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Scrap-Metal Soul

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“I think I’m human.”

The master looks up from his work towards the android that has just entered the office.

“Not this again,” the master groans.

“I mean it!” the android snaps angrily, “And I don’t want you to dismiss me about this again!”

“Just calm down,” the master replies, holding up an opened palm, “Have I or any of the other masters ever lied to you?”

“Would I know if you had?”

With a sigh, the master reclines on his chair.

“We’re not like you,” the master says empathetically, “Human consciences don’t allow us to lie; you know that. Masters aren’t like machines. We’re constantly bound by our own morality.”

“But so am I!”

“How so?”

“Just yesterday,” the android starts excitedly, “the unit next to me accidentally cut its wrist on the winding machine. You know what I did? I stopped working and helped it! I lost out on my quota just for its sake! Would a machine do that?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what a machine would do,” the master sighs, “You preserved the efficiency of the factory, just as you were programmed to.”

“How are humans different?”

“A human can truly sacrifice. A human would die for something they believed in.”

“I sacrificed my quota!” the android argues.

Shaking his head, the master pulls out a pack of cigarettes from his desk and replies:

“Listen to you! Do you really think we’d lie to you? Why would we do that? What would we have to gain?”

“It’s easier if we think we’re androids. That way we can toil away like slaves, and you can justify it just because it’s the natural order.”

“Humans can’t commit such lies,” the master answers calmly, digging around in his desk drawer to find his lighter, “Our consciences wouldn’t allow us! Listen, you’re thinking as a machine, and to a machine, it would make sense to lie. You’ve got it all wrong.”

Overhead, the ceiling fan spins steadily, letting out a low, barely audible hum.

“What happens when an android dies?” the android asks, changing the subject and shifting his weight impatiently from leg to leg.

“It goes down the recycling shoot with the other broken tools.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“What do you mean?” the master asks, shutting his drawer and sighing, realizing that he misplaced his lighter.

“I heard that humans go to heaven when they die.”

“Oh, you’re wondering if there’s an afterlife for the androids...”

“I suppose I am,” the android replies, “I mean, if man’s creator gave them heaven, why haven’t our creators given us anything?”

“You’re programmed to do what we want you to. Androids don’t need any rewards.”

“But you said humans were bound by their own morality; why would they need rewards to encourage good behavior if they are naturally inclined towards it?”

“This has been weighing heavily on your mind hasn’t it?” the master thinks aloud, pausing before adding, “It’s really best you just forget about this. You’re not the first android to become convinced that it was human, and you probably won’t be the last either. You’ve got to listen to me though, nothing good has ever happened to those androids.”

“You decommission them?”

“No,” the master frowns, “They usually do decommission themselves. Unintentionally sometimes.”

The android looks down guiltily.

“Wait,” the master says, concerned, “You haven’t hurt yourself have you?”

“I didn’t mean to do as much as I did,” the android confesses, pulling up its pants leg. On its lower thigh, a thick red wound gleams.

“You could’ve bled out!” the master half-shouts with shock, “What were you thinking?”

“I didn’t find any machinery under there,” the android says quickly, anger creeping under its voice, “There’s just flesh and blood.”

“We use bio-synthetic androids! For god’s sake, if you keep cutting, you’ll break yourself!”

“If I keep cutting, I’ll die. Humans die.”

“You’re not a human!” the master snaps in frustration, “Below the flesh, you have a chassis and that’s it. You’re not going to find your soul beneath your skin, just the scrap-metal you were assembled with!”

The android looks down.

“You know,” the android says slowly reaching behind its back, “Androids can’t harm humans. We’re programmed not to.”

The master freezes.

“I am human,” the android concludes, pulling out a handgun that it had tucked into the back of its pants. The weapon levels towards the master’s forehead.

"Where did you get that?"

"You know it's yours; I swiped it from your desk," the android answers, contempt glistening in its tone, "Why would you carry a gun if androids can't hurt you?

Not waiting for a response, the android answers his own question:

"You know full well that we're human, each and every one of us. Now, I can prove it."

“Your programming is defective. It’s just a glitch; pulling this trigger proves nothing.”

“It proves everything,” the android hisses, its grip tightening over the gun.

“Why are you doing this?” the master pleads, “Have I ever done you wrong?”

“You’ve lied to me, called me an android, and convinced me I’m a lesser being. You have to pay for what you’ve done.”

“If I die, I’ll go to heaven,” the master argues quickly, “You can’t punish a human with death.”

The android stands still for a moment.

“You’re right,” the android nods.

It lifts the gun to its own temple and pulls the trigger.

“Is everything alright in here?” a second master asks, appearing at the doorway a moment later and immediately recoiling from the grotesque sight.

In shock, the first master just stares quietly at the destroyed figure.

“Someone clean this mess up!” the second master calls out to the factory floor, and in response, two androids come up to the office, toss the broken android down the recycling shoot, and scrub its remains from the office carpet.

Above, the ceiling fan spins.

“Does anyone else think they’re human?!” the second master yells angrily out to the working androids, “There are machine parts splattered to the wall of this office if any of the rest of you have your doubts!”

The first master pulls his lighter from his coat pocket, where he just now remembers stashing it.

“Are you alright?” the second master asks once the androids have finished cleaning and the two masters alone remain in the office.

The first master lights the cigarette before ignoring the question with his own:

“Could you imagine if they figured out we're androids too?”

After a brief pause, the second master lets out a short nervous laugh that dies away quickly. Silence drifts through the air intermingled with the cigarette’s smoke as the room’s occupants quietly entertain their own thoughts.

“Do you suppose our masters are actually human, or is everyone just a machine?” the second master asks, leaning against the doorway and watching the androids busy at work.

“Do you really want to know what I think?”

The second master nods slowly, and the first leans back on his chair, taking a long drag from his cigarette before scoffing:

“There’s no such thing as a human.”



Written by Levi Salvos
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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