What Does it Mean to be Human?

Submitted into Contest #140 in response to: End your story with total oblivion.... view prompt

6 comments

Science Fiction Mystery Horror

“Things are never gonna be the same now...” 

He said as he leaned against the banister, trusting it with all his weight, perhaps even what weighed on his mind. He was wearing a thick black parka, the one I’d gotten him a few years ago. I wondered for a moment why he didn’t offer it to me. 

Ponderosa pines sprinkled the white blanket of snow that lay still on the ground, almost like plastic. We stood on the wooden porch together, little splinters of wood shooting up between the planks that made up the balcony beneath us. I inched closer to him, balancing on the balls of my feet which caused inconsistent creaks to reverberate throughout the quiet of the night,

“Don’t come any closer goddammit.” 

He thrust his left hand out towards me, stopping me in my tracks. His right hand pinched the bridge of his nose, his eyes shut tight. His voice was coarse, like he’d been drinking, or smoking, or both,

 “I don't..understand.” I finally said, the words feeling thick in my mouth, like I had just been woken up from a nap taken in the morning only to wake up in the middle of the night. 

Swallows cooed atop their nests, everything dark but us, the yellow light from inside the cabin glowing our silhouettes which melted into shadows on the ground. He laughed maniacally, turning to face me with a forced smile, 

“Of course you don’t..of course..” The wind picked up, blowing through his unkempt hair, still brown, but longer than the last time I’d seen him. He was medium sized, undistinguished, and successfully stubborn, but his eyes were valiant, green, and piercing right through me. And yet, they were afraid. 

“You’re not even her, what would you know? Jesus..you’re not even human.” He threw his hands up in the air and slammed them back down on his jeans. He always had a habit of gesticulating. Having a private conversation with himself, he fished out a cigarette and lighter from his pocket,  “They didn’t tell me it was gonna be like this..they said it would be realistic, like how she would want to look..” He mumbled through his now lit cigarette, lighting up his face for a moment before all I could see was a trail of smoke escaping into the wind, behind him, 

“What are you talking about? I’m me, I’m here.” I smiled and took another step forward, still feeling a thousand feet away from him. 

Dropping the lighter, I could tell he had his head in the palms of his hands, and I could tell by the way his shoulders began to shake, that he was crying. I could just barely see a long scar on the side of his face; I wondered where it came from. Without hesitation, I nearly threw myself on top of him, wrapping my arms around his frame and holding him tightly, hearing his heartbeat even through layers of cloth. Why couldn’t I feel his warmth? 

Almost immediately, he pried me off,

 “Get away from me! Stop trying to convince me that you’re my wife! You may sound just like her, but you sure as hell don’t look like her..” He shouted, throwing me to the side in a fruitless attempt to rid himself of my presence. Successfully, I caught myself on the banister, but not without tearing my skin on a rusty nail that stuck haphazardly out of the wood. He never wanted to renovate the place, always obsessing over that ‘vintage 2000s look’. I gasped,

 “Dammit Damon look what you just made me-” I cut myself off. What is this? 

He finally looked at me, tears freezing onto his face, his nose red.

 Why am I not cold? I looked at my hand, waiting for blood to trickle down the gash the nail had just made,  “Damon..why am I not bleeding?” I looked up manically, but his eyes looked just as afraid as mine. 

Beneath the gash, was not blood and muscle, but gears, and steel, and tiny colorful wires that glowed iridescently, blinking a bright red, before slowly repairing the gash like a printer, like a machine.. 

“Damon, what’s going on?” I stumbled, feeling at my flesh, scratching harder and harder, never before in my life had I wished so much for my body to bleed.

Damon’s voice broke, “You mean..you don’t know?” I moved towards him, and it was only then I realized that faintly, with the movement of my limbs, could a mechanical, unconscious sound be heard, ticking like a clock through my body, if you could even call it that. I robotically walked inside to the golden glow of our kitchen, his eyes following me but his feet sticking firm. My gaze trailed to ads littered around the living room, paired with beer bottles and photo albums that lay scattered on the floor. By the time I settled all the noise in my head from a scream to a low hum, my breath was torn from my lungs after reading the first headlines I could find,

“Revive your loved ones with groundbreaking AI neural transplants!” They read. 

“Neuro..brain transplants..” I muttered to myself as I traced the bold inked letters with my fingers. For some reason newspapers were still being published, I guess the world has a liking for things that should be left behind. 

“Left behind..” I muttered again, slowly looking at our family portrait which stood propped up and unassuming on the kitchen table, a thick layer of dust settling on the glass. I had always cleaned it every week, so why was it so…Damon slowly walked through the glass door, shutting it behind him softly. His movements were stiff and soft. Hesitantly, he spoke, “What was the name of our unborn child?” As if he didn’t want me to actually give an answer, maybe hoping that he’d be right. He always had to be right. 

