Honest Inventions

Submitted for Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that ends with a twist.... view prompt

Andrew was a peculiar sort of fellow.  He plodded about with his perfect posture, his pristine nature, and his complete and total lack of filter, and no one knew quite what to do with him much of the time.  The man was, above all else, honest.  

In fact, he was so honest that it ended up seeming cruel, though that was never his intention.  No, the fellow didn’t have a mean bone in his whole body, that was for certain. He simply spoke the truth.  Always. So much so, that he also had a tendency of correcting those who spoke in all the little variations of lies: fibs, white lies, omissions.  Lies in any form were, at their very core, something heinous. Despicable. Dishonesty was unacceptable in any form, for any reason. There could be no suitable excuse.  As you can imagine, this became a source of much frustration among his peers, coworkers, and of course, the customers at the shop where he worked.  

The natural state of humanity has quite a bit to do with our ability to lie to one another, and more importantly, to lie to ourselves.  Otherwise it would be quite difficult to tolerate our own existence. We lie to ourselves about our own value in the universe daily. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to get out of bed each day if we acknowledged the futility of our own existence in the passage of time?  Why, no one would ever get out of bed! We are but tiny specks on a little ball in a miniature universe, hurtling through some vast expanse of a reality we can’t even begin to comprehend. Thinking about that, and furthermore, accepting it as truth, would make it much more difficult to worry about bothering to go into work each day, and if everyone in the world failed to go to work, our whole tiny little bitty insignificant society would crash and burn.  No, we simply can’t have that.  

Humanity must continue to live our daily lies.  Long ago, by the insignificant reckoning humans have of time, we invented delightful stories to validate ourselves and created a beautiful and frightening lore to rationalize our existence.  Of course, then, those long ago people created rules to recruit new people to believe in their stories, which resulted in organized systems of lies to help us all feel better about ourselves.   All of this is precisely why Andrew’s obsession with the truth made him insufferable. 

 Andrew worked in a clothing shop, which may not seem like a good fit for someone so concerned with honesty, but it worked. The business belonged to one of those soulless corporations which cared only about the bottom line, and Andrew quite liked that, as they never lied about their intention.   They never claimed to be bettering the community in any way. They claimed to be selling products at a lower price than their competition, and that they did each day.  

Andrew felt at home there in those walls of honesty and profit, and found himself offering honest opinions to the customers about their clothing choices.  Many a time, women would emerge from the dressing rooms in unflattering outfits, barraged by the false compliments and encouragement of whomever they had with them.  Andrew felt it was his responsibility, no, his duty, to inform them of the ways in which their selections were improper.

“Does this dress make my ass look big?” the women would ask.

“No, of course not!  You look stunning!” their lackeys would chime and chirp.

“Yes.” Andrew would say, in his metered and precise way, often to the shock and chagrin of the women in question.

“That dress does make your ass look big.  I assumed that was what you were hoping for, as there is a high probability that others will find it attractive.” He would say before striding away to tend to other customers and their urgent need for honesty, however unsolicited that honesty may be.

Over time, Andrew gained himself recognition as a model employee, always willing to help customers and providing honest advice to them when they came into the store.  He was efficient and effective and never minded putting in long hours to make up for uncovered shifts. He never complained about the measly pay, as he enjoyed what he did.

At the end of the day, Andrew would return to his home where he lived with his father and regale him with stories from the store.  It had been a ritual for as long as Andrew could remember, and his father always seemed to delight in this, always cheering Andrew along during the moments of most brutal honesty.  His cane rested against his knee as he leaned forward in his worn old chair, smiling from ear to ear. Oh, he seemed so proud, laughing and patting his son on the back. It pleased Andrew, and drove him each day to be even more honest.  After all, honesty was the thing his father valued most in life, and it was the thing that held their relationship together. It was the foundation of trust in any relationship, and Andrew knew that. Lies were the poison that plagued humanity and made everything that was bad in the world, and honesty the panacea.

One day, though, something changed.  Andrew had returned home from work early and his father was nowhere to be found.  He worried about the house, looking for signs of where the older man might have gone.  It was not like him to be anywhere but home, as far as Andrew knew. He had retired long ago, and Andrew knew of no outside hobbies or interests that he held.  No, if he did in fact have outside interests, he surely would have told Andrew. Omission was just as bad as lying outright, as his father had told him for so many years.

