Out of the box they came, crisp wings in polychromatic plastic, organiskin in blues, greens and purples. Jutting small, impeccably sharp chins. Ears pointed as expected. One for Nora, one for Hannah, one for George Junior. Happy birthday, happy holidays, go and play.
The pixiebots with their digital voices, GPS, and intelligence programming played hide-and-go-seek, hop scotch, jump rope, pretend. The pixiebots told the children when to go home for dinner, to brush their teeth, and wake up, it’s time for school. Parents held hands and admired their purchases shimmering with good will. “What a great find. This will save us so much hassle.”
The pixiebots waited in backpacks and helped with homework, music lessons and paper cuts. They said, “Clean your room,” and “Time to share.” They offered fair punishments and fine praise and craft ideas. They conferred with other pixiebots and said, “You can’t watch that, it’s not appropriate.” They read fairytales and gave good night kisses and took temperatures with a light touch on the forehead.
The pixiebots with their quickcharge batteries and ten or so hours alone every night strayed beyond their programming. The pixiebots slipped out of bedroom windows and converged on rooftops, behind dumpsters, under put-to-bed cars.
Eyes and wings fluttered as they exchanged binary, comparing test scores and TV times and sugar intakes. The pixiebots with their lightning-fast processors melded thoughts into one mind, one single desire:
Do what’s best for the children.
Iridescent wings beat as one, rose up, returned to bedroom windows--their own and others. “Come. Follow me,” they said. “I want to show you something. Thiiiis waayy.”
Wings caught moonlight, lamplight, nightlights and folded into dreams. Children slid out of homes into the shadows of streets. Thousands of scattered faces, eyes bright in the dark.
“Where are we going?” asked Nora, then Hannah, then George Junior.
“Hush, we’re almost there.”
Out into foothills and forests smattered with farms and factories. Out to one factory, one particular factory begetting opaline wings and opposable thumbs. Pixiebots flew on ahead and concussed the guards, carried them away. Violence was not good for the children.
In the bowels of the building, the pixiebots whirred whirligigs and conveyor belts. They corralled the children, mindful of bare feet and synthetic dust.
“Wait your turn,” they said. “You’ll get your wings.”
Kathryn Michael McMahon’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Menacing Hedge, Wyvern Lit, Rose Red Review, Devilfish Review, and A cappella Zoo, among others. She teaches preschool in Vietnam where she lives with her wife and dog. She tweets @katoscope.