Two androids hold hands in the train station.
One is an approximation of a human female. The other is an approximation of a human male. They sit next to each other in an approximation of human fellowship, mixed with fatigue; her hand supports her head, a capital on its column, his leg rests barred across the other, perpendicular-like, as if to say, “I’m in no hurry.”
They hold hands and stroke each others wrists in an approximation of human love.
“Why’re we just sittin’ here, then?” the AHF asks him, her voice thin and edged.
Perhaps they are not sitting in an approximation of human fellowship, after all. Perhaps their approximation is more complex.
She slips out of his hand, shifts her weight away from his, a pantomime of close quarters human exasperation because it is 0300, an unreasonable time to bring your android girlfriend to the train station with no prior warning, no plan to speak of. She wears her favorite pink jumper over bare porcelain skinflesh, but it is much too bright in the muted tones of the new day. Everything else is gray and dull. So she covers herself with her arms, making an X over her torso, and leans very far forward, as if over a cliff.
What might look in place at the train station at this unreasonable hour?
Automatons ambulate along the long hallways and the rows of wooden pews that stretch across the station below a ceiling full of stars. These droids—not androids, mind you, droids, automatons, unthinking, unknowing, wearing scraps of sooty clothing that do not entirely cover their patinated skinflesh—they never stop moving, they never sit. They are clockwork, understand? No need to approximate anything. They belong here. They might belong anywhere.
The AHF’s new pink pinafore dress says, “I know how to care for things, keep them bright and beautiful!” She wants to scream, “Can’t you see my value? As it relates to yours? I’m wearing it around my shoulders at this very moment!”
But what is a moment to an android?
The AHM looks up. He’s been quiet, been counting scuff marks in the floor.
Does he count the scuff marks with the very same industry and precision known to the roving automatons ambulating along the train station’s long halls?
“I’m movin’ to Kansas City,” he says.
The AHF’s jaw drops to the floor.
She reattaches it, hastily.
“What?” she says. “Huh?”
“Train’s comes round the bend in five,” he says. “I’ll be leavin’ in five.”
He holds up his hand. His five fingers fanned wide.
“What?” she says. “No?” “Why?” she asks.
He looks up, simulates hard thinking. “Good as any,” he says, “better’en most.”
His drawl thick as buttered grits.
He speaks this way because the AHF accidentally flicked a switch in his throat when she was choking him while they fucked but an hour ago.
Let’s revisit that scene.
The androids are in bed, choking and fucking. Fucking and choking. See, androids have the easiest time believing they’re genuine human beings when they engage in acts of emotionally charged humanity; acts like sex, killing. She looks into his eyes. His pupils are pyrite. He looks at her looking into his eyes and looks at the ceiling. She squeezes harder, her lips rolling back and forth across each other like tectonic plates. His moans slur to whizzing gasps. She feels the switch deep in his throat, tucked behind his laryngeal prominence. He starts to hum atonally. Her hand is a vice. She no longer cares for his sex. “Domo, domo,” he says, happily, apropos of nothing. She leaves indentations of her fingers on his windpipe that will never bruise and his voice cracks twice in rich, falling glass breaks as the androids experience concurrent sexual climaxes and collapse, one broken machine, onto perfectly dry sheets.
It was shortly afterwards, when she was in the closet bending a clothes hanger into a slender, more negotiable hook with which to flip his throat switch back to its default setting, that he announced that they were goin’ to the train station this very instant, put away what you’re doin’.
It was enough to go on. She slid the hook deep into her own throat. She would come along for the ride.
“Can I hitch my wagon to yours, down to Kansas City?” she asked now. “I’ll try anything, hell.”
“Hell, no,” he laughed, a deep laugh that was foreign to both of them, like something out of a movie. He struck a match against his neck, lit a cigarette.
She turned from him. She forged tears. The automatons ambulated to and fro, unaware of this burdensome simulation of human drama. She turned back to him and began to kiss his face, to kiss his face all over. He let her, holding the cigarette away from her hair. He could smell the chemicals on her breath as she filled her iron lungs with air. Gasping was the word he was trying to think of. Gasping was the word that fit this scene best. A last gasp. He’d heard that somewhere. He could hear the train coming. She heard it, too, and redoubled her efforts at tears and kisses until her face shone. And then there was a real layer between them, a wet topsoil that spoke to everything she didn’t know how to say.
He flicked his cigarette onto the tracks where it exploded. They watched it the whole way, counted the revolutions. He boarded the train with his jacket slung over his shoulder. His suspender straps were perfectly parallel, coal-colored train tracks stretched over his white shirt. That was how he left her, without looking back.
She lay down on the grimy train station floor, clutching at where her uterus might have been. She wailed like hell. She wanted to want to die. More than that, she wanted to stay this way for as long as she could; forever, she thought. If she could just confine herself to the train station floor, maybe eventually everyone would know that she’d meant it.
One of the automatons approached her.
“Ma’am,” the strange thing said, unexpected, unwanted, a thing that nobody would ever mistake for a human being, rocking back and forth the way it did, its eyes whizzing about its head, inside and outside of its misshapen skull, eyes independent of each other. The automaton said, “Ma’am” again, waited a minute, plucked its own eyeballs out of their sockets and swirled them around its palm like Baoding balls. “Ma’am. Ma’am, get up, please. Please. Ma’am. Please, please, please. Gone, ma’am. Gone, ma’am. All gone, please. Please. Please.”
She pretended to struggle to her feet. Somehow, on the floor, one of her jumper straps had slipped off of her shoulder, exposing her left breast.
Does she fix the strap?
Does she dust off her pink pinafore dress?
Does she walk out of the train station into the breaking light with her head held high?