Science Fiction Speculative Coming of Age

Master and Mistress let me out of the car, already starting the ignition before both my feet hit the concrete. 

“Hurry,” Mistress calls from the front, her fingers impatiently tapping the dashboard.

“Sorry, Mistress.”

I scurry out of the car, making sure to balance all five library books in my arms carefully. The tower of books sway precariously, and I wobble, trying to keep them steady. With a thud the books fall to the floor, sending up several mini plumes of dust after it. Master casts a glance back at me, then tells Mistress to start driving. The car screeches away, leaving me to pick up the books and tread the last two-minute walk home. I cheer myself up with the prospect of reading new novels tonight. The thought inserts a small bounce in my mechanical step. 

When I get home, I arrange the books neatly on my bedside table, moving my palm-sized mirror to the side. I glance into it, getting a start like I always do when I look into the mirror. 

The image I see doesn't reflect what I feel inside at all. I feel apart—the very opposite of creamy skin-flesh and honey eyes. I feel silvery, robotic, adorned with startling colors, not soft, pastel ones that cover my metal inside. 

I open my mouth as a subtle reminder of who I really am. The artificial, robust teeth catch the light and a little sparkle runs across them. I move my fake tongue up and down—it stays in one line, with no curvatures or flexibility present. Tipping my head up slightly, I see the absence of nose-hairs. These slight differences—or complications, the doctor had called them—make me who I am. I curl my hands in contrast, not too sure how I feel about the elasticity. 


That night, Mistress comes into my room while I’m trying to make a bookmark out of scotch tape. She never enters my room. It’s a rarity that I try to look upon with optimism and gratefulness. She cares for me. Of course, she does. Yet, that doesn’t stop the shiver from running down my back as her dark brown eyes meet mine. 

“Al, I have a surprise for you.” Despite the obvious lack of congruence between her tone and her words, I blink attentively, not speaking unless I’m told. “Your Master and I think it would be best for you to attend the local school during the day.”

My mind races. Like English boarding schools I've read about? Or American ones with rusted lockers and mean kids that look ten years too old for high school? Or fancy French ones where the boys wear ugly shorts and eat escargots for lunch? Will the headteacher lock me in The Chokey? Will the teacher hit my hand with a cane and await a solemn apology?

A million thoughts board a rollercoaster in my mind; I’ve completely forgotten about Mistress standing before me, hands on hips. A break in the tracks. I fall back down to Earth, remembering my place.

“Al?” she says inquisitively, “what do you say?”

“Y-yes, Mistress. Thank you so much. I’m much in debt for your generosity.” She nods, approving of my response. A warm feeling erupts in my chest.

She turns to leave but then stops abruptly. “Oh and learn to not open your mouth too much when you speak. The children won’t like it.” The warm feeling turns cold, almost as cold as the metal I was built with.

I plaster on a fake smile, almost hurting my jaw in the process. “Yes, Mistress.”

I can’t help myself, my mouth smiling tightly, I add on: “Of course.”

She frowns, eyebrows pulled in, concealing her thick eyelashes. All she says is, “Careful, Al.”


After swishing my mouth with tap water as a substitute for brushing my teeth, I lie in bed, eyes staring up at the ceiling, unblinking.

I’ve long learned to cease tear-flow; it has become so second-nature to me now that the thought of moisture seeping out of my eyes is almost comical. I turn onto my right side, hugging the library copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my chest. I picture Harry apparating out of the pages in a puff of smoke, Ron and Hermione following close behind. They would sit on the edge of my bed, Hermione concocting a plan to make another illegal potion in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom to solve all of my problems.

Mistress had snatched away my teddy-blanket a couple years ago when she found it hidden under my sheets. “Childish nonsense,” she had said reproachfully, stuffing it right into the trash, without a second look back. I’d tried tip-toeing downstairs that night, in an attempt to save my unnamed teddy, but the bin wagon had already come by that day. 

My swirling thoughts of teddy perpetuates, one way of me trying to feel a sense of comfort in a midst of foreigner syndrome. Before I know it, the Harry Potter book is lying peacefully next to me as my chest sticks out, then recedes back—in two jagged movements. I sleep dreamlessly.


The next day, the sun shines in through the window, casting its warm rays upon me. I get ready, putting on my best shirt and trousers, even combing my hair and slicking it back with gel—like the picture I saw inside the local barber’s store.

