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Je Suis Seul

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Guy-Manuel was alone.

It was a situation he never foresaw himself in—he always assumed that his companion, Thomas, would always be by his side. He remembered nothing of his creation beyond Thomas’ metallic face, perfectly structured in more ways than once. It did not occur to him until this very moment that, for the first time in his relatively short life, he was alone.

How long ago was it since they parted ways? About a day, a week, a month? He had no grasp of time since Thomas left him. His memory replayed their last moment together repeatedly, and at this point, he could not force his system to stop.

It was after their exile. Guy-Manuel remembered assuring Thomas that they would discover how to be human if they just moved on to another town, a place where they definitely would not be shunned from again. The concept of exile was not new to them. This had happened to them in at least three other towns before, different tactics used each time. Guy-Manuel told Thomas that “fifth time’s a charm”, a human idiom he had modified from its original form. He figured using human speech patterns would aid in immersing himself and Thomas in the human world more, making it easier for them to fit in.

He realized that he was wrong the last four times, but maybe the fifth town would be better. That was what he told himself, and those were the words he attempted to use to soothe Thomas, who was becoming more restless as their attempts continually failed.

Despite having a record of their entire time together, Guy-Manuel could not pinpoint the exact moment in which Thomas’ will to live began to fail. Staying alive was naturally programmed into them since creation. Logically, there should have been no reason for Thomas to be dispirited. Guy-Manuel later calculated that it must have been between the time they attempted to be human and after their exile. However, Thomas’ lack of spirit was especially clear to Guy-Manuel when his friend began to slow down on their long walk.

Guy-Manuel soldiered on through the desert, knowing exactly where they were headed. They had to make a name for themselves somewhere, and finally discover how to be human. He knew they were close to a solution despite facing minor difficulties. But… It was strange that Thomas was not by his side. It was then that he stopped himself, looking back to see his best friend looking down at the ground.

“Thomas?” he said quietly, knowing that his companion would be unable to hear him. Usually Thomas was very diligent, striding past him easily. Now was the time for Guy-Manuel to hurry over, a sense of alarm coming over him. “Thomas?” he asked again, watching as he still looked toward the ground. No response. “… Thomas, look at me.”

Immediately he responded, slowly lifting his head up to look directly at Guy-Manuel. “I cannot continue,” Thomas said in a low, monotone voice.

“Huh?” Cannot continue? “Thomas, we are about halfway to our destination. If you need to recharge—“

“That is not what I mean,” he suddenly said, cutting off his friend. “You need to go on without me. You have a… Stronger will than I do.” It was then that he began to unbutton his leather jacket, still facing Guy-Manuel as his robotic voice continued to speak. “Do you remember being programmed with a way to terminate our life if we so will it?”

As if fueled by some sort of gut reaction that he was unfamiliar with, Guy-Manuel suddenly grabbed Thomas’ hands in an attempt to stop him from taking the jacket off. “You do not need to do this. Please, Thomas…”

Thomas froze for a few moments, trying to gauge what to make of this reaction from his friend. He already had his mind set on discontinuing the venture of being human. He realized that, even if he could never fully realize what it was to be human, perhaps Guy-Manuel could in his stead. This solution was best. “Do not concern yourself with this. You do not need me for your journey.”

This is the part of the memory that was replayed in his mind continually. It is the part that Guy-Manuel tried to skip over, but his memory banks were stuck repeating the images, words, and thoughts that happened at this time. It was as if this part would be ingrained in his mind for the rest of his life.

It was as if his thoughts and what he was saying were not translating correctly, as if his internal systems had overridden his commands. This is a journey we are taking together, he thought to himself, realizing his hands were still over Thomas’. Do not go. Thomas, please… “Perhaps you are correct,” he responded mechanically, giving his friend’s hands a small squeeze. He could feel his hands withdrawing, allowing Thomas to continue taking his jacket off. It was then that he could feel himself beginning to speak his mind. “… I…”

Thomas paused, the jacket zipped open and halfway off of his body. “Hm?”

