Hi! So, I thought I’d upload a sample chapter or two from Mechanical, just so people can read a little bit of it and see what they think. 🙂 Anyway, here is the prologue and the first two chapters. I hope you like them!
I looked down at the body that was now mine. I wiggled my fingers and toes and realized, with some surprise, that I could feel them. I nearly jumped as a piece of hair fell in my face, brushing softly against my skin. I had forgotten what it was like to have hair or any other part of the body for that matter. Or was it that I had never really known at all? I couldn’t be sure.
I had long slender arms, and when I stood up, I saw that I towered over most of the people in the room. As I tried to take a step, I faltered and saw numerous people come towards me to catch my fall.
Seeing—this was also a new sensation for me. So much to take in all at once. The intricacy of how every little nerve had to be working just right for your eyes to adjust to the smallest speck of light.
For so long, I hadn’t been anything at all. I didn’t remember much of the last few years, only nothingness, the sense of weightlessness and no feeling whatsoever. I wondered if that was what death was like; if I had experienced some form of it. For, when the weeks turned into years I had started to think I really was dead; that no one was coming back for me as promised.
But all had ended up well for here I was, alive again, or so it seemed.
The scientists crowded around me, talking all at once.
“…imperative that you…”
“…never do this…”
“…if you don’t…”
I listened for a while, taking in what they needed me to know, but soon the talk of the mission subsided and new talk began. Or should I say old? I tuned them out when the subject came up, for I had already heard it too many times. I didn’t need to hear it again.
I knew what I was. There was no need to remind me or sugarcoat it to make me feel better. They acted as though what I was would be a terrible disappointment to me, as though it would tear me apart if they didn’t approach me in just the right manner.
I didn’t understand that. Was my existence something horrible? I didn’t think so; I had never known anything else. All I had ever known were these people and they were the strange ones, not I.
I saw right through their fancy and elaborate ways to explain my existence. I understood what I was and accepted it.
I wasn’t human, they’d told me. I was made up of parts; millions of parts put together to resemble human form. I wasn’t a real person. I wasn’t really alive. I was a robot, synthetic. I was a thing to be used when needed.
I was mechanical.
“It’s so weird…” I said. “Being able to … live again.”
Yvonne shrugged, gazing across the large, white room. “You’ll get used to it.”
The space around us was mostly empty. A table and a few chairs sat neatly in their spots, and the area was set up for activities like sports or games. There were drawers in the walls, white drawers with white knobs. Everything was in its place. Like Yvonne and I.
I stared at my bare feet, swinging below the large metal table upon which I sat. Yvonne was taller, her feet planted firmly on the ground as she sat next to me. I didn’t remember her being taller, but then again, everything was hazy.
The long black hair I remember her having had been cut to her chin. It was almost like she had just gone at it with scissors. The strands were short and jagged, but she still looked stunning, and although different, her eyes were the same, sparkling mischievously. Yvonne had always exuded that effortless beauty.
“Yvonne …” I started, turning to watch her expression. “Do you have … memories? Of us … as little kids?”
Her face instantly clouded over, her expression melting into a frown. “It doesn’t matter,” she retorted. “We’re machines, we can’t have childhoods.” She looked away with an air of annoyance.
The memories of Yvonne, suddenly so clear in my mind, urged me to go on. “But …”
“The creators probably just inserted recollections into our minds to help us understand humans,” she said quickly, still looking away from me.
I studied the back of her head as she busied herself with inspecting the white tabletop. I couldn’t tell if she was lying or not, but knowing Yvonne, it was likely.
A door opened and someone entered, his footsteps echoing loudly through the empty room. We both turned his way. Immediately, recognition registered in my mind, one of us.
He was tall, had a blank expression and pale skin like the rest of us. I guessed he had just come back, like I had only a few days before, for he was looking around the room in awe and seeming to find every detail amazing. But it wasn’t so much his appearance that set him apart from humans. After all, we were supposed to blend in. It was the way he acted and how he was dressed, the situation and circumstances.
“Newcomers,” Yvonne whispered to me in a mocking tone. “Always so vacant looking.”
I turned to her. “Hey, I was like that only a few days ago. It’s been years since the last time I was up and around,” I said, defending both him and myself.
She rolled her eyes, looking annoyed. “No. Not like you. Completely new.” Irritation edged her voice.
I looked at her with suspicion and surprise. “You mean, never alive before?”
