Dexter gets patched up, Jim gets angry, and Toto is really just very lonely.
I roll my eyes and pry myself away from Jim and Toto. Toto wrenches her eyes off Jim and smiles at me. “You look just like Party! Are you guys related? You should get together, that’d be totally hot! What’s your name?”
I am shocked. What the hell is she on about?
“Uh, I am Dexter.”
“Dexter, huh? Like the serial killer or the mad scientist? Don’t answer that. Let’s see...Gexard? Derard? I like that one. Derard. So what’s your damage again?” Toto prattles on, pulling herself into a sitting position in the dirt.
My head spins. Damage? Serial killers? I am so confused.
“He can’t walk,” Jim croaks. Toto nods to Jim, and then I’m back in the spotlight.
“So what happened? Are you straight or gay? Who do you vote for? Who’re you running with? Are you Killjoy material? And why are you so hot?”
Toto, please shut up.
“Uh...I got shot?” I respond. Toto nods, then gets off the ground, and hauls me up, balancing me in between her teeny shoulder blades. This girl’s about five foot one, maybe, so I’m shocked she can carry me. Jim finally gets his ass off the ground and is following us. “I’m not James Nolan.”
“I know. You’re an A.I.” Toto shoulders me, and I just feel really heavy.
“I want to....who is James Nolan?”
Toto gestures to the door, and Jim hauls it open.
The cave is not what I expected. It’s covered with paper lanterns, waxy candles, and electric lights. All the tables and equipment are overturned and lying on the floor.
“I’ve been redecorating. Please excuse the abattoir that is my life,” Toto says in a flat voice.
Jim and I are both quiet. Jim turns a table right side up, and Toto slams me down on it.
“Ouch. My feelings.”
“Don’t talk to me right now!” Toto snaps. Yeesh.
Jim wanders off, and Toto shouts directions to what she calls ‘The Comic Book hoard. Don’t touch my gum!’ While she’s shouting at Jim, an animal jumps up on the table. It’s a dog the size of a small horse. He’s big and black and especially drooly. He barks at me ad licks my face.
“Mr. Peabody! Down, down!” Toto shoves the dog down to the floor. The dog’s name is Mr. Peabody. That make me smile. Toto and Mr. Peabody. That’s nice.
Toto’s got some stuff set up, and puts on some music. It’s sad music. I close my eyes, imagine I can feel Toto cutting my legs open. “Oh, wow. Look at you. You’re so beautiful....” Toto whispers reverently. I look down, and she’s expanded on the cut that Mikey gave me, and I can see more metal. It repulses me. I want to have blood and flesh, instead of metal and wires.
Jeez, it’s always something with me, first it was the Transvestite stuff, and now it’s being human. Why can’t I be happy? I always want things I can’t have.
But I keep my mouth shut and just listen to the music Toto’s playing. I also listen to the buzz of wires and hums of electricity that’s being used to fix me.
Toto sings along with the music and her voice is high and soft, like an angel. A very sad, very screwed up and possibly bipolar angel.
She’s still closer than I am.
“Here’s the day you hoped would never come, don’t feed me violins, just run with me through rows of speeding cars.”
Weld. Buzz. Click.
“The paper cuts, the cheating lovers, the coffee’s never strong enough, I know you think it’s more than just bad luck.”
I feel a shot of feeling in my left leg, and it’s pain. Just pain.
“There, there, baby, it’s just textbook stuff. It’s in the ABC of growing up. Now, Now, Darling, don’t lose your head, cos none of us were angels and you know I love you, yeah.”
Toto slides back on her chair, I hear the wheels scraping over the floor, and rummaging around in a box of metal, which shrieks and protests like feminists at a Playboy shoot.
“Sleeping pills know sleeping dogs never lie far enough away, glistening in the cold sweat of guilt.”
The wheels of Toto’s chair scrape back over the floor, and I hear the hum of her tools again.
“I’ve watched you slowly winding down for years, you can’t keep on like this, now’s a bad time enough as any.”
Feeling starts slowly returning, melting my artificial nerves, from my ribcage down to my upper thigh. Toto keeps working.
“There, there, baby, it’s just textbook stuff. It’s in the ABC of growing up. Now, now, darling, oh don’t kill yourself, cos none of us were angels, and you know I love you yeah.”
I listen to the high pitched warble of the music and Toto’s singing, and fall asleep.
By the time I wake up, Toto’s gone, along with Mr. Peabody. The entire lab is dark, and I wonder if I was left here.
I slide off the table and land squarely on my feet. Wow. That Toto girl fixed me up good. My arms sting a bit, though. I don’t even hurt. My arms tingle a bit, though.
I call again. Where the hell is Jim?
Toto’s crying in the next room. I pause by the door, enough to see that she still hasn’t put on pants yet, and she’s talking to Mr. Peabody.
I slip by the door, and keep wandering. “Jim?” I call again, but softly, not wanting Toto to hear me.
I hear a dry rasp of air, and I hurry toward it. Jim’s standing in a room, staring at wall covered in paper. I squint at it-the electric lights don’t go this far-and I manage to make out newspaper articles about A.I. progress.
Artificial Intelligence created.
Rock star creates Spare Parts Bot.
A.I. technology: Miracle or Menace?
Jim pulls down an article, yellowed and faded. The headline proclaims a president recreating an A.I. of his son.
Jim runs his fingers over the photograph. “President Nolan...” he whispers, his eyes going over the words. Then I get it.
“Jim, hey, you’re not a replacement.”
Jim’s full gaze swings back to me.
“Yes. I am.”
I don’t know what to say. It’s true, Jim is a replacement, a silver medal, the spare to make loss less lonely. Jim goes over the article again, lapsing into moody silence. I just go over all of this. Jim starts reading out loud, probably just so I can know all this.
“James Nolan, son of President Nick Nolan, died three months ago in a fatal car accident. President Nolan has created an Artificial Intelligence clone of his son James, in order to bring him back. ‘Any father would do this’, President Nolan said at a Press conference earlier this week.”
Jim crushes the article in his fist. “I...I’m so-” I start to say, but then Jim just waves his hand. “Save it. I don’t need it,” Jim says, pushing past me on his way out the door. I call his name again, but Jim’s striding ahead of me. I go after him, but even I know I can’t say anything to make it better.
I hear the soft slap of bare feet on the floor. “This is my fault. I showed him that article,” Toto whispers. I look at her, the girl who can fix robots. Toto’s staring at her feet, and she’s finally put on a pair of sweats. “I screwed up again,” Toto whispers. Mr. Peabody pads up behind her and shoves his big black head under her hand. Toto smiles, and maybe she doesn’t even know I’m there. Toto just keeps talking to her dog.
“Thank God for you, Mr. Peabody. It’s nice that you stick around with me.”
Mr. Peabody doesn’t respond, just flops down onto the cold floor with a thump.