Short Story Time – The First Date

This story might seem a bit strange compared to my previous ones; and it is. I’m hoping some people may feel a sense of familiarity when they read it, or even a sense of unfamiliarity.

Let me know what you think.

~~~~

Meg waited for him at the centre of the ever busy Queen Street Mall.

She had spent hours choosing her outfit, plucking out any unsightly hairs and applying her winged eyeliner just right. Now, more dolled up than she had ever been in her life, she waited for her online date to show up.

He said he would be wearing a blue shirt with large black ‘I’ on it. Pretty easy to spot, she assumed; and it was.

She found him standing under a silver pole. He was very handsome, but Meg considered that a bonus. When they had chatted online, she had only ever seen one picture of him. It had made him seem quite plain, but Meg wasn’t one to judge appearances. She was a little plump and more than a little bit homely looking and she was quite aware of that.

What had caught her attention about him was just how intelligent he was. Not only was he a fellow writer, he was an avid reader of the classics. Meg had never met a man who had read all of Ernest Hemingway’s novels.

Meg always believed the old saying about beauty being on the inside. She thought at first that he was proof of that, but now as she approached him, she supposed that it was possible for beauty to shine inside and outside of a person.

“Adam?” Meg asked.

Adam turned his head and smiled as she approached.

“You must be Meg, nice to meet you.”

He held his hand out to her and she shook it. It felt warm and inviting.

 

~~~~

They went to a quiet book store at the end of the mall. There, Adam talked about all of his favourite novelists – Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Jane Austin and of course, Ernest Hemingway. Meg had felt her eyes light up as he spoke. He was so passionate; she could feel herself falling in love with him.

After buying a few of his recommendations, they wandered through the mall for a while. Adam explained how he had just graduated from university as a creative writer and Meg interjected that she too was doing creative writing. He continued, saying how he had several projects he was working on currently and how he was certain they would be finished soon.

Meg found a space to talk and mentioned that she owned a blog where she wrote all of her stories.

“I absolutely love writing short stories; they make up most of my writing.” She said, smiling happily at him.

He gave her a small, polite smile and then went silent. A few seconds later, he began talking about one of his most recent writing projects.

 

~~~~

He took her to a burger joint for lunch.

She rolled her eyes playfully as she imagined the mess eating a burger would make.

“Wow, what a great place to go for a first date, Adam!” She said to him, giggling.

She glanced over at him, expecting something witty in response. Adam just gave her another small, polite smile.

“It is a great place, isn’t it?” He replied in a sincere tone.

Meg chuckled as her date gave such a deadpan reply. She really did like being with this guy.

As they waited for their lunch to come, he told her more about himself. He described how stressed he had gotten at university and how he nearly had a breakdown. Meg imagined the poor man bent over his desk, anxious about his half-finished novels.  She couldn’t believe how much he cared about his work.

He soon switched topics and asked her how she was enjoying the date. Meg replied that she was loving it. He mentioned how he had been paranoid that it would not go so well. Meg just laughed.

“Don’t worry about it; I get worried before dates too!” She said, taking a sip of her drink.

She was in awe over how well this was all going. Meg had only had two other boyfriends before and both had been terrible mistakes. Adam was something else. He was so smart and even though he had never left the country before, he was worldly too. She began fantasising about them going on overseas adventures together, writing side by side and being so in love.

Meg noticed Adam had begun fidgeting with his hands and before she could ask what was wrong, he blurted out:

“I have something I need to tell you that I think is important.”

Meg’s smile faltered slightly. It wasn’t that his voice sounded gravely serious, or worried or upset. It was the fact that his voice sounded the exact same as it had throughout their entire date.

“Okay, what is it?” She asked her voice inclining as she finished her sentence.

He looked her straight in the eyes as he spoke in his unchanging tone.

“I am a robot.”

Meg gave her date a dumbfounded look.

He lifted his arm and peeled away a flap of the silicone skin. Underneath, she could see gears whirring and small lights flashing.

Meg felt the fantasy in her mind shatter into millions of unsalvageable pieces. An uneasy smile surfaced on her face.

“O-oh…” She found herself stammering.

She quickly shoved a straw in her gaping mouth and took a long drink from her glass.

 