She nodded, her gaze never leaving the other android, watching him with a cold, penetrating stare.
Our gazes followed him until he’d exited through the other door at the end of the room, leaving us alone once again. We sat in stillness for several moments, the echo of the banging door slowly diminishing.
“How long had you been shut off?” I asked Yvonne, shattering the icy silence.
“Much shorter than you,” she replied matter-of-factly. “They liked me and how I worked.” Her tone wasn’t boastful, but it wasn’t modest either. Just a fact. A simple statement.
“Oh…” I murmured. “I thought that maybe I had died. I so badly wanted to come back, but now everything is so strange, I don’t know which state I prefer,” I admitted. What was I supposed to feel? I wish I knew.
“Well, I’ll tell you one thing, this time it’s much more interesting.” Her eyes sparkled and I wondered what she meant.
“So, why did they bring me back?” I asked.
“To accomplish the same mission as me. All they’re saying is to observe life.” Yvonne shrugged. “They’re sending us to different high schools to study the kids there.” She explained as if it were nothing worth discussing.
“Oh …” I couldn’t understand why this was so important. The creators had stressed how critical this mission was, but I didn’t see how it could be. It seemed insignificant to me, but I had to do what the creators asked. No one doubted them.
More people entered the room, talking softly together, more of us. They all wore white, like Yvonne and I. It made us look almost ghost-like against our pale skin and the ever-present white walls of the Institution.
Yvonne gracefully hopped off the table. “Hey Jeremy,” she called, walking towards them. “You guys wanna play?” She gestured to a volleyball lying in the corner. I frowned, noticing the only thing in the room that had not been put away. My brows furrowed. That bugged me.
They nodded and soon they were all involved in a game. I watched from the sidelines, unsure of whether I could manage such rigorous activity so quickly after I had come back.
They sprinted all over the court returning the ball back and forth. Rarely did anyone make any points, they were so evenly matched. I saw Yvonne’s jaw set when she realized she wasn’t going to win as easily as she had first thought. Her dark eyes concentrated on the ball like a predator would hungrily watch its prey. I could almost hear the words playing repeatedly in her head, I will win, I will win.
Someone anticipated her move and when she spiked the ball, he blocked it, shoving it back over the net, catching Yvonne off guard and scoring a point for their team. They were in the lead.
Yvonne watched the ball bounce away as another teammate went to get it. Her black eyes turned sharply towards the person who had spiked the ball, glaring. Yvonne hated losing.
I heard voices behind me and turned to see that two men had been watching us the whole time.
“Better than professional athletes,” one of them said, staring at us in disbelief, eyes wide with excitement. “They’re great.”
The other one merely smiled, his satisfied expression indicating he wasn’t surprised in the least, as though we were works of art. “They’re perfect.”
I gazed up at the ceiling, trying to find shapes in the crumpled drywall.
I tangled my fingers in the snow-white bed sheets that matched everything else in the room, including my white apparel. In fact, the only thing of color in the whole room was my long auburn hair that spread out across the pillow, to me, and even that seemed washed out and dull.
The room was empty. The other bed, occasionally occupied by Yvonne, was neatly made. There was a dresser across the room from my bed and through a door next to it was a bathroom, white, of course.
I finally gave up searching the ceiling for the images I had conjured up at least a thousand times. It seemed like one of the things I did the most. Instead, I turned my thoughts to the mission.
My first obstacle was that I had never actually associated with real people outside of the Institution. But then, how hard could it be? After all, I was perfect, wasn’t I? Incapable of making mistakes.
The creators had supplied me with clothes to wear to school. They were much more colorful than anything I had seen before. Bright blues, and reds and yellows. Until now, we’d always worn neutral colors, like white, black and gray. The creators had told us it was less expensive to buy clothes without pigment.
I sat up in bed and let my legs fall over the side. I stared at my bare feet, then my ankles and all the way up to my knees where my shapeless and strictly practical dress ended. I wasn’t sure if I would ever get over the sensation of being alive again. After all those years of nothing, it felt so strange. I got up, walked across the room to the dresser and pulled out one of the sweaters that had been given to me to wear to school. I held it up and the bright red garment seemed to shine in the blankness of the room. I unzipped it and slipped it on, turning to face the mirror on the door.
I had never seen any other color on me besides white and gray. The red seemed to make me look more … alive. Maybe that was why the creators had told me to wear it.
