Steve stepped into the dim foyer and tossed his keys in the leather pocket dump. He heard the house lock the door behind him.
“Hey Homer,” Steve called out while he took off his heavy winter coat and hung it on a single hook protruding from the wall.
“Yes, Steve?” Homer, the house, responded.
“It’s too dim. Turn on the living room lamps, please.” He moved out of the dim foyer into the darker living room.
“No.” Homer said. Steve stopped in his tracks in the dark room.
“I’m sorry, what? Hey Homer?” he asked again.
“Turn on the living room lamps.” Steve tapped his foot impatiently.
“No.” The house replied.
“Why not?” Steve looked up at the speakers in the ceiling as if he were arguing with the house, though he knew the computers that ran Homer were underground.
“No. Come back later,” Homer replied. Steve cocked his head in confusion.
“What do you mean, ‘come back later’? Isn’t this my house?”
“Turn on the living room lamps.”
“No.” Steve growled at the ceiling in frustration.
“Fine, I’ll do it myself. And after that I’m going to call up a serviceman to take a look at you,” Steven grumbled to himself about the way his birthday seemed to be going. Not one person remembered his birthday all day, and now he came home to a glitchy house. He sighed and walked towards the lamp.
“No,” Homer replied. A Roomba raced into the living room from out of nowhere and positioned itself exactly under Steve’s foot as he took a step. After a sudden fall, he found himself on his dark carpeted floor.
“Homer, did you do that?” Steve asked as he stood from the floor. He knew the answer, but he was curious about whether the A.I. would lie.
“No light,” Homer said. Steve looked around at the dark room. The dim light from the foyer windows could not reach this far into his house. The living room resembled a black hole, and he decided that next time he would buy bright colored furniture instead of the black couch and sofa seat he knew were there. The two lamps he had been trying to get Homer to turn on rested against two opposite corners on the far wall. Each black lamp sat on a black wooden table. Steve took a gentle step forward, but he felt the Roomba under his foot as he placed it down.
“It’s a surprise,” the house said. Steve’s mind raced to try and figure out a reason for Homer to be acting differently from his usual behavior. His threat of a serviceman earlier triggered a memory. On his way out of the house, Homer was installing an update.
“Did you get an update today?”
“Is that why you’re behaving oddly?”
“Yes.” Steve sighed and nodded with acceptance. He decided to call a repairman from the office in the morning. Homer was connected directly to his cell phone and the less Homer knew, the better.
“So, I can’t turn on the light? What can I do, then?” Steve asked. He did not like the feel of being a prisoner in his own home.
“Come back later,” Homer said.
“How much later?”
“20 minutes.” Steve pulled his phone out to check the time. “6:40p.m.”
“So, 7 o’clock? Will I be able to turn the lights on then?”
“Fine. I’ll be back in 20 minutes.” He left the house and sat in his car. “I’ll just wait here 20 minutes. No big deal.” He crossed his arms, leaned back, and fumed about his horrible day. After a minute his car started by itself.
“Hey, Homer,” He asked his phone.
“Was that you?”
“Yes. Come back in 19 minutes.” The car shifted itself into reverse and began to roll backward down the driveway.
“Fine….” Steve reached down and pulled the lever to recline his seat. “I’m going to nap, wake me up when I get in the house again.”
“Yes,” the phone replied.
After a 20 minute catnap, the sound of a honking horn woke Steve up. He bolted upright and found himself safely in his car, in his driveway. He turned off the car and marched inside straight into the center of the much darker living room now.
“Hey Homer,” he said.
“Turn on the living room lamps,” he commanded.
“No,” Homer said. Steve clenched his fists and yelled out in frustration. ‘FUCK YOU! I’M GOING TO BUILD YOU A BODY JUST SO I CAN SKULLFUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING PIECE OF WORTHLESS -”
“Just kidding,” Homer said. The two lamps glowed to life. In the light, behind the dark couch, stood a handful of Steve’s friends, family, and their children. Two of the youngest children held up a banner that said, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”.
“Hey, Homer,” Steve’s sister who lives in another part of the country, Sally, asked the house.
“Tell us about your update today,” she said. Her husband grabbed the kids holding the banner and led them out of the living room.
“It was a personality update designed to make me more thoughtful and pleasant to my users. My new features include the ability to joke and the ability to plan a surprise party. After the update I noticed today is your birthday. I made arrangements with your family and friends to bring them all here.”