Part 2: Alice in the Basement

This is an excerpt from my novel, Girlfriend in a Box

When my airport shuttle stopped at my parent’s house it felt like going back to a mythical land which you only heard about through legends told by elders during storytelling sessions around an open fire. It has been quite a while since I have been back to my childhood home, and seeing it for the first time after so many years was an unreal experience. I recognized the beautiful maple panels on the front door, but the color of the roof was slightly darker than I remembered it. Did memory erasure unintentionally altered memories not targeted for deletion or had someone built a replica of my house to fool me? Being back at such a familiar place yet noticing such uncanny details was a very disorienting experience.

As I walked up to the front door I reached down to my pocket and reached for the house keys. The feeling of the rough and cold teeth of the keys was a comforting sensation, and as I inserted them into the keyholes and heard the satisfying click of the lock opening I was relieved; my memory was not playing tricks and I indeed arrived at the correct house. As I cautiously approached the kitchen holding all my luggage, there was a tiny crack through the door, my fingers gently pushed it wider, then saw my mother sitting at the kitchen table speaking on the phone.

“…look, I’m doing the best that I can…Of course I can, I had prearranged for more seats than I thought would be necessary in case something like that came up…uh huh, yeah, yeah…” she said, writing notes on a pad of paper as she conversed over the phone. I decided to enter the kitchen at that point, mom only stared up at me with a look of indifference as she continued speaking.

“…I know that Wally Yanikov will be there, but…okay, what we’ll do is to have another meeting afterwards for his colleagues, but this is supposed to be a small family affair, I don’t want hoards of strangers arriving and disrupting everything…”

“Hi mom,” I said in a soft, barely audible voice.

Suddenly her eyes glared at me, I stopped saying anything for fear of what she might do to me. After a speaking few more sentences over the phone she said, “Robbie is here and I think he wants to talk to me.” Switching the phone to mute she put a smile on her face and said in a sweet voice, “What do you have to talk to me about?”

I panicked, fear suddenly gripped me as I stared with a sense of terror at my mother’s face. At a loss for words, I froze, and after a few awkward seconds said, “Uh…nothing, I was simply checking to see if you’re okay.”

The smile deepened, but it was more of a demented than an amiable smile, then said, “Okay, I’ll talk to you later.”

It is always a very nerve-wrecking experience talking to her, she is always a very inscrutable person, never puts her heart on her sleeves, her emotions are always hidden underneath a veneer of cheerfulness. I walked away from her as soon as her attention turned away from me, and headed for the basement.

The basement is the place where dad worked on building his robots. While he worked for a company developing software for automating industrial production his lifelong interest was creating robots that are indistinguishable from humans in both their physical form and intellectual ability. Unfortunately he never found venture capital to work on his ideas full-time, and had to re-appropriate budget and equipment from his company to build his androids in the basement at night. This meant that for two years dad effectively had two jobs, one working for a company to make money and the other at night for his personal amusement. He had such a great passion for his work we suspected that he was suffering from a mental illness, but we never took him to a professional psychologist because it seemed that his madness was responsible for his brilliance.

As I approached the basement I noticed a Bluetooth device trying to connect to my brain-computer interface. I was surprised because it was coming from the electronic lock fitted on the basement door. The lock asked me for the password, I had never tried opening the door from my brain-computer interface before but tempted by this obscure feature I tried. To my astonishment the lock clicked open. I was moving objects in the real world with my mind alone, like Samantha in Bewitched.

Entering into the basement I saw legs, arms torsos and heads of different robots he was working on strewn all over the tables and floor. Being as good of an artists as he was an engineer he made all these parts very anatomically accurate. Hanging on the ceiling are masks molded from real human faces which my father uses to create the faces of his androids. Staring up at these masks always gives me a macabre feeling because they looked like faces that have been ripped off of human corpses. One of the first challenges my dad faced when building androids was to create a face that does not look like an animated death mask. Gradually he discovered by putting in cherubic and child-like features the zombie-like faces of his androids can be made to look acceptable, even cute.

The robot whose face has undergone the most extensive sculpting based on this knowledge was Alice, my dad’s favorite android and the one he dedicated the most time towards perfecting throughout his life. She is my favorite as well, and every time I visit dad’s basement I would come to check on her. Dad’s love of Alice is apparent by the way he designed her with careful attention to aesthetic detail to look as beautiful as possible. Her face, as I explained earlier, has the look of childhood innocence on them. Her unusually large eyes and long, thick eyelashes, which combined with her look of innocence makes her look truly like a “wide-eyed idealist.” Her oversize eyes also give her a look of constant surprise. Her cute, miniature nose and mouth, with a round but small cheeks ending in a small dainty chin further add to her adorableness.

Her slender arms dangle gracefully from her shoulders, ending with a pair of small and delicate hands with bright red nail polish adorning the tips of her ten fingers. A pair of full breasts and “wineglass stem” waist and plump buttocks give her an hourglass figure that can only be achieved with corseting if she were a real woman. My dad once told me he designed Alice to look exactly like me if I were a girl, but other than the face which I do see some semblance to my likeness, the rest of her body is too different for me to identify with, especially with her long supermodel legs making her an entire feet taller than me.

She is dressed in very fine clothing, on this occasion a short-sleeved V-neck floral print knee-length dress, but my dad has created an entire wardrobe for her. He liked to play dress-up with Alice all the time, treating her like a doll, which is an odd hobby for a man. In addition to the dress she already has on she also has silk blouses, jeans, business suits, oriental style clothing that looks like a cross between a kimono and traditional Chinese outfits, fantasy Arabian princess outfit, sexy waitress uniform, sexy secretary uniform, sexy nurse uniform, etc. The wardrobe also includes underwear, which is handy given that Alice has realistic-looking and functional genitalia, which my dad uses for his personal pleasure.

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