Automated Compassion

Prompt:

  • “People are more difficult to work with than machines. And when you break a person, he can’t be fixed.”

I forced myself to feel something that I wasn’t feeling in hopes that it would change. I wasn’t depressed, I was fully convinced that I wasn’t. I was feeling a bit blue, sad but depressed? No. Yet, I was feeling down all the time, uninterested in activities and indifferent to everything. It was a symptom of depression, I read. I was still denying it that I wasn’t drowning in a dark pit of misery with no idea how to pull myself out. I wasn’t depressed, I was in a mental state of illusion that told me I was sad and I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t tell it to stop.

I was pieces, detailed tangled pieces brought together. One piece fell and slowly I was breaking. Part by part, I was withering. The pieces were clinging to my very essence by a thin thread, trying not to tumble down to their end. Those very pieces, broken and tattered became who I was. I believe even in this brokenness, there was some elegance. It was beautiful, maybe I became someone I feared I would never become or maybe it was vital to feel pain, in order to be grateful. Maybe I needed to break, because it was a shell, covering my real essence, the real me. Breaking apart might not always be bad, in some cases maybe it was. I saw that in this brokenness, I found myself…

***

I hated the usual banal routine of going to the library, picking up books and going back home to write my essays. It was the same thing everyday, it was depressing.  Doing the same thing everyday bore me out. In a city where everything was possible, it was sad that I am not out there driving hovering cars in roller coaster railroads. I had to finish these essays so I would at least graduate. My father was the head of Auto Mayton, a research company that was in charge of making machine parts to replace lost vital human organs. He was expecting me to major in something science-y but I surprised him by taking journalism. I liked reporting stories more than being stuck in a lab measuring an iron thumb. He was upset with me he didn’t talk to me for a month. I wasn’t mad at him because I knew he just wanted to have something in common with me. I just needed him to know that I want to pursue my dreams and become something I always wanted to become. It was sometimes difficult for people to understand what you really want, unless they have been through it too. The feeling of wanting to do something so badly that you would drop everything and pursue it. Maybe that was the only thing he understood, being stubborn about my dreams because he was once like that.

***

I remember the accident vividly. The way the hovering car flipped, the exterior crushed, the crunch of my bones, splatter of blood and the smell of smoke. I was reeling from the accident. I could feel the pain to my very last atom. I felt a cold needle puncher my skin. I groaned.

“Don’t move,” it was a male’s voice. It was steady and reassuring. 

“What happened?” I mumbled.

“You crashed,” he said fumbling with a machine. My vision was blurry.

“How?” I moaned.

“You drove your hovering car into a truck?” That was sarcasm in his voice. 

“Okay,” I lifted my right hand to rub my eyes and screamed.

I could see switches flipping, tiny circles of metal swirling and machine parts all in my arm. It was silver and blue, I flexed my fingers and I felt a zap in my shoulder. I had a robotic arm.

“Woaaah,” the guy said. “Slow down! It is not fully connected to your nervous system!”

“What happened?” I could feel a bubble of panic explode in my chest. “What is going on?”

“Stop moving,” the guy pushed me back into the hospital bed. “You lost an arm and your heart.”

I felt my chest tighten in pain. What was happening? How am I even alive when I lost my heart?

“What are you talking about?” I tried getting up again. I was strapped to a lot of wires, I looked down at my chest and I saw a big gnash where my heart was and it was stitched up.

“Would you relax a little bit?” he was starting to get agitated with me. “I will explain everything.”

I lied down in defeat. I was tired, my body was aching me and I didn’t know what in the world was going on and how was I still alive.

***

My dad came in today and said “Tavora, I have a story to tell you”.

“Well, what is it?” I asked.

“We had a patient who came into Auto Mayton four months ago,” he began. “His name is Casimir. He was in a very tragic car accident and his heart was dying. He lost an arm and he was losing a lot of blood. You remember Vladimir and I were conducting a very confidential research? Well, Casimir was the first subject to be tested on this research. We created a full robotic heart, with feelings and everything. It pumped life back into him. We kept him in the company for a while until his body got used to the robotic parts and we let him go.”

“The moral?” I was exasperated.

“The moral is we are able to help people with heart problems and prevent their death,” he smiled. His face was etched with wrinkles, his smile was lopsided and his eyes were tired and almost faded. He was tired a lot these days, his hair never brushed neatly, flying everywhere and he never shaved his face and had a dwarf-like beard as of recent. His lab coat had blotches of ink and substances I had no interest of knowing. He came home late and left at the break of dawn. Vladimir was my dad’s best friend and co-partner in Auto Mayton. It was their dream to do that, create the heart.

After the story, he left me to finish my essay. It was the last one for the finals. I was so engrossed in typing it, I didn’t notice the message box pop up. My dad left an open mail on the house’s computer in case anyone wanted to contact him. I clicked open the mail and read the letter.

Dear Mr. J,

I am facing some difficulties. You told me after four months I would feel proper, like a normal human being. Yet, I am incapable to do so. All I feel is pain. Physical pain but otherwise I feel like an empty shell with a drumming core. I can’t feel any emotion, is something broken with this heart?

