June has been a good month for me. Looking through my short
story publications, I realize that a lot of them were published in June. I’d
like to pull this one up and post it here for you. It came out in the June 9th
issue of “King’s River Life Magazine” in 2012. It’s billed as a mystery/horror
story. I think it’s pretty funny.
|My own little Jeeves, dearly departed|
I’ll give you a bit of background. I’m a HUGE Roomba fan. My
son bought me my first one quite a few years ago. By 2012, its battery had died
a sad death. It turned out that replacing the rechargeable battery would be
nearly as expensive as buying a new one, and other parts, mostly the plastic
ones, were getting worn. I ended up buying a new one, but before that, had a
weird dream. The Roomba was dead, but would occasionally come to life. It was a
little scary! This story came of that.
(Oh yes, I got married in June too. We spent a little over
50 years together, so that turned out to be a good move.)
: An Original Mystery/Horror Short Story
The Takeover by mystery author Kaye George has never
before been published.
When Jeeves quit after working only twenty minutes of
vacuuming one sunshiny spring morning, I didn’t think it was that big a deal.
Maybe he hadn’t gotten fully charged at his comfy docking station. I picked the
dear little thing up and placed him carefully back at his home. His tiny orange
heart started beating, telling me he was happily charging. All was well with
the world. I was so glad I had a Roomba.
The next day he started out across the kitchen floor as
usual. He made those endearing beep-beep-beep backing-up noises that made him
sound like a piece of toy construction equipment. But this time he cleaned a
few feet of the floor, then stopped, crying, “Uh oh!”
“What’s the matter, my darling Jeeves?” I asked. “Is
something wrong with your charger?”
On my hands and knees, I could see the charger was plugged
solidly into the outlet and his belly. I got up and went to my home office to
look online for answers. I found a few workarounds and fiddled with him and his
battery for awhile, but nothing worked. I was stumped. Was he dying? I decided
to let him charge overnight again.
The following morning he wasn’t in the corner where he
He was next to the kitchen table, sitting quietly on a
section of newspaper I’d left on the floor beside my chair. When I’d read the
paper late the night before, I’d been dismayed to read that another zombie
uprising was expected. The last one hadn’t happened very close by, two states
away, but this next one was expected in a nearby town. The graves there had
shown signs of upheaval. The uprisings were increasing in frequency, according
to the article. On the stroke of midnight, a cemetery would erupt, zombies
would emerge from the ruptured graves, sit up, and struggle to their feet to
wreak havoc on the nearest humans. The papers displayed images of the carnage
almost every day.
I didn’t like reading about an infestation so close, but I
hadn’t been able to avoid the headlines, or the talk in the line at the grocery
store. Not only were formerly human zombies taking over small towns,
farmhouses, and abandoned shopping malls, a food processor in Chicago had
leaped off the counter and pureed a cat, a beloved household pet. The bereaved
owner called it a zombie food processor. Strange things were going on.
Lifting Jeeves gently, I snatched the newspaper and crumpled
it into the wastebasket.
Jeeves said “Uh oh,” when I picked him up. It was one of his
standard programmed noises–for when he was stuck. But he refused to vacuum.
Again. I was getting fed up with the little bugger. I went into my office and
got online again to see how much a newer model would cost. Maybe I could afford
another one. Jeeves seemed to be dying. I supposed I should mourn his loss.
He’d been such a fine cleaner. The price of a new battery was almost as much as
a new machine. My kitchen floor, and the others in the house, too, were getting
dirtier by the day.
The next day, I paged through the paper, averting my eyes
from the lurid pictures of the zombie carnage.
After breakfast I threw
the paper on the floor, as usual, to remind myself to take it to the recycle
bin on my next trip to the garage, and got to work in my office at my editing
job. When I left the office for a break mid-morning, Jeeves was on top of the
newspaper again. Was he reading the damn thing?
grabbed him, maybe somewhat roughly, and got a mild shock. I shoved him back
onto his docking station, determined to take him to the trash tomorrow when I
ran my Friday errands. A low rumble emanated from him. It wasn’t a sound I’d
ever before heard from his programmed innards. For some reason, it made the
hair on the back of my neck prickle. I shook my head at my silly apprehension
and closed the door between the office and the kitchen to work that afternoon.
As I sat at the kitchen table at dinner time, I heard the
ominous, dull growling noise again. I inclined my head toward Jeeves. There
could be no mistake. It was coming from him. Maybe I should rename him Spot or
something. If he were human, or even if he were a dog or cat–at least an
animate object–I might think he was expressing anger, hostility. Maybe dismay
at his dysfunctional state. I shook off a shiver.
I told myself it must be one of the sounds he’s programmed with to show
For a few moments I continued eating. When I felt a
sucking sensation on my bare toes under the table, I looked down. Jeeves was
working away, vacuuming my feet. He’d drawn blood from my left big toe. I
slammed him onto the charger and weighed him down with my large dictionary.
I took my plate into the den and turned the TV volume up to
mask the disturbing grumbles in the kitchen.
