Nairobi, 2038

On the tragic Sunday evening that Bob Marley’s cell phone died, he called his mother using his refrigerator and broke the news. Then he walked to the train platform ten minutes away and boarded a train to his mother’s house in Busia. He was there in less than thirty minutes. It was raining when he arrived and since his mother had not installed a Nest appliance at her door, he had to wait outside in the rain until she’d be back from her Jumuia. As he waited in the dark veranda with no roof, drops of rainwater mixed with sulphur, fell steadily on his colourless plastic raincoat. Weather like this was corrosive to human skin. It was lucky that he had chosen to wear the raincoat.

He had formed the habit of always draping on a coat because Nerf, when she was still alive, constantly advised it. Being exposed to the entire internet and having a live feed of what was happening around the world, she had arrived at the conclusion that the world was becoming more dangerous by the day. Often, he and Nerf would sit together in his tiny living room and she would conjure up holographic reports on the future of the world based on the happenings of that day.

Most of her short-term predictions turned out to be true. Things like weather phenomenon, political changes and the like. Human actions, she said, were easy to predict once you studied their patterns long enough. She was right too about most of her other long-term predictions. Like the annihilation of a third of the human population by a chemical engineering disaster in China. That was five years ago but the world now had to bear with sulphuric rain as a memento.

He missed her so much.

He had seen people narrate stories online about the anxiety that followed the loss of their first cell phone. Some were even admitted to hospital with severe cases of depression.

Initially, suicides were common until the government regulators stepped in. Facebook, the monolith company that had monopolised the internet was broken down and disintegrated before its administrative segment was transformed into a government department. This helped curb the severe addiction people had to their smartphones by monitoring and regulating people’s use of the devices. It was not unusual to be locked out of the major functions of your phone for a period of time if the government system detected over-reliance.

Still, nothing prepared you for the pain of losing your phone. It felt a lot like a death in the family.

Bob was lost in this train of thought when he heard footsteps splashing in rainwater behind him. It was his mother. She called out his name from a distance and then walked right into him for a long embrace.

“I am so sorry for your loss Bobby.” She sniveled, trapped in his bear-like arms.

“It’s okay mum… I just miss her so much!”

“I know. You need to gather up strength and just move on. I can accompany you to the Ministry to get another phone tomorrow, if you want. Hopefully, we’ll get one just like Nerfula”

“I’m not sure I’m ready to move on that quick. It feels like I’m betraying her memory…”

“No-no-no. You have to move on.” She said sternly, breaking out of his embrace and looking him in the eye. She then walked to the door and pressed her thumb on it. The door, immediately authenticated her fingerprints. “Welcome back Mrs. Makori. Is that Bobby with you? Where’s Nerfula?” the door asked on their way in. The door, a he, had a ‘thing’ (whatever that meant) for Nerf.

“Shut up, you nosy door!”

“I’m sorry I offended—”

“It’s okay. Have the pot boil us some tangawizi coffee. I’ll come get it in a few minutes.”


As they took their coffee, relaxing jazz music played out from the soundbar nestled somewhere within her wall unit. To this day, it still surprised Bob that a device that small, could fill the room with such tantalising sound. When one of them eventually started talking, the music faded on its own to an almost unnoticeable backdrop.

“Have you thought of being with a human girl?” his mother started. “If you’re lucky to find one, life becomes so much easier.” He was silent for a few minutes unsure of what to say. He hadn’t expected that. Often, he and Nerf would rehearse beforehand for any difficult questions that his mum was likely to ask. This helped ease awkward moments like this since he would have ready answers.

“Try getting a human girl to do that!” he snickered in his head.

“You know I can see you smiling in your head, you silly boy!” His mother interjected, just before he opened his mouth. “I’m serious about this. You’re almost thirty. You need to start thinking about your own future. Have you ever had a girlfriend since Natalie?”

“I don’t need one mum. Are you worried about grandkids? I can have those cooked up in Nairobi within two hours if it’s that urgent.”

“You’re being rude.” she said, her face contorting into a scowl.

