Author : Arthur Pershing

“Light red would be perfect for your lips.” Abel Porter said to his creation. He was working on a new design of robotic store mannequins.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, mannequins were dummies, plastic statues that were dressed and placed in displays. They would show off a new style or even items the store simply wanted to get rid of.

Thirty years, and many advances in robotics later, mannequins were so life-like that they were only allowed to have simple programmed instructions. Move an arm this way, or turn hips thirty degrees that way. The robotic mannequins were successful and well received by the public.

Abel had spent the last five years building and dressing mannequins. This month he had received a shipment of the new model. Mannequins with, as the advertising brochure put it, one hundred percent realistic facial movements. When they spoke, their lips, jaws and facial muscles moved like human.

Abel painted the mannequin’s lips with the selected shade. The paint dried almost immediately. The head was complete. Abel picked it up off the desk and attached it to the body. He ran a finger over the lips. Soft. Abel hurried to make the last of the wire connections and turned the mannequin on.

The eyelids opened and blinked as the internal computer booted up. The mannequin turned to face Abel. It had the ability to sense when someone was near and would then try to sell that person some clothes. Abel took a step back as he looked into its eyes. The mouth began moving like a real woman’s.

“Please select clothing display program.” the mannequin said. The voice was a very seductive one. Something stirred inside Abel, something primal, sensual, sexual. The mannequin had no equipment that would satisfy a man’s urges. Abel didn’t care.

“Please select clothing display program.” the mannequin said again. He stood up on the mannequin’s base. He was eye to eye with it. He put his arms around mannequin and held her close. Abel closed his eyes and kissed passionately. Abel almost broke the embrace when he felt the mannequin kiss him back.

As man made out with machine, its arms moved and held Abel in an embrace of its own. The arms held tighter. He stopped kissing and tried to open the dummy’s arms. The arms closed tighter, accompanied by the whirrs of the motors and hiss of hydraulics.

“Let go of me!” Abel gasped. The arms squeezed tighter, it was impossible to inhale. This mannequin was trying to kill him. He pushed back with all his might against the mannequin’s hydraulic limbs. Abel felt himself beginning to lose consciousness when the mannequin’s arms opened and let go of him.

“Please select clothing display program.” the mannequin said once again. Abel scowled and stood up. He stepped behind the mannequin’s base and pulled the power supply out. The mannequin’s eyes closed and head slumped forward. Grabbing a black marker, Abel drew a large X across the face. He then wrote ‘Defective – Recycle’ on the mannequin’s work order.

A few minutes later, Abel finished uploading a Defective Unit report. In the morning a man from Shipping would collect the mannequin.

He looked at the clock and decided to leave for the day a few minutes early. Abel turned the lights off in the workshop as he left and locked the door behind him.

Somewhere in the darkness there was a faint digital sob.

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