Warmth. From her hands, resting on my solid cheeks. Metal. Not human. I can see it in her eyes.
I try to speak, but nothing but gurgled noises comes out. The sound of a computer. That’s what I am. A wretched computer. Created, not born.
But, apparently everything that is created is given a soul. She gave me my metal skin, and my robot brain. And, somehow, she gave me a heart.
She reaches behind me to adjust a monitor. Her hair falls, brushing my shoulder plate. She whispers, “Dokie, why aren’t you moving?”
She pulls back, her palms rounding over my so-called face again. Her lips are pulled down in a frown, her eyes dark, but curious. Even so sad, she is beautiful.
I can say her name – she programmed me to. “Ev-ah-lin.”
Her frown turns to a smile. “What is it, Dokie?”
I think of all I want to say, try to speak, and more gurgled noises come out. Her smile disappears, and she yanks at a cord behind me again. She hums as she works. I wish I could hum too. Like Evelyn, music is wonderful.
Finally she gets off her knees and walks to a computer on the other side of the room. Her fingers fly over the keyboard, typing codes to make me run properly. She stares at the screen and stuffs her hands into the pocket of her white lab coat. With a sigh, she blows her bangs out of her eyes. I want to comfort her, but she still has to program me with more things to say. And I sometimes doubt that will happen.
The door opens and a tall man walks in. She smiles briefly at him, and he glances towards me. His voice is low. “Robot not working?”
“Won’t move,” she says sadly. She cares about me. I know it.
The man walks over to me and pats my head. He speaks to Evelyn again, “What have you tried doing?”
“I tried adjusting those cords behind him. And I’ve tried manually writing the code for movement, but Dokie won’t move.”
“Perhaps we should try shutting it down?” the man suggests.
“Reboot?” Evelyn asks.
“If it’s not moving at all,” the man sighs, “I’m not sure how much good a reboot will do.”
“But he said my name!” Evelyn argues.
The man walks away from me, and runs a hand through his black hair. I wish I had hair. I wish I had fingers. He sighs again. “Evelyn, it’s a robot, not a person.”
Evelyn frowns when he says this, and it makes me happier that she does. “Mark, he’s got a programmed personality!”
Mark walks closer to her, pressing her palm over the left of his chest. “But it doesn’t have a beating heart, or a brain. Why care so much?”
Liar. I have a heart. So I don’t have a bloodstream or muscle tissue, but I said it before, and I’ll say it again – somehow everything created has a soul. And my soul heart doesn’t need a pulse to say it’s alive.
Evelyn walks back over to me and drags a finger between my ‘eyes’. She leans down, close enough for a kiss. I’ve never felt more…alive. Human. “Dokie is my life’s work, Mark. He’s been my project for the past five years – why shouldn’t I care?”
“You’re a scientist, not a dreamer. Don’t dwell on foolish things. We can program a new one. Come here.”
Evelyn turns and walks towards Mark. Her hands fly up, agitated. “Mark, the project managers are coming this week. They can’t see a broken robot!”
That’s what I am. Broken.
Mark frowns and lays an arm over her delicate, narrow shoulders. I feel a twinge inside of me, as if one of my pieces is snapping in half. Right in the middle of my torso. Where a heart would be. If only Evelyn knew that my soul’s alive, swimming under my metal skin. If only I could reach out and…
He touches her, his hand to her cheek and bends closer. His voice is low. “They can’t see a broken one, but we can shut it down temporarily. And then start the new program.”
Oh, no. That couldn’t happen. I hear these stories – whispers from other stuck robot souls – once you’re shut down, it’s so long to your soul too. With that new start comes a new life, a new heart.
Evelyn nods solemnly. Mark speaks, “I’ll get the switch in the other room. Turn the lights off.”
And, more painful than before, Mark leans down and kisses her firmly on the lips. I hear a screeching sound, as if my entire metal frame is ripping to shreds.
Mark leaves to find the switch to shut me down. Forever. Although, with that kiss… I am already shut down.
Evelyn’s heels click as she walks back over to me. She crouches, her eyes level to mine. She puts her hands on either side of my face. Warmth. I’m brought back to several minutes ago, when her hands were there before. I need to speak.
“Oh, Dokie, I’ll miss you…” Evelyn sighs.
“Powering down!” comes Mark’s call from the other room. Evelyn turns her head to his direction, yelling back.
And then she turns her head back to me, her dark ponytail swinging over her shoulders. She speaks quickly, leaning in, “Oh, say my name again before you go.”
I can do more than that. Stiffly, I lift my arms up and wrap them around her, bringing her into an embrace. My robotic voices comes out. “Ev-ah-lin.”
Her eyes widen and she whispers, “You can move?”
I tighten my arms around her. I wish I could feel how soft she looks.
She starts to call out, “Stop!”
But it’s too late.
I was never a broken robot. Only a broken soul. A broken soul in love.