 It was not until about a half hour before Andrew would normally get home from work that his father returned.  Andrew stood in the entryway upon seeing his father coming up the walk and greeted him when he came through the door.

“Father,” Andrew said with a nod, startling the older man.

“Andrew!  What -- What are you doing home, son?” he said, laughing and disheveled.  

“I came home from work early today and I have been waiting for you,” Andrew answered, before asking, “Where have you been, Father?”

“It’s not your concern.  Running some errands. You know how that goes, don’t you?” he replied, evading the question and avoiding his son’s eyes as he slipped out of his jacket.

 “Nothing to worry about, my boy.”  

   Andrew hesitated for a few moments, mulling over what had happened and what his father had said.  He took his father’s coat and hung it for him and helped him to get settled in his favorite chair in the den.  Eventually, softly, he spoke.  

“Father, you are lying.” 

“I beg your pardon!” was the indignant response.

“You have never lied to me before, Father, but I can tell that you are lying to me now.  You avoided my questions and you gave me brief and vague responses. Why will you not tell me where you have been and what you have been doing today?  Is something wrong?”

The old man sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.  There were times when he regretted the way he had done things, and this was one.  

“I’m sorry, my boy.  I didn’t mean to lie to you, it’s just that you startled me is all,”  he started, slowly, carefully planning each word as he spoke.

“I’m not sure how to bring this up, but I’m considering having another child some time soon.  How would you feel about having a sister?” 

“A child?”  

“Yes, I believe I’d like to have a girl this time.”

“But -- Father -- if I may ask, how could you have a child?  You are far too old to raise one now, and with whom would you have this child?  You do not have a female companion,” Andrew asked quizzically. He knew well enough that sometimes honesty could offend, and he had no desire to offend his father.  He only wished to understand. 

“That’s not your concern, Son,” his father answered firmly, irritation blooming across his face, “I won’t discuss it further.”

Andrew’s mind was spinning. He was unable to process what had happened.  For the first time, the man who had given him life and a purpose within that life had done something that went against everything Andrew had ever been taught.  Honesty and openness comprised the foundation upon which his life had been built, a belief his father had instilled in him from his earliest memories. Dishonesty, lies, and omission were the things that threatened to destroy that life.  His own father was hiding things from him and refusing to answer questions. What was Andrew to do? He had no choice but to investigate things further. He needed to learn what was going on in order to understand it. There must be some justification for his father’s behavior. 

Long after his father had fallen asleep, Andrew decided to investigate.  He left his room and went down the stairs into his father’s office and looked through the desk.  There he found the usual things one would expect to find. Bills, receipts, and the like were stacked upon the desk carefully, like kinds together, just as he had always taught Andrew.  Organization was one of the tenets of a good life. “At least Father has not forgotten the value of that.” Andrew thought to himself, as he continued to rifle through the desk.  He was about to give up and step away from his task when his eyes happened upon something unusual in the very bottom of the last drawer.  

It was a folder with ANDREW scrawled across the cover in his father’s handwriting.  In the bottom corner of the folder, he saw Project T-001. Along with that, he found two more folders with more names.  BENJAMIN was written across the second folder, with a harsh line drawn through the name, Project T-002 at the bottom. The third folder said CELESTE, printed with care in his father’s hand, with  Project T-003 written in the corner. Andrew pulled the files from the drawer and opened the one with his name written on it first.

Inside, he found diagrams.  Diagrams of the male body with measurements written in the margins in his father’s writing.  One diagram was of a nervous system, or something similar, that ran throughout the body, all tied together at the head in something shaped very much like a human brain.  The brain was still distinctly different from a standard one, as it was quite clearly made up of a variety of wires and computer chips. Another paper showed a close up of that brain, with lines pointing to the locations of different aspects of one’s personality.  On still another paper, Andrew found the schematics for a computer chip titled simply, “T-Processor.” It was surrounded by a series of mathematical equations, all reverting back to T, and small questions his father must have scribbled to himself such as “define truth?” and “how to detect dishonesty?” 

