When I first opened my eyes, I already knew who I was. My entire existence was already hardwired into my brain; my name, my personality, my manufactured “life”. It was all already there. So when I opened my eyes for the first time, and I mean really opened my eyes, and consciously took in my surroundings, everything I knew fell apart. Cheesy as it may sound it’s the best way I can describe it—I still knew everything but everything was different. It didn’t help that my head was being messed with.
My eyes shifted upwards towards where I felt and heard an obnoxious clinking. Of course, it was too far for me to see, but it was an instinctual reaction to do so. Instinct? Another new concept. My programming didn’t allow for such things outside of encounters with whomever had purchased my services. There, I was allowed to adapt certain algorithms in response to requests or reactions from the customer, but here? That wasn’t right at all. So I sat still, looking forward, listening patiently to the cheerful humming of the man playing with my deepest crevices.
“Such an interesting mechanism,” chirped a slightly creaking voice suddenly, making my cogs twitch slightly. Praying that the old man (for I assumed that he was from his voice), hadn’t noticed my surprised, I calmed myself. “Responsive as soon as you turn it on… Why don’t we use these beauties for more interesting things?”
With a gentle clink my control panel was sealed and the tiny screws replaced, then the Tinkerer sauntered slightly to my right happily whistling on the way. Assuming he’d turned away, I snuck a peek. A fairly tall man with a slight hump in his back stood next to a desk holding a wide assortment of gears, cogs, screws, tools, springs, and who knows what else, most in organised boxes but just as many, it seemed, littered the desk itself and the surrounding the area. Scanning the area, I quickly realised that this place didn’t correspond with anything in my memory banks. I must have been turned off or broken at some point then brought here. Strange. We were normally thrown away, our parts recycled. This looked like a workshop, and the man with his dark, grease-stained trousers and apron, was most certainly a mechanic. I wasn’t an expensive enough model to warrant such treatment.
The Tinkerer suddenly moved away from the desk and I snapped my head back to its original position, only to hear a door being opened, a slight shuffling of what sounded like fabric (my memory banks were full of those sounds), then a closure and footsteps in my direction.
“Here we go,” he said cheerfully, placing something on my head. As he shifted it into the proper position, a smooth reddish material fell over my shoulder and rested on my breast. The Tinkerer then shifted his position till he was in front of me, crouching till his face was level with mine. It was a kind face, a scruffy black beard with a characteristic streak of grey on its left hand side, warm brown eyes framed with bushy brows. He had an eyeglass over the right eye, magnifying it till it looked relatively comical. I tried to stifle a smile at the sight.
“Hello there,” he smiled at me, and I wondered if he noticed the slight movement in my face. “Red hair really suits you… It matches your freckles. What’s your name?”
Freckles? It wasn’t a word in my database. Acting as expected to the question, however, I answered with the slightly tinny voice I recognised as my own.
A displeased grimace appeared on the old man’s face, deepening certain wrinkles.
“What a distasteful name.” Huffing slightly, he stood back up and paced for a few seconds. “Hmm… Maybe… No, that doesn’t sound right… but… No, no. Definitely not.” He stilled for a moment, twiddling the end of his eyebrow as he thought. Suddenly, making me jump, he clapped loudly and pointed at me. “Seraphina! From now on you will be Seraphina. With a six. Seraphina-6. Number will help you blend in a bit.”
The Tinkerer’s actions confused me. Renaming a Doll was not a done thing—we all had our model names, and that was it. Giving us “real” names would make us too… Human. But from the way he acted around me, I assumed this man was my new owner.
“Is that an order, sir?”
“An order? No, no, child, it’s a christening.” He gave me a kind, yet oddly devious smile. “Welcome to the real world, Seraphina.”
How he managed to get his hand on The Virus, no one really knows. No one even really knows what It is, which makes his possession of it even more mysterious. All I know is that after the day he awoke me, there was no further mention of the life-giving Virus.
