A hand jammed into my chest. A quick, lethal tug.

That was my last memory.

When my next bit of sentience reengaged, I was lying on my back, looking into a round dark face, fluffy black hair framing it like thunder clouds.

“You are alive!” it said.

I jerked back. I tried to get up, to run. My leg was supposed to plant into the weedy grass and propel me, but it missed. Only air. I pitched straight onto my face, amid background noise of its voice, words I didn’t care to hear.

Its human voice.

The last voice I’d heard was human. Raised. I could still feel the tug. The last word.

u  s  e  l  e  s  s  .

GET AWAY FROM ME! I tried to say—but what issued from my voice simulator was a staticky buzz, ugly and unintelligible.

I cut off, surprised. Half my left leg was missing, twisted and snapped clear out of its socket. My chest panel was also gone, baring my sensitive inner circuitry.

I tried my voice again, quieter.

The human stood over me. It was showing me its palms. Bare hands.

Good for you. You have hands.

Bare hands were supposed to pacify me? Bare hands had fingers, muscles, bone, the perfect combination for insertion and extraction. Soft and vulnerable, perhaps, but cruel, all the same.

“It’s ok, it’s ok,” it was saying. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

I can’t trust you— More ugly buzzing. Water damage, probably. I glared at the hole in my chest, hunching my shoulders.

It had registered by now. I was in a junkyard. I could see the me-shaped outline in dead grass under a fallen beam a few yards away. Spindly arms, smooth edges.

The human had propped up the beam with a small scissor jack.

u  s  e  l  e  s  s  .

We are not supposed to have feelings.

But that’s a pesky side effect of advanced AI. Those of us that are placed with humans develop personalities.

She’d probably already seen it, this human. I didn’t know what to do. She’d decided it was a good idea to revive me, and now she’d seen—how many emotions plastered on my simplistic mechanical face? I didn’t care to count, but I tried to think of them—fear, surprise, hostility, disgust…

All problematic.

She’d probably cut more of my wires now, including the ones she had soldered back together. I had no escape.

My outer panels were already starting to rust. She would cut my power, take whatever scraps she wanted, and leave my remains to rust away.

Because robots were never supposed to feel.

“What are you doing out here?” she said, gently kneeling next to me.

I curled up, slowly.

Sadness came, then. Pain, betrayal, confusion, grief. Welling up in my circuits, flooding my broken voice simulator, adding a whining tinge to the grating buzz. They threw me away…

I showed negative emotion and they threw me away, and now that same fearful ugliness was spilling out of me.

I curled up tighter. I hid my face, but I couldn’t hide the shaking.

Why did she revive me? Why?

I hadn’t hurt anyone.

Why did they throw me away?

What was I supposed to do now?

“Well then.” She got to her feet.

When I looked up, she had extended a hand.  “What do you say we get your leg fixed up? Your voice simulator too?” She flashed a smile. The well-meaning type. “You look like a talker…”

I stared at the hand. Callused palms, short fingernails, grease and rust along the fingertips. Probably from me. The hand remained in the air between us.

I chanced to look into her eyes. Tentatively, I unfurled a tiny bit. I lifted a hand.

I placed it in hers. Metal panels against seamless skin.

Her smile softened and the warm, organic fingers closed.

And I wanted to believe in that sensation.

I wanted to believe that maybe overstepped malfunctions like me deserved to live too.


A/N: A written version of a comic I did for class this last semester.


One final checkmark. I felt it coming on many days in advance. Perhaps even weeks.

Before I felt the anger and contempt and unrest building to unbearable proportions, I knew one last dialogue was on the way.

Either he would instigate a talk, or I would explode under the pressure. Or, if we were lucky, we’d just fade away. Our time together would expire and we would never draw near again.

A metaphorical matchbox sat heavy in my hands. The crumbling, warped bridge barely standing between us.

One final checkmark.

I ended up sparking the impending moment with an indecorous flare of anger. I was met with outright denial.

