Do Broken Toys Go to Heaven

Do Broken Toys Go to Heaven

A Story by pianotm
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A short futurist piece about a girl with an unknown secret.

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The early morning dew had settled upon the grass; it had settled lightly on the handrails, the car windows, and on the spring petals of the dandelions in the yard and the forget-me-nots and periwinkles in the bushes, and on the leaves of the roses and the orchids, which had not yet bloomed.  It was warm, but there was a chill in the air; a subtle reminder that Spring had come, but Winter hadn't yet finished lacing his traveling boots. The morning had an ephemeral beauty that Emily Robinson could share with nobody else.  Her mother would not be up until later and Emily was not allowed out during the daytime hours.

“They wouldn't understand,” mother would say, and oh, how Emily would beg.  She wanted to go to school, like other children.  “You're no child!  You're seventeen.”  But she had never been to school.  All she knew, she learned from the computer and from mother's books.  Then if she couldn't go to school, she could at least find a job, help support the household.  “Certainly not.  Bad things will happen.  I tell you, they wouldn't understand!  Besides, the household does just fine.”

She couldn't leave the house except for early morning, and even then, just to go in the yard.  She had no friends, except on the computer, people who had never seen her face; whom she had never seen.  The injustice of it all!  She could only see pictures of places she longed to see: mountains, the beach, vast forests stretching off into the distance like green carpets draped over the hillsides.  The flowers in the yard were all well and fine, but that was artificial.  Flowers didn't grow in square hedges in nature, they grew wild, and unconstrained.  They grew in harmony with brambles and sawgrass.

Still, they never went anywhere.  Mother had the groceries delivered.  The doctor came to the house and when he did, Emily was to keep hidden.  The same held true for the cat's veterinarian.  Even the cat had more freedom, with his own little kitty door so he could come and go as he pleased, cavorting with the kitty ladies at all hours of the night.  Did mother think Emily would go cavorting with boys?

“No darling!  Of course not!” and mother looked so sad.  “Oh, I wish you could go out and get yourself in a little mischief like a normal girl--it'd be oh-so-good for you--but you must understand; you're not a normal girl and if anybody ever found out, they'd never understand.  They'd take you away, and you'd have no life at all.  People hate things they don't understand.  They call them abominations.  They'd take you away and I'd never see you again.”

Why?  What was so different about Emily?  She looked in the mirror trying to figure it out.  She had red hair that ended neatly just above her shoulder.  It got slightly darker at the roots, and those darker shades of red streaked out and mingled among the lighter shades of red.  Her cheeks were rosy, with brown freckles going from cheek to cheek over her nose.  Her lips were thick and protruding and when she puckered them, they turned into a heart shape.  Her jaw came to a point with a cleft in the middle.  She had the most brilliant green eyes, like sparkling emeralds beneath her red eyebrows.  What was wrong with her?  Was it the color of her eyes?  Were they too bright?  Was red hair a crime?  Did the freckles make her, somehow, inferior?

The cat looked at her from those arrogant, copper eyes as if to say, “Ha! I have no secrets that keep me locked out of sight!”  She was to stay indoors, except in the early morning hours when the world still slept, and even then, she was not to leave the yard.  If anyone passed she was to come inside.  Above all else, she was not to let the police drones see her.  The driver-less cars cruised slowly up the streets at all hours, black and white, with electronic eyes scanning the streets for any signs of wrong doing.  Emily was to stay out of sight of those eyes.  If she saw the police drones, she was to come in immediately.  What her eyes could not detect would be as plain as day to the police drone's robot eyes.

Now, the dew dripped as the world yawned and stretched its arms, and the dawn had finally made its full appearance over the houses to the east, preparing to dance across the sky.  As reddish-gold rays bathed the yard, old man Winter was thrown unceremoniously from his dwelling, the chill leaving with him.  The honey scent of the dandelions filled the air and a delicious idea came to Emily.  She would pick the dandelions and make a nice spring dandelion salad for her mother for breakfast.

She set to work filling a basket with the yellow flowers and the stems.  Weeds?  Her mother let them grow.  They were the best flower in the yard and there were always plenty.  She had filled the basket with more than enough and the yard was still covered in them.  They had to make sure the grass was kept short, or the enforcement drones would come by and all of their dandelions would be gone, their yard becoming a uniform blanket of grass like every other house in the neighborhood, a service that came with a hundred dollar citation.  Pay the city to ruin the yard!  The indignity of it!

