Imagine having no control over your life, being merely a puppet with strings. To spend nineteen years of your life, believing it to be your own, before finding out that no decisions were yours to make in the first place. To discover that everyone you ever trusted has spent all these years lying to you. And here’s the worst part, realising that you’re not even human, that you’re not even alive.
The very first memory I have is of stepping out of black nothingness and into a blindingly white room. My immediate response was to shield my eyes, reflecting the light off my metallic hands. I remember how the room smelt strangely of pungent chemicals, my nostrils were stinging. Back then I was only a newborn and had no knowledge of chemical substances, or to be honest of anything. The smell was foreign to me and my brain was dazed and confused. I had no idea of what was going on.
“Not to worry dear, you’re one of us now”. A tall woman with shoulder length flaming red hair smiled at me endearingly, and placed a hand on my shoulder before guiding me out of the room and into a cylindrical glass elevator. Once in the elevator, the woman pressed one of thousands of coloured buttons. An automated voice informed me that we were going to the twenty seventh floor. “My name is Amelia” the woman addressed me again. “Welcome to our world young one”. Looking Amelia up and down, I saw that she was painfully thin but with hugely exaggerated curves, and was wearing a long grey pencil skirt paired with a tight fitting indigo coloured blouse. Unfamiliar with social protocol, I stared at this woman for a long time, curious as to who she was and where she was taking me.
Two minutes later, I found myself in what looked like a classroom. When Amelia turned to leave the room, I panicked and opened my mouth to protest. She was the only person that I knew, and I felt lonely and vulnerable. Gazing into my eyes with her electric blue ones, she said “Trust me. You’re one of us now”, and with that she turned on her heel and left me all alone.
“You’re not alone you know” came a voice from my left. I jumped with surprise, and turned to face a breathtakingly beautiful creature. Her wavy hair was violet, and lay tousled, reaching halfway down her back, and her eyes...the eyes! I couldn’t tear myself away from them. Chocolate brown and deliciously alluring, I felt as if I had been sucked into them, as if I was spinning around, and the longer I spun, the deeper I fell...
“I think I like you”. Her breath smelt of rose petals as she breathed into my ear. Her voice was sugar sweet and had a musical quality to it. “I really like you. I can make you rich if you like? Do as I say and I’ll give you everything you want, and more”. Trembling and dizzy, I nodded my head. I was speechless.
Later on, I learned her name: Eva. Eva was one of the Station leaders and extremely manipulative. Like a black widow spider, she had me tangled up in her web from the very beginning. From that first encounter, I was bound to do her bidding for all time. While under her spell, I believed that I was in love with her, and that she loved me. I did her favours, and in return she provided me with luxuries that my fellow creatures would die for. Due to my relationship with Eva, I was considered high up in our community, and earned a certain amount of respect. However, I could only push the boundaries so far, and it was my crossing of this line that led to me finding out the truth...
Three years later, I was settled in at the Station (the name for the metallic building which housed me and my brothers and sisters), and was comfortable with myself and the people around me. My mirror reflection showed a well dressed young man of nineteen, of average height, slim build and shaggy black hair which had grown to just past my ears. I’d earned the nickname ‘Shadow’ among those I knew well for my uncanny ability of turning up out of nowhere and slinking around in the shadows undetected. I never intended to be deceitful or to spy on others, but I often overheard things that I wasn’t meant to hear just from seeking places to spend time alone. I was never one to bathe in the spotlight, I am quite introverted and preferred to keep to myself. Nevertheless, no matter how many times I told them this, people insisted that I was the sly and stealthy Shadow who delighted in hiding in dark corners, stalking unsuspecting victims. In the end, I gave up and decided to let them think what they wanted.
The majority of our hours each day at the Station were spent in classes, in training sessions. We were never told what we were training for, just that it was essential for our intellectual and physical development. Every time that one of us dared question anything, we always got the same answer:
“Trust me. You’re on our side now”. What was that even supposed to mean? Millions of questions used to run through my head: What do they mean by our side? What is the other side? Who are they? Why are we fighting? Despite all the nagging questions, we were never given real answers. We were simply expected to do what we had to do. Train. We had no idea what we had to train for but we had to train. Training sessions included tests on facts and figures, tests of agility, tests of endurance and scenario based questions. We repeated these tests over and over again and our results were recorded to track our progress. We also had regular medical check-ups, weapon training and combat practice.
