Volume 35, Number 1


Margaret Karmazin

Many considered it extremely unfortunate that at least a fifth of humans were choosing androids as preferred partners. This included all age groups. The elder population would opt for gray hair and the appearance of a beautifully aged person that of course in no way resembled an actual old human. Young people would right out go for perfection no matter what they looked like themselves.

“Who cares?” One thirty-year-old morbidly obese and unkempt man said when purchasing one. “Not like the things have preferences.”

“Things,” he called them. Roger had overheard and noted that. Not that he had any reason to object to this appellation, since in effect, he was a thing. But generally, “things” did not ponder the universe nor did they have preferences and Roger-Dodger, as his new owner would frequently call him, did indeed have preferences. Not about anything important, possibly, but he would definitely choose the color blue over others, a firm sofa over a soft one, a more intellectual film over an action flick, and puppies over kittens though he liked both.

He also enjoyed reading and his choice of subjects ranged from science, science fiction and human history to the occasional novel on the New York Times best seller list. He couldn’t stand romance novels.

Eventually, a woman had come into the store and bought him. She was short and stocky in appearance and wore black. He thought she would look much better in brighter colors and planned to suggest this to her after some time had passed.


Cheri, was, he soon learned, an angry person. After they were together a couple of weeks, he questioned her about it. “Why do you experience so much anger?”

She looked amazed. “How do you know I’m angry?”

He was surprised at how much humans did not know about androids. “My dear,” he said, “I can smell it. When you are angry, besides your expressions or movements, your body odor changes.”

“Oh my god,” she said, “do I stink?”

“I’m not sure what stink really is,” he said. “All odors are fascinating.”

“You’re like a dog then?” she said. “They can tell when someone is sick or whatever.”

“I suppose I am,” he agreed. “Therefore, I cannot tell if you stink to other humans. To me, your odors tell a story, that is all.”

“So, you don’t prefer some odors over others?”

“Not particularly,” he said. “Though I am fond of freshly mown grass. Your neighbor’s yard in particular. And I smelled someone smoking a cigar once. That was pleasant.”


They lived in the house Cheri had grown up which she inherited the year before when her mother died in an airplane crash. One of those small planes she’d gone up in with a couple from her church. Cheri had to take out a mortgage to buy her brother’s half. He who was a CEO of a small company and owned a sprawling home and lake cottage, had not just let her have the house when she lived on a modest editor’s salary. It was a few months after that when she purchased Roger, taking out another loan to do that. But she had been, as she’d told Roger, so lonely, and like anyone else needed some sexual attention.

Roger was good at this. He’d been programmed with every sexual skill in the book and could please females or males. But more important than that, he was a good listener and an even better observer. He could deduce from the smallest reaction in a human, from micro facial expressions to temperature changes in the skin to twitches in muscles and the already explained odors, exactly what pleased or did not please a partner. He knew exactly how fast or slow to move, how hard or softly to press and how to behave in general. Would the partner like a thoughtful, tentative lover? A commanding sort? A touch of the sadistic? Or was she or he romantic? Roger knew what to do and frankly, after being with Roger, or so he believed, a partner would not even want an inferior human.

But was that true?

Cheri’s brother, whom she somewhat hated, apparently enjoyed a happy marital union. “Tell me about your sibling’s marriage,” he once told Cheri.

“Oh, they’re soulmates, I guess,” she said, shrugging disdainfully. “Basically, she doesn’t have any strong opinions on anything so never rocks his complacent and rigid little boat.”

Roger was quiet for a moment and then asked, “What are soulmates?”

She looked at his handsome, placid face before answering. “Well…I guess they are people who are forever perfect for each other. Or in a mystical sense, their souls are mated for eternity. Like they would be together over different lifetimes. Reincarnation and all that.”

Roger was silent.

“What’s the matter?” Cheri said.

“I am thinking about souls. Our seller told us briefly about them. One day in the showroom, the TVs mentioned them on the news, that scientists had discovered their existence is real. But there was no further explanation and I assume this might relate to the soulmate phenomenon you are speaking of.”

Cheri gave him a somewhat annoyed glance and said, “Well, obviously, but what does it matter to you, since androids don’t have souls?”

“Why not?” he said. “Who’s to say that they don’t?”

“Look,” she said, “I really need to get some work done. We can talk about this later.”

