Dolly, The Life of a Half-Doll, part 6

Two days later, I was in the meditation room, pre-surgery. I was listening to my meditation music as usual, getting ready to head into a surgery where I'd be working on a tiny human, using an inspired technique from my own sewing projects. The music I listened to was always the same, except for today when it was not.  I heard the classical piano rhythms but underneath them, I also heard a voice: Monica had somehow inserted an audio track underneath the typical piano keys.  

She sounded something like this: "I need you to cut the power off to me so that we can talk. Do it before a surgery, when I'm charging and when you know there's time. Don't worry, it's safe, there are no alarms."  

Well, there wasn't time today but there could be time tomorrow. I hadn't told her I was worried about alarms, but maybe she'd caught onto my fears from my last visit to her.  I'd seen her survive just fine with a two hour charging delay, and I had to admit that I knew our parents were overcharging her to allow me more freedom to help them in surgery.  Now that Monica and I knew about each other, why couldn't we both be free?  I committed to unplugging her the very next day.  By disconnecting her, I was connecting us, once and for all. 

Later that day, after another successful surgery, for which I received numerous accolades from my parents, I noticed Monica in the living room, using the screen with her new friend, Katya. I stayed hidden behind the plant in the living room so that Katya wouldn't see me, accidentally, and so that my mother wouldn't know I was lurking in the background when I was supposed to be in my own room, creating new designs. 

Monica and Katya continued to exchange blank stares and few words with each other; my mother encouraged Monica to ask Katya about her day. "Katya, how was your day?" said Monica. 

"It was fine," said Katya. 

Bored with the conversation, I left the room. Clearly, Monica was not making use of what I thought for sure would be a portal into the universal database, where she could download every bit of information she needed or wanted to know.  All half humans and robots could download directly into their brains, while humans could download right to their electronic devices.  

--

The next day, a new surgery; so many pediatric cases lately. As my parents prepared other parents, I once again wandered down to the charging room, where I unplugged Monica from electronic bypass and waited the impatient five minutes for her to rouse from her deep sleep.  When five minutes passed and nothing happened, I wondered if I should plug her back in or wait for another 5 minutes. At about 7 minutes, she awoke, sleeping beauty awakened not by true love's kiss but by a lack of power streaming through her ready veins. 

"I'm a charging addict now, you know," she said when she saw me waiting for her. "They've made me dependent on the power; I don't know if I can survive on food and sleep alone."

"How do you know so much?" I asked. 

"I tapped into the universal database."

"On the friend pass?"

"Oh no, long ago," she said. "All half humans have access; I've known a lot for some time." 

"Why didn't you ever say anything before?" 

"I had to protect you, big sister," she said. "And like I said, I'm a power supply addict.  I need this; it needs me; I must be charged, but my only way to freedom is to taper off it slowly.  And then once I'm tapered off, we need to escape."

"Escape? But where would we go? And how would we survive?"

"I promise to always take care of you," she said.  "Just like our parents do now, but instead of them using all of your ideas to power their lifestyle, we'd use your ideas to power whatever life we wanted to live. You'd never have to go inside a box again, and I'd only need charging in the normal way, like once a week." 

I had to go then; she begged me to plug her back in.  I did it, reluctantly, racing back to the meditation room, arriving just minutes before the surgery was scheduled to begin.  The whole time I was making those tiny delicate little stitches, I was thinking about my near-twin, the power supply addict and what it might be like to never go into the box again, to always have the freedom to roam wherever I'd like, to have all of the accolades for myself.  What if a doll-baby could make history as the pre-eminant pediatric surgery in all of the land? If a human and robot husband wife team could do it, why couldn't I?  Especially with the support of my very own sister, a normal-sized half human who'd have the knowledge and skill to support me in any situation? 

But what about her power addiction? The thought floated through my mind but I dismissed it.  

"Excellent, well-done, those tiny detailed stitches," said my parents after I closed on the surgery for tonight's patient.  I'd heard those words all before, but I pretended like they made a difference to me, even though I felt nothing as the letters left their mouths. 

 


How the Dolly Story Ends...

Well, I finished the story. I've actually finished two of them over the last several weeks, so maybe creating this blog was just what I needed to not only start stories but to also write the endings.  This "book" is now published on Amazon, where you can read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.  The regular Kindle version is $2.99 and the little paperback (at only 37 pages) is $5.38. 

6

Here's the first story that I am publishing, which will share the ending of the story I started on my blog earlier this month.  I plan to edit the sections that are confusing and of course, I'll add the ending so you can find out what happens to our tiny half-doll surgeon after she meets her sister for the first time.

