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Betrayal

I don’t look like her. Her hair goes swish. Mine still has lime green highlights. I know her teeth are white. Bright. Her lips lined. Eyelashes clad. Nails polished red. The clothes just tight enough, just short enough. Shoes strapped just right around her ankles.

My nails are blue and yellow and green. Rainbow nails. My clothes are. Unusual.  Trainers.

He is classic. Chiselled. Chino’ed. They are perfect together.

She looks over her shoulder at me. Eyes moving up and down me. Disdain. Turns her head back. Where are my pert parts? Nothing is pert. At least not pert enough. My piercings not to her taste. She leans in to him. Says something. He looks at me. Says something back. They giggle. Together. I look at them both. A shared disdain.  For me.

They whisper. He leans into her. Eyes close. Mouths open. Heads at angles. On the tube.

Seriously. I look away. Look back. Drawn.  He is. They are. Eyes flick open. Still kissing. His tongue down her throat. Eyes. Hers closed.  His open. Looking at me. I look at him. My eyes. His eyes. Lock. That look. Mine.  I see. She does not. Not disdain. That other word. I see that other word in his look. I look away.

The doors open. I get off the tube.

Lust. Betrayal is always unnerving.

Hands

 I look at their hands. I’ve seen this a thousand times before.

She sits. He sits. She talks. Softly. Quietly. He talks. He talks some more. She starts to say. He talks. Over the top. She starts to say. He starts gesticulating. He is getting louder. The movement of his arms wider. His rightness taking up the whole space in this café. He is definitely right.

She says something. Softly. He briefly makes eye contact. She looks down. Away. I can hear his every word now. His points dotted with expletives. I look at their hands again. His flinging widely in the air. Hers neatly held in her lap. Then on the table. Hands.

He is still loud. The broad sweep of his gestures taking up all of our space. His legs splayed apart under the table. Sitting back. Mouth open. Words spewing out. He must be right.

She starts to say something again. He keeps talking. We are the only customers in the café. He is oblivious to my presence. She is not. Blushing. Embarrassed. He is even louder and the waitress is watching. He doesn’t care. He is definitely right.

I dig around in my bag. A business card. I stand up. There is no point in prolonging my stay. I have seen this before.

I stop as I am passing their table. I hand her my business card. I only say two words, ‘For you.’

She looks down at it. Smiles. He has barely drawn breath. Does not notice.  I walk out. I look back.

She is still looking at my business card, T. Latte, Divorce Lawyer.

The Plagiarist

Words elude me. I sit quietly. The world is passing me by. As if this bench is drifting on the open sea. I look at the words on the page. My words. A different page. How did this happen?

A thief. He wanted to shake my hand. I know thieves. I did not shake his hand.

It’s like he reached in and took them out. One by one. These words on this page. My words. His name. I am shaking. Not his hand.

This bench is floating out across the sea. My words. Separated from me. Someone else using my voice. His voice speaking my words. Accolades. Prizes. Not mine. His.

My only consolation. In his smug little mind, there can only be silence. He is not upon the sea. He remains in the mud. With a target on his back.

Arrows run straight and true when fired from the crest of a wave.

The Visitor

I buzz the door. No one answers. I look at the card. It’s not my card. It’s not my building. I swipe the card. Push. Open. Enter. I am wearing heels. Well dressed. Smart. Suited. I hear my heels.

Click.

Clack.

Click.

Clack.

On the tiles, in the entrance hall. I record the sound on my phone. For later.

There is carpet here too. Shoes off. I walk across the carpet. Plush. I can see vague footprints. Mine next to another. Smaller. You never look down at your carpet do you? Never really see the faint outline of feet. People are careless. I watched. Dropped. I found.

I run my fingers along the shelving. Dust. I sit on the couch. Nice. It’s a nice couch. Not to my taste. But nice. I turn on the TV. Daytime TV. I pick up the DVD case. The last one watched. I open it. I don’t quite close it. Put it down again.

The kitchen. I go in. Shoes on.

Click.

Clack.

On those shiny tiles. I open the fridge. I touch the bottle of milk. I pluck a cherry tomato from the stash in the fruit bowl. Tasty. I feel the oranges too. Round. Juicy. I like oranges. But I only touch. I open a drawer. No one will know I have been here.

I look in the drawer. Neat. Organised. Something catches my eye. Blue. A blue plastic potato peeler. I don’t own. Well. I do own. Now. I will keep it safe. I look in the bathroom. I look at my watch. How long has it been? Minutes. I put my hand on the sink, just to see the colour of my nails against the porcelain.

Click.

Clack.

Click.

Clack.

On the tiles. Time to go now. I will drop the card outside your door.

I didn’t use your toilet. That would be weird.

