A YOUNG WOMAN of platinum blonde hair and gorgeous legs sat, cross-legged, in a black Italian leather skirt, facing the room’s panoramic view of the roiling, noontide pacific and a panel of network producers.
“We got bad news, Susan,” said the leftmost male of thinning silver hair as he dabbed cream cheese over toast. “We’re letting you out of your contract. You won’t be appearing in the next Season of San Diego Beach.”
“How? What?” Susan asked. “On what grounds?”
“You,” a beady-eyed woman accused, leaning forward, “you are not a robot.”
“Not a robot,” a frizzy haired, fake-baked woman in her fifties agreed, nodding.
“Not a robot,” a hipster, mid thirties male with pink marcelled hair sprouting out of his buzzcut agreed, looking between the other two.
Susan flinched. “What? No! I most certainly am a robot. I’m more of a robot than the other girls.”
The beady-eyed woman tapped her pen impatiently and looked to the others. “She doesn’t get it.” She addressed Susan, “You’re looks will fade. We can’t afford to invest in perishable goods anymore. You’re human, sweetie. A human doesn’t have the necessary emotive flexibility to compete with the other robots and make a meaningful enough impact on the ensemble’s turbulence quotient. We wouldn’t be able to compete with the other robots on the other reality TV shows. Take the TZA 12,000; it’s got total Pathos/Ethos/Logos dissassociativity. I’m sorry. We probably should have told you sooner.”
“It’s not true!” Susan yelped. Her jaw tightened. “I am a robot. The MRI’s of my internal systems are in the portfolio I sent you next to my head shots. Just ask my agent. Ask Lenny. I’m totally legit. I told you guys. I was made from raw materials in China and India, assembled in Taiwan, then shipped to France, then Milan, then Southern California—”
“Cut the act,” the fake-baked woman spouted.
“No,” the silver-haired man said. “Sandy, she doesn’t know. Susan, your clothes, your attitudes, your values, they all come from those consumer channels but your flesh—well, I’m afraid that your flesh just comes from your mom and dad.”
“Mom and dad? No! Gross. I’m real. I am a robot.”
“We have to agree with our commercial sponsors and be firm on this one, Susan. It’s imperative that our on-air talent be a product that’s one-hundred percent traceable. If you’re not one-hundred percent syntho-traceable, the kids can sniff it out. They know what’s legit and what’s just—well,” he looked between the others, “and what’s just Mother Nature.”
“Susan,” the buzzcut hipster began, “four years ago, a commercial jetliner carrying a cargo of TZA 9000s, en route to California, was hijacked and destroyed by Islamic terrorists. The lead times on those units are eons. We had no choice. San Diego Beach was about to air and we were short one inarticulate, self-obsessed blonde. We had no choice. We combed the hospitals, found an amneisiatic patient and greased the right palms. That patient’s name was Susan Pelters.”
“This is some kind of joke,” Susan said.
“You’ll still be famous, you just won’t be robot famous anymore,” the buzzcut hipster said.
“This’s impossible. Where’s your proof?”
“We’ve had your DNA tested several time and we’re prepared to provide these results in court if we need to.”
“And—!” Susan begged. “What were the results of your DNA tests?”
“You’ve got some. You’ve got some DNA.”
“Yes,” the beady-eyed woman pressed. “Accept it, honey. Unfortunately, you’re just a real person. I know this must come as a shock to you what with how much of a value is placed on robot celebrities since the scientists discovered robots were the most effective sellers of products. You’ve probably grown up watching robots on the big screen and on TV your whole life; looking up to them, wishing you could be one of them.
“Think of your car accident concussion as a magical adventure that most underclassers will never have the privilege of experiencing. We’re not heartless in this matter. We have psychologists that can help you make this transition back into everyday life. There may even be a book deal in this for you.”
“But—but no one’s hired a human actress in this town for forty years,” Susan said. “Who would hire a non-robot female to star in a reality TV show? No. You’re lying.”
“I’m afraid we’re not. You’re being let go from the show and this is all the time we have for you today. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. The lawyers have some papers for you to sign.”
Thoughts rushed through her mind: all those weirdos who had been emailing her for years saying that they knew her from highschool and that she was just a stupid human. She’d ignored them. She couldn’t go back to them now. And the robots wouldn’t have her. Her boyfriend was a robot. He would leave her. It would be in all the magazines and tabloids and she’d spend the rest of her life thinking of the life she couldn’t have. The way the robots lived: Without sleep. Without pain, or fear, or responsibilities. Without need for love, or togetherness. Just motion, constant motion and fun. She couldn’t leave them. Now she’d have to settle for a regular man, a regular job, a regular life span and…sagginess…crows feet—all the things she’d laughed about before—they would happen to her!—and that thing down there—her womb! it was real—it could produce life; but she was twenty-seven; she’d wasted so many years when she could have been looking for Mr. Right—Mr. Right!—shit!—it was for real now; it was for keeps; it—the womb!—it was real—it was real!—it had a timetable—(her head felt light and dizzy)—it was too much—a regular car stuck in regular traffic—but she didn’t know how to do anything. All she could do was talk about designers and who was dating who. She wasn’t even robot rich. She was living paycheck-to-paycheck. “Please,” she said to them as she stood. She noticed that she was sobbing. “I’ll work for free. Please,” she walked toward them. “Please, don’t cut me out.” Her hands outstretched toward them as she sobbed and leaned over the desk. She clutched at the pink T-shirt of the buzzcut hipster as he recoiled and grimaced in revulsion and she sobbed over him.
“Get it off!” the hipster cried. “Get it off!”
“Get it off, yourself,” the silver haired man said, picking up his toast and taking a bite.
The hipster took a back handed swipe at the woman’s jaw as he leaned back in his chair with his eyes squeezed closed.
“Ehhh!” Susan cried. She collapsed to the floor.
The hipster opened his eyes. The young woman lay crumpled on the floor beyond the table and his boney hand remained suspended in the air. “Opps!” He chuckled. “I always forget how fragile they are.”
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