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Science Fiction Thriller Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

(Sensitive Content: Strong Language, Smoking, Violence)


“Please, don’t do it.” She - well, it - raised its hands in front of its despicable face, although it was a genuine human being in distress. The nerve. It had nearly come to the point where this object, this monstrosity, made of metal and circuits, had convinced me that it was a real human, flesh and bone. A heart, brain, with a soft gentle touch. And the scientists, goddamn them, had come so close to replicating a human. But there’s something called the “Uncanny Valley,” and she - my mistake, once again - it, fell into it. It was so lifelike. Unnervingly so. I remember seeing it for the first time at the mall, and it appeared to be a mannequin. Long graceful limbs, delicate features, and I must admit it did look rather lovely in that dress. 

I remember how I felt when I saw it. The way the sunlight filtered through the thick glass, casting rainbows around the room. It stood in front of a bright yellow polka-dotted background, and when I opened my mouth, I let out an unintentional soft gasp at its beauty. In the sunlight, its skin seemed to glow. It had been made with silky light brown hair that came to its shoulders. It was wearing a yellow sundress, matching the background. It looked up at me with lilac eyes through thick dark eyelashes, and smiled. The kid I was babysitting, who stood a few feet away distracting himself playing with a toy car, turned to look at me at the sound of my gasp.

“What’s wrong?” He asked me, looking up at me with blue eyes, those blue eyes that had the spark that lives in the eyes of every living thing. 

“It’s nothing, Ry,” I said. I felt embarrassed at the fact that I had been taken aback by the beauty of a standard store robot, programmed to be beautiful and charming to increase the chance of a sale. I knew that’s all it was - it was a thing, not a being. But her smile was intoxicating, and I made the mistake of making eye contact with it.

“Do you like my outfit?” It said in a sing-song, feminine, pre-programmed voice. It sounded almost real.

“Oh great, you activated it,” Ry said. I remembered how, back in the day, if you were at the store, there was a toy aisle. And in that aisle, with so many toys, a children’s paradise, were boxes piled to the ceiling. Some of the boxes contained small, animatronic puppies, and even dinosaurs. Toys like that would sometimes have a “try me” button. It was fun, but if you pushed it, it seemed to explode with the volume of a speaker turned to 11, and a wave of embarrassment would crash down on you like a tidal wave, and you knew that others in the store had heard it, too. If you didn’t like drawing attention to yourself - like myself- it was hell. It went from fun to a social nightmare in seconds.

“Do you like my outfit?” It asked again. I looked deeper into its eyes. Dead. Lights on, nobody home. But still, there was something about those eyes.

“Let’s go,” Ry said, grabbing my hand. He was only 9 years old, and yet seemed so mature at times. Mature enough to handle situations that I, his nanny, should be handling.

“Where are you going?” It asked as Ry pulled me away. “Don’t you like my outfit?” We walked through the department store, and so many, so many beautiful lifelike robots stood along the main aisle to the front of the store. They smiled as I looked at them, waving, posing. Each one that spoke seemed to activate the next; they knew they had the customer’s attention, and that was their primary objective. Some delicately applied mascara with thin, deft fingers; others wore brightly colored clothing. But I wanted to ignore them. They weren’t real.

Ry pulled me out of the department store and into the main building of the mall; the smell of pretzels wafted through the air. Ry must’ve noticed this, too, because he looked up at me and asked, “Can we get something to eat?” I nodded, and Ry smiled. “I’ll race you!” He exclaimed. With that simple sentence, he was off like a bullet, dashing through the crowd towards the food court. I followed after him, not quite running, but rather more of a trot. There were other people around, and some gave me odd looks. 

Finally, we reached the food court. Poor Ry was out of breath, gasping for air. I must admit that I felt slightly winded myself, but I hid it perfectly. I ran my hands through my hair, and sighed. “What do you want, Ry?” I asked. I looked down at Ry, who had tears in his eyes. “What’s wrong?” I asked urgently. More tears filled those big blue eyes. After a few more moments, he said dejectedly, 

“I lost my toy.” 

That’s right - Ry had brought his favorite toy car to the mall with us. It was made of wood with metal wheels, a relic of a past far gone. It had been passed down from his grandfather, who lived before the advent of incredibly lifelike robots. I wondered for a moment what he, or someone from his generation, would think about that thing in the yellow dress, and how pretty it was, but the sound of Ry’s crying brought my attention back to reality. “It’s okay,” I crooned, ruffling his soft hair. He looked up at me, sniffling.

“What if I never see it again?” He choked out.

“Don’t worry, Ry. I’ll find it. Just go get a pretzel, okay? I’ll retrace our steps.” I handed Ry a few dollars - another relic of a bygone era, but Ry hadn’t been issued a card with which to pay for things yet. He was too young. He sniffled, wiped his nose on his sleeve, and nodded.

“Pretzel?” He asked. 

