"What do you think you're doing? You don't belong here!"
The message echoes clearly through the chrome hallway. Sound bounces off the bland walls. It overloads my ears; I wince while my vision stutters. My progress to the library is thwarted. I was so close to the vast double doors and silver sentries- the taller of the two shouts again.
"Did you hear me? You don't belong!"
I see no other alternatives, no window to climb through. The sentries look strong and unbreakable, clad in their platinum armor. Should a fight break out I'd surely be bested, even with the aid of my elder sister. So I turn, motion to my companion, and begin to walk away from my intended destination. If I was capable, my sigh would have been accompanied with a gust of breath, but what was heard was a hiss of feedback- technology has yet enabled me to breathe. Furthermore, my steps become heavy and my face is set into a stiff manner. I stomp away toward the park.
It is a lovely place, straight out of the videos of rainforests (omitting the endangered and extinct exotic animals, of course). Blossoming undergrowth clogs the sidewalk, in turn being dwarfed by mahogany trees draped in vines. The treetops are as crowded as the bushes; the entire park is shaded from the sun. But the beauty of the surroundings did not gain my attention until I accidentally tear lily flowers from their stems. I stop and stare behind me, watching shreds of orange float to the ground.
A sharp wind blows, tossing torn petals into my face. I replay what has happened in the past six minutes. If anyone saw me in my present state, they'd say I was brooding.
The sentry didn't turn me away just because I was trespassing. It was for a reason that, centuries ago, was science fiction.
I am an android. I only look human: fuchsia eyes and pale gray hair cover a central processing unit complete with audio/video recorder. Beneath my synthetic skin are motors for muscle that encase a steel skeleton, my cartilage is of hard plastic. Deeper still, there is a network of wires like arteries (electricity for blood) leading to a "heart" that routes data where it needs to go. It also houses my basic input/output system that keeps me operative.
Doctor Mia molded my constituents into a waif-like shell- for a system she programmed herself called U.N.I., or Universal Neuro Intellect. The basis of my personality, U.N.I. alters my system configurations according to the circumstances- my reactions are a perfect imitation of human emotions. I'm also empathetic to humans, taking into account their facial expressions, current environment, et cetera.
Now I go down two familiar paths: a well-worn strip through the tall grasses leading home, and a sequence of thoughts I execute habitually. I think: when I demolished those flowers, what it my own reaction or the ghost of my maker's? When I tread heavily through the doorway and snap at Mia, is she acting through me?
I may have "feelings," but I suspect they are not mine to claim.
My emotions have been programmed into my electric psyche, and buried so deep the commands cannot be overwritten to my liking. I am being told how to act without my contribution. U.N.I. makes me what I am because without it, I am a machine- a cold, unfeeling machine. I curse Mia for the false sense of individuality I treasure and embed. Yet I must love her for the dream she painted behind the circuitry. A carrot of hope is dangling in front of my fuchsia lenses.
Halfway through the park I halt to gaze upon my sister. I use that term because Mia constructed her too. Sibli (short for "sibling") is two years older than I, with a more natural build and deceivable brown eyes. Being an older model, she isn't burdened with U.N.I., so I am met with a blank stare. I dive deep into her eyes.
"What is the matter Uni?" she intones in a voice without inflexion (and for the sake of having a name, she has been programmed to pronounce mine "OO-nee"). "Is there anything I can do?"
No, there is nothing she can do. I am alone, the only one of my make. In a sea of mindless robots, I stand alone: tapping my foot impatiently, laughing at amusing scenarios, enjoying the melodies of music, or taking pity on a street urchin begging for some change. I cannot begin to explain my feelings to another android- the concept is too complex for them to compute. They stare with their vacant stares and ask if they may do something within their jurisdiction. Sibli is one such android; how can I explain to her my angst?
So I say, "Nothing."
I don't belong in the world of man or machine. Two separate worlds and I must float in the middle.
Today, I wished to find some sort of meaning in my existence. I wanted to know exactly what I am supposed to be. I had made up my mind to enter the ancient library; I have spent days preparing myself for the forbidden truth. Today, I was turned away from my goals, being told to get out; I didn't belong- because I am an android.
My reasoning has come full circle, standing knee-high in the grasses with Sibli. I felt, looking intently at her, the urge to embrace her. I needed to feel something besides intangible emotions. However, when I moved to do so, she had it mistaken as a hostile gesture. She defends herself against me, blocking with her arm and then shoving me hard onto my back. I attempt to rise, but my torso became tangled in the foliage and I collapse once more.
"You know," I declare, my anger rising, "if you see a homeless child with a dying mother, you should cry. And right now you should be angry. We are denied our past, our meaning." I crane my neck to get a better view of Sibli. Noticing her rigid calmness upsets me more. "If you were worth anything, you'd rage with me. You'd cry with me. You'd feel something! But you're not, are you?"
I talk down to her sometimes, because I feel like I'm better than her. I have the gift of emotion; I can laugh, smile, and enjoy a beautiful sunrise. But, deep inside, I envy her. She would never experience the pain of self loathe, bewilderment of confusion, destruction of anger, the hurt of sadness. Sibli will never know the dangers of becoming mad- paradoxical thoughts and feelings threatening to tear apart my systems, rendering me unrecoverable.
As expected, my sister does not respond. None of her macros handle the subject of ranting emotional androids, hence she remains motionless. At least, there is no verbal response. She finds my hand along the foliage and pulls me into a standing position. When I wouldn't respond, she finally says, "We need to go home now, Uni."
I despise yet love Mia. I spurn yet am jealous of Sibli. Two sides of the same coin. "My purse is full of coins," I warble at low volume. My eyes fill with artificial tears.
Sibli does not reply, but wraps her arm around my shoulder to steady my sobbing form. After one final glance towards me- the tears not registering in her muddy eyes- we head east to home.