Regards,

Casimir

I was intrigued. It was something foreign to me. He was trying to adjust to a new heart. How did that feel like?

***

It has been almost 6 months since my accident and the act of blending back into society was a huge difficulty for no one accepted me at the beginning, which was weird because we were living in a futuristic city. Yet, humans still managed to make you feel like an outcast, an alien in your own home. I worked as a waiter in the small coffeeshop. It was not a famous coffeeshop and not many people visited it. I liked it that way. Until one day, the turning point of my life decided to appear before me.

She walked in briskly, ordered a coffee from the counter and slumped on a chair in the corner. As Kate prepared her cup, I studied her expression. She looked agitated with her laptop and she furiously stabbed the keyboard. She would puff her cheeks every five seconds and curse her fate. Dejectedly, she closed her laptop, rested her head on her right hand and looked out of the window solemnly. I picked up her cup and slowly approached her table. She didn’t take any notice of me as I placed the cup on her table. She glanced at me and gasped.

“Are you Casimir?” She exclaimed.

“How do you know?” I was aghast.

“Your name tag,” she pointed.

“Oh,” I said.

“How does it feel?” She said.

“What??” I asked.

“Do you feel?” She whispered.

It suddenly hit me. She was talking about my robotic heart. Did I feel? I tried to remember the few moments ago when she entered a shop, was that a feeling? Or just my brain stimulating a reaction? Do they mean the same thing? I was not being irrational or stupid, but it wasn’t easy adjusting to something that wasn’t in the least bit human.

“I don’t know,” I said. I pulled out a chair across from her and sat. It was queer, I didn’t open up to anyone but I wanted to talk to her. Something in me urged me to do so. She sipped her coffee and smeared her lips with foam. She looked utterly adorable, it sent a jolt into my chest. My heart contracted so fast for a second I thought I was dying.

“Does it feel weird? Having a machine for a heart?” she said.

“Aren’t feelings stimulated by the brain and it is a misconception that the heart is the harbour of feelings?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t know,” she chuckled. “But surely my dad would.”

“He is a scientist?” I said.

“He was the one who planted the heart in you,” she said.

“Well,” I stalled. “I still don’t know your name.”

“My name is Tavora,” she smiled.

It was a sweet smile, sent warmth and chills down my spine. All at the same time. I was experiencing something out of the ordinary and I might need a check up soon. 

We talked for almost an hour about everything. My accident, her essays and college degree, my family and her family. What she liked and what I liked and our hobbies. I loved listening to her voice, it reminded me of mermaids singing. It was soft, melodious and beautiful.

***

This day in particular, I had to go to my father’s laboratory. I had met Casimir a few weeks back and we have been meeting regularly and sometimes emailed each other. I loved talking to him and telling him about my day. Lately, my father has been coming home in a bad mood and locking himself in his study but last night he didn’t come home. I was worried something happened to him, so I decided to check on him.

I arrived in Auto Mayton just a few minutes before they locked up and I begged Carl to let me in to see my dad. It was dark, the only light coming was from the doors’ of the offices. It was also so cold. I pulled my jacket tighter around my body and went to the laboratories section. I pushed the door open with all my strength and entered.

“Dad?” I called out. No reply.

I felt my back tingling me as dread settled in. It was night, the place was dark and no one was here. How the hell did I decide to come? Why did I come? I walked over to the computer and switched it on. I searched for my father’s schedule and according to it he should be home but he wasn’t when I left it. I heard a creak and froze in my place. I thought I was alone.

I heard glass shatter and I felt my muscles stop functioning. My brain stopped processing anything.

“What are you doing here?” The voice was deep and robotic.

Was it one of my dad’s robots guarding his lab?

***

I had no control over my body. I was like a puppet being moved at the will of its master. I sneaked into the lab as quietly as I can and in the process of doing so, I broke a beaker. She noticed and I could see her standing as still as a statue. She was scared, so scared and alone in the dark. I felt something pull at my subconscious, pulling it back, trying to trap it in a cage. I involuntary walked towards her.

“What are you doing here?” I interjected.

She was still and I grabbed her by the arm and asked again. The tone I was using was aggressive but nothing I was doing was in my intention. I felt I was slipping into a glass prison and watching myself from afar. She gazed at me her scared expression melting and replaced by a hopeful one. I felt rage bubble within me. I felt things that were murderous and fatal. I stared at her slender neck. She stared at me.

And everything blacked out.

I woke up with a horrifying realisation. In my arms, she laid. She was an angel. Her slender neck marked gruesomely by my death grip. I was quiet for what it seemed like forever, trying helplessly to collect my memories, to remember what was I doing here and what happened. I felt tears smother my cheeks and a scream escaped my throat. An agonising scream erupted in the quiet room. I held her close to me and cried. I killed an innocent soul. I broke a pure heart. I did it and it was my fault. I did it and I won’t blame what took over me. I didn’t know if I was being controlled by someone but I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t strong enough to fight them off and not do it. I felt my heart wither, yes, my robotic heart wither. I felt it wither and combust at the same time. I felt it being tugged at from all sides, ripped and beaten. I felt so much pain, pain worse than I have ever felt ate me up. She was gone. I never forgot what happened, her memory lived in me forever.

THE END

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