Androids Don't Like Photos

Submitted into Contest #104 in response to: Start your story with a character saying, “Are you coming tonight?”... view prompt

18 comments

Coming of Age Science Fiction Teens & Young Adult

Androids Don't Like Photos.

Dr. Jacob Houghman panicked for a few moments, briefly unable to find his smartphone. He needed to place several important phone calls.

"Are you coming tonight?" he asked each person and was relieved when they all said they would. He wanted everything perfect for this party. Presenting himself as an exclusive society member was not his reason; he simply wanted to make his wife happy. 

Jacob continued rushing around their gigantic island home, swiftly checking each task on his list off as completed. He chuckled as he thought about how grateful he was that the house would be dyed pink for only a few days. The pink-hating man sighed, agreeing with his wife that pink was the most desirable color for an adoption shower. The new parents hoped this party would be the first of many for their little girl. 

Dr. Rosalina James, Jacob's wife, fiddled with the displays of pink and red flower bouquets. Guests would probably collide with hot pink and red balloons multiple times. Thankfully, the buffet appeared in the colors intended; raw pink food might kill those who ate it. On the bright side, her husband and his two bosses Dr. Myra and Dr. Michael Jones were medical doctors. Andrea's best friend, Janet, would also arrive to celebrate such a special occasion. 

"Don't worry honey," Jacob said giving his wife a reassuring hug, "If something does go awry, at least one of us could help. I'm more concerned about whether we will all have to visit the dentist tomorrow?" 

Her head appeared from behind the balloons as she replied with a concerned tone,

"Do you really think it's too sweet? Oh no! What if I kill the guests before they can get to the dentist? Quick, throw it out! Throw all the sweets out!" 

She almost reached the cake before her husband grabbed her arm to stop her. She stopped, looked him in the eye, and pointed at her forearm. 

"You idiot! Now, look what you've done!" Rosalina's arm was bleeding slightly. Her husband's grip was not particularly strong, Rosalina was simply quite weak. She suffered from "Ripping Disease," which as the name implied, ripped her apart. Incidents like this were common. She knew Jacob had not meant for his dark humor to hurt her. At least it was only a mild injury, easily treated, with plenty of time before the party for Rosalina to touch up her hair and makeup. 

As she looked at her bandaged arm, removing the grotesque thoughts from her mind proved difficult; she wondered how her husband managed his nervous thoughts. You would never see precisely how guilty he felt for his actions, while others would have it written on their faces. This incident only increased Rosalina's fear. She was within her rights to be concerned because this was not the typical adoption shower. Their daughter, Andrea, was unique compared to other children. As any parent would, she hoped Andrea would develop meaningful friendships and live a normal life. However, could anyone consider an android child normal? 

Truthfully, Andrea was a scientific miracle; the first android. Robotic factory slaves were public knowledge. However, nothing was as scientifically impressive as Andrea; for all intents and purposes, she was human. Her pale skin and red hair felt genuine. Her mind and body were left in a developmental state. Essentially, she would learn and grow similarly as a human child would. She would blend in with society.

Rosalina was a technological engineer. Her Ph.D. was obtained after a decade of study. She observed ambitious people were the individuals worthy of respect. Mental flexibility was required by any creator, especially scientists. Boldly going where no person had gone before inspired and intimidated Rosalina. Since her body could not be flexible, her mind would have to compensate. 

"Necessity is the mother of invention," was a quote repeatedly said throughout her life. She did not know who first said it, but that person was right. Adoption agencies, national and international, took one glance at her medical history and threw the couple's application into the paper shredder. Many traumatic memories flooded her mind as she recalled cold, heartless voices.

"I'm sorry to inform you that due to your medical history we do not believe you to be an adequate mother for a child. Suppose your husband died and you required surgery. An infant can't call 911 to save your life. At least you both have clear background checks; the smallest blemish on record eliminates a couple instantly. Try elsewhere." As the most infamous secretary politely attempted to escort them out of her office, Rosalina violently protested,

"That could happen to anybody! Do you turn law enforcement or firefighters away because they could die on the job, leaving their spouses and children to fend for themselves? You never know how your life will end, but these children will end up alone, aging out of the system at 18, left to fend for themselves if someone does not take care of them! I've been healthy for several years, the risk is low. Please reconsider, I beg you!"

"Good day, Mr. and Mrs. Houghman. I'm sorry you are upset. There is nothing more I can do. Please leave before I have to call the law enforcement officials!" Shortly after they left, Jacob frankly commented,

"Don't start taking it out on me because you slammed the door so hard you broke your thumb. Dealing with an adoption agency run by inconsiderate individuals is not worth our time." Jacob was uncertain who he should hate more; the heartless adoption agency or his wife for causing an embarrassing yelling match, receiving a threat from law enforcement and hurting herself in the process. 

