Chapter 1

Posted by Alyssa Polaris on


I wasn’t sure how many hours it had been since I had noticed daylight, a hazy reddish hue through my closed eyes. I could approximate the time being close to noon by the speed at which the temperature was rising in the room, the air becoming thick and stagnant. I wanted to open a window but I didn’t dare to move. I started to wonder if I was already alone, when suddenly, I heard the sound of a zipper being pulled up and the jingle of a belt buckle, followed by a long shadow moving across, blocking the light from reaching my eyelids. I couldn’t remember his name, nor his face, and I was glad that by the sounds of it, he was in a rush to get out.

I was trying to stay as still as possible, taking shallow breaths, to appear smaller, to blend in with the bed sheets wrapped around my body —my body!—  that felt half exposed. Blood rushed to my head when I realized my breasts were bare. Did he notice my face flushing? I resented having a body. Why did I convince myself to go out last night and seek purpose for this body, this damned flesh vessel that feels more like an urn than a body? Nothing makes sense. Why am I still here? I had promised myself to submit the life-termination consent form before the liquidation season ended in my district, which had happened just last night. My thoughts were interrupted abruptly by the distinct pulse of sound of a sonar camera. I didn't know what to do. As much as I found myself devoid of any value, I also felt degraded. I held my breath, as if by doing so I would become invisible, and opened my eyes only to find myself alone in the room. The entrance door closing loudly, he was gone.

I stayed still, pretending that if I didn't move, the world wouldn't go on, rotating on its axis, revolving around the sun, which was now reflecting on dust particles everywhere in front of me, slowly moving with my breath, shimmering as they went scattering around.

The humiliation was still fresh in my mind, but I couldn't figure out the cause. Was it the invasive photograph? Or was it my weakness and desperation that had had me bring home a stranger?

I waited all day for a sign to get up. The house system would normally activate a gentle wake up alarm at 7. I never got up before 10, but since the day I moved into this place I hadn't bothered to change the automated setup. It made me feel less lonely having the noise outside my room, even if I knew it was all robotic process automation. Coffee would be ready by 7:05, and the shower hot and running 20 minutes later, turning the whole bathroom into a steam room. Usually by the time I was up, everything had already been cleared in the kitchen and bathroom, only a soft hum could still be heard coming from the living room. I wasn't sure what it was. The house system was a few generations old so I always attributed the hum to it, and it would linger until lunch, when all kinds of delectable aromas, accompanied by boiling, sizzling, and other cooking sounds would finally entice me to get up.

Nothing, not the alarm, the coffee, the shower, the lunch, or the humming happened today but I didn't notice until the light coming from the window turned the shadows in the room into various shades of orange, red, and pink. This was sunset. I then remembered I had deactivated the house system last night, before leaving. I wasn't planning on bringing back home a man and... I wasn't planning on waking up today. A somber discomfort started filling my head, and I could feel my eyes watering, my throat tightening, and my morale soaking in self-disgust. I didn't want to be conscious of such a realization so I focused on the fiery atmosphere. I could see on the mirror across the bed, reflected from the window above me, a blush stained cloud smeared on a little spot of visible sky, like a flame. I felt a tear roll down from the corner of my eye. I didn't wipe it dry in case the action would stimulate more water to come out, turning myself into a broken spillway, setting in motion a reaction of self pity. So I remained motionless, locked in the same position I had woken up in, and started mentally explaining sunset colors to myself. When the sun is low in the horizon, air molecules scatter away the shorter wavelengths of light, like blue, and the only light which penetrates through the atmosphere are the longer wavelengths of light, like red and purple, which produce colorful sunsets.

Hoping I would somehow disappear if I ignored the passing time, I remained there, sinking in a depressive stupor until the darkness enveloped the space. I had been in bed all day but somehow I felt exhausted. Visions of my father reminding me of the importance of sleep arose. Sleeping is like defragging your hard drive. R.E.M. is the phase where you process all information. Dreaming develops creativity and intelligence. The whole looping cycle of a night’s sleep is more than just restorative, it’s upgrading. And only then, as if I needed permission to rest, I allowed myself to doze off.

The house system had been stopped from operating for more than 24 hours by now. With no heating, the chill began to overwhelm me. An agonizing cramp contracted my leg, and writhing, as I slid from dormancy to consciousness, I felt the effects of having affixed myself to the same drawn out posture. I slowly sat up. The night had ended and twilight had settled. There was just enough gleam from the sky outside to make up the outline of objects around me. Amongst them, two pointy ears and a pair of glowing eyes. I got out of bed and walked towards them, collapsing to my knees within a meter of her, convulsively sobbing. Aura, as if she understood my gripe, meowed back.

I picked her up and whispered apologies in every language I could remember. I didn’t have a better way of conveying regret of the betrayal that was about to happen, and hoped that in the beastly faculty of her mind she would understand. I held her for a while, rocking back and forth, as if to pacify her, when it was me who was in need of being held and soothed. She wiggled out of my tight grip and left me alone, kneeling in the middle of the room, naked and shivering. The clothes I wore the night before were scattered on the floor. I bowed down and felt for them, a tight, long sleeved bodysuit and a pair of black leather pants. I put them on with difficulty. My body was aching and it was still dark. I took my phone from the bedside table and direct-dialed the only number saved.


“Hello, you’ve reached animal control. Leave your message, name and location, and one of our agents will return your call during work hours”.

A knot formed in my throat, and escaped through my lips transformed into trembling, whimpering sounds.

“I… I need help… Aura… A cat… The cat needs help… She… She’s alone… Uhh… The location is registered under my name… I… Lux, my name is Lux… Please… Don’t let her be alone for too long…”


I caught my breath, and walked into the kitchen, where Aurora was quietly waiting for the nozzle pointed at her bowl to drop her first meal of the day. I didn’t know if she would have to wait for hours, days, or even weeks, before animal control came to find her, and with the domestic automation powered off, it had to be done manually. I dragged a 15kg sack of kibble out from the storage under the counter, and grabbed the largest knife from one of the drawers. I stabbed the sack and sliced it open in one swift motion, the contents burst out. I then reached for the overhead cabinets, picking up bowls and cups, filling them with water and placing them all around the house, making sure she wouldn’t get thirsty. I did it all without putting the knife down.

For a second I hesitated about what to do next. I glanced at the window and saw light, the sun flaming, threatening me with a new day. I put the knife against my wrist and pressed hard. I felt a debilitating wave of body aches, a pervasive malaise that was more than the usual lonely anguish turned into depression that had been festering for years. It was a radiating pain in my back, grinding in my knees, pulsating pressure in my head, burning in my eyes, a full body febrile throb, and the accompanying heartache of abandoning my beloved Aura, the pain of which was the hardest to ignore. But I kept pressing the cold, sharp blade against my skin until it broke and I saw the grotesque sight under it.

A metallic frame shining through a pearly liquid oozing from the wound, lubricating the edge of the knife as I dragged it down the entire length of my forearm uncovering more of the silver structure. The vitreous luster of it all made me nauseated. I had hoped for death, but what I found instead was far worse. I was humanity’s second act, engineered and programmed in my maker’s image, that promised futures of wonder. Today, however, the promise was mainly of horror.

I squeezed my arm to draw out the shimmering sap that flowed like sanguine nectar through my synthetic veins, now open valves, siphoning my restrictions of consciousness onto the floorboards. I laughed at the pathetic scene, the burden of my human struggle, against my true nature, like a pendulum of hope and despair, a joyous thing wrapped up in unsavory mutations of machine and organism. I continued to laugh until I ran out of air, and then took another look, this time ripping apart my flesh, digging at the machine within.