Don’t let them find out what you are, they had said to me.
I shrugged, taking off the sweater and putting it in the drawer.
I went back to searching for shapes on the ceiling.
* * * *
I stared after Yvonne’s retreating figure as she walked away from the van and was eventually engulfed into the crowd of teenagers. She stood out from them with her tall posture and perfect figure. She was stunning, her beauty causing heads to turn as she confidently made her way up the steps to the front door of the West Side Public High School.
Our car pulled away and we drove for about ten minutes until we reached another building, my mind rehearsing everything the creators had taught me.
“Here you go,” said the driver as he guided the car into the parking lot.
I looked out the window and took in the sight of hundreds of kids milling around the school. I looked up at the sign above the doorway: Tanager Heights Academy.
“I don’t have all day,” the driver said impatiently, so I grabbed my book bag and left the van.
Immediately I was enveloped by students crowding their way to the front doors. I let myself be pushed along with them until I found myself inside. I resisted the urge to shove them back and away from me, knowing it would seem odd, but their constant close contact was getting on my nerves. I made my way to the front office and breathed a sigh of relief to find this room much less crowded than the hallways. I didn’t like being touched at all, which was hard to avoid in a swarming crowd of people.
Don’t let them get too close to you, the creators had told me. They might find out what you are. I still didn’t understand why that was such a horrible thing if, according to the creators, I was superior to humans.
“Can I help you?”
I turned to see a petite woman sitting at a desk, her dark eyes peering at me from under her red-framed glasses.
“Um, yes. I’m Drew Martin. I just transferred here. This is my first day.”
The woman smiled, but her expression seemed strained. “Nice to meet you, Drew,” she said, standing up. “My name is Ms. Rodriguez. Let me tell you where everything is and show you your locker.” She looked around wearily, as though she was already tired from the hectic morning schedule. The creases on her forehead gave away her anxiety and her tense body posture made it clear she would rather be anywhere else. She had a forced smile and a happy voice, trying to put on a good face for the students. She gathered a few papers from a pile on her desk and then we left the room.
Unlike the first time I had walked along the halls, students moved quickly out of the way of Ms. Rodriguez. She motioned for me to walk next to her and handed me some papers.
“That is your schedule. The room numbers are written next to the classes and are easy to find. The bathrooms are there,” she said, pointing as we passed them. “And there’s another set in the other hallway. Your locker number is 273. Here it is.” She stopped and opened my locker for me.
“Thank you,” I told her, staring down at my schedule sheet to see what books I would need first.
“Well, feel free to come and see me if you have any questions,” Ms. Rodriguez said then disappeared into the crowd.
I looked around, surveying the chaotic students pushing along, talking and giggling amongst themselves. The hallways seemed much too small to accommodate this many kids. I watched as a few boys starting shoving each other around, someone shrieking with laugher as they watched. It was frankly shocking to see them all behaving with such immaturity. The androids at the Institution never behaved this badly. There was no reason to push each other, giggle about unimportant matters or shriek.
“Hey,” a voice said, jerking me out of my thoughts.
I swirled around to see a short, brown-haired girl staring up at me.
“I haven’t seen you here before. You new?” she asked, fiddling with the combination on her locker.
“Yes,” I said quickly.
“I’m Jessica.” She smiled, exposing bright yellow braces. Her expression was kind and easy, her eyes smiling as she talked.
“That’s a pretty name. Much more unique than Jessica,” she said with a giggle as she opened her locker and took out some books. Her bubbly personality shined through her vibrant smile.
I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I smiled anyway, turning slightly to get a better view of everything in the room.
“So, what’s your first class? Maybe I can steer you in the right direction,” she offered.
I looked down at my sheet. “Theology,” I said, confused. What was theology? Nobody had told me anything about the curriculum before I came here. I had been shut off for years. I had no idea what theology was, but it had to be important if the school administrators had dedicated a whole class to it. I wondered how the creators could have left this flaw in my knowledge. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was turn around and run back to the Institution where I belonged.
“Hey, that’s my first class, too,” Jessica said, beaming.
“Oh … what do I need for it?” I asked. Suddenly a loud bell sounded, making me look around in puzzlement. Students started walking faster and filtering into the different rooms.
“Oh, nothing yet. You’ll get your book in class today. Hurry, or we’re gonna be late,” she said, grabbing my arm and pulling me along with her.