There was a plan written up and then scribbled out in frustration for a chip designed to regulate mannerisms for “further adaptive behavior” and a note written in the corner saying “common speech patterns, problematic.”  Andrew flipped through the pages, one after another, each showing different schematics for different sections of the body. Hearing was covered heavily, as was vision. The thing which had received the most attention was the brain, though.  The detection of honesty and dishonesty. The ability to distinguish between the truth and lies through the observation of body language and voice intonation. It was all there, each detail. Then he found a list of diagnostics dates and status remarks.  The last one had been written exactly one week prior. 

 T-001, Andrew.  

Diagnostics completed at 0300 hours.  


Status:  Normal.  

Issues:  None.  

Andrew stared at the papers, once again trying to process what was happening.  Then he turned to the next folder. Benjamin, it said. Who was Benjamin? He opened the file and found many of the same documents that were in his own, but on a sticky note at the front of the stack, it said “T-002, Abandoned.  Adaptive Behavior Regulation updates came with aggression.  Subject discontinued. Incomplete.”

At last, he turned to the folder for Celeste.  It had similar paperwork, this time showing diagrams of a female body.  There were extra chips detailed in this folder, schematics for adaptive behavior regulation, common speech patterns, body language. Then Andrew noticed something that drew his attention in further.  A note, once again on a sticky sheet, that said the following,    

Note:  In future diagnostic of T-001, Andrew, scheduled 5.14.35 at 0200 hours, introduce T-003, Celeste, memories.  

That date, that time, it was only an hour away. 

Andrew heard something behind him.  A cough. Perhaps a throat being cleared.  He turned to face the source of the sound and saw his father standing there with his cane.  A sad smile stretched across his face as he stepped towards his son. 

“Father, what is all of this?”  Andrew asked, baffled and motioning towards the papers now strewn across the desk.   

“I’m sorry, my boy.  You weren’t supposed to see any of that,” he said, lifting his palms upward in apology, “Let’s have a little sit down and talk about it, eh?”

“Father --”  Andrew backed away, “Father -- Am I not real?”

“My boy, I’m afraid that anything I say would be a lie,” his father answered sadly, lifting his cane towards his son’s chest, “Let’s take a little rest, shall we?”  The cane hit Andrew’s chest and a current of electricity shot through him. He stared at his father’s face in shock as his systems all slowly began to shut down. His body crumpled to the floor heavily as darkness closed in at the edges of his vision.  The last thing he heard was the sound of his father’s voice whispering an apology.

“I’m sorry, Son.” 

Authenticating -- truthful statement.

Andrew was a peculiar sort of fellow.  He walked about with his mindful posture, his pristine nature, and his absolute lack of filter, and no one knew quite what to do with him much of the time.  The man was, above all else, honest.   

Something had changed about him, though.  That was for certain. He was still painfully, no, brutally honest, but there was a bit more of a finesse to him.  He had somehow developed a way to deliver his brutality that somehow seemed as though it were innocent, bordering on naive, with just a hint of helpfulness. 

It was true that in the past, his honesty had seemed cruel, but that was rarely the case now.  To his coworkers, peers, and customers, he had seemed to change, well, overnight. He had missed a few days of work and upon his return his demeanor had shifted quite dramatically.  It was a welcome change, no doubt, but unsettling nonetheless.  

Humanity is not known for its ability to be welcoming when things change.  While it was still clear to everyone that Andrew saw dishonesty as unacceptable in all forms, his manners surrounding his own honesty had become softer.  He had gone from entirely brutally insufferable to, well, somewhat pleasant, in the same way a young child is when they point out something, accidentally ignoring the societal norms that would teach them to not do that as they got older.

At the end of the day, Andrew would return to his home where he lived with his father and his younger sister Celeste and regale them with stories from his experiences at work.  Celeste would then share her own stories, though her retelling was often more animated than Andrew’s. It had been a ritual for as long as Andrew could remember, and his father always seemed to delight in this, always cheering Andrew and Celeste along during the moments of most daring honesty.  

His cane rested against his knee, never far from his grasp, as he leaned forward in his worn old chair, smiling from ear to ear. Oh, he seemed so proud, laughing and patting his children on the back.  It pleased Andrew, and drove him each day to be even more honest.  

After all, honesty was the thing his father valued most in life, and it was the thing that held their relationship together.  It was the foundation of trust in any relationship, and Andrew and Celeste both knew that. Lies were the poison that plagued humanity and made everything that was bad in the world, and honesty the panacea.

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