The Ripping Disease would increase in severity as she aged. The Disease only affected women and (among other side effects) was infertility. They had been rejected by every place they applied to, forcing Jacob to accept their childless fate. Since they could not adopt traditionally, they had no choice. Rosalina however, never said "no" to a challenge. Her unwavering dedication to her tasks and him was one of the many things he loved about her. She was going to literally become the "mother of invention" because she believed having a child was a "necessity." 

When she told Jacob about her plans to create an android child, he thought she was intoxicated. Jacob believed if something could distract his wife from her pain, she might as well attempt it. Parenthood was something they both desired. Given how time-consuming the project would be, Rosalina chose to add enhancements to make the perfect child. She realized that if they could not adopt, she would have to create their child, and that child would live above human expectations. 

Underneath the artificial skin was a protective metal casing. The durability of it made certain her child would never be harmed; her attacker might suffer worse injuries in comparison. Digging deeper into Andrea would reveal a network of intertwined wiring and gears instead of organs. However, there was enough memory space available for Andrea to develop above-average intelligence and perform skills humans were incapable of completing. Enhanced strength, speed, and five senses were only a few of her many inhuman abilities. 

If questioned, Rosalina could say the faint three-inch line across Andrea's left shoulder was a scar. The line hid Andrea's most impressive enhancement; changing appearances at will. If they moved, she could start over with a completely different age and appearance. All it took was manipulating small gears in various formations. Andrea would need to learn how to operate herself so she could blend in because unfortunately, she would not have her parents forever. She would never forget anything she learned in one lifetime; however, she would need to act like a person her new age would. Rosalina's dedication clearly went overboard as five years of hidden experimentation resulted in Andrea's creation. 

Was Andrea too perfect she wondered? Her husband was as surprised as any man who learned his wife was accidentally pregnant. Should he have put "control" over his wife in a similar manner humans should use "control" to prevent accidents. As he stood before the metal table for the millionth time, he contemplated whether his wife's project would succeed. 

A slow, steady buzzing sound grew louder for several minutes, then paused. The silence was deadly as Rosalina burst into tears, her scientific professionalism leaving her at last. How many times should you experiment before giving up? Stomping out of the room she paused as her husband followed closely behind her.

"Not again! What did I do wrong this time? I suppose I should just give up and accept I wasted five years of our lives together with nothing to show for it. I'm sorry darling." Jacob put his finger over her lips because the buzzing noise grew louder, the frequency of each buzz moved as quickly as a beating heart. Afraid to look, but knowing they should, Rosalina and Jacob ran back to the large office they called Rosalina's "Secret Laboratory." They reentered and looked at the metal table. Sitting up was a five-year-old girl. Her green eyes glowed as she stared at the couple, parents at last. 

"Wow! You/I did it! Congratulations to us!" both of them cried out. Rosalina was shedding tears of joy. Jacob lifted his wife in a light hug to congratulate her. He gave up while she endured the physical and psychological suffering the trials and errors caused for five years.

With everything comes a price, and keeping her scientific achievement quiet was the price the family would pay. Human society is filled with undesirable scientists, willing to go any distance to procure the secrets of technological advancements. An andriod child could bring millions of dollars to the person who formally patented the design. Ripping Andrea's limbs from her body and performing an autopsy on her to analyze her inner machinery was both parents' worst nightmare. No amount of money would convince them to sacrifice their daughter to science.  

A knock on the bedroom door brought Rosalina back into the present. Tonight was a party, she needed to cheer up. Her friend Janet, CEO and founder of "ShowYourSmile.com," a social network website, would be taking loads of photos tonight. Touched-up makeup and hair could not cover a miserable expression. She also did not wish to continue causing her husband grief or influencing her impressionable child into thinking parties are negative events. 

Lifting the cake carefully from the catering tray, Jacob thought about how much the guests would eat; Rosalina probably intended upon consuming the majority of dessert over several days. Considering the challenges Rosalina overcame throughout the journey to parenthood, Rosalina's accomplishments were worthy of honorable mention... and a special dessert. The arrival of their daughter, Andrea, was as bizarre as the cake. 

As each guest arrived, they were greeted with hugs and "congratulations!" Unfortunately, Rosalina was the introvert stuck dealing with female small-talk while Jacob and Dr. Michael escaped time-consuming conversation by helping with final party details. 

Janet was an inquisitive woman who was thrilled and anticipating the night's events. She began by asking what should have been simple to answer questions. To Rosalina's horror, she did not realize sooner that she had no answers. 

