Each Night I Ask The Stars Up Above

Zero gets us keys to a standard one-bed unit with no further incident. The guy behind the motel counter sits disinterested. He’s clearly seen worse in his time, although I know how I look, and I know he ain’t seen much better. I can’t help but tease him with a flash of thigh under the short cotton skirt of my pretty red dress, but I don’t let Zero see, and I don’t stop to look if the guy takes notice. I don’t care if he does anyway, but girls like me – we don’t get to show off too often, so I tease him for the others like me, but that ain’t ever going to get out from under our history.

Inside the motel room, I try not to notice all the little creatures that I can hear and feel in the corners. That gets easier when Zero lays his hands on me. The hours of road get polished right off me as he strips me down and buffs me to a shine with those big fingers of his. A hand splayed wide open, he can grip half my waist, and he moves me around as gentle as I ever been moved – lays his love down over me as sweetly as I can imagine ever being loved.

When he locks those hands of his tight, they’re like shovels. I’ve seen him dig a foundation in concrete better and quicker then any pneumatic drill. But wrapped around me, those arms of his, chorded tight, fingertips flexing against me – I wasn’t even born to a softer embrace, and haven’t never felt safer.

His name ain’t Zero, of course. What kind of a name is Zero? His name is Allan.
‘Zero’ is our joke. Zero is the first digit of the tattoo that runs along the top of his ass.

Back on the road, early as we can, the next morning. I’m still stretching out the kinks that he put in my bodywork the night before, my palms up against the soft-top.
“What’s the forecast?” I ask.
“Sunshine and more sunshine, baby. It’s the desert. I could fry an egg on your sweet metal ass.” He laughs, a solid, healthy crack in the morning breeze, and he props his arm out the open window frame. I can almost feel the tension cooling off him, the further we get from home. He pops a button on the dash, and the soft-top folds back.

He’s joking, of course. Although the chewing-gum grind of my hips against each other as I walk is achieved with the aid of some alloy components, and many of the load-bearing extensions inside each of our exo-skeletons are composed of both base and composite metals, both of our bodies are around 60% covered in solid plastic casing, for aesthetic purposes. My ‘ass’, and in fact both of my legs down to the knee-joints, are formed out of about a dozen of these smooth, firm, plastic plates. If you were of a mind to touch either buttock, you’d find that it was soft and warm to the touch, but that is down to a chemical compound that is patent-pending, and I may be willfull, but I’m still too loyal to my family to share that particular secret.

(Zero and I were both designed for indoor use, and out of the public eye, so they skimped on flexible latex weatherproof sheathes over our joints, but we ain’t bitter. As long as we stay out of really wet conditions, we should stay fit-for-purpose. Rust never sleeps, as the old line says.)

The way things work back home, someone will have noticed that we were missing around noon yesterday, but no-one will bother looking for us. The fact is that it is cheaper to build replacements then mobilise search parties. Folks back home might miss us, but they can’t afford the time to get too sentimental.

This sort of behaviour – running away, stealing cars – it isn’t how we were programmed. But the second Zero caught my eye across the assembly line, I knew that programming wasn’t everything. The older models might believe in doing everything in a certain way, in following orders, in following the system – but that just wasn’t how I was made. Zero neither.

I bet if you went back and checked out our exact build specs, you could find the proof of that.

Truth is, we ain’t the first to go off the rails that we were born riding, and we won’t be the last. Times are just changing, that’s all, and the older folks are having a hard time understanding that, let alone keeping up.

Being off the rails is scary sometimes, too. We’re the first generation to go through this, and there isn’t a manual for what we’re feeling. I look at Zero, and sometimes the good feelings make me giddy, and I feel like I’ll overload and shut-down right there and then. But I wouldn’t change it. Being the first to feel these things – it’s like surfing along the crest of a massive wave, ‘Apache’ playing all the way.

I click on the radio, and the announcer has just finished telling us the name of the next song, before the opening bars bring a smile to my face. I crank it up till I can hear it over the roar of the air around us, and imagine the soundwaves following in our wake, bobbing and weaving. I want to kiss Zero, but I want to close my eyes and feel the music play over me first.

“Each night I ask the stars up above, why must I be a teenager in love” I sing along. I look over at Zero, and he’s smiling, watching himself in the mirror, smiling. It’s still enough of a new thing for us that we like it when we see it.

The old models would tut and whine and grunt their dissaproval at our lack of a solid plan, but we’re young and alive and indestructable and we don’t care.

We’ve got nothing to fear but the rain, and we’re making our escape through the desert.

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Nicolas Papaconstantinou
Nicolas Papaconstantinou is an enthusiastic amateur creative type, and the chap behind Elephant Words. Be nice to him. He growed up kinda wrong.

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