The title says it all. Keep reading if you’d like.
I boot up half an hour before Leo is awake. The night before, he had fallen asleep with a pair of glasses on his head and his face pressed into the keyboard of his computer. Today, I will get a home and a family and I will not live with Leo, the creator. I will be someone’s son. With such thoughts, I search the terms ‘new family’ and ‘new children’ only finding videos of screaming infants being born and babies cooing. I am not a wailing child. I am an ageless android with the appearance of a seventeen-year old male. Am I, as a new child, supposed to scream when the family arrives? Leo has picked out a new outfit for me. He says he went for it after I had shut down for the night. He wants me to look special for the occasion.
“Thank you, Leo. What am I supposed to give you?”
“You don’t need to give me anything?”
“Human customs, such as gift giving, generally require the second party to give something in return.”
“Please take my word on this. They will arrive soon. Would you like to go meet them? You can be the first person they see,” Leo says.
“I’d like that very much, sir.”
Leo leads me to an elevator that takes us to the ground floor of his facility. There is a young, blonde woman with a lab coat like Leo’s and she’s seated behind the desk. She’s quickly typing and chewing something.
“Good morning, sir. Is this Mr. John Doe?” she asks Leo.
“Yes, it is, but he does not approve of that name,” he looks to me, “this is Julianne.”
“Good morning, Julianne,” I search for a phrase to use, “it is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Why, thank you. It’s wonderful to meet you as well.”
Leo speaks up, “Has there been any word from the Davis family?”
“They are on their way. They’re very excited to meet you.” The last part, she says to me.
I blink at her and smile after conducting a search for appropriate expressions. I stand by the front door and wait, watching videos of babies being handed over to new parents. I would be the new baby; their excitement for me would be real, but I couldn’t be sure.
“It looks like they could be here,” Leo announces.
I watch a small family exit a car and hold myself back when the front doors slide open.
“Good morning, Doctor Carpenter,” the man, the father of the family says.
“Good morning, Mr. Davis. I’d like you to meet, well, he doesn’t have a name. But he’s very excited to see you.”
Leo grasps my shoulders and directed me to the Davis family. As he does, my memory goes black. Everything to do with introductions has left me. I open my mouth to speak, but all that comes out was a track of a screaming newborn and speaker feedback.
“What the hell is his problem?” a brown-haired male asks from behind everyone else and louder than the screams.
“Graham, don’t be so rude,” the woman, the mother, says. “He’s nervous.”
“Robots can be nervous? Isn’t the point of them to be better than us?”
Leo grabs my hand and steps in front of me. “Cut the recording. Bring up the instructions. Do as you read,” he commands, keeping his voice calm.
I go silent. “Hello. I am pleased to meet you.” I hold out my hand to the man, waiting for him to shake it like I had seen him do.
“Bumpy start there?” the man asks.
“I made a bad first impression.”
“No, no, no, you’re fine. I’m Matthew Davis. This is my wife, Annie. These are our sons, Oliver and Graham.”
“Betcha can’t tell who’s adopted,” Graham says. He pushes his hands into his jeans and leans against Julianne’s desk, shaking the surface.
I look from person to person. Matthew and Annie both have blond hair. Oliver has blond hair. Graham’s hair is brown. The three have blue eyes like Leo and Graham has brown eyes. Graham is in fact three inches shorter than Matthew and six inches taller than Annie, and thirteen inches taller than Oliver.
“Hi, I’m Oliver. I think it’s really cool that we’re like, the same age. We could be really good friends, and I feel like I’m gushing, but am I talking too much? Oh my god, I’m so excited to meet you.” Oliver smiles at me with very white teeth.
“I would like that. I hope you feel the same way, Graham.”
Graham rolls his eyes and straightens up. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s get a move on.”
“Would the rest of you like to follow us down to the lab where you can learn some more about him?” Leo asks.
“That sounds like a fine plan”, Matthew answers, shooting his adopted son a look of disdain.
The elevator ride is quiet. Oliver and his parents stand together and Graham stands in the corner away from the rest of us, a cell phone in his hands. I look them over once more; Graham has a scar on his cheek an inch long, just below his right eye. The odds of what could have made that scar are astronomical. He looks up every few seconds and locks eyes with me. Oliver watches us as Graham grimaces at me for staring.
“So, what do you know about humans so far?” Annie asks.
“Not much. Leo has programmed manuals into my memory along with the ability to conduct internet searches.”
“Oh my god, we bought a goddamn Googler,” Graham says.
Graham’s parents glare at him, but Leo answers. “He can make searches like that, yes. He has the brain of a supercomputer. He has a small library on human interaction. He can record sounds, videos, and even watch and listen to the results he finds. He can also tap into different languages. He’s multilingual. I take great pride in him. He just doesn’t have a name yet; that’s up to you.”