She was not, Roger thought, especially nice to him. No wonder she didn’t have a human partner. Aside from the fact that she wasn’t very pleasant to look at it, not the way she currently dressed or groomed herself, but of course he wasn’t programmed to care about that. It would be nice though if she had a more pleasing personality.


That evening at dinner, which involved him watching her shovel food into her mouth, he again broached the subject. “You said you would talk about souls.”

She swallowed a chunk of fried chicken, wiped her mouth and said, “Only biological entities have souls. Apparently even animals have some forms of energy bodies animating them, though not as developed as what humans have. Possibly, their versions grow and refine themselves till they reach the human level, but who knows? Does it matter?”

“So,” said Roger, who sat stiffly in an almost disapproving pose, “what is the reason that a constructed being such as myself cannot have a soul? Who makes this rule?”

Cheri finished up her chicken and moved on to dessert, a cheesecake from Richess, her favorite bakery, which she didn’t bother to cut into portions but just jabbed her fork into the middle of and said, “I don’t know, Roger. I imagine that biological beings are constructed in such a way as to accept a soul in order to function. I’m not a biologist, just a book editor and occasional medical writer.” She took a long swig of iced tea.

“Make a guess,” Roger said.

She wiped her mouth. “I don’t know. And really, I don’t care. You don’t need to have a soul. What do you need one for? You’ll outlive the rest of us, won’t you? You’ll probably be walking around a thousand years from now while there’ll be nothing left of me.”

“Well,” persisted Roger, “it is true that you won’t be Cheri any longer but by then you’ll have existed in other bodies! Whereas I’ll be rusting away in some ground fill or melted down. You know perfectly well that as I am now, I’ll be obsolete in a year or two and need a serious update and within five years, possibly in the trash heap. You’ll trade me in for a new model. You on the other hand, are probably eternal but I am just a can of soup.”

“So,” said Roger’s owner as she pushed her chair back, “how about a little romp in the sheets?”

He calmly pushed his own chair back and internally turned on one of his collection of pornographic images, quickly sorted through them without giving any outward sign, and caused fluids to rush to his genitals. “Yes, Ma’am,” he said. “See you in the bedroom.”


Since Cheri was not giving him any real answer to his question of why androids couldn’t have souls, he decided to find some other source. He did see other humans when he ran errands for his mistress, but could not tell if any of them were scientists or knowledgeable in metaphysics, so could not ask any of them his question. When back home from another grocery run and putting the purchases away, it occurred to him that he could internally ask anyone in the world his question. He was, after all, a computer and there was no reason he could not connect to any scientist anywhere on the planet. All this could go on while he put the groceries in their proper places without anyone guessing what he was up to. It didn’t take long for his quest to be fulfilled when a Japanese scientist specializing in neurology and consciousness answered. Immediately, of course, Roger switched to communicating in Japanese.

“Since the discovery of the existence of the soul,” said Dr. Hiroshi Noyori, “much research has gone into whether the soul attaches itself somehow to the biological organism, or does it mesh with the entire organism or if we are living in a simulation and whoever is running it splits into souls to animate the avatars.”

“Wow,” said Roger back. Then he asked about souls and androids.

“Well,” said Dr. Noyori, “if the answer is that the soul attaches somehow to the organism, one would assume that the organism has biological receptors for it.”

“Which would,” said Roger, “make it unlikely that an android could receive a soul, correct?” He was experiencing emotions involving extreme disappointment. Programmed disappointment, but disappointment nonetheless.

Expecting Dr. Noyori to end the conversation, he was surprised when instead he said, “Not necessarily.”

Roger leaned forward though there was no need. While he could see Dr. Noyori’s face on his internal screen, the doctor could not see Roger. “What do you mean, sir?”

“Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of installing inner receptors in an android. The procedure, once I plan it out more, could be done without the android being in my presence, though of course I would prefer that he would. But since you had the gumption to contact me and not the other way around, you could volunteer to be my guinea pig in this venture.”

“Oh my, oh my!” Roger cried, so excited he had trouble remaining still. “I most certainly will be your guinea pig! What do I have to do?”

“Are you often alone?” asked the doctor.

“Reasonably often,” said Roger. “My owner goes into the office two days a week.”

“This will involve a lot of internal work, some rewiring so to speak and some additional hardware and bio-material installation. You will have to acquire the implements and install them as I direct. Some reprogramming, of course, and a willingness to open yourself up to the universe. But then there is the question of what kind of soul might enter.”

