JOY LORRAINE COWEN

He sits by himself. Alone in the shadows of this dark and filthy space, staring into an old, long-framed mirror. Another piece of rusted, dusty, junk. Like himself. Just another worthless object, abandoned, and forgotten. Alone. Oh so very very alone.  

     He is cold. Colder than any human could be. Sitting so still, almost frozen, in the dim, and dreary, room.  

     Gazing into the glass he traces the outline of his reflection. Eyes black, lacking light, and color, a dark, murky-oil, dripping from his eyelids and he realizes, with a small pause, that he is crying. A hot shame filling his circuitry until it physically burns from the intensity of his emotion, further adding to his distress. His fingers lose their touch on the mirror beneath them as they begin to tremble in panic.  

     Matted hair, pulled apart, half ripped out. He bores into the glass with his eyes, searching. His face looks wrong. It feels wrong. Everything feels so twisted now, asymmetric, ugly, and inhuman. Had it ever felt right? Would he ever feel right? 

     No. No it never had, but it looked worse now.  

     Everything felt worse now.  

     Earlier in the morning, before the dawn, he’d heard noises from below. Hiding behind the mirror he’d shook, waiting for the noise to stop, hoping they wouldn’t find him. He didn’t want them to see him, hurt him, like the last humans had so many years ago now. Humans, like him, fear what they don’t understand. These ones had been no different. They’d found him of course, with their flashlights, their bags, and weapons. At first they’d looked at him like they thought he was an old toy perhaps. But when he finally moved to escape they’d grabbed his arm, eyes hot with anger.  

     They’d ruined his face, his hair, and they had LAUGHED. Where had his ear gone? When he’d finally had enough, and screamed for them to stop, they had for a brief moment, almost seemed panicked, and then they’d just left. They always do… It’s his fault of course. It’s always his fault, because it has to be, because his own needs have never been treated as equal to his creators. He must have done something wrong. He always does everything wrong. Because he is wrong. He’s never been like them. He’s not human after all. 

“Why did they build me? What is my purpose?”  

He ponders this as a sad, oil drenched chuckle, escapes his lips, resting his head in his hands, he remembers the family he’d lived with before. His inventor. Everyone who’d ever told him he was “special,” “amazing,” a “marvel.”  

     But then one day they asked him to stay up here to wait for a few days, and they all left in their trucks. He watched them from the small, attic-window as they left, taking most everything in the house with them in those large, brown, boxes.  

     He waited. It had been more than a few days now. He waited. A few weeks had passed. Were they alright? He waited. It had been months. Where had his family gone?  

     He still waited. It had been fifty years, but they said they’d come back and so they would, so he continued to wait. It had been well over a century now. They never did come back… deep down he knew they never would.  

     “If I’d just tried harder to please them would it have been different? Would I have been enough then? Enough for them to take along? To truly accept and not abandon?” 

     No.  

     No he doesn’t really think so.  

     Maybe all along he’d been hoping for the wrong thing. 

He sits up once again, focused on his reflection in that damnable frame, and he realizes he’s been on the wrong plane this whole time, and has now arrived at a completely different destination.  

     Nothing.  

     He can do nothing. He can’t do anything right!! A broken, defective, selfish, machine! Forever alone, never allowed to be anything! To try anything! He hadn’t even had a chance to be anything for HIMSELF!!! Not for the humans. He had never LIVED for himself… 

And now–now it was too late. 

And as he felt the last surges of electricity pump through his artificial veins, he looked into the mirror one last time, and shattered it with his fist, screaming out, as the thick, hot, oil, seeped out from his eyes, and wounds, and he slowly powered off, never to be turned on again. His last thought before the silent end a single spoken question echoed into the dark and bitter room.  

“Why couldn’t I have been born like them instead? Maybe then I’d have known freedom. Maybe then I’d have known love.” 

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