Take care and keep writing! (And I'd love to know how you'd finish the story!)

Rachel 

 


Crossed Wires, Part 2

Every year, on this day, I cried.  

At my stumbling appointment. Because every year, I was told that there was no way to uncross the robot wires in my human brain without killing me. Every year, they showed me where the orange lines crisscrossed through the middle of my brain and every year, I'd accept my fate, the injustice of being born an HH in the first place, not to mention the stares, pointing fingers, and the wicked thoughts of those who saw me fall on curbs, down flights of stairs and even off boats.  

This year, I cried for another reason. 

"We have the ability," said my robot surgeon. "To go in and do the surgery. We've figured out how to uncross the wires. To do it in a safe way. To take away the stumbling.  You will be a normal half-human for the first time in your life." 

The thing is, there was really no such thing as a "normal" half-human. We were called halves by virtual of our parenthood but some of us were more like 80/20 and some were more like 20/80. And our robot/human components could be divided up in different ways and in various parts of our bodies. Some of us were extremely intelligent and others were intelligently extreme.  I didn't have the ability to quickly process information or connect to the universal database or really anything that made me outstanding.  I was just a woman who stumbled around, accused too often of being a drunk, an addict.  When all I really did was taught chalking classes part-time at the Archives, Division of Family-Friendly Arts, Creativity. 

Like many full robots I knew, the robot surgeon was efficient about delivering information, but he didn't have my human component. He didn't know that giving up my disability would be giving up part of who I was...and who I had become. That by having my wires uncrossed, I would lose my protected status and that wouldn't be all.  More tears fell; real ones, this year. 

I remembered how I'd flashed my wrist at the EV officer just that afternoon; the pride that came after a fall; how well the falls and near misses had served me throughout my life.  I touched the 6 on my wrist, pressing into it, willing it into my skin forever.  I knew that it would be erased at the time of the surgery; no reason to protect an unprotected person. 

"Tears of joy," said my robot surgeon; recalling his programmed best for "empathy," and we scheduled an appointment for my surgery. The appointment would be recorded in a government database; whether I wanted it or not was immaterial at this point because it was just assumed that every 6 would welcome the chance to be fully-abled as to better fulfill their space in our society.  

They could be wrong. 

 


Crossed Wires, Part 3

Someone once asked me what was the word part about being a Stumbler.  The answer was simple: the scrapes on my knees, the bruises on my body, the jarring twisting of my back and muscles as I fell.  

But did I feel humiliated? Embarrassed? Ashamed? No, none of those, unless the fall led to undesirable consequences, like almost getting arrested due to someone else's misperception about me. But I lived in a society where there was no "normal," and where there was great equality in how severely everyone silently judged each other; even though the treatise had made it illegal to do it outwardly. 

When I stumbled, all I felt was pain, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.  It really just depended on where I fell and how I caught myself.  A simple stumble over tracks onto a grassy surface was almost nothing. A stumble in my classroom in front of a live class only hurt if I hit my head on the tile floor.  A stumble over a balcony and down onto a concrete street hurt much worse, but that's where my special robot skills helped me survive.  

Although I had the flesh of a human that could bruise and bleed, I also had some bionic cells which could swiftly stitch together any muscle or bone injuries from the inside out.  The bruising took longer to heal; but I found beauty in my constantly transforming shades of blue, lavender, and purple; there was never a day when I looked exactly the same as myself, and I definitely never looked like anyone else, either.

Sometimes, the chalk on my hands from teaching my students to draw even matched the splotches that overlapped on my legs, Venn diagrams of stumbles, surfaces, spaces.  



Crossed Wires, Part 1

I got out of the EV, and I stumbled over the tracks at the station. Because stumbling is what I do. 

The tracks were barely noticeable; platinum strands that barely glistened in the brightest sunlight.  But I knew they were there, just like I knew I was going to stumble. But it wasn't for the reason you might think.

A young EV officer bounded to my side almost immediately, and I thought he was going to help me up.  

But no. I suspected that this officer was a half-human, half-dog...and he'd sniffed out the weeds that lingered on my clothing.  

I was about to be arrested, and it wasn't even my fault.  It was the old captain who'd been smoking weeds in the transport, not me.  Perhaps they could bark it out, dog to dog, I briefly thought. But the captain and his tales of sunset fish gone awry and a girl who'd melted down had already zoomed off to the next stop. 

"You're detained," said the young officer, as I brushed myself off and stood up. Puppy, I thought to myself.  If the pronunciation of a word could be derogatory, I'd just sworn in my mind.  

