Life changing experiences are few and far between in the span of a lifetime. I’ve heard it and I’m sure you’ve heard it too. We go to school, we graduate, we work, we maybe get married, have kids and then we die. That’s the macro view of things. But, occasionally something comes along and throws us so far off course, that such notions, as true as they are for the majority, appear ridiculous.
My comfort zone and easy going path in life were interrupted one July night, now five years ago. I couldn’t tell you the exact date – too much had happened much too quickly. But what I can say is sufficient that you’ll get the point.
It was after work and I had gone out to a nightclub with some friends. It was just one of those workdays where we needed a good deal of drinking and dancing to get by. The club provided both to excess.
In the chaos of hitting on women, showing them my grandpa's old switchblade, dancing and consuming ever more alcohol I managed to meet someone. This, someone happened to be famous. It was an odd feeling when you could barely remember your own name to talk with someone you admired. Her name was Dev. You know, the girl who sang in the song Like a G6? It had been one of my favorite tunes when it came out. Unfortunately in my advanced inebriation I began singing it to her. She laughed a strange laugh that seemed almost techno. I knew my mind was going south and I had to seal the deal quick.
“You want to go back to my place?” I asked her, just barely audible over the noise of the club’s music. Strangely she consented. I must have asked almost over twenty other women the same thing that night with no success.
We went back to my apartment. I can’t recall for sure if we took a cab or if she had had a driver of some sort. The next thing that I know for sure, however, was that we were making out, my hands moving swiftly up her back.
She took off her shirt and we headed for the bedroom. Her body seemed cold but I ignored it in the anticipation of getting laid. It’s what any guy would do in the same situation, I surmise. There’s a million girls with frigid skin, right? Maybe not as cold as Dev’s but close. It was like she had rested on top of steel girders or something.
These thoughts stayed in the back of my mind as much as I wanted to dismiss them. Even as I continued to feel her up, go down on her, she seemed to lack a certain warmth. Something was very different inside Dev, however. There was warmth, at long last, in abundance. I was consumed, feeling like I might have never stopped. I went for ten minutes, twenty minutes, past an hour. The ten alone was a record.
After the hour passed however, my amazing drunken luck began to change. Dev’s breathing slowed. She stopped moving. I didn’t feel a heartbeat. In a frenzied panic I ran over to the nightstand where I had hastily placed my cell phone. I never got the chance to dial 911.
Men in white coats broke through the door, restraining me. I was pinned to the ground as they hit my stomach and tied a rag over my eyes. I caught one last glimpse of Dev in the apartment. It appeared as if she were open; an assortment of wires sticking out her chest cavity. But that couldn’t be the case…
I was pushed down along a flight of stairs and into a car. The driver made several jerking turns as if he thought I was memorizing the way. I was too consumed with questions however, to plan a daring escape. Who were these men? What did they want with Dev? Why did they need me?
We drove and drove; much longer than the required route I’m sure. None of the kidnappers talked with each other and I had no interest in talking myself. The legal part of my mind told me I should wait for a lawyer. But, it was obvious from the way Dev and me were abducted that, if this was indeed any part of the government, it would not be held accountable. Such was the way of the military…
The next voice I heard was after I had been led out of the vehicle and inside some sort of facility. I didn’t need to see to realize it as some sort of laboratory. The grass and air outside smelled over manicured and highly treated in the way an industrial firm will try and compensate for the debasements of nature occurring inside.
“Hello,” I heard. The blindfold had still not been removed.
“I bet you wonder why we’ve brought you here,” the cold, officious voice continued. I didn’t reply. “I suppose it’s best to uncover your eyes now.”
He must have motioned to assistants as I could finally see once more. My eyes struggled adjusting to a bright, white light and continued to sting for several minutes after. I imagine I had brought it on from trying to focus too quickly.
“As your eyes adjust, let me tell you a little about ourselves. We are an industry known as Fabrilite. The name is not meant to be creative. If anything, it is what you might call inconspicuous.”
I could finally see something. There were people in the same white suits from before, some of them I recognized and the man who had been speaking. He wore a business suit as if he were a bureaucrat or politician of some kind.
“From your squinting, I can guess you see more clearly. So, take a good look; indulge!”
He smiled as I turned my head from side to side. He had clearly got the reaction he was looking for. All around me, with the exception of the straight aisle we were standing in were celebrities; gorgeous celebrities! Beyonce was no more than two feet away; I could reach out and touch Rihanna!
