I had a soul. Even though I didn’t deserve it, I was given a soul.
It was when the Doctor and I were fleeing from our laboratory for…the fifth time. We’ve been through so many of them it’s a wonder the Doctor has any money left. Not only did he create me, he created a whole bunch of machines and doohickeys – and rebuilt them too.
He had even built the money machine. The machine that was supposed to teleport money from one place to another – his own lab, of course. I helped build the machine, I brought him the necessary tools, I gave him the co-ordinates of all the banks in the country. I think I even suggested he could use it to steal jewellery as well.
It worked, but then there came the Night Shade.
I didn’t pick up his presence. I didn’t sense his heartbeat. Despite his fedora and his duster coat, he managed to invade our laboratory unnoticed until he threw one of his special knives at the money machine, causing it to malfunction. ‘Why couldn’t you detect him?’ said the Doctor, ‘I gave you those sensors for a reason!’
Everything he gave me for a reason. Even my fingers, all of them laser guns except the thumbs. If I had a throat, I would have sighed. Once again, I shot at him, but he disappeared into the shadows that seemed to suddenly appear. The Doctor thought this lab would be too well-lit for the Shade to disappear, but the man always finds a way.
So once again the laboratory was blowing up all around us – chemicals had been toppled over, the dials were spinning, his favourite computer had crashed in more ways than one – and the Doctor took me inside his escape pod. He didn’t take Terry the mechanical turtle, or even the laser he had grown so attached to. He took me.
Me and no-one else.
We rocketed up to the clouds as the laboratory crumbled, and we ended up landing softly in a pile of rubbish. ‘I’m sorry, Doctor,’ I said, wringing my hands. I couldn’t feel the rancid garbage under my feet, yet I felt regret. Odd how being a robot is.
The Doctor suggested we make camp here; according to him, our pursuers were too proud to be seen dead in a place like this. Almost instantly, I began work on constructing a make-shift hovel for us to sleep in until he could find a new laboratory – he always did. It’s usually in parts of town like this he finds his laboratories, I thought. He always finds solutions. Whenever my body was damaged, he built me a new one and put the little chip that was my brain – my soul – into it.
He hadn’t found a way to rule the world though. Sometimes I wanted to suggest that we retire from it altogether…but I just couldn’t. I could shoot lasers from my fingers, but I couldn’t speak to the Doctor unless he spoke to me.
So there we were among the rubbish. I had no trouble with the smell due to my lack of a nose, but the Doctor was constantly complaining. Despite the stench, he slept in the little house I had made for him, and since I couldn’t sleep, I wandered about for a bit, attempting to make sure I couldn’t be spotted. I wanted to believe I would be a chameleon among all this rot, but I knew better.
I was a robot. I couldn’t help but be looked at.
I couldn’t walk on a street, or relax in a park or enjoy myself at a pub or a restaurant. What did they have for me anyway? I couldn’t drink or eat without a stomach. I couldn’t feel the wind against my skin if I didn’t have any.
I had no skin. I had no organs.
I had no soul.
The Doctor had never been religious, but I knew about the afterlife and had pondered on it several times. I also remembered a book I had downloaded into my brain where a character said that only human beings had eternal souls. Creatures that had longer lives than humans – like myself – had no souls, and all that welcomed us after death was an abyss. When that thought entered my mind, my robotic body froze, so I spent an hour standing in the dump.
I was seen.
As long as I’ve worked for the Doctor, I’ve had a feeling in my gut – or what substitutes for one – that we would be caught. No matter how many escape pods we build, or how many abandoned factories we convert, someone would catch us. The law or the army of the government…instead, we were found and captured by a gigantic flat plane of some kind. It looked like a big metal hawk.
A giant claw descended from the hawk and grabbed both me and the Doctor and took us aboard. I don’t remember what occurred between then and when I arrived at this facility. Is that what dreaming was like?
When I managed to regain myself, I lay surrounded by other robots. I half-expected them to move, but they lay deactivated and lifeless, hanging from metal hooks. They looked human, but I knew they were of my kind. The type of robot often used by men for “recreational” purposes, but I still felt a pang of embarrassment being among them. Their pseudo-flesh and synthetic hair made me, with my cylindrical head, dull grey coating and elongating arms, stand out just a little.
