**Idgie Says: I am very pleased to be throwing some international flair into the Dew by presenting a third story from Jay Pee Yu of the Philippines that the Dew has published. Enjoy!
by Jay Pee Yu
“Who’s God, mama?”
It wasn’t the first time that Caleb had asked this question to his mother. So to Emily it was not a surprise anymore. They were seated in the couch, watching the evening news. The bluish fire-like illumination coming from the TV playfully danced all over their faces. On the screen was a group of rallyists destroying the barricade of the iHuman building. They were protesting against the proposition of iHuman to terminate every industrial laborer and be replaced by the robots which the company had been manufacturing.
“He created the earth. He created the people, the birds, the flowers and the bees,” Emily said calmly.
“The sunshine, the trees, the nights and the days,” said Caleb. His hands were brandishing in the air.
“Yes, honey. He created everything.”
“Did he also make those people angry?”
His index finger was toward the TV. He did not directly indicate the violent activity, but Emily knew her son meant it.
“No. People make themselves angry. God only makes love. Nothing else but love. Pure love towards his creations.” She looked at him and released a sweet smile. Then she reached for his head kissed him there. He reciprocated it with a very tight and warm hug that almost caused her to breathe hard.
He is growing, she thought, he is growing mechanically.
“My classmates always talk about God. I don’t know why they brag up about him. Sitti says there is only one Allah, while Missy says she has no other god than Yahweh. They have different gods. That’s weird.” His voice was muffled by her bosoms.
“Yes, Caleb, it is weird.”
Emily thought Caleb was now processing all the data installed in his memory. Everything Dean had put in. They were coming out now. But these manifestations of his intelligence seemed dangerous.
“Ma, who is Allah? And who is Yahweh?”
“I believe they are just one.”
“One?” The sound of doubt was audible in his voice.
“Yes, only one.”
Emily looked at him with a glee stretching the corners of her mouth.
“But, if they are really one, why does Allah allow his believers to marry more than once, whereas Yahweh deprives his believers even just to sleep with somebody who is not one’s wife?”
“Someday you will know why. All I can tell you for now is that they are one, and they both love the people who believe in them.”
It was getting dark outside. Streets were emptied of people, taking their dinner.
Caleb pulled away from his mother. And that was when Emily stared at him, trying to decipher the next question Caleb would shoot to her.
“The people they created?” said Caleb.
“Did they also create me?”
“No. It was me and your father who created you. Out of our love you were made. Allah and Yahweh sent us their power and guidance, so we were able to give you life. You are a grace from them, honey. A very special gift.”
She felt her heart beat up her chest. She watched him stand up.
“I love you, ma. I always will,” Caleb said softly.
Finally her heart received ease. He looked contented in her answer, nonetheless.
She was lying awake. The room was cold and dark and quiet. She wanted it this way, so she could hear anything that could make sounds from Caleb’s room down to hers.
She really couldn’t sleep. She still bore the conversation they had in the living room. It kept coming back like a ghost.
Oh, Dean, why you did you leave us? she thought.
Dean’s tragic death suddenly breached her head, preoccupying her once again.
On Caleb’s first birthday, Emily and Dean decided to take him to iHuman. It was not to sell the robot they called son, but to introduce him to the world, that robots were not only industrial machines used as an alternate to human laborers for advancements, but also to give them a chance to be treated as human as well: to be part of family, to be cared, to be a friend.
Dean was one of the pioneers in iHuman. His skills and competitiveness couldn’t be matched. He created most of the robot designs inside the company. He was really good. The company gave everything he demanded, just to prolong his stay.
At home, he worked on his greatest creation. A robot boy he named Caleb, a robot that he would really love like a son. For nine months he dedicated himself to it. When finished, he introduced it to his wife who later on would also love the robot which was never far from a real boy.
iHuman contained the robots underneath its matchbox-like building. They stored thousands of them, all and every kind. They all had similar physical appearances: their titanium skeleton.
In the midst of the iHuman success came the uprise and hatred from the marginalized workers who were eliminated from the industrial plants they were working for, affected by the growth of the robot production.
“Are you guys ok?” Dean said. He was the driver. Emily and Caleb were at the back.
“Yes, dad.” Caleb neared himself to his father’s back.
“We’re almost there.”
“Yes, big boy. Are you excited?” said Dean. He was looking to Caleb from the rearview mirror.
