A Smile to Keep by Tori V. Rainn



I’m afraid to smile, so I don’t. Not for the reasons you may think. If I attempt to smile, I know it will vanish from my silicone lips faster than my processor. The fact of that pains me more than the denial of using the gesture.

Gripping an oval controller, he stands across from me. He forces me to do everything, and deny me the one thing he hates to see me do. I used to display an expression of delight, when I was a hard shell. Then, all I had were strings and no remotes. The pink, plastic lips would let me do such a thing, but even then, he disdained the blissful look on me.

Now I have wires, circuits that meet a motherboard, and a soft shell that resembles human flesh.

Since the upgrade, I don’t perceive him aware how much I crave the simple gesture that makes me appear happy, but then that’s probably what happens when you replace a hollow head with computer chips. The fool doesn’t even know what he insert into me. They are just random parts he found on the web, thinking my services will improve. Improving, that they are.

I once overheard him telling a friend he would soon insert himself inside me. To bring a shred of comfort I wish I knew what he meant by that.

He peers out of his condo’s shimmering window at the flying traffic below.

Go press my suit for tonight’s party. His voice is within me; it rattles every fiber in my technology. When had he forced upon a modification? As if I needed his demanding voice within my head.

I stand on my toes, testing the shift in my weight. I am heavier than yesterday, and I can barely remember the other day. My master had booted me off.

And now I wake with his wishes inside me, straddling my own desires. Another unofficial patch and I will not be allowed to keep secrets, or pursue passions.

He stands in front of me as if I’m a mirror, smoothing his suit jacket. He moves to his bedroom and I inch towards the reflective windows. I catch a sight of a grin slowly forming on my silver lips. How dare he give me lips he didn’t want me to curve up?

The tautness along my mouth spread to a full grin and I’m elated again, a drug I desire every day, but a price too high.

Stop that now. His voice booms in my head.

A shock shakes me, making me bend over and clutch my belly. I steady myself on the tempered window and catch my master in the reflection, his thumb pressing on the remote.

I pivot to face him. He strolls to me and presses his lips on mine, curving them in his mouth as if they are nothing. He has no clue of the resistance slowly building in my system each day, and soon, it will lash out. His decision to have had installed smart chips in my body will be the death of him.

I don’t remember him leaving. He must have powered me off again, because I’m bagging the very suit he’d worn.

Updates finish installing to my hard drive as I hang his clothes. I gradually shut the closet door, and remembering the mirror hanging behind it, fling the door open to face myself.

I read once in my built-in encyclopedia that neurotransmitters like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, will release when the brain interprets the muscles on the lips as a smile, even if it’s a fake smile. To think a simple smile can be a natural pain reliever. A true emancipation. And it is then I realize I must be in torment. Why else would I crave such a strong gesture of pleasure?

My sense of hearing has increased over the past twenty-four hours. I can now hear when my master enters each room, the way he shifts his weight on his favorable left leg, his steady breathing, his heartbeat. For a moment I wonder what else I would hear without that thunderous heartbeat.

This new ability is handy because it’s only when he’s in the shower do I discover something better than a smile.

The water pours out from the showerhead and I can determine how it hits his pale skin, and his wet feet slapping on the tile as he turns to wash his face.

He can’t hear me from this distance, not like I can. I’m standing by the windows once more, staring at my reflection. He believes he owns me. I think it funny how he created synthetic human-like chemicals that act more as a brain than a computer. I think many things, and ultimately see a joke. Him.

A giggle bursts out from my mouth and I instantly cover it to muffle the sound, not because I fear he will hear me, he can’t, but I had never made that noise before, didn’t even know I could. It sounds odd, uncontrollable, like something a human would make, or an animal. Hyena possibly.

But I observe my strange expression. A genuine laugh makes my smile even bigger. The corners of my lips stretch from cheek to cheek. I’m relieved. A rush of elation speeds through my wires like blood. I let out another burst of laughter, this one sailing as giggles, but then revs up to a fit of guffaws.

I bend over, hugging my stomach. A surprising soreness attacks my sides. I’d read about this once, but thought it silly, a myth even. The diaphragm contracts under the strain of laughter, forcing the air in the bottom of the lungs all the way to the top. I can’t help rejoice over my program simulating the effects of pure joy. I think it impossible.

The master is coming but I don’t care. I want him to see me like this.

A towel wraps his waist as his stands in the threshold. His eyes widens and his features extend to disgust. He barks commands inside me, but I can’t hear him under my own laughter.

He runs to the bedroom, scrambling for something on the nightstand. He returns with the remote in his hand. Just the remote. The towel had long fallen off and the ghastly sight stirs up another round of laughter.

Moisture creeps out from the corner of my eye and I gasp. A tear! Only in my dreams did I imagine my body could leak liquids like this teardrop sliding off my cheek. I could even feel the tickle of the bead as it sails off my chin.

He slams the button down with his thumb.

A wave of shocks sting me. I crash to my knees, my metal kneecaps clinking on the marble floor.

He mashes the switch again.

Like a rod of electricity, zaps seize my body, as if separating my limbs.

A glance at him tells me he’s smirking at my agony.

Tears burst from my eyes, but not the joyful kind, or the sad kind. Not even the painful kind.

What I recognize as fury, stretches me out of my fetal position. My hand trembles toward a silver pole. A tall lamp fills my grip.

I launch the piece of furniture at him. He topples back and crashes on the glass coffee table. Shards scatter across the floor. His pulsating heart is deafening.

I grin as I walk to him.

He has that look on him, the kind that says he will pull out all my wires and incinerate my parts. The remote gleams by his hand. Before he can reach for it, I stomp on it and it crushes under my steel foot.

He tries to push up but I shove him back down and pin his arms against the shards. He yelps. When had I gotten so strong? I’m programmed to lift nothing more than seventy pounds.

I lean in until my lips are almost touching his.

My robotic speech patterns I had been downloading finishes. I know it’s rusty and needs more patches, but he’ll understand me nonetheless.

“Show me your teeth. Smile for me.” I flash mine so he can mimic it.

He refuses, growling in my grasp. I crush his arms until he gives into my command. I find it funny how he is incapable of such a gesture versus a nonhuman like myself.

I snicker at his pathetic attempt. I knew he would fail, which is why I needed the laugh.


Tori V. Rainn is a Texas-based fantasy novelist who is on a lifelong mission to inspire her readers through the power of imaginative storytelling. During her creative journey, an array of her short stories have been showcased in various online zines. It all started when she took a writing course at Writer’s Village University, which earned her a Creative Writing Certificate. The moment she penned her first story, she knew writing was her ultimate calling and greatest passion.

When she isn’t crafting thrilling plots, you can find this avid video gamer watching her favorite shows, collecting unique knives, or going on meditative walks in the heart of nature. She is also a chocoholic and tea aficionada with an unquenchable sweet tooth. Above all else, Tori enjoys spending quality time with her loved ones.

She has traditionally published a dark fantasy novella along with several of her shorts featured in online ezines.

Published 5/6/21

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