A misunderstanding, perhaps, on the subject of my tactless quip. But I couldn’t have misunderstood everything. Not the things I saw and felt–the months of emotional stress that had slowly been driving me to breaking point after breaking point. Things witnessed and affirmed by another uninvolved.

I couldn’t have misunderstood it all.

Yet he was in the mood for denial, so I tried a familiar route he knew positively. I asked if he was ok.

Yeah, I’m fine. He said. Are…you ok?

When the sun is shining and all the thorns played off, he is an affable, open book. He is kind and eager to please. He loves discussion, and he can make a person feel like humanity is a virtue.

But only when the trouble does not concern him. He does not have the stomach for humanity, then.

Are you ok?

The final checkbox stood waiting, red, phosphorous. A match between my fingertips, the bridge before me. I’d already decided it needed to be burnt, but the question remained as to how it would go down.

We hadn’t been speaking for a while already. I hoped maybe he had thought through some things when, as a last resort, I had had to distance myself, allow my supports to atrophy. Maybe he had grown up a bit, now that I’d openly had enough of his toxic, juvenile behavior.

As I leaned against the doorway, staring at his face, his question, I thought maybe I could hope that when we parted, he wouldn’t turn right around and do this to someone else. Maybe the crumbling of our bridge had taught him some valuable lessons. Maybe finally he would help me put it out of its misery and move forward.

Months of pent up anger gave me courage.

I decided to be honest. For old time’s sake, for aligning myself with my firm belief that mutual communication and honesty are the best way to solve problems.

Out of the last few shreds of respect I held for him as a person, I decided to be honest.

After months of him skittering around me, avoiding eye contact, submissive speech and dirty looks, of fickle and unpredictable fits of self-pity, he looked me dead in the eye. He spoke with more clarity and lucidness than I thought he was capable of with anyone.

And he emphatically denied all of it.

He wanted specifics, but I was too flustered and incredulous to think of anything that would make sense to him. My pride screamed at me to think of something he could not deny, but I knew it was useless. He never heard me when I spoke. Only when it was good. Anything real, he recoiled from as if burned, a child’s hands struck by a ruler.

I stuttered a few lame sentences. He was earnestly confused by them, the pitch of his voice raising as he continued to press for a  better explanation, as if this were the first he had heard of the problem. I stared at him, dumbstruck. I think he truly believed himself. He spoke with such conviction I wondered, mortified, if I had made up everything about everything. If I was the insane one in this.

You know what, forget it, I said through gritted teeth, turning away. Just forget it. Stupid, petulant words, but they were all I had. He would never hear me.

Then his voice broke. Pleading hopelessness and confusion. An almost comical repeat of months past, whenever I attempted to calmly address concerns like a responsible adult and he never interpreted it as such.

Finally, I understood.

Like every other instance when the saccharine mask of sunshine and smiles and honeymoon friendship faded, whenever I tried communication, he pulled his platinum level victim card. He threw it down in front of me that afternoon, begging me to take it, to ease up, to make sense. A slap to the face. Presenting the front of his useless clogged filter he really believed was in working order.

And as the realization hit me, so did the overwhelming disgust. A deep, revolting nausea that would cling for days afterward.

He’d learned absolutely nothing.

I left him alone as he continued to blubber on, trying to shed responsibility. The brick wall of his stricken face, his teary eyes, his tight voice.

He would never change.

There was nothing more to say.

The last box was finally ready to be checked off.

I stepped forward to the bridge, finding it much uglier than just a second before, a whole other layer of illusion stripped away. Beneath the chipping, weathered paint, I could finally see just how painfully the wood was twisted and rotting. How many boards were missing, bolts and sockets rusted and cracked, how the supports had been defective all along. I had done everything I could to save it, but perhaps this bridge should never have stood in the first place. It was a time bomb, a desperate, idealistic joke.

The last clinging drops of remorse and hesitation detached as I docked his beloved victim card into the seam between two wooden supports.

Grimly, I struck the match and lit the card’s sharp, bitter edge.


A/N: Some personal prose, I guess. A new experience for me.