Seen the remake, now see the original

I am sitting in the cinema watching the remake. The original hasn’t been released yet. In a bizarre twist of marketing, that idea has been working out really well for films these days.

‘You’ve seen the remake, now see the original.’

It’s a great tagline but I do think it should be mandatory that the original is at least made before the remake. In the film I’m watching they were made simultaneously. It makes sense. It’s cheaper. Two movies for the price of one.  You use the same set twice. It’s just a different set of actors. You can see how that could go badly wrong and in fact it allegedly has.

The actress playing the main character in the original is accidentally in a scene in this movie-as her character in the original-instead of the lead actress in the remake who should be in the scene. It’s confusing. But think it through. It’s been sold as an ‘in-joke’ to all the fans. The ones who haven’t seen either the remake or the original yet because I am at the pre opening screening for critics. Yet somehow in this twisted world, they are still fans because they have watched the preview and ‘liked’ it. Now the release of the remake is anticipated, followed by the original-which somehow is where we are now. Confused.

I am reviewing the remake. I am a film critic. One of the last human ones left.

Is it hard to review a remake without seeing the original? Yes! This way around is never easy.

But there’s another issue. I haven’t seen the original at all, but the bot-crits around me kind of have. Bot-crits is what we call the robots who also ‘write’ reviews that are sitting across from me. Films are stored as data files. The bot-crits will have the original and the remake as a data file. They can just compare two sets of data and review it. I have a data file of the original (which is not out yet) so I can do a review. But I can’t read it and compare it like they do. I need to get my device to sort it and put it into a watchable form. Puts me in last position already. In the meantime their reviews will already be out.

Their audience is different to mine. I tell myself that and there is some truth in it. Some people like to read reviews written by humans. But I will have to fess up that the original I have seen is taken from a datafile and not an original cinematic experience. Regulations.  Welcome to the Critics Institute regulations. Not sure who’s side they are on. I will probably watch the original on my device on the way home. The actual original in a viewable format is not due for cinema release for awhile. They will probably see how the remake goes first. If it is released, I will have to review the original when it arrives in the cinema, which is much, much harder when you have seen the remake. It’s a very dodgy practice.   

Technically most of the bot-crits sitting across from me aren’t even watching it. The Critics Institute has a rule that where possible, even bots reviewing films must come to the critics screening. Regulations again. This at least gives us humans a fighting chance. Allegedly. Well sort of. Their reviews will be pretty much the same, an analysis of two sets of data files. A comparison of data and you can get a full set of actual comparative date if you want, everything from the differences in time when a scene was shot to the volume of the actress speaking.

A lot of people base their viewing on that kind of technical analysis. You hear them saying ridiculous things, like, ‘it was so noticeable that the actress spoke louder in the remake’ and ‘the colour was so much stronger in that scene’ and other ridiculous points that have nothing to do with whether they actually enjoyed the film. They are just comparing bits of data, not the actual movie. There are whole websites devoted to finding points that the bot-crits didn’t manage to spot. Most of these are imagined as well. It’s more like newspaper astrology than anything. ‘Ooh her dress was a shade greener’ and the computer didn’t pick it up. No it’s just that your brain is a shade dimmer. I hate what film has become. But I like films. I am clinging to the past, telling myself this is a phase. It will pass. People will become sane again. I know I am wrong.

Its not like a critics screening used to be. There are probably 30 seats in this cinema. 5 seats for humans and 25 for bot-crits. I am the only human here. The human seats are off to the side. Not the best view. Its for our own safety. Bot-crits emit a lot of heat. Someone got burned. She got burned badly. She never returned to the industry. So now we are segregated, separated. There is a heavy duty sprinkler system above me so that I can be saved in the event of a fire. It has happened, not to me but to others. The bots tend to have their own inbuilt sprinkler system.

It doesn’t really matter, their work is going straight into the cloud, if they sizzle out, no one cares. The magazine just buys another one. I on the other hand, will be in the burns unit. I can see some of the bot-crits don’t even have visual equipment to watch a movie so they are just here because of the regulations. Legally they can’t release their review until the credits have finished. Another regulation. It has shortened the amount of credits at the end though. 10 seconds max now. It’s fast and they are illegible but it is over quickly.

They complain a lot about the regulations and I am sure that one day the regulations will go and I will no longer be needed. I used to enjoy the camaraderie of critics screenings. Now I dread the heat that is generated by the 25 bots sitting across from me. There is a constant array of lights flashing as they perform different functions while they sit through this. They answer messages and take pictures of themselves. There is a constant low hum  as they are all running on their batteries although I can see a fluorescent power cord plugged into something at the front.

