By Rotwang (Zardreth@Cyberking.be)
"Oh God !" Kevin went and gripped the steering wheel.
The smell of burnt tire-rubber rose to his nostrils and he felt loathe to turn his head round.
I didnít see her ! He said to himself and opened the door of his truck, the events of a few moments before playing over and over in his mind.
His brain barely had time to register the visual information that he felt the bump, and almost heard the truck go over her.
He could see her slumped over the road in the light of his torch.
But his heart almost stopped as she veered up and got up on her feet.
"Thank God I missed you !" He went as she seemed unharmed.
"Help." She said. "I canít wake up grandfather." She said.
She was a pretty young woman with long auburn hair and a confused expression on her face.
"Are you alright ?" He asked and examined her.
But then he noticed she was examining him.
"You donít look like grandfather Ö" She said, apparently still dazed.
"I Ö" Kevin didnít know what to say. "Youíre sure youíre okay ?" She seemed in shock.
"Iím fine." She said with that strange confused expression on her face.
Kevin had a look at her. Her flowery dress was all torn up and dirty.
"Iíd better take you to a hospital." He said.
"No ! You must help me wake grandfather !" She said with a pressing tone.
Kevin watched her. She was definitely delirious. He tried to calm her down, but she kept telling him her grandfather would not respond to her calls.
"Where do you live ?"
"In that house over there." She said and pointed to a fence that bordered the road.
"Show me in." He said and followed her.
There was a large hole in the fence and she went through there. Kevin glanced at the fence and wondered what had caused this hole.
They walked through a badly kept garden up to the white-timbered colonial style house.
The girl led her to a room and Kevin saw an old man in his bed.
"Grandfather ?" She went and gently nudged him. "Please wake up Ö" Her tone became pained.
Kevin suddenly realized what was wrong Ö She was probably mentally ill and didnít understand that the poor old man had died in his sleep.
"Can you wake him ?" She asked with innocent and fearful eyes.
"I doní think your grandfather will wake up. He is in heaven." Kevin tried to explain clumsily.
She looked at him, clearly not understanding.
He wanted to explain, but suddenly realized he didnít know her name.
"Whatís your name ?" He asked.
"Ayla." She went.
"Ayla Ö Your grandfather is dead, he passed away in his sleep. He is in heaven, and he wonít wake up again."
Ayla watched him for a long moment. "Why ?"
"He was an old man Ö It just happens."
"What do I do ? I still have so much to learn Ö"
Kevin was puzzled by her words.
"Will you tell me about the world ?"
Kevin looked at her and tried to figure how old she was, nineteen, twenty ? And how could she be so innocent ? What had been happening in this house ?
She suddenly paused and said : "Time for my recharge."
Kevin thought he had misheard her.
"I have to recharge." She said and got out of the room.
Kevin had a last look at the old man and followed her.
Under other conditions, Kevin wouldíve been attracted to Ayla.
She was slender and pretty with a striking face.
"Look, weíd better call the police." He said, trying to focus on the situation.
"Could they wake him up ?"
Kevin, as gently as he could, grabbed Ayla by the arms. "Your grandfather is dead. He will never ever wake up again. But we must call a doctor, who can have look at you and then notify the rest of your family."
"I donít need a doctor and I donít have a family." She said, looking at him with her strange dispassionate eyes.
"Ayla, I think you might be in shock. His death, the accident, it mustíve shaken you up !"
"Iím not damaged." She said.
"Just sit down and Iíll call a doctor." Kevin looked around for a phone.
Is there a phone in the house ?
"I think grandfather had one in his lab." Ayla said.
"Where is that ?" Kevin asked.
"Iíll show you." She said.
Kevin had a quick look around the lab. He tried to make sense of the mess and noticed certain things.
"Here it is." Ayla said, picked up the cell phone and gave it to him.
Kevin took the phone but kept looking at the lab. At first they had looked like mannequin limbs and parts, but there electronic bits and cables sticking out of them.
Kevin wanted to give Ayla a reassuring look when he noticed she had unbuttoned her dress and was trying to stab a big electric cable into her stomach.
"No !" He tore it out of his hands.
"But I need a recharge." Ayla said. God, she had such big sad puppy eyes Ö
Kevin held the cable and looked at the lab again. "No ?" He went and put up a disbelieving smile.
He had a good look at her. Surely, this was impossible Ö "Ayla, donít tell me youíre a robot ?"
"Iím an android actually." She said.
The smile melted off his face. Either the old man had been messing with her mind or else Ö No this was 1998 ! They didnít have androids ! Not in some old guyís basement !
"Is there something wrong ?" Ayla asked with that sad pouty look on her face again.
"You canít be an android, can you ?" Kevin asked.
"I am." She replied and looked at the cable Kevin was holding.
She reached for the cable.
"No ! Iíll give it to you if you can prove to me, youíre an android. Open a panel or something."
"I canít !" She said. "I donít have access panels."
"I think Iíd better call a doctor." Kevin went.
"But Iím really an android Ö" She said. "How can I prove it to you ?"
"Do something a human being canít, I guess ?" Kevin said.
"Okay !" She said and went towards an old car engine in a corner covered with tarpaulin.
She picked it up as if it was made of plastic.
"Let me see that !" He went and she gave it to him.
It crashed into the floor, narrowly missing his feet.
"Do that again !!!" He went and looked at the young woman, effortlessly lift the engine, but her face remained neutral, not a hint of triumph.
"But you look so real ! I mean, you look Ö human !"
"Isnít that what an android is supposed to look like ?" She asked.