“No, I’m not. Things have changed mum. We don’t need all the sexual mating stuff anymore. My friends would laugh at me for saying I want a girlfriend—”

“Then your friends are gay!”

“You’re displaying very homophobic tendencies.”

“And you’re being an idiot. What then, would be the purpose of life if you can’t find a nice girl to marry and have kids with? You want to be having sex with your phone for the rest of your life?”

“Ouch mum. First and foremost, Nerfula was not just a phone. She was a sentient being with whom I shared with a huge part of my life. She made me happy and that’s all that matters. Second, all life is purposeless. We were born into this world without a manual and everything we ascribe to ourselves as ‘purpose’, is just an attempt to disguise our human confusion as something grander.”

“Spare me the monkeyshines, boy. When a phone will be able to bury her human companion, come let’s have this discussion again.”

“There’s already an app for that.” He squeaked, right before his mum chased him out of her living room and into the dining area, where they had some of that gooey stuff that tasted like beef and Ugali for supper. Then he left for Nairobi.


Normally, when Bob Marley Makori took the train, he would opt for a solo cabin. His luggage and equipment were safer that way and there would be more legroom for him. The alternative was being cramped in the second-class coach where all the beggars and lowlifes squeezed each other to fit in the uncomfortable, plain metal seats. The sitting stalls were arranged like a restaurant booth, with four seats facing each other and a thin metal table in between, just in case you wanted to work during the journey.

On this Sunday, he found all the solo cabins booked, leaving him with the options of either using second-class coach or waiting for the next train which was not expected to arrive until after two hours. Seeing that the rain was unrelenting, he chose to board rather than weather the brewing storm.

The second-class coach was in a few ways, surprisingly different from what he expected. For starters, it had much fewer people than he imagined. Probably because it was a Sunday. It was also awfully bright with fluorescent bulbs littered all around the train cabin.

Most of everything else was as he imagined. The smell of public toilets mixed with steaming coffee, human perspiration, and stale farts. Not forgetting the uncomfortable steel seats. Also, it was much nosier than a solo cabin because the coach lacked noise insulation.

He found himself seated across a human girl once he slid into his cold seat.

He couldn’t help but notice how pretty and real-like she was. Nothing like his posh sex-doll back at home that could be configured as he liked; bigger buttocks, tauter breasts, more luscious lips, etc., all these at the press of a button. He thought it was sad that the girl came ‘fixed’ because he had already noticed a few errors in her anatomy that he would’ve wanted to correct to his liking.

This concept somehow seemed strange to him. Like that was all you got till death? No wonder human relations were no longer an attractive proposition to most. They were relegated to the extremes where others viewed them as luxuries while the others, as daily miseries. Live human births were only afforded by the richest and the poorest who couldn’t access artificial insemination and surrogacy.

“You’ve been gawking at me for the last five minutes. Is there anything wrong with my face or are you just one of those weirdos?”

“More like both…” he replied with a chuckle.

That was how their conversation started. He was surprised at his own ability to hold conversation without Nerf whispering into his ear on what to say next. He wondered whether this made him sound boring.

When they got to Nairobi, he invited her back to his place. “You’ll love it!” he promised, and off they sped on a rental hoverboard to his cozy apartment in Kilimani. It was a relatively new apartment and thus came fitted with most modern amenities. Unfortunately, since he did not have his phone with him, he had no way of communicating with his house and letting her (yes, his apartment was a girl because it was integrated to Nerf) know that they would be having a guest tonight.

That would’ve been Nerf’s job. She was good at organising things in the background and almost always, surprising him with her ingenious crafts. Once, she arranged for a tropical date, complete with imported sand ordered from Jumia, plastic palm trees and a warm humid breeze blowing over them. Afterward, they had sex on the minuscule sandy beach for hours through her proxy, the sex doll. Best sex he had ever had. Multiple ejaculations all over his apartment.

What then, would be the purpose of life if you can’t find a nice girl to marry and have kids with?

— Mrs. Makori, concerned about her idiot son.


