“Dorrie! Dorrie, honey, come downstairs! It’s time for dinner!” Dorrie Anderson pursed her lips and set down the book she was reading. Without a word, she climbed off her bed and dragged her feet down the steps.
“What’s for dinner?” she mumbled, slumping in her seat and positioning her elbows on the kitchen table. “It’s a surprise!” Dorrie’s dad said, beaming. Well, this should be good, Dorrie thought glumly.
Just as she thought that, a spoonful of broccoli casserole plopped on her plate, spattering her in the face. She grimaced and wiped the muck off of her cheeks with her sleeve.
“Well, this looks like something Lyle coughed up,” Dorrie’s younger brother, Mac, said.
His dad gave him a hurt expression. “C’mon, Dad,” Mac said, “it’s gross and you know it.” Dorrie smirked and began picking at her food while the two bickered.
Then, in a swift motion, she swiped the mess off of her plate when she thought no one was looking. She coughed to hide the sound of it smacking the floor.
Dorrie’s dog, Lyle, hobbled over to investigate. After a second of deliberation, he licked up the slop right off of the floor. Dorrie grinned, then looked up at her mom. “Mom, can I be excused?”
Mrs. Anderson eyed her plate, then shrugged. “Alright,” she said. Dorrie got up and ran back up to her room. Just as she was getting settled on her bed to begin reading again, she heard coughing. Looking up, she saw Lyle trotting in her room with a strange look on his face.
Dorrie’s eyes widened. “Lyle, no!” she gasped, but it was too late. Lyle bent over and retched right on the feathery, hot-pink rug.
Her face crumpling in repulsion, Dorrie pushed a sick Lyle out of her room and went to get some paper towels. She held her nose as she wiped up the puke, then sprayed it with Fabreez.
* * *
Dorrie’s alarm began to beep. Lifting her head from her pillow, she swept her hand along the surface of her desk. Her fingers finally found the sleep button, clamping down on it. Whoosh!
Suddenly, Dorrie’s bed wasn’t holding her up anymore. Her eyes snapped open in surprise, and she let out a disgruntled yelp. She was falling through a black hole, surrounded by sparkles and random objects.
As a cow passed by her face, she slammed against a hard surface. Her legs crumpled and she collapsed to the floor.
Groaning, she sat up and checked if anything was broken. Luckily, it seemed that there were only a couple of minor bruises.
She was in a dark room. Her eyes gradually adjusted to the dark as she unsteadily got to her feet. If she squinted hard enough, she could vaguely see a string dangling from the ceiling. Assuming that it was a light switch, she pulled it.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, then a dim light flickered on and a yellow glow poured into the small, dusty room.
This time, it was brightness that Dorrie’s eyes had to adjust to. They narrowed to slits, allowing in as little light in as possible. Even though it was dim, the light still penetrated into her eyes painfully.
When Dorrie could finally see well again, she began to inspect the room. A thick layer of dust coated everything in sight; it was obvious that no one had ventured in here for quite a while. Suddenly, a flash caught her eye. She turned her head and saw a gold ring winking at her from across the room. The rest of what was holding the ring was being concealed by the looming shadows. Dorrie slowly crept across the thin, torn carpet, careful to be as quiet as possible.
She was soon close enough to make out her reflection on the ring. It seemed to be attached to something soft and fleshy. With a trembling hand, she touched her finger against the squishy material.
One touch was enough. Whatever it was rocked dangerously on the shelf it was on, then tumbled to the ground. Dorrie shot her arms out just in time to catch it. Cautiously, she drew it closer so she could see what it really was.
“Holy…” She recoiled and the object fell to the ground. It had long, tangled hair, eyes frozen with fear, and a mouth still half-open with surprise. It was a head.
Dorrie felt like she was going to be sick. She covered her mouth and looked away, avoiding the repulsive thing. But it was too late; its image was forever engraved in her mind.
At the neck, near the Adams apple, was where the head was severed. Bits of dead flesh hung loosely at the ends, and most of the skin around the wound was shriveled and decaying. The eyes were staring lifelessly at nothing, the color of rain. It’s nose was crooked and skinny; it’s mouth was dried and brittle, the shape of an O.
