A short story about love, sex, and robots
Irwin stood by the window, looking down at Rachel on the bed, amber limbs splayed across crisp white, glowing in the early morning light. She said, “Irwin, come back to bed.”
Irwin hated his name. It sounded like someone weak, a skinny man with glasses and a bow tie. Not when she said it though, when she said his name, it was liquid honey, erotic, full of promise, languid tones of sex and desire.
Rachel wasn’t perfect. She was a bit too thin, her skin had some flaws, but she was beautiful. Her skin smooth, burnished. Her eyes were large and dark, liquid that you could lose yourself in, framed in lashes so long they couldn’t be real. A perfect heart shaped bow made up her lips, and when they parted, her teeth were white and even. She smiled often, a sly smile that was more eye than mouth, a glimmer, a shine. When she laughed, it was deep; it was open, it reached from the core of her being.
Of course, she was expensive. She was flesh and blood, a human. There were so few of them now, human women for hire. A pleasure bot was cheap, renting time with one was even cheaper. The best models, the ones that looked and felt exactly like they were real still cost a fraction of what a night with Rachel did.
She reached up for him, those slim hands reaching greedily for his flesh. He sank towards her, lost himself in her flesh. For the time being, words ended, language became touch, soft moans and hard cries, she enfolded him in her, he lost himself in her, lost who he was. The world became a soft glow, nothing but their bodies meshed into one, breaking apart and coming back together. He ended, died a small death of pleasure; he was reborn in her arms, every time.
He didn’t think he was in love with Rachel; certainly he lusted after her, wanted her body next to his every moment. He loved the way those large eyes looked up at him as he thrust into her, loved the way she yielded to him.
Part of him hated her. He never really knew if she felt anything for him, if he was nothing but a paycheque to her. Maybe every moan, every sigh, was calculated, a performance to keep him happy, keep him spending money. Maybe deep in her soul, she loathed him, hated him with a deep and abiding passion, wanted him dead. Maybe she enjoyed their time together and looked forward to it. How would you ever know the difference?
With a bot, he would know.
She said, “Let’s get room service. We need fuel. I don’t want you getting weak on me.”
“Food and sex, what else could we need?”
“Well, weed and a drink might be good.”
“Done and done. Time for the next round.” he pulled the sheets off her, pulling her toward him.
He was haunted, He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t get it out of his mind. Rachel was his regular; there was nothing unusual about that visit. He hired her at least once a month, but the idea that he didn’t know what she felt stuck with him. Sure, he didn’t always know what Katriona felt, but to tell the truth, he didn’t care. Theirs was a marriage of commerce. He needed a woman who looked and acted a certain way, one who would put in the work to get back her figure after kids — something she had lived up to — and she wanted a man who could provide everything. In the end, he didn’t like her very much, and he didn’t think she liked him either.
There was something about Rachel, about her presence, her way of interacting with him. A quality he couldn’t figure out. It was why he kept going back to her, of course. He found himself focusing on her during meetings. His mind wandered. Nothing that really mattered, but it became his constant state.
He booked an appointment with her again. Their usual hotel room, overlooking the water. He focused on her, on trying to figure out what she really felt towards him. She seemed happy, loving, caring. Of course, that was what he was paying for. He asked, “How do you feel about me, really?”
“I love our time together; you make me happy, genuinely happy.”
He accepted it at that moment, post-coital and filled with bliss.
The next time they spent the night together was different. Rachel was distracted, sad. Irwin could see she had been crying. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing. A hard day.”
“Let me help. Let me listen to your problems for once.”
“Someone I care about died. I cancelled my other clients. I know how important this is to you; I didn’t want to do that to you. I know you need it.”
She stripped out of her clothes, started to dance for him, but she was clearly distracted, putting in half an effort at best. He told her to stop.
“No, you paid for something, you should get it.”
“It’s alright, just let me take care of you.”
He held her. They didn’t have sex that night, just lay together. She never told him who it was that died, but she cried on and off in his arms.
In the morning, he reflected on what they said; he realized that she never said their time together was important to her, just that it was important to him. It ate his core, his confidence, his sense of peace. He wanted her to want him the same way he wanted her. Foolish, of course — but it didn’t change that he wanted it.
In the end, he went to a bot. The same hotel room, reserved for him for years. The bot was waiting for him when he got there “Hi baby. I’m Mandy” her voice dripped with sex, a porn star voice. She was beautiful, in that classic way, a playboy bunny, firm high breasts, perfect skin, long blonde hair, tan skin. A teenage fantasy come to life, wearing white lace and nothing else.