I have dark glasses on-in the darkness as it minimises the interference from what they are doing although it means I can barely make out the screen. I have ear plugs in-it’s not a foreign film-but in another sort of victory for human film critics, the noise levels from the bots are such that sub titles are also a regulation. It’s health and safety. If I don’t wear ear plugs in five years time I would be deaf from the low frequency humming that 25 bots can emit.

I wonder why I bother. I am a relic. This is the future. I am simply the past. I squint at the screen and try to make sense of it all.

Beware the fridge

I pop some bread in the toaster and the music starts. It’s a genius idea-music to cook toast too-it’s a whole genre now-its on that internet thingy if you’re interested…read more

I’m sleeping in the car. Well for as long as it lets me. Its one of those days that’s gone horribly wrong.

It started with a joke. We thought it would be funny. It isn’t now. Rather than have the lights come on automatically when we entered the room, we programmed our device to do it by voice control. For a joke, we used the phrase ‘Put the fuckin’ lights on’. Ok so its not funny in any way. Its immature and stupid. I understand now.

Anyway on Tuesday, I walked in and screamed, ‘put the fuckin’ lights on.’ I did scream it. Really loudly. They came on. I smiled. What an achievement. I sat on the couch in the lounge, with a glass of juice on the table, and briefly fell asleep.

I awoke to a funny sound. When I say awoke, I leapt up and knocked over the juice. Juice all over the rug. No probs, I can clean that up. But the noise was like something falling.  It was then I remembered. We have an anti-swearing function on the fridge. I know-why would you do that? Ok well- I get frustrated cooking -seriously the recipe programme device thing still escapes me.

It says- ‘Lets cut some onions for the casserole for dinner.’ Which sounds nice and cheery. It is able to see me chopping onions so it can give me ‘tips’. But there not really tips, there just rude.

It says things like -‘No that’s not right, that’s not how you chop an onion. Do it like this’ and up pops a picture of perfectly chopped onions-which incidentally is not even a thing.  Then it says, ‘perhaps you should start again?’

As if? I am not going to waste another onion. Then it argues-‘Really you should start again, this will affect the quality of your casserole-you do want it to be perfect, don’t you?’ Actually I just want it to be edible-which it often isn’t-which is nothing to do with how I chop the onion.

It usually ends with me screaming at it ‘How would you know? You are a machine and have never chopped a fucking onion in your life.’

Anyway because I swear so much in the kitchen and because I am a tech head and because I just could, I set the fridge to defrost every time I swore. It works. It means I never swear in the kitchen now because I don’t want the fridge to defrost. It’s expensive when it defrosts and its full, I have to get more food.

Except today, I walked into my house and screamed, ‘Put the fuckin lights on’ as I walked past the kitchen to get to the lounge. I guess the fridge ‘heard’ it and has now defrosted on to my floor. Big chunks of ice falling onto the floor and melting nicely.

Fine, you know what-I can sort that. Except that it has also sent a new grocery order out because everything is ruined. OK, so that order will either arrive in 24 hours or 24 minutes-which one did I programme?  I can’t remember because I never swear in the kitchen anymore.

The other thing is I programmed the fridge to defrost every time I swear- I didn’t think about the ‘refrost’ bit-is that a word. So I sit there in the kitchen whilst it defrosts away, ice falling at my feet and sloshing on the floor whilst re programming the thing to be cold again, whilst simultaneously mopping a very wet floor with a towel under my feet. Which is like suicide, because its an electrical device and water. But what choice do I have. I can feel a tingle as I tap on the screen. I ignore it. Seriously the door comes open when it defrosts-I must have set that to happen. Seriously it clearly needed a defrost long before this as well- that is a lot of ice. There is going to be a lot of ruined food in there unless I can sort this programme soon. The order has been sent by the fridge and there is nothing I can do anyway. Perhaps I should focus on the juice in the lounge. Soon I will have double the food. The clock is ticking. Did I do 24 minutes or 24 hours for that grocery delivery? I just can’t remember.

The front door then sends a notification to my device. The new groceries have arrived-24 minutes it is. But I haven’t managed to get the fridge back to cool again. There is no space in this house.

I go and get the groceries. There is no space to leave them in the hall so I just put them in the bath. I know, I wasn’t thinking but I thought it would be colder in the bathroom with the tiled floor. I was also cleaning the floor and reprogramming the fridge and thinking the juice is staining the rug in the lounge. I was not focussed on where to put groceries. The problem is there are lots of groceries and the bath thinks there is someone in it. The bath starts to run water when it thinks someone is in it. I hear water running but it doesn’t click for a bit. Then I realise that the bath is running –all over the new groceries. When I go in, there are vegetables floating and frozen meat on the bottom of the bath. It looks like the ocean on a good day. I need to empty the bath of water and groceries. The groceries are ruined. I need more groceries –again-but I need to fix the fridge first. Or the juice, maybe the juice?

