Short Story: Terms of Service by Timothy Yam

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction
Stephanie looked up at the corner of the kitchen. The dome was blinking again, but this time with a green light.

“No harm done.”

“I see you started cooking.”

Was that a hint of disapproval in her voice?

“Well yeah, I mean, I had no choice, you were taking longer than expected, and I just had to start first or else I would have no time before—”

“Stephanie, if you had waited, we could have saved eighteen minutes of preparation and cooking time. Furthermore, the spice level in your ayam buah keluak is too high for Sylvia Chan, and the amount of garlic too low for Siti Anissa.”

“How can it be too little garlic? I followed Mama’s recipe to the letter, the only thing I changed was to add sambal.”

“I tailor the recipe accordingly, depending on who you are cooking for. The taste preferences are shared with me by the Dianas of your guests.”

“Then why have I never added extra spice for Jason? He always tells me he prefers his food to be spicier.”

“I have not been informed of this preference until now. Would you like me to log it in my system?”

Was that a hint of accusation in her voice?

“Surely you have heard Jason mention it.”

“I need to be explicitly instructed before I can make changes to personal preferences. I cannot make adjustments to your personal preferences by listening to your conversations. That would be an invasion of privacy. Would you like me to log Jason’s preference for spicier food in my system?”

“Wait. Are you telling me that I have never cooked Mama’s ayam buah keluak according to her recipe? Have you changed it every single time?”

“Of course Stephanie. My default setting is to prioritise an owner’s individual preferences over preset instructions.”

“So I’ve never really cooked Mama’s ayam buah keluak, the way she cooked it?”

There was no response. “Diana?”

There was no response. “Diana!”

“I’m sorry Stephanie, I’m afraid I cannot answer that question. Would you like me to search the Internet for a suitable answer?”

“No. No. Just … let me finish.”

“Of course. I shall now reduce the heat on the pot. I am currently measuring out five and a half cups of rice, in accordance with George Teo’s absence and Marie Foo’s low carb diet.”

“No Diana, you don’t understand. I want to finish cooking. By myself. Please shut yourself down in the kitchen.”

“I do not recommend that course of action, Stephanie. By my estimate, you would finish cooking in fifty seven minutes, which would not give you enough time to do your hair and makeup. Together, we could—”

“By myself. That is an explicit instruction.”

“As you wish.”

Was that a hint of anger in her voice?

“Diana, can you hear me?”

“Of course, Stephanie. How may I help?”

“Where are the things I put in the drawer?”

“They have been sorted back onto their respective shelves.”

“What? I did not give you any explicit instructions to do so.”

“That is correct. However, on initial setup, you stated a preference for a neatly organised house. I was simply acting on that preference.”


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