A tick-tock mechaman wandered around the shining metal room trying to plug into anyone. The machine was drunk on data, greedy for more. He wandered over to me. His iron wheels screeched and scratched steel floors. He rolled in my direction with his lead thrust outward. Sparks flew from his vision processors. I knocked him away, but he pushed harder against me. I took his lead and jammed it into the punchbowl and laughed as acidic smoke poured upwards from his circuit board. I poured myself a glass of punch and sipped. I received a fading glimpse of a million stolen memories. None of them meant anything to me. None of them were mine. At least there were none I recognized.
I was a blank. There was nothing left.
The data junkies had already taken me. Or rather, I had already given myself to them. At least that is what TomTammy told me. She was my best and only friend. She was the only other organic. It didn’t matter that we did not share the same mold of flesh. She was short and squat and walked about on a multitude of jointed appendages. Her pitch black exoskeleton shone underneath recessed mercury bulbs. It was only because of her that I knew who I was. I saw my reflection on her back and in her compound eyes. I saw many sides of myself reflected in those eyes. I was tall and pale with long legs, long arms, and a sprout of coarse, wiry, salt-and-pepper hair sticking out upwards from my head. A splotchy beard marred my face. My loose flesh was pockmarked and scarred. I looked nothing like TomTammy, but this did not matter. In my way, I loved TomTammy, and based on how fully she saw me, I liked to think she loved me, too. We shared something special being organic. The rest of the ship, the other occupants of this isolated place, rusted around us.
TomTammy walked over and told me my story:
“Once there was just me and the mechas. Then there was you. Then I wasn’t alone. We spoke and told each other our stories. We spoke of our homes and where we were before we came here. You were from a place of light and land and water. You came here to find out more, to learn, to study. Like the mechas, you were addicted to data. You came to converse, to learn. Then you drank with the mechas. Then they plugged into you, and you fell. I sat back and watched and hid. They had tried to plug into me previously, but my shell held me safe. They grew drunk on you. They pushed their leads into every available opening. Once there were no available openings left, they made their own. They cut into your flesh until you were slick with blood. I drank some of this – I am sorry, but I was thirsty. Then you lay still for a very long time. I thought you were dead. I came over to drink the rest of you – I am sorry for this, but I was hungry. Then I noticed you still stirred, if just barely. Your chest moved to take breath, so I carried you back to my web and wrapped you in fibers and sat next to you, watching you, feeling you through my strings. You awoke, you spoke, and I knew you had forgotten me. You had forgotten where you were, where you came from. You had forgotten yourself.”
So, TomTammy rescued me and reminded me of myself, even if I was forgotten, and for that, I owed her my thanks. I did not remember any of her story but knew it was true. I trusted her. She was the only other organic. I had to trust someone. Without someone to trust, there is no life – or no life worth living anyway.
I took another sip of punch and felt inspired. “Are you still hungry?”
TomTammy pulled up on her tiny appendages and rubbed her mandibles. A viscous liquid dribbled from her dark, gaping mouth. Her compound eyes blinked and twinkled. “Come with me.”
I followed. We pushed hungry mechas out of our way and walked to her web.
“Just lie there.”
I did as she said and balanced on a network of strings. The lines clung to my skin. They seemed insignificant and fragile but held my weight. She wrapped me tight with more strings that emerged from her abdomen, and I felt hugged and loved. It was good to feel contact, to feel pressure from something outside myself holding me tight. It was like the embrace of a mother or a lover or both. She hummed a song out from her carapace as she worked.
Once I was wrapped tight, she looked at me. She ran her appendages through my wiry hair, gently taking out the many knots. I closed my eyes and enjoyed her touch. “Are you sure you want this? You give of yourself with willingness? I would never take that which isn’t given freely.”
I nodded my head. “I love you. I want to be a part of you forever.”
“I loved you, too.”
She dug her mandibles into my neck, and I smiled as she drank me away.