I woke to a new scent in my room. I could smell it, I could smell life. When my eyelids snapped open, I saw it laying there on my desk, a sunflower.
My gears clicked and whirred, and after a moment completed processing with a ding.
I added the image to my cranial compartment, the small one called HAPPY that I had only recently begun storing memories in. I knew Jimmy had left it for me, and Jimmy made me happy.
When my internal CPU was first switched on, I was told only to store memory that was necessary for survival and function. The HAPPY compartment was always there, but always much smaller than the others.
Through my first few years of functioning, I learned how humans reacted to happiness, and even though I could not physically curl my face into a smile or laugh like they could, I still felt it the same. My programming gives me the capacity to experience everything the human mind does, it just takes me a little while longer to process and I cannot react physically. We were not created to produce emotion, only to consume it.
When I was created, I was given a humanoid body that looks the same at first glance but does not move the same way. The few times I’ve caught my own reflection in a window, I saw something that looked more or less like a human but with no expression, empty eyes, and there just isn’t the glow they have behind their skin. Maybe because it is real skin, and mine is a coating over metal. We aren’t given mirrors where we live; they don’t want us to focus on ourselves but rather on our purpose: to provide a survey of what human life is like so they can improve our robot race. I am only a trial, an experiment; I am not human. But why do I feel so alive?
When I left my living quarters I saw him standing there, Jimmy.
He smiled as I slowly approached him, his eyes following my mechanical movements and heavy footsteps. I spoke softly:
“I am glad–” He interrupted me.
“Me too.” He continued to smile as we began walking side-by-side. I wished I could smile back, I wished I could show him what I felt. But that’s not why I was made. I was made for work.
I went through my normal day at school. I sat next to Jimmy in homeroom, but during breaks I sat with the other students like me. We weren’t allowed to sit with the human kids at lunch, because we don’t eat with our mouths like they do so the school didn’t want us to feel out of place. So I plugged in and refueled, and when the bell rang we went back to pretending we were just like the real kids.
A few days later, Jimmy took me to the park after school. He knew I could not run, I could not have a picnic, I could not sit on the swings. My stiff body did not allow me to do those things.
But Jimmy did not know I was upset, I could not show him the expression on my face.
So he carried on with what he was doing. He was talking quickly and stumbling over his words, but I knew right away from his tone what he was saying. His big brown eyes looked up at me as he bent down on the ground; I could see an ethereal smile in them, even though his face did not move. I wondered if he could see emotion in my eyes, maybe that’s why he was the way he was with me. I doubted it though, because I was not made of human parts and I was void of the expression of a human body.
A cheap silver ring flashed in the sunlight and his voice quivered: “I…well you know how I feel. Will – will you…”
“Why? Why would you…?” I could hardly speak, my metal pieces sticking together. He knew I could not live with him, I did not have the mental capacity or the lifespan to be his other half. I then physically expressed my emotion in the only way I could, by walking away.
That was the last time I saw Jimmy. The trackers built into me had sent an alert to my makers, letting them know I had gone beyond my mission in my interactions with humans. It was against the rules to go outside my interpersonal boundaries, and either Jimmy didn’t remember or didn’t care. Because everyone at the school was informed of our guidelines, I guessed it was probably the latter. He was far too passionate for his own good, and while I wanted to reciprocate that with every wave that ran through my brain I just simply could not.
Soon after they came to take Jimmy away to be punished for breaking the guidelines, they came to get me too. They barged into my homeroom, five burly men in black suits lunging for my helpless body to bring me back to headquarters. I looked back at the two empty chairs where Jimmy and I used to sit.
The chairs remained perfectly still and untouched while chaos rang just beyond them.
Maybe my eyes were like those chairs.
I remained silent as I was transported back to headquarters, where I was created. I thought back to the past three years; so much had happened in the short time I was functioning, yet nothing had really changed at all. I had done what they had programmed me for, I had integrated myself into humanity and logged it. Yet I felt like another failed experiment.
They opened up my back with a screech of metal, and began unplugging my reactors to plug in their own wires. As they uploaded each memory folder to their computers, I saw each image pass through my eyes. The chairs, the park, Jimmy’s eyes. The silently imported my life’s memories, but when they reached the last compartment, HAPPY, they commented.
“More full than the others, that one.” Another one of them scoffed in response.
I saw my images of joy being ripped away from me, the sunflower, Jimmy’s smile, everything that made me so desperately want to be human. After every compartment was empty, a single word flashed in my brain.
And after that, all went black.