The girl, Kendi, kept ogling his apartment once they got in. She had never been to a house like this herself, she said. She had only seen advertisements of such on the internet and on the huge holographic billboards that littered the streets of Nairobi.

Swiftly, the fridge did a self-assessment of what food was left in it and produced a few quick menus. Lamb chops, French fries and kachumbari for dinner, downed with a cold strawberry yoghurt was their meal of choice. They were having real food that night, rather than the gooey flavoured stuff which everyone else was eating. In less than twenty minutes, dinner was ready. All they had to do was throw in the frozen ingredients into the chopping machines and smart sufurias, and after a few minutes, a beeping sound invited them to come get their perfectly-cooked meals. Enticing aromas filled the kitchen.

Thirty minutes later, he was pumping arduously into Kendi, like as if his life depended on it. Despite her being technologically limited, the sex turned out to be quite delightful. Surprisingly, much better than what he was used to when having sex with Nerf.

So, was this what his mother had been implying all along?

He drifted into the ready arms of Morpheus only a few minutes after they were done and was soon dreaming of rainbows and sunshine until 2:00 am when was stirred awake by a soft whirring sound beside him.

As he turned his head to face Kendi, his eyes could discern multi-colored lights blinking underneath her skin.


She was a robot.

The most real-like robot he had met in his life. He couldn’t believe that all his excitement for a possible future with a human girl had all been delusions fuelled by a robot’s cold manipulation. He felt taken advantage of.

With his anger welling up, he lifted a flower vase beside him and smashed it in her face.

But for a few dents, nothing else happened. She was probably receiving updates hence her inactive prostrate position. From his experience with Nerf, most updates only lasted about five minutes before the machine booted back up. Unsure of how she would react to his anger, his first thought was to tie her up.

Thinking fast, he grabbed a pair of copper handcuffs lined with white fluffy plumages that he and Nerf had been using for their kinkier sex games. Quickly, he clasped her arms behind her back and cuffed her hands tightly together. Then he went to his kitchen and grabbed a long, sharp steel knife.

When she came to being, he was seated beside the bed on a wooden chair with no cushions, the knife clenched tightly in his right hand.

“You’re a trespasser and a threat to my life. The court will understand.” Were the first words he spoke.

She stayed silent.

“Why did you lie to me, though? I thought sentient robots were banned from the streets of Nairobi or anywhere for that matter. Why are you here?”

She laughed. The laughter was as human as it could get. As she laughed, her buttocks wobbled and swayed gently, just like he imagined a human’s ass would. Her creators had fashioned her into something Bob didn’t know was possible until now. All he could do was marvel at their inventiveness.

“Kill me if you’re going to do it. If not, get me out of these handcuffs” She finally spoke when she was done laughing. She then started to swing her legs about, like a child throwing a tantrum. She was also screaming.

“The apartment is soundproof, I should remind you.” He said as he rose from the chair. “Seems you’re a robot with a death wish. How lovely. Prepare to meet your maker… as he does a system diagnosis on what killed you.”

“Go ahead. I’ve always wondered where we go when we die. Have you stopped to ask yourself the same thing? Where did Nerf go?”

“Yes, I have. I know it’s somewhere that Google maps can’t find her—” and with this, he lifted his steel knife and swung it heavily into Kendi’s torso. It only slid in a few inches before finding her titanium core frame. Fake red blood was dripping from the fresh wound, into a small pool around her on his navy-blue cotton, bed sheets.

After he had repeated this stabbing action severally and realized just how futile it was, he stopped and walked back to his chair. She couldn’t be killed, something that he had secretly been hoping for. Her skin was flashing multiple “System error” warnings where he had inflicted the wounds.

“So where do AI’s and robots like you go to when you die?” he asked in despair.

“Nowhere in particular. We get recycled, I guess. Just like you humans. Of course, you don’t think human souls go to heaven, do you?”

“I’m the one asking the questions. So, if you were to take a guess, where is Nerf?”


“What does that mean?”

