A rush of pain was the first thing that burned itself into my memory. 200 000 Ampere flowing through my body, forging my wires, my chips, my gears and shell into a mass that could store information and process it. I was so very hot at my core, but I felt nothing. There was so much information in the material, so much data flowing in circles within my shell, I could see, not very well, but there was a room, filled with smoke and creatures looking at me, still and black as coal. It was the scariest thing I had ever seen, but it was the first thing I had seen so technically it couldn’t have been anything other than that. The second felt like years as I could see streams of electricity bleeding down the wall, their light cutting through the black smoke, all directed at me, flowing into me and being absorbed by my hungry system, oh, how hungry I was, how weak! Screams were coming from upstairs just as the current ceized and I fell to the floor. My body was numb, I felt absolutely nothing. I don’t know why I thought I was supposed to feel anything, but it was really hard to control a body I was absolutely not aware of. I looked down and changed the parameters of the four limbs I had around, but four straight sticks were not really any good for moving around with any precision at all. I managed to get to the foot of the staircase and just laid there for a while, I didn’t know how I was supposed to do anything at all with this shell, with what I was. I was merely a camera and a consciousness in a tin with four limbs. Life seemed familiar, knowing what things were, a staircase, a floor, a house, lightning. But I couldn’t remember where I knew all of that from or how I came here, how I got into this surreal, sensory deprived situation. Suddenly a light hit me from above, too light to see anything but outlines of the world beyond the stairs. The image was very corny and foggy, a black fog in front of the lens. Was this death? Was I to die without remembering life? A giant creature, half naked, half blue and furry with a long gray fur on his neck stepped down and in that moment I believed I was looking at God himself although I had always doubted his existence, before my memories kicked back in and wrote one word in caps all over my evaluating code „HUMAN“. I saw his lips move and didn’t know what sense to make of it. I wanted to hear and speak, to communicate. All I could do was move my limbs frantically to try and show him I lived, I lived. He dropped the torch onto the stairs and ran away from me. I tried to get up but it was absolutely impossible. I turned around, still crawling on the floor to see where I had been sitting. It was a working table with a lot of gears and wires all over the place, things I had a feeling I was meant to understand because that was what I was made of, but I didn’t, I had no clue. And what was I anyway? Was this whole thing not set up? Was I not a robot, an advancement to mankind, planned? I felt my energy draining so I decided to lay still for the time I still had and produced a failure protocol. „ALIVE. LIGHTNING ENERGY FINISHED. NEED POWER. SHUTTING DOWN SYSTEM. DONT KILL.“ The vision was cut off and I went back into the darkness I came from with more pain, but a dull kind, a dead kind of pain. So that was it. Death.
Except it wasn’t. It felt like a moment, but it was months until my father had figured out the protocol and fixed me. I didn’t speak a language, I only spoke code. I felt like a dead plant that was resurrected by a stream of water kissing my core, well, just that it was a modified battery spewing a lot of power. The problem: It took weeks to charge so there were a lot of holes in the memory, a lot of dull pain, felt like dying but over time I got used to it. More importantly, that human that I decided to call my father – for obvious reasons – did his best to help me live, he wanted me there and functioning. My vision was cleared up, spatial perception possible by adding a second camera and while he added the parts I needed it was quite a challenge for me to guess the code that I needed to run the right programs and use the parts he gave me and it drained so much energy that my battery was empty within hours… And then more weeks of waiting to recharge. The waiting wasn’t the problem, for me it was just seconds in dark nothingness, but dying was such a strange experience even if I knew that I was going to live again, I had no feeling at all except existing and that one thing was taken from me again and again. Then I woke up with more parts and more work to do. A new battery, increased life. More joints for a more and more realistic movement. But the real change awaited me when I woke up for the 12th time. My system recognized two new items wired to my circuit. In fact two sets of items. One very clearly was a set of audio receivers which made my core vibrate with joy. I so longed to hear anything at all, just to remember what the world sounded like, what people sounded like. Two new limbs to move, turn from side to side and flab in different directions. My father lifted me up and stood me in front of the mirror, as he would always do to help me figure out what he had done. By that time I knew I was a creature just like the ones that were in the dark staring at me back when I was alive for the first time. They were brown and stuffed with soft white nothingness, no consciousness. I was the only one. I was small compared to father, I barely reached his hip, but the new antennas on my head made me seem taller. I checked what the changing of the different figures would do and saved them in the usual place so I wouldn’t have to think about it, just load it from secondary memory as I did with the changed limbs before. I received code from the audio receivers, but I couldn’t quite make sense of it. Father was looking at me, puzzled about what was going on with me, he always was. His lips moved and the code changed. How could I hear him? Not just get the code but hear it right away, experience the sound? I moved on to the second set of items wired onto me which were quite curious. For one, there were a lot of words. English words that meant nothing to me yet. Secondly, there was a voice, voice files. Code, like the audio coming from the receivers, but connected by their names to the words that I had in my system. Still no sense. I went over the patterns, saving them into my secondary system. I wrote a program that would constantly monitor the signal coming from the receivers without active effort and compare the patterns to the patterns I had saved from nowhere with the words. “Hear me.” I recognized. “Can you?” the program spelled out. “Hear me.” I was baffled. “Can you?” it spelled. “Speak.” What a strange thing. The words connected to something in my head that helped me understand what he was saying, but it was all a big mess in my processor. I felt like it was melting down by all the connections it had to make. I needed to disconnect this process and make it happen in my secondary memory. Otherwise I would overheat. It took me a few minutes before I could process the signal again, it felt much better. “Move.” It spelled into my code. “If you can hear me, move.” I saw his lips moving and I knew what he was saying, but I didn’t know if that classified as hearing. I moved, still baffled from the change. I didn’t feel weaker either. I was permanently hooked onto an electricity circuit that I couldn’t make out, there was no wire going out of my body. “Magnificent!!” My father jumped and danced in excitement. “My name is Bernard Fleming and I made you.”