“You want a drink, baby? I can give you whatever you like” her voice almost cartoonish with passion.
“Make me a whiskey sour, take off those clothes first though.”
She stripped and made his drink, sitting on his lap after she got it for him. She was perfect, in every way. Her skin was unblemished, her figure on the edge of impossible. The sex was incredible. Whatever he wanted, she wanted, enthusiastically, desperately. If he was gentle with her, she responded to his smallest touch, if he was rough, she wanted it harder. She was vocal in a way no woman had ever been with him.
In the morning, he felt nothing. No sense of renewal, no spiritual relief, physically it was amazing, he was drained, exhausted, his body was relaxed — but his mind was still filled with tension, with worry, with the small details of his outside life. He left the bot in the room; it would make its own way back to its handlers. Funny, in his mind, it had been her all night, now it was back to being it.
He wondered if he had fallen in love with Rachel somewhere along the line, but that didn’t feel like the truth. She wasn’t someone he dreamed of spending his life with; he didn’t imagine her living in his house with his children, maybe having children of their own together. That was an absurd idea.
Another night, he was back in his room with Rachel, only not. One advantage of being rich, he could make things happen. He had a bot that looked just like her. All her flaws, all her mannerisms, her skin, her voice. Her agency accommodated him without a second thought as soon as they saw the dollar figure he had in mind. His new Rachel was waiting for him, draped in sunlight, wearing a light cotton dress. She beckoned him out onto the balcony, they often made love out there under the bright blue Mediterranean sky, overlooking waves dappled with light, crashing gently into white sand. “Hi, glad you’re here. Come outside, play with me!”
She was as excited as ever, as full of life and spark. She pulled the light orange dress off as he made his way to her, standing there in nothing but the tiniest pair of green panties, bathed in light. He grabbed her up in his arms, laughing, she wrapped her long legs around his waist. She felt like home.
“Thank god you are finally here. I so hate drinking alone… of course I did, it went to my head a little.” she smiled that same soft smile, how did they make the bot so her eyes still sparkled the same way? He didn’t care, just that they did, just that he could lose himself in that look.
“Fetch me one then, something tropical with an umbrella.”
She headed to the in-suite bar, looking back with a shake of her hips as she went, her energy infectious.
She ate with him when he ordered room service, chocolate covered strawberries, cheesecake, decadent desserts. He loved watching her eat, the food passing between soft lips, small bites always, savouring every morsel. The strawberry took her moments to consume, each delicate bite was followed by a pause, a moment of holding it in her mouth, experiencing the food fully, completely. She always treated him like that, like she was trying to experience every moment, never hurrying. Not that she was never urgent, later that night she was demanding even, as she came again and again and again, drawing him ever deeper into her.
He fell asleep as the first rays of light were starting to wash over the horizon.
When he woke, Rachel was gone, in her place was the bot he had made in her image. The bot said “Morning lover” in those same honeyed tones Rachel always used, but it didn’t feel like her to him anymore. He didn’t bother speaking to it, he just walked out of the room, ignoring the thing as it asked him what was wrong, if it was something it had done.
Back in his room again, the woman waiting for him was a redhead this time. She was clad in a little black dress and was only a step or two ahead of him. They had ridden there together, sharing a car. She was beautiful; every woman he was with had to be beautiful. She might have been more beautiful than Rachel — but still real, still flesh and blood. “Okay, so this is where you fuck your whores? Good. Let’s get to it then.” she walked to the bar and poured herself a drink.
This was a mistake, from the first moment. Katriona didn’t belong in this place, his refuge and solace. The idea that he could make his wife be his companion had been stupid. Still, there they were, in the room with the balcony overlooking the beach, the pure white walls, the floor to ceiling glass on two sides, the bed that was large enough to spend days in. They might as well use it. He got himself a drink, then put on some music, hoping it would help to ease the tension, the distance he felt between them. “What the fuck Irwin? You know I hate that jazz shit you listen to. Put on something good, something modern.” from her lips, his name sounded like all the things he hated about it. A hectoring wife putting down her weak, pathetic husband. It didn’t matter that he was tall, strong, handsome. When she talked to him, he felt like he was small and inadequate. He did as she asked, throwing on the latest top forty hits, empty music with no truth to it, no real emotion.
They drank in silence, not looking at each other. At some point, Katriona undid her dress and let it drop to the floor. Her body was amazing, slender and athletic, unblemished despite two children. It was no more real than the bots, he knew, he had paid for all the surgery, all the trainers, all the personal nutritionists that had ensured she would look like that long after a normal woman would have started to show the signs of ageing.
