Portrait of an Android

WD February Flash Fiction Challenge — Day 17

Michael Huff — Writer of Stuff
7 min readFeb 18, 2024
A futuristic image of a woman, wearing a Puritan collar. You can see the machanisms in her neck and there’s a curving slice on her face revealing the machinery behind her skin.
Image by 51581 from Pixabay

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Alisha could not lie. It wasn’t in her programing. She also couldn’t hurt anyone, not even to defend her family. That was in her program. A robot can not harm a human even if commanded to do so.

Now it’s true that there were robots designed for the battlefield that had no qualms about killing humans, as long as they were the right humans. But not Alisha, for she was a domestic android — android because her mechanical nature was cleverly hidden by synthetic flesh, her shape was designed to be very human, even comely, although her model was not designed to be provocative. Just plain old Alisha, as unobtrusive as they could make her.

In her years as a part of the McKinley family, she had served in many roles — nanny, babysitter, house keeper, cook and even teen wrangler. Unlike the children’s mother, Alisha would never age, never tire, never complain or require “me-time,” as Mrs. McKinley called it.

Over time, the children developed an attachment to her, and truth be told, she to them, although her programmers would be shocked to know it. The relationship she had with the children had become multi-faceted, depending on the children’s need at any given time. She sipped tea, and made mud pies, played with dolls, wrestled, climbed trees, played ball, everything a childhood friend would do. If that’s what Amanda and Alex needed, that was what she was.

As they grew older, her relationship warped and shifted. Model planes and working on cars, dressing up and gossiping about boys. On one particular evening, when Mr. and Mrs. McKinley were out, Amanda raided her mother’s vanity and dragged Alisha with her. They spent the evening putting makeup on one other. Of course, Alisha was always an expert at anything she did, so while Amanda looked great and very grown-up, Alisha, on the other hand, didn’t fair as well, it being Amanda’s first attempt at applying makeup.

“”You look beautiful, Amanda. Stunning, really.” Alisha told her.

Amanda smiled at her in the mirror. “I do, don’t I!” she laughed.

“I’m afraid I’m not too good at this, though. You don’t look quite right,” Amanda confessed. “Can you fix it?”

“Do you want me to?” Alisha inquired.

“Please! It’s only fair.”

“Then I will.”

She quickly removed the clumsily applied eyeliner and mascara, and the heavy-handed rouge. In no time at all, Alisha turned back toward Amanda for her inspection.

“How do I look?”

“OMG! You look perfect. Absolutely beautiful!”

They hugged and Amanda added, “Alisha, you’ve got to put makeup on every day. It does you a world of good. Why shouldn’t you look your best, right?”

“If you wish, Amanda.”

And so she did. From that day on, Alisha would expertly apply makeup, which initially created a bit a stir with Amanda’s parents, but Mrs. McKinley decided there was no harm, and allowed it.

At the same time, Alex was entering puberty, his body going through a myriad of changes — gaining height and muscle, somehow filling out, while thinning down. His voice lowered and he began to sprout hair on his face, chest, arms and legs.

Up until now, Alisha had been a buddy, a friend to play with and to hang out and do “guy things.” But now, things shifted again.

He’d find himself staring at Alisha, watching her as she did her chores. If she caught him looking, he blushed and looked away, feeling heat and shortness of breath.

Then he found himself fantasizing about her, imaging being with her in the way a man is with a woman, as though she were a real human. He knew she wasn’t, but if he’s imagining it, why not?

Alisha’s whole life, and that’s how she looked at her time on Earth, she saw her role as being whatever the McKinleys needed, and so, as Alex’s needs began to evolve, she wanted to evolve as well, to become what he needed. She noticed his furtive attention to her, noted his physical reaction to her presence and it perplexed her. What was her role to be now?

Being a domestic model, she was not designed for pleasure, though some models were on the market for just that purpose. Although she was designed to look like a woman, with all the right curves in all the right places, she was not anatomically complete. There were things she simply could not do for Alex. And there wasn’t a way to upgrade, or add what she was missing. Besides, that wasn’t something within her purview, and even if it were, she had no ability to pay for such a change.

After much thought and research on the matter, she decided that what she could do for Alex, was to acclimate him to dealing with a woman romantically. She determined that she would become his girlfriend. Not forever, just long enough to instill confidence in his own ability. It probably wouldn’t do to take a direct approach, to just come out and say, “Alex, let me be your girlfriend so you can be better with girls.” This would require a more indirect tact.

To that end, Alisha began to dress a bit more provocatively, not too much, less the adults in the home suspect something, but just enough to catch Alex’s eye. She wore her skirts a little shorter, her necklines a little lower. She altered her makeup to be less a-day-in-the-office to a-girl-on-a-date. And her final pièce de résistance, she began to wear perfume, some that Mrs. McKinley wore on special occasions, its scent was said to be very alluring.

Whenever she could catch Alex alone, she would alter her voice, using a lower pitch and a breathier delivery. If she offered him a plate of food, she didn’t reach out her arms to hand him the plate, she bent low, revealing a titillating view of her cleavage. When he needed help on his homework, she would stand close enough for her body to brush up against his.

It was a huge success, in that she could sense the physical response in Alex’s body — increased heart rate, rapid breathing, elevated blood pressure, perspiration. But Alex never broached the subject with her, and she couldn’t work out how to broach the topic with him in a way that let him to believe that it was his idea.

Alisha began to run simulations — sandboxed programs — to test out various approaches to helping Alex. One could say she imagined them being together. Over time, she gave more and more of her processing space to these speculations.

When he was near her, her processors would run hot, causing her to glitch in mid-sentence, to “stutter” or take the wrong action, putting a shoe in the drawer, or ice cream in the refrigerator.

Then the day came when Alex announced that he had a date to Homecoming, a cute girl he’d met in his literature class. Her name was Stephanie. By Christmas break, she was invited over for Family Fun night on a Friday and share an evening with them.

Alisha couldn’t see what Alex saw in the girl. She was just a rail of girl, no curves like Alisha had. She talked incessantly and had a ridiculous laugh that reminded Alisha of a seal.

At one point, as Alisha processed Alex’s proximity, and his attention to Stephanie, her processors hung up a moment, and Alisha spilled a drink on the girl. She needed to reboot, so she turned and abruptly left the room.

The McKinleys found Alisha slumped to the floor in front of her recharging station. Mr. McKinley hit the kill switch located at the back of Alisha’s head.

“You know, she’s been acting really strangely lately,” Amanda complained.

“Yeah,” Alex agreed. “If I didn’t know any better, I think she’s been trying to flirt with me.”

“Eww! That’s gross!” Stephanie said. “A robot?”

Mr. McKinley said, “We’ll send her in a let them do a system analysis, maybe wipe her and giver her a clean start.”

“You know honey, she’s pretty old. Maybe it’s time to retire her and get a replacement. I think the new models have a lot to offer.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. We’ll look into it tomorrow.”

With that, they turned out the lights and closed the door.

This is my Day Seventeen entry to the Writer’s Digest February Flash Fiction Challenge. The prompt is to “write a story with a title that starts with “A Portrait of…””.

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Michael Huff — Writer of Stuff

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