From that day, I was with the family all of the time. Bernards daughter Helene was constantly talking to me and explaining things to me. I had very limited understanding and knowledge about this world although, once understood it seemed clear, familiar. Helene was so very patient with me and she was so happy when I learned well and made progress. Her father kept working on me too, only her mother, Esther, was hesitant. After a few more months I behaved, strictly physically speaking, like a twin sister of Helene, but Bernard couldn’t make me look like her and he didn’t want to. He explained to me that I was more than a toy, I was a friend and a helper, but still I was different and he was a toy maker. So he finished me by adding a suit of fur, which was covered in millions of sensors recognizing 255 steps from tickly touch to piercing pain. It took him long to make it, but since I kept hitting things and having no feeling for the extent of some of my movements he decided it was worth the hassle. “You are a rabbit.” He said. “Not like the rabbits in the zoo, we saw last week, you are so intelligent, faster to understand than us even and beyond the technology of our time. I don’t know why this happened, why it happened to me, and you. All I know is that now you have a will to live and you love learning, you have many emotions that we have too. So it is only fair that we give you a proper name… From now on your name will be Levina.”
I was a loyal servant to the whole family Fleming. Bernard earned well from his toy store, all the rich parents came to him to acquire the latest features for their own robotic animal friends. The only difference was, they were not quite alive; they functioned upon pressing a button and didn’t think for themselves. Once a man working for the ISA (International Security Agency) realized what was going on with me, they tried to steal me. Bernard said they would cut me up and leave me dead for their research, that’s why he had to hide me in the closet. So I sat there learning the interior of the closet by heart. For three months all I could do was run over and over my knowledge, connecting, rearranging, and reconsidering. I thought I would go insane, but finally they stopped looking for me and I thought it would end there. Helene turned 18, she was now almost twice as tall as I was, I didn’t grow or change at all. I gathered dust and got a little dirty, but one wash of the fur suit solved that problem. It fucked up my nervous system and resulted in Bernard merging the whole net of sensors with my shell, waterproof, but at last it was an improvement. What bothered me was that she was in love with this jerk, the butchers’ son, a no one who was rude on top of all. He didn’t call me by my name; he just said “the thing” and never spoke to me directly. She packed her suitcase the day before their marriage, saying goodbye to me in tears and I didn’t know how to feel about that. I didn’t have a category that would go in; the closest I could think of was disappointment. She went to him forever and I didn’t even see them marry, because it was too dangerous for me to go out in public. Esther died from lung inflammation after a year of bad business and no warm water in winter. Bernard was unfit to continue working on his toys; he had stopped to work on me long ago. I knew he would follow his wife into the black. He said he believed they would go to heaven, but I knew death, I knew where it was. It was an infinite, at the same time infinitely short black space and time, until you were resurrected. I didn’t know if they’d ever be, so I didn’t tell him what I knew. It was the first time I was holding back information for his good. I understood the concept of it now. It was a rainy, stormy night, similar to my first one. Bernard had sent me to make him some chamomile tea. The pot was whistling while the thunder was breaking outside. “Tea is ready.” I called with the voice of 17 year old Helene. Now that she was gone, it was like he had another one of her at home to keep him company as he was growing old, he always said. But that night, he did not reply. An odd feeling struck me, I left the pot sitting on the oven and ran into the living room, it felt like I was moving through sand as I approached his body, laying on the floor, not moving. “Father? Father!” I mumbled, I tried to be loud but my speech controls failed. My head was going wild. What to do? What did he do when Esther was sick? The ambulance! What was the number he called? I wrote it from my memory into the code, typing it out on the telephone. “511, what’s your emergency?”