Once satisfied with my appearance, I go downstairs. Mistress is shouldering her bag and grabbing her keys. She’s just about to go out the door when I call after her.


She stops in her tracks, not used to me starting any conversations without permission. She looks me up and down. 

“Yes?” Her left eyebrow arches, almost making an ‘N’ shape. I stifle a laugh.

“A-are you able to drop me at school? I don’t know where it is.”

Sighing heavily, she checks her watch. “Well hurry up then.”

“Thank you so much, Mistress.”

When we pull up to the local school, I’m not too sure what to think. There are no tall towers or funny-looking shorts or any canes in sight. It looks like the very definition of normal. There’s no other way to describe it. Brown, stocky buildings, children walking here and there, teachers holding stacks of textbooks and cleaning grimy glasses.

I get out, walking hesitantly up to the front doors, where kids are laughing and chattering away. I have a sudden urge to run back, but Mistress has already driven away.


I look up, squinting in the sunlight. I see a middle-aged woman wearing a flowery dress, bright red lipstick painted on her lips. I’m just about to reply when I remember what Mistress said to me last night. Learn to not open your mouth too much when you speak. 

I silently nod to the woman.

“Follow me.”

After a series of winding hallways and wooden doors, she leads me into a classroom with around thirty kids. I shrink back into the shadow of the woman, feeling like a little kid again.

But the woman leaves, leaving me in the hands of the kind-looking man at the front of the room. 


I nod again.

“Over here.” He walks me to the only empty chair in the room, a boy sitting next to it.

I sit down and try to pay attention to what the man is droning on about—something to do with rhetoric and hyperbole—but I find my attention diverting to all the children in the room. 

I slouch a bit more when I see how they sit; noticing the abnormal straightness of my back. I place my elbow on the table, then my head on my palm, instead of looking up straight. I cross my ankles and jiggle my left foot like the boy next to me. In my absorption of trying to amend my poise, I don't seem to notice how most of the children in the room are staring at me. They all start whispering, and I crane my neck trying to hear.


My body jolts at his voice. I yelp, “Yes?” 

I try my best to keep slouched, not moving my head off of my palm.

A look of fright, then confusion clouds his face. He doesn’t speak for a moment and a couple children whisper fervently to their neighbors. I feel embarrassed; but no blood rushes to my cheeks, for I don’t have any to rush.

In a split-second, I make up my mind while staring around at their scared faces. 

They want a show? I’ll give them a show.

I give up all pretense and imitation, sitting up straight, eyes unblinking. I open my mouth as wide as it’ll go, the hinges complaining in protest, and push my board-like tongue out, making it move up and down as I swivel around in my chair to make sure everyone sees. 

I will not conform. This is who I am. With that, I storm out of the class, tongue still lolling out of my mouth.

February 19, 2021 22:41

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Katrina Corpuz
12:30 Feb 27, 2021

The title is perfect and this was such a good, immersive read. It evoked a certain mysterious feel to the story's world while maintaining a 1st person POV. I find that so difficult to do. You also managed to make a robotic character so endearing. I love this piece so much.


Zahra Daya
17:18 Mar 01, 2021

Ah, thank you so much for the feedback! This comment made my day! :)


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Corbin Sage
19:21 Mar 20, 2021

Awesome story! You set an internal narrative that allowed the reader to emphasize with Al. The only thing I noticed was the sudden change at the end. Al goes from being obedient to disobedient without much warning. I would add a couple hints throughout the story in order to make the transition more smooth. Good job!


Zahra Daya
00:31 Mar 21, 2021

Thanks so much for the feedback, Raven! I also agree with that; hints would've made the end more believable. Thanks again! - Z


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Haha, I am in love with your title. I like how this story kind of describes this android a lot and the way [in the end] you make the android change and be proud of who it is, and that is a very meaningful lesson which I think we should all learn. I have no critiques for this one Zahra, such a cute and amazing story. :)


Zahra Daya
06:30 Feb 20, 2021

Aw, thank you so so much. I literally get so excited when I see your name in my notifications on Reedsy - it's always such a delight reading your sweet comments. - Z


Oh my gosh Zahra, thank you!! I love seeing your beautiful name in the notifications too!


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