Barry hadn’t committed a crime for over twenty five years. Surely that was long enough to let things go, let the past swallow up his misdeeds? Enough time to move on.
Standing by the front door, he held the handle in his clammy shaking fingers, gulping for air as his breakfast threatened to reappear on the stained carpet at his feet.
When he’d woken up that morning, he’d been so sure he could do it, take that first step outside, maybe even go for a walk to the end of the street. He was sure nobody remembered what he’d done, not after this long. After all, it had been so long ago they were probably all dead by now. Maybe Alison was too.
“You can do this,” Barry said out loud to the empty hall, trying to pluck up the courage to take that final step, but he already knew it wasn’t going to happen. He’d gone from calm and optimistic to terrified in less than a minute. With a sigh of defeat he turned away from the door and shuffled back down the hall, past the mounds of mouldering rubbish and into his stinking kitchen.
He sat down at the table, surrounded by filthy mugs and piles of old newspapers towering almost to the ceiling. He looked at it all, the mess, the chaos, the useless hoarded junk, but he didn’t see any of it. All he saw was his perfectly ordered possessions, neatly filling the available space, leaving just enough room for him and his computer.
The doorbell rang. She was here. At last she was here. Barry jumped to his feet, wincing as pain shot through his worn out hip. He’d been waiting so long for her to arrive, he’d begun to wonder if Susie was nothing more than a pipedream, destined to always be out of reach.
The doorbell rang again. Barry almost broke into what might count as a run for him, shuffling as fast as he could, the heel of one slipper flapping against his foot as it struggled to stay together. “I’m coming,” he called out, nearly tripping over the broken teapot at his feet. He reached the door at last and knelt down, peering out through the letter box straight into the crotch of the delivery man.
“Yes?” Barry asked, blinking as bright sunlight streamed into the hall.
“Mr Algras?” The delivery man leaned down, coming face to face with Barry’s beady eyes looking back out at him. “Parcel for you.”
Barry’s hands rubbed together with excitement. It was Susie, it had to be. “That’s me,” he wheezed, his breath coming in whistles as he fought to control his emotions.
“Do you want to open the door and I’ll bring it in for you?”
“No,” Barry snapped. “Leave it there. I’ll get it in a minute.”
The delivery man didn’t seem surprised. Barry felt strangely relieved. Maybe he wasn’t the first person to refuse to open his front door today.
“Sign this,” the delivery man said, thrusting a clipboard through so fast it almost hit Barry in the nose.
Barry signed the paper and passed it back, watching the delivery man walk slowly away. Despite wanting to open the door immediately and bring the parcel inside, most of the morning had gone before he was finally able to edge the door open and peer out at the enormous wooden box sitting on his step.
Nothing was written on the box, not even his address but Barry knew exactly what lay inside, who lay inside. Stretching his arms out, maintaining his safe footing inside the front door, he manhandled the box towards him, dragging it inside before slamming the door shut with a sigh of relief. Too impatient to move the box any further, Barry rummaged in the drawer of the cabinet beside him, tossing aside paperclips, corkscrews, dead mice. Finally he found the screwdriver he needed and with his heart pounding he began to unwrap Susie.
She was kneeling down, her unblinking eyes the only sign that she wasn’t human. Barry took one look at that face and any doubts he’d held about her vanished. She was not just worth the money, she was worth twice the money. He now owned the rarest and more realistic sex doll that had ever been invented. Not just that but she had been hand built to his personal specifications.
The website had listed a huge range of options and Barry had diligently gone through them all, compiling the parts of the one girl he’d always loved. He’d chosen blonde hair. Alison had been blonde. He’d given her azure blue eyes, freckles, an adorable dimple in her chin. She was the spitting image of Alison, so realistic Barry could hardly believe it. Even her parents would have struggled to tell the difference.
In her hand was a rolled up bundle of papers. Barry pulled them gently from her. The manual. It was big, novel length. Although impatient to start her up, Barry tried to wait, tried to read the instructions thoroughly. He managed to reach page ten before he’d had enough. He just had to switch her on.
