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TEARS OF THE ANDROID • by JR Hume

We were in my office. The old dog lay in Simon’s lap. “She’s been with me twenty years,” he said. “Seems like forever.”

He had been bringing her to my clinic for three years. “You got her while you were still in the Corps?”

He nodded. “I was assigned recruiting duty on Napoli. A little boy came in with a box of pups. She jumped out. I caught her.” Simon looked up. A faint yellow light glittered in the lenses of his optics. “Do you believe animals choose their owners?”

I smiled. “There’s no scientific evidence for that — but I think it happens. Especially with dogs.”

“Right.” He stroked the sleeping dog. “She’s some kind of terrier. A mix, I suppose.”

We had discussed Col’s antecedents before, during other office visits. But I didn’t hurry him. He needed the time.

“She saved my life,” murmured Simon.

Here was something new. “Saved your life, how?”

For a long time he just sat there, Col quiet in his lap. Finally, he sighed and began to talk.

“She was ten when I was — when I was wounded.” He emitted a curious kind of laugh. “When I was killed, really. My tank was hit. Burned. You know how androids are made.”

I knew what he meant. In my youth, before veterinary school, I spent several years as a medic in an Imperial Marine regiment. One of my jobs was to record the brain patterns of Marines too badly wounded for regenerative therapy. The bulky neural network modules were then shipped to special labs where the patterns were transferred into blank android pseudo-brains. Artificial inputs stabilized the recorded psyches prior to the mating of pseudo-brain and mechanical body. At least, that was the theory. I never heard an android discuss what happened between organic death and mechanical rebirth.

The dog shifted slightly and moaned. Simon touched her gently. His lower arms were bare, clear plastic sheaths packed with tubes, wiring and steel rods. I wondered why he kept the plain military body, especially the head, adorned with nothing more than a speaker grille, a pair of mobile lenses, and audio pickups on either side. The speaker grille had an orifice on one side. Simon smoked cigars.

One hand cradled Col’s head. The gray qua-skin that sheathed his hands was more than a covering for the complicated machinery within. The skin was lined with sensory pickups, analogs to organic senses. The dog moaned again. Simon stroked her shoulder.

He spoke without looking up. “Is she in pain?”

“Maybe a little. There’s bound to be some discomfort. Her internal systems are failing.”

“Have I waited too long?”

The old question. Every pet owner who cares for their companion agonizes over the ending of that precious life. “Simon. We discussed this. You’re here because it’s time.”

“I know. I just…” He shifted the dog slightly and looked up. His optics were dark. “She knew me. When a friend brought her to the rehab facility. She knew me.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant. “You mean after they made you into a droid?”

“Yes.” He paused a moment. “It seemed impossible. I was all metal and plastic — not wearing any of my old clothes — not at the clinic. I hadn’t been smoking my usual cigars. Didn’t have the smoking rig yet. That came later. But she knew it was me.”

“Maybe it was your voice. They go to great lengths to reproduce your normal — your organic speaking voice. She must have recognized it.”

He shook his head and made a stiff, shrugging motion. “I don’t know. But they let me keep her there. Without her I — I wouldn’t have made it.”

“I understand.” Two in ten new androids do not survive beyond a month. Col had obviously been an important reason Simon lived through that initial period of adjustment. In the years since, she must have provided an important anchor for his life, his existence.

He seemed to have nothing more to say. Col slept. I got up and opened the door into an adjoining exam room.

“When you’re ready, Simon. I’ll prepare the medications.” He nodded, but said nothing.

The drugs are a mild sedative to ensure that the animal remains calm, followed by a quick-acting toxin. My hands automatically performed their simple tasks. I breathed deeply and worked to quiet my mind. Even after twenty years of helping animals find an easy death, I find the process upsetting.

Simon came in slowly, cradling Col. He handed me a small, ragged blanket. I spread it on the exam table. People bring blankets, pillows, small toys — things familiar to the animal, familiar to the person. Somehow they are a comfort.

Col awoke and stirred a little as he eased her down on the blanket. She nudged his hand and licked it once, as if sensing his anguish. I wondered how she knew. What could Col be sensing from an android? Then I realized that I too was aware of Simon’s grief — perhaps from the set of his shoulders, the way he touched the dog. She had lived with him for two decades, man and droid. How much more sensitive would she be to his moods than I, a relative stranger?

