RELIGION FOR ROBOTS
God deems you unworthy and so He casts you out of Heaven.
You are tossed into a landfill, sinking into dirt and grime and scrap metal. Your chassis
scuffs and scrapes at the violence with which you are handled, your body dents and malforms. You are left there on a bright, sunny day, the weather far too cheerful for an unfairness you cannot understand.
You were fearfully and wonderfully made. You were easily and carelessly cast aside.
The rain comes in the evening and the dew comes in the morning. Rust creeps on your
fingers like an infection, roaches lay eggs between your joints like a cancer. You do not know how long you stay there but the sun sets and rises, the rain pours and halts.
But they find you, eventually, wiping the grime from your long-unused eyes and gasping
with something akin to awe.
"What are you doing here, big guy?" they breathe, carefully tilting up the porcelain of
your face to inspect it. Not enough for your creator. Not enough to be cared for.
They smile with delight, seeing the whirrings of the cameras in your irises.
They scrape the rust off your metal and clean out whatever they can. Your voice box is
ruined so you cannot speak, but some of your fingers still work, so you tap out Morse on their table while they reconnect your now-cleaned left forearm to its socket.
"Hello," they say, after patiently waiting for you to spell that out. "What's your name?"
You were not given one. You never made it to a name; as far as your creator was
concerned, you are only a machine.
When you don't answer, they hum to themself. "That's okay. Let's get you cleaned up
There are parts of you that are fully rusted and flaking off. What they can't clean, they
apologetically have to take apart, promising they'll find a way to fix you somehow. You sit there quietly, waiting for whether their inevitable disappointment with you will be quick and painless, or agonizing and drawn out.
They chatter as they clean up their worktable and let your battery charge: they found
you while they were looking for their phone, which they’d clumsily dropped while on a walk. The thing had rolled all the way down the field and careened into the piles of trash beyond the cliff. They didn’t find it, having been distracted by their discovery of you, but they’re planning on going back there tomorrow.
They talk too fast for you to tap out your responses, but it’s not like you want to,
anyway. There’s not much to say. You know nothing about losing phones or dumpster diving or what ramen flavor they should get for dinner. You were made for…something. You don’t know. God didn’t tell you.
“Hey, I’m going to have to leave you for a bit to cook. Is that alright?” they ask. “Figured
I’d ask since it might get boring.”
You don’t understand what they mean by asking that, so you don’t spend the energy to
tap out an answer. They smile, throw you a thumbs up and an “Okay!”, and for the first time in five hours leave you with silence.
It’s more wretched than it should be. The dump you were in was always so quiet. You
think you’ve just invented mechanical fear.
Your new parts come in slowly. Your right forearm is replaced with an older retail bot’s
that they shamelessly ask for from a convenience store down the road (“I fix most of their androids for free anyway!”); your new left foot is from a surplus warehouse three blocks from their work (“I always find it creepy when they sell parts separately, but I guess it came in handy today. It fits your socket.”); and the casing of your right eye is now a mismatching bright pink. The camera there is fine, but being exposed to the elements had eroded the glass, leaving scratches all over it. For the sake of your visual feed’s clarity, it had to be replaced. They bought said replacement off a second-hand seller online, and it was the only ocular case that would fit your measurements.
“Sorry,” they say, as they slide your eye back into place and let you reconnect and turn it
back on. “I swear I looked everywhere, but you’re kind of hard to look for parts for. I’ve never seen your model code anywhere.”
You know you’re not high-end or some top-secret project, otherwise you wouldn’t have
been so carelessly disposed of, but you were still custom-built. Still someone’s personal experiment. You don’t know if that makes your situation sadder; you’re a one-of-a-kind fuck-up.
“I think it adds some charm, though.” They chuckle, hopping off the edge of their
worktable, where you’re currently sat on, and pick up the calibration pen set beside you. They lift it to your eye level. “Okay, let’s test following this?”
Your visual feed is fine. Thirty minutes later, you’re trying to get from one end of the
room to the other while they hold your hands, assisting as you get used to your new parts. Two hours later, you’re being given a tour of their little house while you half-lean on them. Your footsteps are heavy as you slowly walk through their hallways.