They would spray their chemicals that would kill every plant--they wouldn't touch the bushes and in every yard that violated the codes, they never did--and grow new grass to the regulation height, a process that took half an hour.  There were no city workers anymore; only drones.  There were police drones that looked for crime, building drones that looked for code violations such as broken fixtures, overgrown yards, or piled trash, and postal drones that delivered the mail.  Only the police employed real people and they were only ever seen when the drones encountered problems they couldn't deal with; men and women in heavy armor with guns, tasers, stunners, and neural destabilizers, that when fired, caused a suspect, no matter how violent or out of control, to behave in the most amiable manner.

A sense tickled the back of Emily's neck.  The thought, “Obey mother,” became prominent in her mind.  She stood, but didn't run to the door.  Obey mother.  She turned and looked to the corner of the house where the street disappeared.  Obey mother.  There was nothing there.  Obey mother.  From around the corner came a boy very near Emily's age.  Obey mother.  He was tall with black hair and dark brown eyes and he wore a backpack.  Obey mother!  As he walked, he tossed a baseball into the air.  Obey mother!  He glanced in her direction.  The baseball stopped, his hand clenching around it.  As he walked, his eyes met hers and she was frozen in place.  The look on his face was one of disbelief.  Emily's breath caught and for a moment, time seemed to stop.

 

OBEY MOTHER!

 

The spell was broken.  Clutching the basket, she ran inside.  For the rest of the day, her mind wandered, not to the magnificent sunrise or the almost fairytale quality of the morning weather, but to the boy with the shock of black hair.

Every morning, that week, Emily stayed out and every morning, the boy passed.  They never spoke but they always met each other's eyes.  During that week, the roses bloomed.  They were all manners of hybrids; the creamy peach and white of the Audrey Hepburn rose, the violet tipped white and yellow Alchymists, and of course the red rose.  The orchids would bloom in the next week, and during the whole next week, of course, Emily would be out there and the boy would pass.  It occurred to her that he had never been there before that first day, and that he made it a point to be there especially because of her.  The very thought made her giddy.

It was during this second week that he finally spoke to her.  She was picking more dandelions for another spring salad when she heard, “Uh, hello.”  His voice was soft and quavered with uncertainty.  Obey mother, yet the sense came less and less.  Whereas before it yelled in her mind, now it was an incessant whispering.  His voice was high, not quite filled in, and at his age, it was unlikely to ever be really deep.  He had a tiny, but deep, well-defined scar underneath his left eye, probably a remnant of the chicken pox he had as a young child.

“Hello.”  She was surprised at how enthusiastic her voice sounded in her ears.  Obey mother.  It was scandalous and she didn't care.  She wanted him to hear it; wanted him to know she was enthusiastic to hear more of his voice.  “I'm Matthew.”  Matthew!  So delightfully ordinary!  It was the door to the world and it was exquisitely beautiful!  “Emily!”  There was nothing uncertain in her voice.  She was bold and outgoing.  Rebellious!  She felt rebellious!

Up the street, just turning a corner, coming into view was a police drone.  She had never seen one before, but a terror that she could not explain welled up inside.  It had no wheels, but in their place were blue neon edged disks, glowing as they suspended the car above the asphalt.  The windows were completely black, and red, laser-sensor lights swept from side to side as it traversed the street.  The headlamps were dark, unnecessary in the morning sun, and its panels were painted white and dark brown, laden with numbers.  On the hood was a decal of an elaborate shield, a pentagram held by a hawk.  Another decal read, “Defending the Public Trust.”

The blood drained from Matthew's face.  It would have been one thing if there was man operating the vehicle, but there were no such things this day in age.  Men did not do such dangerous jobs and the drone only looked like a man operated vehicle for the comfort of the public.  Emily said, “I have to go now.”  Matthew nodded.  “Right.”  As Emily went inside, she noted that Matthew went a direction that avoided the drone.  Never let the police see you.  It was a phrase that was echoed on the internet and in households across the nation.  She looked out the window.  The drone caught up with Matthew too quickly for him to avoid it.

“Citizen, state your reason for being outdoors.”  The scanner kept its red beam trained on Matthew and Emily froze in terror.  “I'm going to school.”  The beam left Matthew and the lights on the drone went out.  “You are traveling in the wrong direction.  Walk north three streets and at Heinlein, turn right.  Your school is on the left.”  Matthew shuddered.  “Th-thank you.”  The drone moved on.  “Carry on, Citizen.”

