Concept Art Writing Prompt: A Boy And His BigDog

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: A Boy And His BigDog

This week's writing prompt comes from five minutes into the future, when soldiers go into the field with quadruped robots. What kind of story will you tell about this pair?


A Boy and His Dog is by one of our favorite concept artists, Sandara. If you dig Sandara's artwork, you can buy her products through Society6 or Zazzle. BigDog, on the other hand, is the creation of Boston Dynamics.

As always, we invite you to come up with a story inspired by this image and post it in the comments.


Lauren Davis

Aspen knew Rover wasn't alive. This was his third transport mission with Bravo-Delta-015, but he still winced every time the robot seemed to stumble in the sand and silently cheered when it managed to scramble up a particularly steep dune. And when he decided it was time to set camp that night, he scratched it by an imaginary ear and whispered, "That's enough for today, pretty lady."

He positioned Rover in its dormant position next to his tent, and leaned against its body as he tore open an MRE. "You like the stars, Ro?" he asked as Venus winked into view. "When I was a kid, all I wanted was to go into space." He laughed and nearly coughed back up a mouthful of chili. "My mom thought it was too dangerous, I guess because of the Challenger, maybe? But sometimes I look up there and I think, the worst thing that happens in space is you die. Or maybe you accidentally kill the mice you're experimenting on. Lot worse things can happen then dying."

He tucked the wrapper away and tilted his head back. "You probably got cousins up there, Ro, fixing space stations and flying ships around." He paused, then nodded, as if listening to an inaudible voice. "Yeah, you're right. Time to hit the hay." He pulled a blanket from one of Rover's saddlebags and kissed the robot's snout. "Sweet dreams, pretty lady."

Aspen woke to the sounds of baying in the darkness and bolted upright. His mind raced back to that night on base when two dogs—their hairless skin weeping red and their ribs prodding from their chests—had wandered on base and attacked Jacoby's German Shepherd. Jacoby's arm was mangled by the time he'd fought them off, but it was the rabies that ultimately killed him.

Aspen slipped out of his tent, rifle in hand. He crept behind Rover's prone form. "Rover, up," he whispered, and the robot stretched its four legs into standing position, the whirring of its joints barely breaking the silence of the night. Aspen perched the rifle on Rover's back and aimed it into the darkness.

A figure shot up, howling. Aspen took one shot, and as the figure fell, small forms around it scattered. It took him a moment to register that they walked on two legs, not four. He fumbled for a glow stick and snapped it on, walking toward the fallen figure. It was a child. His small body was still now. A long strip of fabric, shaped like a dog's tail, was tucked into his pants. Aspen thought back to the howling. Not dogs, he realized. A children's game.

His heart pounding, Aspen stumbled back to Rover. He pounded his fist against the robot's body, gasping back a strangled sob. He rolled up his tent and heaved it into one of Rover's bags. "Quickly, quickly," he whispered and the robot followed him away from the body and the footprints of tiny children.

Aspen shivered through the rest of the night, although not from the cold. When the sun broke across the horizon, he ordered Rover to stop. He pulled out his rifle again, trembling this time, and even though he knew Rover wasn't alive, he shot the robot between its imaginary eyes.