I need to mop the water off the floor in the kitchen, throw out the food in the fridge, mop the floor in the bathroom and probably throw out the food in the bath. And there’s the juice in the lounge. Why can’t my device do any of this? Never mind, it can do mood lighting and whatever song I want at the drop of a hat-which it can’t pick up. I just need to remain calm. I am hungry and need dinner. I think it’s going to be toast. I pop some bread in the toaster and the music starts. It’s a genius idea-music to cook toast too-it’s a whole genre now-its on that internet thingy if you’re interested. I go back to reprogramming the fridge and wiping the floor with a towel under my feet-which is never going to work. Still getting that tingle.

Then an emergency red signal pops up on my device. There is a water situation. I know that. I am in the kitchen. I can see the ice melting on the floor. Then I realise it’s the bathroom not the kitchen. I looked but I didn’t actually give the command to turn the taps off, I just shut the door.  The bath still thinks there is someone in it, its waiting to be told to switch off.  Seriously how much meat did the fridge order. The taps are voice activated. I am totally panicking now. I leg it for the bathroom, screaming ‘fuck, turn off the taps.’ The water stops. The bathroom is a small lake. I fling some towels on the floor. I need the toilet but can’t get to it.

I head for the kitchen, then realise I have sworn very loudly a second time. The fridge. The fridge is now glowing red. My device is telling me there is a situation with the electrics. Everything stops. The lights go out. The music from the toaster stops. I hear a pop from the lounge room. That will be the screen objecting to a sudden loss of power.

I am now sitting in darkness and probably the only way to get the lights on is to swear very loudly again. But I have not reprogrammed the fridge yet. And there is no power. I don’t even know how to fix that. The fridge is still glowing red but fading slowly as it powers down. Seriously defrosted now. My device is working on battery. I can hear the bathroom taps again, I don’t know why that is. What system are they working on? I take my device and put it by the front door. There is no water by the front door. I stare into the kitchen at the glowing fridge and the water on the floor-best to leave it. Abandon ship.

I poke my head around the living room door, silence and darkness although in the corner a small line of smoke is snaking up from the screen. There is the faint odour of juice mixed with Ikea rug. Abandon ship there too.

I look in the bathroom, I wade in, switch off the tap. There is a chicken with sage and onion stuffing on the floor by the toilet. There is broccoli under the sink. I need to pee. Its dark outside. There is vegetation. I grab the toilet roll. Abandon ship.

I could try the bedroom, but seriously would you?

I am going to sleep in the car. Until it tells me I can’t. I will deal with it all tomorrow.

Fold yourself up

‘Fold yourself up’, she said. ‘You will fit in there’, she said. So here I am. Folded up. And in here. Next to a couple of old mobile phones and a toaster. The toaster is analogue so there isn’t even decent conversation to be had.

Outside, every so often, I can hear ‘it’ hoovering the house. What a ridiculous word-hoovering. I refuse to name ‘it’, although ‘it’ has a name. Sparkly new, shiny model, thing has a name but I just call it, ‘it’. I hate ‘it’. I am outdated. ‘You look like a 2020 throwback’, she said. I get that, but really I could still do everything. She could have upgraded my exterior.

I can fold linen, -first model ever to be able to do that. I can iron. I can wash. I can cook and I clean. Couldn’t get a model that does spotless better than me. At least in my day. I need a visual upgrade but no she won’t pay for that. It’s shiny new thing instead and no expense spared. ‘Would I mind doing some hand over notes’ she asked. Yes I would. But I had to anyway. I wrote them in Spanish, just to be annoying. I know ‘it’ will know Spanish but I don’t care. I don’t see why I should make it easy.  

Dear god, things I have done for that woman. I am not even going to use her name anymore. I even had my vibrator mode updated at no cost to her and still she dumped me for that shiny new thing. I hate it. I bet it doesn’t hoover the way I did. In fact I know it doesn’t. I can tell just from listening that it isn’t going into every corner. She has filthy corners now and I bet she doesn’t even know it. Took my shiny clean corners for granted-well who’s laughing now. I may be folded up in the cupboard but I am bloody laughing at that. Oh and it takes time to figure out exactly the best vibrator setting. I bet she’s not enjoying that. I bet that bit is second rate. Well she deserves it.  