“Avery.” I said just as softly, afraid that maybe I would in fact not know, and he would be right this whole time, “We have a son named Alec, we got married on November 11th, we went to Spain for our honeymoon, and you’ve secretly always wished I had brown hair cause it reminds you of your first girlfriend! Is that enough for you Damon? And..close the door before you let the cold air in, even though it wouldn’t even matter to me would it?” 

I can't even begin to describe what his face looked like. It seemed like he was conflicted between feeling fear and love, and both of those things can’t coincide it seems, because if they did, then they would’ve just let me die wouldn’t they? I still couldn’t come up with how that scar got there. 

Thoughts and memories swarmed my head as I made my way up the stairs, to my mirror, to the last piece of evidence that would prove I am what he thinks I am. Proof that this isn’t some big prank, some caught on camera TV show of all things. The mirror was dusty, but with one swipe of my thumb which didn’t even feel like mine anymore, everything suddenly clicked. 

I stared at myself for a long time. I didn’t move, and I didn’t say anything. All I heard were Damon’s footsteps which hurriedly followed behind me. I looked like myself, yes, faintly. I had blond hair that cascaded down in front of my chest, and my height was the same. I know that, because Damon always had to crane down slightly to kiss me, and my clothes were the same, the black dress I wore to every party which now covered a body I couldn’t recognize. My skin was smooth like silicone, but hard, like steel, and my eyes were blue, but they looked like a doll's, only trying to imitate what it’s like to look human. A doll. I laughed,“They forgot the birthmark on my cheek you know.” Damon’s breathless frame stared back at me through the mirror’s reflection, “They forgot a lot of things actually Damon...the people who did this to me, the scientists or whatever...they forgot my freckles, and my muscles...my eyes-” He cut me off, “Elodie..is it really you?” That was the first time I had heard my name escape his lips in so long, I was asleep for such a long time after all apparently. 

I could do nothing but collapse to the floor, staring down at my hands, which now no longer had a scar on them, or a writer’s bump, or anything, but past them on the carpet, were faded out blotches of something..maybe wine? Nevermind that. Inside, I was screaming, if there was a way to kill myself I would’ve, but the thing was, the very definition of what it meant to be alive was challenged in that moment, “Why did you do this to me.” I said, staring right through him. He choked, leaning on the frame of our bedroom door for support. He was strong, but he was shaking, and he was crying...at least he could still do that. 

A small, quiet voice spoke up from the darkness behind him,  “Mom? Are you back?” My eyes met the little boy whose eyes resembled my old ones, and I cried. There were no tears, but I tried, and I sat there and wailed as Damon slowly approached the mirror and turned it the opposite way. He’s always been thoughtful. What does it mean to be human? I thought as a blinking red glowed in the corner of my eye, signifying I was low on power.

 I looked up to the man I married for support, assuming he saw me as his spouse again, but something in him was different, something grim and calculating. His eyes darted back and forth, his complexion pale as I played with the ruffles of the stained carpet. The man who brought me back to life was hiding something, and I knew it had to do with the scar on his neck and the blood on the carpet, and perhaps even the reason I died in the first place. But as I began to contemplate with the eyes of a robot and the mind of a human, my vision grew blurry, with a dark blinking red haze filtering through my vision. My arms fell limp to my side, my head lolling backward before I could say a word. Damon’s eyes couldn’t have looked through me with more fear as I lost power to myself and my own actions. As I faded into oblivion, waiting to be charged up again, I wondered if I ever would; and by the look of his eyes I was filled with immeasurable terror at a man who couldn’t decide if he wanted to kill his wife again or not.

April 06, 2022 00:12

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6 comments

17:29 Apr 13, 2022

Such an interesting POV…your story touches on all sorts of questions about consciousness, memory, what defines a human. Have you read Klara and the Sun? I think you’d like it.

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Amalia Wompa
18:35 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you!! I've always been super interested in philosophical stuff like this, so I'm so happy you took the time to read it! :) I haven't read Klara and the Sun but I'm totally adding it to my list! <3

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Shea West
05:10 Apr 12, 2022

Whoa!!! This was soooo clever, and had such a delicate balance of emotional play to it. I loved the last line and how you took us through an interesting twist to the story!! I did enjoy the foreshadowing when she said, why did you do this to me? Leads the reader to believe she is sad she's a robot... But then there's the gotcha! Well done Amalia

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Amalia Wompa
19:07 Apr 12, 2022

Thank you so so much for taking the time to read it! :) I really appreciate your comment! I wasn't sure if the twist would deliver well or..if it would deliver at all lol. Thank you again for the feedback! xoxo

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Shea West
19:35 Apr 12, 2022

No, it was a great twist! Your story is on the recommended list... which means it's in the running to shortlist or win! Welcome to Reedsy Amalia.

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Amalia Wompa
21:27 Apr 12, 2022

Woah no way! I didn't expect that at all! I don't have very high hopes but that would be a dream :)

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