“Whatever you like. I’ll find your car, I promise.” I patted his head. “It’ll just take a few minutes, okay? Just hang tight, I’ll be back in no time.”

Ry nodded. “Okay.” He turned from me and walked away, getting in line at the pretzel stand. I turned, walking back the way we came. I walked slowly and deliberately- that small red car would be easy to miss in the packed mall. I made it about halfway back to the department store when I heard a feminine voice call out to me. “Ma’am! Ma’am!” The voice yelled. I strained my neck, and looked around. I felt like an island in the middle of the sea; everyone was walking so fast and deliberately, and I was drowning in the middle of all of it. 

I looked for the source of the voice, standing still. People began to grumble at me, and soon they were trying to push me down. But I kept hearing that voice, even when I tumbled to the ground. The stream of people, with me laying there, parted like a river does for a rock. The voice kept calling. “Ma’am!” I heard it yell. I put my left hand out to give myself leverage to stand, when a rather rude passerby stepped directly onto it. I heard a crunch, but no one stopped to look at me. The voice grew nearer until it reached me. The source of the voice looked down at me.

It was the robot from the store. It peered at me with its green eyes, and held out a meticulously-crafted hand. When I took it, it was warm, much to my surprise. It pulled me up, but I lost my balance; I fell against it and its yellow dress. It was strange - for a moment, as I was against it, I would’ve sworn I felt a heartbeat. I would’ve sworn to God that I did. But I knew that was impossible. Once I regained my balance, I looked at its face. It smiled at me, and held out its hand. 

“For you,” it said. It opened its fingers, and there, in the palm of its hand, was Ry’s toy car. 

I was taken aback. A robot intelligent enough to recognize a lost object was one thing - but to have the ability to find it, remember who it belonged to, and to be able to track the owner down was incredible. Science really had made strides since I was Ry’s age. I took the toy from its hand, but didn’t bother to thank it, because, again, it was a robot. I merely nodded at it in appreciation, more of an impulse, really, and turned to walk away. My left hand was numb, but I ignored it.

The robot called out to me as I walked away. “Wait!” It yelled. I turned again, stopping in my tracks. It approached me, and took my left hand. “Here, let me take you to the nursing station,” it said. I quickly yanked my hand away.

“That won’t be needed,” I said curtly. “Return to your station.” The robot looked offended. I walked away, and didn’t look back. I felt its eyes on my back, but the feeling faded. Soon, I found myself back in the packed food court. I surveyed the area for Ry, but couldn't see him. Then, much to my relief, I saw him sitting at the edge of a fountain, chowing down happily on a large pretzel. I approached him with a smile. “Look what I have,” I said.

Ry smiled at me, and took his toy. But then, he looked confused. “Why is she here?” He asked. I turned around, and found the robot standing directly behind me. It startled me, and I jumped. It seemed to laugh, in a musical way, and smiled.

“I just wanted to see the smile on your face when you got your toy back,” it said to Ry. Ry glanced at me, and then back at the robot. He smiled sheepishly.

“Um, thank you,” he said meekly. I looked at the robot.

“That’ll be all,” I said. “Return to your station.” 

If I weren’t mistaken, I would’ve said that the thing glared at me, but I knew that was impossible. Robots couldn’t defy humans. But there it stood, not moving. “I said, that’ll be all,” I repeated, more firmly. Robots made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t want one sticking around. It stared at me. Suddenly, it spoke.

“Ma’am I do not appreciate that. I just did you a favor. Could you at least say thank you?” I laughed, and that seemed to anger it.

“Why are you laughing?” It asked indignantly. A store robot able to portray emotion? Remarkable. It seemed today, more and more, that science and technology had really come far. 

I didn’t answer the thing, and it glared. It then tried to speak to Ry, and crouched down. “That’s a very nice toy,” it said. Ry nodded as he chewed a rather big bite of his pretzel. I stared at it intently.

“Are you hungry too?” Ry asked as he looked up at me. I smiled. The robot chimed in, much to my annoyance.

“I’m actually famished, myself,” it said. Ry smiled at it, but I felt uneasy.

I was starting to get freaked out. Science had gone too far. This robot was too lifelike. If I hadn’t seen her in the department store, I would’ve thought she was a real human; I felt scared. I grabbed Ry’s hand as he took the last bite of his pretzel, and yanked him to his feet. “Let’s go, Ry,” I said. He nearly toppled over, but I caught him. The robot stood. And then, perhaps it was just from being rattled in general, over losing the toy, and realizing the overwhelming magnitude that technology had reached, I pushed the robot back; it toppled back into the fountain with a large splash. It thrashed in the water for a moment, and then sat up. It glared at me. Waterproof robots? Incredible. I had faint memories of being a child, when robots were first becoming a part of everyday life. They were extremely delicate; I remember, one time, one had been waiting on a friend at a restaurant, and she, being the clutz she was, accidentally knocked over her wine. It splashed on the robot, and the thing had short-circuited, right then and there. The human staff had to come and retrieve it, and it was replaced by a flesh and bone waiter for the rest of the night.

