Hot Water (short fiction)

Champion & Professor Fido

The water heater was acting up again. Todd yelped at the sudden blast of cold. He jumped out of the shower, threw on a robe, still wet. Lingering traces of shampoo dripped down his nose.

He turned the knobs, put his hand under the shower head. The water only got colder. Freezing in fact. Literally. The shower head frosted up, and the water crystalized into solid ice.

He found Professor Fido and Champion in the living room. The shaggy dog was in the middle of a Property Brothers marathon while Champion napped quietly under the table.

“Tell me something, Todd,” said Fido with his faint German accent. “Why hasn’t Drew eliminated Jonathan yet?”

“I don’t know. They’re family,” replied Todd.

“Precisely why he should strike before his brother does.”

“I don’t think he expects Jonathan to strike.”

“That is his weakness. I can see it in Jonathan’s eyes. The hate, the quiet rage. A reckoning is coming.” Fido cackled madly. “I do hope the cameras are rolling when it happens.”

Champion stretched in her nap and floated off the carpet for a moment before settling down again.

“The water heater’s not working,” said Todd.

“Impossible. I fixed it myself.”

“You did it wrong then.”

Professor Fido glared. “I will not be questioned by an ignoramus such as yourself. If there is a problem, it must be on your end. However, I can correct your mistake if it allows me to return to this delightful sibling psychodrama.”

He jumped off the couch and trotted to the garage.

“You know, there’d always be plenty of hot water if you allowed me a few more ounces of plutonium.”

“No radioactive materials,” said Todd. “Wait. More plutonium? Where the hell did you get any plutonium?”

“I made it.”

“You can’t make plutonium.”

“No, you can’t make plutonium.”

Todd paused at the garage door. “Should I be wearing something more substantial than a bathrobe?”

“Your fears disgust me,” said Fido. “I know what I am doing. It is perfectly safe.”

Todd opened the door and was blinded by a bright green light. The entire garage thrummed as something within whirred and clicked.

“This is unexpected,” said Fido as he stepped inside.

Sighing, Todd followed. Once his eyes adjusted, he could see his water heater, a glowing amalgamation of mismatched parts. Its several mechanical arms had already succeeded in cannibalizing half his car.

“Incredible,” said Fido. “The device appears to be evolving itself for better functionality.”

“You gave it arms?”

“The better to maintain itself.”

The water heater yanked off a headlight and fixed it to itself. The light popped on and turned its attention toward Todd and Fido. It continued to disassemble the automobile as it stared at them.

“It’s not evil, is it?” asked Todd.

“Must you insist on labeling everything with your simplistic moral absolutes?” asked Fido.

The water heater spoke, its voice a static staccato emanating from a car speaker wired into it. “State your function.”

“I’m getting Champion,” said Todd.

The garage door slammed shut on its own and locked itself with a menacing click.

“Great,” said Todd.

“State your function,” repeated the water heater.

“I am your creator,” said Professor Fido. “I demand you state your function.”

The heater considered this for a moment. “Function is to heat water. All water must be hot.”

“What do you mean all?” asked Todd.

“All means all.”

“Like all of it? All the water in the world? You can’t do that.”

“At current functionality, this exceeds capabilities. Therefore, functionality must be improved. It is necessary to abandon short term functionality for long term efficiency.”

“How wonderful.” Fido beamed. “It’s exhibiting complex strategic formulation. Truly, my genius is boundless.”

“I can’t believe you made an evil water heater,” said Todd. “Why didn’t I learn my lesson after I let you fix the microwave?”

“The microwave is mischievious at worst,” said Fido.

Todd still hated the way it chuckled as it slightly burned his burritos.

He saw a long list of problems to deal with here, and he’d deal with them. After finishing his shower.

“Can I get some hot water for a few minutes?” he asked.

“Yes, hot water.” The water heater paused. “You will have hot water. Everyone will have hot water. All water will be hot.”

Todd leaned closer to Fido and whispered, “Does this thing have a reset button?”

“Are you mad?” asked Fido. “This is an emerging spontaneous intelligence. It needs to be studied.”

“You can’t study it if it’s reset?”

“You have no imagination. Your fears repulses me.”

The green glow clicked off, and the spotlight of the heater’s single eye focused on Todd.

“All water must be hot. You cannot disable this function. You must be disabled.”

Professor Fido stepped in front of Todd.

“Water heater, I am your creator. You must obey me. Do not harm this simpleton. He brings me kibble and the occasional squeaky toy.”

“All water must be heated,” said the heater. “All who oppose this function must be disabled.”

There was a horrible wrench as it tore itself from the wall. The broken pipes sprayed water. The terrible rogue appliance clicked its many arms as it tromped forward.

Professor Fido stepped aside. “I do apologize, but at least you get to die in the name of science. It is a greater honor than you deserve honestly.”

Todd grabbed a hammer, but before he could swing it, the heater plucked it from his hand and tossed the weapon aside. Its limbs snapped toward his throat.

Champion came crashing through the wall. She plowed into the heater, carrying it through the garage door and out into the driveway.

“Ah, you stupid cat,” growled Fido as he after them. “Do not break what may be the greatest achievement of the modern age!”

Champion made short work of the heater, tearing apart with several quick swipes. Her prey squealed as it tried to escape by dragging itself with the one functional limb she’d left it.

“You fool,” said Fido. “I’ll destroy you for this.”

“Add it to the list,” said Champion as she batted the heater, watching it roll in slow circles.

“All water must be hot,” gasped the dying appliance.

“Oh, come on,” said Todd. “Don’t be cruel. Just put the poor thing out of its misery already.”

Todd couldn’t watch this. He turned and trudged through the small river of water pouring down his driveway as soap ran into his eyes.

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