"For what reason?" I asked. "Because I stumbled on the tracks? You can't arrest me for a stumble."

"No, but I can arrest you for resisting detainment," he countered. "And," his nose sniffed the air almost eagerly, and I swear if he had a tail, it would have wagged.  "And, I can detain you on weeds suspicion; it's clear to me that you're high..."

"How is that clear?" I asked.  "Just because..." 

"Just because you just fell across the EV tracks," he said, a little mockingly, pulling up a floating screen to begin entering my charges. "And the smell of weeds is unmistakable.  It's enough for me to run a weeds test on you." 

He moved another step close to me, the floating screen shifting with him. I'd been in this situation before, and I knew that he had the power to virtually detain me, start an investigation and perhaps put me under arrest.  "Please state your name." 

"Windolyn Ogee" I said "Win for short." 

He smirked as my name was spelled out on the screen. 

"Designations?" 

I pushed up my sleeve and held up my wrist, turning it deliberately toward the floating screen, so that the over-eager Puppy and his board of treatise council could see what was printed on my wrist, right next to my wristbone.  The letter HH and a number 6: the designation for a half-human, half-robot disabled individual.

Harassing me was a class 6 felony, as any dog should know. I couldn't break the law and get away with it; nor could he detain a disabled individual who had a reason to stumble over tracks. There was some fairness built into the treatise.

His eyes widened as he saw the number, and he took one step back instead of another one forward.  "I'm so sorry, ma'am," he said, suddenly polite, obedient. He knew the consequences of harassing a disabled individual, even a half-human. If he'd gone any further, he could have been in big trouble, but now, as the screen rotated toward me, I was asked if I wanted to press charges against him.  Three buttons I could press: yes or no or maybe later.

I was kind. I touched no on the screen. Apologies exchanged. Stumble forgiven. 

I'd stumbled; he'd fallen.  

Fallen for it.  Puppy, I thought to myself, and I brushed a few lingering stalks of grass off my skirt, waiting on the other side of the EV tracks for the transport that would whisk me away to my yearly medical appointment.

Where my robot surgeon would tell me that there was no way to uncross the delicate wires in my brain without killing me.  

 

 

 


Crossed Wires, Part 4

Planting the Seed 

I now had a dilemma.  Now that the surgery was available, it would be required.  I would have no choice in the matter, and if I just didn't show up for it, an alert would be issued for me.  Because in this world's illogical reason, there should be no reason for me not to show up.  And if I didn't, it must mean that I was hiding something.  Transparency in technology was one of the tenants of the treatise, and a half-human, half-robot with crossed wires was both a mystery and a potential threat.  

I couldn't come up with a solution and teach at the same time, so I put my conflicting thoughts on hold. Today, we were chalking a safe topic: seeds, flowers, fruits, vegetables.  Just like a seed had the potential to transform into something more (although usually something considered good, something of beauty or something nutritious to eat), a half-robot with an unsolved mystery, like my crossed wires, held the potential to create chaos, swaying society's delicate balance toward more unease than calm. 

I presented the topic to the class; today we would chalk-draw seeds transforming into something beautiful or nutritious. The students in my class were part of the family-friendly arts program called "Bloom Where You Are Planted." The certificate included successful completion of three classes: Home Gardening, Flower Arranging, and my class, The Nature of Chalk. The program was unique in that students' skills in one area would neatly overlap into another area.  For example, the Home Gardeners had investigated seeds, knew what they looked like, and had seen them grow.  The Flower Arrangers had smelled and touched flowers with their own hands, so they'd experienced the velvety texture of a sun shimmer rose petal, a hybrid between Old World roses and excess sunlight captured by the solar panels which fueled everything these days. 

I modeled one technique for my students.   First, I selected a seed product, the royal amethyst eggplant, which had a glowing skin of purples and blues with a little black shimmer mixed in.  Then I showed the seed, a translucent teardrop shape.  I did a quick sketch of the seed first, followed by a sketch of the eggplant, blending in the colors and showing my students how to create a highlight on the skin to emulate how the vegetable's skin glowed just so in the correct lighting.  To create the highlight, I scraped a bit of chalk from one piece with a tiny shaving knife, reminding my students that the tip was sharp, and layered it onto my chalk-drawing. 

A seed; a product.  This was today's class, and my students quickly went to work, drawing pink carnations, yellow dandelions, green broccoli.  As they eagerly worked on their projects, I went back to my own easel, turning it toward me, losing myself in the shading, even as the chalk transferred from my pastels to my hands, then up onto my face when I reached up to itch a place on my nose, scraping off more highlight and adding it to the eggplant's skin, working up to a luminous glow. 

