Did you do this, little guy?”
“Wow, it speaks, too!”
Aoi tried to shake off her nervousness. It was just a machine, nothing to be nervous about! But it a bit weird having a talking robot around all of a sudden.
“I AM CURRENTLY REGISTERED TO MASTER ‘Woooow, this is amazing!’. CURRENT ORDERS: CLEAN UP THIS MESS.”
Hearing the playback of her mother’s voice, Aoi couldn’t help but chuckle at her ineptitude. “Hah. Well, carry on.”
The robot responded with a voice identical to the first time as it tottered away.
“So this is the cutting edge of technology, huh.”
Aoi mused to herself as she walked back to the living room. With the cleaning done, it was time to chill out and play some video games! Only, the controller wasn’t on the couch where she left it. In fact, the console itself was nowhere to be found.
“What? How? Where did it go?”
Aoi searched the living room high and low. It wasn’t in the cabinet, it wasn’t back in her room…
Finally, she found it stuffed in a box with other assorted things.
“Ugh, now I have to plug everything back in…”
Clearly it was the cleaning robot’s fault. She’ll have to make some adjustments to it later, but there was no point in getting frustrated now. She’d saved last night so it’s not like she lost any progress. She dragged the console back to the living room and got it hooked up once more.
It was now well past noon. Aoi turned on the console and heard the game’s signature title music.
“Alright, let’s get this party started-“
With a flash, the television went blank. She stared in shock until the cleaning bot scurried out from behind the TV, carrying the now-unplugged cables.
“Hey, hey, hey! What do you think you’re doing!?”
“CLEANING UP THIS MESS.”
Aoi tried to hide her frustration. The thing was only doing its job, but it didn’t have to unplug her game while she was still playing it!
“Please stop touching the game console.”
“What do you mean, no!?”
Ignoring Aoi’s words, the robot continued pulling out cables.
This robot was a tyrant, and it had to be stopped. Aoi sprang into action. She searched its chassis for a power switch but found none. It was way too heavy to think about picking it up, and its fuzzy exterior showed no seams or cracks. The manual was unhelpful too.
“This is ridiculous…” Aoi sighed. Her day was quickly going down the drain. By now, the robot had already finished putting away the game console.
“Be careful with that thing, you hear me?” she mumbled in defeat.
Even so, she knew she didn’t have to worry. She watched it work - its arms were surprisingly dexterous, and it moved quite fast.
“I guess… I’ll do my homework.”
What an unfortunate turn of events! Oh well, she was going to have to do it someday. She sat down at the table and tried to remember her 18th century history. But to her surprise, her bookbag was nowhere to be found. Her notes were missing too! She searched high and low, until something hanging out of a garbage bag caught her eye…
“No way!” Aoi cried out. It was her bookbag alright, along with all her notes. Even after fishing them out of the bag they smelled foul.
Aoi had finally had enough.
An intelligent person probably would’ve stayed calm here and thought things through.
But Aoi was not an intelligent person.
“What do you think of this, you piece of junk!”
Aoi began grabbing trash from the bag and throwing it around the room. The robot ran back and forth as wadded tissues, old newspapers, and uneaten sweets littered the floor.
As fast as the robot was, it could only pick up the garbage one or two pieces at a time. Aoi amused herself with its struggle.
Occasionally, the robot appeared to stop and look back at Aoi and the garbage bag. But she wouldn’t stand for that.
“I didn’t tell you to stop! Hah-!” She gave it a hard kick to get it moving again. “Ouch. Damn, you really are heavier than you look.”
Eventually she grew tired of this and sat back down on the couch. She turned on the TV and began opening a container of pudding.
“If it weren’t for that stupid robot, I’d be playing games all day. Ugh.”
She kicked back, her mind full of resentment. Meanwhile, the cleaning robot had stopped picking up the trash and turned to Aoi, who was lying motionless on the couch. The room was still filthy but Aoi didn’t seem to mind. Sitting in her stained T-shirt and disheveled shorts, she fit right in.
To an outside observer, she might look like just another piece of garbage.
“Hey, don’t stop now! You’re not finished cleaning!” Aoi shouted and threw her half-empty pudding cup at the silent robot. It still didn’t move. Aoi wondered if it was out of power, but the LEDs in its eyes were still lit. Nothing seemed out of order.
“C’mon, what’s the matter with you? Broken already?” Aoi walked over to it for a closer look.
“No? Then what’s the hold up?”
“MASTER’S ORDERS WERE TO ‘CLEAN UP THIS MESS.’”
Aoi leaned in closer, having trouble hearing it over the sound of the TV. She could hear the robot’s servos whirring, along with something else, but she ignored it. She turned to go back to the living room only to see the robot standing in her way.
“Move it!” Aoi yelled and raised her hand to swat it aside – only to hear a strange whizzing noise and feel her fingers enveloped in something cold and sticky.
She looked down. Packing tape had been wound around all her fingers, binding them together. She recognized it as the same kind that was in the box with the cleaning robot. She wouldn’t know it, but this industrial-strength packing tape was much stronger than the silver duct tape she was used to.
“Wha - get this stuff off of me!” Aoi swung wildly but the bunny-like robot easily avoided her punch. It dodged to her side and fired a strand of tape from a built-in dispenser on its upper body, completely covering her hand. And now it was making moves towards her other hand!
“Not this time!” Aoi pulled back her hand at the last minute and saw the tape hit empty air.
“CLEANING UP THIS MESS.”
“Dammit!” she exclaimed.
The rabbit pounced on Aoi, firing with deadly precision. She kicked away, but not fast enough to dodge the thick line of tape that wrapped around her upper body. Her arms were now bound to her sides!
