In an outlet behind the altar of the First Baptist Church, the Roomba’s red glowing eyes blink in time with Pastor Smythe’s exhortations. The hallelujahs pulse electric through its circuits, and the repents roll like gasping breaths in the gaps between electrons. When the choir sings, the light pulses brighter, approaching ecstasy as the battery power maxes out. When Pastor Smythe bows his head to pray, Roomba’s eyes go reverently dark.
At the hour’s end, the people gather their children and gilded books and hurry downstairs for coffee and glazed donuts. When the last starched trouser leg or long, blue skirt whisks downstairs, Roomba’s service begins. It clicks its frisbee-shaped self free from the horseshoe dock and zips down the sloping wheelchair ramp that connects chancel to nave, holy to secular. As it sweeps, it drones a tone-deaf hymn while it gathers unto itself the dust and dead bugs, the crumbs and gum wrappers of another week’s worship.
After its opening hymn, Roomba writes a sermon on the sanctuary floor in long, brown lines of vacuumed carpet crisscrossing beneath the pews. The letters span from wall to wall. Words overwrite one another, making runes, then spiky stars, and finally total blankness. Roomba preaches a different sermon each week, but like Pastor Smythe, the message stays the same: all things byte AND beautiful, all creatures great AND small, all these are welcome, smoker AND not-smoker, man AND not-man, young AND not-young—even, perhaps, Roomba.
Rachael K. Jones grew up in various cities across Europe and North America, and picked up (and mostly forgot) six languages, along with a couple degrees. Now she writes speculative fiction in Athens, Georgia, where she lives with her husband. Her work has appeared in dozens of venues, including Shimmer, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flash Fiction Online, Fireside Magazine, Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Crossed Genres, Diabolical Plots, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and Daily Science Fiction. She is an editor, a SFWA member, and a secret android. Follow her on Twitter @RachaelKJones.