Do Androids Dream of Organic Women?
Taking a literary stroll, this is a short story by Churchill Osimbo, currently the most devoted writer on our website and an avid provocateur permeating our minds with his playfully French titled think pieces.
This time however, what he lays before us is less a call to action piece and more a leisurely journey into a darker notion in his own make-believe scenario. A futuristic ‘Philip K Dick’ inspired short story on our relationship with technology and the fairer sex. I was awestruck by its world-building and its ideas which rather than being preached to me, were merely presented within a space I could travel through and experience blissfully, allowing me to come to his viewpoint in my own way as I hope you all will.
For the one who calls me ‘boy’.
Debbie was beginning to understand more about the world she lived in along with its history. She was at the cusp of womanhood. Something not many had the privilege to declare anymore. Men of the past four generations had known only A.I. ‘feminoids’ after their gender emerged the victors of ‘The Sex Wars’ centuries prior.
Our little lady was an anomaly in the civilized world. A real girl, about to be a woman at nineteen years of age. She lived like most girls did back in the equal days, more or less, sheltered in her father’s house and taken care of. She was, however, restricted from going outside without him or her older brother, Marcus. Often when she looked out the window, she saw girls just like her. Mostly they were prettier, taller and relatively delightful to the men on the street. Robots everywhere.
She longed to step out of her father’s hedge and experience some adventure. She was warned against this on the basis of danger and ‘the rigid and ignorant minds of lesser men’ according to Marcus, to whom she is betrothed to. They’re not blood siblings. A point Marcus made certain to highlight as frequently as he could. She was brought over as an infant from a secluded island populated by real, biologically organic women from whence her father kidnapped her after a falling out with her mother.
Most of every man in the new world is the product of the organic male sperm and an artificial female ovary. Debbie was special in more ways than one. The only real woman and the only real person of her ilk, from two real people. She knew most of this but never understood the magnitude of it until the day of the ball. The Mating Ball.
The world’s leading A.I. company, SpyroTech, held an annual ball unveiling their latest models of female A.I. That year they planned to cut the ribbon off their multi-purpose Stella series. A robot that could be used for sexual gratification, reproductive utility and now even extensive housework. The type of jobs you’d need a Gorb model for. Now you could live an entire lifetime with your new ‘wife’, which would no longer need maintenance every twelve months or so. Terms and conditions apply.
Before the party, Marcus and his dad, Winston, were watching an NFL game and chugging down beers. As a shareholder, Winston was obligated to go but decided to send his son as his ambassador today. Hence the half-complete tuxedo he was in when Debbie stepped out of her room in a red gown ready for the ball. She was Marcus’s date.
“You’re not ready,” said Debbie.
“All it needs is a tie. I’ll only be a minute after the first half is done,” replied Marcus, barely paying her any heed.
She still got startled whenever the two men suddenly yelled out in exaltation. A reaction to a play on screen she had no idea, context or reference to. The two bumped chests the same way college frat boys would some centuries earlier. The house was a perpetual dude zone and looked the part. It also smelled as if it hadn’t seen a Gorb in weeks.
After the first half as promised, Marcus knotted his tie and escorted his sister-cum-date, not of blood relation, he noted, into the car. Debbie was excited about the ball. Since the latest Gorb could do groceries as well, she lost out on her supermarket trips and barely got to leave the house. She was all smiles this evening.
At the chairman’s manor where the party was being held, leagues of expensive cars, some steered by silent chauffeurs, were parked on the driveway. Most of them were automated self-driving vehicles but for the select elite, one may even call them the one percent, their mum drivers were stationed by their rides in outfits that gave them a soldiers ambience. Debbie had to be quipped at by Marcus reminding her of the fact that staring was impolite.
Electric wristbands were the tickets of the day, issued out when a member on the exclusive list turned up at the door. Inside the mansion played loud rock n’ roll music completely at odds with the formal clothing everyone was donned in. Debbie was taken aback once more, “Is it always like this? Every year?”