He sighed and took off his clothes with no real urgency. Katriona looked at him as he undressed, a critical eye taking in every flaw. He was no more natural than her of course; he had those same surgeons, those same trainers, those same nutritionists. His flaws were few and far between, minor points of vanity that he chose not to fix — the stretch marks on his thighs from learning to kick, learning to expand his flexibility. Was it just ego to let those flaws stand while removing all the ones he didn’t like, that didn’t reflect his pride? He wasn’t sure, all he knew was that he wanted to keep them, wanted to have some link to the effort he put into his life.
They didn’t make love; they barely even fucked. It was a perfunctory clashing of genitals, following a set script inherited from some version of pornography and social expectation. Afterwards, they ordered room service and threw on a movie, a blockbuster full of explosions that made sure they didn’t need to talk to each other. They sat in different chairs, not even looking at each other.
In the morning, Katriona left early, while Irwin lay in bed for a little while, thinking about how sad and empty he felt. Katriona was as far from what he wanted as he thought someone could be. Even in the beginning, she never truly caught his attention. She had money, less than him, but a lot of it all the same. A modelling career before the children, not a serious one, the kind of career where most of her money came from being paid to attend the right type of parties, a society darling. When her people decided that she needed to become respectable, she found herself steered towards Irwin, as he was towards her. There was never a real connection there, they fucked from time to time, in the early days more often, in order to have kids. After all, Irwin needed an heir or two; the family fortune needed to go somewhere after he died. It turned out he wasn’t likely to die, but they didn’t know that back then.
Most of their social circle would have just divorced, but Irwin’s family was old and very conservative. They wanted a specific image for their family, an image that didn’t include divorce. Their arrangement was specific and clear. The prenup was strong enough that even his time with Rachel wouldn’t touch it, so Katriona didn’t try for a divorce either. Now that their children were older, there was also no guarantee that she would get custody, not that either of their children liked either of them very much.
Finally, he got out of bed, got dressed. The sun was the same, glorious and bright in the early morning, revealing the beauty outside the room. It didn’t touch any part of Irwin.
Another night, Rachel was back. This time she had been changed, her programming reflecting something else, a darker desire for him. This version of Rachel didn’t love him, didn’t even like him. He wanted to punish Rachel for what he felt, feel her hurt and scream. He walked to her, standing with eyes downcast, wearing a simple white shift. He backhanded her across the mouth, his powerful shoulders driving the blow. She cried out, “Oh, no, please no.”
He laughed at the fallen figure; the tiny dark-skinned woman now crouched at his feet. He grabbed her hair, pulled her up and forced his mouth onto hers, hard. She tried to shy away, but he forced past her resistance, ripped her shift from her body, leaving her naked, shoulders hunched down and forward, arms trying to cover her breasts and mons simultaneously. She was beautiful, still, always. “Please, please, no. Please leave me alone, please” she was whimpering by the final please. It excited him, even as a part of his mind wondered if this was what the real Rachel would sound like, how she would act, and if so, how did they know?
He grabbed her, threw her down on the bed, took her without mercy, without kindness. She whimpered and cried, and after he was done, she curled up in fetal position on the foot of the bed. He went to sleep, drained and exhausted.
In the morning, he felt horrible, a monster. The bot was still cowering from him, terrified and sobbing. He, of course, knew that it wasn’t real, that she would be reset as soon as he was gone, but that didn’t make him feel better. The fact was he had wanted to hurt her, wanted her scared and broken, even if only in the moment. He dressed hurriedly and headed out the door, leaving her lying on the floor. He felt sick to his stomach.
Rachel was waiting, eyes full of love. She was naked this time, kneeling and looking up at him, all memory of the last time erased from her mind, her programming changed once again. “May I make you a drink?” She said, eyes downcast, a small smile on her lips.
“A gin and tonic, please.”
“Yes, sir.” She got up, walked to the bar, her hips swaying as she walked, and mixed the drink for him, bringing it to him, placing it in his hands, eyes downcast, a slight curtsy. A perfect woman, according to some, submissive and meek, performing every task he asked her to and doing so with all of her being dedicated to the simple act of pleasing him. This Rachel he took to his bed after a while, and they made love, all of the ways he imagined, all of the ways he asked for. She had no desires, no wants of her own, other than to please him. After the first time, they sat together, her curled up in his lap, watching porn. He had her touch herself, and she did, obediently, asking him with bated breath and wide eyes “Is this what you want master? Am I doing it right?”
The night passed like that. He found himself bored, disinterested. He looked at her body and found himself, not caring. He fell asleep early. In the morning, he dressed and left, never even looking back at the Rachel thing — that increasingly felt nothing like Rachel.
