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even robots need blankets

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The rope was kept in the trunk of his car for one of those “just in case” days. It wasn’t healthy, but nothing about Connor really was. He’d never learned any normal way to take care of himself, and as the saying went, you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks. Connor was just an old dog that needed to be put down, and if nobody else would do it, he didn’t mind taking matters into his own hands.

It was the third day of senior year of high school, and it was the third day this week that Connor had had just one too many insults hurled at him. They slid right off, most of the time - or, Connor pretended like they did - but something about overhearing his sister refer to him as a monster really did him in. It felt like she’d sucker-punched him right in the center of his chest, and Connor had been genuinely winded for a full minute before he managed to so much as move. His feet had carried him out through one of the side doors in the school, out towards the student parking lot, out to his car, and then his car had done the rest.

Connor was parked at the far end of the state park’s parking lot, trunk popped open, holding the thick rope coiled into the shape of a noose in both hands. He couldn’t bring himself to tear his eyes away from it, even when he blinked and felt hot tears roll down his cheek before falling onto the rope. Blinking hard, Connor wiped at his eyes with the back of his sleeve and slammed his trunk shut, stuffing the rope into the big front pocket of his hoodie so that nobody would bother to stop him.

The usual paths through the park were closer to the entrance, but Connor didn’t want to take any of those: he didn’t want to risk being found. Instead, he turned towards the expanse of trees towering above him, and disappeared into them.

It was cooler here, kept out of reach of the sun by wide-arching branches and thick leaves that had yet to fall. Maybe he’d get lucky, and nobody would find his body until winter started. He hadn’t left a note for anyone to try and use against him - he didn’t have anything to say, anyway.

Connor picked his way over branches and various forest debris, only tripping himself up a couple times on a hidden root that was growing out of the ground, seeking sunlight in the way only plants knew how.

It took about ten minutes until the clearing Connor was looking for opened up in front of him, and he paused at the edge of it, just letting out a soft sigh of relief. It wasn’t the prettiest - this clearing had once been used as a dumping ground, one of the lots that the city dumped waste into, before some environmentalist nuts got them to stop - but it felt welcoming. It felt like this was where Connor belonged: just another thing to dump and leave behind.

Nature had already started to take back what was originally its own, tall grass and shrubbery growing over top of the piles of garbage. Various citizens of the area had used it as a personal dumping ground too, but that practice hadn’t been done in a while, as far as Connor knew. At least, he hoped it hadn’t been done in a while. He really didn’t want to be found.

As Connor picked his way through rubbish towards one of the three trees that stood at the edge of the clearing - one of them would be able to support his weight, if he picked a strong enough branch and tied the noose there - something sort of… Shiny, caught his eye. He paused, glancing around with a slight frown on his face, brows pushing themselves together as he tried to figure out what it was. The clouds shifted and let the sun break loose, and there it was, again. That shiny thing. What the hell was it?

Connor moved towards it slowly - whatever it was, it was buried underneath a pile of all forms of garbage: plastic bags, empty takeout food containers, two tires, something that was probably made of wood once - until he got close enough to get a better look. Squatting down, Connor moved a few pieces of garbage away from it, and found that the shiny thing was… A sneaker. Attached to a leg. Connor’s blood ran cold. Had he just found a dead body? Was he going to go to jail for this? Connor went to stumble back, but ended up planting his ass firmly in the ground, just staring at the sneakered foot. What the fuck was he supposed to do? Should he uncover it?

After what was probably only a minute and a half (but felt like hours to Connor) of internal debate, he decided: fuck it. Might as well see who that used to be, right? He could always call in anonymously, or leave a note for the park rangers, or something. Connor got up on his knees and knelt forward, specifically only breathing through his mouth - the smell of the rotting garbage alone was overwhelming, so who knew how bad a rotting body would smell - as he started sorting through the trash, tossing things aside, exposing more and more of the body.

It took about five minutes to completely unearth it, and… Huh. Connor didn’t recognise this person at all, but they were clearly a boy, probably around his own age. It didn’t look like he had any damage done to him at all, either, which was odd, because he had been literally buried under a bunch of rotting trash. Connor leaned forward a bit more, moving to brush away the honey-blond hair from his forehead, and his eyes flew open.

“Jesus!” Connor exclaimed, jumping back and nearly falling flat on his back this time. When the person didn’t move, Connor inched closer again, noticing that the eyes were… Different, from normal human eyes. They were sort of glowing, almost as if emanating an internal light, and they were the most beautifully unearthly blue that Connor had ever seen. “Uh.. Hello?” he asked, frowning a bit and waving his hand in front of the person’s - thing’s - face. When it didn’t blink or move at all, Connor’s frown only got deeper.