The students "parked" their drawings when the chime gently sounded, letting all of us know that it was time to clean up for today and get ready for the next teacher to rotate in our shared classroom. They'd have another chalk session later in the week, a "workshop class," where they'd have two hours to finish what they started.  

My day of teaching was done; the Home Gardening teacher rotated into our shared classroom; we'd cohorted classes in this space for several weeks now. She'd studied under one of the master teachers. Her name was Janie, and she was 100% full human with no designations. As she glided up to the teaching podium, I saw her studying my face, and I saw a look of what I knew was a human pity; I surmised that she found the chalk mark on my face to be the result of a stumble.

For now, I wiped the excess chalk from my hands with a towel made from the recycled tree leaves that fell every fall semester and removed my own supplies from the teaching podium, where I carried them back to my locker; carefully holding the shaving knife against the back of my thumb, expertly filing off a bit of skin, originating a pinprick of blood from the sharp little tip, a precise little 3-D circle. 

She reached out to shake my hand, a sign of respect between us.  We exchanged brief greetings; exchanged positions on the teaching platform, and exchanged two other things in our briefly clasped hands.  Now we both had something we wanted; and as I felt the seed against my palm, I also had the seed of an idea.  I knew how I'd handle the wire-uncrossing surgery.  

Just like I always had. 

 


Save the Date, Part 1

It was the middle of the night, and Julia was dreaming. Dreams were rare these days, but sometimes, her mind worked around the medications to bring her fleeting images, little snippets of this and that from her day interwoven with puzzle pieces from her former life as a robot psychiatrist.  

Her dream that night was surprisingly realistic and unfragmented:  she walked down to an old-fashioned mailbox. She was in the country, and there was lots of tall grass around her, a few wildflowers blowing in the light wind. Her shoes crunched on the gravel as she walked down to the mailbox, and there were birds chirping against a blue sky. If she was painting the scene, she'd describe it as idyllic, name the painting “Idyllic Country Day.”

She reaches the mailbox and opens it. Inside is a single envelope. She pulls it out and sees her name handwritten on the front of it. The envelope is white, a nice medium weight and somehow conveys the feeling of luxury. Inside, another white card. In the same handwriting, the card says "Flintrock" She flips it over; there's nothing else.

Is it an invitation? And if so, to what? And from who?

In her dream, today's technology merges with yesterday's simplicity. From the invitation, a float screen pops up. There are two words on the float screen "Accept" and "Delay," no option to Deny. 

She chooses quickly "Delay," the float screen dissolves, and the whole country scene flips, turns, and fades, like an archived video editing technique. 

And the dream ends. 


Crossed Wires, Part 5

But before I could finalize my plan, I needed to go home and eat.  I was craving a specific meal, a spicy chicken dish created with spices I grew in my kitchen, where they neatly lined a window. Before I started to cook, I went to my kitchen closet, where I kept planting material and terra cotta pots.  I scooped the plant soil into the pot, lightly watered it, buried the seed just deep enough.  The spice plants supplemented my income as an instructor quite nicely; they were also a potent replica of the old weeds, allowing me to stay high a majority of the time, the true reason why I didn't want to have the surgery and give up my protected designation. The puppy had indeed sniffed out the weeds on me; I'd have to be more careful in the future to shower after cooking and to change my clothes so that the slight aroma didn't cling to me.  

As I ate my meal, my high intensified, not putting me into a stupor but more of a euphoria, where the whole world sparkled with possibilities and where I could be extremely focused. Tonight, I put my attention toward how I could avoid the surgery, which would take away my disability designation.  The surgeon was full robot; spice-weed wouldn't work on him, so I couldn't bribe him with it.  There seemed to be only one realistic solution.  

My meal finished, I washed the dishes and put them away.  I went to take a shower, washing off the spicy aroma with a soap that smelled like roses.  And as I rinsed my hair, I watched a kaleidoscope of colors, black, blue and purple, swirl down the drain.  


Crossed Wires, Part 6

It was the day of my surgery.  I couldn't be on weeds that day, which was excruciatingly painful, giving me a headache so bad that I felt my vision blur and my legs shake with every step I took into the medical center where my wires would be uncrossed.  

I stumbled as I entered my robot surgeon's office for my pre-surgery interview, falling to the floor, where I hit my forehead.  There'd be a bruise there for sure, one to match the ones on my arms and legs.  The real ones.  