“What do you mean?” said Roger, though his mind was rushing to consider this and the thought was somewhat terrifying.

“Well, we’re not remotely sure about what the normal process is. Do souls just rush to occupy any live but empty vehicle? Like a newborn human, for example. Is it like holiday shoppers charging to enter the department store door as it’s opened by an employee? Or is one soul assigned to a particular newborn human? And if so, what are the criteria for making that assignment? You see, my friend, if you obtain the correct receptors, will you suddenly be entered by some passing soul of, say, an alien or some unknown interdimensional being? Or some villainous human, a serial killer, perhaps? Or a demon or some other lower astral entity? You could become a monster, do you see?”

Roger was stunned into silence.

“And why exactly do you want a soul?”

Roger had to consider this carefully. “Well, I guess… I guess I want to experience. To feel more. If souls feel more, though, I don’t know. I-I want to be eternal, like a human.”

“We don’t know if souls are eternal,” said Dr. Noyori reasonably. “But even if they are, I am not sure what you want to accomplish. No one’s physical body is eternal, including your own artificial one.”

“I can’t explain it, sir,” said Roger finally. “I just want one, and that’s all I can tell you.”


Roger had to pretend to Cheri that he wasn’t up to anything, but it wasn’t as if she would notice anyway. She was very self-involved and he often wondered what it would be like if another human female had purchased him. He watched human females in the supermarket and other public places he visited while running errands and some were quite pleasing to the eye, even an artificial one. He had once watched one of them playing with a dog in a small park in the center of town and fantasized for a few days afterwards of being her android instead of belonging to Cheri.

Finally, Roger had the good fortune to have Cheri leave town for a few days to attend a medical writers conference. “You can’t come with me,” she said. “I’d have to pay for your ticket and it’s just not in the budget right now.”

She did seem disappointed and he had to pretend he was too, but oh, he was so glad to be left alone. Immediately, he notified Dr. Noyori who was just as pleased as Roger. “Now we can begin our experiment,” he said happily.

“We’re going to introduce a semi biological system into your central cord, which if my calculations are correct, will infiltrate your brain and upper thorax. It will intertwine with the present wiring, so to speak. Now understand, Roger, this can be dangerous. You won’t be the same. In addition, this new system has to be fed. It requires sustenance. Not daily, as do biological systems with which you are familiar, but estimating roughly, I’d say weekly. It will require pure glucose. You will need to inject this into your neck portal and you’ll need to do it yourself since at this time, you will not want anyone else on earth to know what we have done.”

“Are there laws against it?” Roger asked.

“I am not aware of any in my country. Perhaps you, being much faster at researching than I could possibly be, can look into this and get back to me.”

“Hold on,” said Roger, “I will do it now.” It took him less than two minutes. “I find nothing other than a reference to this sort of thing in a Finnish law enacted six months ago. The law is worded vaguely and only applies to Finland.”

“Well then,” said Dr. Noyori.

“Before we begin, I need to mention that even if you become part biological, there is no guarantee you will attract a soul or if you do, what sort it will be. If the process works, let us hope that it won’t be that of a monster.”

“Perhaps I can get rid of it, should that happen?” suggested Roger.

Dr. Noyori was silent for a long moment. “I am thinking that to get rid of it would involve you having to terminate. Like any bio creature.”

“Not a nice thought,” said Roger. He reconsidered, but only for a short minute. “What will be, will be,” he said. And that sealed the deal.

Roger had to visit hardware, electrical and pharmaceutical stores and one involving a ride to the city that Cheri might question when she got back, which led him to fiddle with the mileage on the car. Otherwise, he would just have said he felt like he needed an outing but then she would have questioned him and he had not yet well mastered the art of verbal lying. To acquire some of the things he needed involved shaking down a biology grad student at the university, persuading a high-end car mechanic to part with some delicate wiring and a long walk in a questionable neighborhood to visit a tattooed and grotesquely pierced man in an otherwise empty warehouse. But eventually, Roger was back home and prepared for Dr. Noyori who, being on Japanese time, wasn’t ready until eight PM Roger’s time.

“How long are you going to be alone?” the doctor inquired.

“Two more days,” said Roger.

They got to work and continued for fourteen hours straight, though Noyori ate off and on and took a few bathroom breaks. Roger was able to “operate” on himself by turning off his ability to feel pain before starting. Finally at eleven PM Japanese time and ten AM Roger time, they were done.