“Who were you talking to?”  Emily jumped so the dandelions flew from the basket.  Mother was never up this early.  “Just a boy who was walking to school.”  There was something in Mother's eyes.  It wasn't anger.  It wasn't disappointment.  Emily couldn't quite place it.  “Emily, you need to be careful.  You have no idea how much trouble you can get into.  Both of us!”  Emily bent down to pick up the dandelions and put them back in the basket, her mind and heart full of protest.  “He's just a boy!  He's my age.  His name's Matthew.”

“And Matthew was just stopped by the police!  It was almost you!”  Emily stood, the basket dangling across her arm.  “He didn't get in any trouble!  How can you be so sure they'll be bothered with me?”  Mother couldn't answer.  She didn't want to answer.  She was afraid to answer.  “You're not like him.”  Emily marched into the kitchen with the dandelions.  “Then who am I like?”

“Nobody!  There's nobody like you!  There never was and there never will be!  What are you making?”  Emily worked with a paring knife, splitting the dandelion heads.  Maybe she'd save some and make some dandelion wine.  “Spring salad.”  Mother looked miserable.  “Oh, honey.  I'm sorry.  I hate seeing you like this.  I hate being like this.  I wish you could walk outside whenever you liked...make all the friends you like.  It's all I ever wished but it just can't be.”

Emily looked out the window while she prepared the salad.  She found strawberries, blackberries and cherry tomatoes to put in the salad.  The dandelions made everything perfect.  Best flowers in the yard.  One couldn't eat roses and even if one could, they certainly wouldn't taste as good as dandelions.  An advertisement board, hovering in the sky, came into view.  “The New China Space Agency is hiring.  We need workers on MARS.  Sign up with the next colony ship to go to Bradbury City.  Bring the whole family!  There are new opportunities on MARS waiting for you!”

“What a world we live in,” said Mother.  “I remember a day when we had abandoned our space program.  Then China started sending men to the moon, and the rest is history.  China rules space.”

The tip of Emily's finger burned. She looked down and saw a red line appear on it. She had slit her finger with the paring knife. She sucked her finger a moment until the pain disappeared.  They ate the salad in silence, but neither of them enjoyed it.  It tasted delicious, but there was no joy in anything.  There had rarely been joy in anything.  Maybe Mother felt the same.  “Maybe you could invite your new friend to dinner tomorrow.”

Suddenly everything started to taste better.  The sun shined a little brighter.  The sky was bluer and the dandelions were a little more yellow.  “You know, Emily.  I won't be around forever.  Fact of it is, I feel like my checks are on their way to the bank even now.  Felt this way the past couple of months.  I'm not going to live forever, and I've lived a good long time now.  You've got to stay safe.  They'll take you away if they find you.”

The next evening, Matthew knocked on the door.  Emily rushed to the door.  Trying not to look too eager, opened it.  They both greeted each other nervously and Emily invited him in.  Mother greeted him warmly and didn't converse much.  The monitor, on which the nightly news had been playing--there had been a terrorist attack in Armstrong City on the moon, and Mother was fretting over some cousin who lived there--, turned off and retracted into its cabinet, its existence no longer apparent.

That night, they had home cooked meal, something that Matthew only had at his grandmother's house.  “Everything's synthetic now,” said Mother.  “It's because nobody has time for time for anything anymore.  No time for stoves, or cook fires, or barbeque pits.  No time for knives, cutting boards, and rolling pins.  No time for peelings and messes.  Rip the top off of a box and drop the contents in a reassembler--it doesn't even sound appetizing--put whatever comes out on the table and send them off to school.”

“Yes, Ma'am,” Matthew said, agreement in his voice.  “Mom spends all of her time in front of the computer.  I wonder if she knows what I look like.  It's her job, you see.  She sends mail.  She gets fifty cents for every one that clicks on the links.  It's pretty good money too, but she doesn't have time for anything else.  They monitor the computers, see, and if people aren't sending out so much every hour for twelve hours a day, there are penalties.  Then she has stock in the company she works for.”

“What a shame,” said Mother.  “They should have professions that let people spend time with their children.  What about your father?”

“He left when I was a kid.  It's just me and mom.”

Emily said, “Here too, except my dad died.  Were in a car accident and he didn't survive.”

Mother looked up at Emily, a longing in her eyes.  She recovered and looked back at Matthew.  “So, you've been talking to my daughter every morning.”

“I--ah--just yesterday.  I was--I was too nervous to talk to her before.”

“Oh?  Why's that?”

“She's so pretty...” he said softly.  Emily felt herself blush and Mother snickered joyfully.

