Like the Prose: Challenge #3 – The most important short story the world requires. Or failing that, just write about the most important thing in your life.
“Aren’t you afraid he’ll turn on you?” they ask, when they find out she’s in a relationship with a synthetic lifeform. “I mean, can you really trust one of them?”
It doesn’t matter that Basil is an officer in the Space Fleet, or that he actually went through the space academy and earned his two degrees, rather than merely having the information uploaded into his neural net. It doesn’t matter that he plays the acoustic guitar, the violin, the piano, the French horn, and the Gemellian flute. It doesn’t matter that he’s published three volumes of poetry (under a pen name, of course) that were critically acclaimed and popularly adored.
They see Machine, and they’re afraid.
And the truth is, she’s afraid, too.
But not of him.
Never of him.
Outside their relationship, she’s afraid she isn’t really talented. That her latent telepathy is somehow making audiences think she’s a better actor than she really is.
She worries that the dark characters she tends to play, these evil dictators, serial killers, and literal madwomen, will affect her psyche. With every one, it gets a little harder to find her footing after the run of the play is over, and normal life has resumed.
Then, too, she isn’t always certain she’s cut out for normal life. She’s never really learned how to live in one place all the time, and even when she was on the ship with Basil, he was going on remote missions. Their time together is counted in days and hours, not in weeks, months, years, and she can’t imagine what it would be like if she… stopped.
But now she’s pregnant.
And okay, they used donor sperm, because Basil literally can’t sire children, but he’s the one who used the turkey baster and made her pregnant. They’d turned the lights down and played soft music in their quarters and tried to keep the clinical, technical aspects of artificial insemination to a bare minimum.
But she’s worried that their child will face bullying or bigotry because her father not only isn’t human, he isn’t even organic. And she’s afraid that same child will, one day, reject Basil and demand to know who the sperm donor is.
And she can’t bear to imagine the hurt on either face, either the one she hasn’t seen yet, or the one she sees every day.
Basil. Basil isn’t the most important thing in her life, but he’s the most important person other than her own self, and he knows her better than herself most of the time, and she doesn’t know how she’d survive in the universe without his calm rationality, or gentle guidance.
And that brings up a host of other fears.
She’s afraid she’ll never love him with the same devotion he offers her, that her fickle human heart can never be quite as steadfast.
She’s afraid she’ll lose his interest when he’s heard all her stories and learned all her secrets.
She’s afraid that when her age begins to show, and he retains his youthful appearance he won’t want to remain in their relationship, or she won’t. And she’s afraid he won’t be willing to let her go when it’s time for her life to end…
And she loves, him, she does. She’s loved him for more than half her life, and honestly can’t imagine sharing a life with anyone else.
She hears people whispering about how she’s got a taste for the exotic because her high school boyfriends (all two of them) were both aliens, and now she’s with a synthetic lifeform… and she wonders if maybe it’s true that she’s with him because she doesn’t know how to be with a normal human.
The Christian Bible has over three hundred variations of the phrase “Fear not,” in it. Parents and teachers and counselors are constantly telling us not to be afraid.
But she knows better.
She knows that her fear is what keeps her going. It keeps her motivated. It keeps her accountable. It’s her best friend, her worst enemy, her constant companion.
She’s afraid of what might happen if she stopped being afraid.