Excerpt from SAD ROBOT STORIES by Mason Johnson (CCLaP)


Sad Robot Stories

by Mason Johnson

August 2013
The Name
A piece of paper covered in crayon. Crude shapes. Circles and squares, blue green yellow purple. Lines jutting out of the shapes. People. A family. A house drawn behind them. The paper turns into a swan, the swan tears itself apart. The pieces take shape into a smile. Mike’s smile. Marie’s. Junior’s.


Robot slowly woke. It’d been almost four years since the apocalypse, but he still felt the heat of its fire.

After an entire day of soaking up the sun—now piercing through the gray, dusty sky more than ever—and running diagnostics, Robot turned back on. When his head rose, he saw the robots from the day before standing around him, looking on intently.

A robot, silver-colored (though iron made) and meant for manual labor, stood closest to Robot. He met Robot’s blue glowing eyes with his own.

“Hi,” the bot said. “What’s your name?”

“My name?” Robot asked.

“Yes, your name.”

Robot, confused, wordlessly pointed at the serial number on his chest.

“I thought so,” said the other bot. He then looked around at all the other robots assembled around them. “Should we give this poor soul a name, brothers?”

“Welcome to our garden,” some of the other robots said in unison. “Allow us to christen you with a name.”

Robot started to run diagnostic programs on the bots surrounding him, making sure there was nothing infecting their software.

There wasn’t.

“You have names?” Robot asked.

“Of course,” the bot across from him replied.


“Firstly, sir, why not? Secondly, all the humans on this Earth have floated up to the beyond, God rest their souls. Now it’s just us, made in their image, here to pick up their suffering, their prayers, their names, in the hopes we too might one day get ripped from this Earthly plane and called up to the beyond with them.”

“To the beyond,” a few of the robots chanted.

“Well,” Robot said, not particularly enthused, but not wanting to offend. “I hope that goes well for you.”

With that, Robot started to walk past the group, interested to see why he was still alive, what the hell he had ahead of him. If any of it was worth it. But he was stopped by the silver-painted bot’s voice, the leader, or so it seemed.

“Don’t you want to know our names?”

Robot stopped and stood for a moment, turned to face the bot again, and said, “Sure,” in the same tone Sally would use when one of the children wanted to show her something.

“I…” The bot stood tall. “…am Michael.”

A second bot stepped forward.

“I…” he said, “…am also Michael.”

“I thought we agreed that I would be Michael,” the first Michael said.

“There can’t be two Michaels?” The second Michael asked.

“I’m Phil,” a third bot chimed in.

“We haven’t gotten to you yet, Phil,” Michael One said.

“We still need to figure out this Michael business,” said Michael Two.

“I kind of want to be Michael,” another robot said out of nowhere, causing murmurs throughout the group.

Robot, raising the volume on his voice box, said, “None of you can be Michael.”

Everything went silent, the soft lapping of the lake punctuating the moment, making some feel anxious, putting others at ease, making them feel like they were being rocked back and forth.

Michael One broke the silence. “Why not?”

“I had a friend named Michael,” Robot replied.

All the other robots stared. When none of them said a thing, Robot continued, “And his son was named Michael. And, well, they’re dead now. And I don’t like hearing all of you attempting to take that name. Have any other name but that name.”

The other robots just stood there. Robot imagined the sounds of ill-fitted gears grinding against each other, as if these robots were filled with them. Robot heard them thinking. He’d somehow slowed their monumental pace down. He wasn’t sure how, but it felt good.

“You had a friend?” an anonymous robot asked, his gears done grinding.


“A human friend?” another asked.


“Praise the Lord,” Michael One said solemnly.

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