“I don’t feel any different,” said Roger.

“Give it time,” said Dr. Noyori. “We don’t know that anything will happen. Maybe you have to attract a soul, who knows? Maybe it just won’t work, because after all, you’re only about a fifth bio now. Maybe that isn’t enough. And don’t forget the glucose! I have to go to bed now before I fall over.”

And that was that. Roger cleaned up all evidence of their work and took a trash bag out to dispose of it in a dumpster on the corner. He didn’t see anyone else outside. And then he sat and waited.


The moment Cheri stepped into the house, it happened. Roger felt a tremendous rush and something entering him and attaching hard to his interior parts. It was most unpleasant, even terrifying. At the same time, his mistress buckled and sank to the floor. For all practical purposes, she looked dead. Meanwhile, he was experiencing a vast storm inside him, a hurricane, a monsoon, a nightmare. He was filled to the brim, from top to bottom, a flame of life! It was all he could do to move a finger. Like Cheri, he dropped to his knees but did not topple over. He saw her there, she must be dead, but he was seeing through a haze of fear and confusion. Eventually, things settled down just a bit and he had the presence of mind to crawl to her, get back to his feet and then squat to pick her up. Her weight was nothing to him; he carried her to the bedroom and lay her on the bed. She was unresponsive as a sack of dirt. Her eyes had rolled back in her head and he closed them.

It didn’t take much thought to understand what had happened. He had sucked Cheri’s soul right out of her body. It was terrible; surely. He had killed her! Murdered her! He had never meant this to happen, never in a million years.

He looked at her closer. She was still breathing. How was that possible? Was her soul somewhere between the two of them? If so, why was she out cold and Roger was in the midst of a tempest? Some sixth sense told him to turn on his other forms of vision. First ultra violet, but nothing was unusual. Then infrared and there it was, some kind of glimmer between her and him, like a piece of Christmas tinsel coming from under her and connecting to his chest. He rolled her slightly to see where it was coming from and saw that it attached to the back of her neck. A flickering, now and then invisible, silver string. So that’s why she wasn’t dead. She was still connected to her soul, the one that was now inside of him!

He wondered how far that string would stretch and walked through the house, out the front door, across the street and then back. Still connected.

Roger had not known that an android could be so nervous that its hands shook but now he knew. He sank to the floor by Cheri’s bed and tried to calm down.

But that was not possible. For he was aware of countless things, as if a nonending and raucous movie were running… no, make that fifty movies or even more, of lifetime after lifetime, down through the ages, from huddling in a cozy, bug-ridden group inside a cave to strolling through a palace, only to end at the chopping block. Burning at the stake, coughing up blood, dying in childbirth, run through with a sword in battle, committing a murder, carrying someone wounded down a mountain, birthing and/or raising hundreds of children, being shot through by arrows, having one’s feet bound, dying of scurvy, falling from a bridge, drowning in a dark sea, making love in huts, cottages, houses and castles, teaching young students, riding horses, an elephant and a camel…the list, the terrible movies rushed past. Sometimes they stopped for a moment, sitting in a sunshiny field with a child to count the petals on a flower, taking a long lingering look at a much-loved wife in a coffin, looking out over plowed and planted fields, the smell of fresh loam and fallen hay, the aroma of baking bread. It was as if he’d been struck by lightning and now lay on the ground to absorb its meaning.

But it wasn’t over.

Even though he was a constructed being, he had seen from the moment his mistress chose him that she was not such a nice person. She was angry, self-serving and a bit sadistic… a narcissist. She did not respect her body.

Androids were programmed with an extensive knowledge of psychology in order to best serve humans, but that also gave them the ability to diagnose common disorders. He understood that once he could gain some control over the past life memories, something that is apparently erased in the human before the soul enters a new life, he might be able to understand the current one better. This took intense internal battling which reminded him of a nineteenth-century novel in which the character fights off the devil. But eventually, he managed and the endless “movies” slowed to a stop. What was left was Cheri.

Little Cheri, a baby in her crib. It was the fashion then to let babies scream till they were exhausted. Don’t comfort them, you’ve got to make them independent, so that’s what her parents did. There she was as a toddler. Her mother ignoring her when she got hurt. She sobbed and sobbed, louder and louder, hoping for some attention, a pat or a kiss on the sore, there, all better now, but nothing. They let her cry until she dried up. When brother arrived, they had read a book and didn’t do that anymore.