There was no sun. Clouds dominated the whole day. And there was a grey day madness that would change the course of their journey.
“Your eyes on the road, Dean, please,” Emily protested.
“Sure, dear,” he said. He feigned tired.
“But you don’t.” She caught him still looking at her.
“Watch out dad!”
A human figure ran across the street and the car hit it. It was thrown away like a rag doll. Then the uproar inside the iHuman compound attracted their attention.
The robots escaped underground securities. They were ravaging everything on their way. Climbing the gates and devastating the cars, and killing every human who tried to stop them. It was a riot of mad monkeys dressed in metal suits.
“Oh my holy lord,” Emily exclaimed. She grabbed Caleb and locked him in her arms.
“What’s happening, mama?”
She closed her own eyes and said: “Nothing, honey. Nothing.”
She knew it was a weak answer. How fool she was knowing that her son could perceive everything better than she could.
A robot crashed on Emily’s side. She was grateful that Dean had customized the car and was strongly protected: windows and glasses had been designed to ward off bullets.
Another five robots surrounded the car and shook it violently. One of them had a huge iron rod in hand. It climbed up the hood up to the roof. From the ceiling of the car it stabbed and struck Dean in the head. He died instantly.
And all of these memories receded back to her head as a soft blue-green orb shone in the blackness of the room, and a heavy breathing hung around.
“Mama, I will kill them.”
“Caleb? Sweetie, is that you?”
Emily rose up, frantic, and then fumbled for the light. When it snapped on, she jolted up from the bed. Caleb standing by the door intimidated her.
“Caleb, why are you still up?”
“Mama, I could see them from your dream. The robots. They killed daddy. I even heard their anger from here to my room.”
It was like a thousand needles blown to her face. Cold needles penetrating into her skin.
She took his hands but gave it away as she was scorched by its heat. It felt like a fire. They were so hot.
His hands produced those fireballs she had witnessed accumulating in the dark. He was now really progressing, and she dreaded that it would be greater these days.
“Come on honey. Get sleep. Let’s just forget everything off. Stay with me tonight.”
After she had sent Caleb to school, she went to her bed. Distracted, she kept on thinking on every second Caleb spent with his classmates.
Now, seated at the kitchen table, Emily looked worried. Anxiety was slowly creeping on her. The fact that her son could hear and see other people’s thoughts sent chills to her body. The moment she had been fearing of had finally come.
The call from the school dragged her out of her negative wondering. The fire spared no one except Caleb. It was terrifying to learn that her son was the only student who had survived the incident. The fire totally burnt down the north wing building where all the elementary students had their classes. And everyone therein was toasted to death.
She knew it was not a miracle that saved her son, but the malevolent power he possessed inside him.
She found Caleb smudged with black everywhere, sitting beneath a gigantic tree. He was horrified and dazed, hard to talk to. He was hiding his hands in his charcoaled polo. And his tears incessantly streamed down his cheeks.
Emily knelt down before him and held his hands.
“Are you all right, honey?” She wanted to ask what happened, but she chose to push the thought away.
“Mama, I didn’t mean to do it.” He was going to cry.
“Hush… It’s okay, honey. Everything’s fine now. Don’t worry, it’s not your fault.” She realized it was wrong. She should have explained that he did something terrible and it was very, very wrong. But she could do nothing but pity over him, and let him feel that she was not angry after all this.
“I’ll take you home. Let’s clean up your wounds.”
“Ma,” Caleb said.
Caleb only nodded then, and fell quiet.
Off they went home, stealthily.
“Tell me what really happened and why you needed to do that.”
She was holding his scorched hand, removing the melted prosthetics and replacing them with new ones.
“I-I heard them. They said I am weird, that I am not human. I am not human. They were talking about me.”
There was a quiver in every breath he took.
“That’s not true, honey. You are a human. It was—” she faltered. She wanted to say “it was me who gave birth to you” but, like the wind, it just drifted away, and instead she said: “It’s me and your daddy who gave life to you. No one else did, but us. Always remember that. That’s why I know that you are human, and please, believe only on it. I won’t let them hurt you again with false accusations.”
His hands were almost gone, distorted.
“Your hands, what happened to them?”
“There was fire from them. Small fires with different colors,” he said with half-amazed and half-scared look on his face.
“Don’t do that again, okay?”
She did not question him any further. Nor tell him the number of innocence he had killed and the aftermath he had left to their families. Casualties, they were better left unsaid.
