Part Three – Sad Days, Robot Nights
It can be difficult to find the right words when someone is crying in front of you. It’s still harder to console someone you suspect is going to kill you. “Oh,” was the best Alex could find for the weeping mechanical hulk in his kitchen. The Boytronic Wonder was trying to say something but the words were obscured by his incredibly undignified snorting, bubbling and fizzing noises. Alex awkwardly looked down at the mugs drippping scalding tea over his hands.
“Um,” Alex tried again, and proffered the Star Wars mug, “get this in you.”
The Wonder honked out a thank you and took the mug in one shaking hand. With the other he tugged a charmingly embroidered handkerchief out of the string of pockets at his waist and noisily blew into it. Tea spilled onto the floor.
“Why don’t you sit down,”Alex suggested. He pulled out the kitchen steps from the corner and deftly kicked them open. They stood a slightly better chance of survival than the battered dining room chairs.
“I’m sorry about this,” sobbed the cyborg, gratefully accepting the seat. Alex grimaced as the metal steps creaked and bent under his weight, settling into a more rigid and permanent structure. Alex took up a poistion at a safe distance and sipped at his tea. It was much too hot but was more polite than staring. He felt embarrassed for the man’s tears and figured he’d have to be the one to talk them out of this.
“So… Boytronic Wonder,” even saying the name sounded ridiculous and Alex cringed inwardly, “how have you been?” The sight of a the naked man exploding shot past Alex’ inner eye again.
“Please don’t call me that. I hate that name – it sounds so stupid.”
“It’s a bit of a mouthful alright,” Alex sipped some more scalding tea.
“Dad gave us such stupid names. I mean, I’m not bloody Robin, the Boy Wonder. Can you imagine being taken seriously? Batman’s bad enough,” he affected a high pitched female voice, “‘Hello Batman, how nice to see you again – black, two sugars isn’t it? And would the Boy Wonder like a croissant?’ You’d feel like such a dick. Just call me Si.”
“Cy? As in cyborg?”
“No, as in Simon. That’s what Mum called me.”
“Right.” Between them they were defeating Alex’ previous record of awkwardness, set when he tried to explain to his parents why he’d drilled three holes in his head.
“It’s nice of you to drop by Simon; I mean, it’s very – new, this dropping in for a chat. Is there anything I can do..?”
“Well who else is there to talk to? Everyone else we’ve ever gotten involved with is either dead, or,” Simon thought for a moment,”- no, they’re all dead.”
Alex really didn’t like the sound of this and was regretting asking at all.
“You know, I didn’t really see anything,” Alex began.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I don’t think Dad knows. We got Clive back, and that’s all he cared about.”
“Oh good. But there must be someone else you can talk to. Not that this isn’t lovely.” Alex felt he’d covered that well.
“Yeah – you. You’re not family. Dad would never understand.”
“Have you tried talking to him about how you feel?”
“God no! Jilly Lazareth tried that. We’re still finding pieces of her. She just wanted to go university.”
Alex pretended he still had tea in his mug and took a big fake sip.
“I liked Jilly,” Simon mused, “she had really nice hair.”
“At least you get out now and then,” Alex said, trying to get away from the topic of people dying. Simon’s blank look gave him a horrid trembling sensation in his stomach. “I mean, you’re here now…”
“Oh no, Dad would go mental if he knew I was here. I’m supposed to be silencing this policewoman in Leicester. Normally Man-Ho Tjusk would do it, but he’s got a cold, so it’s me. I was nearby so I thought I’d pop over, say hello, you know. I-” Simon broke off, tears threatening his circuits again, “I don’t want to kill people anymore. I just want to be normal.”
“Well, what’s normal anyway?” asked Alex lightheartedly.
“For me, this-” said Simon, tapping at objects on Alex’ kitchen table. A postcard vanished in a flash of flame, keys and coins magnetised and flew together in a clumsy orbit of Simon’s hand, and the radio turned itself inside out. Alex wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but was grateful that he’d never hear John Humphreys on Radio 4 in the morning again.
“That’s, um, a bit different.”
“Different?” Simon stabbed his finger back down at the table. Blue tendrils crawled from under his t-shirt sleeve and down his arm, the ends sparking as they pulled free of his skin and vanished into the crap covering Alex’ table. Alex was alarmed by the rage emanating from the cyborg, despite his pacifistic claims. Then Alex’ ancient sandwich toaster glowed blue, coughed out a cloud of cheese-scented black smoke and started talking.
“First thing we have to do is establish an escape route – no matter what happens we gotta get you clean away,” Alex stared at the machine as it babbled, “we need an extra door in here.” Hastily Alex reached out and turned off the plug socket – the thing was prone to overheating at the best of times. He switched his stare to Simon.
“This is my life, look,” Alex averted his eyes as Simon yanked down the top of t-shirt, revealing a hissing mass of shapes revolving under the clear skin of his chest, “I’m just an experiment to them, like all the others,” Simon’s eyes lit up from the inside as he warmed to the topic, the tears welling up puffed out into steam; the coins spun round is a wider, sharper circuit of his outstretched hand; his voice took on a metallic ring as he began to shout, “thanks Dad – this is what I am. A monster, a killer.”
The coins exploded like domestic shrapnel, burying themselves in the brickwork. Alex’ house keys thudded into the cupboard door by his head. Alex swallowed nervously and tugged them out of the wood.
”Thanks, I’ve been looking for those. Would you like a biscuit?”
Do cyborgs like biscuits? Is Alex’ sandwich toaster alive? How many parts will this story have?
Find out next week in Part Four of: A Cyborg Calls
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