Short Fiction: Desire Designed
Written as part of BROAD Literary Magazine‘s Sexy Robot Month.
By Kate Jonuska
Her toenails were French manicured, a sliver of white on each shapely toe. Her ears were pierced four times on the right side along an almost elven curve of upper cartilage. Her ass was ripe, smooth and unquestionably amazing. Seen from behind, it cast an alluring shadow where the thighs met below, as if what lay there was unknown territory to be explored. Even if Sarah knew exactly what lay there.
“That’s our Alexia. She’s beautiful,” said David, delighted by the sex robot, a gift for one another on their anniversary.
Finishing her 360-degree tour, Sarah said, “Just Alex, I think. But yes. She’s perfect.”
For weeks, they’d poured over specifications online. David had gravitated toward the bullet-pointed lists and diagrams: upgraded labial design, hand-painted latex, vibration speeds, joint calibrations and the world’s most adaptive neural nets.
But for Sarah, this was an opportunity for creation. She’d gotten lost in the online 3D planner. She changed the robot’s nipple size, hip girth, coloring and hair style, and enjoyed seeing her in and out of different clothes. It felt like meeting hundreds of different women.
Hello, you. How do you do? How would we do?
And now here Alex was, and Sarah glowed with pleasure, dazzled by the ability to construct reality out of something as unsubstantial as a desire.
“Hello there,” she said.
David answered, “She’s not turned on, babe.”
He inserted a silver pin — reminiscent of a tool to fix eyeglasses — into a mole on the robot’s neck. Sarah and David each had such a key; Sarah’s currently hung on a hook in the kitchen by the cars’ keys. Another expensive toy. David denied Sarah nothing.
Alex’s eyes blinked open, an earthy brown, because Sarah was sick and tired of movie actresses or heroines in books with eyes only of blue or green, unrealistic purple or ‘flecked with gold.’ She’d wanted beauty in her robot, but also personality and humanity and vulnerability. A real woman rather than a porny bottle-blond whose breasts looked like flotation devices.
Hence Alex instead of the manufacturer-given Alexia. Hence the pixie hair cut and the only C-cup breasts, which Sarah had spent hours with in the 3D-modeling UI, wanting them to obey gravity like everyone else’s. The nipples — the areolae replete with tiny ducts and perfectly crafted imperfections — seemed locked in hard arousal, but Sarah supposed she could live with that. The robot also didn’t speak, but that was for the best. Too uncanny, they’d both agreed.
Sarah met the robot’s gaze, searching the depths of Alex’s eyes.
“The tattoo is fucking amazing, babe,” David said.
Alex blinked and looked down at her naked body for the first time, then over her shoulder at her back. A flock of blown dandelion seeds parachuted from the shoulder toward her buttocks, gradually becoming smaller until an unseen wind wrapped the stream around the hip and spiraled them all the way down to her ankle.
“Thanks,” Sarah answered with pride. The robot was just as unique and feminine and lovely as she’d hoped.
“She’s just like a girl we would really bring home for a threesome,” David said, though they’d never before done so. He loved the idea of the act more than the messy reality of courting a human. Just as even though he was conservative, he loved the idea of his wife being bisexual. Sarah bristled at that word. Sex was about connection rather than genitals.
“All the fun,” David continued, “but without the drama. Without —” He drew Sarah toward him, an arm around her waist. “— threatening this.”
He kissed Sarah’s cheek. Alex, watching carefully, brushed fingertips across her cheek, too. The robot shivered in delight at her own touch. Her permanently glossed lips parted, and she licked them and closed her eyes.
Sarah did the same, mimicking her model woman. So perfect and so sexy. Yet at that moment, she remembered the website’s claim of ‘a tongue lined with more than 100 sensors, which learn and adapt.’
David was already aroused. “So what do we…”
But instead, “May I?” Sarah asked the robot.
Blinking — the eyelashes were exquisite — Alex nodded and smiled warmly. The two women intertwined a hand, and with the other, Sarah traced the cheekbone where the robot had touched herself. The latex skin beneath her fingers flushed, soft and planted with life-like hairs that would never grow longer. She wished her own skin and body could be so easily programmed and tamed.
Again, Alex’s lips parted, and though she knew the robot’s sensors were processing the act as data, Sarah kissed her.
They took Alex to bed, and they tried everything they’d previously only fantasized. David seemed to flourish with the bit of kink. For Sarah, the third set of hands was a wonderful thing, and who didn’t like to play with a great set of breasts? Novelty gives everyone a hard-on.
Life returned to its comfortable grooves, only now with a robot, and Sarah felt inexplicably lonely. David had restricted his use of the upgraded, customizable vulva only once, to set his ideal tension. A sex-number vagina instead of a sleep-number bed. But Sarah had always loved to make her lovers, including David, scream. It made her feel powerful and alive. Alex, however, would part her glossed lips and gasp in a too-perfect way and the act was theatrical, even if the robot technically had climaxes.
