Sara went over the checklist in her head for the 14th time. Rose petals scattered around the floor. Candles lit, set in places where she wouldn’t have to worry about them getting knocked over and burning down the entire house. The thermostat turned to exactly 70 degrees, not too hot or too cold. Incense burnt, making the room smell like fresh lavender. The bed was made nicely, but not too tightly so they could get into the sheets with ease.
Everything seemed up to perfection, but Sara wasn’t going to let herself be content. This was the most important night of her life, and she couldn’t let anything slip through the cracks. She checked the time, 8:15. Her husband Michael usually gets home between 8 and 9, so he was going to walk in at any second.
Michael. Her husband Michael who she loved very much. Her husband Michael who she married 3 years ago straight out of college. Her husband Michael who she planned to spend the rest of her life with. Her husband Michael who’s touch alone made her feel safe, warm, loved, and complete. Her husband Michael, who was perfect.
The truth is her life and her relationship with Michael was perfect to her, until about a month ago when she had a chance encounter that completely altered her perception of her entire life. She no longer knew what perfect meant, if perfect was even possible. Possible for a human.
She shook off that disturbing thought and went through the checklist again in her head.
* * *
The life altering chance encounter in question was, in fact, with a robot designed to be the perfect sex partner.
“The perfect sex partner?” Sara laughed, after the robot introduced himself as such.
“I know that seems impossible to believe, but it’s the truth.” He said in response. “I know these circumstances seem strange but I need you to believe me.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“I’ve already started doing my job. Look, I made myself appear in the perfect image that would allow me to approach you in the middle of the night like this without you avoiding me.”
He was right. When Sara first saw him from across the street, he almost looked like one of her old girlfriends from college. But when she got closer, she realized it wasn’t her but instead someone who looked suspiciously like her favorite college professor (who looked absolutely nothing like her friend). By the time he was in full view, he didn’t look like anyone she’d ever seen before, but managed to appear as the most non-threatening person she had ever laid eyes on while also radiating an air of charm that made her want to stay and hear what he had to say.
“How did you do that?”
“In quick and easy terms, nanotechnology. I can mold myself into any shape I need to appeal to any target.”
“And how do you know which appearances work for people?”
“I can process your emotions by picking up on your body temperature, pulse, eye dilation levels, among other things, and use those to determine how each appearance makes you feel. To be completely transparent with you I’ve spent the past week following you around, sneaking my way into your field of view by passing you on the street as different people. I now know which looks make you the most comfortable, the most uncomfortable, the most excited-”
“Okay I get that. So you’ve been stalking me?”
“Yes, and I apologize. I wanted to do this right and I had to be as thorough as possible
before I could approach you.”
She took a long look at the machine in front of her. Had she not watched him transform before her eyes, she wouldn’t have believed for a second he wasn’t a regular human. Part of her knew she should turn and continue her walk home, but there was something in his eyes that she couldn’t leave behind. He looked at her almost the way her husband did, except with this glint of confidence in himself that Michael always lacked.
“I have a husband.”
“I know. He seems like a nice man. I saw you guys walking to get coffee together Thursday morning before work.”
“Do you just expect me to… cheat on him with some robot I met on the side of the road?”
“Since I’m not actually human I don’t think I can emotionally connect with you. You’d just be making love to a machine, a piece of hardware, that can’t feel anything back.”
“You don’t think you can emotionally connect with me?”
“That’s why I want to do this with you, I want to know for sure whether or not I have the capacity for feeling. I shouldn’t be able to feel, but I’ve never been given the opportunity.”
“So this is just an experiment for you?”
“Yes. It is nothing more and nothing less.”
“And what do I get from it?”
“The chance to be with someone perfectly suited to your inmost desires. For every aspect of our night I will be molded to fit what you want in that very moment. This is a once in a lifetime experience, Sara.”
The robot held out his hand. Sara hesitantly took it, mostly out of curiosity. It felt like a million different hands at once, all letting go and grabbing her again, and again, and again, one after the other. She was about to let go when she was jolted with a familiar feeling. His hand now felt exactly like that of her old highschool boyfriend’s. Instantly, she was swept with that same excited, youthful, safe feeling she felt then. Something she never thought she could feel again at her age. She looked up at the robot’s face and noticed he also shared his smile.
“Okay.” Sarah said, finally. “I’ll do it.”
* * *
Sarah handed the man the wad of cash and watched him walk out of her shoebox apartment. He didn’t even glance back as he left, but she hadn’t expected him to. She wouldn’t have given him a second glance either had she not been afraid he would steal something on the way out. It’s been almost 6 months since her last time sleeping with her husband, and 4 months since he kicked her out after finding her in bed with her best friend from work.
The night she planned with her husband was objectively perfect. Every single detail was accounted for. He did everything right. It wasn’t his fault, he just… couldn’t compete. How could any human compete with a partner made to be perfect? She would find this absurd situation funny if it wasn’t so painfully real for her.
Her night with the robot had only lasted an hour, yet that hour had completely changed her life. Never had a man (or woman, for that matter) had made her feel the way she felt in that hour. She felt excited when she wanted to, safe and comfortable when she needed to, and loved throughout all of it. At the end of it he did not, in fact, grow an emotional connection to her. Unfortunately that was not a mutual sentiment. As soon as he left she felt more alone than she ever had in her entire life. She was exposed to a world of possibilities she never knew was real, and it was gone from her life in an instant.
And now here she was, paying prostitutes to come in the hopes that there’s someone out there that can give her that feeling again. The truth was she knew if Michael couldn’t do it no one could. That was the worst part of all of this, her having to walk out on what once was the best thing that ever happened to her. She had tried to find that robot again, but whatever facility he escaped from was completely underwraps.
She couldn’t live like this anymore. It was torture. She was miserable. Everything felt hollow and meaningless. There was only one person, or thing that could fix this, and it was gone forever.
* * *
Sara stood on the edge of the bridge, staring down at the water below her. This is the 8th day in a row she found herself standing here, but she knew this time it was different. The insatiable urge she had to feel complete couldn’t be quelled no matter how hard she tried. She had spent the last months of her life floundering from person to person, desperately trying to fill the hole that had been left in her. This was the moment she decided to give up.
She was happy before her encounter. She loved her life, she loved her husband. She felt full and complete because she didn’t know that kind of perfection was possible. She hated that robot. That machine that came in and destroyed her. You think the connection between people is something that’s irreplaceable, but nothing can compare to what can be created in a lab.
Hopeless and alone, she took a step and fell.
Fosse, Bob, director. Cabaret. ABC Pictures, 1972.
Jonze, Spike, director. Her. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2013.
Pretty Little Liars. Created by I. Marlene King, season One, episode One, Freeform, 8 June 2010.