“This is my first time attending one of these,”
Along the palatial walls of the house lined what were obviously the new Stellas hidden in velvet drapes awaiting their big reveal. Marcus was pretty cynical about the whole thing and unusually held Debbie’s hand for most of the time. Debbie on the other hand was actually quite excited to see what the new Stellas could do. There would be a presentation later on.
The young quasi-incestuous couple was later joined by an old friend of Marcus’s from high school, Roy. He’d taken after his father’s business and was in the running to be his new CEO. He was representing their company that night the way any good executive would, with his old companion version Stella by his side. The poor robot had to know she was getting ditched for her successor tonight, but her jovial setting had been amped up to the maximum.
After exchanging pleasantries and briefly catching up they were faced with a hot second of abrupt silence, to which Roy made his first glance to the female beside his old friend.
“Where did you get this one?” Roy asked Marcus.
“Nowhere. Well, she’s… real,” Marcus replied in sort of a whisper.
Roy couldn’t believe his eyes. He widened them as he approached her and began squeezing her cheeks and feeling on her arms rather uncouthly as Debbie stood transfixed looking to Marcus for rescue.
“Okay Roy, you need to relax. Debbie doesn’t like that kind of attention,” Marcus said, “and by the way, Debbie-Roy, Roy-Debbie,”
Roy went on directing his dialogue specifically to Marcus, “You must’ve killed a president for another president to get a permit for her.”
He went on ignoring the fact that Debbie was not to be treated the same way he treated his Stellas, “I always wondered what the point of having one of these was? Does her vagina rotate and squeeze clockwise and anticlockwise simultaneously? I think not,”
“Maybe Marcus doesn’t need all that junk because his dick still works the way it’s supposed to,” Debbie shot back with a tone colder than a Stella in storage. They exchanged threatening looks for a second before Roy’s grimace curved itself into a smile.
“Well, I’d better get going. Plenty to talk about with plenty of people. See you later, Marcus,” Roy said as he bid them farewell, still looking at Debbie with his side-eye and not acknowledging her as a human being.
Marcus apologized to Debbie for Roy’s behavior. An apology he thought he’d have to issue several times during the course of the event if people noticed her too much though that was unlikely in a party filled with androids that wouldn’t even glitch the Turing Test. After a while Marcus had to leave her side in order to socialize in the gentlemen’s only section on behalf of his father.
Debbie was joined by a Stella whose owner had named her Crystal. She had red hair styled in a bob that made her look like a twentieth century French undergraduate. Said owner also had her dress as skimpily as possible but she was by far the most chic android at the place. What was truly awe-inspiring was how she stood out despite being a really old model. She had to be at least seventy years old, a real classic.
Crystal found Debbie at the open bar having a drink as she joined her. The bartender assumed Crystal must’ve been a real girl too and asked her what she would be having to which the Stella answered in negation. “Hurts my batteries and everything,” she joked.
Debbie had met Stellas before but always from a distance. Her father, or rather the man who raised her is a more apt description, would have one or two for his manly needs and companionship. Thrown out and brought in as he pleased. Being a member of SpyroTech he always had the new model before they were released to market, but not this year’s.
“I heard this is the one,” Crystal initiated.
“The one what?”
“The one that’ll get us all retired. She’ll be used forever. I hear they’ll be able to go a hundred years without seeing a technician. She’ll have the ability to maintain herself for virtually forever. What do you think about that?” Crystal gave her the old Stella gaze as she awaited an answer.
“I don’t know what to think. I’m not a… one of you,”
“Of course you’re not. You’re drinking. Have you noticed them yet?”
“Noticed who?” Debbie asked as she spun around her seat surveying the room. She saw a group of Stellas by the corner gawking at her.
“You’re the only feminoid at the bar—”
“—Lady. I prefer lady,”
“You’re the only lady here. And you can drink, where did you come from?” Crystal asked with yearning in her voice.