"But youíre an android !" It suddenly struck home Ö
"Of course." She said and looked at him with that endearing expression on her face. "Can I have a recharge ?"
"Er Ö sure !" He said. "Go ahead."
She picked up the cable and stuck it into her belly button.
Kevin raised and eyebrow and watched her become inert. He waited for a second and then waved his hands in front of her eyes. She didnít even blink. After a minute, he became impatient and began to look around the lab. After he had done a tour of it, he noticed a desk with an open diary on it. He noticed the shaky handwriting.
Ayla still hasnít noticed Iím very ill. My health has been declining fast. Just as my lifeís work is complete Ö I only hope I can live long enough to teach her how to be more human, sheís so innocent.
The others still think Iím a nutcase, despite my pleading they refuse to come and see her Ö But I understand, I was a fraud back them. At least Iíll be reunited with my beloved Ayla.
The next entry was written with a barely legible handwriting.
Feel weak heart atak tonight ayla ! help her no quacks no disecting hlfjfsdqj
The rest was illegible.
The old man had had a heart attack and died in his sleep. Kevin picked up the diary and looked at the motionless Ayla. He walked up to her and had a good look at her. He tried to make out if it showed she was an android.
Her long auburn hair hung just below her shoulderblades, if she had any. She had large, expressive green eyes that seemed like any other pair of ravish eyes. She had a straight nose and lovely lips for a very pretty face.
The rest of her body was slender, but quite shapely, though her proportions were fairly normal.
After a second of hesitation, her skin felt normal to the touch and he could even see pores in it.
But she didnít react to his touch and remained as still as a mannequin. A pretty one Ö
Kevin looked at the diary again. He noticed it was numbered. Perhaps there were more.
"Ayla ? If you can hear me, Iím upstairs Ö" He went and felt reluctant to leave her.
But she is a robot !
On the other side Ö She seemed concerned about her grandfather.
"Iíll be right back." He said and went upstairs.
Kevin began to look for the other diaries. He opened drawers and looked in the bookcases. There were a lot of books about electronics and robotics, some almost 50 years old.
Kevin wanted to go upstairs, and shouted downstairs "Ayla ?"
He went to Grandfatherís room. The old man looked at peace. Kevin went through his drawers and closets. In a corner, he found a cardboard box with books and magazines in it. Under them, he found some diaries.
He opened one. It was dated 1986-1996. He looked at the first diary and saw it was marked 1997-nothing.
The first diary, at the bottom of the pile went back to 1936. Some photos fell out.
Kevin picked them up. The first was an old one. It showed a couple holding a baby. But the woman was in a contortionistís pose, while the man wore a strongman outfit, complete with a pantherís skin. Judging by their hairstyle and clothes, it mustíve dated from the 1920ís.
The next pictures were a set showing an old fortune telling automaton. It seemed to be made from glass and cast iron. Inside was the upper body of a gypsy woman complete with crystal ball.
One of the pictures showed it without the glass case, and the automation had another head, that didnít match the rest of the body. Kevin had another look and then compared it to the first picture. Apparently, the automaton and the woman had the same face.
The next picture showed the rear of the device, fully open. It was a glass box with a small cast iron box under it, on decorative cast iron legs. He could see the doll looking back behind her and he could even see her behind Ö The contortionist was dressed up as the automation and sat inside the device. It was all a clever illusion, with the rear end of the box large enough to hold her legs, but narrowing towards the front, so that it seemed nobody could fit inside the automaton.
He put them back in the first diary and decided to check up on Ayla. He got up and Ö
"Wow !" He dropped the diaries. She had been standing right behind him.
Kevin held onto his chest. "Ayla ! You startled me."
"Iím sorry, I did not mean to." She said and looked sad. "What are those ?"
"The diaries of your grandfather. Perhaps they can tell us more about you." He said picking them up.
"What will happen to grandfather ?" She asked. "Will he stay here ?"
"I guess weíll have to call the police and Ö tell them about you."
She didnít seem to mind, but something nagged Kevin in the back of the head.
"Will the police tell me about the world ?" She asked.
"I donít know, theyíll probably send you to a lab, I guess."
"But there is a lab downstairs ?" She said so innocently.
"Scientists will want to have a look at you Ö" Kevin suddenly realized what had been nagging him.
"I want to know more about the world." She said. "Grandfather promised me."
"Ayla, do you have spare clothes ?" He asked her.
"I donít have any." She said. "I have only this dress. Grandfather gave it to me when I was born."
She looked as if a truck had gone over her Ö And it had !
Kevin had reported the dead man from a pay phone and returned to his truck. Ayla was sitting besides him and just couldnít stop looking around her. Sheíd look and stare at passing cars, turning to get a good look at them through the rear window.
"Ayla, be quiet, please. Youíre distracting me and the other drivers." He said as her behind was on proud display in his windshield. "Girls arenít supposed to show their panties at everybody."
She sat down again. "But Iím not a girl, Iím an android."
Kevin thought for a second. "Youíre a girl android, so you have to behave like it should."
"I will." She said with a little smile.
"Itís a lot smaller than the other house." She said having a look at Kevinís apartment. "Where is the lab ?"
"I donít have a lab Ö" Suddenly Kevin remembered he had forgotten something. "Ayla, how long do your batteries last ?"
"About 12 hours." She said. "Unless I exert myself, then the batteries are drained faster."
"I forgot that !" He said. "We must go back for your power cable."
"And you need new clothes !" He went. "And the cops will be still at the house Ö Do you recharge on the normal mains ?"
"I donít know. I never had to." She said.
Kevin rubbed his head. "What are we going to do ?"
To be continued Ö