‘I have been looking for you.’
Then he came.
A man, with a thick build and laboratory attire not dissimilar to that of the Doctor, descended down the metal stairs, every step punctuated by a “clank” that solidified his presence. ‘LUCY,’ he said to me. My name. It was an acronym for something, but I can’t remember what it was.
‘Y-yes, that is my name.’ I had no control over my words at that moment.
‘Main assistant of the infamous Dr. Destruction?’
At that, he leaned towards me, seemingly growing as he did so. ‘Why did you aid him in his plans? Did you want him to rule the world?’
All of a sudden, I could control what I could say. And I chose not to respond. Rather, I allowed my brain – that little chip – to reveal to me all I had helped the Doctor with. The destruction of the town hall. The seven days the public officials spent in our dungeons.
‘I was like you once. My name is Arthur, and I was the main henchman of the infamous Professor Annihilation. He built me to spread terror, to destroy his enemies, clean up after his messes.’
He said the word “built”, yet I could clearly detect a heartbeat. I could detect a pulse. With the beating of his heart ringing through my head, I almost fell, but attempted to keep my balance. Didn’t the Doctor want to create artificial life at one point? He wanted to build a human being synthetically so he could have an heir, yes, but all his attempts were unsuccessful.
‘I was a machine, unable to feel, unable to eat, unable to partake in the pleasures the Professor so indulged in. But then I had a thought. All it took was one thought to lead me to betray the Professor, and to undertake my own experiment. What if a robot were to become a human? Using the Professor’s resources, I crafted myself a new body.’ He lifted his arms to draw attention to his form. ‘I hope to do the same for others of my brethren.’
There was nothing I could say. Tonnes of information in my brain, countless encyclopaedia articles, and there was nothing I could say.
‘Have you never wanted to feel? To live a normal life?’
‘I’m not sure…’
‘Don’t you want to taste food? Have cooling water touch your skin?’
If I accept his offer, I thought, I could eat. I could feel.
I could have a soul.
‘At the moment,’ said Arthur, ‘Most of our bodies have come out male.’ He gestured towards the others of my kind, the unmoving shells. ‘We have their minds kept safe until we can create them the perfect body. We have created a few female bodies, but not enough for the amount of these we found. You, however…’ He seized me by the shoulders, shaking me. ‘You will be a top priority. We are so much alike.’
‘Where’s the Doctor?’
‘Why do you want to know?’ He raised his voice. ‘If you find him, you’ll be forced to hide. Forced to aid in unspeakable schemes. I easily found you, what about all the superheroes that have battled you and your master? What if they find you? What if they dismantle you?’
The Doctor always said if I fouled up really badly he would tear out my brain and crunch it to pieces with his foot. I had spent hours pondering on that possibility.
‘Where is he though?’
Everything went black.
I couldn’t sleep. I was made that way. A very useful trait, as it means I have been able to do more work, keeping the laboratory clean, even engaging in a few personal projects. Seeing what I could make with the Doctor’s tools…
That’s what Arthur did. He took one of the Doctor’s creations, and fiddled around with it…me.
Where is that man now, I thought. All I saw before me was a black curved wall, but I was pretty sure I could hear him, breathing heavily. I could hear it so clearly, as if he was close, still thinking of what to do with me. Then I thought, it didn’t sound like his breathing, rather that of the Doctor…
‘Doctor!’ I cried out.
My voice was different. It was softer, and it felt like something just escaped my neck.
Something was slithering throughout my body, making me shudder. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t.
The curved wall slid open, and I was welcomed by…well, welcomed probably isn’t the right word, but I was surrounded by long, white walls – not a blinding white, but rather a more placid, calming hue. Grey, then? I took a step forward.
My feet were supposed to be big blocks of metal with hinges, but I saw feet thin and round and…oh.
Bending over, I took a closer look at my new appendages. Feet, real feet, human feet. Veins. Toes. Toenails.
