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First Face

 +J.M.J.+

First Face

By “Matrix Refugee”

 

Author’s Note:

Yes, the Matrix Refugee CAN write an “A.I.” fiction that doesn’t feature the green-eyed beauty! There aren’t many Martin fictions out there, so I thought I’d try to compensate with this slightly rhapsodic vignette. To Delia Soul, who wrote one of the most poignant Martin fictions there are; before I read your fiction, I might not have considered keyboarding this or any fictions with Martin in them for that matter; to Laurie E. Smith, whose “A.I.” fictions are one of many, many the reasons I got drawn to this film in the first place, and to “fom4life”, even though you said Martin was a jerk; I won’t deny it, but I understand why.

Disclaimer:

I do not own “A.I.”, its characters, settings, concepts or other indicia, which belong to the late Stanley Kubrick, to DreamWorks SKG, Steven Spielberg, Warner Brothers, et al, based on the short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss (one of the rare instances where the movie is better than the book!)

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Warmth.

The first thing his mind could name was warmth. He almost wondered what that soft, soothing, caressing sensation was that gently brought the blood to the surface of his skin and took the rigidity from his cold-stiffened limbs, but his mind found the name for it.

Some alien brightness penetrated his half-open eyelids. He realized what it was.

Light.

Dark patches moved across the brightness. He realized they were shadows moving across the light, shadows of people moving about.

He wanted to move his arms and legs but they just wouldn’t obey him. He wanted to open his eyes further, but it felt like elephants were sitting on his eyelids. He lay still and slid back into the sleepiness that fogged his head.

He heard voices, unfamiliar ones close by, and then even closer a familiar deep, calm one…Dad’s voice! And then…Mom’s voice, soft and sweet. He wondered if angel voices sounded as good as that. His eyelids were still too heavy for him to lift to see if it was her, but he knew, just knew it was her, her voice, the voice that had spoken to him through the cold darkness that had held him for however long it had lasted.

He felt someone touch his face and hold him. Mom talked to him in his ear, baby talk stuff, but it felt great to hear her voice more distinctly than the muffled vibes he’d heard in whatever that cold place had been, to hear real words, even if they made him want to puke.

He seemed to be carried slowly and lightly along a corridor, through doors out into fresh air. He couldn’t smell it because of the darn oxygen mask thingy over his mouth and nose, but he saw the light change and grow clearer and he felt breezes on his skin, cool breezes. What time of year was it? Maybe spring?

Whoever was carrying him on whatever, they lifted him into what he guessed was a vehicle, probably a cruiser van. He heard Mom get in next to him, along with whatever nurses were tending him.

He must have conked out during the drive. Suddenly they had stopped and the nurses were moving him out into the open, into the elevator that brought them up to their home—he could hear the old familiar motors and feel the floor thrust up under the chair or whatever he was propped on.

The elevator slid to a stop with a low whooooshh. He heard the doors bump and slide open and the nurses roll him into the entryway.

Voices. Dad and Mom talking to the nurses.

And then he heard another voice nearby.

“Are you sad? You have tears.” A kid’s squeaky voice asked. Who’s that? He didn’t recognize the voice. It was no one he knew. Maybe he just thought it was a kid’s voice, or maybe Mom was babysitting. She could have been doing that just to keep busy.

“No, David. These are happy tears. The most wonderful thing in the whole world has happened,” Mom said, her voice all wobbly the way it got when she was weepy, but she sounded happy and excited, too. If he had the strength, Martin knew he’d have to keep the tears hid himself.

“This is Martin,” Mom said. “This is my son.”

The strange voice didn’t reply. Must be some dumb kid, but he felt too exhausted to really care.

The nurses brought him along the hallway and up the stairs to his room. They lifted him gently and laid him on his bed. He knew it could only be his, though he could barely see much of the room and he recognized little of it, it had been so gosh darn long. It was almost like a new room, like the way it looked after he’d been out to Grandma Swinton’s in North California for a month.

It was all too much for his exhausted brain, so he let himself doze off. He woke and dozed for much of the day, but Mom was there just about every time he woke, putting those sticky medipatches on his skin, keeping him clean and dry—gad, it was like being a baby all over, not that he remembered it—changing the nutrient bags hooked to that awful feeding tube down his nose. He knew what was going on from TV, but he never could have imagined—except maybe in a bad dream—that he’d go through that kind of stuff.

He fell into a steady sleep after awhile. Being awake was almost exhausting.

He awoke in full daylight. Mom was talking; he couldn’t make out words, but it sounded like she was giving instructions to someone. Was Dad staying home to look after him? That would be cool; maybe he could tell her to cut it out with the baby talk. He was eight, for goodness sake!

Wait, that was NOT Dad’s voice that replied. That was that dumb kid voice he’d heard before. The kid better not screw up and make him worse. Who was there, or were his ears playing tricks on his head? Maybe something had gotten screwed up because of whatever that coldness had been for.