We reached the class just as the second bell sounded. The classroom was not a large one, but it wasn’t small, either. About twenty-five students sat in rows of desks. Posters and quotes were tacked to the walls. “Cutting it a little short, aren’t we, Miss Walter?” the teacher asked Jessica, giving her a look of disapproval.
“Sorry,” she said, sitting down at one of the desks. I quickly chose to sit at the desk next to her, surveying the room once again to catch the students’ behavior.
“Oh, you must be the new student,” the teacher said to me. “Drew, isn’t it?”
“I’m Mrs. Stoll.” She smiled briefly.
I felt it unnecessary to restate my name, so I merely smiled back politely, following through on what the creators had instructed me to do in order to seem normal.
“Here’s your textbook. You’ll need it for every class,” she said, handing me a book. “All right everybody, open to page 384.”
The class opened their books as I looked around with uncertainty. I quickly followed their example, observing and committing to memory the behavior of the students surrounding me.
The rest of the period consisted of reading from the book and doing several worksheets on what we read. It was so easy I was beginning to think this whole school thing wasn’t going to be as bad as I had previously thought.
After theology, Jessica helped me find my next class, promising to meet up with me at lunch.
I got through my morning classes with no major problems. I had memorized the map of the school that the creators had shown me and was familiar with it. A few students had tried to start conversations with me but had stopped after a few minutes, evidently bored with my short and unspecific replies. Once lunch came, I welcomed it as a chance to take a break and organize what I’d observed.
I walked into the cafeteria and got in line for food. The room was big and filled with a nonstop chatter that immediately began to get on my nerves. At the Institution, the androids were orderly, consistent and calm. This cafeteria was anything but that. Students laughed obnoxiously, shouted, threw things, called across the room to each other and the sounds of each of these things mingled together to create a loud mesh of just plain irritating clamor.
I made a futile effort to block out the immaturity surrounding me as I quietly waited in line, trying to ignore the couple standing in front of me who found it hilarious to poke each other repeatedly and steal each other’s trays.
I was able to go without eating and at the Institution I never ate anything. After all, I was a robot, but I had been clearly instructed that if I didn’t eat it would look abnormal. I pointed at whatever other people got and soon was left standing at the end of the serving line, wondering where to sit. One glance at the crowd of rowdy students left me searching for some other place where I could eat.
A waving hand caught my eye. I looked up to see Jessica smiling at me and motioning for me to sit with her. I hurried over to her table and found a seat.
“Hey Drew,” she said, smiling. “Guys, this is Drew. She’s new here,” she said to a few other girls at the table. “Drew, this is Caroline, and Hailey.”
I smiled at them, wondering once again why this small and strange action seemed to be so appealing to humans.
Smile, Drew. The creators had instructed me. Otherwise, you’ll look strange.
“So, where did you go to school before this?” Caroline asked politely, carefully brushing a strand of long blond hair out of her light blue eyes.
“Before?” I repeated, my mind spinning, searching for the information I needed and finding nothing. “Um … just another school,” I lied.
“Oh,” she said and started eating.
“Did you just move here? Or have you been here a long time?” Hailey asked.
“I’ve … lived here all my life,” I replied, wondering why she would want to know. This seemed like such an irrelevant topic. I was starting to feel uncomfortable.
“Cool. What are you into?” she inquired, propping her elbows on the table.
“Into?” I repeated.
“Yeah, like your interests,” Jessica said, looking at me strangely.
I noticed their unease around me and wondered what I’d been doing wrong. The creators had not prepared me well. Interests? What were my interests? They should have taught me how to carry on normal conversations with normal people. How was I supposed to do this? What did normal people like to do? I didn’t even know what I liked to do. I was an android. I didn’t really like to do anything. I had only come back into consciousness barely a week ago.
“Drew?” Jessica said.
“Um … I like reading,” I stammered, repeating the first thing that came to my mind, feeling slightly proud of coming up with a somewhat normal hobby other than inspecting my ceiling for shapes.
“Sweet! What have you read?” Hailey jumped in.
Sweet? Was she referring to her food? “Um … just a lot of stuff, I don’t remember all the names,” I said quickly, growing very tired of the constant interrogation. Is this how people made friends? If so, I didn’t want any.
“Huh,” Hailey said, eyeing me oddly, and then started a discussion with Caroline.
