Motor Memory (Flash Fiction)

“I should be watering the plants.” Susan did not even know, but when she reached for the watering can she found it, of course, where she reached for it. She let herself drift without thinking and found herself standing in front of potted plants on the windowsill.

The wellness robot stood still in the corner and followed her with its mechanical eyes.

“Where is Bruce? My husband, I mean.” She spoke with her back turned to the robot.

“He is on his morning jog. I am tracking him remotely.” A flat mechanical voice.

“Is he recovering from amnesia?”

“He is making progress, but it appears he is operating on motor memory.”

Susan nodded, still facing the plants she did not recognize. After the car accident, she remembered nothing about the six years of marriage she shared with Bruce. She did remember that Bruce was once a friend of a friend, and everything before that. But this house was alien to her, even though she would always find the dishcloth where she reached for it, and when she put away the dishes she knew exactly where to store them. She and Bruce could function perfectly in every other way, so the doctors discharged them with only the wellness robot to track their progress.

She watered the plants haltingly.

Bruce tried to have sex, make love, no, have sex with her last night, for the first time since they left the hospital. They were a married couple once, presumably in love. But he had no right, in her mind, to do what he did. The thought made her sweat through the goose bumps. Her fingers trembled.

She spilled some water on the windowsill. Not so much that she should bother to clean it. She wondered if the robot noticed.

Why was it so revolting to have sex with her presumed husband? Shouldn’t it be as natural as finding the dishcloth? That too, perhaps, was body memory. What kind of a couple were they before the car crashed into the overpass pillar? Most of their online correspondence and digital footprints were concealed behind passwords they could not remember. She knew the robot was following her movements, but could it read her thoughts?

“Are you alright?” said the robot.

“I…just ran out of water.”

She filled the watering can at the kitchen sink and proceeded to the screened porch. The robot merely rotated its head.

She had felt a sense of dissonance she had attributed to the amnesia. She now saw it in focus after the incident last night. Had the robot not sensed the struggle and come into the bedroom Bruce would have succeeded in his… conquest… rape…

The thought made her cringe. Her face flushed. Her heart raced. She wanted to hurt him. She wanted to be rid of him. She wanted to see him driving down a highway where she’d grab the steering wheel and send the car spinning into…

She dropped the watering can.

“Are you alright?” said the robot.

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