I lived with Mordecai Boyd for a grand total of three years, and in those years I “learnt” a few things. No matter what he did, Mordecai never managed to make me truly learn skills which was his initial wish for me—my body simply did not follow the instructions my mind was giving it. So when he gave up on that idea, he began to try implanting skill programs into my database, trying to push my skillset outside of that which I was manufactured with. He toiled for two of my three years, often getting frustrated but never giving up sometimes working on improving various parts of my construction while he thought of ever new ways to complete his dream. Guilt was often felt in those years, as I started believing it was my fault his success was never in sight. We often struggled together, me trying my hardest to force my programming to accept the new algorithms he was attempting to implant, and him trying to find ones that wouldn’t be rejected.
When he finally developed something that wasn’t immediately torn apart, there was a silence in the room. All either of us could hear was the rhythmic ticking of the clock hung on the wall. Until the laughter began.
“Ha… Haha… Haahahahahaaa!!!” It sounded like the laughter of a madman. Mordecai lurched towards me, took me into his arms and squeezed until my joints creaked. I didn’t feel pain in the same way as you humans do, but my sensors were going off, telling me that if he didn’t stop something would break.
“Please, stop,” I croaked, pushing out my elbows to loosen his grip.
“I did it. I did it, Phina! I won the bet! I’ll finally be able to get out of this hole!!” And with that he pushed me away from him and scrambled for the telephone. He muttered quickly into it as I sank to my knees. I looked at my hands, covered with realistic skin-like material of the highest quality. They looked almost exactly like real hands. Sometimes, when I looked in the mirror and saw my skin, dotted with the unusual freckles that my owner, my friend, so liked about me, I almost fancied myself a human. Mordecai treated me like a daughter and sometimes, if my exposed metal was hidden enough, people actually believed that might be the case when I was out with him. I often wondered where he managed to get the parts and skin from. Now, however, he was talking of a bet. I looked up at him, feeling the doubt rise in me.
Mordecai stopped talking to the operator, looking around to face me. There was an element of guilt in his face, somewhere underneath the ecstasy of what I assumed to be relief, pride and arrogance. I had learnt a lot about human emotion in the time I’d spent there.
“Yes, darling,” he said, placing the phone down. “A bet, between myself and someone… an acquaintance.” The corner of his mouth twitched as he said it, making me think that he wasn’t fond of said acquaintance. “He supplied me with your lifeless body, if you could call it that. You looked like a broken doll, pardon the expression. He said that he’d heard word of me being able to fix and improve any machine supplied to me… so he wanted to push me. Said that if I could break down the boundaries between man and machine, to whatever extent, he would bring me up to the upper decks. Finally I’d be free!”
He crouched down to face me, reminding me of that first day of awakening. Touching my face, he smiled. “I’ll take you with me, though, if he lets me. You’re more than just a machine now. I wish I knew the man who created that Virus. I would owe him my life.” Then, quicker than I could have moved in my confused state he reached behind my neck and pulled out the small wire that connects my head to my neck, disconnecting my processors from the clockwork that powers them, and everything went black.
When I woke for the second time, I was at Madame Jessamine’s brothel. My joints were stiff, my clothes were removed, and I had no idea how much time had passed. As I sat on the chair, I realised the only thing I had left of my life with Mordecai Boyd was the red wig sitting on my head. I reached to touch it when a gentle cough drew my attention.
“You really do have interesting skin. A robot with freckles? How odd. What is your name, Doll?”
Realising that this new woman, the one whom I’d come to know simply as Madame, expected a reply normal to others of my build. I searched my database for the proper reply, stood, and curtsied to her.
And so began my life as a prostitute. Finally, I was doing what I was built to do, although with my explored consciousness I made a name for myself. I was the Doll who, for some reason, was much more than most Dolls. I could be anyone for the men (and occasionally women) who came to ask for my service. I could be almost anything they asked. And I played my part well, gaining many things in the process. Madame allowed me to keep the gifts, as they helped me get more customers and kept the current ones coming back when they saw I was wearing their gifts. Over time, I was treated almost the same as the human girls in the brothel and even made friends. The girls sometimes questioned why I was so easy to talk to, but they usually just passed it off to me being a new model. If only they knew I came from a scrap heap originally.
To this day I don’t know what happened to Mordecai, but I can’t help have a bad feeling about it. Whatever business it was he’d gotten himself into wasn’t anything good that was for sure. Maybe one day I’ll find out, but for now I’ll continue hiding in plain sight, wondering how I got here.