Helpless, she thought.
“I’ll go to the market. Want to come with me?”
She smiled at him.
“Good. Dress up, big boy.”
Helpless, she thought again, helpless little boy. This too shall pass soon.
Caleb slung the green eco-bag over his shoulder. It was half of his height and loaded with vegetables and fruits.
“There’s more, mama?” Caleb complained, but was unheeded.
Emily was picking up lemons.
A woman walked past them. Then suddenly she shrieked because her bag gave up. Apples dropped and rolled on the floor.
“Let me help,” Caleb offered as he stooped down to pick up the apples.
Emily became proud of her son’s courteous attitude.
The woman stared at Caleb. Her eyes were filled with surprise and furious, and her jaws were rigid like a brick.
“You’re a robot, aren’t you!” she blurted out.
The prosthetics that Emily had covered on Caleb’s hands had been peeled off. His scorched arm was revealed and the woman went berserk over it.
“He’s a robot! He’s a robot! We’re in danger!”
Spectators began to gather around them. Their eyes all turned to Caleb. At first they murmured. Then one by one they picked up apples and oranges and everything that they could throw to the boy. One of them hit Caleb on the head with a ponkan, and then everyone was hurling fruits and vegetables toward him.
Then Emily shielded her son with her body. She deflected all their curses. Then something hard hit her on the temple and a warm, thin fluid streaked down her face.
“Mama, you’re bleeding,” said Caleb.
She did not speak. With haste and bravery, she wrapped herself around her little boy until they finally got out of the market.
“Mama, you’re hurt…”
“Don’t worry, I’m fine. Are you hurt?”
“No. I’m okay.” Caleb spread his arms, proving that he was not lying.
“But you, you are. Why are they so mad at me, mama? Do they know what happened at the school?”
This time she ignored him.
In just a day everything seemed a torture and cruelty to both of them. Suddenly everyone was enemy, as though something urged them to conspire and eliminate this mother and her child on the face of the planet.
This called out sleeplessness. The feeling was unpleasant. Emily gave up trying even to have short naps. She stood and walked toward the door, wanting a glass of cool water. But before she exited the room, a massive explosion of sound and light from the outside stole away the serenity was just beginning to grow.
The houses down the blocks were being eaten by a horrendous fire. Mothers and children were screaming for help. They all looked afraid. The neighborhood was caged in terror and panic. And in the middle of this hysteria and holocaust was Caleb, balling electricity in his palms and fired them like cannonballs.
Emily hustled into the street. She saw her son standing barefoot on the ground. She couldn’t breathe listening to the voices of fire and dread and suffering, and to the fact that Caleb was the reason behind this hellish scenario.
A man on fire lay down in front of her and rolled to kill the fire off his body. Their pain attached to her, and she too began to cry. And her eyes mirrored the blaze of Caleb’s retribution.
She watched him tromped toward her. He was shivering, but his body’s temperature was menacingly high. She pulled him to her, seized his shoulders.
“Sweetie, what have you done?” she sounded breathy and ragged and wasted, full of ire and frustration.
She slapped him.
“Mama, I only wanted to protect you. I only wanted to—”
Then her hand hit him again. A facet of surrender from his eyes looked up at her.
The police cars came first, warbling. Then the shrill wail of ambulances and firetrucks eventually owned the night.
“No! You don’t! What you did has only hurt me more! And hurt these people. Oh, god, please help me bear with this. What have you done, Caleb. Look at them now.”
“The demon! That’s the demon!” somebody from the crowd shouted.
Emily turned to the source of the sound. She was a woman of forty with an infant son cradled in her arms. She was weeping.
“Your son, he’s the demon! He must die”
It felt like a stab to Emily’s chest: He must die!
And it was echoed by the people as they mobbed her and her son. They were covered with gouges and dust and smoke. They hurdled and glared at Caleb.
“Kill the demon!”
“He’s a robot, he must be terminated.”
Eliminate! Kill! We’re in danger!
All of their cries had tormented Emily. She wanted to have a breakdown and just die now.
She could see the anger collected in their veins bulging on their sick faces.
Pebbles and plastic cups flew as they launched an attack.
The authorities waded through them, storming to where Emily and Caleb were.
“Move, people, move! Calm down. We’re going to fix it.”
The crowd continued on throwing stuff. Only when one of the police fired a gun toward the sky did they relax.
