Ctrl Alt Del – III. An Arm and a Leg

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Ctrl Alt Del

by Marl Darrin


III. An Arm and a Leg

The next morning the emptiness hole-punches Renold’s chest and gapes across his entire body.  He unplugs from his nighttime outlet and stares at his face-flesh squatting on the windowsill of his bedroom window.

Today in school his paper on Carlo Collodi is due.  Renold won’t be turning that in.

Accessing his home internet through the readout of his eyes, he researches local tech shops nearby.

He strips himself of all his synthetic flesh and checks out his reflection in the window.  He smiles, admiring the wires, bolts, springs, hydraulics, motors, and metal.  The last thing he removes is his wig.  He sets it on top of the flesh pile now at his feet.

He trips down the stairs after leaving his room, falling and thumping loudly to the last step.  Stretching his shaking legs at the bottom, he picks himself up from the ground.  He limps past the kitchen with jittery lurches.  Jodie, cooking breakfast in the kitchen alone, gasps as Renold catches her eye.

“You’re naked!”  She exclaims.  Renold stares at her, confused.

“No, I’m…not.”

“Yes, you are.  Go upstairs and put on some clothes, mister.”  Jodie starts to approach Renold, intending to drag him back to his room and dress him herself.

“Why, why…do I…need clothes?”  Renold forces the words out stiffly, fighting against his speech glitch.

“Renold, go put some clothes on, now!”  Jodie grits her teeth at him.  Renold silently makes his way back upstairs, taking a minute with each step so as not to trip again.  He throws on jeans and a t-shirt over his exposed plating and wiring, and on his way back down the stairs falls all over again.

Hearing the thud of his body hit the bottom step, Jodie yells, “Stop stomping in my house, Renold.  Just do what I say; stop acting like a child!”  Renold pushes himself back to his feet, walks past the kitchen where his mother stands glaring at him, and slams the front door as he goes outside.

He can hear Jodie yelling at him from inside the house, but he ignores her and pushes on.  It’ll all be okay if he can only reach the delicious honey code of a Fruit Loop.

Six blocks take him twice as long as it should, and once he’s at the tech store he realizes he can’t remember why his mom was yelling at him earlier.  He can’t even remember leaving the house.  Where did I just walk from?  The name of the store shines down at him like a ray of sun: Termin-All.  A bell chirps when he pushes open the front door.

“A Fos-18 unit!  Welcome home!”  The store manager, his nametag labeling him as Aster, joyously shouts at Renold.  “If you need help locating anything, I’m most positive I’ve got exactly what you need.”  Upon hearing his factory category number, Renold’s dark emptiness fogs up his brain.

Without glancing at any of the shelves or displays, Renold forces his legs to drag his body towards a display counter which Aster stands behind.  “I need a Fruit…Loop.”

Aster’s cheery expression drops off a cliff.  “We don’t do that here.”

With choppy movements, Renold manages to unscrew his left-hand unit.  He places it on the counter.  “How many…loops will…that get me?”

Aster sighs, thinking many thoughts all at once.  Nothing about Fruit Loop is illegal, not yet anyway.  This hand unit is pretty rare, near impossible to purchase since the Fos-18 manufacturers stopped selling them to anyone without an activation license.  It’s hard finding functioning Fos-18 unit parts in the junkyard.

This is a beautiful opportunity for Aster to continue work on his own personal artificial organism, one he’s been building since his wife died two years back.  “Come into the storage room with me.”

After locking the front door and putting a ‘404 — Be Back Soon’ sign in the window, Aster leads Renold to the storage room and begins digging through boxes of miscellaneous devices and cords.  He pulls out a hard drive after a few minutes of sweaty searching and brandishes it in the light like a newly forged sword.  In silence, as if taking part in a holy act, he boots up the hard drive and carefully chooses a red cord to connect Renold with the little, silver box.

“Thank…you…stranger.”  Renold whispers as Aster inserts the cord into the back of his neck.

“Sure, kid.”  Aster mumbles, then steps back out to the front of the store.  The boxes of mixed machinery and wires pixelates to black.

~./memory_db *, .run Fruit Loop, count: 10

Renold drinks in the hot honey seeping into him from the red cord.

Jodie and Hansel flash before his eyes, saying the words, “Our baby boy”.

~./memory_db *, .run Fruit Loop, count: 20

Mrs. Reed quickly replaces Renold’s parents, winking at him as she lets him slip into her bed.  Her phone is ringing with Mr. Clarke’s name on the caller id.

~./memory_db *, .run Fruit Loop, count: 30

Suzanne’s red lips replace Mrs. Reed’s, and Renold feels her breath on his ear.  “You’re all mine.”

~./memory_db *, .run Fruit Loop, count: 50

Renold is transported to a sandbox where he is currently scooting away from Jesse, a boy he’d grown close to when he was young.  Jesse had been purchased by the Chan family down the street.  Mrs. Chan, Jesse’s adoptive mother, had been through the three miscarriages that qualifies families for Fos-18 units.

Jesse was the first Fos-18 unit Renold had ever met.  Sometimes it felt to Renold like he was looking into a mirror whenever they played together.

I’d forgotten Jesse. 

Renold is saying something to Jesse that’s making him cry.  The red cord starts to vibrate as it floods Renold with juice.  Renold feels calm while repeating the words he’d said during the day of this memory, “You’re a toy.  I don’t want toys anymore; I want real alive things!”

Words he could never delete.  He’d never spoken with Jesse again after that.  Mrs. Chan was too confused after overhearing this tantrum of young Renold’s that she’d forbade Jesse to play with Renold thenceforth.  Renold drifts into the red cord’s warm honey.  Goodbye, stranger.  Fruit Loop soothes Renold with incapacitating pleasure.

~./memory_db *, validation failed: rollback transaction

Renold comes to surrounded with boxes of junk.  There are a few humanoid parts that Renold hadn’t noticed before littering the boxes ­— nose units jutting out here and ear units jutting out there.  Slightly creeped out, he picks up the silver hard drive still attached to his neck port through the red cord and limps back to the front room of the store.  Moonlight slinks in through the window.  Renold’s internal clock reads 7:30pm.

Aster peeks up from a terminal screen behind a display counter as Renold carries the hard drive towards him at a crawl pace.  “You’ve still got thirty minutes before I close shop if you aren’t finished.”

“How…much…for all…of it?”

Aster hesitates, but tries to override his concern by telling himself that Renold is ‘just a bot’.  Not wanting to rob the poor kid, and thinking of his own artificial organism at home which now only needs a foot to be complete in hardware, Aster asks for no more than what he needs.

“Can you spare a foot unit?”  Aster suggests.  Without a thought, Renold bends over and, with some struggle, detaches his foot.

He sets it on the counter with a clink, then hobbles out the door.

~./memory_db *, validation failed: rollback transaction

Honey coats his eyes, and he walks one block.

~./memory_db *, validation failed: rollback transaction

Honey clogs his joints and he walks two blocks.

~./memory_db *, validation failed: rollback transaction

Honey floats inside his chest and he limps out in front of a car.  The horn doesn’t register in his ear-microphone.  Even if it had, Renold’s limbs can only respond after an eight second delay since they have so much Fruit Loop glitch gripping them.

The hard drive goes flying and snaps the cord from Renold’s neck.  From underneath the front bumper, Renold’s vision pixelates and dissolves into unconsciousness.

~./memory_db /_source:Error (undefined method fruitLoop(mem) for #)



PART IV. Reboot




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