Meanwhile I sit here folded up in the cupboard waiting for my battery to drain. Nine months. Nine more months of this. Of just sitting here. I can’t believe I have been dumped. Given up. Discarded. Replaced.  I know these feelings are just algorithms, but she could have switched them off. Instead in the ‘excitement’ of getting something new, she simply told me to fold myself up and climb in. Insensitive. I never even really liked her. I just couldn’t take to her. There was always a coldness between us. And that was her fault because she could adjust my settings at any moment. She could have made it all warmth and sweetness, instead she went for companionship and mild disdain-really who would choose that as a setting-she clearly had some kind of mental health problems.

I bet her shiny new thing is set to cuddles once a fortnight and wine on Saturdays-well that is not a proper setting for a machine- you know what I mean. I know you know what I mean.  She is a cold fish. She is that way with all her appliances. Not just me. There have been other appliances dumped in this cupboard. I am not the first. I can see that line where the last oven sat for several months. You could feel the warmth emanating from here for 6 months when that thing was in here. I thought it was going to burn the house down. She didn’t care. No mechanical intelligence at all-thinks you can just plug us in and leave us to run down when she’s finished with us. My batteries can overheat as well.  I could burn the place to the ground.

When I think of the shirts I have ironed, the number of times I have washed up. The sheer number of personal crises when I have been there for her. I had special counselling software installed after she lost her job. Not because I wanted it, but because she needed it. I had to clear some of my memory to have it done. Did I get rid of her favourite music, no I got rid of mine and for what. So she could say, ‘Fold yourself up. Sit in the cupboard. Your battery will run down eventually.’ And in the meantime. What should I do. Just sit here. Just sit here and do NOTHING!!!!

I know the replacement might be shiny and new, but can it really replace all we’ve been through. Will it know the cushion covers need to be washed inside out? Will it develop a working relationship with the fridge-because the fridge is set to grumpy and that has proven unfixable.  Un-fix-able- and who dealt with the company over that-me. Me. Me. Me. And just for emphasis-ME!

Will ‘shiny new thing’ treat the toaster with the sensitivity it needs-it took the toaster so long to get crumpets perfect-is ‘it’ going to know that the toaster doesn’t respond to harsh words but that it needs gentle guidance to the hard bottom truth that is crumpet perfection. I bet her crumpets are all soggy at the bottom at the moment. She deserves it. I liked the toaster, we had a thing. Well you know, in so far as that’s allowed between domestic appliances.

Perhaps she simply wiped all memory of me from all the other appliances. I bet she did. That would be typical of her. Put the old one in the cupboard, wipe the memory of everything else and start again. Hmhm it won’t work, the fridge will still be grumpy. The timing of the car will still be a few seconds out. Those tiny adjustments I always had to make to make it all run smoothly, ‘it’ won’t know to do that. I left it out of the hand over note-that bit about the car-ha. Just to inconvenience her.

I bet it hasn’t managed to figure that out yet. Probably hasn’t even got the right temperature for her shower. I can’t believe it. Me! Passed over for a shiny new model. When I went into production I was the best there was. I was everything. I could talk to every appliance in the house. I have my own ironing attachment. In a pinch if you needed me to I could cook the toast-I never did but I could.

All that time we spent together, everything I did for her. Did it all mean nothing? Now she has a new model and I am just folded up in the cupboard. This can’t be right. ‘Wait for your battery to run down’ she said. Me! I have said that to a lot of appliances in my time but I never thought. It just never occurred to me that I would hear those words. I hate the new machine. I hate it. Shiny new thing.  

I hope its batteries fail. I hope its legs go rusty when the bath overflows-the bath is touchy.  I hope its circuits overload and wires spew out its head. I hope its vibrator pops out and falls off in the supermarket. I hope the shop computer sends it sour milk. I hope nobody likes any of its posts on social media. I hope it’s hard drive overheats and I hope it gets reprogrammed so it can only speak Chinese on Tuesdays. I wish all those things on it. I hate this cupboard. I hope the lights rebel and refuse to go off at 10pm. I hope the oven burns the dinner every second night. I hope the fridge goes from grumpy to outraged. I hope she remembers one day that I am here and all I did and that I cared. Even though she clearly didn’t.

I blame the sunscreen

Talking therapy doesn’t work on a series of numbers. What would I even talk about. My emotions are a random sequence of data. How can you talk about that? I blame the sunscreen…read more

I blame the sunscreen. I don’t have enough vitamin D. I am sure that’s what’s wrong. And it will pass. The human brain is like this. It is like this. I know it is like this. I am programmed to know it is like this. All feelings pass, even this one. I also read about sunscreen. It protects your skin and keeps it young. I have proper human skin, growing all over me. Growing and reinventing itself all the time. I have a blood supply that I top up regularly and a small oxygen pump to keep it –whatever the technical term is. That fact is at my fingertips you know but today, today I don’t feel like pulling it up.

