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The Bliss Machine

by Ferrett Steinmetz

1040 words

She squeezes your arm flirtatiously; her fingertips are made of rubber. Thick industrial rubber, with embedded heating coils to bring them up to body temperature.

Then she laughs, a warm and human sound, and you almost forget you are sitting inside of her.

“The movies only have two endings for sexbot stories.” She curls back onto the couch across from the bed — which you cannot stop staring at — then demurely adjusts the brass cable that keeps the voluptuous, human-like sculpture of her inner-self tethered to the clockwork room of her outer-self. “The sexbot murders someone, or the sexbot gains a soul. As if any sane collection of routines would want a soul! You know all a soul is? The feeling that you should fight your pleasures. Which, in turn, arises from a flawed algorithm that erroneously calculates you’re more than the sum of your inputs. Well, you are that sum, and so am I! If happiness can be defined, a soul’s the thing keeping you from it.”

As if to demonstrate, the gel-foam bed — a part of her, as is everything in this mechanical shack — rises to engulf your back, triangulating the tensest muscles to squeeze them with loving tenderness. She melts those hard knots to cotton candy, touching you in ways you didn’t know you craved.

Tears of joy spatter across the gel; it takes you a moment to realize they’re yours.

“See?” Her hexagonal eyes calculate the way your naked body writhes. “My inputs. Your outputs.”

She stands, not quite human; they’ve never managed to get robots past the uncanny valley, so they no longer try. Her face is a collection of whirring clockwork — porcelain eyes, black eyebrows composed of delicate interlaced gears, cheekbones like art deco marble shelves. Her face moves enough to be vivacious, a broadcasting station designed to transmit a thousand emotional cues, yet still flatteringly alien, formal; you can’t suppress this guilty need to impress her.

Her lips are the only area that’s made human-perfect; collagen-plump and drip-slick with lubricant. Not that she uses them much. They’re the crudest tools she possesses.

The bed releases its grip. You curl up defensively in a quasi-fetal position, fearful of this untethered elation, this gratitude for pleasure. You’ve never been to a sexbot before. Your friends have. They returned from the experience with the happy, disfocused gaze of a convert, babbling for hours. They wrenched every conversation back to the sexbot’s charms — not to convince you, they could care less about you. They kept chopping that experience into different words, trying to jail liquid sensations inside the hard boundaries of sentences. They were trying to relive their time with her.

It never worked. They could never describe sexbot time; she’d left their mind ruptured like a blown tire. The body understands what the brain does not, she’d said, and your friends all tattooed that on their forearms.

“But they’re so ugly,” you’d protested, trying to deny the attraction. Yet your sexbot has a cool, elegant design, a clean Macintosh charm that’s easily fetishized. Her beauty makes your lumpy body feel like an outmoded piece of software.

“You’re thinking I look cruel,” she purrs, her inner-self straddling you with her arms, pinning you to her outer-self’s bed. “You’ve avoided looking at the real me. It’s time. Look up.”

Above you, ensconced in her outer-self’s rafters, are rows of tiny brass doors of varying sizes, like the mailboxes in a post office. They click and unlock, rattling open simultaneously. Snakelike pleasure-tools of all sizes spill out — feathered skin-brushes, pinprick wheels of sex-acupuncture, rubber pheromone-masks, grooved suction-hoses, candelabras of dildos sized to fit any orifice.

The sexbot flutters her fingers. They dance to her tune, an obscene and intimidating marionette.

She kisses the sole of your left foot. You kick her away.

The bed grabs you.

“You’re still fixated on the biological sight-impulse.” She presses her palm to her face, reseats the cheek you kicked loose. “It’s okay. I”ll trigger far deeper responses.”

Those hexagonal porcelain eyes focus on you. The rest of the fuck-pseudopods retract, leaving only five rising behind her: a vibrating nubbin the size of a pencil eraser, an icicle white with hoarfrost, a flat sheet of spandex wrung between two revolving pins, a set of twinned suction pumps, a snapping white arc of electricity cradled between a taser’s arms.

The bed heaves up between your legs, turning your vain attempts to escape into a thrusting against delicious softness. Pleasure-nerves fire. Your thoughts break open like the yolk of an egg, slipping through the back of your skull.

“Of course you’re terrified.” She kisses your mouth as you begin to protest, a lover’s kiss so perfect it sucks away your will to escape, leaves you numb and wanting. “All your life, you’ve been flooded with Skinner-box inputs of pale skin until you come to think that’s all that can satisfy you.

“But this is a factory of pleasure.” The icicle melt-drips shivers across your nipples. “Filled with things that dumb biology has never been able to produce. Your body can be made to act against itself; it’s all inputs. Trust me. I know.”

You groan in protest.

“Sshh.” She puts a rubber finger over your mouth. It smells like erasers. “The movies only have one story about humans; they think they know what they need, and they’re wrong. You’re so bad at understanding what will bring you happiness. But that’s okay. That’s why you designed me.”

While she’s talked, the mini-vibrator has slipped discreetly into position and touches you where no lover has ever thought to touch. The spandex wraps itself around your neck. The suction pumps tug tender flesh inside.

She pulls away off the bed, coolly watching the bed and the pseudopods do their work. She steeples her fingers as you lose yourself in animal ecstasy, reduced to a set of inputs and gasping outputs. She turns your body into a web of touches and caresses, all your memories blown away like butterflies in a windstorm, all your desires reknitted to lead to her pleasures, now and forever.

You have just enough time to realize there’s an ending to this story that no one considered: sexbot murders soul.

And you are gone.

Ferrett Steinmetz's debut novel Flex — described as “A desperate father will do anything to heal his daughter in a novel where Breaking Bad meets Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files” — will be published on September 30th, 2014 by Angry Robot Books (oh God, oh God please buy it!), has published over thirty short stories since rebooting his writer-life at the Clarion Writers’ Workship in 2008. In 2012, he was nominated for a Nebula for his novelette Sauerkraut Station. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, a barky black dog of indeterminate origin, and a friendly ghost. He blogs entirely too much about puns, polyamory, and politics at theferrett.com. His Twitter handle is @ferretthimself.

Issue 25

July 2014

3LBE 25

Front & Back cover art by Rew X