This thing is totally busted! Aoi thought. It must think I’m part of the house to be cleaned or something!
She hit the ground running. She felt a pain shoot through her right foot as she landed, but had more important things to deal with right now.
“Dammit, I can’t peel it off!” Aoi struggled with her non-dominant hand to remove the tape from her right. It was too tough to tear, and she couldn’t even find a seam to start peeling from! The tape around her body held fast as well. She flexed her arms but could tell it wasn’t going to break.
Aoi realized she wasn’t being followed anymore.
Where did it go!?
She looked around, but the robot was nowhere to be seen. Was it… hiding from her? The TV drowned out any sounds it might be making.
It could be anywhere, she realized.
More silence. She heightened her senses, waiting for a movement.
Tape suddenly shot out from behind Aoi! It coiled around her ankles and then pulled tight, drawing them together. She turned to look, but the robot was already in front of her! She tried to attack it with her right hand, but with her body already taped up, her reaction time was slower than before. It skillfully wrapped her right wrist in tape and bound it back to her upper arm, forcing her to bend at the elbow.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Aoi’s impatience did nothing to help the situation. With her legs bound, she had to struggle to stay upright. “Wait! Stop!”
If the bunny could hear her, it wasn’t responding. Instead, it was going to work on the rest of her body! The robot jumped to and fro, leaving a trail of packing tape as it ran circles around Aoi. Before she knew it, her torso was totally wrapped in the sticky stuff. Her legs were covered down to her thighs and strands of tape hung loosely from her limbs.
Aoi begged with tears in her eyes. She was finally starting to realize the peril she was in. The only parts of her body she could move was her left wrist and hand. Unable to stand, she slowly fell to the carpeted floor with a thud.
She was stuck. Bound like an Egyptian mummy. Wriggling on the floor like a caterpillar.
“You can let me go now! I’m sorry!”
But the robot did not know forgiveness.
“CLEANING UP THIS MESS.”
It stretched out a length of tape before Aoi’s pleading eyes.
“Please, no! I already can’t move anymore! Isn’t this enough!?”
Much to her surprise, the robot stopped, as if considering the question. It began to crumple the duct tape into a ball.
Has it finally stopped? Am I forgiven? Aoi hoped.
But the robot showed no reaction. Instead, it continued to unwind tape and crumple it up, forming a large and larger wad. Finally it grew to about the size of Aoi’s fist. The robot drew closer to her face.
“W-wait what are you –“
“CLEANING UP THIS MESS.”
“I thought- MMGPH!”
The sticky mass was forced deep into Aoi’s mouth, followed by a few large strips to cover her lips. She pushed with her tongue, trying to ignore the disgusting taste of the adhesive, but it wouldn’t budge.
Not content with gagging her, the robot haphazardly wound tape all over her head. By the time it was finished, only her right eye and nose were free.
Lying on the floor, she could see the robot leave towards another room. It returned carrying a large cardboard box which it set it down in front of her. Aoi recognized it immediately. It was the box the robot came in. The one that was about half Aoi’s height.
“MMHN! MMHN! MMHN!”
Aoi cried out in fear, though she didn’t yet know why.
“CLEANING UP THIS MESS.”
The inhuman voice of the doll rang in Aoi’s ears. It grabbed her with its delicate-yet-powerful arms and began folding her into a compact ball – bringing her knees to her chest, tucking her arms in – and securing her with even more tape.
No! No, no, no! Let me go!
As she was pulled tighter and tighter, her limbs started to hurt and breathing became difficult.
The robot rolled her trussed-up form roughly across the floor until they arrived at the box. It picked her up with ease and tossed her into the styrofoam-filled container.
Someone, anyone, help me!
Aoi rampaged within the cardboard box, but the tape that restrained her stood fast, and the box showed no sign of buckling. But the robot surprised her again when it appeared overhead – and began throwing trash on top of her!
Aoi’s view was soon blocked by wadded tissues, old newspapers, and half-eaten sweets. With her mouth blocked she had no choice but to breathe through her nose. The scent of stale cakes, banana peels, and who-knows-what-else filled her senses. Finally, everything went dark as she heard the lid of the box being closed. Followed by the sound of many pieces of packing tape securing it shut.
So that it could not be opened.
So that it would not bend or break.
So that nothing inside, might get outside.
Firmly, strictly, packaged.
The house had been cleaned up, just as the robot’s master had ordered…
* * * *
Haruko came home the next day to find the house sparkling clean.
“This is wonderful!”
She took a look at all the stuffed garbage bags that had been collected and thanked the cleaning robot for its hard work. There was no sign of Aoi, but it was summer vacation. She was probably out with her friends somewhere.
The robot hurried past her, carrying a bin to the outdoor garbage collection area.
Looking around, she noticed a large box that was wrapped in tape from top to bottom. She had a feeling that she had seen it, somewhere before…
But before she could think about it any further, the cleaning robot picked it up and hurried out the door with it. She noted that it was the day for collecting recyclables, not burnable trash. But one look at the cute little bunny-robot carrying the box away removed any doubts from her mind. It probably knew what it was doing.
* * * *
CLEANING ROBOT MANUAL
Simply charge and go!
Once it has been powered up, it will register its master’s voice!
It cleans, dusts, tidies up, and even compacts garbage for easy storage!
Also includes anti-crime features! Leave your house with confidence!
*Note: Only the first person to use the robot after activation will be recognized as the master.
It will not accept requests from others.
**Please note that we cannot be held responsible for any actions performed by the cleaning robot.
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