I want you to stay. “Nothing. I will help you.” What was stopping him? Why was he doing this?

Thomas gave his friend an affirming nod. “Thank you.” It was by now that the jacket was tossed aside, and as soon as Thomas turned around, Guy-Manuel realized that the self-destruct button was in front of him. He could tell that he was delaying pulling the switch. Was it because of… How he was feeling? Do robots even “feel” anything? Was something malfunctioning within him? Is this why his system was overriding his real desires, his true actions? Why was he— “Guy?”

Thomas’ voice broke his thoughts, and without a single thought, he immediately pulled the switch. He paused, taking in what he had just done. Thomas’ fate was sealed, and all he could utter was a quiet and reluctant “sorry.”

“There is nothing to apologize for.” Oh god, he could see the timer counting down on Thomas’ back. “It has been a fruitful journey. I know you will find what you are looking for.” He turned his head slightly, as if to get one last look at his friend. “Goodbye. It has been a pleasure, Guy-Manuel.”

That was when he watched the only friend he ever had walk away from him, and he did absolutely nothing to stop it.

Now, Guy-Manuel was alone. He watched as various parts of Thomas flew wildly into different directions. He watched as Thomas transformed into hundreds upon thousands of small, charred bits. He watched as his companion was eternally gone by his own hands.

It was then that he collected every part of his friend that he could find—he did his best to memorize where each part of Thomas went. It took the rest of the day to gather the pieces, as if he could find a way to glue his friend back together. Only once in the entire day did he question his actions. Thomas would want him to move on, after all, as did his internal programming.

But maybe, just maybe, there was some hope, some logical way that he could go back and fix what he helped to destroy. He immediately dismissed this thought, his system scanning the parts and realizing that they were no longer functional.

He observed the makeshift memorial that he built out of the pieces of Thomas that he could recover. It was something he kneeled in front of, the scene between him and his companion beginning to do its countless replays that would haunt him throughout the day. Was this the sort of thing that humans did? Mourn the loss of those close to them? Before, this concept was confusing to him. He remembered thinking how illogical it was to feel attached to a being that was no longer functioning. There was nothing they could do to change their destiny.

But, why was he still remembering Thomas? He tried to shake off this memory, but as far as he could tell, Thomas was not leaving his thoughts.

He had to practically force himself to stand, his will to continue subconsciously diminishing. Even as he left the memorial in the spot where Thomas had “died,” Guy-Manuel made sure to keep a piece of his friend inside of his jacket for reasons that even he could not fully comprehend.

His memory immediately snapped back to the beginning of his last encounter with Thomas, and it took him a moment to realize that, in this present time, he was still standing alone in the desert.

Now, of all times, it hit Guy-Manuel that he was permanently alone. He realized that this was what forced him to stop walking altogether, and quickly he knew that, like Thomas, this was a sign that he could longer continue. Although he had walked a short distance according to his calculations, he knew that any motivation that he once had was lost. Thomas was always the one that held him together, the one to push him, the one he relied on when their plans went awry…

Guy-Manuel then realized that Thomas was the only one that he really felt something with.

He fell to his knees suddenly, the weight of this discovery suddenly on his shoulders. He made a grave miscalculation in letting Thomas go. Logically, he knew it was better to leave behind Thomas if he was unwilling to help with the journey. But, was it so logical to believe that he was feeling something emotional? Did it really make any sense for his thoughts to deviate so radically from his actions?

Could robots truly feel any emotion?

These questions struck him as he slowly undid his own jacket, flinging it off to the side. Thoughts of Thomas’s demise plagued him as he bent forward, helmet to the ground, hands searching his back for his own self-destruct switch. He could not live like this, especially if he was damaged. There was no other explanation for these “emotions.” It was not normal. He was not normal.

