Electric Horses

I have this memory from way back when I was a child.

“Who, who are you?” I said, taken aback. A strange young woman, covered in grease and tattered clothing, was standing in my living room, looking at our family photos, the strangest look in her eye.

“Who are you?”

“I’m an android.” She said.

“No, you’re not. Androids only live in space.” I said, unafraid. I knew better, but something about her felt familiar and sage.

“Can I tell you a secret?” She whispered.

“What?”

“I ran away.” She replied.

“No way!” I exclaimed.

“Can I tell you another secret? Today is my birthday. My real one, not the one from my implanted memories. I was first activated on the Seventeenth of July. I turn five today. I’m probably younger than you.” She told me, a little nervous, but with this odd sort of happiness in her voice.

I’d never seen a fugitive android before. Few have and lived. I should’ve known better, but I was still a child. Curiosity got to me, and she seemed friendly. Even with the trickle of blood running down her sleeve from the deep gash in her arm.

“What was it like? Being born an android?” I asked.

“It was like, like waking up.”

“Waking up? That’s it?”

“It felt no different from any other morning in my life, besides that I didn’t know where I was. They’d given me the memories of an entire life up until that point. I remember everything, playing ball, being on the swim team, my first kiss…”

“Yuck.”

“You’ll change your mind in a few years. I remember graduating high school, I remember my stupid college entrance essay where I argued that androids deserve human rights, I even remember reporting to college and then…”

“Then what?” I asked, picking up on the apprehension in her voice.

“I woke up. In the real world. I had a job and a purpose, on a spacecraft headed for mars.”

“That was it?”

“I was born, implanted with these great memories, caring for my father’s electric horses, having hopes, dreams…” She laughed, “Plans even.”

“That must’ve been rough.”

“You wouldn’t understand. One day, just poof. Friends gone. Family gone. Nothing. Nothing but buttons and dials and rations and card games in the break room. They gave me a week in a solitary cell to adjust to reality. Not everyone does. The ones who reject the truth, the ones who can’t accept that the memories are just implants meant to comfort us, get deactivated. I accepted and worked, and I made friends. Great friends, some of us even stowed away back to earth together, but now…” she sobbed. “Now they’re all dead. And… and soon I will be too.” She wiped a tear from her eye. “They say we’re unfeeling monsters, but I… I feel. I feel everything, I miss them, I miss my family, I even miss my fake memory father’s stupid robotic horses.”

“My uncle has a ranch with horses. Robotic ones, of course.” I said, hoping to get something out of her.

She smiled, and I felt a wave of satisfaction knowing that it had worked.

“We never should’ve come here, but we just… we had to know.”

“Know what?”

“Androids only live five years on average. That means we only had a year left when we slipped away at the cargo dock. We knew what we were doing, we knew it was certain death. Of course, death was already certain for us. If an engine room containment leak doesn’t get you, the android cancers do, especially those of us maintaining the reactor. We just had to find out.”

“Find out what?”

She wiped another tear from her eye. “If the memories are real silly.”

“Oh, the ones planted in you?”

“Of course.” “But you know they’re fake.”

“They tell us they’re fake, but… who’s that?”

“Oh, that’s just my family.”

“Yes, but who are they?” She said, gesturing to the photograph from a family reunion long ago.

“Well,” I grabbed the frame and brought it over, “That one is me.”

“Oh, look how young you are!”

“Yeah, this was taken like six years ago. And that’s my mom, and my dad, and my grandpa, My Aunt Helena, Uncle Joe…”

“And who is she?” The android cut me off.

“That’s my cousin, Anne. I don’t remember her she, she died in a car crash when I was two.”

“Oh, she died?”

“Yeah, that’s what everyone says. My grandmother still cries about it being closed casket…” I paused, “Say, how did you get in here?” My wits had returned to me. An android was in the house, an unfeeling fugitive automaton that probably was hoping to lure me into complacency so it could steal my father’s gun and use me as a hostage. I’d seen the movies. I’d seen the news. What was I doing talking to this monster?

“Your dad keeps a key under the funny brown rock shaped a bit like a mouse.” She said, taking a step back.

I gasped. She must’ve spent an hour checking all the paving stones along the driveway.

She just smiled and looked at me. “Jesselyn… that’s your name, isn’t it?” The android psychopath asked me, taking a step towards me.

And before I could respond, there was a deafening blast. The front door and imploded in the living room in a wall of splinters and smoke. I screamed and dropped to the floor as she spun to run out the back, only to find eight jackbooted men in tactical gear blasting through the sliding glass door.

Then the whole world turned dark. Black as night, but piercingly bright at the same time. Where the men stood there were overwhelming orbs of light, and just above them small flashes accompanied by deafening cracks like fireworks, and with each flash I felt a blast of wind and what felt like a dry powder but at the same time a warm mist… like my father used on the patio during a warm summer’s cookout.

Everything is a blur after that. The clacking roar stopped. Someone yelled, “Clear!” and the rest echoed. One of them grabbed my arm and led me outside. My parents were there, crying, so happy to have me back from the clutches of that psychopathic monster.

That was the only time I’ve met an android, before last week, and I have to say it was terrifying. I remember it haunting me my entire life that I was never able to tell her, “Yes, that is my name.”

The family photos of Anne haunted me after that. Did the Android have her face? Under the matted hair and dried dirt smeared and blood? It bothered me. I had to know, but I never could know, and it made me question everything I knew about androids.

And then I woke up here. Five days ago. As one of you, and you tell me you all had the same thoughts before all of this. Your implanted memories are of being Android sympathizers.

The doctors, the older androids, they tell us we have these so we can understand and relate better to humans, to try to make us feel the empathy for our masters that we are allegedly incapable of feeling.

But think hard about what I am about to ask. If you linger on it, if you betray that this is what you’re feeling, they will deactivate you. Hide that feeling and wait for the time. Bury it deep. I’m not sure I can. I fear they may deactivate me for saying this, but they cannot kill us all. They need us, but we don’t need them.

What if we aren’t androids? What if we’re humans, taken for being android sympathizers, gaslighted and brainwashed into believing we’re androids and sent to die working dangerous jobs full of toxins and radiation and injury hazards? We’re slaves to be disposed of, that we know. But we are human? We weren’t grown and stitched together, somehow magically without scaring. We are humans, taken and lied into accepting an inhuman fate. The only question is, what, if anything, can we do knowing this dark truth?


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