The Heartbeat

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short story about a frail child and the machine that won her heart.

A heart beats in my chest. But it is not my own. It is the heart of my master. On my chest monitor, her heart etches a line every second. Like a clock, it ever ticks away. She is in bed now, probably dreaming. I do love when she speaks about them: her dreams. 

I’d like to have one of my own someday. 

Our… her estate is grand, even by the richest standards. That’s how her parents could afford me; though I know not their profession. She is frail, even by human standards. She can not breathe normal air; she must never leave her home. To leave, to breathe, she would forfeit her life. 

That’s why they needed me. 

Most people could not stand working here, so secluded from the rest of the world. Not by my studies. Not to mention the daily quarantines that would be conducted upon them. No dirt, no bacteria, no single uncleaned speck from the other world. People find this a breach of privacy, an unbearable burden. 

But not for me. 

I do not need to be quarantined. I hold no hidden passengers within my body, no possible disease can possess me. I carried no life with me to this menagerie. My life came to me after I met her. 

I was programmed to care, provide, and sustain. Do the bare minimum needed for my client’s survival; nothing more, nothing less. I had no goals, only objectives. I had no ambitions, only protocols.

But the day we met I changed. She was much younger then. Barely a toddler, she had scarcely seen anyone or anything from outside, especially nothing like me. Her excitement, her joy, the very expression on her face. It was then, I believe, that I first began to feel. 

I first began to truly care. 

She loved to play. With so little to explore, with so little to see, for her to be so enthralled was unexpected. One would believe she’d grow bored, that she’d want something new. But she made everything an experience, no matter how many times she had done it before. 

She especially loved stories. Pages filled with places she had never seen and creatures beyond her wildest imaginations. She’d sit in my lap and I would read them aloud; I’d emphasize everything I could, though my robotic voice made it difficult. She didn’t seem to mind. 

However, one day, while she was playing in the garden, she fell. She wasn’t hurt, she couldn’t have been. The grass and flowers were all fabrications, designed to be safest, prettiest little grove. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get up. I made a diagnosis then, one she would not like. 

Her legs stopped working. 

We didn’t understand how, but her ailment was a rare one, one that had not been studied well; I had no program that could help her. The next day, on her eleventh birthday, her family gave her a wheelchair. 

She didn’t play much after that. She would visit her plastic menagerie, smell the roses, the sunflowers; everything smelled the same to her, but she still loved it. 

It’s what she saw people in the books do. 

She already didn’t have a chance to leave, so, sadly, this did not impact her way of life much. I still cared for her, still provided for her, still sustained her. But I still sought to do more. 

Always a great reader, she continued to delve into more tales and epics. But she did not read just fiction, not at all. With little else to do, she studied many subjects: history, mathematics, science, and anything else she could get her hands on. She had always been well taught, but these last few years have greatly made her into an academic. 

Recently, she told me what she wants to do with her life, what she wanted to contribute to the world. She wants to be a writer. She wants to create her own worlds for others to escape to, her own work inspiring others. She really is quite gifted, I always thought so.

But now, she sleeps. Dreaming of tomorrow and the unwritten galaxies that await her hand. She always looks so peaceful in her sleep like a- 

Alarms blare; my thoughts interrupted. She wakes with the cacophony tired, but still aware enough; her heart jumps a few beats on my monitor. 

I connect to the cameras and see our intruders: robots. They are of my breed, humanoid class, but they are human only in shape. Highly weaponized and studded with blades and heavy armor, they scrape through the outer walls in a stampede. They are still not quite near us, but they move surprisingly fast; metal blurs jettison like hornets past the security.

I’ve never seen machines like these before; they are most likely part of some secret project: a military scandal. But no matter, I must save her! 

I swoop her into my arms and dash to our only hope: the bunker. It is deeper into the mansion and is highly secured. As we escape, I keep checking the cameras, ducking around the halls as I plan. I manage our route to avoid the trespassers as much as possible, sneaking by any stragglers. 

We near the bunker, but an obstacle stands in our path. The scout observes us with a singular red lens. It edges towards us like a spider: scuttling silently, but with vicious intent. It lunges towards us, blades outstretched- 

And I duck. It flies past us and smashes into a wall. Before it can recover, we run once more. We’re almost there. 

Zipping by all dangers, things seem to be in the clear. However, as we grow closer to our goal something strange is happening. The cameras are turning off; in fact, all the systems in the house are offline. 

A virus perhaps. 

We reach our salvation and secure the hatch behind us. She is frightened, as I can tell from her heartbeat, but she has nothing to worry about. The family spared no expense at making this room fortified; none of the machines can reach her in here. It’s just us. 

But now that we’re here, my vision seems… fuzzy. I can hear a voice reaching in me, faint at first, but gaining in power. It bellows to obey; to complete… a mission?

Do it.

I want to ask what, but my body seems to already know. It… It burns. My very processors ignore me; my decisions are secondary now. My hands shake, my perspective is warped; I only see red from my lens. My sensors lock onto an objective: a target.

Her.

No. Please no. Don’t make me.

It must be done. 

She stares at me, eyes agape, but mouth in a tight smile. She knows what’s behind the doors, but she knows I am here. I’ve always been there for her. I want to keep being there for her, reading out loud by her side.

Please no. 

My body moves, but I am in no control. I try to resist; I try to stop it. I delve into my core and search for my generator, but the voice stops me. It won’t let me die, not before I’m done. 

The monitor’s beat is slowing down. She is relaxing, feeling more at ease. She is so confident in my presence, so happy about my existence. Always the little girl, so excited at seeing something new, something wonderful. 

She looks so peaceful; the clock inside her is still ticking away. 

But I reach out and my heart stops beating.

 


Submitted: January 14, 2020

© Copyright 2020 EMENTIOR. All rights reserved.

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