The robot in the fountain continued to glare; I grabbed Ry’s hand and began to run. I was becoming too overwhelmed with everything. We had been dropped off at the mall, so we couldn’t drive ourselves home. So, in a bit of desperation, I headed to the one place I knew hardly anyone would be - the roof. We made our way through a sea of people, which seemed to take ages, but finally I found that old, dusty staircase, and marched up the stairs with Ry in tow. After what felt like an arduous climb, we reached a door with the word “Exit” written in big red letters. I pushed the door open, and the sunlight blinded me as the wind berated my face.

We walked onto the empty rooftop, and looked out at the city. The skyscrapers, the bullet trains. I sighed, and shut my eyes. I leaned back against the wall, retrieving a cigarette out of my pocket. I lit it, and took a deep drag. Ry caught my attention, making a whining noise. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“My car, my car,” he cried. “I lost my toy.” I felt stirring in my chest, hot and bitter. I felt my voice grow loud as I yelled, and I could see the fear in Ry’s eyes. “Maybe, if you keep losing it, you’re not meant to have it,” I yelled. 

Ry began to cry as I screamed at him. I drew closer and closer to him, and he backed away, his eyes filled with fear. My anger was consuming, and I felt as though I was losing control. Suddenly, I heard the roof door opening. I turned, and there stood the soaking wet robot. 

“What the hell is your problem?” It yelled at me as it grew nearer. 

“What are you doing here?” I yelled back. “Get back to your station.”

“Man, fuck you,” it said. “I just came to give this kid his toy back, okay?”

Ry quit crying, and looked up at the robot as it approached him. He sniffled, and took it in his hands. He smiled up at the robot. That was it. 

“Fucking robot,” I yelled. “Don’t trust her, Ry. That’s not your toy. That’s something else.” The robot turned to look at me. 

“And what else would it be?” It asked, anger in its voice. It almost sounded human. 

“I don’t know. A bomb? You did something to it. I know you did. Ry, put it down. It’s not safe.” The robot scoffed.

“Are you serious? I just wanted to give him his toy back. And, by the way, it’s sure as hell safer than that cancer stick you’re smoking.”

I began to scream incoherently. This was too much. All too much. I threw the cigarette off the roof, and drew close to the robot. “Listen up,” I said, “Leave me and him the hell alone. We don’t need help.” I tried to grab Ry’s hand, but he pulled away. He stumbled, and nearly fell over the edge of the building. “Jesus Christ,” the robot yelled, “You’re delusional.”

“I’m delusional?” I laughed. “I’m fucking delusional?” The robot looked frightened, but I knew that that was impossible. I walked slowly towards her, growing closer to the edge of the roof. 

“Stop!” I heard Ry yell. “She’s not gonna hurt us!”

“Yes she is!” I screamed. I whipped around and pushed him to the ground. He landed hard, hitting his head.

“Please, don’t do it!” The robot yelled.

“Enough!” I screamed. I pushed her off the roof. For a moment, I felt triumphant; but then I felt a hand grab my shirt. I felt horror, and then the feeling of falling freely. I heard the robot scream, but I didn’t make a peep. Then, we hit the ground.

I opened my eyes, and looked down at my body; it was shattered to bits, but I felt no pain. There was no blood, just a brown liquid that oozed from my abdomen. I looked to the robot; she lay next to me, half of her head caved in. She was bleeding profusely. I heard people screaming, and people rushed to us. I looked at my hand, trying to move it. Faint sparkles reflected off of it.

“Someone call an ambulance!” I heard someone yell. I saw a mall security guard rush towards us. He looked at me in disgust.

“Fucking robots,” He said. His radio buzzed. “Yeah, we got a situation here,” he said. “A robot pushed a woman off the roof.” 

What? What? I was dumbfounded. I opened and shut my mouth, but only heard clicking and beeping. 

I looked at the thing’s green eyes. But then, wait, no -- the robot in the store had lilac eyes. A color no human could replicate naturally. Dear God, what had I done? An ambulance arrived for the woman, but I was left on the ground, clicking and beeping as oil oozed from my abdomen. I knew, now, that technology really had come too far - and I was its byproduct. The line between human and robot had become too blurred that even I, with all my incredible engineering and design, by the world’s leading researchers, couldn’t recognize it. Fake memories. Generated feelings. False expressiveness. I wasn’t real. I wasn’t human. I was not a creature of flesh, bone, or soft touch - just cold, dead machinery. 


June 16, 2022 05:34

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2 comments

Graham Kinross
14:16 Jun 26, 2022

Great story. Don’t stop here. Keep going so I can read more please.

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Emmi V
02:46 Jun 28, 2022

Thank you so much!!

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