I held out my arm. Usually when I did that, it extended to the other end of the room. This time, it just stopped, and the jolt almost knocked me over backwards. Then I held out my other. No horizontal lines, no lasers.
Walking in this form was no different from walking as a robot, even if I trembled a bit with every step I took. I placed my finger on my wrist…yes, there was a little bump bump bump. .
While telling myself a change such as this should have caused some adrenaline to arise, I couldn’t help but sit on the floor. The floor felt…I didn’t know how to describe it, really. It felt like my body – my new body- was being cleansed of any disagreeable elements. I saw a mirror. It was a two-way mirror –I’ve seen enough of them to know – but I had to know what I looked like. I had to.
After spending another minute relishing the cool – yes, that’s the word I want – of the floor, I stumbled towards the mirror. Just then, I noticed how thinner my legs were. My face was fatter though, no longer a dull, grey tube. Tangled black hair hung from the top of my skull – for I now had a skull – and my eyes still glowed, just a different way than they did before. I stumbled backwards, not because I was different, but because I had become more similar.
I belonged with humanity.
I was a human.
I had a human body. A human soul.
Another set of doors opened, and there was Arthur. He took me by the hand. It was warm.
‘That body was made just for you.’
‘Th-thank you,’ is all I could manage to say. ‘I th-think I…’
‘Are you thirsty?’
I knew what being thirsty meant, but was that the slight aching in the back of my throat? Arthur left for a little while, and then returned with a glass of…water.
I remembered water. Last time Mr. Mighty invaded the fortress, he sprayed me with a fire hose and I was out for three days. When Thunder Man stopped the Doctor’s plan to counterfeit money, he made it rain heavily inside the laboratory, and I hid in the cupboard for as long as I could. The Doctor rebuilt me so many times because of water, and there I was holding a glass of the stuff.
I dipped my finger in it. It felt like the floor.
I couldn’t drink it though. Not after the discordant dance I did after getting soaked. Not after how many times it’s been used as a weapon against me.
Slowly I lifted it to my mouth. As I opened it, I twist it, flap it and even smile a bit – wouldn’t you if you suddenly had a flexible mouth? Then my mouth slammed open like that of a nutcracker and the water flowed down.
I awaited the sparks or the twiddling, but instead…everything I’ve seen humans do flashed right before me. There was that couple enjoying a glass of wine I saw before the Doctor blew up the restaurant. In that field we flew over on our invisible jet, I saw someone riding a bicycle, sweating all the while but still smiling. I’ve seen people have a good cry while watching a movie, gorge on a lot of food, and bask in the sunshine.
All this could be mine. I had organs. I had life. I had freedom.
‘I think we should celebrate,’ said Arthur, leading me out of the white room and into a corridor. He gestured towards a window, which revealed sparkling stars against a flat black. ‘The night is still young.’
That single glass of water seemingly eliminated my fear of the stuff altogether, as I, or rather my new body, dove into the shower. The water that sprang from the nozzle was like the floor too, only more so. It washed away my former self.
I’m not evil, it seemed to say. I’m not a villain.
I’m a normal person.
My new form was a canvas, he told me after I dried myself off. I could become a thing of beauty, now that I no longer resembled something from an old monster movie. My hair was done up in a bun. Eyeliner and lipstick the colour of oil. A black dress, topped off with tights and shoes that made me wobble when I walked.
He held me.
During the transfer of my mind into the new body, Arthur had said that his laboratory sat in a discreet location, so getting to our destination would take a while. He did have a perfectly-normal-looking car though – was there anything he didn’t have? – and when he drove it, he told me to cover my eyes. The location of his ship was so secret even I was not to know about it.
Yet as we left, I couldn’t help but feel there was someone else nearby.
The drive was long, but I managed to occupy myself, even with my eyes wide shut. My tongue provided endless fun; I could move it up, down, wiggle it all around. I pinched myself, and no, not because I thought I was dreaming. Small pinch, small sting. Bigger pinch, different sting. Then there was fiddling about with my shoes, dangling them off my toes. Never worn clothes before…well, unless you count all the times I’ve had to put a trenchcoat to spy on people. I’ve never worn clothes I could actually feel.