Glancing down, he noticed that the thing’s chest was glowing, too, right in the center - the same blue as the eyes, in fact. Connor hesitantly shifted forward, feeling a bit odd about doing this, but he lifted up the thing’s blue-and-white striped polo - it was filthy, the clothes were disgusting but the thing itself seemed fine - and spotting a little round stamp in the center of its chest, where the light was coming from. “Oh,” Connor said after a beat, his voice quiet. This was an android. A perfectly good, potentially working android that had been tossed out like it was trash. Connor put the thing’s shirt back down and then sat back again, unsure what to do. He’d never seen an android this close, before - they were usually placed into service industry positions, like cashiers, home health aides, that sort of thing, so that people didn’t have to do those positions anymore, to optimise the economy or some bullshit - and it was a little unnerving, how human-like they were. Or, how human-like this one was. It had fucking freckles, variegated hair so it wasn’t all one flat color, a life-like /chest/…

Connor hated that he immediately wondered if the human-like qualities extended underneath its waist. He had to get his mind straight - this was a fucking android. What was it doing all the way out here, dumped in the woods?

Pulling his phone out, Connor checked the time - great. If he left now, he’d make it home before anyone else did, and he’d be able to hide this thing, or at least take a good look at it and see what he could do to help it, or fix it. Its eyes were still open, unnervingly so, and Connor reached up to try and close them - and the android’s eyes closed, the light fading from its chest as well, as if it was powering off. Okay, fixed that. Now… What should he do with it? How should he get it out of here without it looking like he was carrying a dead body?

Momentarily, Connor glanced over at the three trees standing against the far end of the clearing. Subconsciously, he touched the coiled rope that sat in his front hoodie pocket, and let out a soft breath, shaking his head. Another day. He could wait another day.

Connor managed to gather the android up into his arms, carrying it bridal-style and trying not to grimace at the stench and sensation of the old, dirty clothes it was wearing. He carefully picked his way back through the trees and emerged, about ten minutes later, carrying the android to his car. It was a bit of a task to decide where to put it - the front seat would be too weird, but putting it in the trunk just seemed cruel - and eventually, Connor settled for the backseat, going so far as to carefully buckle it in. The noose got tossed back in the trunk, underneath a bunch of shit that nobody would go poking through, and Connor got back in the car, starting the drive home.

The entire drive home, Connor couldn’t stop himself from peeking back in the rearview mirror to see if the android was doing okay, if it had fallen over, if it was even still there - because, God, what a surreal fucking afternoon. He had even almost asked it if he could smoke, and then realised that, yeah, of course he could, because androids didn’t need to breathe, even if they did mind if he smoked.

Connor flicked his cigarette out the window moments before turning into his driveway, and parked the car where he always left it before contemplating the android in the backseat. How was he going to bring this inside without any of the neighbors noticing and making mention to his mom?

There wasn’t really a good way, so Connor just sort of… Resigned himself to his new fate of carting around a non-working android as he brought it into his house, up the stairs, and to his room. Locking the door behind him (thanking whatever God was out there that his parents hadn’t gotten around to removing the lock like they said they were going to), Connor set the android down on the floor, tossed his bag on his bed, and just sort of… Looked at it.

The dirty clothes were really going to fuck up the floor. Those had to go, first.

Connor got the android’s shirt off fairly easily, noticing that it even had some freckles along the rest of its skin - not just the little constellational dots on its face. Whoever had built this thing put actual care and love into it, which made its appearance in the middle of a fucking dumping ground all the more unclear.

Pants came next, and Connor felt… Bad, about doing this, as if he should be asking permission or consent or something before just taking off this android’s clothes. Shimmying the pants down, Connor was both amused and horrified that first of all, it wasn’t wearing underwear, and that second of all, it probably needed underwear. Hastily, Connor averted his eyes and scrambled up, getting a pair of his own fresh underwear and sliding them hurriedly onto the android’s body. Only then did Connor feel safe to look, letting out a sigh of relief as he discovered that, yes, they did cover everything up nicely. Jesus Christ, who built a robot and made the decision to give it a dick? What purpose did that even serve?

Abruptly, Connor decided he might not want to know the answer to that question, and returned to examining the android’s body.

It wasn’t damaged anywhere, which again, only raised more questions than answers. It actually seemed to be in perfect working condition, but if that was the case, then why wasn’t it turning on? Connor frowned, shifting a bit and gently taking the android’s head in his hands, running his fingers through the oddly soft, oddly human-like hair, and his fingers grazed a slight dent. Connor paused, and ran his fingers over it again to find it, and then parted the hair to reveal a small, easy-to-miss slot, which looked like it was supposed to have something in it. A memory chip, maybe? Connor could vaguely remember hearing about those in one of his science and technology classes. But why was the android’s memory chip removed? Why had it been dumped out in the woods?

Letting out a deep sigh, Connor sat back, frown still present on his face. He had a lot of work to do, and it seemed that would start with ordering a new memory chip, if he could get his parents to agree to it.

A car door slammed outside and Connor glanced towards the window out of habit, even though he couldn’t see through the thick blackout curtains he had hung over them. Now or never, Connor thought to himself, and carefully straightened up, adjusting the android as he did so, laying it down gently in his bed before heading out of his bedroom.