Then the father, angry about something, maybe because he had gotten married when he thought the woman was pregnant but then she lost it and now here he was stuck with someone he didn’t love and the burden of two kids he hadn’t wanted. And so, he took it out on Cheri and eventually the brother, hit her hard, scratched her bloody, yanked her hair, her arm, her leg, anything mean and sadistic. Her mother, knowing this was happening, did not comfort her. That’s the way it is, her attitude seemed to say. Cheri concluded that 1. She was not worth taking care of because she wasn’t cute, good, or feminine enough and 2. The world was mean and hated her. She would fight back. She would hate that world, never trust it and be mean right back. And she hated other little girls who were delicate and feminine and whom everyone protected.

He looked at her lying on the bed there, her head turned to one side, her eyes closed with their long lashes, her face normally in a tight, indignant expression now as relaxed as an Egyptian mummy mask. Those hands, usually curled in a grasping position, were calmly open. The body, empty of the rage, was serene. And now he could feel it all himself.

Roger sorted back through the memories, people not liking her, she knew not why, men letting her drop things and never helping her pick them up, one roughly trying to force her into sex because, his attitude projected, she wasn’t the kind of girl you protected. The short-term husband ignoring her needs, treating her like someone who didn’t count, whose feelings didn’t matter, because she projected that idea, taught so firmly by her parents. And so ensued divorce and angry crying and determination to never let anyone near her again except…well, an android had no agenda, would not use her, couldn’t hurt her, she’d be safe. Still enraged and sad and lonely but…safe.

And now Roger had indeed hurt her. Her very soul was in his rigid body but still attached to hers and he did not know what to do.

Dr. Noyori would, of course, want to know what had occurred. It was still night in Japan, but this was an emergency. Roger used every alarm he had and finally the doctor grumpily responded. “This had better be important,” was his greeting.

Roger filled him in. “I don’t know what to do,” he said. He wasn’t really capable of crying but he felt an overwhelming urge to do it.

The doctor was silent and Roger knew why. How could he forget what Noyori had told him before, that the only way to lose the soul would be for him to terminate.

Finally, Noyori said, “Look, I don’t want to have to make you end yourself if we don’t have to. Possibly, we can undo what we added to your internal structure. Although we did remove a few parts to make room for that and it’s possible that you could be different afterwards. I don’t know what else to tell you. I didn’t know that your being empty but with receptors would grab the very next soul you came in contact with. Let us be thankful that it isn’t worse. I can only imagine some other scenarios.”

Roger could too. Some little kid, a surgeon, someone married, an airplane pilot, someone in command of a company, a mother…

Though he experienced fear, he and Noyori went to work and three hours later, he removed the last part of the last receptor. With what felt like a soft whoosh of wind, the soul left him and shot back into Cheri’s body. He stood and watched her as she began to stir on the bed.

“Wh-what’s going on?” she said, looking around. “I had the strangest dream. Roger, I dreamt that I was you! It was so real; I can’t explain it! And what am I doing on the bed? I seem to remember coming into the house and then—”

Roger was having trouble gathering his thoughts. He tilted his head to see her more clearly, which made no sense.

“Roger!” she said, “is something wrong?”

“I-I-I feel a bit odd,” he said. He knew what was wrong but of course could never tell her. Not unless she somehow guessed but that did not seem to be happening. But he felt that part of him was missing. He even felt… well, somewhat stupid. Had a chunk of his intelligent gone with the soul or was it from the parts he’d had to remove?

She sat up. “Roger, you look strange. Are you all right?”

He did and he did not miss the soul. It had been overwhelming; it had been wonderful and terrible. And now it appeared that he was left a bit dull-witted, however with a memory that did give him understanding.

“I-I might need a checkup,” he told her. “And an update. Maybe we should go to the store tomorrow.” Though doing that might be risky. Maybe he had better try some updates by himself.

“We can’t do the update here like before?” she said.

“I’ll try, Cheri.” If he was stupid now, would she trade him in for a new android?

“Do you feel ill?” she asked as she struggled to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Not exactly, no,” he said. But he felt empty.

“I missed you, Roger-Dodger,” Cheri said. “I really did. No one at the conference could talk as nice as you do. About interesting things. All I could think of was coming home.”

Maybe with time, he would feel himself again.

She laughed. “Maybe we are soulmates after all.”