So it was that Matthew, or Matt, started coming over every night, and during the day on weekends, and it became clear that he found the whole setup disturbing.  “You shouldn't be stuck inside at all hours.  What's your Mother so afraid of?”  It was clear to Matt that the state of this world, geared towards such indifference and such a departure from family life, and Mother being so elderly, that she was clinging to her daughter, and soon, Mother's premonition came to pass.  She had fallen deathly ill.  Afraid that the doctor would send her to a home, she was forced to introduce him to Emily.

“I promise everything will be okay, Mother.”  When the doctor left, Emily set to work taking care of ailing mother, just as Mother had taken care of her all these years.  Matt's presence in the house became more consistent.  “No, my daughter, I've little time, and you have to listen to me.”  Emily kneeled by her mother's bedside.  “Of course, I'll listen.”

“It was dumb luck that Matthew came into our life.  Now, he needs to protect you and if he won't, then I'm afraid you're finished.  Do you remember the car accident?  The one where your father died?”

“I could never forget.”

“How old are you?”

“I'm seventeen.”

“And how could you be?  The accident was fifty years ago.”  It took Emily a moment to process that.  “I lost my whole family.  Your father died instantly, but you took time.  I couldn't bear to lose you but there you were in a coma, the doctors saying it was only a matter of time.  They were performing miracles with medical science.  I took every penny I had saved for your college, and this man said his company could make you perfect, as if nothing had ever happened.  All the rich folks were doing it if anything happened to their kids.  They were doing it with their pets.  They copied your mind into a device and they made a new you, perfect, so detailed nobody could tell the difference.  You feel pain, you bleed, you need to eat and to sleep.  For a while, things were fine, but then they passed that law.”

Emily knew the law.  Federal Statute F 451: No simulacrum may bear the likeness, appearance, resemblance, features or behaviors, mannerisms, or conditions of a human being.  The information crashed into Emily like a tidal wave.  Her entire world came crashing around her.  How could she be a robot?

“It was because of that damned law that I had to make you a prisoner in this house.  Because of that damned law, my second chance at a family became a living nightmare.  I was terrified every time you went near a window, every time you went out to tend the flowers.  Well, after that, I sure couldn't send you to school.  You couldn't have friends.  If anyone guessed--everyone was so afraid.  They called such things the devil's work.  They murdered innocent people.  They saw machines and toys, but I saw people that were just like my little girl.  And they screamed and they ran and they were afraid just like people.”

Emily didn't know what to think.  Everything was meaningless.  The emotions she felt were programmed responses, anticipated by her builder.  God, her builder!  Her god was a faceless man or woman in oil soaked overalls!  The soil of Eden was silicon.  Flesh was high-quality synthetic rubber.  Her beautiful emerald eyes were cameras.  Her ears were microphones.  She weighed 120 pounds.  What was her frame made from?  Probably carbon composite.  She felt sick.  What made her feel sick?  What programmed response was this?  To what stimulus was this feeling attributed and assigned?  Was she even alive?

Her knuckles were “bleeding” and she was surrounded by broken glass with silver backing.  Her face was wet with “tears”.  Her existing was not an act of nature but an act of genius.  Certainly it was genius.  Her dependency on food assured that her robotic systems would be able to synthesize the fluids necessary to convince her and everyone around her that she was human.  It was elegant.  If she hadn't been led to believe she was a young girl all of her life, she might have been able to appreciate the brilliance that inspired her creation.  The people who achieved a creation like this were surely to be commended.  She felt air in her “lungs”.  She “heard” the blood rushing in her ears.  She “felt” her heart beating.  Yes, she had a heart; a pump that made sure her hydraulics got the fluids they needed.

Slowly, she became aware of someone holding her.  Matthew was cradling her in his arms.  The truth hadn't frightened him.  He hadn't lashed out at her.  He didn't cry “abomination”.  She opened and closed her hand.  She didn't hear the whirring of servos.  She didn't feel the telltale vibration of gyros.  She clasped her hands together and she felt her frame so perfectly fashioned that she felt real knuckles and real metatarsals.

“Don't be angry at her,” said Matthew.  “She had just lost her family.  She lost everyone.  What else could she have done?”  She created a dream.  And no; Emily couldn't be angry at Mother.

Nothing lived forever, not even androids, if they even lived.  No, there had been life here.  There had been joy in the world, joy in the delicacy of nature.  There had been revelry and love.  There had been memories worth keeping and what would become of all of that on that inevitable day when her systems deteriorated?  Was there a heaven for robots too?