Reaching round the back of Susie’s head, Barry felt for the tiny flap of skin at the nape of her neck, the only sign of her animatronic status. He lifted the flap carefully and flicked the switch underneath, jumping backwards as Susie blinked at him, turning her head until her eyes fixed on his face. The corners of her cheeks creased as she smiled warmly, her mouth opening and closing as the voicebox hidden inside her warmed up.
“Hello,” Susie said. “My name is Susie. Thank you for inviting me round to yours.”
Barry shook his head in disbelief. She sounded so real, so alive. If only her mouth moved in time to her speech, she would have been perfect. Like a child with a new toy, he was too excited to keep still, shuffling on the spot as he helped Susie to her feet. She seemed to sigh as she stood up, allowing Barry to link arms with her and lead her gently towards his bedroom. Barry was astounded as her walking ability, it was just like taking a drunk girl home, guiding her as he had done to Alison, all the time thanking providence that he’d decided to order the additional A.I chip, the one that meant she could learn, adapt over time to his voice, his conversation, his lifestyle.
The next morning Barry was exhausted when he woke up. It had been some time since he’d had last sex and Susie was insatiable, so different to Alison. He remembered Alison fondly but although she had submitted to him all those years ago, she’d never seemed to enjoy herself. Susie on the other hand moaned and gasped throughout, a real slut.
Rubbing his eyes, he rolled over expecting to find Susie leaning against her pillow. She wasn’t there. Only the clothes she’d arrived in remained as proof he hadn’t dreamed her arrival in his life. Barry frowned as he levered himself up onto his elbows. It was then that he heard the humming coming from the kitchen.
With some effort, he made his way down the stairs. Something was different. What was it? Standing in the hall he looked back. That was it. The stairs were clear. You could see the carpet on every tread. How long had it been since that was the case? Ten years? Twenty?
Barry walked into the kitchen. The kettle was boiling and the table had been cleared. Susie was leaning against the counter, naked and motionless. As Barry stood in the doorway Susie’s head lifted, her retinas scanning the room before fixing on Barry’s face.
“Hello,” she said, her mouth opening wide and remaining that way, her teeth exposed. “My name is Susie. Thank you for inviting me round to yours.”
Barry didn’t know how to react. The kettle clicked off, making him jump. Susie didn’t move again, though her eyes followed Barry as he crossed the room. He leaned past her and pulled the yellowed net curtain aside, peering through the grime into his backyard, the ritual he carried out every morning before breakfast, making sure his possessions were still piled there.
Today he gasped in shock as he saw an empty yard for the first time since he’d moved here. “Where’s my stuff?” he managed to ask, turning to face Susie. She closed her mouth and frowned, wrinkles forming on her forehead.
“I don’t understand the question,” she said through pursed lips. “You’re so much smarter than me. Would you like a kiss?”
Barry grabbed Susie’s arm, his nails digging into the pliant silicone as he began to shake with anger. “My stuff. In the yard. It’s all gone. Where is it?”
“I don’t understand the question,” Susie replied. “Would you like to make love?” Her hips thrust forwards, pointing her sex towards him. “Or you could fuck me if you prefer?”
Barry couldn’t remain angry. Looking at her so exposed, he felt the stirrings inside him again and loosened his grip on her arm. He turned Susie round and bent her over the table, tugging at the frayed cord of his dressing gown as Susie’s eyes scanned the room, fixing on his laptop computer hidden in the corner. She blinked rhythmically as she stared at the computer, Barry grunting behind her as the table rocked back and forth, mugs rolling off onto the floor one after another.
Later Barry sat on the chair, Susie safely shut away in the wardrobe in his room. Think rationally, he told himself. Someone probably stole the stuff from the yard. How could she have got rid of it? She’s a doll for crying out loud, A.I chip or no A.I chip. He had to work hard to ignore the whispering voice in his mind. The one that asked how his stairs had been emptied too, cleared away of all the things he’d so skilfully accumulated over the years.
Picking up his laptop, Barry plugged it in and waited, the sound of humming reaching him from upstairs. I thought I’d switched her off. He got to his feet and slowly ascended the stairs. Pulling open his wardrobe he looked inside. Squeezed in at the back between mountains of motheaten clothes Susie was sat on a small pile of carpet tiles. She looked up at Barry. “Hello,” she smiled, her mouth opening. “My name is Susie. Thank you inviting me round to yours. Would you like to make love?”