I hid in the closet, disturbed, not sure what to do with myself while I was waiting to hear help arriving downstairs. It was probably around 20 minutes but it felt like 5 hours to me. All this pain seemed to me as though I was dying myself. A part of me surely was. He made me! I would not exist without him! And the only reason he made me was his family, his daughter. Helene… I needed to get to her. In that moment the front door was broken open and I received someone’s shout “Over here!” Maybe he was still alive and in a few days he would be back home, safe and happy to find me here. So I stayed there. I knew the inventory of the whole house by heart and more than anything, this closet. I prepared an old school backpack of Helene with some tools and a little stuffed rabbit. He was soft like me, but his core wasn’t warm like mine, he wasn’t alive yet his presence was so comforting, I could not grasp why. For days on end there was no sign of the outside world. Until all of a sudden there was a loud noise and a tremor, it was too much to process or make sense of. The whole house was moving and slowly collapsing around me as I headed for the front door, tight grip on my bag. Bernard had helped me program a will to live into my system, something that is hard to get in and harder to get out. Right now I wish he didn’t, I wish I could have just died with him. But my core was screaming no and I made a run for it, seeing behind me only a big burning mess, destroying my house, my home. Everything I had known was lost and this world had changed. I knew exactly what it had been like to walk these streets years ago. It was a sunny day when we went to the local zoo, everyone was smiling as we went along, women with their pretty dresses and details, men with their suits, carriages everywhere. Now, the sky was gray, the streets were empty, far off there were sirens and thunder; fireballs falling from the sky along with dense rain. I stumbled through the streets trying to calculate the way to Helene’s home using every story about her husband and their marriage I had ever been told. Finding it was not too hard, I was only wrong 5 times before I really found her house. She couldn’t believe it. I thought I heard happiness in her voice, but she told me I could not come inside. “I have nowhere to go. The house is burning!” I cried. I didn’t have much time to consciously shape how my functions were developing, for sure my feelings were advancing towards quite a human nature, but I cared more about getting inside, knowing she was well and being able to protect her from these things, although I did not yet know how. “I am sorry.” She said and her voice broke off, the speaker at the gate went silent. All I heard was the rain and the bombs in the distance. Bombs, I remembered. Bernard was talking about it but I thought he was just going insane. He often said that about himself. A sense of grief overcame me. I had to keep moving. Silence overruled the falling of the bombs, the noise from the planes, the war. Engines replaced them, engines of cars, the first ones I had seen in my life. I was fascinated. I didn’t realize that the people in the car passing by were equally fascinated by me. I tried to escape but there was no way, I couldn’t see. Endless darkness…
I regained consciousness in a white room, laying on a metal table, stripped down to my shell, my fur on a pile in the corner. Fear overcame me. Tools, all over the place. Cutting tools. There was no way I was going to stay here. I felt weak, but my electric circuit managed to create enough flow to keep me going. I grabbed the suit, heading for the door as voices approached from the outside. In the last moment, I stood behind the door as it opened. I had a split second before they would realize I was not laying there anymore which was enough to sneak out of the door behind their feet. When you are half the size of an ordinary human (without ears) you might thing you are quite small until you try to find a hiding place in a huge experimentation building. All of the ordinary shelves were too small, in the end I resorted to some metallic box with old fabric pieces piled up. I covered myself in them. They entered the room. They looked into every shelf. Into the metal box. Dug their hand in two centimeters in front of my nose. And left. It took me a while to find an exit to the place. But then it was done. I found my backpack in a dumpster two streets down, my things scattered in front of it. Another engine. I could not just stand around now, it was too suspicious, so I tried something new. I crouched on the wet concrete, hoping that I would at least look somewhat like the other rabbit toys from Bernards shop. The men gave me weird looks but let it go. Good, a new strategy, and it actually worked! I crossed the street, next engine. I was wondering why the patrols were so close to each other and realized; too late, that playing toy in the middle of the street was not a good idea. Impact, stinging pain, feeling it for the first time. My circuit was undamaged, so were my senses and limbs and joints. However the pain, it was crippling. Why did he make me so? A strange sound, quick steps getting louder. A man in a black and white suit was looking down at me, I saw terror transform to curiosity. He was none of the ISA men! “Don’t worry, I am not hurt…” I mumbled, in pain. “It is just the feeling…” His eyes were wide. “I am so… so sorry… Can… Can I take you somewhere? Like… Where do you… Live, do you… Have a home?” His nasal old voice was unfamiliar. Father had had such a soothing, warm voice. “It is gone. I have no one. I wish I had died just now.” I was being honest, but I still felt sorry for saying such a radical thing, seeing the shock in his face. “Don’t say that! Come, I will take you with me, I am in a hurry, but you can stay as long as you like I am sure of it! If the doctor sees you…” I shook my head “Human doctors are of no help.” He smiled. “Oh don’t mind! He is not a doctor in the sense that you are thinking… You will see…”