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  • Writer's pictureRhiannon Bird

Only Living Things Breathe

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Eve took a few moments before she entered the bar. She would have taken some deep breaths if she had lungs.

The door swung open easily.

Inside the dimly lit space there were only four humans, not counting the two scientists huddled in the corner. Aaron and Liam. She couldn’t see their notebooks, but they were bound to be somewhere. Eve stepped lightly over to the opposite end of the bar. It was strange walking this was, they had been trying to smooth out her movements for months now, and had only just got the programming right this morning.

The bartender wandered over and offered her a beer which she declined. That got a few strange looks, so she quickly ordered a thing called Mojito from up on the wall. Aaron and Liam had stressed how important this trial was, but they had ill-prepared her for what humans were like. There were only three humans she had ever interacted with and this was far from her own normal.

The bartender brought over the drink in a thick glass. Eve used the straw to lazily mix the drink and study the almost empty bar. The scientists had their heads bent over whispering to one another.

There was a burly man sitting hunched in his seat at the back of the bar and a teenager at the end of the bar trying to convince the bartender that he was twenty-three.

At one of the tables in the middle of the room sat a woman laughing at what the man across from her said. She was sitting on the very edge of her seat, one leg crossed over the other. Eve shuffled to copy the stance. Her gears shifted in response at the unorthodox angle but didn’t stop her.

The woman flicked her long hair over her shoulder and Eve reached up to tug at the ends of her own hair. It was cropped just above her shoulders in a messy cut. The scientists had decided that after the fire in the lab and having to replace her arm, they couldn’t be bothered replacing her hair as well. Instead, they cut it unevenly and patted themselves on the back for a job well done.

That night was the first time Eve had wondered what it was like when a human cried.

A bundled-up figure sidled into the bar and shuffled over to sit right next to her. He turned to her and lifted the low sitting cap.

“Noah,” she gasped. “What are you doing here?”

He put a finger to his lips and pointed at Aaron and Liam in the corner. Eve schooled her features into a look of vague interest. Noah was the research assistant; he had always been kind to her. The headband she was wearing now was a gift from him.

Noah gladly accepted the drink offered by the bartender. “We have to get out of here.”

She glanced over at the scientists. “I can’t leave, it’s the middle of a trial.”

He grimaced. “That’s why we’re leaving. This isn’t a functional test.” He pulled her off the stool to her feet.

“What do you mean Noah?”

“Eve, this is a sales deal.”

She frowned, a new emote that Noah added to her repertoire just a few weeks before. “It’s still months before I have enough programming to enter the workplace.”

“That’s just it.” He readjusted his cap. “The university hasn’t signed off on this. I found the emails on their burner phone; they have been in contact with an international spy through the dark web. He is supposed to be meeting them here in this bar. It’s practically human trafficking.”

Eve still didn’t move. “I’m not human.”

He glanced over at the door. “I know, but you’re more than just a robot, please, will you leave with me.”

“Where will we go?”

“I know someone.” He tugged on her arm and this time she followed. In the corner, Aaron and Liam stood up, as did the burly man at the back of the bar. “Come on,” Noah said, breaking into a run with Eve at his heels.

They burst out of the bar into midday sunlight. Noah steered them to the left.

The burly man yelled from the doorway, “Get back here asshole.” He jumped into a car parked on the road and revved the engine.

“Noah,” Eve said glancing back.

“It’s not far.”

The car shot up the street and came level with them. “That’s my property boy,” he yelled out the window.

Noah just pulled her closer and said in a low voice, “We just have to make it to the building on the corner.”

Eve nodded and looked back over at the car. The car swerved as the burly man hunched over, reaching for something she couldn’t see on the other seat.

They were only 20 paces from the building as he came back up a black metallic object in his hand. Eve may have lived in a lab but she knew enough to know that a gun was bad news.

She slammed the glass that was still in her hand against a nearby pole breaking off the bottom of it and jumped closer to the car. Her arm snapped out slashing at the tyre; as she made contact there was a loud bang.

The car spun out as the burly man swore.

She smiled triumphantly and then fell to her knees.

“Eve,” Noah said catching her before she fell completely.

Fluid spilled out of her stomach where the bullet from the burly man’s gun had lodged itself.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” Noah repeated in her ear, one hand moving to cover the hole.

“Don’t worry I can’t feel it,” Eve said blinking rapidly as her vision flickered.

“You can’t?” Noah asked, liquid flowing through his fingers.

She frowned and moved her hands to her thigh. “I can’t feel my legs either.” Her vision flickered.

“You Bitch,” screamed the burly man as he fell out of the car onto the road, gun still in hand.

“You’re going to be fine,” Noah said, adjusting his grip under her shoulders and dragged her towards the building.

The pavement scraped against her loose arms and her head bobbed up and down as they moved. Her vision flickering in and out.

“Almost there,” Noah grunted.

The burly man was running straight towards them.

Noah heaved her up and through the building’s door. It was slammed shut and locked by a short girl with glasses. There was a loud thud as the burly man slammed into the metal.

“Is she okay?” The girl hurried over to her side.

Eve’s vision turned black.

“I don’t know,” Noah’s voice said, it sounded further away then it had been.

“Can you fix her?”

Noah sucked in a breath. “I’m just a programmer,” he said his voice rough, “I need you to…” then his voice was gone as well. It seemed that if she could breathe, this would be the time she would take her last one. Though she wasn’t sure that it could even be called dying, only living things did that.

First published on Reedsy for a competition

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