Other than our training, we weren’t allowed to do much. Then again, I didn’t get much time to myself anyway, seeing as I was regularly requested favours by Eva. Eva’s favours often included unpleasant deeds which I hated doing such as the execution of traitors, but something about her eyes made me feel obliged to do them. It was after the completion of one of these tasks, when I was on my way to inform Eva, that I happened to stumble on a top secret meeting and overhear the unthinkable. Making use of my natural talent, I hid in a dark corner and peeked out from behind a pillar.
The Council Hall was a long rectangular room with dark oak wooden flooring and an extraordinarily high domed ceiling. This was on the thirtieth floor, the very top floor of the Station, and the ceiling was attractively decorated in order to resemble a starry night’s sky. Council members sat around a long glass table to discuss matters of importance. This specific meeting was a matter of urgency.
“All rise”, ordered the balding man at the head of the table. The council members did so.
“Tonight, we have a matter of urgency”, he continued. “The time is nearing that we have to act. The moment that we have all been training for. Our precedents have become savage and violent. We must take this opportunity to attack, wipe them out, and begin our lives again as the new superior race!” This short speech was answered with tumultuous applause, a standing ovation.
“Hear hear!” cried an unfamiliar voice. “Those humans need teaching a lesson”. An uncontrollable gasp of horror escaped my usually tight lipped mouth…
Silence. Absolute silence spread across the room in response to my outburst. All heads were turned in my direction, at my confused and distraught expression. If I had skin, I would have gone pale as the blood drained from it. Instead, I was metallic, metallic from head to toe with the exception of my eyes – my human eyes. The faces around me were deadly, their penetrative stares pierced through me like the blade of a knife. I cleared my throat.
“Human. So we’re not human?” A cold laugh sounded near me. I was shocked to discover that it had come from Eva’s lips. Eva turning against me, of all people – and that laugh! That wasn’t her. Then I realised, we didn’t have eye contact. Without eye contact, she had no power over me, I felt hollow, no, I didn’t feel at all. I was just a metal casing, I had no heart. Eva’s alluring powers had messed with my mind, tricked me into thinking I could feel, but it was all false. There was no point in trying now, no reason to resist their decision to lock me away. Of course, I knew too much now that the secret had been revealed. My knowledge was dangerous. The question now was, how much more were they hiding from us?
Collapsing on to the cold stone floor as the guards slammed the door shut and locked the heavy bolts behind me, I tried to order my thoughts in my head into some way that I could understand. Putting my hand on my chest where my heart should be, I groaned, aching with emptiness. Taking a few moments to take in my surroundings, I learned that my new home was to be a dingy, cell-like room. It smelled damp and musty, like a desolate building left through the cold and wet winter with no central heating. While I was looking up at the ceiling, a droplet of liquid fell on to my tongue – salty. I wiped this off my tongue on to my hand.
“Attractive”. This startles me and I whip my head around wildly from left to right, trying to find the source of the sound. All I could see was an enormous plasma TV screen across the room from me, a pile of wooden crates, and what appeared to be a sliding trapdoor in the centre of the floor. A badly stifled laugh echoes off the walls of the room and eventually, I set my eyes on the culprit. She’s a brunette girl of about seventeen, a little short for her age. Her chestnut brown hair falls just below her shoulders, and she coyly twists a few strands round her finger nervously while looking back at him.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you there”, I apologise, my hand clasping the back of my head. The most noticeable thing about the girl was that she had skin, real skin, not the metallic supplement that I had to live with. She was fair skinned, and freckles sparsely littered her cheeks. They looked pretty, the same way daisies decorate a field. She wore a ripped pair of black bootcut styled jeans with a faded blue hooded jumper. Her clothes were tattered, yet she still managed to look attractive. This was natural beauty, not the dominatrix glamour that Eva had. Eva was nothing to me now, but this girl was definitely something. She stepped forward and held out her hand.
“Hey, I’m Serena”. I returned her natural, effortless smile and put my metallic hand in hers. Her skin was soft and smooth, silk on my hand. Gasping, I reluctantly let go.
“Sorry, it’s just you’re...”
“Human?” she finished my sentence, the left side of her mouth turned upwards in a mischievous grin.
“Yeah, sorry, my name is...erm, Shadow”. Selena laughed.
“No, what’s your real name?”
“Well, that’s what they call me”. If I had been human, my cheeks would have been flushed at this point. I didn’t know what else to say. Once Serena had finally accepted that I didn’t have a real name, she felt sorry for me.
