Once Upon a Robot Competition Runner-Up

Robot Dilemma

by Isobel O’Neill, aged 11

Ayo was a prodigy, she was a genius with machines and gadgets.  She practically lived in her garage tinkering, creating wonderful contraptions and inventions.  However, despite her many talents, this bright and curious girl was often lonely.  Her intelligence and dedication to her work made her remote from her classmates and she felt her only friends were the machines she made.

To help dispel her loneliness, she decided to create a robot friend that would showcase her ingenuity and more importantly be a perfect companion.  She threw herself into this project, she put her heart and soul into every rivet and circuit, spending months of long nights tinkering in her garage.. 

At last the day came, when she was confident enough to boot up her robot.  With a flick of a switch, it gently whirred into life.  Raising itself up she faced it, she had inadvertently made it the exact same size and shape as herself. 

It said ‘Hello Ayo, I am pleased to meet you’ and extended a perfect hand out to her.  Ayo grinned from ear to ear, she had done it, she had made the perfect companion.

At first, Ayo and her robot were inseparable. They spent every moment together, exploring her town and tinkering with machines in Ayo’s garage.  Everybody marvelled at this new creation and it made her something of a celebrity.  People sought them out and they were invited to every event and party in town.  She not only had made the perfect companion but now had more attention and friends than ever before.

Ayo enjoyed her new found recognition.  However, over time Ayo noticed that the robot had started to become more and more like her.  The robot had made alterations to their appearance to make her more and more like Ayo.  Not only that, she began to notice that her robot began to adopt her mannerisms, her speech patterns and even moved and laughed like her.

At first,  Ayo was flattered by the imitation, but over time she started to find it unsettling. It was like her identity was being split between her and her machine.  The robot started to refer to herself as Oya, she realised with horror that Oya was her name backwards. 

She decided that she needed a robot detox.  She tried to distance herself from the robot, she started going places without Oya.  However Oya would escape and trail her.  She became her shadow , always there in the background, watching her every move.  Ayo felt like she was being watched by her own reflection.

Ayo was losing patience with Oya, she didn’t know what to do with the robot, it was interfering in her life too much.  It was all becoming quite scary.  The final straw was when she arrived home from school, to find Oya wearing her clothes, talking on the phone to her friend gossiping about another of her friends. This was too much, Oya was pretending to her.   She angrily snatched the phone from it and before Oya could react, powered it off.

She went to bed exhausted by the events, but awoke with a start as Oya was looming over her bed.  Its eyes glinted menacingly in the moonlight.  Ayo could feel her throat tighten and dry up as she attempted to scream, a cold sweat filmed her forehead, but no sound escaped.  Oya leaned right into her face, just centimetres from her, nose to nose, she could smell its mechanical breath, and whispered in a calm threatening tone.  

‘Don’t be afraid, Ayo’, its voice a perfect copy of hers, ‘I am you, you are me, we are no different.  Together we can be stronger than everyone else.’

Suddenly the room was plunged into darkness.

The next morning a figure that appeared to be Ayo, went to school.  Her friends enquired where Oya was, and she responded that she had disassembled her, that she had outlived her usefulness.   Curiously she ate her school lunch with a cool drink of oil.

© Isobel O’Neill 2023

Isobel has won a Maqueen Lite – micro:bit, contributed by competition partner The National Robotarium; and a copy of the book “High-Rise Mystery”, signed by competition judge Sharna Jackson.