“Nowhere, I grew up with my brother Marcus,”
“How does it feel?”
After hesitating and taking in the question for a minute, Debbie answered her, “I’m not quite sure I know,”
Crystal then began to malfunction and bleep sounds incessantly. Her head snapped and tilted to the side in an erratic manner as she grabbed Debbie’s arm. Debbie let out a scream which drew everyone’s attention to the bar. A man in a tuxedo with a tucked scarf rushed to Crystal then fingered the back of her neck. Power off.
Debbie didn’t know what she had done, if indeed she had done anything to cause that, and began looking around the room nervously for Marcus. The man who switched Crystal off turned out to be Sir Alex Spyro, chairman of Spyrotech, recognizable a mere second after a traumatic crisis. Debbie apologized as if it were her fault while Sir Alex inspected his Crystal who, or which, was now lying face down on the bar. As he looked up his attention was completely diverted.
“That’s okay. What’s your name? You’re not one of mine,” Sir Alex asked Debbie.
“I’m Debbie, I’m not A.I., I’m just a girl,”
“Remarkable. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of you,”
Marcus swooshed in at that moment as if he’d just noticed the commotion. He offered his apologies to Mr. Spyro before demanding Debbie to spill the beans of what she had done to Sir Alex’s wife of forty years.
“That’s alright. It’s no problem at all. I know how to fix her,” said Mr. Spyro.
“You know what they say, no matter how impressive, she’s still going to break down once in a while,” Marcus punned in an ill-fated attempt to lighten the mood.
“Crystal never breaks down. But I know you mean, son. Women,” said Sir Alex. As he said the word women he glanced at Debbie who was still flush with embarrassment, “Calm down my darling, you have no fault here,” he concluded as he left behind two men from his security detail to collect his beloved metal for repair.
The night went on as planned. Only difference was Roy had let it slip out that Debbie was an organic, probably out of malice, and soon enough every man at the party was nervously staring at her. Most of them were too chicken-shit to actually talk to her but the few who did, stammered and smiled like prepubescent boys. What had begun as awkward attention turned into some sort of celebrity validation for Debbie. She was never allowed to communicate with anyone other than the two men in her life and now she was being looked at like royalty. She spent most of the remaining night wondering why she liked it so much.
The new models were unveiled. It was announced to roars of cheers that every man in the building would be going home with his very own Stella-RX for sample testing. During this presentation even the speaker stole a few glances at Debbie while behind him stood about ten Stella-RX’s dressed in two piece bikinis.
After the event, Sir Alex had Debbie invited to his office for a quick chat while Marcus waited in the car. She was directed through massive hallways, trekked a spiraling staircase and went down more halls before finally arriving at his office. He had a fifteen by fifteen foot mahogany desk that somehow managed to feel very small for that office. Crystal, still off and unresponsive, was laid out on the desk. He was seated on a couch by the other side of the room in apparent deep thought, inviting Debbie to sit next to him on the second couch.
Debbie slowly approached him and sat by his side. He was silent at first but then burst out in tears which went on and on. An epic weep. Debbie asked what the matter was but he simply went on crying. Sir Alex got down on his knees and took her hand. He kissed it the way one would someone who’d just saved their life; a show of utmost gratitude.
“Forgive me, woman. Forgive us,”
As Debbie took her leave, before she could walk far enough to be aurally distant from his office, she heard glasses breaking and paintings falling to the ground. It sounded as if Sir Alex was throwing his wife around the room like… a rag-doll.
On her way out, a man noticed her heading for the door and ran to hold it open for her. She stopped. This had never happened before. She asked what he was doing. “I’m trying to be… a gentleman,” and as he said this he was too shy or embarrassed to look her in the eye, so he opted to gaze at his shoes instead. On the dais remained one unclaimed Stella-RX. Marcus had told her earlier he would never be needing one.
Written by Churchill Osimbo