Wallie on Robots

wallie_robot

Happy Easter from Wallie’s Wentletrap!  It being Easter, Wallie, my Friend, and I have been mulling much over the spiritual nature of this odd old world we live in. And since we can’t seem to avoid mixing a little strangeness into our philosophizing, I’ll share with you the result of a preoccupation with Christianity, sci-fi, and a fascinating course in modern literature.

***

Señor Mauricio woke to silence. This, in and of itself, was strange. From the angled shadows in his room, moonlight through the rips in the window curtains, he knew it was three, at the latest four, the darkest part of the new day. He knew, too, that Estela should be crying.

The old Señor threw off his light blanket and stood. No matter how familiar, he could never be used to the knot of nausea in his stomach, the fear rising like bile in his throat.

The earthen floor was cold beneath his bare feet. He had barely stepped into the hall when he stopped.

“Oh, hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us…”

Someone was singing.

“…and black are the waters that sparkled so green…”

Mauricio’s heart pounded. No one sang, not anymore.

He went instantly to Estela’s nursery. Something was wrong, he could taste it on his tongue, bitter and salty like blood.

He opened the door.

“The moon o’er the combers looks downward to find us…”

He couldn’t recognize the man. He saw only Estela in a stranger’s arms.

With trembling fingers he took his wife’s pistol out of his dressing gown pocket.

“Let her go,” he said. “Ahora! Put her down!”

His voice was sharp and quivering.

The man turned.

“Of course, Señor Mauricio,” said the man. “Do not be alarmed.”

The man stood, and Mauricio breathed again. It was the android.

Allen-1.

“Oh, Señor,” Mauricio said, dropping the pistol. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it was you.”

“The fault is mine, for waking you.” Allen-1 settled Estela in her cradle. The infant murmured, reaching for him as her head met the tiny pillow. Allen let her capture his finger while with his free hand he folded a warm blanket over her.

“You look pale, Señor Mauricio. Please, let me warm you some milk. Or would you prefer—”

Mauricio shook his head vigorously. “No, Allen, gracias. You’re as tired as I. And I don’t want anything.”

“Tired,” the android repeated. He pronounced the word carefully, almost curiously.

Mauricio shivered. “Surely you’re tired?” he said. “Even if…”

He stopped.

Allen-1 studied him, his expression withdrawn.

“Can I get you anything, Señor?” he said.

Estela’s coo of noise as the synthetic man stroked her broke the tense stillness.

Mauricio smiled.

“You are good with children,” he said. “Yes, I want something. Sit here, Allen, by me.”

The machine obeyed. With the same deliberate grace that he performed every given task, he sat by the old man, the little window seat creaking softly under his added weight.

“Por favor, don’t be offended,” Mauricio said. “I ask not because I judge. May I touch you?”

“Of course, Señor. Many humans are curious about my composition.”

Mauricio reached out to him uncertainly. He did not miss Allen-1’s slight flinch when his fingers met his cheek.

“Can you feel?”

“Yes, Señor.”

“Does it hurt?”

Allen’s eyes met his. There was a startlingly human look in them, wary but fascinated.

“Why do you ask, Señor?”

Mauricio let his hand drop.

“Because you winced just now. Did I hurt you?”

“No. Thank you for asking.”

Mauricio couldn’t help but smile at Allen’s rigid courtesy, but his expression was still concerned.

“Does anyone hurt you? Can you feel pain?”

The android’s lips compressed.

“I feel pain,” he said. “I was made very like you and do possess a few of your flaws. I don’t know why I was given pain.”

“Except that your maker might punish you,” said Mauricio, quietly.

Allen’s glance fixed on him. “Perhaps.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” said Mauricio. “Does anyone here hurt you?”

Allen-1 was silent. Suddenly he turned to face the old man directly, poised and intense, his slim hands white-knuckled on his knees.

“May I ask you a question, Señor Mauricio?” he asked.

“Si. Anything.”

“Why does God let you feel pain?”

Mauricio stared at him, surprised. Then, face relaxing, he laughed.

“I like you, Allen,” he said. “There is no time for dull wits with you. Why does God give us pain?”

“Yes. Please, I should like to know.”

Mauricio looked aside. “It was our fault, really,” he said. “There was no pain in the beginning. Yet we disobeyed God’s command and so, por consieguiente, we suffer for it. It is God’s justice, just as it is His mercy that we are saved through the death, the sacrifice of His Son for this same sin and those we’ve done since. So we are cleansed from sin, in Jesus’ blood, and in his life, we live. We suffer still, but we are saved.”

“Why did He let you sin?”

Mauricio leaned forward. “Una pregunta bona,” he said. “I’ve often wondered the same. He has given us free will. The error was ours, the decision ours. He does not make puppets of us. Even now he knows us not as a game, but as His children in Jesus Christ. This is a grace dearer than any held by the angels themselves, and I do not know if this is true or not, but it could be He let us fall so we may know His love all the better in mercy.”

“And I,” said Allen, quietly. “Am I a puppet, Señor?”

Mauricio’s breath caught. He felt the blood rise in his cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I forgot you’re not—”

“Why do you apologize? You’ve made no error. Señor, if I have upset you—”

“!Silencio!” The old man spoke in a pronounced, almost harsh whisper.

Allen bent his head and was silent.

Almost tenderly, the old man took the android’s face in his hands, and turned Allen to face him once more. His weathered, rough fingers passed briefly over the machine’s features, brushing stray tendrils of hair from his forehead.

“You are so real,” murmured the old man. “So human. There is pain in you, curiosity, intelligence, wonder—more importantly—there is love. You’ve helped my family. You fight for us all, serve us all. You could do so much evil but you choose to do good. Even here and now, you were comforting a human child. There is no benefit to you in this. If no heart beats in you, Allen, I know there is a soul. And it is a beautiful, living soul, the soul of a man I couldn’t think more highly of if he were my own son. It is a soul beloved by God.”

Allen regarded the man, interested and composed.

“Thank you, Señor,” he said. “I believe I like that.”

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