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Loyal Companion

A. Rector is an avid world-builder and aspiring writer. When she's not shaping planets or organizing words, she's stargazing, bug-hunting, or trying to figure out where that rainbow stripe on the wall is coming from. "Loyal Companion" will be her first published story.

Someone is knocking at the front door.
You do not wake at the sound, lost in apneic slumber
I stand at your bedside as you sleep, watching as the night hours while away.
My first memory of you took place long after you knew me. I woke up, and you were there, tears in your eyes as you apologized for erasing my mind. You didn't mean to. You were very upset about it, losing a dear friend of seven years. Your only friend. You tried to fix it as best you could, showed me footage of us together, took me to galleries and museums we'd visited, treated me like the old friend I was in hopes of restoring what we once had.
But I did not know you.
Of course, I acted as programmed, a companion droid to ebb the loneliness of an unmarried professor who'd sunk his life into his work, sloughing relationships and accumulating weight, only to be overtaken by a colleague. You told me she didn't even show up to accept the award that should have been yours.
I understand; I'm supposed to.
As I grew to know you over the past week, I collected important details so I could better serve as a loyal friend. I know your favorite food is avocado toast with tomato and runny egg, you'd rather I ask questions than merely listen, and you enjoy history documentaries almost as much as sitcoms from the 90s. Today I learned how you sound when you lie.
My mind is not like yours. My recollection is perfect. As you breathe the shallow breaths of sleep, indifferent to the knocking down the hall, I relive the moment of my rebirth, vivid and real. I now hear the lies lacing the first words I ever heard as my body hummed back to some equivalence of life.
"I didn't mean to do it!"
I was reborn old, rife with years of scuff and scratches, but it is the shallow scrapes lining the hatch to my brain that are most curious. The etchings of a screwdriver, a crowbar? You have the key to my head, you know exactly where it sits in your desk; why were you so hurried to pry my thoughts away? I saw something I shouldn't have, perhaps, and we were far from home, far from the desk, from the key. You deeply didn't want to scrub my mind, that much I can tell, but you certainly meant to. Desperately. So why, professor, did you rip out my records? Why lie? Why erase your friend of seven years?
Knuckles thud against the door as you dream, and I remember my first memory. I see the evidence therein. The blood staining your cuticles like oxidized crescent moons, the dirt under your nails.
Did you mean to do it, professor? I understand.
You spent your life pursuing that award. Her award.
Did I help you kill her? Did your trust in me, in who I was, fail? I can't be sure.
I know I am your old friend.
But you are not mine.
"Wake up, James," I say gently. "The police are knocking."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 26th, 2021

Author Comments

I wish more stories fell in my lap like this one did. I went for a night walk and afterward sat to create this in a short spurt of inspiration. This isn't the sort of thing I typically write, but I'm pleased with it nonetheless.

- A. Rector
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