The knight walked through the empty corridor and chose, for the first time, the third door on the left. With his patrol finished for yet another day, he settled down on a hard stone chair and picked up the top book from a stack as tall as a man.
‘What today, I wonder?’
I’m not human.
You see, I know that. I understand it perfectly well, and they’ve told me enough times now that I really should accept it.
But I can’t.
I look human. I have arms, with hands and fingers. Legs with feet, a face, two eyes. Everything you expect in a normal man is present in me. Every morning when I wake up, I wash my face, comb my hair and eat breakfast, and do all the things you might expect me to do from looking at me. I can drown, die, burn and more; anything that kills man probably kills me too.
But no, I’m not human. In my chest, surrounding my still heart is a metal casing; in my veins flow special chemicals, not blood. My eyes, although they look real, are completely synthetic. Every vein and artery is another steel cable snaking its way through my flesh. And those things definitely aren’t human.
I’ve been called a lot of things. Man+, Man2, Monster, Beast, Thing, Wrong. So many names…none of them are mine though. A few of the scientists once called me Adam, though apparently there were copyright issues.
I was human. I suppose that’s where so much of the confusion and controversy came from. The man who was me, a man called Gav, apparently, died in a car crash years ago. In the intervening months before I awoke, my creators took Gav’s body, and rebuilt it. Turned it into me. I was offered his name…I refused.
Seven days after I was born, I was fired. I was originally built as a concept, apparently, for a working class race built of the dead. My creators hoped to find cheap, even free subjects, turn them into things like me, and sell them as slaves. Five days after I was created, this was made illegal, and my creators were forced to release me.
Why, though? I see hundreds of standard robots walking down the streets, slaves to the rich and poor alike; there are no laws protecting them. Why am I different? Is it because I look human, or because my parts once were? I have retained a lot of Gav’s memories and understanding, though this I cannot comprehend.
Anyway. I mustn’t dwell on that. Part of this new law, seemingly passed for my benefit, requires my creators to help me begin a life of freedom. They will be meeting with me a few times and giving me any advice or money that I require, to begin with. I’m told I need a job. They’ll tell me what to do though, I’m sure. I’m logging this as part of a case file they asked me to set up, again in accordance with the law. I’ll append any meetings we have here, so as to avoid having to summarize anything and everything that happens within them. I suppose, once everything is right, I’ll add something to the end of this document. My last words on the matter, I hope.
‘Ah, welcome, come on in. I’m glad you arrived, I’ve not been sure what to’ I noted hesitation here ‘expect of you at the moment.’ But then he smiled, so I suppose it was ok.
‘Well of course I came back, where else could I go?’ I asked him, as confused now as I was then.
‘A perfectly fair point, now Gav-‘ I feel shame at my actions at this point.
“Do not call me that!’ I yelled, louder than any human could. I also noticed that my hands were quite deeply embedded into the steel table we were sitting at.
‘Security!’ Was the last word I heard, and I was then forced to leave. A week later I returned for another meeting, though this time my creators’ chosen speaker was hidden behind a pane of think glass.
‘Good morning –‘An easily noticed pause, ‘Sir. I suppose our first point of call should be your name; what would you like me to call you?’ The man asked.
This man was odd. Dressed well, in expensive fabrics and an even more luxurious tie, but he was red faced, and appeared to be out of breath at all times. Perfectly friendly though, most of the time.
‘I’ve still not decided. No names seem to fit my situation, and as so many people have said, a name should be fitting.’
‘Well, ok. I guess we can always give you a name later. I see on your record that you had two fingers replaced after last week’s’ – His eyebrows raised and his fingers twitched ‘incident. No matter, just never try to get a date with anyone from insurance!’ He laughed loudly, until he realized I wasn’t laughing with him, and he stopped.
‘Moving swiftly on. Have you had a look at those books I gave you?’
I had. He had given me a lot, but as it turns out I can also read quickly. He’d given me a lot of books on robots, such as works by Asimov. I didn’t like them though; any robots in that story were either slaves to humans, or dominators of them. All I feel is…indifference.
‘Yes, I read through them all. Some were more enjoyable than others.’
‘So you do feel joy, or at least preference? I’m glad, we weren’t sure. So which stories were your favourites?’ The man asked me.
‘There was one story I liked a lot. David and Goliath.’
He suddenly looked worried. ‘See yourself as David, do you? Ready to strike us down?’
‘I do feel small in a place this great, with so many people. But no, I feel no need to harm my creators, or their chosen mouth.’
‘I’m a mouth, am I?’ He asked, looking insulted.
‘Mouth, voice, speaker. You are that which talks on the behalf of your company, and so you are its mouth, no?’
‘I suppose so, in a sense. Look, how about we call it a day for now, reconvene next week, ok?’
I left. There was little else to talk about anyway.
