The Robot Translator (Flash Fiction Part 1)

Image by kiquebg from Pixaba

I've never been able to imagine a story before, and most of my stories, except a handle of them, have been real. I want to change that. So here I am imagining a robot translator, who is going to replace Ayun, a legal assistant in a law office. The robot is completely fictional. Ayun is determined to destroy the robot to give herself a bit of  job security. 

Flash Fiction #167

Ayun is sitting in the conference room alone, staring at Fifi, the female humanoid robot, with frubber skin, big doll eyes, and a mouth that’s permanently red without the help of lipsticks. Fifi’s merits are printed on a small piece of laminated paper and tucked in her pocket: I can do everything a normal human can do, plus I can translate in English and 15 Asian languages and dialects.

“I have to outsmart Fifi.” Ayun tells herself, “otherwise she is going to replace me. Well, I can’t really be smarter than a robot–my brain cells are no match for CPU. When I say outsmart, I mean I have to get it damaged or removed.”

For ten years, Ayun has been a legal assistant working in a law office located in an old building in Lower Manhattan, the first floor of which is occupied by a noodle restaurant, a hair salon, and a bodega that sells cheap goods with dubious labels printed in Japanese characters.

Ayun looks out of the third floor window and glances at the busy, noisy, untidy, bustling streets underneath. When she was young and lived on the other side of the Pacific, she imagined Manhattan to be the most beautiful place with breathtaking skylines, which was depicted in various Hollywood movies about financiers, supermodels, businessmen, or successful criminals. When she moved to New York, however, she started to realize that her part of Manhattan–the immigrant part– was completely different.

“The city that never sleeps is in fact a city that never stops screaming.” Ayun says to herself. She dislikes the noises and even on the third floor with windows all closed tight, she can hear the clamor from the streets all day long. One street fruit vendor has a particularly loud voice, “dragon fruit for two dollars a piece, the suicidal price you can’t miss.” The suicidal price is a well acknowledged term in several Asian languages and dialects, which means it is cheaper than the cheapest price that will make the vendor commit suicide. It’s very hard to believe that the vendor, who looks so full of life and shouts so forcefully, will ever have a thought of self harming, let alone suicide. The vendor is about Ayun’s age, but looks 20 years older, apparently giving up on her looks for a long time. Once Ayun said to her, after purchasing a bunch of lychee, “you have a sonorous voice.” It was said in jest since Ayun couldn’t bring herself to say, “you are too loud.” However the irony was all lost on the vendor, who replied proudly, “I used to be a traditional opera singer back home.” Ayun was so shocked that for a moment she couldn’t move. Sensing her surprise, the vendor said, “Look, here is a picture of me.” An LV wallet opened up in front of Ayun’s startled eyes and a beautiful image of a woman in colorful traditional clothes smiled back at Ayun. “Look, it is a real Louis Vuitton wallet, not a fake one, and it is a real picture of me. I make a lot more money being an ugly fruit seller than a beautiful prima dona.” Hearing this, Ayun suddenly turned around and ran back to her office. She didn’t know why she couldn’t keep her composure–probably because life was more absurd than she had imagined.

“Why do I think of the fruit vendor right now?” Ayun says to herself. “I need to come up with a way to deal with Fifi. I have to damage or remove Fifi, but I can’t be seen as the perpetrator. I have a good girl image to uphold, a family to nurture, a husband to manage, a boss to answer to. I have to find a way to get rid of Fifi without being seen as I am trying to get rid of it. I have to favor AI and progress in public, but secretly I have to take care of my job security.”

Ayun is a tough woman and a real survivor. She grew up in a family with a mother who only cared about the husband and the son. Ayun was merely as valuable as her contribution as a family cooking slave, starting when she was in 1st grade. Her grades were always bad since she never had much time to study. The good thing was that she lived in an area with a lot of diversity–people around them spoke Malay, Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, and English since the area was a former British colony. Her parents were small business owners of Southeast Asia who understood the importance of languages in negotiating a trade and making a profit. They encouraged the language learning and the mingling with people of different backgrounds. Ayun picked up languages naturally, and with the help of internet and TV series, she made improvement on what she had already known.

She often lauds her family despite the unfair treatment. She would never admit to the fact that she was psychologically damaged by her narcissistic relatives. And the more they withheld love from her, the more she wanted to chase the nonexistent love. The more the system bullied her, the more she wanted to cling to it in her own artful and beguiling ways.

Now she has outgrown her dismal family, which she continues to praise despite the fact that she knew they never cared and are still not caring about her. She has been happily married to Tram now for 12 years. After they settled down in New York, her husband started to work for the engineering department in one of the campuses of the City University of New York. However, for a while she couldn’t find a job. Thankfully, her language capability came to her rescue and she was able to become a legal assistant for Ku, a lawyer who has licenses in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

After several unsuccessful attempts, Ayun finally gets Fifi removed. However it has some serious consequences and causes unexpected collateral damages to her life.

(To Be Continued Here)

20 thoughts on “The Robot Translator (Flash Fiction Part 1)

    1. Oh, the poor victims suffer so much. I just heard of a heartbreaking story of a victim who can’t connect with normal partners and have been selecting those love bomber partners, to unspeakable consequences . I wish I can write about it but I know I can’t since it is a private matter and people don’t want the details to be generally known. It is sooooo heartbreaking. Please, every normal human out there, whenever you see a love bomber, just escape as fast as you can.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Love bombers can be real charmers. I often feel that many romantic movies and books portray love bombing as a positive thing, which is very wrong. It sends wrong messages to people who watch movies and read such books. Be careful of these charmers. I am not saying that being charming is wrong, but a charming narcissist is very toxic and sometimes not easy to spot.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes, me too. A lot of them seem to deliberately find excuses for toxic behaviors, or try to point out a wrong direction as an ideal, while the real ideal situation should be more options and more alternatives.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Yeah, they really push toxic behaviours as normal. And I don’t like the whole damsel in distress thing either. Women are capable of taking care of themselves in this day and age.


  1. I’d never heard the expression “suicidal price” before. Perhaps I should have used it when we were trying to sell our house!

    This topic is one that interests me. I’ve played around with chatbots in the past and now, of course, we have the much-hyped “Chat GPT-4” from Open AI. The latter is impressive but still has some curious limitations that I may talk about in a future post.

    The situation with Fifi also remind me of one episode of the Irish-British sitcom “Father Ted”. Mrs Doyle, the priests’ housekeeper, is famously obsessed with making and serving tea. But one day Father Ted comes home with a tea-making machine, thinking to save Mrs Doyle the trouble. She steals downstairs at night and stabs the machine repeatedly with a screwdriver. I look forward to reading about Fifi’s fate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your nice encouragement. I often wondered if this kind of Asian humor, like suicidal price, is suitable for English speaking audience. I don’t know. That father ted episode sounds very interesting. I will see if I can find it somewhere. I guess Mrs. Doyle will want to destroy Fifi too…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great story. I had to read it twice as it was very entertaining. Good character development too. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next segment. You are a great storyteller my friend. Blessings, Joni

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your sweet message. You really inspire me to write the following part, although I haven’t really decided on the ending yet. I’m always frustrated by the ending, but with your optimistic encouragement, I will keep going.


  3. I’m all in with this story and looking forward to the next instalment. I really like the set up and subject matter. Will Ayun regret her course of action and will Fifi make a comeback 🤔😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your vote of confidence. I had an ending, but now I think it is not good enough. Anyway, thank you for your comment and I wish I have some imagination. My story is too steeped in reality, which can be boring…

      Liked by 1 person

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