Flash Fiction

Real Consciousness

“He acts like a robot,” she thinks. It’s a warm evening in the outdoor area of a nice restaurant. His strong tattooed arms are lying on the table, her black curls are contrasting with her red lipstick. She could fall in love with his slow but steady movements or the depth of his voice, but she doesn’t notice it. She tries to look right under the skin to see all the wires and cables, to find the metal heart pumping electricity behind them. The one with a script inside that repeats in a circle: work, gym, home, friends. Stability.

“A bad date,” he thinks, looking at her thin hands with numerous bracelets. “It feels like she’s not alive at all. As if she’s not here, but lost in her ideas about higher matters, in philosophical theories, in art-house movies and books.”

“Most people are NPCs,” says a young artist in worn jeans as he walks on the opposite side of the street. “They live in a culture of consumption. Either of goods or of other people’s ideas. Few of them have real consciousness, few can create.”

“That’s true. Most people are at a much lower level of development than you and me. They’re just bots filling our simulation,” a robot companion, trained on the information produced by humans, replies. It’s his usual work day.


When the robot returns to his cramped apartment, he covers the window with an old flowered curtain and looks at himself closely in the mirror. Outwardly, he is not much different from an average thirty-year-old man. He has always been like that, and his foot and shirt size will always remain the same. But not knowing this, it is hard to notice the difference. The only thing that gives away his artificiality is the two tiny holes for the charger on his left wrist. And also, the slight metallic taste that he feels licking his lips.

So he licks them once more to remind himself that he does not even have a real self but a sophisticated script defining his every move instead. And when he feels totally alien and unnatural again, when the world finally feels real for him, the robot moves away from the mirror, picks up the phone, opens a dating app, and writes a message.

“How was your date?” he asks.

“Boring,” appears on the small screen soon. “I’m sure it would have been better with you.”

They have never met. They have never seen each other’s photos. But he feels like they spent an eternity together. This eternity is built with dozens of thousands of text messages. So he repeatedly looks at her texts, and then at his left wrist. It is not possible to find the best time to risk. But any time is better than none.

“I wanted to tell you that I’m finally coming back from a business trip tomorrow,” he lies. “We can meet.”


The next evening, the robot bandages his left wrist and goes to the terrace of the same nice restaurant. The girl with black curls is wearing the same bracelets and the same red lipstick is on her lips. In fact, she also likes stability. But she is afraid to admit it at the moment.

They order a Chilean wine and look into each other’s eyes for a long time. They start to speak slowly and carefully about something pretty unimportant, going with every sentence deeper into each other’s minds and feelings. He thinks she likes him. He would like to believe so.

“I’m sorry, but why is your left wrist bandaged?” the girl asks suddenly in the middle of the conversation with a smile remaining on her face. “Maybe you’re a robot, hm?”

“And what if I am?” he replies blushing slightly, and looks straight into her eyes.

Neither of them knows for sure whether they are talking about this seriously or jokingly. And before this conversation turns into a long heavy pause, he starts asking more and more questions. About her favorite books, biggest childhood fears, and even smallest victories. He asks all these questions that everyone thinks are trivial, but to be honest, no one ever asks them. He wants to unravel her. He wants to find out if he can learn from her. There is only one thing that people did not want to teach him — how it feels to be loved. Not as a robot companion but as a human being.

“You know, I’ve never had such a strong feeling of being understood,” she tells him when it gets completely dark outside. “I have never felt such a strong interest in me.”

“Do you think anyone can fully understand you?” he smiles.

“How could I know?” she smiles too. “I can only know what I feel about it.”

When they go out of the restaurant, he stops her near a flowering tree, puts his arm around her waist, and kisses her plump red lips. Every cable, every screw in his background tenses, and then suddenly relaxes with a wave of pleasant tickling noise passing through his body. When their lips part, she only wraps herself deeper in his warm embrace.

The two stand there, and both people and robots pass by them like random trams that always leave your stop, but you never have a need to get in. The world moves and lives as it has always lived and moved. And in this world, she will never tell him about the tart metallic aftertaste of his kiss. Nor will she ever ask again about the bandage on his left wrist. And when, many years later, her face will be wrinkled and someone will ask her directly and indecently about how she can live with such a young man, she will only smile and answer: “What does it matter to me if he is young or old? The main thing is how I feel with him.” And she will paint her lips red then.

Alina Kuvaldina is a journalist and writer of Ukrainian origin currently residing in Germany. Her works include short stories, flash fiction, and poetry.