• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 09
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He found it crumpled behind the boxes in the back of the garage. The primitive knees curled up, as if it were crouching. He dragged it out, a mess of wires and bolts, scavenged parts from televisions and wrecked cars.

It was not lifelike enough to resemble a dead body, but the machine parts were arranged in a disturbingly human shape.

The worst part was the face. His son had stuck on part of the face of a mannequin, the skin clam-pale and semi-translucent, the features inhumanly perfect. Where there should have been hair, and the rest of the skull, there was only a mass of fused metal. To stick a human face on that awful mess of wires – Jeremy shuddered.

He reached down to rip off the face and it moved. He jumped back. It couldn't be.

But it happened again, a twitch in the foot. Then the arms came up to steady the body and it rose up on two metal feet.

Those fists. Metal bolt knuckles that could smash into flesh and crush bone. He did think that it would attack him, but if ... He grabbed a hammer from its hook on the wall. He pulled back his arm and dealt it a blow aimed to pound into the side of its head. It blocked the blow with the swing of a metal fist. He dropped the hammer and it clattered to the floor.

Jeremy's heart pounded. He grabbed a drill from the wall and charged at it, drilling into its crude metal belly, neck and chest. He felt metal fists pounding into his back but he kept drilling.

He grabbed the hammer and pounded it, until even the foot stopped twitching. Then he ripped off the face and hurled it across the floor. He sat down, panting.



He stood up, swept some of the parts into a dustbin and the rest into an old metal barrel. On top, he piled sticks, then poured kerosene. He struck a match and dropped it on the fire. Flames roared up.

He picked up the mannequin face and threw it into the flames. Watched as the plastic melted and the features contorted, the nose and mouth melting to form a misshapen plastic lump.

He breathed a sigh of relief.

His son was upstairs, the windows of his room covered over with black-out curtains. His desk filled with jars of tissue samples, metal implements, a microscope. The walls were lined with cages of mice.

He'd hinted at his next project over dinner.

"Robots are lame," the boy had said. "I've found something else to work on. My cell cultures are multiplying rapidly. I've introduced mice cells to cells from the zebra jumping spider, and once I add the mycelium I've been propagating from Agaricus bisporu, it's really going to get interesting."

"That's nice, boy, as long as it doesn't attack me," said Jeremy. He changed the conversation to sports. If his son talked about science for too long, his eyes would glaze over.