Write Like a Human Contest Winner: Project D
By Filomena DeRose
Prompt: Write a 1000-word story about a wife who builds a stay-at-home husband after her husband is killed in a fishing accident.
AI Attempt: Building a Robotic Companion, By Chat-GPT 3
In the small coastal town of Harborville, where the salty breeze mingled with the cries of seagulls and the rhythmic sounds of waves crashing against the shore, lived the Stantons. Emma and James Stanton were the quintessential couple, deeply in love and inseparable. James, a skilled fisherman, spent his days out at sea, while Emma managed the quaint bed-and-breakfast they owned together.
Their life was idyllic until tragedy struck one stormy afternoon. The news spread like wildfire through the tight-knit community that James had been lost at sea in a fishing accident. The grief that engulfed Emma was palpable, a heavy fog that settled over the coastal town. Friends and neighbors gathered to offer their condolences, sharing stories of James’s kindness and the adventures they had shared on the open waters.
In the weeks that followed, Emma found herself grappling with loneliness and the burden of managing the bed-and-breakfast alone. She missed the warmth of James’s smile, the way he effortlessly fixed things around the house, and his companionship during quiet evenings. It was during one of these solitary nights that Emma made a decision that would change the course of her life.
Determined to fill the void left by James’s absence, Emma started to delve into the world of robotics. She had always been fascinated by the rapid advancements in technology and saw an opportunity to create something truly unique – a companion, a partner, someone who could share the load of running the bed-and-breakfast and bring joy back into her life. And so, she set out to build her own stay-at-home husband.
Her workshop, a dimly lit room filled with tools, wires, and a maze of circuit boards, became her sanctuary. Emma immersed herself in books on robotics, programming languages, and artificial intelligence. She spent countless hours experimenting, refining her skills, and overcoming the challenges that arose during the creation of her robotic companion.
Months passed, and Emma’s determination paid off. Standing in her workshop was a lifelike humanoid robot with a striking resemblance to James. The metallic skeleton was hidden beneath synthetic skin that mimicked the warmth of human touch. The eyes, a mesmerizing shade of hazel, seemed to hold a depth of emotion. Emma had programmed the robot with James’s mannerisms, his laughter, and even his quirky habits.
As Emma activated her creation for the first time, she felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. The robot, now named Jamie, opened its hazel eyes and looked around, processing the world it had entered. Emma spoke to it, testing its responses and marveling at the success of her creation. Jamie moved with a fluidity that surpassed Emma’s expectations, and soon, it was helping around the bed-and-breakfast, just as James once had.
The townsfolk were initially skeptical, but as they witnessed Jamie’s capabilities and observed Emma finding solace in her creation, they began to accept the robot as part of the community. Jamie quickly became an integral part of Harborville, charming guests at the bed-and-breakfast, fixing leaky faucets, and even joining the local fishing community for camaraderie.
Despite Jamie’s uncanny resemblance to James, Emma understood the distinction between the two. She cherished the memories of her life with James and appreciated the unique companionship Jamie provided. The robotic husband never replaced James; instead, it allowed Emma to move forward while preserving the essence of what she had lost.
As the seasons changed, Emma and Jamie navigated the ebb and flow of life together. The bed-and-breakfast flourished under their joint efforts, and Harborville transformed into a place of resilience and innovation. The townsfolk, inspired by Emma’s ingenuity, embraced new technologies and ideas that breathed fresh life into their traditional community.
However, challenges emerged as some questioned the ethical implications of creating artificial companions that mirrored deceased loved ones. Emma, always a pillar of strength, defended her creation as a testament to love, resilience, and the boundless possibilities that technology offered. Slowly but surely, the skeptics began to understand the emotional depth of Emma’s decision and the positive impact Jamie had on her life.
One day, as the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm glow over Harborville, Emma sat on the porch of the bed-and-breakfast, reflecting on her journey. Jamie joined her, silently standing by her side. The sound of laughter and conversation echoed from inside as guests enjoyed their stay. It was a scene that, in many ways, mirrored the life Emma had once shared with James.
As the night sky unfolded with a tapestry of stars, Emma whispered words of gratitude to the sea breeze. She felt a sense of peace, knowing that she had turned grief into an opportunity for growth, innovation, and a new chapter in her life. The town that had weathered the storm of loss with her now stood as a testament to resilience, love, and the unexpected paths that lead to healing.
And so, in the glow of moonlight, Emma and Jamie, a woman and her creation, embraced the future that lay ahead, guided by the memories of a love that would forever be a part of the coastal winds and the rhythm of the waves in Harborville.
