Author: C.R. Kiegle

My memories go back only three months, but I know I am older than that. Much older. I can feel it in the grit and the grinding sounds as I move, gears gone years without servicing. There’s not much time to think about how old my bones may be, however. Barbara keeps me busy.
In my three months I have existed only in this hospice room and only with Barbara. I exist to serve her, keeping her alive and keeping her company. She must have had a family once, before she came here, as she calls me by their names. I have been able to discern there were two sons- Thomas and Roger.
“It’s been so long since your last visit, Thomas,” she’ll say to me every so often.
“It has,” I reply before moving with squeaking parts to take out the deck of cards from the drawer of her bedside table. Usually she will forget thinking I am him once a game has started. She almost always forgets quickly.
Until today.
“You don’t like Go Fish,” she instead says quietly after I dealt the cards. “I remember now, Thomas doesn’t like Go Fish.”
I sit in silence. I’m not programmed to lie to her- I can agree that her children have not visited her, but I cannot pretend to be someone I am not.
“You like Go Fish,” I reply.
“Oh,” she says quietly before turning to look out the window. It’s not a real window- just a screen put up to make the patients feel more comfortable. Barbara’s has a video of a line of cherry trees, petals blowing about in the wind. It’s an old screen, with dead pixels scattered across it and giving away the illusion to those who really look.
“I can’t quite tell what’s real anymore, Sara,” Barbara says finally. Sara’s the name listed on my nametag, but I can’t tell if it really is my name. The files in my hard drive list only my make and model.
“Would you like to play Go Fish?” I ask.
“Do you want to play Go Fish?” she replies.
“I do what you like.”
“But what do you like?”
I do not know what I like. Perhaps I like nothing. Perhaps there was a version of me before that existed long enough to know what I like and don’t like. I don’t know where those memories would be. I’ve scanned my memory drives for them and found nothing but my instructions and a text file of what Barbara does and doesn’t like to do and eat.
“Oh, are we playing Go Fish, Roger? I love Go Fish!” Barbara then says, and the gears in my face rub against one another as I move to smile.
“Yes, we’re playing Go Fish. I’ll go first. Do you have any sevens?”
It takes her a moment to go through all her cards, scanning them over and over again to check for a seven. I take a moment to do some scanning of my own, wondering if I had just missed a file within a file within a file somewhere in my memory that contained some inkling of the past.
“Nothing- go fish!”