I cannot continue. The switch was just out of his reach.

You need to go on without me. He desperately reached, practically scratching at his back as he attempted to come closer to his own destruction.

You have a… Stronger will than I do.

The effort proved to be fruitless. Guy-Manuel sat up, still hearing Thomas’ words in his mind as he slowly took the helmet off of his head. He had to find another way to end it all, even if that meant slowly destroying every piece of himself.

Do not concern yourself with this. He hit the helmet against the ground.

You do not need me for your journey. Realizing the last attempt did little to even scratch the helmet, he put more force into the second try.

I know you will find what you are looking for. Still hardly a mark on it. Guy-Manuel was starting to get frustrated by this former piece of himself. Why did it have to be so durable? In his frustration, he slammed the helmet down with as much force as he could muster.

Goodbye. It has been a pleasure, Guy-Manuel.

It shattered. By God, did the helmet shatter. All he could afford to do in that moment was admire his handiwork. His main identity, his helmet, was in as many pieces as his old friend, Thomas. There was some sort of sick satisfaction in that realization, even as he shakily grabbed onto a piece of his visor. He held up this piece of himself to the sunlight, Thomas’ words still repeating in his head. It wasn’t even the scene that he remembered anymore, it was just the last few sentences that were uttered to him by his longtime companion.

Soon enough, Guy-Manuel was burning, and all he could feel was retribution. He soon realized that this was a punishment in his mind, exactly why he couldn’t take the easy way out and self-destruct. No, he had to suffer, feel as his insides were being torn up inside by the flames. The flames were all he had left, and he recognized that he would die alone.

Or… Would he? He shook his head, not believing what he was seeing. From what he could tell, Thomas was walking toward him in the distance. His old friend, his companion, the one robot he could never live without. “T… Thomas?” he called out, hesitating. The flames were beginning to rise.

“Hello, Guy,” he said back to him, now right in front of the burning figure.

“T-Thomas,” Guy-Manuel stuttered, crawling toward his friend. The fire was beginning to destroy his voice. He could barely force himself to move, but for Thomas, he would do anything. “But… But you’re…”

“Dead?” Thomas replied, almost a sort of lightness in the way he spoke. “No, you are mistaken. I have been with you this entire time.”

Guy-Manuel swore he grabbed onto the legs of his friend, being unable to hoist himself up to his feet. This form of contact would have to suffice for the time being. “T-Thomas, I… I am… So, so, sorry…” His voice was cracking. He couldn’t tell if it was from raw emotion, or if it was from the fire beginning to consume his voice box.

“Do you remember what I said before? There is nothing to apologize for.”

“N-no, you don’t understand,” Guy-Manuel cried out, “I was so close… We were so close… We were almost human, Thomas…”

He could hear joyous laughter erupting from Thomas, which made him grip his legs even more desperately. “Guy… We are human. We were programmed to be unfeeling creatures, and… Well, to put it simply, we deviated from our programming.”

“D-deviated…?”

“Your feelings, Guy. Do you not realize this?” Guy-Manuel swore he could feel Thomas’ hands on his shoulders, as if trying to lift him up. Before he could really process the scene, he was back on his feet, facing his friend once more.

“My… Feelings…” His voice was slowing down considerably, the flames rising and beginning to consume him more as the conversation continued. No matter how much contact he made with his friend, his body refused to be set aflame. It was a curious thing, but he tried to not think about why this phenomenon was occurring. “Tho…mas…?”

“Yes?”

Suddenly, he pulled Thomas into an embrace. Guy-Manuel could feel his insides collapsing. This was the last chance he could say what he needed to say to Thomas. “… I… Missed… You…” He tightened his grip on Thomas, his entire body shaking. “Don’t… Leave… Me… A… lone…”

He swore he could feel Thomas hugging him back. He swore he also felt the flames gripping his entire being the way Thomas was, but it must have been his imagination.

Guy-Manuel would never be alone again.