Bad Habit Rime, Part I

Hera reached forward and slowly clasped her fingers around the cup of tea. She lifted it towards her mouth, and then noticed flames licking up from the surface of the liquid. Her hand shook with surprise.

“What is this?” she said. “It’s on fire!”

“This is flaming tea,” said the house robot. “A new delicacy from the south.”

Hera snarled. “I didn’t ask for new things! I just wanted tea!”

She dropped the cup. It clattered onto the saucer, then tipped and poured the flaming liquid onto the carpet by her chair. The flames grew.

“Hey! Hey! There’s a fire! Put it out!”

“That function is not available,” said the robot.

Hera gasped. The flames were beginning to creep up the rug that covered her legs. She tried to push the rug off to one side but couldn’t lift it. She put her hands on the armrest of the chair and tried to push to lift herself up, but her muscles were too weak from years of atrophy. The best she could do was slide out of the chair, pushing her knees further into the pool of flames, then tip over to one side, hitting her head on the carpet.

How long had it been since she last left the chair? How long since she had walked?

“There’s a fire!” she screamed again at the robot. “Put it out!”

“That function is not available,” said the robot.

Hera began to cry. “I don’t want to die,” she said.

To be continued…

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