Manufactured Humanity (short sci-fi)

My nonfiction and children’s work always gets so much love that I’ve decided the spec fic should be a free THANK YOU for letting me hop genres here and there

The smoky air intoxicated Zayden’s buzz. I can do this.

He wandered down the padded walkway to the nearest Touch-House. I was born in the wrong time. He scratched his scruffy cheek and imagined life before sex-bots. To feel a real woman, warm and silky like the heroines of romance novels he’d found in storage after his grandmother’s funeral… the idea scratched his senses.

He dreamed of someone who would argue with him ─ put her foot down and beg him to quit vaping. Love. What a concept.

He laughed at the ethereal dream. What am I, some kind of misogynist? Only misogynists believe in love. Plus, no woman ever looks at me. I’m too short and too scrawny.

He pulled open the Touch-House door and sighed at the fresh scent of disinfectant. As clean as a hospital, there’d be no risk of disease or heartache.

“Welcome. A voice programmed to perfection pulled his attention to the ideal figure of a tall brunette. “I’m Grace. What’s your pleasure?” Her perky D-cup chest taunted him under a frilly low cut negligee.

He lowered his gaze. The dusty rose carpet softened his feet, made him ashamed of his lust. A mixture of fear and anxiety swarmed his mind.

Grace fingered his chin and batted sympathetic eye lashes. Her brilliant gaze glowed like emeralds. She flashed a dainty set of well-formed teeth under her sensual smile and he held out his hand. “I’ll take an hour.”

“That’s all?” She pouted in perfect 1960’s starlet fashion.

Zayden’s mouth hung open. Sweet honey-suckle perfume tickled his desires.

She twirled her fingertips over his minuscule biceps.

“How about two?” He swallowed hard.

“Three is a magic number.” She tugged at his wrist.

He nodded and slid his chip implant over the counter. A jolt surged through him while she processed the charges.

“Right this way.” She grasped his hand and sauntered before him. Her curvaceous hips swayed with the beat of his pulse.

He longed to lay with her. His heartbeat thumped from his chest through his toe nails. I’m really here.

The professional world had absorbed his waking hours. From sun up to midnight, he spent every day typing and messaging for the company that provided his food, clothing, and furnished condo, but some days the hunger for more grew unbearable. An unquenchable thirst pained him until he went to his life-coach who diagnosed a common syndrome.

“Men your age often grew a tolerance to the hormone balancers that keep you and others safe from yourselves.”

Zayden pondered the memory.

“Sometimes a testosterone increase can lead you to do terrible things.” The life coach’s warning still haunted Zayden. “You may have experienced a need below; urges that could terrify modern women. Thankfully technological advances have just the remedy. You should visit a Touch-House. The bots there will care for all your needs.”

Grace rubbed his hand pulling him back to the present.

Zayden mentally thanked his life-coach. He followed her to be cured of his cravings. He needed to feel and be felt. It sent his mind into a frenzy of activity. His imagination bloomed: skin squirming, hands roving, toes rubbing.

He shuddered at the “animalistic” ideas.  Society’s thrived without these devious acts.

A flash of terror struck him, but enticed his imagination with innumerable fantasies. His pants tightened and he grimaced at the Neanderthal bulge. Not again.

He sighed and continued to follow Grace. She stopped at the second door on the left and tugged on his arm. “Step inside. Serenity is her name, and she awaits you.”

He gaped at the flawless slope of Grace’s forehead and nose. Her pink lips shimmered in the dim light. Unblemished synthetic skin combated a slight shadow that slid over her face. “She will take care of you.”

Zayden blinked fast. He breathed deep. His legs shook and he swallowed hard.

His armpits grew sticky. He shifted from one foot to the other.

“Don’t keep her waiting.” Grace pushed him through the sheer fabric drapes hanging from the doorway.

His eyelashes brushed against the cloth. He marched in, stiff and awkward, like the first known robots. Once inside, a swirl of vanilla and lime tickled his wits. Candles lay scattered on every shelf and table throughout the elaborate bedroom. Silk pillows piled on the floor in the back corner of the room.

For a moment, Zayden thought he’d been tricked, but a small girl hugged one of the pillows to her slight frame behind a large cushion. “Serenity?” he asked.

Her mouth trembled. She stood and fixed her large amber eyes on him. Barely aged enough for work, she shrank into herself.

“You’re human.” He leaned forward finding misshapen freckles along her darkened skin.

“Yes,” she gasped. “How can you tell?”

“But this is a Touch-House. I paid for a service.”

“And you are owed.” She gritted her teeth and slumped. The gems sewn onto her lace negligée rattled slightly.

Fear choked away his lust. “It’s highly illegal.”

“That’s never stopped them.” She stared at the pillows around his feet.

He eyed her dark hair. Silken waves fell about her shoulders, rushed over her bare skin. A tight bodice lace hugged her waist too tight. His hope of satisfaction fled.

He stepped back. “I just wanted to feel someone.”

“Some-thing.” She snorted with a cynical laugh.

“No.” He held up his hands, unable to combat her piercing glare. “I’ve read about f-a-m-i-l-y. Times when men and women lived together and… slept in the same b-bed.”

