I jumped as DEZLON-182-D dropped a square metal book on the coffee table in front of me. Luckily it didn’t dent the marble, the nicest thing in here.
“Watch it,” I said, rubbing the cold surface with my hand. “This is a family heirloom.”
“I am sorry, Emma. What do you think of my project?” Her eye-bulbs shone brighter than usual. She folded her gray hands expectantly.
The book cover chilled my fingertips even more than the marble. “For one thing, it feels heavy. Scrapbooks use paper for a reason, right? Except digital ones, I guess.”
“I thought androids have superior logic skills,” I mumbled. I hoisted open the first page, where an all-metallic layout reflected the living room light in a glare. Nuts and washers lined the border. Thin, overlapping rectangles gleamed on both sides in perfect symmetry. Equidistant from the seam between the pages, two flattened, familiar oval eye-bulbs stared up at me.
I jerked back against the couch. “Dezi, is this—is this Lonnie?”
She nodded. I turned away from the book, slouched with my face in my palms, and shook my head. DEZLON-260-E, our latest model, had barely lasted long enough to earn a nickname. Thank goodness my brothers and I couldn’t afford more realistic androids. I shivered at the thought of synthetic skin stretched across the page with lifelike glass irises staring back.
“How is it?” Dezi asked.
I made myself glance at the open layout and noted the right angles and evenly spaced embellishments. “Too precise. It feels stiff, and not just because of these metal sheets. Besides, you didn’t include any images or journaling.”
“It is how I express myself.”
She must’ve picked that up from my younger brother. “You know, they could’ve reused these parts to make new androids.”
“But this is much nicer, is it not?”
I blinked at her. If Lonnie hadn’t malfunctioned on her own right in front of me, I would’ve suspected Dezi of foul play. But ever since then, Dezi’s eye-bulbs had dimmed slightly, and her movements had turned listless, as much as her joints allowed. Despite Lonnie’s magnificent design, she must’ve had some internal flaw.
“Now there will never be another Lonnie,” Dezi said.
I leaned against the sofa arm, its worn fabric like a hug encouraging me through this awkward conversation. “I think you’ve missed the point. They’re still going to churn out thousands of androids just like her. Like how there’s thousands of you.”
“But not made out of her. I hope you will do the same for me.”
Time to change the subject. “I’m sure you’ve got leftover scraps from your, um, project. May I at least recycle those?”
I read disappointment in her lowered arms despite their stiffness. Even the cheap models were getting good at body language. Somehow Dezi had outlasted an E model. I would’ve expected relief from her—not bereavement—that her intended replacement had failed.
I couldn’t resist. “Dezi, what will you do when I die?”
“I will not make a scrapbook of you, because I sense you do not wish it.”
I smirked. “You got that right.”
“I will mourn as you did when you lost a parent.”
My face fell. My gut hardened like metal. Suddenly, I recalled wires running between skin and devices, monitors flashing alerts, a transplant that wouldn’t take. Family events at which to steel myself knowing my brothers and I couldn’t afford custom medicine. Our own internal flaws.
I had no role in Dezi’s making, yet she regarded me like an aging parent. Perhaps she looked upon Lonnie like a child: DEZLON-260-E, the next generation, so full of potential. We always assume, or at least hope, that the next model will be better, an upgrade. We’re not always right.
I stepped around the coffee table to hug Dezi. Her body, though the same metal as her book, coursed with warmth and energy and movement.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I laughed, pressing my teary cheek into her shoulder. “Oh Dezi, it’s just how I express myself.”
Katherine Quevedo was born and raised just outside of Portland, Oregon, where she works as an analysis manager and lives with her husband and two sons. Her fiction has appeared in Factor Four Magazine, Thrilling Words, Apparition Literary Magazine, Triangulation: Appetites, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and elsewhere. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching movies, singing, playing old-school video games, belly dancing, and making spreadsheets.