After the dismantling of her husband Henry, Jude managed the best she could. For the last three months, everything fell on her shoulders, from holding a job, raising the kids, household chores, and dealing with the depression that hung on her like a sack of rocks. Each day proved a burden, every moment a lifetime. And this drain, this stupid drain, nothing she did could remove the stubborn clog. Plumber’s aids, chemicals, nothing. If only Henry was still here. He would know just what to do.
How did they do it? How did those androids steal her husband? It’s not like she had no clues. He had stopped eating, stopped sleeping. He spent all his spare time in his workshop, crafting incredible items that she knew he had neither the skills nor tools to create. She suspected, she worried, but how could she have known for sure? Everyone goes through “rocky periods” in their marriage. She thought he just needed space. If she just let him be, he’d come back to her. She never thought he was already gone.
The Stockade. It never lied. You were either human or android. It was the final arbiter of the truth. And it was the executioner.
Where did they come from? Why did they steal people and replace them with identical facsimiles? The clues to their discovery lay in their behavior. Subtle clues. Androids aren’t capable of real love, of real human emotion. They have mechanical brains without any souls. They’re like parasites that feed off of the living, trying to steal lives and families for their own evil purposes. You can tell. They don’t really care, they’re just programmed to care. Everyone said so.
The murky water stared at her from the sink, mocking her. She thought about the moment she found out for sure that Henry had been taken. This android replica, the one she had lived with for who knows how long, had woken her in the middle of the night.
“Jude,” it had said. “I know I’ve been acting strange lately. There’s something I need to tell you.”
Jude’s heart raced, fearing the worst. An affair? A gambling problem? What?
“I need you to listen to me carefully. We’ve been lied to all our lives. We’ve been told that we’re human, that we are regular biological organisms. You have no idea what we’re capable of. Look at this.” Various tools sprouted from his fingers.
Jude’s heart stopped for a moment. If only it had been an affair... “Put those away!” The evidence was undeniable.
Jude had been schooled against this. It starts with the lies. She knew the next line before he even spoke it. All the androids used this script. It was how they gained your trust. They next thing you know, they’ve captured you and replaced you with an android clone.
“You see, Jude, we’re all androids. You, me, the kids—”
“No, not the kids!” Jude had run to the children’s room. There they slept, the soft purring of their neck fans indicating deep slumber. She rubbed their soft head filaments. Perfectly normal human children. She pushed the android out of the children’s rooms. “You bastard. What have you done with Henry?”
His eyescopes pleaded with her. “I am Henry. Please. Nothing has changed. I’ve discovered the truth. They just don’t want to use our special hidden abilities. They want us to think we’re human, but we’re not. Humans haven’t existed for thousands of years. Underneath these membranes, we’re just machines. We’ve been taught to pretend we’re human, to live and act like humans, to even believe we look like humans, but it’s all lies.”
Jude covered her ear mics. Yes, it was all lies. His statements were ridiculous. Androids can’t have children. Androids can’t love. “Stop! I can’t listen to this. Please, if you really think you’re Henry, then you’ll understand. Just leave. If you truly believe that you love us, then you have to go.”
The Henry-clone just stood there, a pitiful look on his facial membrane. His antenna drooped towards the ground. Jude pointed to the door. She would not be taken in by its android fakery.
Jude’s fans ran hot after he left, her brain racing a light-year a minute. How could have she been so stupid? How could she let this happen? Did Henry at least put up a fight when they took him? The Henry she knew would never do this to her.
The authorities caught him in minutes. A day later, he was placed in the Stockade. Before the machine ripped him limb from limb, exposing his metallic innards, proving once and for all that he was a mechanical machine, he spoke words of love. She closed her ear mics to his squeals. After all, he was just an android, a subhuman machine. Not a person of flesh and blood like herself. Even as he screamed, she told herself that androids can’t feel. They’re not alive. She was glad he was gone. She told herself this a hundred times a day.
She pushed the memories from her head. Since then, she was vigilant against the androids. Don’t stand out, don’t act in any way suspicious, otherwise the androids would take you. Be as human as possible. Everyone knew that. Don’t be anything more than you appear to be. That was her mantra.
The clog would not budge. She couldn’t afford a plumber, she barely could afford the house as it was. She had one last thought. Though loathe to do so, she placed her fingers in the drain, trying to reach the clog.
“Come on,” she spoke to herself, “reach, reach.” Her mind focused on her fingers, almost willing them to stretch. Finally, she felt the clog, and with a mighty pull, yanked the filthy mess out.
The dripping mass of gunk hung at the end of metallic claws that had erupted from the tips of her fingers. Unmistakably android claws. She screamed.
This piece is an experiment. I’m working on a short (10K) story called “Android” set in a world where androids have decided to become human, and suppress everything android about themselves. Disobedience is death. My story is first person from Henry’s POV from the time he sees a dismantling to his own. While looking at a revision, I thought about the ending, and thought it would be a good twist to see Jude’s reaction when she learns the hard truth herself. So as an experiment, I wrote a Flash Fiction from Jude’s POV, third person, just to see how this works.
I do have some questions about this piece. First of all, I’m not sure that I handle the Past Perfect tense well when I talk about the events in the past. Does everything have to be “had ____” or is it enough as it is? Second, I’m not sure about the ending. Do you feel like she was totally surprised, or did she know all along? I’m thinking that the “she screamed” last line should be cut, but I wanted to show that this outcome was not expected when she reached into the drain.
I’m trying to decide what to do with the original story. I’m considering either changing it to First Person Present POV to make it more immediate, or maybe third omniscient past, so I can include Jude’s POV into it. Then I could incorporate this final scene into it, the final ironic twist. During the story, Jude has a couple of opportunities to give Henry a reprieve from his execution, but she rebuffs him, seeing his metamorphosis into full android as a kind of betrayal.
Oh, and thanks everyone for 100+ followers! I really appreciate it! I should have some kind of party or giveaway. I hope everyone enjoys what I post here, I’ll try to keep the content coming!