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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

Bones of Steel

Aria Bauer is a Canadian writer wandering about with a guitar, some superhero costumes, and a sweet tooth. She's particularly fond of cupcakes. If you can't get to Canada to meet her in person, you can find her online at @ariabauer.

If Dad could have a robot wife, why not a robot daughter? Maybe the chart on the end of my bed should read Abby 9078982 instead of Abby Hayes.
It's the only explanation that makes sense. The Doctor will think that I'm crazy but the robots are so good, why couldn't someone have made a mistake and called me human? The programming is phenomenal. Robots have metal smiles that are covered in warm plump lips. Steel skeletons under supple skin. They dance across ballrooms with everything from grace to klutziness.
It's easy to believe they're human.
Dad got our robot after Mom left. Miranda 89067. She was warm. She seemed to breathe. She went to my graduation and laughed at my Dad's bad jokes, leaning into his kisses as circuitry lit up her eyes.
Miranda did all the actions. She made my Dad forget and helped him remember how to smile. She looked perfectly human.
But, as the Doctor kept reminding him, she wasn't.
Miranda never felt an attraction. Robots kiss because they should. There is no want. No need.
So I don't know what to tell the Doctor when he comes back. When he asks me why I plunged the kitchen knife straight through my arm. I buried it to the handle and the sharp steel glinted out the other side as my red blood dripped off the blade. A puddle on the kitchen floor.
Inconclusive. Even robots bleed. It adds to the effect.
I was pulling the blade out when the EMTs arrived. They were automatically called by the pain sensors embedded at birth.
Bone or steel. I had to see. I don't think that will placate The Doctor.
Bone, he'll tell me. Broken bone now. Human.
Look at the x-rays.
I know. I saw. Between the blood and red flesh, there was a flash of white in my arm before they wrestled the knife away and cuffed my hands to the stretcher.
For my own good.
My tears weren't surprising. The EMT patted my shoulder and they gave me something for the pain, to stop the tears. Wrong pain. Wrong reason.
Steel would have meant that I wasn't broken. Cold kisses would have been normal. Proper. A simple matter of scientists not yet knowing how to program desire into metal.
But bone, bone means that the problem isn't in the programming. There is no programming. I'm the inhuman human. Cuddles but no kisses. The very idea of lip on lip unappealing. The action nothing more than teeth clicking together, tooth chipping, slimy tongues sweeping, nearly choking, and small bites that leave nothing but pain.
Broken robots can be repaired.
Every ad, every movie, every friend speaks as though lip on lip, tongue on tongue, is the crescendo. The music builds. One mouth on another. Hands roaming. Squeezing, Kneading. Moving from teeth and tongues to private moments and messy fluid exchanges. Camera close up on the faces. It shows blissful, complete, and happy.
The music soars, explaining that this is good. This is what its all about. This is the epitome of every beautiful thing.
This is normal.
This is human.
The Doctor will not understand why I wanted to see steel. That plunging the knife was a rationale act. Steel is the only thing that makes me make sense.
I will tell him that work has been hard. I am depressed. I was trying to kill myself. Those words will make sense to him. He will write on his pad and I will be sent home with a bottle.
He could not understand bone that feels like steel.
It's impossible.
Perhaps my metal is just well hidden.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Author Comments

This story came from a rather lengthy online conversation on the nature of sexual attraction, society's opinion of attraction, and the desperation some feel to try and rationalize their lack of it. I wanted to simultaneously portray how broken the main character felt, while showing they weren't broken at all.

- Aria Bauer
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