“Please don't, ma!”
“You’ve got to hear it from me,” his mother insisted.
“I don’t want to!”
“It’s the way you’re built.”
"What do you mean? Stop telling me!”
“How you’re wired.”
“Wired? Wires, why?”
“No more talking, I’m confused.”
“You’re not a real boy, honey.”
Her words stung like angry hornets. With each stab of truth what had been only suspected now was coldly and callously confirmed as reality by a person whom he‘d thought was his mother. But apparently, she wasn’t. As upsetting as that was it wasn’t as bewildering as this knowledge he was neither real nor human. A soulless machine, merely a combination of hardware with software, comprised of wires, circuits, CPUs, motherboards, RAM, ROM, a hard disk, as well as some network and sound and graphics cards. Nothing, nothing real...
He always sensed his difference from others, but mama said that was because he's special. “Special ones always feel they’re not like most people,” she said, “no, not like the un-special ones!”
“Why special?” he asked.
“It’s how your father and I made you.”
Who was his father? He couldn’t remember any dad. His earliest memories were of him with his mom; always together. She picked him up when fallen, cleansed when soiled, cared for, taught the child everything, loved, and answered questions—albeit—often cryptically. The father was rarely cited. In those instances he was, after mentioning the man who’d helped make him, his mom appeared to regret sharing that information. As if something she let slip by misspeaking, like a thoughtless mistake.
“What happened?” the son forever wanted to know.
“He’s no longer with us, dear.”
“Where‘d dad go?”
He wanted information about the departed paternal unit’s current location or fate. But she never answered that question directly. When observing she’d failed in deflecting or redirecting his questions, the mom would become silent and withdrawn. Instead of replying, her gaze turned downcast and sad. She’d become lost in a forest haunted by a bevy of memories and regret. Teardrops welled up, threatening to spill from her robin’s egg blue eyes. The boy was left abandoned, watching her wander lost somewhere in her mind with someone from the past. There was never an adequate answer, at least for the kid’s ever-increasing unsatiated satisfaction.
But today her boy had dug in his heels; repetitiously, relentlessly, repeating questions. A pit bull clenching bone between jaws, he refused to let go. It’d begun as inquiring why he was homeschooled instead of attending classes with other children the way he’d seen on the internet; studying in classrooms, laughing, playing, or having fun with other school kids during recess. Her son hadn’t been to school, a cafeteria, or a playground. He’d not met anyone but his mother, much less have friends.
What’s wrong with him, he wanted to know. The lady had already offered that tacit “special” explanation without quelling or satisfying his curiosity. So, he pressed her even further. When she refused to share what he’s sure was known, the usually helpful matriarch said not another word, and left the room. He followed her into the kitchen. There he’d found no buried knowledge or a way to fissure the wordlessness.
After the kitchen, mama took refuge in her bedroom. A bedroom she’d shared with no one in the short span of what he recollected from memory. But the boy continued to hound and pound away at her patience from the open doorway of the chamber. Actually, no room within their house had doors. This he added to his ever-growing wanted-to-know list.
“What makes me special, different? What happened to my father, where is he? Where’re the doors inside our house? Why can’t I go to school, study stuff in class, climb up high enough to touch the sky while swaying on the seat of a swing or from a Jungle Jim, shovel and shape sand while sitting in a box with girls and boys, horse around with kids at recess? Am I sick, stupid, not good enough? TELL ME – TELL ME NOW, MOTHER!”
But the single mom wouldn’t answer. Her son pressed on, hammered away at his now weary mater at wit’s end; worn beyond her early middle-aged years. He just wouldn’t stop and give her a break. Therefore, following several more inquisitive sorties, the woman could find neither respite nor reprieve, so she broke.
“You’re not human, my son.”
The child was lost for words; a silence she’d hoped would last longer. But in less than a minute he’d resumed, wondering with hurt in his voice and a lump in the throat, “Not human?”
“You’re not a real boy, honey.”
“Yes, I am,” was his weakly defensive denial.
“No, you’re not.”
“Then, what am I?”
“Darling, you’re something your father and I created. We made you!”
“You made me, how? What did you make me from? Why did dad and you do that, mom?”
Taking his hand, she told him to climb on her lap and she’d explain. With his back facing her, he scooted atop her waiting made-into-my-seat-thighs and tilted his head until it rested comfortably, reassuringly, against the warm, soft cushion of motherly breasts. His mama’s left arm draped comfortably around one of his small shoulders, as her right hand soothingly rubbed and caressed the back of the boy's bare neck.
“Your father and I were scientists. We were also very much in love and wanted to share this love with a family. And we did try to begin a family, but we couldn’t.”
“Son, let’s just stick with the hows for now and discuss the whys later,” mommy answered as her gentle hand stroked the silky, smooth skin behind my head.
“Okay, then tell me how.”
“When we accepted we’d never birth our own children we came up with another solution. We weren’t just any old scientist, oh no, like you, we were special—specializing in—robotics! So we made you, my son. You were never real, but we loved you with all our hearts, nonetheless. You were our little boy. Before the end of the year of your design and creation, your father fell ill from the virus and died. After he passed on I couldn’t let you go too, thus I decided to raise you on my own. Oh my, you were always such a tiny handful! But I’m afraid you’ve gotten too big for me to now safely handle on my own.”
As the meaning sunk in, the boy’s temperature angrily built to a boiling point, and neared eruption. The mother felt not only escalating heat emanating from his body but the way he trembled, quaking with rage. Her right hand moved higher on his head. An index finger searched, exploring as the child thought of ways want to hurt anyone, everyone, to expel the scalding steam of uncontrollable fury at hearing the truth.
The last thing the boy was aware of was her finger finding a button an inch or so up, and under the hairline of his scalp. Pressing it, she began woundedly weeping. “Oh baby, I’m so sorry,” the sob-racked woman whispered to the now lifeless body of the limp device in her lap. “That’s why I never wanted to answer questions that could cause a system overload, and catastrophically trigger your failsafe self-destruct sequence. Even for you, even for a machine, there are things best not known in life, my little one...”