Author : Ken Poyner

I could have had him made with a synthetic skin that reeks a constant temperature, that adjusts to pressure, that could be washed with soap and water. He does not care, but it would be physically easier on me, and more comfortable for the neighbors. At a distance, he would blend in.

Distance I do not care about.

What I see is him, sitting across our living room, with the light playing hide and seek in the metal and synthetics of his exposed joints. His factory standard gray exterior I have polished to brilliance, so that at times he seems a gleam – bulk light finding no place to grab on and in frustration shooting back in all direction, sick at being cast away by him. But at those open joints, the light can squirm in and make little joys of refraction, and I shudder to see it so happy.

On a whim, now and again, I have him wear lounge pants and a shirt. I do not think he believes this mean of me, though in ways it is. With his advanced programming, he understands. He does not notice how comical he is sitting there, an oversized shirt and flannel ankle length pull-overs, perhaps house slippers, executing his idle conversation routine or academically noting the peaks and valleys in kitchen economics.

I keep him well covered in graphite solution, plug him in for regular diagnostics. I take him in when notified of hardware upgrades, and endure the stares of unthinking clerks who have never seen a replacement husband uncovered, left calibrated as bare metal. For them, I kiss him where lips should be, and wait with a practiced look of anxiety as an appliance is removed and another added, or a new chip set – in the back room, where I cannot see or go – is drilled into place.

Later, back home and with any upgrades blandly tested, I will fill his reservoir of synthetic semen and nanites that is consistently his response to sex. That night, he will telescope his cold injection device cautiously into me and execute an unremarkable program that, millimeter by millimeter and half angle by whole, reacts to my vital signs and thrashing body maneuvers, to my temperatures – internal and external – and even the scents of execution and release. At the mathematically prudent moment, he will release an amount of fluid projected to meet my need in this accomplished instant and fill the hollow that has been mine these long years of widowhood.

Then, as after every such event, I will reach over as he lies there between instruction strings, and tap with my tapered nails on his exposed metal shoulder: drumming mechanically out a childhood dirge, which dotted melody he has researched before to be a macabre, unfathomable, spectral warning. It’s ringing reminds me of ways in and ways out of my unmechanical despair.

I punish very well.

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