It was a bittersweet month.  Emily made Mother's time as happy as she could; days filled with spring salad, dandelion wine but she passed quickly.  Emily watched numb as coroners determined that her death had been caused by the diseases of advanced age.  Police officers, real living police officers gave her their condolences and declared that there was no crime scene.  They had scanned Emily, and their scanners had seen an ordinary human girl.  The robotic company that Mother had hired had apparently taken pride in their work.  She was sure that the police drone's more sophisticated scanners would see the difference.

Emily and Matthew traveled the world seeking a safe place.  Mars was no good.  They were only interested in robots built for mining.  Matthew, a programming specialist, was accepted, but ultimately had to decline.  There was no use for Emily and as a robot, she couldn't be counted as family.  The Moon was as draconian as Earth with its robot laws.  Perhaps some of the colonies on the Jovian or Saturnian moons might have been an option, but it would be a long time before they were ready for families.

Emily watched Matthew grow old and die, and she cried just as she did then.  Alone, forever seventeen, she and Matthew had found their peace in a little spot in California that didn't recognize the U. S. ban on humanoid robots.  Now she searched for a place she wouldn't be alone.  There was a place where humans could not go, the environment too harsh.  She had followed clues on the internet over the years and when she made it there, she couldn't believe the peaceful town she had found in this inhuman wilderness.

There were people here, ordinary people.  It was a perfect little community that reminded one of the Atomic Age of the 1950s.  A single policeman strolled down the street, waving happily to passersby.  There were no drones.  The lawns were perfect.  She would have to grow her own dandelions.  The cars had rubber wheels and were painted in every pastel color imaginable.  Sprinklers spat into the yard, the water a column of dancing sprites, leaping joyfully around their fairy mounds.  The sun shined happily in the sky, red and black shingled roofs hanging over wooden houses.  Dogs and cats lived together peaceful.  From one window, an Umbrella Cockatoo cackled and heckled the passersby.

They were all robots, even the dogs and cats.  The pet birds were robots.  Emily was home, and here she stayed until the day she finally stopped functioning.

There was an old robotics company that had made its trade by providing replacements for lost loved ones.  In the day, they had been the best in the trade.  Even medical doctors could not distinguish between these robots and real human beings.  Then the moralistic, self-righteous elements in government, well aware that they too had benefited from trade with this robotics firm, had outlawed such things.  Robots, they said, had to look like robots, otherwise, they were playing God.

This robotics company prided itself on details, and when they were in business, they even implanted a program into Earth's satellite network.  It suffused the internet, and every electronic network.  It was a data storage program.  Its sole purpose was to gather information, specifically, the experiences and memories of its product.  The company would never use this information, no the program had a very different purpose, and on the day Emily died, a programming switch assigned to her information triggered.

Emily woke up in the home she had always known.  She went downstairs to find that Mother had awakened early and was enjoying her morning coffee.  Emily went outside to tend the flowers.  The morning dew had left a blanket upon the earth and the sun began to peek over the houses in the east.  As Emily picked dandelions for a salad, Matthew came walking around the corner, baseball in hand.

Life began again, and this time it lasted as long as a live circuit was capable of storing information on Earth, and through space, that is to say, forever.

© 2014 pianotm


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Author's Note

pianotm
All of my work is well documented and copy-protected.

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Reviews

I was just going to read a paragraph or two because I have to walk my dog. Now I read the whole thing and my dog is making noises downstairs. Sorry pooch.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Andrew Leister-Frazier

4 Years Ago

Puppy pooped on the floor. Took him for a walk anyway. Worth it!
pianotm

4 Years Ago

>.< Oh, dear! Well, I'm glad you enjoyed the story, and I'm sure the dog appreciated his walk, rega.. read more
Reminded me of that Ray Bradbury story- The Long Years. Part of the Martian Chronicles compendium, right?

EDIT: Sorry, I didn't see the comments below...

Anyway, it was a little overly descriptive in the beginning, but then it was amazing. Didn't see the ending coming at all, either. 93/100. :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


This was brilliant! It's so convincing and at the same time horrifying. Some parts felt rushed, but the twist ending was the best part.

Posted 5 Years Ago


Chaz Hemsworth

5 Years Ago

I remember something now. Have you read Philip K. Dick? He had stories like this. One of the titles.. read more
pianotm

5 Years Ago

I have read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and maybe, due to your age you may not be aware, .. read more
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Added on January 27, 2014
Last Updated on January 27, 2014
Tags: romance, robot, android, flowers, dandelions

Author

pianotm
pianotm

Homestead, FL