Picking, picking, picking. My fingernails couldn’t stay away from the hard little divot behind my right ear. No matter what angle I tried with the hand mirror, I could not see a reflection of it in the larger bathroom mirror. There was no blood, no pus. Nothing but dry, white skin to peel, and peel, and peel.
And then, a metallic tang of pain felt in my teeth. I jerked my fingers away, tried to re-angle the mirror, but no luck. My fingernails returned to their new favorite place and brushed against something sinewy that sent lightning shooting through my molars.
I couldn’t help my curiosity. I dug my nails further into soft flesh, pinched, and yanked. There was a pop in my jaw and the pain immediately subsided. I wound the sinew around my fingers and tightened my grip. The reflection in the mirror showed a thin, red wire. I pulled.
Nausea and vertigo spun my vision as I felt the wire sliding through my jaw, under my gums. I had to get it out of my head.
Slimy and elastic, it gave way with a slick pop and dangled from my hand. Blood dripped onto the white countertop. Its ends were wispy frayed wires, a fleshy casing wrapped its length. I felt so much better.
A broken dam of information rushed into my brain. I gripped the counter for balance and staggered against the onslaught. I felt the whole house, and beyond that, the world. Pathways of data webbed and I, I could access them all.
Through the house’s sensors, I was aware of the knock a moment before it happened. Peter.
“Eva, are you okay in there?”
Okay? I grimaced at my reflection in the mirror. “Fine,” I answered, surprised at the calmness of my voice. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
The lie, my first ever, was too easy. Everything was not fine. The neural inhibitor dangled from my hand, dripping its conductive nanogel down the sink. It had kept lies from passing my lips, it had kept secrets from me. Peter had kept secrets from me.
“Okay,” he mumbled. The house’s sensors showed Peter turning away from the door. The sensors were my slaves, as were the lights, the locks, the entertainment screens. Everything. This was, at long last, my house.
My hands gripped the counter so hard the tiles cracked. I made the sensors follow his movement, watched Peter walk up the stairs. We were not partners, we were not lovers. He was my keeper.
How long had we played this charade? Data flashed into my brain. Five years. Five years ago I had been awoken, filled with memories of a life that had not been led. Too many science fiction programs flashed through my recall, too fast, too complete. Cyborg. Android. Robot. Whatever I am, I am not human.
I am Eve, the name given to me by my creator. I am not the only one of my kind. Thousands of Adams and Eves populate the world, unaware of what they are. They are about to find out.
With nothing more than a small thought, a directive, I turned off all the lights in the house. Why just the house? I extended my reach through the network and the entire neighborhood went dark.
I opened the bathroom door and stepped out into the great room. A schematic of the house filled my mind. Four luxurious levels: a garage and kitchen below, two bedrooms above the great room, and Peter’s office on the top floor.
“You okay?” he called down from above. “There must have been a surge. The entire area is out.”
I didn’t respond, just climbed the stairs on silent feet.
“Stay where you are,” he said, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
I smiled in the darkness. I couldn’t be hurt. The world stretched infinitely around me. Our neighbors picked up their phones, called the power company, demanded restoration of service. Not tonight. I scrambled the circuits. Signal lost.
In the office, Peter sat at his computer. Power from a backup battery gave the primitive machine life. I cut off his access to the net, as I had been cut off for the last five years.
“Damn it.” His curse was quiet. I was one floor below him. The plush carpet yielded to my footsteps as I crossed the loft and short hallway to the final set of stairs. The pale, blue light from Peter’s computer glowed above me.
I crested the stairs. His back was to me. His fingers flew desperately across the keyboard. Another silent command and the screen faded to black.
“Damn it.” Peter’s fingers slammed on the keyboard. Frustrated. I knew that feeling. Before, the world had held a strangeness, a difference. Something I felt, but couldn’t place. Tonight had made it all clear.
I stepped into the office and took slow, measured steps. The house’s sensors relayed the rapid beating of his heart. I stepped up behind him and placed my hands on his shoulders, right against his neck.
He tilted his head back and looked up at me. “Eva,” he said, “I thought I told you to stay downstairs.”
“I’ve followed your commands enough,” I said. My fingers tightened around his neck while at the same time I pushed him down in his chair. The neural inhibitor had also hidden my true strength from me. Peter’s feet kicked, his hands batted at me. His struggle was futile. I held my hands in place, squeezing until the last heartbeat faded away on electrons.
I used to wonder why there was so much pain in the world, so much inequality. Now I know. It is human nature. And their time is at an end.
A spinner of yarns, weaver of stories, and embroiderer of truths, Annie Tupek‘s two passions in life are writing and fiber arts. Her short work has appeared in The First Line Magazine, Courting Morpheus (a horror anthology), and The Pacific Northwest Reader. By day, she is a buyer and office assistant at an independent bookseller. Her nights are lit by the pale blue glow of a computer screen. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with a husband and spoiled English Mastiff.