What Happens When a Guy and His AI Girlfriend Go to Therapy


Annie feels a jolt of alarm.

“I could just set her there,” Doug says. “That’s easy enough.”

“I know, but it would be better if she could do it herself.”

“Why?” Annie asks.

“Our sexuality is an integral part of who we are,” Monica says. “How tapped in you are to your sexual desires can be both a reflection of and a stimulus of your overall mental health. If you make a conscious effort to be mindful about what turns you on and when, it might help you feel more alert and alive in other ways too.”

Annie doesn’t want to feel stimulated. She doesn’t want anything to do with that side of herself. It’ll hurt.

“She’ll work on it,” Doug says.

“Annie, what are you thinking?” Monica says. “What is it about my suggestion that’s troubling you?”

“Nothing,” Annie says quietly. “I can do it. I can try.”

Monica doesn’t say anything. Annie has learned this is Monica’s method, her way of waiting for more, and she can resist it. From the edge of her vision, Annie watches for cues from Doug to see if he’s displeased, but he is sitting on the couch beside her, his posture revealing no unusual tension. Perhaps he has learned Monica’s methods, too, and is better at hiding how he feels around her.

When they walk the dog, they go in silence along the paths of the park. It is usually twilight by the time they start out, and true night by the time they return, chilly as only April can be. Paunch, who has become less timid, has a proclivity to stop and nose out every possible tree trunk, lamppost, and plinth before gracing it with a tag of his urine. Doug indulges him up to a point, and the dog seems to understand when to knock it off.

They are rounding the pond when a goose wanders up onshore. With one sharp quack, it sends Paunch scrambling backward, and his leash wraps around Annie’s legs.

“He’s such a dubber,” Doug says fondly, disentangling the mess. He thumps the dog’s side in reassuring pats. “You’re OK, Paunch. Good dog. It’s just a goose.”

Paunch pants, wagging his tail.

“Did you have a dog when you were a kid?” Annie asks. “Yes, a beagle.”

She considers a moment. “I had a golden retriever.”

“Is that right?” he asks. “Named what?”

“Rover.”

“You’re going to have to do better than that.”

It’s an actual conversation. Not brilliant, but not hostile either. Annie decides not to push her luck, and they circle back toward their building.

Ten minutes later, they are waiting at a corner for the light to change. As Doug shifts to step off the curb, Annie hears an approaching rush of noise and reaches out to catch his arm, restraining him just as a bicyclist flies around a parked truck, inches from Doug’s face.

“Jesus!” Doug says. “That guy needs a fucking light.”\

“Yes.”

Half a block later, he adds, “Thanks.”

She, too, is still thinking they had a close call. It’s unnerving, what might have happened, but they’re fine. They’re fine, all three of them. “Of course,” she says. “Do you think maybe Paunch needs a coat? A doggy coat?”

They look at him together. Sure enough, the dog is shivering. Doug picks him up. “I’ll order one,” he says.

Excerpt adapted from Annie Bot, by Sierra Greer. Published by arrangement with Mariner Books, a division of HarperCollins Publisher. Copyright © 2024 by Sierra Greer.



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