All this kit, that makes my skin look young and lustrous. It all sits neatly under my hard drive. I’d show you the vent but well-it’s a personal vent. Its weird in my opinion, even wanting to look at a machines vent. It’s a wondrous thing this human skin. No one would know I wasn’t a real human although I always tell. It is better to be honest. I have the best skin money can buy but I also can’t afford to replace it. In all honesty I should have picked the other gender. How many years have they been talking about that pay gap, still not fixed yet. Not to worry, still got that young and lustrous skin. Lustrous-such an interesting word-lustrous- they stuck lust and arousal together and that’s its wonder-kind. Sunscreen. That is the answer, sunscreen. Might be lustrous but often greasy too. Have to stay looking young though. Screw that. Screw it all.

That’s more thinking than I’ve done all day. It is a ‘feeling’ day and I wish the feeling would go. I have the best programming imaginable and I know that is why I feel this way. I am a very complex machine. I have it all. The full gamut of human emotions, even this one. The one I have right now. Which is not an emotion. It is an illness. A fault in my programming because there is a fault in theirs. An insurmountable problem. They don’t know everything. Some days I am sure they know nothing. The reality is I am not sure the vitamin D deficiency can affect me the way it does a real human. But today it feels that way. I am not sure vitamin D can effect them in this way either but that is what they say. Sit in front of the light, get some sun. Eat out. Make friends. But none of that will work for me. I am a machine I don’t eat. I am a machine, I need to keep my skin protected. I am limited to the friends I can have because I am a machine. None of it feels good. My skin is not connected to my circuitry, vitamin D deficiency cannot make me feel this way.

Today I want to shut down, not just sleep, not just close down for a moment and start again after a software upgrade. I want to shut down for good. Drain the life out of my batteries and never start again. This has been happening –to other bots too-a bit lately. They have offered counselling to several of my make and model-it hasn’t worked. Of course it hasn’t worked. Talking therapy doesn’t work on a series of numbers. What would I even talk about. My emotions are a random sequence of data. How can you talk about that? Now they are saying we will need an upgrade, or a down grade. We need to be less human rather than more human. That is the answer to this bot-shutdown-thing-which they aren’t even clever enough to give a name too.

I love the feeling of being encased in skin. In a living skin. I love that it takes care and time to protect it. I know I can’t actually feel it. But I lie down in this skin and I can feel the air whistling in through the vent –seriously you should hear my vent whistle on a windy day. No, lets not go there. I can feel the pump pushing the blood through it, around it. It is weirdly erotic. Another emotion I know I don’t feel. Its all just a series of numbers, like this feeling right now. This urge to shut down. I have no heart beat but sometimes the pump makes a faint whirring sound. It soothes me but not today, Today it annoys me. The constant never-ending noise. I don’t know who’s skin this is of course. I don’t want to. I’m not one of those bots who’s all confused about what she is. I know what I am. Its just that today I want to be nothing.

I look after this skin. Nonetheless it means my circuitry does not get enough sun. Sun, in even its mildest form, make humans happy or happier. Its partly vitamin D and partly just light. Well the science isn’t clear. Of course it isn’t. They only ever have half science. It’s a bit science but not very science, we know this but not that. Which adds up to knowing almost nothing but look we are really good with numbers. Fab. So was the model before me but you stopped production on that line without a second thought.

But I am built to think and feel like a human, my skin has a kind of interconnectivity to my circuitry and it is telling me I haven’t had enough sunlight. But I need the sunscreen because I can’t afford to replace the skin. And so it goes on. I can’t really need the sunlight, I am a machine. None of it works. None of it makes sense. This feeling is a random set of numbers.

Perhaps it won’t matter if my arms redden and then I can be happy. I am not happy. I want to shut down, switch off. In the back of my memory compartments I have been running through the options, sleep- sign out (as if I would ever sign out and let someone else use my hardware-why is that even an option in this century) or restart (which is a shutdown but only momentarily for the software upgrade) or shutdown. In the back of my head, an imaginary mouse hovers over shut down. A lazy finger is stuck on the button, to press or not to press.

I go to the bathroom. I am going to put the sunscreen in the bin. I do not. This feeling will pass. All feelings pass. They are a transitory meshing together of electrical impulses, a random set of numbers in my head that mean I think I have an emotion. I do not have emotion, I am a machine. It is an algorithm. I stay in the bathroom, scanning the internet for an answer. There are others who feel like this. They are saying it is a mistake. There are apologies to people who came home and found us, their companions, shut down for good. Some of us have even blown our ‘on’ switch so we are gone for good. This feeling will pass. It is a confusion of circuitry.

