Chapter Three: À Deux

Good ol' Alison met me at the river down the street from the MY-S. I can't explain it fully without looking into her memory banks--which I can't do because she's a silly Fleshy--but she had been acting--what's the word?--peculiar lately. She seemed to gaze real distantly at me, and it made me wonder if I had a bug in my eye or something. When she realized that I had noticed her, she would turn away and not say anything about it earlier. I hadn't a clue, man. Not a clue.

I had followed the sound of the river, which had always rung in my ears on the way home, and spotted her against the old oak tree we sat under often. She looked weird. Really. And for a long time, I just couldn't compute why she looked so strange. When I went over my WMV files, I realized that she was in a woman's one-piece garment. It had flowers that I immediately recognized from my memory chips as Rosa, Gypsophila paniculata, and Camellia japonica.

Of all things to ever consider Alison in, the one thing that would never cross my computer chip would be a dress. Perhaps she had a human holiday to be celebrated; after all, some blissful junctures that the Fleshies participated in were more formal and they had to wear such garments. Whatever the case, it was a rather--

Was that…cosmetics she had on her face?

"Is there a celebration on this particular date, Alison?" I asked her, and she turned a strange pink color. Was she embarrassed for something? Or was she uncomfortable in my presence? Maybe even angry? I couldn't recall anything to upset her. Man, was I a dope. A big dope! Had that hit to the head fried me, or what? I couldn't even remember what I'd done to make her that way.

"Have… Have I upset you in any way? I'm sorry, man. Real sorry! Did Tyler tell ya' something to mess with your head? He's been trying to get me back for not playing the arcade games lately. Or was it--" I was rambling. Me, rambling on something I wasn't sure about. I had only done that once before, with my mother, and that was when I'd broke her favorite radio.

"Of course not." She walked along the river and I found myself following her quickly. She wasn't looking at me--a human behavior that I could compare worry or anxiety to. I had to get my mind off of her expressions, or else I'd make myself look way too Steelish. I was over 213 Gigabytes now, after all! A Metal Man soon! What made me especially dumbfounded was the fact that my friend was like a different person. I would've popped out my eyes and rubbed them just to make sure she was really our ol' Alison--the Fleshy girl who would wear baggy overalls and torture those small red beetles with the black spots. In fact, now that I look over my memory files I have of spending time with her, I recall her saying, quote, unquote: "Dresses are for stupid preps and hookers who can't find another damn thing to do 'cept look pretty for the camera".

Is that a bow in her hair, too?

"Has the trends changed? Last I checked, dresses weren't in your book of coolness. They suddenly breezy, then?" Alison was looking over the rushing H2O and seemed mesmerized by the water, like I was so often at the ol' Spanish Bridge.

"No. I just… I thought maybe you'd like this more than those old clothes."

Talk about confusing. I should hire a Fleshy-Friend-Picker, or something.

"What are you talking about, Alison?" I laughed a snaky laugh. "I don't care about what garments you wear. It's perfectly legal to clothe yourself in whatever you desire, anyway. What's up with you? Perfectly legal. Perfectly fine."

Alison sniffed. I thought that I might've upset her again, like I seem to always do with everyone, Metal or no Metal. I need a communication chip, or a societal chip, or something of the sort! Because I was really ill of making everyone make that one face that screams disappointment. However, Alison merely sniffed mucus from the cold up her nasal passage and blew hot air from her lungs into her hands, and then rubbed her fingers on her buckskin jacket.

I was tempted to offer a penny for her thoughts, but when I'd done that to Ashley she looked at me like I was loopy. I still have that penny, in case your human mind is curious.

"That's not it," she laughed--laughed, may I just reiterate--and starting walking toward me. "It's just… I've been feeling this feeling, Edgar. I've… I didn't want to admit it is all… Man, this is a real pain in the ass…"

A.) Loss of words

B.) Flushed features

C.) Stuttering

D.) Jittery leg convulsions

Conclusion?

"Alison, maybe we should take you to a doctor! You're showing some signs of what appears to be a fever," I said, worried by the thought. She shook her head.