That night, a soft whirring noise awakened me from a restless sleep. My first
thought was that the ceiling fan needed oiling. Then I felt it. Something
tugged on my hair. It pulled. Harder and harder. I switched on my bedside lamp
and tried to sit up, but couldn’t. Jeeves was eating my hair, pulling it out by
the roots. I stuffed a pillow on top of him and jerked my head away.
More hair ripped out. Blood dripped onto my sheets.
I trapped him between two pillows to avoid shock.
Using that morning’s
paper, I succeeded in wrapping him and carrying him to the trash container,
which I wheeled to the end of the driveway so the automated garbage truck could
forklift it and dump it into its hopper tomorrow.
It felt good to get rid of that unsatisfactory piece of
hardware. I took a deep breath, relieved. Maybe I would look for an old
fashioned vacuum. Most of them must be pushed, but some uprights are self-propelled.
I’d shop around.
When I returned from my mid-morning errands the next day, I
wheeled the empty trash bin back to the side of the garage and went inside. The
growling sound greeted me and Jeeves sat just inside the doorway. It was as if
he were waiting for me.
Was there no way to get rid of him? Had he climbed out of
the trash barrel? I needed to get him out of here, permanently.
A few steps into the kitchen he darted at my feet and I
tripped and went down, my feet smarting from his sting even through my tennis
He reversed and came back at me. I managed to scramble to my
feet and jump onto a kitchen chair. He butted against it, but didn’t dislodge
Atop the chair, I seemed to be safe from being shocked and vacuumed, but I
couldn’t stay there forever.
What to do? I had to get him out of the house. I realized I was breathing
heavily and my thumping heartbeat was competing with his low, menacing rumbles.
This would not do. I would not be cornered in my own home by
a piece of machinery. I wiped damp palms on my jeans and calmed myself. Putting
all my effort into making a tremendous leap, I got past Jeeves and raced to the
linen cupboard. Grabbed a large tablecloth and threw it over him. Wrapped it
around him, ignoring his muffled cries, which sounded more like pleading now
I managed to get the horrid thing into my car trunk without
a shock. I drove straight to the dump, listening to thumping and groaning from
At the entrance, I got out and approached the man in the
gatehouse. I hadn’t thought what I would say. How could I tell him I had a
rogue Roomba in the trunk?
He greeted me with a cheery smile and I thought fast.
“There’s an appliance in my trunk that I need to get rid
“I’ll get it for ya,” he said, walking to the back of the
“Be careful. I’ve been getting shocks from it.”
He paused at the closed trunk. “It’s not one of those vacuum
do-hickies, is it?”
Startled that he had guessed, I admitted it was.
“We’ve gotten a few of those in the last couple days.” He
grabbed a long handled shovel and took it and a wheelbarrow to the rear of my
car. “I should be able to get him this way.”
“How did you know–” I almost asked how he knew Jeeves was a
male, but that would sound too ridiculous.
“How do you know how to handle it?”
“After a couple shocks, I figured it out.”
I popped the trunk and he maneuvered Jeeves into the
wheelbarrow, then threw a piece of thick cloth over him. “I’ll take it from
here,” he said.
I drove off, relieved to be rid of the pest.
That night I went to bed,
secure in the knowledge that my house was rid of the alien, metal enemy.
The next morning, my friend Anna came over for coffee, as
she usually did on Saturdays. After some chat about local library funding, the
lack thereof, and the deplorable deaths in the neighboring town from the zombie
infestation, she glanced at the empty docking station.
“Did your Roomba quit working?” she asked.
“Yes, he just died. I think it might have been the battery,”
I lied. “But a new battery is so expensive.”
“That’s weird. Mine died, too, on Thursday. And my mother’s
quit working Friday.”
She looked away. “We had to get rid of them.”
“Did yours, well, attack you?” I had to know. If this was a
widespread defect, the company should be told.
She leaned toward me and lowered her voice, as if a Roomba
were nearby and might overhear. “Yes. They both shocked us. Mother fell and we
had to take her to the emergency room for the burns. She’ll be okay, but it was
upsetting to her. What with her heart and all.”
“I took Jeeves to the dump,” I said.
I reddened, realized I had revealed my pet name for him.
“Yes, that was his name.”
“Joe threw mine in the lake,” Anna said, referring to her
husband. “And mother’s, too. They didn’t have names.”
“At least we’re rid of them.”
We finished our coffee with some gossip about the new couple
in the middle of the block and the way their dog barked so much during the day,
then Anna left. I spent the rest of Saturday checking vacuum prices online and
eventually ordered one, to be delivered in a week.
Clouds gathered all day Sunday and by nighttime a gentle
rain was falling. It was lovely to fall asleep to the regular patter of
raindrops on the roof, feeling safe.
Monday morning the sun burst through the clouds when I
opened the door to fetch the newspaper from the lawn. I shook it out and
started to read the headline, but thought I heard thunder. I looked up to see
if the rain was starting again. But the sound was coming from lower, from the
I looked down to see a line of Roombas between me and my
front door. They smelled like rotten food and some trailed streamers of gray
trash behind them. One winked his glowing top light at me and I thought I
They growled and surged toward me, sparks flying from their
evil innards. As I fell, the paper flew from my hands, but I caught the words
“Zombie Roombas” in the headlines.