No, nothing was wrong with his head, so far as he could tell. His ears had heard Mom’s and Dad’s voices okay, so he must be hearing the kid voice, too.

It was too tiring. He went back to sleep.

He woke up much later. Someone was applying a medipatch to his arm. It didn’t sound like Mom. The hands touching his skin didn’t feel like Mom’s hands, though he couldn’t tell why he knew this at first. They were too small, he realized, and they just felt…weird. Must be the mystery kid.

He fell asleep again. Even just sensing things wore out the little strength he had.

He noticed changes in his body in the days that followed. His lungs pulled harder and stronger on the oxygen. He thought he could feel his arms and legs grow less heavy and stiff. He wasn’t sure how many days passed, maybe four or five. He glimpsed sunlight alternating with darkness and the blue lights from the bed canopy, but he lost count of how many days passed. Mom seemed to be there just about every time he woke, and Dad was there with her at night. When they were there, he could forget about the unfamiliar voice and hands. Maybe the stranger was just part of the weird disease that had sucked the strength from his body, and he’d forget about it once he was all better.

Finally one day, his eyelids didn’t feel so heavy. He’d won out over the elephants sitting on ‘em.

He opened his eyes; they almost closed, but he peeled back his eyelids. He looked around. Everything was blurry, but he straightened his eyes.

His room. His own room. Morning sunlight brightened the big picture window overlooking the pond. His toys and books lined the shelves as he remembered them.

He heard a low, whirring purring noise nearby. Teddy? Oh, man, Teddy! He scanned the room, looking for the old fuzzball.

He saw movement. His eyes went to it.

Wait, that was too tall to be Teddy….

Someone moved close to his bed, peered under the canopy. His eyes adjusted to take in the newcomer. It was too small to be Mom and way too small to be Dad.

It looked like a boy, a yellow-haired boy a little older than he—or about the same age, however old he was, however long he’d been lying like a busted supertoy. The stranger looked at him with wide eyes. What was with him? He didn’t blink as he stood there, staring down on him, and there was something creepy, kinda dumb-looking about his eyes.

“David, go get Mommy,” Teddy’s calm, furry voice said.

The strange kid just kept staring. What the heck was with this kid? Was he stupid or something? Never seen someone wake up before, kid? Oh sorry. David.

“David, go get Mommy,” Teddy insisted.

David, or whoever it was, turned away quickly—too quickly—and ran from the room. “Mommy!” he called. “Martin is not sleep anymore!”

Mommy?! What the heck? What did he mean by that? Had he been asleep so long that Mom and Dad had had another kid? That couldn’t be. He didn’t know all the implications, but he knew people could only have one kid, maybe two, but that was pushing it with some rule he was too young to really know. Or had things changed so much?

No, he couldn’t put a name to it yet but there was something about that kid, whoever he was…no, more like whatever he was…it was. He moved too much like one of them. Something about the way he looked, too, his skin looked too plastic.

Mom rushed into the room a moment later and climbed up beside him on the bed. She leaned down and held him close.

“Martin, oh, Martin, honey…do you know me?”

“Mom?” he managed, though he mouthed the word more than actually saying it out loud.

She leaned his head in against her chest. He felt her heart beating under his ear. Her breath came in loud, happy tear-filled gasps, but he hardly minded.

He glanced around the room. He heard footsteps, too even and precise to be any ordinary kid’s, closely followed by the purring creak of Teddy’s old joints.

The strange kid, David or whoever—whatever—stepped into the room and stopped just inside the door. He stared toward them, his face completely blank, his mouth hanging open slightly. Duuuhhhh.

Mecha.

Where the heck had it come from, and why? What had gone on since he’d gotten sick or whatever had happened?

“We should go outside and play, David,” Teddy’s voice said. The Mecha-kid just stood there like it was switched off or something.

“David, Mommy and Martin need to be alone,” Teddy said.

Finally the kid-Mecha moved and walked out, Teddy following at his heels. Good, out of sight.

But not out of mind.

Mom muttered silly baby stuff to him over and over and over. Saying one word had left him beat, but somehow he didn’t want to talk anyway. He didn’t know quite what to say, especially after he’d seen that…kid-thing.

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Kinda like a full-sized supertoy.

But something about the way Teddy had spoken to it left doubt in Martin’s mind. He shoved it aside. What did that dumb toy know? At least he was getting back to normal now.

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Afterword:

I know, it’s a little lame and decidedly rhapsodic in construction, but I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Literary Easter Egg:

Elephants on the eyelids—This phenomenon (amongst others I described) occurred to me when I was awakening from anesthesia after having my wisdom teeth extracted. I had to rely on my other senses to figure out what was going on around me until this wore off, which is why I focused on hearing, touch, and movement awareness through much of this story. You never know what past experiences come to mind when you write!