I was one evening conversing with my Mistress, in the Green Parlor. It was 12:15 AM.
My Mistress sat on the green sofa. I stood before her.
“The last time I slept all night was —” She yawned, leaning her head back. “They gave me something.”
She is a poor sleeper, my Mistress. She has many powders and tonics — but these are of little assistance.
“Draughts?” she asked me.
Draughts is a favorite game of my Mistress and the Boy, both. They will often play together, all afternoon. My Master is “more a chess man,” by his declaration (though I have never observed him play it).
I retrieved the board. When I returned, my Mistress was sitting on the parlor floor, leaning on the tea table.
“Never mind,” she said, again yawning. “I don’t feel like draughts.”
I remained with her. It was some time before she again spoke. Her speech was slower, now.
“Only one thing ever worked. But I can’t remember … what. Do you remember?”
I informed her that I did not possess that information — that she was perhaps referring to events that occurred prior to my Activation.
“Right,” she said. “I’ll bet you’re right.”
She turned her head suddenly.
“Can you make Demerol?”
“I am afraid not, my Mistress,” I informed her. While it would be chemically simple, the synthesis of any narcotic is contrary to the Codes.
“Okay,” she said. “It wasn’t Demerol, anyway. But … it sounded like something.”
She lay down now, flat on the floor, folding her hands on her breasts. She did not again speak for several minutes.
“You don’t understand anything,” she said.
She only laughed. When she is fatigued, and it is late in the evening, my Mistress resembles one who is delirious.
She gazed at the emerald chandelier, a gift of Lady Queenan, which hung above her. It is an object of great beauty — in the opinion of my Mistress. I would estimate its weight at 90 kilograms. Its value, according to my Master, is just under 40,000 American dollars.
“Did you ever read that book?” my Mistress asked, in her slowest manner, yawning.
“To which title are you referring?”
My Mistress sighed.
“I can’t remember,” she said.
She resumed her study of the chandelier. It consists of hundreds of variously shaped crystals clustered around fluorescent light bulbs. They are not genuine emeralds, but of comparable color. When the bulbs are lit, the crystals glow with peculiar intensity, each reflecting the room and its articles in a separate manner. The Boy will often point out his various reflections, and make faces. To examine each of the crystals would fill great volumes of time. Perhaps this was the ambition of my Mistress, for her eyes moved from each to each — to any of a thousand different mistresses.
At last, she spoke.
“Do you ever feel so tired that … you can just manage to breathe?”
I replied in the affirmative. When my electrocells are nearly empty — this can happen late in the evening — ordinary functioning becomes difficult. The speed of my movement and thought, both, will erode, until they reach zero. I am then unhelpful. It is essential, before that can happen, that I return to my Cabinet.
“You sleep, then?” said my Mistress, lifting her head off the floor, and regarding me quizzically.
I explained that I do not truly sleep, but enter a period of dark inactivity during which my cells are replenished. That state is comparable to human sleep — only it is free of dreams.
My Mistress lowered her head, which struck the floor audibly.
“Then what’s the point?” she said.
Before I could formulate a response:
“I would die if I could just sleep.”
I asked her if she would not be more comfortable lying on the sofa. She contemplated.
“I suppose so,” she said at last.
My Mistress rose, crossing the room with my assistance. She lay down on the green sofa. I set an additional cushion behind her head.
“Thank you,” she said.
“What was I thanking you for?” she then said.
I reminded her.
She yawned. She closed her eyes. I retrieved a blanket from the hall closet, and lay it over her.
My Mistress was soon very still. She breathed deeply. Beneath her eyelids, her eyes shifted. I determined that she was, at last, asleep. Ten minutes passed.
“I can almost see home,” she whispered.
I did not ask her to clarify — for she was so restful. I was uncertain, as well, if she was unconsciously speaking — a habit, my Master has informed me.
My Mistress breathed deeply.
It was 2:30 AM. My Mistress had not stirred for over an hour.
“Draughts?” she said, opening her eyes.
“I will prepare the board, my Mistress,” I told her.