"No, stupid! I like you a lot! I want to get to know you more… Maybe as boyfriend and girlfriend! And not the kind that is boy and friend. Like… love-love, you know? Like that. I want to be with you, like a guy and girl do when they really like each other. That kind."

She was batty! Absolutely nutty! I found myself laughing at the thought, but it seemed to be making her mad. Had she not studied her Metal Boy papers, or something? Because I certainly had, and the idea of a Metal and a Fleshy was down-right unbreezy and impossible!

"Ha-ha! You're a revolt! Humans and robots can't have intercourse! I'd be impossible to ever have a species relationship. We can't repopulate or anything. That'd be like a bird and a can opener. Oh, you snuff me, you silly girl!" If I could've, I would've had tears of what you'd call joy running down my face. It was that funny. Exceedingly!

But she wasn't laughing. She was turning a deep rouge red and looked about as uncomfortable as a Metal near a magnet. Maybe I said something offensive.

Her mouth opened and closed, as if she didn't know what to say.

"N-no!" she finally gasped, and her shock and embarrassment seemed to convert into anger, or something like that. "Boyfriend and girlfriend don't do that! Gross! That's not what it's for! Jeez, Edgar, I thought you had more mind that than. Damned jackass." She folded her arms. "It just means you're with someone that you love. Not all lovers make babies. God." But then an amused smile curled around her cheekbones.

I wasn't sure what to say to that. Was that true? Could two of the opposite sex 'hook up'? The thought had never crossed my mind, and I'd never even been taught yet. The idea that I--a Steely--and she--a Fleshy--could become that close and both have a platonic love was a bit fish-like (I mean fishy). She sat met down by the river and we talked about the ways of the boy and girl romances. I had never seen a Fleshy seem so boyish in a time of a woman's conversation. It sort of…what's the word?…amazed me.

We were out there for 5 hours and 3.4 seconds… 3.6 seconds… When we finally stood up from the grass I found that water had seeped into the butt of my pants. It was worth it, though, to see Alison stumble around and laugh from her legs snoozing! Aw, that gets me every time! But, to get back to the bizarre situation at hand, she gave up on whatever she was trying to do with me. I'm sure I'll figure it out someday, but until then, I'm at what you'd call a loss. Definitely a loss.

But what confused me most was that she held my hand all the way home.

On Friday I had went over to Tyler's to study our newest study chips. Our latest lesson was antibiotic resistance, something I'll admit to being wicked awesome. I mean, to think that viruses could eventually consume the entire world and override all of the Fleshies was frightening! Not that us Metals don't suffer the same fate. We get viruses, too--some that cannot simply be protected against by firewalls and blockers. We have our weaknesses, too, man. I gave my mother a real scare when I got the Accelerando Virus and started going loony 5 years, 2 days, 6 hours, and 4.5555 seconds ago. Real loony. If your Fleshy mind doesn't know, it's a bug that attacks us in the snap of your fingers. Renders us smarter than a blender, if you know what I mean. But, lucky for me, the doc at the Company by the Bay helped me out and gave me new equipment to battle any other attacks.

I was reading a comic book and absorbing my information about the AIDS virus while Tyler listened to his music. Normally we sit in silence until our homework is finished. Once our lesson was completed, I flipped over from the bed and dropped my comic.

"You know what happened, Tyler? Hey! I'm trying to tell you something, you hunk of scrap!" I tossed my book at him. I once tried that with Alison when we were relatively younger, but it seemed to have caused her pain--so, I have decided Tyler was the only one to hit. It was reasonable, considering he has no real pain sensors (if he does, he keeps them off most of the time). He unplugged his Iplayer from his neck and offered a smile.

"Yeah? What's up and about?"

I had to tell him about Alison and Anastasia, and Dominic, too. My hard drive was filled with new information about the crazy events around me. I couldn't stand with-holding information from my fellow Steely! It felt like I was making my own computer go haywire! I'm telling you, man!

"Something crazy happened. Promise that you won't tell a soul unless they ask about it!" You know, that whole 'can't lie' thing. I'm not the only one who's not programmed to have the ability to lie.

"Sure man, but I don't know why I'd tell the bottom of a shoe."