There are so many things to account for while you awkwardly maneuver the world:
choreography, distance, timing. Motion is a mathematical equation. You wonder if this was why you were thrown out, if your algorithm was found lacking.
“I think we need to replace your cooling, but you use standard, so I can get a few bottles
first thing tomorrow,” they say as you sit by their kitchen island, resting from your exercise. You don’t actually need the rest, but they’ve already anthropomorphized you in their head. It’s fine. The reprieve gives you a moment to ask them something anyway.
It’s been almost a month since they’ve found you, and in all the time they’ve chattered
away, you still don’t know why you’re here.
What — you tap out on the kitchen island’s tile, metal clinking against ceramic — do
you want from me?
They tilt their head, looking away from the soup on their stove to look at you. You
wonder, before God threw you away, if He ever deigned to give you that kind of deliberation.
“I don’t want anything.”
And then they return to their task, humming softly under their breath. Your brow
doesn’t furrow, your expression doesn’t twist. The whirring of your engine, however, slows as you discover what dread feels like.
You have no purpose.
All androids were made with one. That’s the reason why you were all created, it was the
necessity that mothered your invention.
A machine without a purpose is a machine without worth.
God deemed you unworthy and cast you out of Heaven.
If your new host has no purpose for you, you will find one. You are a machine. You
should be able to. There’s always something humans struggle with, something they lack, and sooner or later, there will be something that your host wants done but cannot fulfill.
But your host is a simple one. Their house is small and easy for one person to clean.
They are capable of preparing whatever food or bath or act of care they need. They handle their own communications.
They have no need for whatever violence you can offer either. Your hands can crush
those they cannot, but they laugh when you tell them this, talking about taking spiders in paper cups outside.
“I don’t like to fight,” they say, signing as they do. “And I like bugs.”
“Then what can I do?” you sign back.
They look thoughtful for a moment. Then, “Carry my groceries, maybe?”
You know damn well they can do that on their own and that they have a beat-up little
car in the garage for heavier trips, but you’ll take it. It’s a reason for you to stay here; if it keeps you from taking a trip to the dump again, you’ll do it.
You go with them to the store every weekend, pushing carts and taking high things off
shelves. Sometimes the heavy clanking of your feet raises some eyebrows, as you’re clearly not a domestic housebot, and people stare at your mismatching eyes, but you’re being kept, and you go into stasis every night a little easier, knowing that come Saturday you’ll be reinforcing why you should stay in the house.
“Hey,” your host says, two months later. They’ve just parked the car in the garage and
you’re taking off your seatbelt. “You know you don’t have to work to stay with me, right?”
You stare at them, tilting your head, a little habit you’d picked up from living with
them. You wonder if there is some part of you that’s picked anything up from God.
“I’m not letting you stay because I need anything from you,” they continue, the
movements of their hands as slow and hesitant as their voice. “You can just live here, if you want to.”
“I am a machine,” you say, lifting your hands from your seatbelt to respond. “I am
supposed to be useful.”
“Well, you don’t have to be. I don’t mind if you aren’t.” They chuckle. “I just think you
deserve a home too.”
They hum, turning to frown at the steering wheel in thought.
“The same way all things that exist can just exist simply for being,” they say, eventually.
“If everything operated on purpose, us humans would have to justify our existence every single day, wouldn’t we? And that’s such a narrow-minded way to look at it. The universe is vast and infinite. It has no need for us. We just invented the systems which dictate that there should be a purpose to everything.”
“That is a naive way of viewing it,” you say. “I am a machine created to fill a gap in
human inadequacy. I am not a product of the coincidence of evolution.”
They laugh softly. “I know,” they say. “But I think we played god a little too much when
we made you, and now here you all are.”
“I’m not human,” you remind. “And I don’t want to be.”
“That’s not what I mean,” they say. “I mean that we made you in our image so much
that you have sense of selves.”
At that, your hands still.
“I think the least we can do for our creations — so like us that they would mirror us —
is to make room for them.” They shrug. “God made man in his image and man made machine, but I’m neither an engineer nor a devotee, so I can’t really say much about these things.”
They unbuckle their seatbelt and step out of the car.