She curled her lip. Her eyebrows pulled into a harsh scowl. “Don’t tell stories. It makes you more pathetic than the diseased ones who beg.”

Zayden squinted at her. His ears twitched and he clicked his teeth in agitation. “You’re a real girl. You don’t belong here.”

“I have nowhere else to go.” She rubbed her shoulders.

“Yes, you do.” He reached out and stepped forward.

She did not recoil from the gentle pressure he placed on her hand. She brought it to her cheek and gazed into his eyes.

The gold in her stare gave him an idea. For the first time in his life he felt proud of his small stature. “Come on. You’re leaving.”

“How?” She pointed at the strategically placed cameras, built into the patterns designed to hide them on the walls.

The more he attempted to pretend he hadn’t seen them, the more his eyes recognized the cameras. He clutched her to him and dragged her to the mound of pillows. “We pretend to do… it,” he whispered softly. “But instead, you change into my clothes and leave as me.”

“It’ll never work.” She sighed.

He buried his face into her neck as if in a passion. His stomach twisted. The heat of her body taunted him, but her innocence made him shrivel.

He pushed her onto the pillows, and dove on top of her. Worming his weight down, they sank under the silk cushion of privacy.

She gripped his waistband and unbuttoned his pants.

“What are you doing?” He froze.

“Helping you undress. So we can exchange clothes.”

Her hands released him like she had done it for years. He kicked out of his pant legs and fell on top of her. The pillows smothered them. He rolled onto his side, glad for the cover.

She unbuttoned his shirt. Zayden could not look away. He marveled at her as she pulled it over her shoulders. He blinked at the disguise. It fit well when she pushed a small arm cushion under her breasts to pad her stomach.

“This is crazy,” she mouthed.

He held the pillows in place as best he could to aid her. “Maybe.” He shrugged back.

She slid her nightie out from under the shirt and pressed it to him. He hesitated. He gawked at the gold embroidery. This won’t work.

“Go on.” She slid the material over his head, and laced the bodice around him. Frayed ends of the jewels poked his skin. “How do you wear this?” he asked.

“I have to.” She laid back and held a pillow above her face. She reached to the end table beside them, grabbing the bottom drawer handle. “Moan loud.”

“What?” He recoiled.

“I have to grab something.”

He swallowed deep and opened his mouth to force out a half-moan, half-wail. When she pulled her arm back under, she held a makeup pen. She opened a small compartment and pulled out a couple of pins.

Astonished at her quick thinking, Zayden pulled back her hair to fashion it like his tight bun. Threads and hooks scratched him under his garments. She held the makeup pen to his face. “Close your eyes.”

His eyelids itched. His cheeks grew heavier. She tugged at his lips and his eyes twitched. He snatched the pen from her. “You need more hair.”

She sat like a doll. “Just follow my jawline and it should do the rest.”

Zayden’s hand shook. He lined out a perfect beard. His pulse thumped in each finger, tugged at the back of his brain. What happens when they find out?

He shook it off and sucked in a steadying breath. All fixed.

“We can’t hold still, the camera’s pick up too much detail.” Serenity grasped his hand and popped out from under the pillows, bringing him with her.

She looked to the door and he blew her a kiss with the most feminine gesture he could muster. He listened to the swish of his khakis ─ now draped on her frame ─ until he was alone.

Abandoned to the full shimmer and curl of the lace that surrounded him, not one window offered escape. There were no air ducts, or vents to even suggest an inconspicuous exit. He burrowed into the safety of the pillows and piled them around his flesh blending in as best he could.

“You must have pleased our guest, Serenity.”

Zayden hid under the silks and ruffles like Serenity had when he first saw her. His hands twitched. His blood thickened with fear.

“Serenity, you have no cause to hide. You know that.”

A perfect hand dug into Zayden’s haven and hulled him forward. He was drawn off the ground and dangled by Grace with one hand. He fell limp like a cut of meat.

Her eyes flashed red. She gnashed her teeth. Her beauty now terrified him. She glowed like a goddess enraged.

She threw him down and stomped to the cameras. She brought her hand to her mouth. “Camera 2, room 3.” A series of beeps sounded and she turned back to Zayden. “She bypassed the system.”

A button rose out of the top of her hand and she pressed it with the other.

An alarm wailed against Zayden’s human ears. He shook with each pulse. Recoiled at the vibrating screech. “She was just a girl,” he cried out, unable to hear himself under the pressure building against his ear drums.

“No.” Grace cocked her head. “You are just a man and she was our most profitable venture.”

She kicked him with a solid metal foot. It dug into his ribs and thrust the air from his lungs. He struggled to get up, but she grasped his throat. Her eyes blazed like fire.

“We have uses for people like you.” She forced him up.

His tongue stuck in the back of his throat.

She hurled him at the door. “You must take her place.”

“Me?” He coughed. Bile rose in his throat.

Grace’s manufactured mouth curved into a devilish grin. “There are men who desire more than women. You now belong to them.”

He lunged out the door, but three gorgeous sex bots blocked his way.

“You can’t d-do this. I have a, a j-job. People will look for me.”

Grace clutched his shoulders. “No. You’re just a man. We hold all the power now.”

She squeezed until the bone cracked and he screamed.

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