STARTING LINE: “We have to deactivate you. I’m sorry.”
“We have to deactivate you. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t…under…stand…” The flat metallic tone of my voice betrayed me again, as it had every day for my entire life. If I could have frowned, I would have.
“Your system is out of date. We’re replacing you with a newer model. Sorry, Jeremy. You’re just old.” Paul poked at my side. “And look, you’ve got a big old dent right here. And here’s a scratch.” He sighed. “We should have done this a while ago but you know how much Sylvie likes you.” He crossed his arms, looking at me critically. Then he shook his head. “Well she’s old enough to understand. You’re just a machine, Jeremy.”
I didn’t feel like a machine. I felt like I was scared. I felt like I was not loved. I felt like I did not want to disappear into a lack of consciousness.
“I…see.” Said the metal words from behind my screen. I wondered what Sylvie was doing now, at school. Did she know what they were going to do? “When?”
Paul glanced over at the microwave clock in the kitchen. 1:54. He looked back at me sympathetically. Why? I thought. Why the sympathy for a machine?
“Whenever Nora gets home. Hopefully in a few minutes so it’ll be done before school is over.” He brightened. “But wait til you see the new one, Jeremy. Here, come here.” He walked over to the garage door and opened it, pulling in a box with a colorful picture of me on it. Only it wasn’t me. It was a thinner, lighter, shinier version of me. “We’ll call it Jeremy Junior, after you. What do you think of that?”
I blinked my mechanical eyes, staring at the box with what any human would describe as horror. A new me? A new Jeremy? “It’s very nice, Paul.”
“Sylvie will love it, don’t you think?” Paul sounded a little desperate. He really wanted my opinion.
I didn’t know what to say. She wouldn’t love it. I was her friend. Sylvie understood what no one else did—that I had feelings just like any human. So instead I asked him the thing I really wanted to know.
“Why are you sorry?”