Author: Jamie Bainbridge-Wood
One- The Ghost is Another Machine
The point of this exercise is observation but I’m distracted, observing that Dwyer’s return will cause some surprise.
The house he has chosen sits at the top of a steep slope, between two snowy hills. The memories they gave me are out of date but the location makes sense, in that part of me that Dwyer and I share.
Dwyer’s wife is a good-looking woman. Handsome. I haven’t met many women but I think Doctor Pryce may have been one: a smell in the dark, different than the others, sensed dimly in the time before my assembly had been completed. The first step in a process. Much is still incomplete.
Dwyer’s religion is routine. He leaves and enters his house at similar times. So too, his wife. So too, his children. Upon entering his home, he makes similar noises to his wife and children and they make similar noises back. I know I would not be able to hear these within the limits of normal human hearing.
Even so, being here instead of in the dark, I am defined by barriers. They poured me into this, partition’s inner and outer ready formed. I have no memories before this.
The memories I do have, I share with Dwyer. The slide of his wife’s forefinger and thumb in a tender vice around his/my/our jaw as she reaches up for a kiss; the warmth he experiences for his children; our bitterness at being forced to a different life.
For me, the feelings are only memories. I wonder if this is a remove that Dwyer and I share. I wonder if I will ask him.
West rattles the small bones in my ear, an order to cease my observation. A response is not required. The camouflage that serves me well on the hill will make no difference in the house.
I discard it.
Two- Change Places
There are men that make machines. There are others that design the architecture to make them function. Of these camps, Dwyer belongs to the latter. His aims ran counter to my assemblers. He had been discovered. He had fled, beating a man into disability during his flight. This story, I overheard in the dark. I have no memory of this.
I let myself into the house, using the back door that Dwyer’s wife forgets to lock. The children are breathing above, asleep in their beds.
I am not to kill the children, I am not to kill the wife. Parameters, crystalline. I am promised completion.
At the foot of the stairs, my senses extend. I know them. I know which steps creak. My feet move in silent placement. For the first time, I know impatience.
On the landing, a light.
Dwyer’s wife finds him at his desk. She woke, heart pounding at a sound that bled into a dream. She finds him hunched over a tablet, flicking between panels with a finger and her heart stills. Dwyer, a smile already on his face, looks over his shoulder. “Bad dream?”
Returning the smile, she leaves the doorway
In a stand-up dresser in the corner of the study, a body with a broken neck is curled. Memories are lost forever, their absence a fracture in the new continuity.
Eyes distant, I look back down at the tablet.
Dwyer’s return will be a surprise.