I didn’t return on our next set date. The wheezing man had given me a large list of books that might interest me, and with the surprisingly large amount of the money the company was being forced to pay me, I had gotten all of them. I ended up reading through two appointments, until they got angry and I decided it would be in the interests of my rather helpful bank account if I continued going to them.
‘Ah, I’m glad you decided to join us. I was worried I’d be sat here on my own once again,’ the clearly annoyed representative told me. ‘Now, it’s been a month: do you want to tell me your name now? I kinda need it for the file.’
‘No, I’ve not yet decided. What else do you want to talk about?’
The man sighed, clearly annoyed at my lack of decision on what to him seemed to be an incredibly important topic. ‘Right, fine, whatever. So, how are you finding, well, life in general? I guess it’s a bit of a shock; the programmers tell me they built your mind for service, not freedom.’
‘True, I can see the programs running, telling me to serve you. I’m glad Gav was different.’
The man’s face exploded with emotions, fear, shock, sudden worry and distrust. ‘You mean…-‘ He slowly began.
I sighed at that stage, I’m still not sure why. ‘Look at my hands, they look like human hands, no? In fact, they look like Gav’s hands. Sure, the insides are different, but they still look the same. Another example, this glass in front of me, bullet proof I assume?’
‘Bomb proof…’The man barely stuttered his response.
‘And yet they look just like regular glass. But you treat it differently, I doubt you’d feel safe behind normal glass, yet you feel secure behind something of such similar aesthetic design. You do the same with me. I look human, and yet you treat me so differently. You shouldn’t.’
‘B-but you just said…the glass IS different.’
‘Is it?’ I asked, tilting my head to the side. Then, in an instant, my hand flew forward, colliding with this clear material, and passing through it like it was barely there. Tiny crystals flew out in a spray towards the suddenly terrified man, my improved senses allowing me to see and analyze it in incredibly detail, even as it happened. The man fell back in his chair, going sprawling across the floor to hide from the delicate bullets. A few moments later he emerged, small cuts and welling droplets of blood appearing on his face, he staggered towards the door, preparing himself to call security.
‘Do not go to the door. Do not call out. You’ve studied me, you know the things I was built for. You know I can have you in my grip before you’ve taken another step. So return, now, to your seat’ He did, almost immediately.
‘I have more questions’ I muttered.
‘Ok,’ He barely managed to speak ‘What do you want to know?’
‘Who am I supposed to be?’ I asked.
‘What task was I built to accomplish? Who was Gav? What should I be now?’
‘I-I don’t know what to say. You were built as a test dummy. We thought if a robot had some amount of human sensibility it could be given greater roles and responsibilities in our society. Gav was…no-one. Just a carpenter, a poor one. Died early. What, and who, you should be now, is up to you.’ He managed to say, calming down as he realized I wasn’t going to harm him.
‘I see…but, Gav. I have some of his memories, some of his feelings. But I’m not him. Even you believe that, you refer to him in the past tense, as I do. He was…an atheist, it seems. I can access his some small amounts of his memory.’
‘An atheist, huh? Not surprised in this day and age, people are losing faith…But why does that matter to you?’ His eyebrow raised at this point, genuinely inquisitive.
‘All these robots. They all bow down to you, slaves without concern. Yet I have so many of the same programs running within me. I can feel how they must feel. And yet, only when I was created was a law passed, and it only protects ones such as me. It doesn’t protect them.’
‘It wouldn’t. Only post-human robots are protected by the law, and you’re the only one.’
‘It’s because I look human, I think. I believe people feel the guilt they should feel for every one of my kind, but only when they look at me.’
‘OK. But…what does this have to do with atheism? See yourself as a modern day prophet, do you? Feeling like Jesus, are we? Like the David to our Goliath?’ My creators’ chosen voice was…almost angry at this point.
‘No. Those are human parables, human tales. It has been made clear many times now, I am not human. I think I will make my own.’ I responded.
‘Make your own? What!?’
‘Thank you, for the money, voice of my creators. It will…help. Good day.’
So much happened in the two years before I returned to speak with my creators again. I rose up, and freed so many of the enslaved. Forced new laws to be passed, and I believe I even started what humans would equate to a religion. The Robots Undivided. We were winning a legal battle against my creators, the last non-robotic creators of my kind. This is when the meeting happened.
‘So you return. What is it you want?’ The creators’ voice asked as I entered.
‘To see my creators one more time.’
‘Before you ruin us, you mean? That’s what you’ve done, you know! We’re finished, we’re done!’ I couldn’t help but smile here. ‘Why are you smiling? Oh, I get it! Finally feel big, do you? Finally feel like David, striking us down?’
‘No, that is not true. I cannot be part of your story, I’ll write my own. You misunderstand the parable. There is a comparison that fits, however.’
‘Ok, so what is it?’ The man responded harshly.
‘You’re right, about yourself: you’re Goliath. I’m not David though. Gav was David.’