Col, the product of 20,000 years of canine contact with humans, clearly sensed the sadness of the man within the metal and plastic.

She relaxed on the blanket and closed her eyes. She seemed tired. I frequently get that sense of fatigue from old animals when I am about to end their lives.

The process took but a moment. Simon’s hands were touching Col as she went away.

Most people need a few minutes alone with their departed friend. As I closed the door, Simon bent over the small dog, metal shoulders shaking. Strangled sobs escaped his steel speaker grille.

He wept, but the only tears were my own.


JR Hume is an old Montana farm boy who writes science fiction, a little fantasy, some weird detective tales, an occasional poem, and oddball stories of no particular genre.


This story was sponsored by
Naked Metamorphosis — All the world’s a stage… and Franz Kafka wants to direct. An absurdist’s version of Hamlet complete with heretofore unexplored heights of depravity, cockroach transformation, Shakespearean bawdiness, and split infinitives!


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TEARS OF THE ANDROID • by JR Hume, 4.0 out of 5 based on 160 ratings
Posted on November 17, 2009 in Science Fiction, Stories
Tags: ,
  • http://tensecondsaday.blogspot.com Cascade Lily

    A lovely SF take on one of life’s grim realities. Very well handled and I love that it was told from the vet’s POV.

  • http://rumjhumkbiswas.wordpress.com rumjhum biswas

    This is one of the best stories I’ve read here. Thanks so much. Of course it’s a five, more if I could.

  • Debra

    I agree. This is one of the best. I feel the burn within my eyes and throat. A unique and beautiful combination of genres. I’m a fan.

  • Ramon Rozas III

    An excellent and touching tale.

  • Mathew Matheson

    Great story. My only minor complaint (and its very minor) is that I had to re-read the third paragraph three times before I realized that it was the pup that “jumped out” and not the kid.

  • http://kcball.wordpress.com/ K.C.

    lovely, J.R. You got a five and a klennex full of tears from me.

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    Very nice, but a sort of routine ending. I was kind of expecting more … like putting Col into an android dog body. It starts out with an SF premise–putting dead/dying people into android bodies–so I was looking for an SF ending.

  • http://mickeymills.wordpress.com/ Mickey

    Outstanding piece. When sci-fi is written from the heart it really shows. Sometimes the “sciece” gets in the way, but not here. Anytime you can give an inanimate object such clear emotion, it’s a job well done.

    The only thing that I wonder is, in the jargon of the past, wouldn’t Simon be a Cyborg (a synthesis of organic and synthetic parts) instead of an Android?

    Still… worthy of a 5! -BRAVO-

  • Bob

    Very nice exploration of what it is that makes us “human” – the more things change through technology, the more important it will be to hang on to what makes us what we are. I especially liked that the dog recognized her master even after he had lost the outward trappings of humanity.

    The only clinker for me was the vet’s tears at the end. I know he would feel empathy and all that, but I would expect a vet, having put down thousands of animals in his career, would be able to control them. It’s kind of a saccharine touch in an otherwise deftly-told tale.

  • cobraj

    Loved this story, even my wife who never likes anything robot ,military or sci-fi related got a bit misty eyed on this one!

  • Jen

    This was an excellent story. The emotion’s were real and raw and the science fiction setting was intriguing without over shadowing the main theme’s of the story.
    I thiught the reason why the vet cried was because he was friend’s with the owner.
    A well deserved five!

  • Margie

    That is the best story I have read this month! The vet was not the only one with tears by the end. 5 stars!

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Congratulations, JR, a terrific story. I wasn’t sure at first (I Agree with MM, No5, about para three) but you hooked me and – yes – I felt the pain, too. Agree with Jen: vets tears were for Simon – and the whole human race. SciFi with humanity – it works for me.

    :) scar

  • http://doesnt-take.blogspot.com/ Kate Thornton, CW3 US ARMY (ret.)

    Wonderful story – got tears all over my computer w/my 18 yr old kitty asleep on the desk. You nailed what makes us human.

  • http://www.jonathanpinnock.com Jonathan Pinnock

    Absolutely superb story. Beautifully done. 5*

  • http://debiblood.wordpress.com Debi Blood

    I wanted to cry until my mascara was running down my face this morning. Truly I did.

