Another contest, this time any subject, 1500 word count. Here’s what spontaneously combusted out of me:
Eleven pm. Deidre slipped out of bed. She picked up her stockings from the floor and washed them in the bathroom sink. They weren’t really dirty—she had no sweat glands or pores—but she liked the ritual. It made her feel human. She rinsed them and hung them on her shower bar. Twenty minutes before, she’d had company in that shower. A beautiful man, as perfect as if he’d been manufactured at the android plant like herself. His hair black and silky to the touch, his skin smooth. He had a smoldering smile. His pheromones were real enough. There was something about the smell of human males that gave her pleasure.
She lifted her arm and took a pointless sniff. Androids were still scentless, though there had been debates lately on whether or not to add a pleasant non-allergenic odor to them.
Deidre slid on a silk robe and walked back to bed. She smiled at the curious sight. John had a pillow over his face. Humans had the most peculiar sleeping habits.
She pulled the pillow away. “John?”
He didn’t stir.
She touched his cold face, concerned. “John?” She concentrated on sound. She heard the whooshing of a train on the metro rails twenty floors below. That was all. No heartbeat, no breathing, except her own.
She placed her fingers against his neck to feel for a pulse. “John?” she repeated, even though her logic program suggested it was pointless. He was obviously dead—the black haired man named John.
She sat beside him on the bed, greatly concerned. A dead man in an android’s apartment would have repercussions. And why was there a pillow on his face? Had he died of asphyxiation? There would be inquiries and she would surely be taken apart and examined. She did not like that thought at all.
“Logic chip, set to 100%.” Deidre felt her focus sharpen. She went over the facts.
John came to my door this evening at 9:13 pm. He appeared to be in peak physical condition. He visited my bedroom and I provided him with romantic services. He showed no signs of distress. He seemed content and healthy all evening.
Deidre said aloud, “Play memory record: March 12, 2050, 10:15 pm.”
Deidre’s memory of that time appeared on a holographic screen. She leaned forward, listening and watching.
John smiled, his head nestled into a pillow. “You are quite beautiful, Deidre.”
Deidre heard herself respond, “Thank you. So are you, John.”
She laid her head on his chest.
Deidre listened carefully to the recording. John’s heart rate was a steady 63 beats per minute. No tell-tale sign of a heart murmur, irregular breathing or any other anomaly. He didn’t appear to be in any pain.
“Memory record: advance 25 minutes.”
The projection showed a 10:40 pm time stamp, and John in the shower, washing his hair and laughing.
“Memory record: advance 15 minutes.”
The projection showed a 10:55 time stamp. John lay next to her in bed, smiling at her. He said, “I enjoy your company Deidre. I’d like for us to be friends.”
“I’d like that, too.” She turned out the lights and the screen went dark. John chatted about his favorite music, called Jazz.
Time stamp: 11:01 pm. And they were still chatting in bed.
But I was washing stockings at 11:01 pm.
Deidre’s eyes widened. Androids were programed to show an expression of surprise when they came upon a puzzling equation. But Deidre felt genuinely surprised. She realized there was an anomaly in her memory records. “Current time and date stamp on my mark. Mark.”
“11:43 pm and six seconds, March 13, 2050.”
March 13th? I’m missing a day. “Memory record: Last recording before missing data.”
In the dark she could hear them both breathing as if asleep. Time stamp: 12:00 am. The screen blipped off.
Deidre became acutely aware that she was in trouble. A missing day of memories meant it was very likely that she herself had caused John’s demise. Every subroutine in her neuro-circuitry told her to call the authorities and turn herself in. She imagined herself being pulled apart. They would start with her head, and they would undoubtedly keep her awake so they could ask her questions. They would shut down her motor functions so that she would lie there with no control, no ability to run, push them away, fight…
She noticed her heart racing. Androids did have a cardiovascular system which was programmed for rapid heartbeat given certain stimuli. Fear of death was not one of them. An android with a fear of death could potentially be dangerous to humans.
“I am malfunctioning.”
I am frightened.
She felt a hot drop of liquid on her cheek. At first she thought she had been injured and was leaking fluid. She stepped over to the mirror and saw tears. She was not programmed for tears. She had no tear ducts. She leaned close to the mirror and pulled down her lower eyelids. And she saw them. A little hole in each inside corner of her lower lids, that hadn’t been there before. Tear ducts.
Her pulmonary system abruptly processed excess air into oxygen.
I am hyperventilating. How is this possible? What is happening to me?
She studied her reflection, her contorted expression of panic.
“Self-diagnostic on my mark. Mark.”
A hologram appeared showing her vital signs.
Aside from the elevated heart rate and respiratory imbalance, she was running at peak efficiency. “Close diagnostic.”
She returned to John and examined his body. There was nothing in his mouth, no wounds on his body, nothing broken. No froth or spittle to indicate poison. The only conclusion she could come up with was that she had smothered him with a pillow.
And, in a strange act of self indulgence that was certainly not part of her program, she pulled his lower lids down and examined his tear ducts. They looked just like hers.
Am I human then?
In that fleeting moment, she almost believed she was. But humans didn’t have holographic diagnostic screens, nor projectors built into their eyes. What had happened in that lost day? Had she killed someone? Had she… evolved? The two questions combined like that made her realize something horrible. Unspeakable.
Unspeakable? I am an android. I am thinking like a human.
The unspeakable thought was that, in killing, she could not have evolved, but devolved into something that was not meant to be.
I am a monster.
Something had happened to her, physically. Something that could not be explained with logic. A gift? No. A curse. She was a bad android. Worse, she was a bad…person. She thought again about turning herself in, about lying on a table, unable to move as they poked and prodded. What if they never turned her off, but left her on that table in pieces? Or what if they turned her off and she stayed sentient? Able to think, unable to communicate?
The torturous thought caused a madness in her that she simply couldn’t bear. She placed the pillow back over John’s face and whispered, “Deidre program, off.”
“Diagnostics, erase Deidre program.”
Her face grew hot with tears. She felt her face tighten with sorrow. Her voice quavered. “Terminate Deidre android.”
Still no change.
She walked out to her balcony and closed the door behind her. She looked over the ledge. The railway was directly beneath her, twenty floors down. If she jumped, and aimed her cranium for the tracks, there would be no chance of her program surviving that. The trains came every two minutes. Her timing had to be just right. She calculated gravity and distance. “Time stamp, on my mark. Mark.”
“11:58 and 3 seconds.”
She stepped to the ledge.
Billy Johansen unlocked Deidre’s door and burst into the apartment. “We are so late, they wake up at midnight. Hurry.” He trotted into the bedroom.
Sam followed in his white lab coat, beaming. “If the John series passed the test, we’re rich. Do you think he fooled Deidre? Do you think she believed he was human?”
“Only one way to find out.” Billy reached into John’s mouth and pulled a tiny silver chip out of a back molar. “I got the data.”
Sam sniffed the air. “I wonder if Deidre noticed the new scent on the John unit.” He pointed, “Why was that pillow on his face?”
Billy chuckled. “Because that’s how I sleep, and I programmed him.”
“You’re a strange guy.” Sam searched the apartment. “I’m curious if Deidre noticed her upgrades. I’m especially proud of the tear ducts. And the emotion enhancement. Uh… Billy? Deidre’s gone.”
Billy frowned. “She’s not in the apartment?”
Sam shook his head, worried. “No.”
“You set her waking timer for midnight, right?”
Sammy shrugged. “Yeah. Well, for 24 hours.” His eyes widened. “Daylight savings time. I forgot.”
“So she’s already awake. Since eleven pm.”
“But where did she go?” asked Sam, raising his voice over the sound of the train.