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The crow and the well

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There was a well made of stone. Chipped and faded bricks stacked and cemented together in a circle reaching down into the cold, dead earth. In that blackness, somewhere, there was water. When he looked into it all that he could see was blackness and at first Crow had thought it to be dry. Mostly out of boredom he'd picked up a small rock from a nearby rubble pile, the vague shape of a long collapsed house, and dropped it down the well. Watching it fall he'd expected nothing more than an echoing clink when it struck the bottom. Instead he was met with a faint splashing and the brief glimmer of a ripple spreading over silver water. Somewhere down in the well, beyond the warm reach of sunlight, there was water. Stagnant and freezing, but water. The well wasn't as barren as it had first seemed, the robot thought, much like the now decaying world. Absentmindedly, he picked up another rock, this one a bit bigger than the first, and dropped it in. Another splash. Gathering stones and setting them in a pile on the rim of the well he leaned over the edge and slowly tossed them in, one by one, as he thought things over.

Seto. His best friend. Though they'd only known eachother for a few short hours, shorter than he would have liked, but Crow really did like him. Admittedly when he first saw the kid he didn’t think much of him. He was tiny, shorter and more frail than Crow by far. Though he was small he proved to be capable, almost on equal grounds with himself even. If he wasn't then he would have never caught Crow. He wouldn't have been able to follow him across the park or over the roller coasters. His persistence was endearing, even cute. Looking back now Crow felt sort of bad for all the mean things he'd said. At the time he didn’t even think about it, Seto was such an easy target. He was vulnerable and Crow hadn’t seen a real person before. Everything he knew about talking to people he’d read in books or heard on old programs the few times he’d managed to get a television working, actually doing it for real in person had been… more difficult than he thought it would be.

Another rock into the well. As the splash echoed deep in the abyss words echoed through Crow's mind.

Don't act like we're friends!

He didn't know why he'd been so annoyed when Seto acted nothing but friendly toward him. Kindness just seemed to come so easily to the human. No matter how rudely Crow acted or what he said Seto only smiled and answered with soft words. No one had smiled at him like that before and Crow didn’t understand the difference. It was irritating.

I said, don't act like you know me!

Maybe it was because they were nothing alike. Seto had no idea what Crow had been through or how anything made him feel. He hardly knew anything about him at all. Yet the young boy had been so happy to see him, like they were old friends.

Another stone, another echo; the glimmering ripples seemed to grow closer.

You mean more humans? As in, you're human?

He had to admit, when he first laid eyes on Seto as he came into the park he thought the kid was just another ghost. There wasn’t anything else besides them and animals, sometimes robots on the verge of breaking. But Seto seemed determined to find anyone else that was left alive and that made him think that maybe, just maybe, there were others out there somewhere. Somewhere he hadn’t been yet, hidden away somewhere safe. It was possible but he tried not to think about it too much. If he found people...

Catch me if you can!

He'd stolen something important from Seto. He'd been jealous. The human was so attached to the pendant and the items inside, he hadn’t planned on taking it at first but when Seto got upset he changed his mind. At the time Crow hadn't understood why he was so angry over it. It was just an item that belonged to someone who died filled with what seemed like junk. He didn't understand how Seto could be so attached to something that seemed so useless. Crow had lots of things he’d collected and he lost things all the time, he never cared much about any of it. The moment he found something new he lost interest in anything else. But Seto seemed to hold all the memories in the pendant so dear... He'd been jealous that the human had so many things that he could care about, that reminded him of people he loved. Even the simple fact that he cared about people and those people cared about him, it was enough to really piss Crow off. So he'd taken the locket and ran, hoping to upset the boy. Somehow make him feel bad for having all of those precious memories.
Looking back on that night now that night had made another memory. Not just for Seto but for Crow as well.

More stones. The ice cold water drew closer with each bit of rubble that sank to the bottom.

Man, you're pretty stupid, you know that? You're so stupid I bet you couldn't even catch a cold.

He'd climbed the ferris wheel without much thought. He’d done it before, it wasn’t hard for him at all. But he knew a human would struggle, maybe even get hurt. He’d wanted to keep the locket away from Seto and show him anything could be lost, anything could be taken away.
But the boy had found him and scaled the ferris wheel just to get to the locket back. As Crow jumped away, evading the boy's grabbing hands, he'd miscalculated and slipped as he missed his footing. The locket slipped from his hands in a blur and all he could do was watch. Seto had caught it though. Once again Crow had failed to hold onto memories. His body, unharmed and impervious, crashed through the merry-go-round and all he could do was lay there. He was defeated and it felt unfair.

But even then, when Seto had reacquired his stolen item and didn't have to stick around, he was so concerned for Crow. Even after how much of a bully he'd been, all the horrible things he'd said. Even after all that Seto still ran over to where he'd crashed, yelling his name. Crying.

I've never cried a day in my entire life.