Rachel was dressed in black leather, waiting for him with a sneer on her face. He walked into the room “Strip maggot. Get down on your knees and worship me.” she cracked the short whip she had in one hand. He did as he was told, something about the lack of control was intoxicating, incredible. In a moment, he was naked, on his knees before her. The black leather contrasted with the stark white of the room, the modern, clean lines, the bright light that still filtered through the windows. It worked for him though, something in the contrast was right. He worshiped her in all the ways she demanded of him. “Bring me a drink worm. No, don’t stand up, walk on your knees.” He did as she asked, whimpering at the pain, full of desire at the same time.
There was no sleep that night: nothing but endless rounds of lust and pain.
In the morning, he was sore and empty. The activities of the night were gone, and in the morning light, their physical impact remained, but nothing more. The mistress he had worshiped was gone, replaced by a thing, a machine. He got dressed, the pain in his body making him move slowly. Shrugging on his shirt was agony, his back was scored with welts from the night. Today was different from the emptiness he often felt; it was somehow less tainted. He didn’t hate himself, but the relief he sought was still just out of his grasp. This thing, this robot was still not what he sought.
And yet another night. This time the woman in the room is blonde, Nordic, but slight. She isn’t perfect, although she isn’t Rachel. She’s pretty, the prettiest of the humans from the agency. “Hi, I’m Cassie.”
“Irwin. Damn, you look good.”
“Thanks, honey, we’re going to have fun tonight.” she looked him up and down as she said it, lips parted slightly, hunger in her eyes.
“Let’s start with a drink, some dinner. Take our time. We have all night.” It was still light out, sun beating in through the glass. The room was immaculate as always, the same except for the bouquet of flowers in a vase on the table. Irwin assumed Cassie was responsible for those.
Cassie ordered room service while Irwin mixed them drinks, Gin and Tonics for both of them. The food arrived quickly. “My god, this is so good! So fresh! All food should taste like this!” Cassie was bubbly, full of energy. Irwin was taken with her, almost right away. Her voice was full of enthusiasm, no matter she said.
“Yes, the hotel chef is quite good. Helps that the ingredients are so fresh.”
“Must be because it’s so hot here. Sorry, I just came from home two days ago. I’m brand new here. The sea is so beautiful in the sun. In my home country it is beautiful too, but cold, very cold.” Her accent placed her home country as somewhere Scandinavian. “The Mediterranean is so warm. I swam before I came to the hotel today, in the ocean! Why did I wait so long before coming here?” She barely seemed to need to breathe; the stream of words was so rapid.
“Well, Cassie, I’m glad you made it, finally. I moved here ten years ago, when my children were small. America was a problem, a place that was failing. I grew up there, you know?”
“Did you live in a compound? I’ve never met an American before. Is it like people say, can you really die from being too poor to get medicine? Do they really let people starve in the streets?”
“I’ve been rich all my life. I never had to see that sort of thing. Once I needed a security detail just to shop, my family decided to move out of the country though, so I guess there’s some truth to it.”
They chatted for a few hours, like a date almost. It was exciting, thrilling even. Cassie was never reserved, and as the evening wore on, she casually said, “It’s too warm for all these clothes.” and dropped her outfit on the floor. As per his tastes, she was wearing a simple dress, red this time. She had nothing on underneath.
They made their way to the bed after that. They had sex, simple and basic. She made sure his needs were met, but that hers were as well. There was a joy to Cassie, a zest for life. As she played with him, she was never serious, never seemed to be focused on a goal, just having fun.
When morning came, he was happy. He kissed her before he headed out to his day, full of peace. He had exactly what he wanted for the first time in a long time. More importantly, he had reached a decision.
Rachel was waiting in the room. She was wearing his favourite dress, the yellow one that was so light it barely seemed to touch her body, that silhouetted her form if there was any light at all. There was something about the dress that combined innocence with seduction, a purity that went beyond chastity.
“Hi, It’s been a while. I missed you.”
“I missed you too. Sorry I stayed away so long. Not sure what I was thinking.”
“I thought after last time that maybe you didn’t like me anymore. I’m sorry about that; my life was a mess right then. Things are better now.”
“Good. I’m glad. Now, let’s get a drink.”
Rachel mixed them drinks, smiling to herself as she did. Irwin felt more at peace than he had in months. It didn’t matter if he loved her or not; he needed her, at least for now. It did matter that he didn’t know what she was thinking, the truth of their relationship. In the end, not knowing was what he needed, what he was really paying for.
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