The smell of death rasped at Dorrie’s nostrils until she couldn’t take it any longer. She hobbled drunkenly towards the other side of the room, then tripped over something on the floor and went crashing to the ground. Her breath was knocked out of her lungs with a small “Oof!”
A small whimper came out of the thing that she tripped on. Suddenly alert, Dorrie scrambled backwards until she slammed into the cold wall. Gathering any sliver of courage that she could find inside of her, she croaked, “Who…are…you?”
No reply. The only sound in the room was Dorrie’s teeth chattering. She couldn’t see what she had tripped on too well; it was hidden under a large shelf. Her entire body was racked with odd spasms, and her breath came out quick and shallow.
Then she heard scuffling. There was a sign of movement from under the shelf, then it was quiet again. After a minute or two, the scuffling began again. Dorrie’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as she watched the thing she tripped on rise to its feet. It wasn’t facing her, but from what she could see, Dorrie could tell it was a girl. In fact, it looked very much like…
The girl whipped around. Her shoulder length black hair flowed down her face, concealing most of her features. Her nose was small and pointed, and her mouth contorted into a cruel scowl. Her eyes were very blue—it almost seemed as if they were glowing. She stood at about 5 ½ feet, and she was wearing a peculiar suit that was streaked with gold and silver.
Dorrie’s mouth hung open. She couldn’t find her voice. The girl standing in front of her was the first to talk.
“Hello,” she said. Her voice sounded human—almost. There was a slight edge that made it metallic—robotic.
Dorrie still couldn’t reply.
“Well, you’re not going to just squat down there and do nothing, now are you?”
Torpidly, Dorrie shook her head.
“Get up then; take my hand.”
Dorrie warily took the girl’s outstretched hand and was sent flying across the room.
“Ow!” She was able to speak now. “What’d you do that for?”
The girl smirked. “Knew that’d get you talking,” she said.
“So…who are you?” Dorrie inquired cautiously.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Well, I’m you, obviously! Didn’t you figure it out already?” Dorrie took a closer look at the girl’s face. Sure enough, they could have been twins.
Fear inched into her body. “What…what’s going on here? Where am I?” she asked, her voice rising two octaves. The girl shrugged. “Figured you’d ask that sooner or later. I just don’t really know what to do…wow, I really shouldn’t have skipped those classes.” She was talking more to herself than Dorrie.
Dorrie had no time for games. “I want answers,” she hissed. “Now.”
The girl held up her arms and said mockingly, “Oh no, my Kid is gonna get me!”
Dorrie’s jaw tightened.
“Alright, alright, no need to get your underwear in a bunch,” the girl said. “My name’s Image. I already know your name, Dorrie. I’ve been watching you your whole life, through the screens in class. No offence, but you have to shape up your attitude; no one needs your grumpiness.”
Dorrie was about ready to explode. “Just tell me what’s going on so I can get home!” she exclaimed. Image sighed. “I knew you’d be one to ruin the fun. Morix told me his Kid wasn’t like that; he was the nicest kid in the bunch. Dunno if he’s already met up with him yet—it’s about time,” she said. When she saw the deadly look on Dorrie’s face, she said, “Okay, I’ll explain to you what’s happening.
“I’m a robot—or so they’ve told me. I wasn’t what you’d call ‘born.’ I was created. Don’t really remember that day, though. All the other ‘bots created that day were sent off to the New Station, where we were assigned a kid. You weren’t made for us; we were made for you. Each and every human being on the Earth gets a robot that’s an exact replica of them. We’re exactly the same—except for this.” Image pulled her jet-black hair behind her ear so Dorrie could see her jaw. Instead of regular skin, there was a golden plate etched into her face. In the middle was a keyhole.
“What’s that for?” Dorrie asked timidly. Image replied, “It’s for when you find your Key to Life. That’s the whole reason you’re here. To find your Key to Life. It could be anywhere on this planet, hidden in a place only us ‘bots know of. The whole point is to test you, to see if you’re one of them.”
“One of who?”