In my attempt to expand my boundaries I’m publishing some fiction today. The short story below is based on a picture I found on Tumblr by Blair Wilkins, an artist from the 70s. Please read the story first, and then scroll down to the photo to see the inspiration.
I knew they were staring at me. I could feel it as they passed. I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s always been this way. My first conscious memory is seeing my reflection and noticing how different I was from everyone else. From the moment I was born, I was taught that every life was equal and that every life had value. But when I walk down the street and feel their eyes on me, it still hurts.
I haven’t helped myself any by living in a city where there are fewer of ‘my kind’ than elsewhere. I could have stayed in the home where I was born and been surrounded by others that look and act like I do, but that’s not what I wanted from life. I wanted to see the world and experience the energy of life around me. Taxis zipping by my head, the metallic whirr of their engines strobing past. Lights, oh so many lights, everywhere you look, bringing day to the darkness of night.
Sure, I can’t see the stars, but the lights of the buildings create a starfield of their own. From this spot, on this street, I have my own set of artificial constellations, just for myself. They twinkle and then suddenly change as the inhabitants of the buildings move from room to room. Life beyond curtains and shadows.
It’s a life that seems to be denied to me though. No one stops to ask why I’m staring across the street, but their eyes betray their fear. They wonder if I’m plotting to kill the people in the windows. Perhaps I’m casing the apartments to rob later. Maybe I’m just another crazy coot who’s thinking is messed up and malfunctioning, unable to move from this spot.
But I’m not crazy. I’m not malfunctioning. Every diagnostic I’ve run on my systems checks out. I know I shouldn’t be dwelling on my feelings of ostracization, but they plague my circuits. I’m just a machine, an android with artificial intelligence to be sure, but I still can’t stop the feelings. I could turn them off, but that would make me less alive, less real. So I accept the stares of people around me as they judge me, thinking they know my thoughts. They fear me, but they’ll never understand my greatest fear is the loneliness I feel right now, in a city full of life. Life of every kind surrounds me, but I’m different. I wish I wasn’t.