“That’s terrible, to not even have a name. One of many trapped organisms, brainwashed and existing just for the sake of an army, perhaps to die”. The grin on her face vanished as her voice trailed off, and was replaced with concerned eyes. What she didn’t realise was that she had provided me with new information. I was about to discover the terrible truth.
“That’s the sole purpose of my existence?” I croaked, disbelief etched all over my face. “I wasn’t given life, I was built to be a killing machine? Am I even alive Serena?” Liquid filled the bottom of her eyes and she was full of pity. Pulling her lips apart, she could only choke out one word:
“No”. It was at this point that the jigsaw pieces started to fit together, everything began to make sense. That memory of the white room where I’d first met Amelia – it was a laboratory. I lifted my hands to touch my eyes, the only remaining part I had of my original human self.
“They captured your human body, Shadow. You were already dead, all of you were. They took your human body to use as a model to emulate when making your new metallic body. Then they extracted your eyes and placed them in metal eye sockets instead”. Suddenly I realised that my eyes were the only part of me that identified me as me, one apart from the rest. Eva’s eyes weren’t human though, she must have been completely artificial creature. Staring down at her feet, Serena continued:
“You were built to be part of an army, a superior species”. So that was what the relentless tests and training were about.
“But how can we be a superior race?” I asked her. “Like you said, we’re just rolling eyeballs in metal casing. We’re not even living”. Serena rolled her eyes and sighed.
“Humans have become self destructive, starting wars and murdering one another for no reason. They’re competitive, everyone is out for themselves and we’re losing all sense of community, perhaps humanity. But we’re not all like that”. Her eyes begged me to believe her. She had no reason to worry. I could think nothing but admirable thoughts of her, her gentle but mischievous face, her caring eyes, her sweet smile. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was in love with her.
“Anyway, your people are convinced that the human race’s time on Earth is up. That our erratic emotions are just a hindrance of what humans could really be. Apparently, the best way to be is apathetic”. I sat in silence for a few moments, contemplating the ridiculousness of this theory. Then a question sprung to my mind:
“Why are you here Serena? How do you know so much?”
“They study my behaviour. Apparently they’re working out my weaknesses in order to make this superior race even more superior”. She rolled her eyes and then they snapped open again. A crackling noise from behind her had caught her attention and she turned around to see squiggly grey lines slithering across the big screen. It seemed to be receiving signal. After a short period of interference, the screen suddenly flashed red, and a live video camera shot of Amelia came into focus…
“Greetings my dears. The moment we have all been waiting for has come. In just twelve minutes, my dears, the Station, which until now has been airborne, will be landing on Planet Earth. We must all assemble on the ground floor and prepare for ambush. Once you leave the building, attack any living creature but our own in sight. Those beasts are inferior. Do this and you will be rewarded with a much better quality of life. Trust me. You’re one of us now”. Amelia ended her speech with a toothy grin and the screen flickered into blackness. Serena and I stared at one another speechless, for two whole minutes. It was not until the room started filling up with metal killing machines that it dawned on us.
“We should escape. We have until touchdown to make it out and start running. That way we’ll have a head start before these morons are released”. I stared at her in disbelief. Without thinking it through, I switched the screen back on and began searching on the touch screen for the word exit. Serena laughed.
“It won’t be that easy. There’s an invisible barrier between the Station and the outside. It’s intelligent, you’ll have to pass some kind of test to get through”. Just then, the real Amelia walked into the room and snorted.
“You won’t get through there. The only beings who can pass through are ones with a heart and human emotions. You’re just a machine”. Serena nodded.
“That’s why the others can’t escape until the ship has landed. The doors won’t open until it recognises human soil”. I sighed, there was no use in me trying. There was still a chance for Serena though.
“You can escape. You’re still human”. She closed her eyes for a few painful seconds deliberating. When her eyes finally opened, they were shining – she had an idea. She turned to me and looked me straight in the eyes.
“You say you feel no emotion? Then how did you feel so empty after you were told you didn’t? There must have been something there in the first place”. Confusion prevented me from replying. She had a point there.
“Stay still” she said smiling. Slowly, she walked up to me and planted a kiss on my cheek. Suddenly I felt vibrations inside me that I’d never felt before. I could feel something! Serena bit her lip, anxious for her gut feeling to be proven correct. Desire welled up inside me and I touched my metallic lips to her silky soft ones. I was unsure what to do at first but then instinct took over, and we shared a long passionate kiss. I was elated.
“I have feelings!” I exclaimed. Serena smiled sweetly.
“You always did”. Following her words, the trapdoor in the centre of the floor slid open and the barrier absorbed us both.
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