I simply watched as Caroline, Hailey and Jessica talked. I needed to learn how to carry on a conversation if I was going to stay here long. I watched their body language, facial expressions and noticed the topics they engaged in. They talked mostly about school, teachers, other girls, and boys. After about ten minutes, when they had finished eating, they started to stand up.
“You coming, Drew?” Jessica asked then glanced down at my plate. “You haven’t eaten anything.”
I looked down at my untouched plate of food. Oh. I was supposed to eat. How could I have forgotten?
“You guys run along, I’ll stay with Drew,” Jessica said to Caroline and Hailey. “Do you feel okay?” she asked, sitting next to me.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just….forgot,” I said, realizing how ridiculous it sounded and wondering how on earth I could have overlooked it. “Just with all the craziness of the day,” I added quickly, hoping it would make sense to her, because it definitely didn’t make sense to me.
Jessica nodded knowingly. “Yeah, you’re nervous is all,” she said. Her smile, once again, seemed to make me feel as if I hadn’t made that big of a mistake. After all, humans weren’t perfect and since I was trying to behave like a legitimate one, making a few mistakes couldn’t hurt me.
I started eating pasta. I hadn’t eaten at all since I had come back. The taste was shocking and, quite frankly, disgusting. How humans could eat this three times a day was a wonder to me. I worked hard to keep a straight face and made myself finish it.
“Jess, do you have money for lunch? I left mine at home,” a deep voice announced behind me. “I’ll pay you back.”
I turned around to see a tall, dark-haired boy standing beside Jessica. I noticed right away the resemblance between the two. They had the same eyes, same facial structure. They were definitely related. His gaze shifted away from hers and met mine. He looked slightly uncomfortable before giving me a shy grin.
“Yeah fine,” Jessica said to him, handing him some money. “Oh,” she added, noticing I was watching both of them. “Michael, this is Drew. She’s new today. Drew, this is my brother, Michael.”
“Hey, Drew,” Michael said with a smile similar to Jessica’s, although his demeanor was more reserved and he had a slight intensity to him.
“Hello,” I replied.
He stood there for a moment in awkward silence, playing with the quarters Jessica had given him. “Well, I’d better go. Nice to meet you.” Then he turned and left the table. I watched him walk away for a few seconds before Jessica turned her attention back to me.
“You done?” she asked, pointing to my lunch tray.
I nodded and we both stood up. I put my tray away and then we left for our lockers since our next class was due to start in about five minutes.
“So, is he your older brother?” I asked Jessica then caught myself, surprised, wondering why I had wanted to know this. Maybe I had been programmed to ask questions. Was I programmed at all? The creators had told us we had free will, but…did that mean we were completely free of their influences?
She laughed. “Everyone thinks that. No, we’re twins. Technically I’m older, but only by a few minutes.” She smiled like she was very proud of those few minutes of seniority.
After a while, we moved on to our next classes. Soon the day was through and I found myself standing outside the front doors, searching the parking lot for the van that had dropped me off earlier.
When I saw it pull up, I hurried over and jumped in the back seat.
“How was your day?” the driver asked, camouflaged behind his silver sunglasses. Although he was polite, he sounded like he didn’t care all that much.
“Fine …” I leaned against the seat, ignoring his detached tone. It was just another annoying human habit that caused them to ask things when they didn’t really care. I wondered why they did it, especially to the androids, since we weren’t human, didn’t act human and didn’t care to emulate their polite, irritating ways of behaving normal and civilized. It just seemed like a waste of energy.
“Now,” he said, leaning over to the passenger seat to switch on a recording device. “What did you observe?”
I thought for a moment. I had seen many things today. But what had I observed that was worth mentioning? I started listing off all the things I had seen and answering his questions.
“Now, what did you learn?” he asked once I had finished.
“Well … people seem very inclined to talk a lot. They seem to want friendship and think that’s what I want, as well,” I started to say. I stopped for a moment to think about my report. It was all true. They did seem to cling to friendship and emotions, something I didn’t understand. They were the complete opposite of me and my fellow androids. They were emotional, while we were impassive, they were erratic while we were constant, and they were irrational while we were logical.
But, which one is better? The thought had unexpectedly flashed through my mind and I blinked, shocked, wondering where it had come from. I shook my head and pushed the thought away.
I am better. I told myself. I am perfect.
Thanks for reading!!