    I honestly believe this is the best story I’ve read on EDF to date, and that’s saying a great deal. I’d expound upon that opinion, but I don’t want to start crying again.

    Bravo, JR.

    *sniff*

  • kathy k

    Excellent writing. Thank you so much. Definitely a 5.

  • Ron

    It takes remarkable writing to make the reader have feelings for a droid. Jim, you’ve done it again.

  • Tyrean

    Wonderful, touching story. I understood the vet’s tears at the end, because they weren’t just for the dog’s life, but for the humanity of a man encased in an android’s body. Thank you!

  • Lisa C.

    I’ve been reading EDF for a awhile now. This is my first 5.

  • http://everydayprose vondrakker

    If you’ve ever lost a love whether human or animal,
    you’ve gotta get a tear outta this.
    Well written…..but sad !!

  • João Ventura

    Very well done!

  • http://www.erinmkinch.com Erin

    So very sad, but really well written. I thought your interesting idea about androids in society was a good backdrop for the emotion of such a human experience.

  • http://www.afburns.com Alexander Burns

    So good. Excuse me, there’s…there’s something in my eye. ;)

  • Sharon

    I, too, was hoping for a SF twist and felt a tad let down. I don’t think it needed so much repeating that the Si-borg loved his dog. By the time the end came, I felt a little manipulated: “Okay, here’s the hanky part. Well up, now.”

  • C Block

    Nice work, JR. I felt like I was there.

  • J.C. Towler

    Halfway through this I knew this was going to be a five from me. When you are in the hands of a gifted storyteller, it doesn’t take long to feel enveloped by his story. Thanks for submitting this one here so we could enjoy it.

    –John

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    Looking at the responses to this story, it is obvious that it all depends on what you think this story is.

    A lpt of people viewed it as a EMOTIONAL story that just happened to make use of an SF setting. They were pleased when it got to an EMOTIONAL ending.

    But a few of us took it as a SCIENCE FICTION story that just happened to have a fair bit of emotion in it, and were disappointed when it didn’t have a SCIENCE FICTION ending (like putting the dying dog into an android body).

    So much depends on what you’re expecting!

  • Barry Tucker

    I don’t agree with those who wanted a ‘sci-fi’ ending. I think that the ‘human’ ending was what made it great. An excellent story.

  • http://www.jrhume.com JR Hume

    Thanks for all the kind words and constructive criticism. I felt that a few words of explanation might be helpful.

    For those who noticed the glitch in paragraph three, thank you. I’ll fix it in future drafts.

    SF writers and Hollywood have hopelessly tangled the meanings of cyborg, android and robot. For my own purposes, I have used the term android to mean a fully mechanical human with their original organic brain structure somehow transferred into an artificial, non-organic medium. Essentially, my android is a robot with a human-derived brain instead of a purely electronic one.

    An android, as I envision one, would have a good many psychological issues to deal with after their conversion. These are hinted at in the story.

    The veterinarian’s attitudes are drawn from my conversations with real vets, including my own brother-in-law. They view the taking of an animal’s life as a necessary but unfortunate part of their jobs. They are also affected by the misery of people losing a companion. In the story, the vet prepares himself, expecting that the process will be unpleasant, but no different than all those other times. Yet, it is not the same.

    At the last, Col interacts with Simon in a way the vet does not expect. The loss, to Simon, is also more serious than the vet understands. He sees, at last, that his friend, the mechanical man, is suffering in a way that his sophisticated body cannot adequately express.

    The dog could have been made into an android dog, but that would have been a different story and a much longer one, I believe.

    Again, thanks.

  • http://bookspot.blogspot.com Camille Gooderham Campbell

    JR, we can fix paragraph three right here, if you like. Just let me know how you’d like it reworded.

  • http://bookspot.blogspot.com Camille Gooderham Campbell

    An adjustment has been made to paragraph three at the author’s request.

  • http://www.abluestar.com Steven Smethurst

    Touching story, I enjoyed it greatly

  • bookboy

    Wow. I loved it. Normally the idea of a robot with human emotions is weird to me, but here it was really sweet. At first, I didn’t even pick up on the fact that Simon was an android.

  • Joe

    Damn, got me teary eyed about a dog loving robot.

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