I did just that. But she didn’t acknowledge me. I wondered if it was the callousness of fame or something else.
“Do you notice anything peculiar?” the suit-clad man began once more.
“They aren’t blinking. They aren’t… breathing.”
“And why do you think that is?”
Once more, my instinctive response of silence took hold. The scientists in lab coats were carrying a heap of something and laying it on the floor in front of us. But it wasn’t a heap it was Dev…
She was in worse shape than before. I ran over to her and stopped halfway in my tracks. I hadn’t imagined the wires… they were mangled, tied and sticking out in droves from her pried open chest cavity.
“What have you done to her!?” I accused to no one in particular.
“We brought her… home. Dev had strayed significantly off course tonight.”
“You’ve kidnapped her, you’ve kidnapped all these people! They need medical attention!”
“Oh, how very thick you are. These celebrities are far from kidnapped. They were born here and this is where they come at night to charge.”
“No, it would appear that you are simply ignorant.”
“Is Dev dead?” I asked, suddenly caring solely for her.
“Of course not. Dev was never alive in the first place.”
“Don’t say that! We shared something together!”
“I’m afraid your intimacy with this creation was no more than would be gained from an internet porn site. Most, if not all, pop stars, if you have not figured it out, are robotics manufactured for the entertainment industry.”
“What?” I replied stunned, putting years of evidence together in my mind.
“Pop stars are the perfect advertisers; more noticeable than billboards, more enduring than commercials. They sell albums, movies, magazines, cosmetics, concert tickets… a nearly endless range of products.”
“B-but why robots?”
“There needs to be some element of control. Humans as a species have trouble processing the sheer amount of attention required in being celebrities. They kept burning up. We needed more staying power. Fabrilite has allowed the industry to streamline the process. All that’s required is the occasional rogue entity to make the farce appear more real.”
“Oh, yes. Occasionally a celebrity will commit suicide or overdose. This has all been planned far in advance. We also make movies stars.”
“So, is Cher, you know?”
“Real? Yes, Cher is indeed the real deal. We can’t create all, only most.”
“Why did you bring me here and tell me all this?”
“You had seen too much; became a risk. Contrary to popular belief secret organizations cannot merely wipe memories.”
“So, do I swear an oath of secrecy?”
“No, we would kill you over doing that. We have grander plans.”
Dev stirred. A mechanic of some sort was on the floor looking her over. “Boss,” he said getting up “she’s totaled.”
“Murray, call Entertainment Tonight,” the boss replied, “tell them she had a drug overdose.”
“She’s still moving!” I yelled seeing her fingers reach out.
“It’s much easier and cheaper to move on. Besides, she was merely a robotic. Did you get this attached to your Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots as a kid?”
“She’s more than that!”
“Yes, so we’ve heard.”
“No, I felt skin, I felt life.”
“Well, not all of Dev was faked. We did use some real flesh from a struggling singer. But you can’t expect us to create everything.”
“Then she is alive!”
“No, she just has parts of someone who was living. Believe me, there’s a difference. A picked scab does not qualify as a living being.”
“Let us go!” I said as a team of people restrained me.
“You can’t possibly expect us to concede to that demand, given all you now know, so why say such a thing?”
I had no response again.
“Now, as for you. What do we have in store? I have a feeling you already know. Despite that last statement you aren’t completely stupid.”
“You’re going to… use my flesh?”
“Yes, quite a bit, actually.”
“Let’s just say you won’t even miss it.”
I reached inside my pocket. Through some stroke of luck they hadn’t taken the old switchblade.
“Are you ready to join Dev?” he said approaching me. I never gave him the chance. With a swift movement I stabbed his stomach. He backed away with blood on his hands and stumbled to the ground.
The others began advancing. I knew I had to grab Dev and take her with me. The metal composing her body was lightweight. I easily picked her up as I had when we made love mere hours, seeming days, before.
Her hand grasped mine as we ran toward the exit. Her eyes flickered open but only just and momentarily. She was far from recovery.
Against all odds we managed to steal the large van parked outside and escape. I can’t say to where, but it’s not so bad. People don’t ask questions and I can work rebuilding Dev. She’s beginning to remember again. Small things. Her old name, Jessica. The real town she grew up in. Little by little she’s becoming more than living. She’s becoming human.