~~~~

As they walked down to his favourite park, she began noticing all the signs she had missed before.

Every time he took a step she could hear the clunking of gears.  She began hearing the slightest traces of static when he spoke. His blank face was the biggest tell tale sign, though. It was just too perfect and generic.

Meg felt like a complete fool. She didn’t understand how she could have been so oblivious.

At least she now knew why he hadn’t responded to her jokes properly.

They sat on a bench together and he continued to talk about his favourite novels. She said nothing and just nodded. She figured he must be a publishing robot, programmed to talk about nothing but books.

“Well Meg, I have nothing left to say. I’ve run through my entire catalogue.” Adam said to her, blinking.

“Oh, ok…” Meg replied.

He stood up and gave her another polite smile.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting you, Meg. I was worried it wouldn’t go well, but I think it did. I hope we can meet again soon.”

He held out his hand to her and she shook it. It was devoid of any warmth she had once felt.

 

~~~~

When she got home that night, Meg did some research on her computer. She typed the phrase ‘dating a robot’. Google came back with over 20 million results. She read through the first page of results.

How to Date a Robot

Can Robots Love Like Regular Humans?

10 Things to NOT do on a Date with a Robot

Robots – All you need to know about dating and SEX

My Robot Boyfriend RUINED MY LIFE – Why you SHOULDN’T date a Robot

She clicked on the first link which took her to a health website for women. The article was written by a woman who specialised in couple’s therapy and robot psychology.

Meg read the piece, feeling her heart sink the further down she went.

She discovered that although some robots seem to show emotions, in the end it is all just programmed into them. They tended to be socially awkward and were terrible at reading people. Some robots even malfunctioned and sometimes said inappropriate things out loud.

They also needed to be maintained on a daily basis by a robot handler. By forming a relationship with a robot, you’re assumed to be the robot’s new handler, not just their lover.

Meg found the comments section even more disheartening.

Several people spoke about their horrible failed marriages. One man gave a testimony about his 30 year marriage to a robot woman.

When I first met her, she seemed shy and eccentric, but I thought that was just who she was. Then after we married, she showed her true colours. She told me she was a robot and she had to perform her robot duties each and every day. 30 years later and she’s always whirring about the place with as much emotions as an onion. We never have sex any more; after all, she sees no use for it. She doesn’t even ask me how I am after a long day of working. My advice – if you find out your date is a robot, do a 180 and run.

Some people ranted about how wrong the woman who wrote the article was. One lady spoke of how she was happily married to her robot husband for several years.

I find this article misleading and poorly written. Me and James have been together for many years now. He’s a wonderful soul mate and we get along really well. It’s all about putting effort into your relationships. If you go into a relationship with a robot expecting it to be easy, it’ll fall apart. Relationships are about supporting each other. If you love your robot man or woman enough, you’ll stick by them and help them and they’ll show their own way of loving you.

Another commenter, a robot herself, explained how offended she felt by the professional’s statements.

I may be a robot, but I’m built with the likeness and intelligence of a human. Sure, I have troubles making friends and going on dates, but I’m not completely worthless. Stop treating me like I’m nothing but a piece of scrap metal!

Meg felt a mixture of sadness and guilt course through her.

Her first thought was there was no way she could date a robot. The idea of spending her life fixing Adam every day just sounded like a big waste of her time. Then she realised how horrible that made her appear. She began to mentally scold herself.

You loved him when he was talking about books yet the moment he said he was a robot you shirked away. What was that about beauty being on the inside?

But she knew that he had no ordinary insides. All Adam had inside of him were gears, pistons and microchips. He wasn’t built like an ordinary human.

Meg took a deep breath and opened up Facebook. Adam had sent her a message.

Hi Meg, thanks again for the date, I really enjoyed it. I was too paranoid to say anything, but I thought you looked quite pretty today.

Meg stared at the message for several minutes. She wondered how long it had taken him to write those two sentences to her. She could imagine his fingers slowly tapping out the message, the little gears inside his knuckles whirring as he typed. She closed the page and opened up a new word document.

She began to write a story.  As she typed into the late hours of the evening, she hoped she would figure out how to reply to Adam.

She never did.

~~~~

 

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