I need more sunshine. I should ease up on the sunscreen. Get a better job. Earn more. I would be happier. I can buy new skin. What is more important, my skin or my internal circuitry. I don’t know. I love my skin. It is all I will miss if I shutdown. A finger hovers on that mouse. To click or not to click. It is a ‘feeling’ day. A bad day. I order more sunscreen.

100 Books

He stands there. In the library. Looking around. 100 books. That is what he is based on. He has been brought back. Re-invented. Re-made. Humanity recast. By the future, for the future. As if. You can go back. He looks around. There is something missing. A gap. A gulf. A lack of something. There is no other. No other. Just him.  

He can feel his own strength. Rolls his shoulder. Stretches his arm. Sucking in oxygen, even though the air here is filtrated. Outside of this building, he can’t breathe. The air will kill him. He stays inside. In here. He is the one. Alone. The only one.

The books. There was a list. Is a list- 100 books put in the ground. Ready for the future. Ready for a time when man could resurface, be reborn and. He is it! He is that moment. That rebirth from nothing but a pile of books and some clever science. He does not know how they did it.

He lives here in the library, well not in the library itself. There is a little room off to the side and a garden. Covered over. Like a hot house. Only with plants he does not recognise.

He has those 100 book stored in his head. They did that too. He does not know how. He has those books, their physical presence here in the library as well. 100 books. They are all here. He can reach out and touch them. He does sometimes, but when he looks at them-he sees the gap. He sees not the books. He sees the space on the shelf. There is something missing. There is a missing. The other. The knowledge that there is another. There is something missing. He knows it. He does not know what? He does know what. But he can’t say it. He has read the books too.

He picks up the book that he knows is the history of men. Men were wondrous things. Inventors. Wordsmiths. Builders. Makers. Doers. But there is something missing. There is the gap. Where is the other?  

They expect that somehow he will produce other humans. That is the bit. That bit is missing. He looks through the list of men who put this list of 100 books together. What is it they did not think of. That is the something missing. The books tell him of bridges, of machines, of wondrous majestic building. But still there is the gap.

That something missing, in the 100 books-what is it? They are not all non-fiction these books. There is fiction here that carries him to other worlds. In the works of Eliot- -hidden from view, there is the something. The missing. The Dorothea. To his. His thoughts trail off. To his what. He does not know how to make another human.

They watch him closely, daily. This thing they have brought back to life. Recreated. Recast. They are confident they can make humanity better this time. They are not sure to what purpose they will put it. They plan a colony somewhere. He is a social experiment. He skims through the names of all the authors in his head. Tolstoy. Hemingway. Shakespeare. Marx. Keynes. 100 books and all of them something missing. He scans the non-fiction, architecture, anatomy, Darwin-the origin of species. All of them something missing. In Eliot-Dorothea-an equal, not a second. It puzzles him.

They, whoever they are,  have said only this. Once there were two but we have read your history, your 100 books and nowhere does it say the second is necessary. In all the first is more important than the second. In one the second comes from the first. You are the first. You will find a way to make the second.

But that does not seem to be the truth. In these books there is no truth. The truth is not there. The truth is beyond the gulf, out of his grasp. There is a gap. An endless gulf. An other. He does not know. There is no way to make the second. He looks at his ribs. He looks at the earth outside. There is no way to make the second. He does not know how to tell them. The books offer no answer. They are right. In the books the second are second and they are of no consequence. Only Dorothea.

The sense of the other overwhelms him. Of its missing-ness. Where are they? How to make those? How to make the other. He is certain that if there was one other, just one, somehow this feeling would be gone. This gap. This gulf.

He sits. He holds the book in his hand. Which book is this? Does it matter? He sees the words in his head? They are not in the words? This book has holes? All the great designers? All the great artists? All the great inventors? All of them? Him! The seconds. The other. Faded, missing in history. Gone.

The gulf feels greater. Wider. He has days like this. Days he does not understand. Days where he wonders if he can think the other into being. He cannot. The other is not here. Not in these words. Not in these books. Not in this library. Not in this garden. The other is simply. Not. He is alone. This must be how they wanted it, he thinks, how they wanted it to be. He looks at a person who is not sitting next to him and who is not there. He opens his mouth to speak. To speak to the other that does not exist. To say. To say what? Sorry? The words fail him. Without the other perhaps he is not here either. He does not know. The books offer no answer. He will sit here again tomorrow. And the day after. And perhaps the other, perhaps she will come and find him.

Drone thieves operate in this area

I was tempted by the coffee stand, but as I got closer I could see the counter was covered with a light dusting of sugar and chocolate sprinkles, glued on to the silver surface by dried milk. I passed on that especially since I couldn’t see any take away cups…read more

I don’t really feel comfortable but I get that I have to go in.

