First chapter: Fire & Rain
Previous chapter: Dark Bath
The stench was unimaginable, and Kelsey had to fight to keep her dinner down. She couldn’t suppress a yawn, however. At its completion, the smell didn’t seem as bad anymore. Maybe she was getting used to the ghastly stuff in the tub. There seemed to be one simple solution to the mess at hand. And it could be executed much quicker than the plumber would arrive.
“R2!” she called downstairs, with Hannah still fussing over the tub. “Can you please bring your beautiful metallic ass in here?”
His name wasn’t actually R2. Kelsey preferred to call their android, Arthur, that name because she knew how much it annoyed him. She knew that he didn’t resemble the little beeping droid from the ancient Star Wars films. She also knew that Arthur wasn’t supposed to argue with his Keeper. He was online for one main reason: to make his Keeper’s life easier. That was any proper android’s goal during their existence.
Soft footsteps padded closer. Kelsey smiled sweetly when Arthur made his appearance.
“All charged up?”
“Kelsey,” began Arthur, who was clearly emulating human exasperation in his tone. “My panels are suited to run on solar energy for approximately-“
“Great. Looks like you’re all ready to go to work.” Kelsey patted him on his smooth crown. “So proud. You should be lucky your cute little button nose can’t smell a damn thing.”
“Kels, don’t bully him,” implored Hannah as she emerged from the bathroom. “You always manage to mess up his circuits. You’re bad luck to Arthur. Just let me do it.”
“Aw, gee sis, you always gotta ruin the fun.” Kelsey scrunched her face into a beautiful pout, but got no reaction. She might as well be hanging out with two robots. She kicked one fuzzy sock against the baseboard in the corridor.
“Arthur, I need you to scrub out the tub.” Hannah always sounded so apologetic when she asked their android to do anything. It didn’t matter how small or time-consuming the tasks were. She never seemed to understand that if it weren’t for carrying out errands and chores for humans, the androids would have no useful occupation at all.
Kelsey sometimes liked to mess with Arthur by not letting him do anything. She would put on loud music and get her laundry done, or cook some food. All the while, purposefully ignoring Arthur’s offers to help. She knew that it bothered him to be useless.
Even with the entirety of the Internet at their disposal, androids didn’t use it the same way humans did. The Internet didn’t amuse them. It informed them. It taught them how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. It showed them how to unclog a shower drain. It directed them to the nearest grocery store. But if they had no chance to use their high amount of knowledge, androids would eventually become restless.
Unfortunately for Kelsey, but fortunately for Arthur, it never got that bad. Hannah was always oblivious to Kelsey’s ploys. And even if she were aware, she was always against them. When Hannah came home with her arms full of groceries, Arthur was always the first name on her lips. When she felt like cooking something more complicated than chicken salad wraps, she directed Arthur to the kitchen.
Despite Kelsey’s casual cruelty, she did appreciate Arthur’s handiness. He was a chef, maid, and body guard all in one- aside from other things. On days like today, when all Kelsey wanted to do was collapse in bed and watch The Breakfast Club until she passed out, she secretly thanked the gods that she didn’t have to be the one to do any extra chores.
Like clean a mysteriously grungy bathtub.
Arthur peered into the bathroom to assess the damage. He looked over his shoulder at the two sisters. Kelsey mirrored his blank expression.
“Absolutely, Hannah. It’ll only take a moment.”
“Thanks, Arthur,” sighed Hannah. “I really appreciate it. I don’t know what’s up with it.”
“Dude,” commented Kelsey. “Can you chill? I bet you that R2 is secretly jumping for joy that he gets to mop up that junk. Aren’t you, old boy?”
“Although I am perfectly capable of jumping if required, I am not able to feel j-“
“As always, your sense of humour is on point.”
Arthur lacked a response, and proceeded to clean up the dark, gooey substance at the base of the tub.
Kelsey leaned against the door frame and watched him work. Hiddleston appeared and swished his tail around her shins.
“Hey, what do you think that shit could be?”
Arthur was silent only a moment as he observed what he was dealing with. “It could be human excrement, damp soil, rotten wood…”
“Come on. Be serious. Does that look anything like wood to you?”
“There is something else it could be, but there is no scientific evidence and thus does not seem to be very plaus-“
“I couldn’t care less about what is ‘plausible’, dude,” muttered Kelsey.
“Very well. When spirits have been present for a certain amount of time, the stronger they get, the more visible their marks may be.”
“Because that isn’t vague at all. Do you know how long ‘a certain amount of time’ is?”
“I cannot find any research on that.”
“Typical. But why would there be a spirit here? Do they even actually exist?”
“There is no scientific evidence to support it. The appearance of spirits have mainly been proven to be hoaxes or farces.”
Kelsey glared at her unhelpful companion. Hiddleston glared, too. She almost wished he weren’t quite so… robotic. She knew half the reason why he was like this with her is because she was definitely not his preferred Keeper. It was always Hannah. He favored her sister as much as the next guy. Even Hiddleston would rather sleep in Hannah’s room. The little traitor.
Kelsey pulled back from the door frame and went downstairs.
“How’s Arthur doing?” Hannah looked up from her seat on the couch in the living room. There were scratch marks on the sides where Hiddleston loved it too much. But Hannah would never get rid of it. There were too many memories stitched into the threadbare cushions and the the tired armrests.
“Aside from thinking our house is haunted, he’s doing fine.”
Hannah looked appalled. “Why would he say that? He shouldn’t say things like that.”
“Oh my god. Hannah. Relax. I just was trying to get him to find out what the stuff in the tub was, okay? That’s it.”
“And that was his explanation? Ghosts are running willy nilly in our home?”
“I don’t know about all that. And he didn’t even believe any of it. He just looked it up because I asked him to.”
Hannah immediately made a big-sister face. It featured a slightly dipped chin and said “now, you know better than that. I know I sure do.” Kelsey yawned again.
“Well, as much as I would love to stand here and exchange loving glances with you, I have more important things to do.”
Another look. This one had an elegantly cocked eyebrow and wordlessly said “oh, really?”
Kelsey shot her sister a thumbs up. She had had enough of the silent treatment. The Breakfast Club was waiting for her upstairs in her room.
Next chapter: Nostalgia