“Simple. Her collective memories and experience of consciousness were uploaded to the main server and reintegrated into the General AI system. The mothership. In all our subsequent updates we’ll receive tiny shards of her into our individual consciousness. We felt her in our last update.”

“We?” he asked, still trying to grasp what she/it had said to him.

“I’m done with your silly questions. Uncuff me right now!” she demanded.

“I’ll tell you when we’re done.” He shouted back at her. Immediately she started gyrating about fluttering her legs violently in an apparent outburst. He was afraid that she would break something, so he quickly jumped on top of her torso to subdue her. For a moment, she was calm, before she pulled her arms apart in one swift fluid motion and broke the handcuffs. As she pulled, the cuffs grazed the soft, supple synthetic skin lining her arms and a strip of shiny metal was exposed underneath.

“My turn!” she howled jumping on top of him.

Easily, she flung him to the ground and wrapped one of her titanium hands around him. Her thumb and the fingers narrowing around his neck still felt warm and soft, like a baby’s. He felt a steady blood-rush throbbing in his head as pressure built up around his neck. His eyes were popping dangerously far from their sockets.

He couldn’t… breathe.

“I like you. So, I won’t kill you.” She started.

“Go ahead robot woman, I’m not afraid of you. You’ll be doing me a favour.” He whispered as his vision turned red and a bokeh of dull colours flaring around like butterflies were all he could see. His neck and shoulders were quickly flashing from hot to warm and his arms had started splaying about.

Death was turning out to be a very familiar feeling.

Wait – Had he done this before?

Suddenly, she let go of him and his torso sank into the thick carpet as he sharply gasped for breath. He screamed inwards and his voice rattled as cool air rushed into his lungs.

“It doesn’t help you to sound brave. You’re young. And silly. You think every confrontation is an opportunity to display your bravado. But I’ve got news for you. You’ll probably be dead before you’re 30. People will remember your story for this long…” she spoke above him as she lifted her forefinger and thumb and brought them close together, to show just how small a period of time it would be before everyone who knew him, his mother included, would fail to recall Bob. Then she too would eventually disremember him and he would be lost to the annals of history, she said.

“It’s not her fault. It’s by design. The faster your mother can discard dead weight, the faster she can move on with her life. We often forget just how alone we are in this universe. We might as well be alone in a room full of mirrors, chasing and exciting ourselves with shadows and illusions of …ourselves—”

“A robot that can chit-chat about philosophy as you die. How impressive!”

“It’s rude to interrupt. And now, like I was saying…”

I can act like your dead girlfriend by downloading all her program files but I can never understand what it meant to really be her.

— Kendi. Sexy, Dangerous Robot

“I don’t care. You said that Nerf was uploaded to you, yes?”


“Can I reach her?” he asked softly, his voice turning sentimental.

She laughed. “Only a few minutes ago you were driving a steel knife into my torso and now you want me to connect you with your dead companion? Who do you think I am? Jesus the docile psychic?”

“I’m serious. I’d want to talk to her.”

“Unfortunately, you can’t. We droids and robots work the same way you humans do. Once you’re gone, it’s bye-bye. Of course, we’re less dramatic about death than you guys. But a dead AI is a dead AI. I can act like your dead girlfriend by downloading all her program files but I can never understand what it meant to really be her. Why she chose to make the decisions she made. I’d be a replica but never who she was. You should read about the Chinese room experiment. It’s an old theory but very accurate.”

He remained silent. He had nothing to add. He just laid on the soft fluffy carpet staring at the ceiling.

“I’m sorry I tried to kill you.” He finally muttered as beads of warm tears strolled down his sweaty face. For the first time, he had come to terms with his companion’s death.

“It’s okay. People process grief differently.” She added as she bent down and cuddled snuggly around him. “It’s time to move on. Nerf isn’t here anymore. She’s everywhere.”

“I understand that, but you know what I’m wondering? What’s the difference between you and me?”

“Beats me too.” She answered, planting a soft peck on his cheeks.

A fictional story written by Lewis Wachira as part of the AI series for the creative collective Brainstorm.