“But they’re programmed into her,” David said. “It’s a little like winning a video game, no?”
As with a lover, Sarah tried to convince David to let the robot sleep with them. He objected, saying he needed his bed space and, given her weight, Alex had the appeal of cuddling a rock. He put the robot’s charging pad in the hall closet, next to the vacuum, which was also robotic. A pet for the pet. Alex’s powered-down countenance seemed despondent every time Sarah closed the closet door.
Then David took to cumming inside the robot rather than Sarah, and he didn’t scream for her anymore either.
“She’s self cleaning,” he explained, cuddling up to Sarah as they prepared to sleep. “And no birth control, eh?”
Mostly self cleaning, that is. Once a month Sarah would insert her key and do regular maintenance and check Alex’s logs. Emptying the robot’s Orifices Receptacle of the gray powder that was David’s processed sperm, Sarah again flashed to the manufacturer’s copy. ‘Three penetrable orifices.’ Men seemed to want emptiness in their women, places to fill with themselves.
Sarah bought clothes for Alex and jewelry and fancy lingerie. David didn’t care about the expense, but didn’t understand the impulse. She dressed the robot this way and that. Alex proved malleable to fashion in a way Sarah never had been, inhabiting each look Sarah tried. Alex was a million women in one, yet not even one.
They stood side by side in front of the mirror. Alex’s tattoo was so artistic and perfectly placed. Sarah’s were hodgepodge in style and placement, the result of actually being different women at different points in her life. Twenty-year-old Sarah was unrecognizable to her now, but the memorial of her innocence was on her right ass cheek. Twenty six was here. Thirty one there and there. She wondered if she would feel as divorced from her current self in five years as she was from these past women.
How do you do? Yes, but how are you doing?
Sarah pictured herself inside a 3D-modeling UI. She imagined her face with a pixie hair cut, wondered if she could re-live her younger years now, if she’d do anything different. She had everything here with David, but she pictured something louder, bolder and messier. The thought was half scary, half thrilling, and the sex that night was amazing. Sarah directed the scene like a lion tamer, drunk on wielding power over two beings at once.
In general, though, David and Sarah’s solo sex was less urgent, as if the edge of their need had been blunted. She wondered if the beautiful robot was better than her in bed, at least for David.
Inserting her key to check the logs, Sarah noticed David had regular solo sessions with Alex, more often than he’d led on. Akin to masturbation, which had never bothered Sarah before but now made her wonder if she’d created her perfect replacement in her husband’s neat-edged life.
“Have some time alone with her, too,” David said, “and I don’t mean doing her make-up. For what she’s for.” He was only being logical.
With her adaptive neural net, however, Alex had learned exactly what Sarah liked. Her tongue was an amazing technological achievement, if nothing else, but despite the robot’s sophistication, Sarah could always feel the repetition of the movements. The motor-driven nature of her mouth, of Alex’s hand almost all the way inside her. It was all ebb and no flow. Master-planned lovemaking.
And Sarah wished that being a human — or the human she happened to be — was less complicated. That there was a way to shut down her brain and put it in the closet with the vacuum, to open up a drawer in her belly and clean out the swallowed cum and bullshit inside. The robot was a tidy container for its purpose, but Sarah never had that kind of border on her self. Her personality, her humanity, was amorphous. A bundle of fog never fully contained within skin.
Who are you? And why?
“You’re quiet lately,” David said to Sarah.
“Have I been?”
“Intensely,” he said, “but as long as everything is OK…”
Sarah nodded rather than answering. She’d picked up the speechlessness from spending time with Alex, she supposed.
After David went to work, Sarah would take the robot back to bed. Once Alex learned Sarah did not want her nipples fondled, the two would watch TV for hours. Every time she turned her head toward the robot, Alex would mimic Sarah’s facial expressions — grinning during comedies, eye rolling during sappy romances. Otherwise the robot sat mute but powered up. Wasting energy, David would say.
But humans wasted their energy, too, in a million different ways, Sarah knew, feeling so very hollow. All orifices and silences. So much perfection surrounded her, yet hard as she’d tried — combining her lovers and toys like a game of Tetris — she was still being fucked rather than doing the fucking. By lovers, by life. Sarah wished she could fill things instead. Sarah wanted to be big instead of slight, to create. And then she remembered the last time she’d felt alive.
When David returned home, she was in the kitchen with her laptop, knee-deep in the robot manufacturer’s 3D-planner, tweaking butt cheeks and choosing cheekbones.
“A male this time,” she said to David, who would deny her nothing.