First Day Back
by K. A. Williams
A generic android waiter flitted among the tables taking food and drink orders as the ten couples talked among themselves. While they were eating, the android band came and set up their instruments, and as soon as the couples had finished their meal, the band began to play a slow song. The couples got up and started dancing.
Almost immediately, one of the females fell down, and her male partner pulled her up but she couldn’t stand on her own. He sat her down in her chair and turned to me. I fished the communicator out of my pants pocket. “I’ve got a female with a balance problem up here. You’ll have to send someone to get her.”
The other couples continued dancing as if nothing had gone wrong. That was what androids were supposed to do. When the music stopped, I went over to the band. “Just wait a few minutes to start the next song,” I said.
It didn’t take long for two men to bring a stretcher and wheel her out. Her dance partner asked me, “What do I do now?”
I thought about it. “I’ll dance with you.”
He took my hand and led me onto the dance floor. Then he put his arms around me and held me tight. I’d never danced with a partner model before. He was incredibly lifelike.
I felt a twinge of sadness when I realized that this male’s eyes were the same shade of blue as my late husband’s had been, and his hair was the same dark brown color, too. Even the oval shape of his face and the cleft in his chin were just like my late husband’s.
Harold, my husband, had died a few weeks ago after a long and expensive battle with a rare illness called Meriwether syndrome. I had taken time off from work to be with him during the final days, but now I was glad for work; I felt lonely at home. This was my first day back, and I had missed supervising what I called the ‘first date’ test: dinner, dancing, and conversation.
The android was holding me close to him, and it was very pleasant. I could smell garlic on his lips from his meal. I knew that the food had gone down a tube into a container and would be emptied by the android himself in private later. He whirled me around the dance floor, and I wished I had the money to buy him.
Partner androids were anatomically correct, capable of sexual relations, and extremely expensive. They came in all races in ages twenty and up. After this dance, he would go to the sexual relations test, where he would be checked for his prowess in the lovemaking department. Then he would be put up for sale, and I would never see him again.
He stopped dancing and touched a tear on my face. I hadn’t realized I’d been crying. “Why are you upset?” he asked. “Is my dancing that bad?” And he smiled.
I was surprised, I hadn’t known designers were creating androids with a sense of humor, but they were making androids closer to humans every day. I looked at the other androids on the floor. They seemed the same as usual, yet my dance partner was different. “Are you a new model?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “I’m pleased you noticed. I’m designed to be much more like humans than the older models.”
I figured it out. His female’s incoordination had been deliberate; I was supposed to dance with him. The designers wanted to try him out on someone to see how he behaved. I didn’t appreciate them making an android with my husband’s likeness.
The music stopped and the androids started leaving to go to the sexual relations test. My dance partner started to leave, then hesitated. “Will you be all right?”
“No, I’m probably going to be fired,” I said. “Come with me.”
He obediently followed me as I took the elevator to the top floor of the building where I entered the boss’s office without knocking.
“How could you do this to me!” I yelled. “I’ve been a good employee for fifteen years. No android has had a balance problem like that in years. I didn’t deserve to be involved in testing this new android. How dare you make him look a lot like my late husband and deliberately throw us together.” Then I started crying, I couldn’t help myself. “And the worst part is...” — I stopped to sniff back tears — “the worst part is I want him, and you know I don’t have enough money, especially after the medical expenses from my husband’s illness.”
My boss was uncharacteristically silent during my tirade.
“If you’ll allow me to resign before you fire me, I’d appreciate it. That would look better on my resume when I hunt for a new job.”
“I’m not going to fire you,” he said. “I’m sorry that I introduced you to the android in that manner. It’s true that he was designed to look like your late husband, I admit. I wanted you to want him.”
“But why? You pay me good money but you know I can’t afford him.”
“Since he’s a new prototype of a sentient android, he needs to be monitored. You could keep a journal of his life.”
I must have looked embarrassed. My boss smiled reassuringly. “Not the sexual part, that’s your personal business; just ordinary life. You do that for the company and he’s yours. Free.”
I couldn’t believe it. “Really?”
“I know it’s a bit early but happy birthday, Marilyn!”
“Thank you!” I said.
I took my new android partner by the hand and led him out of the boss’s office. “Let’s go home.”
“What about the sexual relations test?” he asked as I pulled him into the elevator with me.
“Oh,” I said, “I can give you that.”
Copyright © 2020 by K. A. Williams