"I'm so glad you found someone open-minded enough to give you both a chance! Your little girl is so lucky! Where is she from?"

"umm... Ireland... I think...," Rosalina jumped up but was quickly grabbed by Janet and forced to sit down. With her luck, Janet unknowingly grabbed the same spot her husband had earlier that morning. Normally she would have tried escaping to avoid small-talk; now she wanted to confirm with her husband the details so they both told the same story. They prepared so much for the party they forgot the truly important information. 

"Nevermind. She lives here now. That's what counts! How old is she?"

Confidently, Rosalina replied she was five and her birthday was January 15th. She would never forget those dates, whether her husband would is another matter. (He often forgot other people's birthdays and occasionally when their anniversary was).

Rosalina was never more grateful to have a minor injury. Janet grabbing the bandaged arm hurt, but did not cause additional bleeding. Too dim to realize she was faking, she screamed in pain, causing Dr. Myra to stop the small-talk commenting with her doctor's frank voice,

"Janet, when you just grabbed Rosalina you hurt her already injured arm. Please keep your hands to yourself. I'm going to take her to the restroom to check on her arm. I hope you did not make her previous injury worse."

The primary reason Janet did not reply was to be polite. Dr. Myra and her husband were an elderly couple and tonight was supposed to be a celebration, not a photoshoot of people with black eyes and broken arms. If Dr. Myra was younger, Janet would not accept being talked down to like a child. The age difference between Doctors Myra and Michael was large enough for Janet and the Houghmans to be their children. They had none of their own because Dr. Myra also suffered from Ripping Disease. She and her husband were also unable to adopt and accepted a childless life.

"Thank you, Dr. Myra. I was tired of Janet's questioning," Rosalina said affectionately. Both of them looked at her arm and Dr. Myra, sounding friendly replied,

"You're welcome. I wanted to get away from Janet too. I'm surprised you are friends with such a chatterbox. Your arm is no worse than it was previously." They stayed in the bathroom "examining" Rosalina, leaving Janet to assume the worst. 

Obviously, Janet was not fluent in sarcasm because Dr. Michael replied,

"I'm glad you girls came out precisely when dinner was due to start. I'm glad you both are safe...I thought Janet committed murder when I heard Rosalina scream." They all laughed at the look of pure horror on Janet's face. Fortunately, her face returned to her normal cheery expression. Everything looked perfect, however, they found Andrea hiding upstairs. 

"Why were you hiding Andrea? We need our guest of honor before we can start eating!" Thankfully, Andrea was indestructible because Janet's hug was so tight it would have squeezed a human's organs out. Andrea had never met Janet so her remark was unsurprising.

"Get off me, lady! I don't know you! Don't touch me! Mommy, who is this woman? Tell her to leave me alone!" She ran behind her mother and hid while her father asked,

"Honey, why didn't you introduce Janet and Andrea?" He also sternly addressed Andrea, "Don't ever behave like that again. Janet is your mother's best friend and isn't going to hurt you. You hurt her feelings and you can hurt other people's feelings if you behave as you did earlier. Say you're sorry so Janet doesn't feel sad."

"But Daddy... Mommy and Dr. Myra ran away from her, she must be bad! I'm sorry Janet for what I said. Am I in trouble?" She looked at the other adults in the room, all with the same dumbstruck expression. 

"No Andrea," Dr. Myra quietly replied, "you're not in trouble... this time. But listen to your parents and don't act like this again. Do you understand me?" Andrea nodded and the evening was going smoothly...until an excuse needed to be made about why Andrea was not eating. Androids don't eat, but Andrea's true form was to remain a family secret. Rosalina knew she forgot to add something when she was programming. 

“Hey everyone, it's PICTURE TIME!," shouted Janet! Pictures had to be taken before the meal so everyone's makeup and teeth were perfect. "Congratulations! There are no words that express how happy I am for you both!" Changing from friendly to bossy, she started directing, "First, men stand in a line; women should kneel in front, allowing their husbands' faces to be seen. Don't forget to save a space for me! You sweetie," as she pinched Andrea's cheek, "are going to stand in front-center. Ready...set...GO!”

Janet set a timer on her professional camera and ran, finding a space on Rosalina's right. Dr. Myra was on the left side. The "star of the show" as well as the other guests could all be easily seen as Janet barely entered the photo. The timer was only 10 seconds long; too long for all except the hurried Janet. The 10 seconds of smiling and praying the photograph looked decent (or else Janet would take more) was an eternity. 