Student Attempt: Project D By Filomena DeRose
The phone slips and crashes to the floor as grief clogs my throat. Fred’s on the line, repeating apologies, but I can’t swallow. My heart drops into my stomach and the organ erodes in the acid. More apologies. Plea to stay strong. The line dies. Rhythmic pings escape the shattered screen. I stand, frozen, and stare out the kitchen window. How long have Maz and Leo been playing out there?
How long have I been… when did I grip the sink to keep my body from collapsing? I can’t get through this life without Diego by my side. Pinch skin—pain. This isn’t a sick joke of a dream or a prank played by his buddies. They would never… could never come up with something so cruel. I wish Fred was known to be a compulsive liar. But my husband would not have been his friend if he wasn’t an honest man. Honest men make honest mistakes. And can they be blamed for rogue waves on a rough sea when the forecast called for clear skies?
I wouldn’t be the first to blame God for taking a life when he had no right. Take a father away from his young sons? Take a man away from his loving wife? Monstrous God; fallible figment who means nothing to me outside of bedtime stories my mother shoved down my throat.
The back door hits the wall as the boys run in, kick off their shoes, and giggle about the upcoming barbeque. They ask where he is—know he should have been home. I swallow my grief and it joins my heart in my stomach, turn to my sons, and paint on a smile. The barbeque is going to be delayed; dad’s not back yet. The boys are too young to mask their disappointment. I promise them homemade pizza as compensation for the truth I keep from their young ears. Salt the sauce with tears as they play in the living room.
~ ~ ~
They ask again; I tell them that Dad’s having so much fun; he must have lost track of time! and they accept the answer. Weeks pass—I keep up the charade. Daily, Maz and Leo ask when their dad will be home. I tell them soon, then scurry into our home office. I bolt the door. They don’t knock. The large room reminds me of Diego, his crafty mind deep in the world of robotics, but the sadness in my sons’ eyes is more painful than being in here, surrounded by his tools and machinery and projects and plans.
His current project was a robot housekeeper; he told me he wanted life to slow down. Craved more time together. He’d share plans often. Excitement would bubble over and he’d ramble for hours. I’ve given him a hand many times. It’s my turn to take the blueprints and build. I won’t go through this life without him by my side.
~ ~ ~
When I get home I leave snacks on the counter — leftovers from work meetings — then hurry into the office. Routine shifts and the boys adapt. Leo’s seven and already showing signs of strength, independence, just like his father.
Progress on Project D is steady, but income is dwindling. Diego had most of the materials I needed to finish what he started. I knew it’d be costly but didn’t anticipate having to put the house up for sale and downsizing. It did serve as a chance to test Project D: the robotic skeleton and I did all the packing, lifting, and unpacking unbeknownst to Maz and Leo. A practical way to work kinks out. Project D only needed a few reboots. The detached garage at the new place is perfect to continue out of the boy’s sight. The neighbourhood is quiet—don’t need nosey neighbours sniffing around once Project D is up and running. Acreage will serve as our privacy blanket.
~ ~ ~
I step back from the workbench littered with robotic limbs, sheets of synthetic skin, hinges, teeth, practise runs and spare parts. The metallic torso prototype hangs to the right of the table. He stands between the table and I, inspecting the metal framed skull with his matching brown eyes.
I worry circuits aren’t properly connected. I must have made a mistake. But he turns to me, movements smooth and mistakably human, and a smile grows along his features. With his arms out he beckons me in, embraces me tight, cradles my head and apologies for being away for so long.
We spend the afternoon cooking up a storm — bought as much fish as I could — and Maz and Leo step through the front door, hear his voice, and appear in the kitchen in a blink. Maz jumps into Diego’s arms and babbles in excitement; Leo cautiously observes. Diego kneels and holds his arms open. Leo runs, teary eyed, into his fathers’ arms. He apologizes for his extended trip, six months is too long to be away from all of you, but tells the boys he can’t wait to share his adventures.
That night, he tucks them into bed, I know I did the right thing. I didn’t run away; I opened a brighter future for us. Routine shifts smoothly as Diego takes over household chores, cooking, taking the boys to school. He takes pride in his work and in caring for us, caring for his family.
~ ~ ~
Years pass and life is dreamy. Our boys grow into spectacular teenagers; I could not have raised them without my husband. We head to bed after a late dinner, having sat around and chatting for hours. Everything seemed perfect. Diego lays down and I help him plug into his charger.
Two in the morning and there’s a crash from outside. I leap out of bed and check on the boys. Leo’s not in bed. I look out his window into the backyard; the garage light glares at me.
Filomena DeRose is an aspiring author who enjoys romance, fantasy, ghost stories, and poetry. She is working towards an Honours Bachelor of Creative Writing & Publishing at Sheridan College, Mississauga. During her time off she can be found reading in the park, writing in a cafe, or walking down a wooded trail.