“Are you sure, Jen? This is our last time watching his memories and you want to skip parts?”
“Yes. I really, really don’t need to watch his algebra class. Fast forward to when he’s opening his birthday presents. The look on his face when he sees those car keys is priceless.”
“Okay. Say when.”
Charlie’s parents, sitting in bed in their flannel pajamas with a bowl of popcorn between them, watched his memories of the day play before them on their television, which was connected to a small, black box they took out of their son’s head each night.
“Matt, wait. Stop. When!”
“Sorry. What do you see?”
“I don’t know. Shhhh, watch.”
Walking past houses and streets that led into residential blocks, Charlie stopped and stared up at the sun, recording it for a full 30 seconds. Then he closed his eyes and watched memories of his previous birthdays play on his eyelids. He saw cakes with more and more candles and watched the flames flicker and disappear. He saw family gathered in the living room chatting. And he saw sunlight reflected off swimming pools and lakes. He couldn’t remember ever having a cloudy, rainy birthday. The universe knew it was his day and sent the sun up to crown him. Imagining the sun sitting upon his head, he walked on under the overpass that marked the beginning of a business sector. He stopped for a minute and grinned at his foolishness.
“We’re talking to you, android boy!”
Confused by their harsh voices, Charlie turned and looked inquisitively at a group of approaching classmates.
“Hey there, Charlie. We got a little birthday present for you.”
“For me? Thank you,” he said with a glowing smile.
“Yeah, check it out,” said a boy in tattered jeans and a black band t-shirt with the logo half worn off. “Becca’s gonna show you her tits!”
“Happy birthday, handsome.” Becca walked toward Charlie, forcing him to back up under the overpass and into the shadow. She unsnapped her purple vinyl jacket to reveal her bare breasts, pushed Charlie down onto the cement and hovered over him, straddling. “Bet you’ve never seen these before. Or if you did, your parents probably erased it from your memory. I guess they’ll erase this too, huh?”
“What do you mean?” asked Charlie. “They wouldn’t do that. They love me.”
Charlie’s classmates howled with laughter. Becca grabbed his hand and put it on her breast, then kissed his cheek.
“Do you like that, Charlie?” She leaned closer and whispered, “Are you even capable of liking it? Let’s see whatcha got down there.”
They all crowded around as Becca unfastened Charlie’s khaki pants and pulled his brown plaid shirt up out of the way. Charlie looked from face to face recording their glittering eyes and their mouths hanging open with upturned corners. He recorded a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy whose face was angelic except for the sneer. He paused briefly at a girl who wore her red hair in short spikes to spite the cute freckles on her nose and cheeks. He slid his eyes past the other faces and then past Becca’s smooth black hair to record her mouth as her wide smile faded into a small, determined frown. Becca yanked down his pants, and he blushed as he looked down at the two lights that he could touch to send pleasure signals to his brain.
“Ha, he’s a eunuch! He looks like a Ken doll!” one boy yelled with delight.
“Yeah, that’s right,” the redheaded girl yelled. “Your parents love you so much they wanted to make sure you’d never have any babies.”
“Babies?” snorted the blond boy, glaring at her. “They wanted to make sure he’d never have sex!”
“Well, get outta here then,” said Becca with a scowl. She gave him a last shove, got up and backed away, pulling her jacket shut and snapping it. “Go home.”
Charlie scrambled to his feet, pulled up his pants and fastened them. Leaving his shirt untucked, he turned toward home and ran.
“Erase it? No way, Jen. We said we weren’t going to do that anymore.”
“Fine. You put the memory unit back in his head. I’m going to sleep.” She pulled her covers tight and lay curled up and tense, staring at the popcorn spilling on the bed.
Matt went into Charlie’s room and looked at him lying lifeless on his bed. Before he inserted the memory unit back into the base of Charlie’s head, Matt pushed a small button on the side of the box so that it would lock itself inside forever—irretrievable and unalterable.