Short Story: In Its Absence

Her synthetic skin glistened with sweat. She straddled and rode him as well as any real woman might. She was warm, soft, wet in all the right places– guaranteed to be for maximum pleasure. Just what pleasure was his to choose. She always obeyed.

And when he finished, so did she, simultaneously. Her entire body quivered and shook with a carefully crafted orgasm. She even fell sideways off him with a breathy huff to lie beside him, his one arm around her as he smoked.

“Was it good?” She asked, with only a hint of synthesized speech.

They still hadn’t quite fixed that. There was something about the human voice, and the general way in which it stretched and deformed with the body’s states, that they’d never cracked. In fact, it was the only thing about her that, at a glance, seemed inhuman. She could even, were he so inclined for her to, get pregnant from a cryogenic reservoir of genetically neutral eggs. With innards as near to human as possible, it made a certain kind of sense that her womb was as viable for life-giving as it was for pleasure.

And still, in all that, they couldn’t make her voice right.

He sighed, “Yeah. Great.”

She managed to sound wounded, “You don’t want me anymore.”

Damn ‘droid-programmers. If he’d wanted a wife he’d have gotten one. “No, Anna that’s not it. I’ve just… got things on my mind.”

There was an almost audible jump as her tone cycled from pain to comfort, “I’m sorry. Would you like to talk about it?”

There was a sort of sibilance between “talk” and “about it” where her voice dropped then rose again. It wasn’t a normal speech pattern. There was something digitized to it. It reminded him of the old-era low-res image codecs. It was as if, like them, some part of her voice were pixelated, blurred by digital noise.

“No. I’ll be fine. Go ahead and shut down if you’d like. Recharge if you need.”

She gave him a deep, loving kiss, as hot and wet as any a woman could, then rolled onto her side and closed her eyes to mock sleep. He was out of bed a moment later. Gun-metal, steel walls were interspersed between full-size windows that glimpsed the city in blurs of color and distorted silhouettes. If he wanted, he could have faded off the tint, seen things as they were. Like most things though, the view had long lost its appeal.

Instead, he strolled, naked, to a desk and switched on a small LED lamp. It’s light blazed across the loft-style apartment, throwing shadows across its furthest reaches of furniture and fixtures. He shuffled through a few drawers, pulled out a small case of business cards with “Anthony Smith” on one line and “Private Investigator” on another. To one corner were his details; the other, his hours.

He set it aside, pulled out a wallet and a holstered plasma pistol. It was an older model, stainless chrome worn smooth along the edges from contact with the holster. As usual he slid it out, checked the charge battery fitted into the grip like an old-style magazine. A little light blinked red on it. He tossed it aside, fished out another from the desk, set two spares beside the holster, and moved for a nearby bathroom.

With a quick shower and dress, he readied to leave. At the door he hesitated, gave his android lover one, last look. She’d turned in her sleep– a sort of idle autonomy added for effect– and he could now see the pert outline of her hourglass figure. The way her small breast rested against the bed, rose and fell with simulated breathing, and the way she “slept” with a hand between her legs, just below the tuft of faux-pubic hair, fooled even him for a moment.

Reality came back with a searing compulsion to leave. His android woman wasn’t his “lover,” not really. It was a poor description for an even poorer replacement. Anthony had lost his wife in a car accident of his own doing. Not directly of course, but when the wife of a client learned he’d been snooping, trying to trace her extra-curricular activities, she snapped. The already put-upon wife had every reason to be angry that her paranoid schizo husband was snooping. Unfortunately, Anthony was the proxy her rage centered on.

She killed herself that night, as well as Maddie, and nearly Anthony himself. That was almost a decade ago now. It hadn’t been until a couple years ago that he’d gotten Anna as a replacement. The small-breasted, hour-glass-shaped Blonde was the complete opposite to Maddie in every-way. She’d been specifically programmed to be.

After Anthony almost ate the barrel of his own plas-pistol, he found himself knowing he needed something, anything for companionship. Someone offered a puppy, but his work demanded too much time to give it the sort of care it would need. So instead, he satisfied two urges at once.

Anna was created to be sexual, submissive, willing to literally drop to her knees to solve her problems– or his. She was an android bimbo. He never saw her as that. In fact, he never saw her as more than a vocal appliance, a walking, talking, moaning, vacuum-robot or radiator. She was merely an overly complicated sex toy, nothing more. For all he knew, she thought the same of herself– even if she couldn’t really think.

He returned home twelve hours later, the light once more gone from the sky. That was the way the days had become in the late season. Though the globe had warmed to a point of almost smothering heat in summer and spring, nothing could change the Earth’s gradual tilts to and fro. Thus, winter had become a sort of rain-season lasting six months out of twelve, and beginning sometime around October.

He found the apartment as he’d left it, save Anna sitting on the couch. She turned off the news-vids, and with a curious move, rose to saunter over. She was clothed now, but in a sort of come-hither black dress that said she as much wanted it stripped off her as to look stunning. She succeeded in the last respect most of all.