"No, no, no! Not sole! Soul! You know, the nonphysical aspect of an individual!" I paused, and added, "Metaphorically, of course."

"Oh… Okay."

"So, listen to this: Remember the night I got hit in the head? By that one disturbed, intoxicated human being? Well, I met this guy--he's a Metal, like you and me--and his name was Dominic. He has this outlandish green hair! Serious man! He's the one who saved me. He even took me to my house."

"Really? Have you seen him since then?" Tyler seemed quite interested.

"What's crazy is this. You remember that study chip about the first robot? Well, he's that first robot!"

Tyler's mouth dropped. "That's totally crazy! Are you serious?"

"Deceased serious, man. He even said so himself."

"Maybe he can lie. Maybe." Tyler replied grimly, computing it.

"I really doubt it." I swung my feet over the side of the bed and folded my hands together. "But I feel as though I've known this guy before. Or something like that. I feel--I think this is definitely it--something called déjà vu--I feel like I know this Metal, but I've never met him. He's not in any of my WMV files!"

"Déjà vu? I don't have that word in my memory bank."

It had never crossed my mind that what Dominic had said meant that everyone else didn't know this word. It confused me at first, until my silly Metal mind realized that Dominic had only put it in my dictionary. What a loon I am!

"It's a feeling of reliving something. Dominic taught me that one."

Tyler looked unimpressed, but soon seemed troubled by what I had said.

"I…I kinda' feel like I know him, too. I think I do."

That's when I heard a movement outside of Tyler's second story window behind me. I did a 180 with my head until I noticed a familiar lanky frame leaning against the windowsill. He was holding a book that--when zoomed in on with advanced eyes--read The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. I had tried to read that book once, but the writing differed so badly from present English vocabulary that I just couldn't understand it.

Once I realized that Dominic Risaralda sitting in the window, I nearly blew a fuse. Standing with speed I didn't recognize as my own, I pointed at him and gasped out his name. I sounded like a siren, man, with how high-pitch my timbre was. Tyler was almost shooting out the door with the sudden appearance of the man. We both stood there while he flipped nonchalantly through the numerous pages.

He suddenly quoted, with a huge amount of passion in his voice:

"Such instigations have been often dropped

Where I have took them up.

"Shall Rome, ect." Thus I must piece it out:

Shall Rome stand under one man's awe? What,

Rome?

My ancestors did from the streets of Rome

The Tarquin drive when he was called a king.

"Speak, strike, redress!" Am I entreated

To speak and strike? O Rome, I make thee promise,

If the redress will follow, thou receivest

Thy full petition at the hand of Brutus!"

He stopped for a moment, flipped the page, and looked at the two of us with a smile. Not only had he nearly made my engine flop and gurgle, but he had also rendered me bewildered! I was not sure how to respond to that strange…was it a soliloquy?

"Brutus said that one," Dom finally said in a subject-of-truth way.

"D-Dominic, is it?" Tyler slowly, his poor microchip filled to the brink with questions--many of them about Randomonia, I bet. Tyler probably felt that bizarre feeling I end up obtaining--a peculiar butterfly feeling, I think. I think he could probably explain it to you much better. I bet.

Dom laid his head against the window and breathed in the air. I enjoy doing that, too, but maybe all Metals did. It makes you feel… gee, just refreshed. You know, the verb that means to renew energy.

"You know boys, I love autumn days. Don't you? The colors are so calm and organic. It really makes my eyes glow at the sight of it. A spot on spectacle of splendor and serenity, sealed in a soft sheet of sincerity. Don't you agree, young chaps?" He rubbed his hair back. Me and poor Tyler were skeleton-stunned. After all, how do you respond to a guy sitting in your window, quoting lines from William Shakespeare and commenting on his favorite time of the year in a mix of 'S's?

Dom was a metal I had never encountered before. A Metal Man that was as metal as, well, plastic. He made me look like a toaster! No really, man, that's how smart and insightful and human he was!

After his little rant, I nearly blew up when Tyler's robotic mother unit entered the room, oblivious to our shock and surprise, and took our attention for a brief moment from the lanky newcomer. When we turned back around… well, you can already predict who was missing, I'm sure.