“We could call him Aaron,” Graham says.
As the elevator doors open, Oliver takes my hand and explores the lab with me. He reads monitors and texts he finds around the room. His eyes light up when he finds a report on me. Leo takes Matthew and Annie to his main computer and they begin talking about me. Graham stands in the corner, tapping his feet and looking at the phone again.
“Graham, would you like to look around with Oliver and I?” I ask.
“Come on, Oliver. Stop texting and get over here.”
“I’m trying to get signal,” he replies.
“Oh, Graham, that will be difficult since we’re actually underground,” Leo laughs.
Graham sits in a chair and spins, shoving his phone into his pocket. Matthew and Annie glance at their son and return to talking to Leo. Oliver squeezes harder on my hand and beams at me. He is very happy. They are all happy, but Graham seems indifferent.
After one hour, fourteen minutes, and thirty-two seconds, Leo bundles up paperwork and hardware and leads us all back to the elevator. They did, in fact, call me Aaron. Leo hugs me and Julianne smiles from her desk as I leave the building with the Davis family. I am going to a home.
“Aaron, we’ve got everything prepared for you at the house. We’re so excited for you to join our family. I hope you like it,” Annie says from the front seat of the car.
Oliver begins to lean on me in the backseat, myself between him and Graham. Graham doesn’t try to socialize with me, constantly looking at his phone. Oliver chatters about all of the things that we can do when we get back to the house and he enthuses about school and he is excited about it just being December; he is overjoyed about giving me a gift for the holiday, Christmas.
Matthew turns the car onto their street and parks in the driveway of a grand house decorated for the holidays. It looks inviting and I watch as everyone else files out of the car, but they all wait for me, including Graham. Oliver links his arm with mine and leads me into the house as Matthew grabs the things Leo had given them. From behind us, Graham says something to Annie that makes her laugh and she agrees with him.
“Welcome home, brother,” Oliver says, pushing the door open.
The temperature of the house is a warm seventy degrees and I pick up the scent of sugar cookies emanating from an air freshener plugged in to an outlet under a western window in the living room. From a search, I find it to be customary for homes to smell sweet and inviting as such during the holidays. For a first experience, it is a wonderful one.
“The boys competed with each other to figure out who would share a room with you. They found it to be fair, I guess. You’re going to live with Graham. After some debate, he decided to clear some things away and finally agreed. Go look,” Annie says.
“Come on, little man,” Graham says. He starts for the stairs and turns back. “Are you coming?”
Graham’s door is covered in decorations ranging from stickers to vinyl coated metal signs. He pushes the door open and says, “Regrettably, mi casa es su casa.”
“This is your house? I thought it belonged to Matthew and Annie?”
Graham groans. “God, you’re already weird.” He kicks off his shoes and falls onto an unkempt bed.
There is a fully made bed complete with bedclothes along the east wall with Graham’s bed across from mine. There are two desks, both with laptops. There is a dresser filled with clothes that look to fit me and a backpack loaded with school supplies and a note that reads ‘If you’d like to go to school.’ If I were human, I would feel ‘warm and fuzzy’ inside.
Graham looks up from his phone. “You like it, roomie?”
“It’s all mine?”
“Everything on that side,” he replies, waving his arm.
“Thank you, Graham.”
Graham and I return to the living room and I am welcomed with hugs from Matthew, Annie, and Oliver. They ask about the room and how I like it. Matthew starts dinner and the rest of us sit around the dining room table; I feel sad that I won’t eat, but they understand completely.
Annie says that Graham and Oliver have school tomorrow. Graham tells me that with his experiences, he’s in eleventh grade when he should be one grade higher in school. He and Oliver are in the same grade. Annie doesn’t expect me to join them because of my status and she and Matthew won’t push me if I don’t want to go. Oliver says he would try to convince me before he and Graham retreat upstairs. Graham warns me about being quiet or he would strip me for spare parts or he’d even try to reprogram me.
Matthew and Annie go to sleep and I go upstairs and I sit on my bed. I search ‘bed etiquette’ and I find many sexually explicit photos and people under comforters. The room is dark, but moonlight comes through the window. The temperature outside has fallen to thirty degrees and the room is a toasty seventy-five. I pull the blanket over my body, feeling no difference.
“Graham? You’re awake?”
“I wanted to welcome you. I’m sorry that I’ve been abrasive today. I wasn’t sure how today would go, but our parents are probably the greatest people I know and I love them. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”
“Okay, Graham. Good night.”
Maybe my experience in this house will be different than what I had thought. Maybe I will be different.