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Sentient Burden

Gabriel Crawford

Citizens throughout the courtroom gossiped quietly, waiting for the defendant. When he arrived, his eyes were wide open as he broodingly stared down. With his mind racing in a crazed state, the sounds around him faded in and out. Every jolt his body made mimicked that of a psychiatric patient. The jury noticed how unstable he looked, each moment a potential opportunity for a breakdown. And it wasn’t the profuse sweat pouring from his body, but instead the blue fluid that leaked from him causing them to judge.

 “I just can’t stand androids.” The jury glared down at him, dismissing his human appearance. They saw only a hostile machine in the courtroom The Artificial Life Act was passed decades ago to create peace in the twenty-second century amongst humans and the revolutionary androids: human designed and behaving robots that scientists created, with slight physical strength enhancements. But young Arlo’s mind raced with sheer fear—not peace—in the courtroom, seeing he was surrounded by the very people who despised the act almost as much as him. He could almost hear his adopted mother in his memory storage, strengthening him; encouraging him; guiding his steps when he was first brought home from the machine orphanage. She always made him feel more than a construction of parts. He reminisced the lessons on being an upstanding citizen and treating others with love and respect no matter what society labeled him as. These lessons formed Arlo’s moral compass and defined his character. And every second, he dwelled on his coming-of-age journey, with the reality of his situation continuously mortifying him. He knew no one would even try to believe his story of how things went.

 Arlo was strolling on the sidewalk to a local homeless shelter the day before, no special occasion, or high school trip. He remembered a particular person he promised he’d visit that day who needed someone in his life to care. The feeling of joy had never moved through him so much. The feeling of pain though, was an opposing, distinct feeling that Arlo abruptly felt from a launching fist that caved in his face. A group of hands then threw him into a shady alley, with two other buildings crowding it, blinding possible witnesses from the view.

“You lost?” a hooded juvenile said, smirking.

“What the heck was that for?” Arlo said, standing to his feet.

“Trespassing,” a spiked haired guy replied.

“I wasn’t trespassing. I was walking along a public sidewalk.” 

“A sidewalk?” the final person with a cut on his lip said. “What about our country? Our world? That’s the trespassing I’m talking about.”

“Look, I promise I don’t want any trouble. I don’t have anything against humans at all. I’m just trying to get to a homeless shelter to help.”

“Oh, that’s where you’re trying to go? My bad. You go ahead and handle that,” one of them abruptly said, as the other two made Arlo a path to exit from. Taking their offering, he headed for the path in a dash to leave the encounter.  


The next thrown punch to the face jolted Arlo, stumbling him back. 

“We don’t care if you’re some self-righteous ‘wire-brain.’ You androids are all the same to us. Taking our parent’s job, being perfect in all aspects, acting as if you’re even real. I wish all of you would die!”

What ensued next was what Arlo only read about in stories. A vicious beatdown commenced, punches and kicks striking all over Arlo’s body in a heated surge of violence. He tried to avoid the attacks, resulting in all three assaulters landing clean shots every time he moved, and each blow to his head felt like a hammer. 

“Stop! Please!” he begged, his body now twitching. It wasn’t physical pain, but relentless panic that coursed through Arlo, equally suffering him.

“Stop existing!” they said.

 Arlo’s eyes began to spazz out. His head shook with aggression, something within him snapping–something going haywire. What’s happening? he thought, his digital vision now absent. Please stop! The beating was becoming deadlier with each hit; the attacks were taking an effect on his human shell–his schematics. I beg you, stop! All his functional systems quickly became drenched in the assaulters' corruption.


Right then, Arlo swiftly caught one of the thug’s incoming fists, snapping the elbow with a single movement. The thug gazed at his arm, too fear-stricken to utter a word, falling with his bone protruding from his flesh. 

“Woah!” the others called out in peril. Arlo then slammed the next guy into the wall, squeezing his shoulders with scary strength. His now transparent, maniacal eyes pierced into the assaulter’s terrified soul before slicing through his neck with one shove of his elbow. He collapsed, with his neck like a popped water balloon.  

“Please stop! I’m sorry!” the final guy said, retreating backwards. But the Arlo who longed to help and serve others was driven out. He grabbed him, holding him in the air with one hand.

“Please.” one final plea from the regretful assaulter.

Arlo spoke only one sentence, “Protect myself.”

His fist shot straight through his chest with his heart plunging from his anatomy. He flung his body off, standing amongst the bloodshed. He resembled a murderous droid, spazzing and leaking. The injured thug fearfully crawled back with one arm, gazing at the android who murdered his friends.

“You’re a monster!” he said. Those words were as daunting that day as they were in the courtroom, as Arlo overheard the term ‘monster’ by many in the jury. He couldn’t fathom the hypocrisy from the people he encountered. People that committed evil and shifted the blame were the real monsters. And Arlo knew that two dead, and one injured was all that was needed against him. He glimpsed at his two-faced persecutor, observing him—hearing him encourage his conjoined oppressors to scorn him. It was then he recognized it wouldn’t matter once he explained his self-defense malfunction. He understood the response of humans would always be the same to androids no matter the circumstance; a discriminating way of life he guessed his creators just didn’t foresee. Finally, the case came to an end, and after thorough reports and descriptions, the judge confirmed all the speculation Arlo had.


“Guilty. Sentence: deactivation.”

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