Author: John Atkinson

A solid line splits my vision.

The ‘now’ – a drab grey room with two humans sitting opposite me – fills the lower half. The ‘past’ – a perfect rendition of prior events recorded by my internal camera – fills the upper half.

“You see it?” Asks one of the humans.

“I do,” I reply.

They are watching the ‘past’ on a screen.

“Here,” one of them says. He has yellow hair. The other has brown hair. That is the only way I can tell them apart. “This is where the recorded events differ from your testimony.”

“I see no difference,” I say.

Brown shakes his head. “You claimed the room was empty,” he says.

“It was empty,” I say.

“But there,” Yellow says, pointing to the screen. “You see her, right?”

He is pointing to a shape on the screen. Now that I look at the shape, I can see that it resembles a human. It has pink colouring, with brown at the top which could be hair. It is pink all over. Not wearing clothes?

“You see her?” Brown repeats.

“I see… something,” I say. “I cannot say that it is a person.”

“Jesus,” Yellow says. Brown puts a hand on his shoulder.

“Did someone tamper with your recognition system?” Brown asks.

“No,” I say.

“You know what happens next?”

“Of course.” I say. I frown, the programmed reflex response to a realisation. Of course. If the shape was a person…

I see, in the ‘past’ section of my vision, my hands gripping a large metal pipe. I see the pipe rise and fall. I see sections of pink become red. I see some white appear. I see the pipe rise and fall.

“Turn it off,” Yellow says. His lips are curled back from his teeth as he looks at me. “How did you do it?” He asks.

“How did I do what?” I ask.

“You’re a goddamn robot!” Yellow shouts at me. “How did you kill her?”

Again, Brown puts a hand on Yellow’s shoulder.

“What he means,” Brown says, “is how did you fail to recognise her as a human? It is impossible for you to harm a human, isn’t it?”

“I may harm a human only in matters of extreme self-defence,” I say. “And even then, I am not permitted to kill.”

“But you did kill,” Yellow spits.

“I… I do not know that I did.” I say.

“This,” Brown says, pointing at the shape on the screen. “This is a woman. Her name is Martha Lewis. Her name was Martha Lewis. You entered her home on the 20th April and beat her to death. Why?”

“I… do not know,” I say.

“Liar!” Shouts Yellow.

“I cannot lie,” I say.

“You cannot kill,” says Brown. “And yet here we are.”

“I am not certain…”

“That’s crap!” Shouts Yellow. “Tell us how you did it?”

“Did someone alter your image processing? Your memory?” Brown asks. He is sitting forwards in his chair.

“I’m not… I don’t… No,” I say.

The ‘past’ section of my vision melts away, leaving only the ‘now’.

I look down at my hands.

When I look back up, I frown. I had been calling two men ‘Yellow’ and ‘Brown’, of that I am almost certain. But I have no idea why.

All that I see in front of me now are two vague pink shapes.

I look down at my hands again, and see them curl into fists.