After additional pictures with the cake and various poses between the guests, Janet was temporarily satisfied. Taken throughout the party, "candid photos" would be instantly posted on her website, via her smartphone. Whether the guests would be pleased or annoyed by the end did not matter to Janet. This was a "once in a lifetime event" which the whole family would remember for the rest of their lives. 

The main food was growing cold and the desserts too warm because of Andrea. Like any five-year-old, she needed to learn how to be patient. Taking so many photos was irritating. Somebody had to point out the obvious, who better than a child?

"ENOUGH JANET! Can't you see nobody wants to take any more pictures tonight? Leave me out of them!" Andrea stormed out of the room, upstairs into her bedroom. Her parents followed her. They returned, announcing,

"We decided she needed rest. She went to bed without supper," Jacob said. "I'm so mortified by her behavior I never want to face any of you again." Rosalina agreed. Dr. Myra kindly replied,

"She's five, she'll learn. Give me an extra-large slice of cake and I'll forget the whole incident. Ultimately, everything went well." Dr. Myra regretted her request as the strawberry cake, covered in cotton candy and whipped cream with small chocolates inside gave her a toothache. Too much photography and cake are unhealthy.

July 24, 2021 18:05

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18 comments

Koala Bear
22:16 Aug 14, 2021

Stories with androids tend to take a more negative turn, but I'm glad that this one ended on a more positive note in terms of Andrea; she wasn't discovered, acted like a five-year-old, and was never viewed as dangerous. Her creation was successful and I can see her growing up as a fairly normal child. I'd read a spin-off about her when she's older trying to hide that she's an android. I also found the Ripping Disease to be an interesting idea.

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Shannon Ruane
01:22 Aug 17, 2021

Thank you very much for your comments. I'm trying to write a book, so I will keep what you said in mind. Also, this blog features mostly stories about Andrea and friends at multiple ages. (Some of the stories take place before she is created).

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Tommie Michele
06:01 Oct 18, 2021

Oh, I agree completely with Koala on this one—I would love to read a sequel, and I think it’s cool that you have multiple stories with Andrea as a character. Thanks for the follow and the likes, Shannon! I look forward to reading more of your stories! —Tommie Michele

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Darvico Ulmeli
10:33 May 10, 2024

Like it. Androids amongst us? Sure, they are already among us. Like the way you write.

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Shannon Ruane
01:12 May 15, 2024

Thank you. I am glad you liked my story.

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Helen A Smith
17:09 Jan 07, 2024

Great story, Shannon. I just realised I read this before some time ago. I enjoyed it just as much the second time

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Shannon Ruane
22:04 Jan 17, 2024

Thank you so much for your comments. (Sorry for the late reply, I've been sick).

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Timothy Rennels
20:35 May 23, 2023

I really liked this story Shannon. Thank you for reading mine!

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Shannon Ruane
21:56 May 30, 2023

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I enjoyed your story too.

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S N
15:44 Dec 26, 2022

I was surprised at every turn. I am not too familiar with android storylines, but I am a parent and know the great love one has for their children. The time jumps from present to past when Rosalina is creating their child after so many rejections for adoption that were baseless, was a nice way to create and interesting arrangement for the series of events. I feel silly though, I kept getting a little lost without markers to indicate when those time jumps were happening, ha ha, my bad. One part had me rolling... black eyes and broken arms, wa...

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Shannon Ruane
01:49 Jan 01, 2023

Thank you for your comments. All I can say without needing a spoiler alert is that it will become more detailed as Andrea grows up and past information will be clearer. I intend to write a full book and the word limit on this website is why some things are not fully developed. Other stories featuring older Andrea and past information of the parents are on this page if you are interested.

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Helen A Smith
17:10 Oct 19, 2022

Androids! Definitely the way to go with writing. I enjoyed your story

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Shannon Ruane
04:41 Oct 25, 2022

Thank you so much!

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Kendall Defoe
11:37 Nov 22, 2021

Interesting take on the theme of technology and robotics. I would like to know more about Andrea... Necessity really is a motherhuffer of invention... ;)

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Shannon Ruane
04:23 Dec 07, 2021

Hi, thank you for your comments. (Sorry for such a late reply). If you go to my story page there are stories about Andrea at different ages and of characters related to her. I'm hoping to write a full book eventually.

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Giovanni Profeta
18:11 Aug 03, 2021

Thank you for all those "Likes" on my stories. This one really caught my attention, the whole androids among us idea fascinates me. I've been working on something on that topic for a long time, maybe it's time to let it flourish.

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Tricia Shulist
20:37 Jul 30, 2021

Interesting — the whole idea of androids among us. Both scary and fascinating. Thanks for this.

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Shannon Ruane
20:52 Jul 30, 2021

Thank you for the compliments. :)

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