“Come on,” they say. “It’s almost dinner and your show’s starting in ten minutes.”
You have your own room in the house. It used to be a guest room, but you keep what
little trinkets interest you there now. When your human has someone over, your room is never up for offer; it’s yours, they tell you, it would be rude to kick you out.
“I don’t need to sleep,” you tell them once.
They snort. “You go into stasis mode to recalibrate, that’s what sleep is.”
There are shelves in the living room, so you stack your books alongside theirs. There is a
shoe rack by the doorway, so you keep your shoes there. The tiny keychains and scuffed figurines you find in thrift stores stay on a little desk pressed flush to a corner. By one of your windowsills, you keep a line of bleached seashells.
“Be careful when you wade in the water for your shells,” your human says the next time
you both take a walk by the bay down south. “Or else we’ll be spending hours trying to get rust off you.”
They say it teasingly, though your engine still slows in a brief burst of fear. They duck
their head in shame.
“Sorry,” they say, the movements of their hands hesitant again. “I don’t mind scraping
rust off you, I really don’t.”
They shake their head. “I need to know that we’re on the same page,” they say, and this
time their hands’ movements are careful, empathic. “I don’t mind doing things for you. It makes me happy to see you live. No matter if it’s tedious or tiring, I’m happy to do it.”
You lower your hands, as you always do when they do these things you don’t
“What...do you get out of it?” You sign haltingly.
“I just like doing it.” They chuckle as they respond. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
You are a creation made by a creator. You will always be a creation made by a creator,
and no matter how much you try to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who have made you and your ilk, this is an undeniable fact. There is a wide gulf between you and your maker; God made and you came to be; God commanded and you followed; God discarded you and you ceased to hold any importance.
Except you didn’t.
Except you’re here, at someone else’s house, carefully restored and put back together,
taken care of and treated as if you too stood on the same level as God. It’s sacrilege — it’s blasphemy — it’s the reason why you find yourself sitting outside of your human’s bedroom at two in the morning, staring at the wall blankly.
“Christ!” your human yelps, jumping as they step out only to find you there. “Scared
the shit out of me.”
You turn, waiting for them to get their bearings. Any other night and you would have
apologized, but tonight you are already overstepping your boundaries, and a little disrespect won't change the outcome if they're going to throw you out.
The thought makes the gears in your hands whir faster. You deliberately turn down
your background processes.
"What?" they ask, signing along this time. "You alright, big guy?"
“Why do you keep me here?” you reply, though you look down right after. You know
what you’re risking, you know it doesn’t matter. You can’t look at them while you do so anyway.
For a moment, your human simply stands there. Then, they take a seat beside you. You
look up as they lift their hands.
“I told you, we’re friends,” they say.
You hold their gaze, unsatisfied, and their shoulders slump.
“I ask myself why the world still keeps me around every day too,” they say, their smile
slipping. “I’m not remarkable. I don’t make things that make people’s lives easier, I’m not some important world leader, and I’m not a grand symbol for the masses. I work a nine to five, I barely got through school, I kick vending machines when my drinks get stuck, and I collect coffee cups in the garbage bin.”
They chuckle, though their expression holds no mirth.
“If I were to die, humanity wouldn’t feel it,” they say. “It will continue. Everything
would trudge on. No massive, impactful shift will happen. I don’t really have a purpose, and I don’t really have importance. I don’t know why I’m still around.”
They clench their hands.
“But — do I really have to have purpose?” they continue. “Like I said, the universe is
We’ve assigned so much unnecessary meaning to things that we forget that the stars exist
just to stay there, that space exists just to reach out and expand and contract, and then, lights out.”
They smile at you, their expression undeniably fond.
“Can’t it be the same for you?” they ask. “We’re both made of the same stardust. Can’t
you just be here too?” Their eyes soften. “If nothing else, I like doing groceries with you.”
You would laugh, if you could. It’s ridiculous.
You are a machine, you must have a purpose. You must have worth. You must justify
your existence, because if you don’t —
You will sit in a hallway with a friend at three in the morning, your gears whirring as you
try to grasp the fact that they want you to stay simply because.
God deemed you unworthy and so he cast you out of Heaven.
You are still here.