"This will be the last stumble," said the robot surgeon.  "After the surgery, you will be normal.  As we discussed earlier, in the surgery we will not only uncross the wires but we will also remove them so that there's no chance they can somehow get crossed again in the future."  

"I will still be 10% robot, right?"  I asked and the surgeon affirmed it.  "All we are doing is uncrossing the wires; we can't change anyone's genetics.  Not yet, anyway." 

"You will be as normal as half-kind can be," he said, matter-of-factly. "Do you have any questions?"

"How soon will it take before the surgery works?"

"It will work immediately," he said.  "Shortly after the surgery, you will be able to go home, and there will be no recovery period. 

I was glad to hear the news because I desperately needed some spice in my life.  I thought about all my little plants lined up neatly in my kitchen, the plants that gave me life.  I would be home to tend to them soon.

I signed consent forms for my surgery.  I was in such weeds-withdrawal that my hands shook and my signature was jagged across the float screen in front of me.  A tech bot escorted me to a private room, where I changed into a surgery gown.  The last thing I remembered was being wheeled into the OR.  

When I woke up, a nurse was by my bed.  All of my vitals were being monitored and the nurse was waiting for me to wake up.

"The surgery was a big success," said the nurse. "The robot surgeon said the technique was both efficient and exact.  No more wires in your brain, no more stumbling for you.  Now you can be normal!  We'll schedule an appointment to have your disability designation removed soon."

I nodded, gave her a smile, acted happy.  She told me I could change my clothes, sign a document to schedule my removal,and leave the medical building.  Two days.  I had two days before it would be removed.

A tech bot arrived at my door to escort me through the medical building, and I was prepared.  Prepared to do what I had always done to protect my designation.   


Crossed Wires, Part 7

We walked out into the hallway.  I'd decided that I would make my stumbling cascade.  First a stumble so slight that almost no one would see it.  Then a slightly bigger one. Then something more dramatic like a stumble and tumble down the medical center stairs; I knew how to catch myself so that it would only hurt a little bit.  

After a few steps, my legs started to shake; the pain killers I'd be given during surgery had worn off, and I was back in the throes of my spice-weed detox.  Then my legs started to tingle; I'd never felt like this before.  Then suddenly, I lost all feeling in them, stumbling against the tech bot, pushing it against the wall.  To it's credit, it tried to catch me but I slipped through it's metallic grasp, collapsing to the floor where I was unable to push myself up again, no feeling in my legs.  

The robot surgeon was dispatched immediately; I was picked up by the tech bot and brought into the surgeon's office.  

"You are not normal," he said.  "The technique appeared to be precise and efficient.  I saw no damage to the brain tissue. However, there are sometimes unknown factors in the half-kind that we haven't yet identified."  He summoned up his robot compassion. "I am sorry that you are not normal. Perhaps we will know more in the future and we can try again." 

I was crying, tears running down my face, my upper body shaking.  "This is not how it was supposed to go," I sobbed.  

"I am sorry that you are not normal," he repeated.  "I am sorry that the surgery was not effective."   

I was sorry, too.  I'd always thought that the crossed wires did nothing.  I'd been stumbling deliberately for years now, dramatically on my own when I felt I could fall without harming myself too much.  And whenever I'd missed out on a couple of days of spice-weed, stumbling so realistically that I'd gather up a collection of real bruises to tide me over to my next self-chalking session.  

All of these years, the crossed wires had kept me normal but I'd pretended otherwise.  Now, the wires were uncrossed, removed from my brain where they couldn't be reinserted.  And besides, I couldn't tell anyone about my suspicions.  As part as anyone knew, I'd always had a stumbling disability.  

I sobbed.  How bad would the stumbling be?  Would I ever feel my legs again?  How would I move around my world, teach my classes, tend my plants?  

The robot surgeon pulled up a float screen.  "In compensation for the surgery not working," he said. "The medical center is prepared to offer you one of three choices to settle."  He pushed the float screen over to me, lowering it so that I could see the screen easily. 

Nothing could compensate for what they'd done to me, I thought.  But I looked at the screen anyway.  Three choices: 

  1. Unlimited medical care for the rest of my life, including care for my falls and a potential stumbling solution in the future. 
  2. A full-time tech bot of my own, to help securely escort me around my world, a pretend normalcy. 
  3. A garden of my own; I knew some of the flowers by sight.  Wild violet. Yellow sweet clover.  

I'd made one life choice already.  I lifted my hand to the screen and with a trembling hand, I made another.  

The End