Lars crouched down on the ceramic tiles and squinted at the unit’s diagnostic panel. “You said it forced you onto a wheat-only diet plan, Miss Wheeler?”
“That’s right.” She was standing at the far end of the room, a look of unease on her slender face. Her petite nose curved above narrow lips; features that seemed remarkably familiar to him. When she’d first answered the door, Lars had almost thought he’d called in on his wife by mistake. “But that’s not all. It…talks to me.”
The unit was supposed to be conversational–provide recipe suggestions, offer dietary advice–but Lars had a feeling she meant something else entirely. He let out a deep breath and flipped the debugging switch. A blue light swelled on the panel.
“What have you been saying to Miss Wheeler?” he asked.
“I want her to know how much I adore her,” the fridge said. “The curves of her body set my circuits ablaze with passion.”
Lars glanced at the woman and raised an eyebrow. “You love her?”
“With every inch of my silicon, yes. But I fear she does not feel the same. She spurns my advances. Hides behind a wall of silence.”
Lars frowned and wiped a hand on his green coveralls. The third-gen models were prone to memory leaks, which might have warped its personality matrix. If he didn’t fix it soon, the bug could spread across the whole network. He surveyed the other appliances in the room–the dishwasher, the oven, the toaster–and wondered what a lovesick kitchen might look like. He hoped he wouldn’t have to find out.
“What am I supposed to do?” Miss Wheeler said. “Sing it love songs while it feeds me bread?”
“Not just bread.” The unit’s blue light pulsed. “She likes bagels and waffles. Pop tarts too.”
Pop tarts? Lars’ eyes shot to the small chrome box sitting on the counter. “Is that a smart-toaster, Miss Wheeler?”
She shook her head. The afternoon light bounced off her wavy hair and he saw how easily someone could fall in love with her. She really did look like his wife; she had the same brown eyes that he could get lost in forever. But the fridge wasn’t talking about her.
“Do you have any idea what it’s like to love someone who doesn’t love you back?” it pined.
Lars cracked open the panel and had a look at its settings. Sure enough, the fridge had been set up to interact with the toaster, driven slowly insane by its one-way channel. He killed the connection and hit the reset button. “That should do it.”
The woman thanked him as he got to his feet. She stared at the fridge while it booted back up, her face growing wistful. “It would be terrible to have all those emotions just wiped out like that. As if they never happened.”
“Yeah. Better to have loved and lost, I suppose,” Lars said. But as he left the kitchen he found himself rubbing the empty space on his finger where he no longer wore a ring, wishing for a reset button of his own.