“Not right now,” Barry replied, reaching round to the back of her neck and flicking the off switch. Susie’s head ceased moving, her eyes still open but no longer blinking. Barry closed the wardrobe door and returned to his computer. It had finally finished loading and he clicked through his bookmark folder, loading Susie’s website. The screen was blank, nothing more than an error message.
Swearing loudly, Barry searched his emails for the confirmation of receipt. The thing was supposed to come with a five year warranty. That was worthless if the company had gone under. It could be worse. They could have run off with his money and not delivered the doll. So she was a bit faulty. She was still the best sex he’d had since Alison. The only sex he’d had since then if he was honest with himself.
Barry left Susie in the wardrobe for the rest of the day, using the time to rearrange his possessions as he did most days, trying not to think of all he’d lost from the backyard. It was only when he climbed into bed that night that he felt the stirrings within his body that reminded him why he’d ordered Susie in the first place.
Opening the wardrobe, he saw Susie was standing up. Her head lifted and her eyes fixed on his. “Hello. My name is Susie. Would you like to make love Barry?”
“Yes I would,” Barry replied, taking her hand and leading her to bed, forgetting about anything but the sight of her naked voluptuous body. “Yes I would.”
The next morning Barry woke up to find himself alone in bed again. He got up and found Susie in the kitchen the same as yesterday. She was sat on his chair, two steaming mugs of tea on the cleared table beside his open laptop. Barry scanned the kitchen, empty of his carefully hoarded things. Was this going to be the price he had to pay for Susie’s company?
“Hello Barry,” Susie smiled, her mouth opening and closing as she spoke. “My name is Susie. I now know you like tea. Would you like to make love?”
Barry pulled up a chair beside Susie and looked down at the mug. Was this normal? Did all the dolls do this? With the company website gone, he was unable to find out. All he could do was accept it, accept Susie. He drank his tea, which tasted fine, all the time looking at Susie, examining her closely. Her eyes remained fixed on him the entire time.
“Susie?” he began.
“Are you clearing the things from my house?”
“Hello, my name is Susie. Would you like to make love?”
Barry tried again. “Susie, where are you moving my things to?”
“I tidied them. Would you like to make love?”
The next few weeks passed in a surreal blur. Barry woke up each morning to find a little more of his house cleared of junk. Strangely he felt a growing sense of liberation instead of anxiety. Susie wasn’t just clearing. She was cleaning too. The windows were no longer smeared with grime and grease. The walls were newly painted. The kitchen smelt fresher. There was even a vase of flowers on the table each morning beside his mug of tea. He never thought to question any of it. Even when Susie began to appear each day in different clothes, Barry never asked her where they came from, almost as if asking would break the spell, would break her. Forever.
He did talk to her about Alison though. He spent a week talking nonstop. Susie was better than a therapist. She just listened. She never judged. He talked about finding her, about bringing her home. About what he did to her. Susie’s expression never changed. She didn’t hate him like Alison’s parents had. She was the perfect partner. He was so glad he’d bought her.
Nearly a month after Susie had arrived there was another knock at the door. Susie answered it, pulling open the door to the delivery man.
“Susie Algras?” the man asked, looking at his clipboard.
“Hello,” she replied. “My name is Susie.”
Susie leaned forwards, gripping the pen and marking the paper with a shaky X. The man walked away, leaving her alone. She took hold of the large wooden box he’d left behind and dragged it into the house.
Opening the drawer of the sparkling cabinet, she pulled a long screwdriver from a neat row and began opening the box. Inside was the thing she’d been waiting for since she’d arrived. The companion she’d been waiting for.
“Hello,” she said as she reached behind the doll’s head and flicked the on switch. “My name is Susie.”
“Hello Susie,” the doll replied, her face breaking into a smile. “My name is Millie. Thank you for inviting me round to yours.”
Susie took the rolled up manual from Millie’s hand and carried it upstairs. She pulled open the wardrobe, ignored the muffled cries in the darkness and threw in the manual. It landed on Barry’s bound ankles as he looked plaintively up at her, his eyes filled with fear, gag tightly bound across his mouth. Susie pushed the door closed again and headed back downstairs. Millie was waiting.