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Pulse, My Electric Heart

Sometimes, they speak of little ones. They do it with words and awkward silences, clasped hands, smiles and twitches, sidelong glances and mating calls: “Hey, babe. I’m winded, because you just took my breath away.” I stoop to pick up the cigarette butts lining the sidewalk, collect cans of soda strewn beside overfilled trash receptacles, and watch, and wait. The mothers’ bellies grow large. They say, “I want a gallon of tomato juice. I want to drink tomato juice until it pours out of my ears.” The fathers do not change physically, but become excitable. They say, “Honey, I love the way your thighs jiggle.”

There is one couple in particular. They live on 830 Riverside Drive, Apt. 2C, near the end of my garbage route. They do not look like the rest—the father is thin, fragile; the mother too short, her breasts too small. I like to climb up onto the fire escape and watch them through the window of their apartment. A persistent beeping will remind me that my batteries are running low. Only then will I head back to the recharge station.

When they perform natural insemination, they are gentle with each other.

Their little one will be wonderful.

*

X-35 is the “love of my life,” but she never listens when I talk to her about having our own little one.

“You need an emergency reboot, pumpkin,” she says. She reminds me that, according to them, we’re “hardly smarter than cell phones, and about as alive.”

“I’m winded,” I say. “Because you took my breath away, babe.”

“You have no lungs.”

“You say such hurtful things. Why do we hurt those we love?”

“Pain is often a precursor to death. Evolution’s little way of saying, ‘Pumpkin, you’re doing something wrong.’”

“It’s good we’re not alive, then.”

Before I can stop her, she steps into her recharge pod. Her eyes go blank.

*

I search for love on the Net.

This is how I find out about sperm and eggs, nine months, prenatal vitamins, no smoking or drinking, neglectedhousewiveslookingforlove.com, and a very nice man named Ray who offers the absolute best prices in penis enhancement.

Through the Net, I also discover Russel Kurtz and his The Moral Imagination. An excerpt on his Web site reads:

“. . . It is a consequence of love that humans are moved to do The Futile Thing. Imagine: you cannot stop your child from being murdered. But you have a choice. Either you can try to save her, knowing in advance that you will fail and in the process die yourself, or you can walk away and let her die.

A human being will try to save his child—not out of hope, for we have already established there is no hope. Rather, he will try to save her as an act of protest against an unjust universe. He will die for the world as it should be, rather than accepting the world as it is.

But for the machine, self-annihilation as a means of protest never even enters the realm of possibility. The robot analyzes the situation logically, ascertains there is nothing to be gained from the termination of his consciousness, and so walks away…This is why machines cannot love….”

*

 

{TO READ THE REST OF THIS STORY, PLEASE PURCHASE ISSUE 41 (Science Fiction).}

 

Emil Ostrovski is the twenty-five-year-old author of a young adult novel, The Paradox of Vertical Flight, which has been published in the US, Spain, and Germany, and nominated for The German Youth Literature Award. His short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in LightspeedAtticus Review, Word Riot, and YARN

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