It was the truth. It wasn't that he didn't have reasons to be upset or that his existence was all sunshine and rainbows, though often he treated it that way, it was that he lacked the ability. And why would he be able to? What good would a robot be if it was an emotional wreck, crying all the time? He could feel and he was thankful for that, but sometimes it seemed that this body of his was nothing more than junk. Even if he could feel he wasn't able to properly express it. Even if he was sad he couldn't cry about it, which usually just led to him laying in one place until he found a way to make himself feel better or until he got bored.

The pile of stones had been depleted. Slowly he picked up more, constructing another pile to be sacrificed to the well.

It's funny, to be honest I don't really have any memories of my childhood.

He'd just sort of woken up one day in the ruins of a building. He'd had no real idea where he was, who he was. He'd been dressed in a loose grey gown with an old photo clutched in his hand. Laying on the hard ground he had seen dark birds circling above. Black wings lazily shifting as they spiraled in the skies, surveying the dying world below. He didn't know how long he watched them. It might have been minutes or it might have been hours; he'd been in a trance as they flew high above him. After a while they all left, losing interest in whatever they'd been watching, moving on to patrol other areas. Eventually the sun set. It grew cold. He hadn't registered the temperature dropping so much as the light fading and being replaced by an endless sea of stars. At some point he'd managed to stand up and began wandering around. Those days, maybe weeks, had all been a haze. Eventually he'd ended up in a library, walls lined with pillars of books. He'd begun reading them with no real goal, it was just something to do. Eventually he found a book about animals and learned the name of the ominous creatures he'd awoken to see. Crow. That word seemed to fit him perfectly. A scavenger drifting from place to place, taking what it could, always searching. From that day on he was Crow, the boy searching for his memories. He was convinced that if he could discover more about himself that his life would be worth something, that he would be happy.

He learned that Seto was also searching for something. A girl with silver hair. Another human. Again he felt jealousy, even more overwhelming now. He obviously cared about this person very much and was going to great lengths to find her. Already Crow was beginning to actually like the human, he didn't want to see him with anyone else. If Seto found her then he wouldn’t want to be around something like Crow, a cold robot with only a loose grasp on how people were supposed to act.
So he'd simply told him about the girl at the hotel. Not a lie exactly, not something he should feel bad over. But there it was, that sour pang of guilt in his chest.

Another stone dropped into the well. It didn't fall far before Crow heard a splash.

Seto had asked if they'd ever see eachother again. He'd seemed almost... sad. Crow reassured him that they would. Because they were friends.
It wasn't really something Crow had ever thought about before meeting the boy. He'd gone through life only ever thinking about himself. How he was feeling, what he was going to do that day. He'd never had anyone else to worry about, to care about. And he found that that was exactly how he felt about Seto. He wanted him to be happy. For the first time Crow cared about someone and that someone seemed to care about him as well. It almost hurt.

But how long would it be until Seto forgot him? He'd probably forget all about him as soon as he found his silver-haired girl. He'd forget about the night they met, the adventure they had. Their memories together. He didn't want that so he'd given Seto his ring. Even if they weren't together perhaps that much would be enough to remind him of Crow every once in awhile. And as for Crow? He didn't need anything. He thought about Seto every day. It would be distracting if Crow couldn’t track his surroundings with robotic precision.

Friends give each other kisses. I read that in a book.

In his desperation to be remembered he did something he'd once read about in a novel. Perhaps he hadn't told the entire truth, perhaps people who were slightly more than friends kissed. But Seto didn't seem to know that and he didn't need to know it. Crow didn't want to scare him away but after everything else he’d done that seemed like the least of his worries.
Seto's lips had been so warm and soft, like something Crow had never felt. Unlike himself the human had real flesh and blood. A real heart. Crow was made of synthetic materials, his warmth came from the electricity running through his circuit boards and wires. Sometimes he liked to pretend that he really was a human, that he could feel and behave just like a normal person, but it just wasn't the same. The difference between them was jarring, more so than Crow thought it would be. Before Seto he’d never thought of himself as anything that special, as anything much different from his perceived image of humans. But at the end of the day he was a thing made by people, his entire existence seemingly worthless. He wasn't even alive. But Seto? He was alive; happy and determined and amazing. He had the whole world before him. Crow may have envied that but he also admired it.

The second pile of rocks was now gone but Crow didn’t need to get more. By now the water was just a foot from the top of the well. It glimmered, crystal clear in the slowly sinking daylight. Looking into it he could see his reflection. His hair black as birds' feathers, large green eyes speckled with gold, pale lips uniformly colored to the rest of his synthetic skin.
But this face wasn't human. Frowning, he picked up another stone and tossed it at the well. A splash of cold water hit his cheek as tiny waves distorted his reflection. The water slowly ran down his skin and he wiped it away with the back of his gloved hand.

He turned his back to the well. It had looked empty at first but the water had shown itself with some effort, slowly and with work he brought it to the surface. It was sort of reassuring. If there was true happiness somewhere deep inside of him it might just need some help getting to the surface. Only instead of stones he needed Seto. That night, the brief moments they were together, that was the happiest he’d ever been.

He wanted to feel that again.