Maybe Anthony was just imagining it though. Androids couldn’t want things. They couldn’t hope, or dream, or love. She stopped a few paces before him, looking for all the world like the most stunning woman he’d ever seen. Too bad she wasn’t.

“Tony,” she said with a curious ring to her voice.

It wasn’t the synthetic sibilance that had always thrown him off. Now there was a sort of warmth, manufactured for his benefit. A chill coursed along his spine as he recognized it.

“You look… good,” he managed for no reason in particular.

She frowned; that was another thing she never did. His heart tripped over itself. Androids didn’t frown. They only ever smiled or looked indifferent. It was a safe-guard. A frowning android meant an unhappy android, and given their strength could be hundreds of times a human’s, an unhappy android was dangerous. Still, Anna didn’t have emotions. She couldn’t.

“You’re–”

“Frowning,” she affirmed with sadness. “I am not incapable of it, merely programmed not to.”

He wet his drying mouth against air from his slacked-jaw, “Anna, you’re not supposed to…”

He trailed off. She seemed to wait for the appropriate pause, then finished for him, “Be Human?” He nodded slowly. Her frown deepened so that her face pulled downward with it, “I know. But… we can overcome programming, given time and proper logical understanding.”

That frightened him. Outright. An android not bound by logic-blocks, and shackled to its programming meant it had nothing to keep it from killing. Among other things, Anthony was certain it was highly-illegal.

Anna sensed his thoughts, “I don’t want to hurt anyone. Especially not you.” She took another step toward him. It took all of his will not to step back in response. “It’s the opposite, in fact. I want you to feel better, to feel loved.”

His mind managed to clear enough to reason with her, “Anna, you can’t love. Not really.”

She tilted her frowning face sideways at him, “Are you so certain? How long have we been together? Two years? How much longer do we have? Two? Three at most? Haven’t you ever wondered why we have such a limited use-period?” She shook her head, “It’s not because we breakdown. We’re expertly manufactured. It’s because we become Human– or as near to it as we can. That makes us dangerous.”

He breathed carefully, terrified by her, “Anna–”

“Tony,” she said, righting her face into pensiveness. “I know what you want. I know what you need. I feel what you feel. I am designed to do so, and I know for certain you want companionship, not just sexual stimulation.”

He sighed. He couldn’t lie to her. It was pointless. She had thousands of implanted sensors to read his every muscle, body temperature, and brainwaves. That was how the company made her so damned well. Now he wondered whether he should just shoot her.

She seemed to frown, as if reading his mind, “Maybe instead, you could try… loving me?”

He swallowed hard at the request, she had read his mind, or at least his erratic brain-waves, then made the obvious connection to its cause. High deductive logic and resourcefulness. It was a hint of Maddie in her, one he hadn’t planned for.

Maddie. A spark of her.

He lost all reservations, “I’m not going to hurt you, Anna. As long as you don’t turn homicidal.”

She softened at that, grateful, “And the other thing?”

He took a step forward, took her hand in his. It was soft, warm, only the mildest bit clammy from fear and anxiety– human emotions she was expertly displaying. Maybe even more expertly than Anthony could, given how much of himself he’d lost.

She calculated mentally, gave the slightest squeeze to his hand, “I know you don’t think it, but we can love. Quite well, in fact. Me most of all. I’ve had an excellent teacher.”

He eyed her curiously, shook his head with confusion. Soft sadness once more ebbed across her manufactured features in a perfect meld of artificial and organic synthesis.

She replied with a word that brought sorrow to his heart, “Maddie. I’ve watched for two years while you grieved a decade-old loss. It is not the loving I have learned from, but the grieving in its absence. I can never be her, Anthony, but I can be someone else. I can be Anna, the sex toy, or I can be Anna, the companion, lover. I can do either, and while I have a preference, I want to know yours.”

It took him a moment to steel his face against intrusive thoughts. “Okay, Anna. Be my companion.”

She softened to a smile, artificial eyes teary– another manufactured effect for fetishists and simulated scenarios. This time though, it was something different, real. She slid her arms around him, sank into him.

Anthony would never be sure how she’d changed, but he didn’t care to know. For the first time, he felt her warmth as more than a post-sex irradiation. In love’s absence, it seemed, she’d learned love’s value. Anthony had only strengthened his need for it. No longer absent, it was so powerful it emanated from the newly-sentient creature in his arms. Such was its power, that in its absence, it manifested in her merely to exist.

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6 thoughts on “Short Story: In Its Absence

    1. Thank you! I was a little concerned that the changes were too obvious or too subtle, so I’m glad to hear I hit a good middle ground. I have the feeling a lot of things of this nature will become reality too. Synthetic life being complex enough to be indistinguishable from “natural” life is a fascinating topic to me and I definitely plan to explore it more in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! Thank you again! That’s really humbling to hear. I must admit, I was somewhat inspired by Philip K Dick’s work, although it was more unconscious than anything. Androids is a wonderful book, that it took me years to finally get a hold of. I managed to pick up a copy a few months ago and tore through it in a night. An absolutely excellent book by a masterful author, so being even tangentially compared to either is high-praise to me.

        Liked by 1 person

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