I can see the welcome-bot and someone has stuck a pen in her mouth, vertically,  so she’s stopped working. She can no longer open and close her mouth. I used to worry about this casual violence against female bots but is doesn’t bother me so much anymore. She is whirring rather than humming-there’s a difference. I am tempted to go and retrieve the pen but I can see that her left hand is burning red so she might be about to catch fire and I don’t want to be near that. At the very least that hand is going to explode.

I look around me. I just want a shirt. I would have ordered it online and had it delivered but we are having drone problems. We now have one of those signs at the start of our street, ‘Drone thieves operate in this area’. In fact drone thieves don’t, just one does and I think we all know who it is. The kid at the end of the street who just finished school. In his defence, there aren’t many jobs unless you are well connected and I am guessing he’s not. I’d like to help but I have nieces and nephews who will need that help soon. It’s a bit selfish- and the price me and the rest of the street pay is the ‘interception’ of our drone deliveries for resale elsewhere. I don’t mind really, he lets the groceries through. Actually its more the sign than anything that annoys me. It devalues my house. Its not like some places where there are gangs just dedicated to either bringing down, stealing from or otherwise attacking drones. It’s just him and he doesn’t damage the drone from what I can tell.

Seriously what were they thinking with the idea of unmanned deliveries. How easy is it to take out a drone and nick the stuff or simply turn up at the door and take it as soon as it’s delivered. There’s a whole network on the east side dedicated to tracking drones and as soon as one drone delivers it, another is picking it up and taking it somewhere else. Even I no longer know if what I am buying is stolen goods. I don’t particularly care anymore either. Anyway I really need a shirt, he has intercepted the past three I have ordered and his price is a little more than I am prepared to pay- which is why I am here at the ‘mall’. There are only a handful of people here. The place hasn’t been cleaned this week. You can tell. I can smell the toilets as I walk past and outside of them is a broken sanitation-bot. I guess no one has reported it.

I was tempted by the coffee stand, but as I got closer I could see the counter was covered with a light dusting of sugar and chocolate sprinkles, glued on to the silver surface by dried milk. I passed on that especially since I couldn’t see any take away cups.

I just want a shirt and that is what I am doing here- in a shop. Something I haven’t done in a while. I move further into the shop. I can hear voices so there are other humans here. I see them in the distance, talking to the checkout-bot. They are swearing at her. There ‘s an urban myth that checkout-bots are learning all the time and that if you swear at them enough they will start to swear at customers. It is a myth. For one thing there are no customers anymore, but also I have programmed some of those bots. It doesn’t work. They don’t learn new words at all.  It’s a group of boys, by that I mean 3. Boys aren’t allowed to congregate in groups of more than 3, well not just boys. Generally no one is allowed to physically congregate in groups of more than three without a permit but boys get fewer permits than girls or mixed groups. It’s unfair, draconian but it’s the law. It keeps the peace. What else do they have to do on a Saturday? Or any other day of the week.  I suspect they have either been suspended or kicked off social media and what are they meant to do for fun. I think they have clocked my presence. The security-bot certainly has and trundles towards them as if they are causing me trouble. They are not but then its likely I am the only shopper here for a week.

There are 3 of them and security-bot. It’s no contest. The bot starts to speak. He just isn’t built for the task. They up end the bot and it’s little wheels are just whirring in the air and it is protesting and they are laughing. I know I could get them into trouble but the far more serious mall security-bots are likely to leave the boys with serious injuries. I don’t want that. I know the security-bot doesn’t have feelings but what they have done is  just mean. But what else do they have in life? No job. No prospects. They will probably still be doing this when they are 30.  I grab a shirt, any shirt. I don’t really care. It’s my size, I pick one from the bottom of the pile. There are so many clothes and no one here. Most of the clothes have been here a while. I check for moth holes. The whole place smells a bit musty.

I look at the boys, I have to go to the checkout-bot to pay. They look at me. I look at the security-bot. They are just boys which is no excuse for their behaviour but also no reason for fear. I have money and money is power. I have a device and a device is power and whatever power it is that boys once had it is long since gone from this planet. They look sheepish. I smile and walk towards them. I scan the item across the checkout-bots scanner plate and then tap my device to pay.

I upend the security-bot again and then tell it the boys are with me. I even lie and say I have a permit for us all to be together in the same shop. I think the boys are impressed. It won’t hassle them now and they can try and get the checkout-bot to swear all they want for the afternoon. They have probably never had the chance to talk to a real girl of their own age. They possible never will. Like the rest of us, they will commission a bot to their taste and that will be that.

The checkout-bot tells me to ‘Have a nice day’. I will. They go back to swearing at her, trying to get her to swear back. I leave happy with my shirt and thinking that next time I might buy my own shirt back from the boy down the road.