“Go get medical assistance. Help yourself out of the situation. Evacuate this place now! You’re all in danger here, for god’s sake, leave!”
Then they gradually left. And the policemen spoke to Emily.
“Is he your son?”
“Yes, sir,” Emily said politely.
The police looked down at Caleb, as if he was scanning the boy.
“How are you doing, little boy?”
“I’m doing good, sir. Thank you for asking.”
The police rejected this answer for it made him feel giddy. And asked the same question, but with the tone of irony on it this time.
Caleb gave the same answer, and the police heard sarcasm on it. He couldn’t imagine this innocent face was concealing a monster that was not yet fully unleashed.
“I hope you don’t mind to come with us to the station, missus. We got a lot of things talk about.” He looked around. “Something must be settled down. Accomplished, perhaps.”
When the street was clear of people, Emily and Caleb got into the car.
“He must be shut down. It’s for every one’s safety. And to you as well.”
“You want to kill my son?” Emily inquired.
“No, missus. We just need to shut him down. Is that clear?”
“I see no difference. You want him dead.”
“We ought to do that. And I believe you understand that. And it’s urgent.”
“No. I mean, yes, I do understand what you’re trying to tell me. But I just can’t let you do that. It’s not that easy to give up a child. He’s all I have. He’s the last. And I don’t want to lose him, now that’s he’s the last thing that makes me happy and live more. I can’t live another day without him. It would be the hardest. Who would call me mama every morning if he’s gone? Who would sit with me at the table during breakfast? Who? Tell me—who!”
Emily broke into intermittent sobs.
“We don’t want to be ruthless to your feeling, missus. But we got to do that as soon as possible.”
“No, you’re not. But you’re pushing me to decide recklessly. Please, don’t be, sir.”
The chief sat still, avoiding her gaze. He rapped his fingers on his desk. But it didn’t avert the urge to relent over her.
“Have mercy on us, sir,” Emily begged. Tears trickled down her face.
“Missus, we cannot tolerate incidences such as this. We put people in imminent perils.”
Emily’s shoulders undulated.
“Don’t be selfish, missus.”
“All right,” Emily said. “I’ll finish this thing. But let me do this. I can’t let—”
Courage dawned on her face.
“We have ITs here who can help you—”
“I know how to start programming, sir, and I know how to end it.”
“He doesn’t explode. He’s a robot, not a bomb.”
“He could have circuit inside him that may cause a blast.”
“I’ll do it, anyway. My son is a human.”
“Ok. Do what you can. Just promise that this will be as soon as you leave this room.”
Emily stood up and gripped on Caleb’s wrist.
Morning light came early, but the morning was still blanketed by the black smoke of tonight’s holocaust. Caleb’s room was heavy in silence.
“I’m tired, mama,” he said.
“Go to sleep, honey. You need rest now.”
“Mama, please stay beside me.”
“That would be good, honey.” Saying this already encumbered her with impending longings.
She bent and kissed him.
Twenty minutes passed and he dozed off.
She didn’t want to leave his bed, but she knew she had to. She went downstairs and went to the kitchen. She looked for a cutter and grass-shears. She plodded back to his room. For nearly an hour she only stood there and watched him sleep. He reminded her of an angel: a cuddly and honest one.
And when the time had come, she opened Caleb’s shirt and pressed the cutter into his prosthetic chest. No need to disable his running system. Just his heart. She slid the cutter down and made a huge cross shape. She peeled off the artificial skin and fumbled for his heart. It was fist size, made of titanium in mango shape. There was a plastic tube at its top, containing three wires coded in three colors: red, green, and blue. It was faintly glowing, a sign of relax and eased body. She touched the wires and an electric current bolted up in her arm. A very gentle spark that connected her to him. She wanted more of it. His life.
“Mama, what are you doing?”
The robot boy was suddenly fully awaked. His voice unnerved her.
“This will help you feel comfortable, honey.”
Against the electrocution and the panic on her son’s face, she immediately disconnected the wires from his electric heart using the shears. The glow slowly dimmed, then it died.
She briskly walked out of the room and waited for the sun to appear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jayps is a graduate of Graphic Arts and Printing Technology at the Technological University of the Philippines and has worked in a printshop and in a recruitment agency. He believes that his short stints in the BPOs will not be considered as a job. He lives in the Philippines, in a tiny piece of land where the sun rises from Sierra Madre and the nightsky is still clear.
Visit Jayps at inkbloodmilk.tumblr.com