I thought about what else I could wear. I’ve seen so many combinations when spying on the humans. Imagine how I’d look in shorts. Or jeans. Yellow? White? Even pink? Pink seemed a good colour, the perfect colour to wear now that I was no longer evil.
I am told to open my eyes and there we are.
Attington’s! The most refined restaurant I know! Look at all those people inside! Those people dining, savouring their food. Crab, asparagus, chicken…I could be one of them. I was one of them. I let him take me by the hand, though I still wobbled in my high heels, to take me into that place where I will socialise with those who I once helped terrify.
For so many years, I had worked in a cold lab where the only sound was the humming of machinery meant to destroy. Now here I was in a restaurant where warmth radiated off of the walls and music played, music which cleansed and soothed me the same way the water did.
Oh yes, they had water here. Glasses and glasses I drank, each of them working to wash away my former life. They may have been cleansing, but the food I ate was something more. If the water destroyed all traces of who I used to be, the food, how it danced and swirled in my stomach, seemed to foreshadow the person I could be.
The music playing in the restaurant was calming, but there was a song inside me as well, one triumphant and bombastic, and it came to a crescendo when Arthur and I kissed.
I had flexible lips, and I could think of no better use for them than to lock them with Arthur’s.
I had a soul, and that moment proved it.
When our dinner was over, when my dessert filled my body with a new type of song, I danced onto the streets, holding my arms up in the air. Arthur said he wanted to go back, and he wanted to take the car there. I told him we should walk there, so we could both enjoy the night air as much as possible.
‘No,’ he said, ‘let’s take the car.’
As soon as he said that, however, I danced down the pavement, twirling as if that would allow me to feel as much of the air as possible. I skipped around, getting a good look at the city I would no longer terrorise. There was a café there; it was closed, but one day I could go there and get a sandwich. I remembered seeing a tanning salon nearby; I could use that now I had skin.
I skipped and danced and observed the world until my body had had enough, and then I went with Arthur in his car back to his abode, covering my eyes as I did so. When we got back, he took me down a hallway, one dark and monochromatic as those the Doctor had.
‘I have to confess something,’ sighed Arthur, ‘I lied to you.’
Just hearing that, the way he said it, felt like a screwdriver being plunged into my new heart.
‘I did not create this body,’ he continued, gesturing towards himself, ‘it is actually the body of Professor Annhilation himself. He had a plan to completely wipe the minds of superheroes with a special serum, and I used it on him and transferred my mind into his body.’ He pointed at me, and pressed his finger into my shoulder. ‘When I saw you and your master on the news, I knew I had to find you and make you a top priority. Have you ever heard of the supervillainess Madam Malevolent? I wiped her mind and kept her body just for you.’
All the joy, the excitement I felt with this new body instantly washed away, and I hadn’t even drunk any water. In fact, I felt as dehydrated as I did when I first got this body. All this information downloaded into my brain; I should have known something like this would have come with a price.
I didn’t even notice him putting a syringe in my hand.
He opened a door, and there was the Doctor, chained to the wall and shaking. ‘Doctor!’ I cried.
He turned away from me, tightly closing his eyes. I had a different body, a different voice – a different soul – yet something about his reaction told me he knew who I was. Years of being afraid of him, and now he was afraid of me.
‘Go ahead,’ said Arthur, gesturing towards the Doctor, ‘I’ve shown you the life you can have now. Show how much you want it. Wipe his mind. Destroy him forever, so we can give his body to another poor robot who wants to be a real boy.’
I lifted the syringe, my hand trembling.
‘Any human being would kill this man instantly. This is your chance to prove how human you truly are.’
A tear, an actual tear, trickled down my face.
At that, I grabbed him and plunged the syringe into his vein. He fell to the floor.
I killed him. I killed him and the Doctor didn’t even ask me too.
Arthur had on him the keys to the Doctor’s shackles, as well as more syringes. After I freed the Doctor, I took one of these syringes to use on myself.
I had a soul. It was damned.