It hadn’t happened at the end of junior year, not even after several dates with Katie, who was supposedly good for that sort of thing. My friends didn’t let me forget this either. They passed notes in chemistry class, which depicted me all alone, holding a pathetic boner. After that, whenever I walked through the hallway, the cool kids pretended to jerk-off, as if that’s all I did with my free time.
I knew this wouldn’t stop, no matter how much I protested. Sex was the only cure. Not another handjob but real, honest to God sex. Nobody wanted to help, though, especially my supposed friends. If I brought the subject up, they’d give me a purple nurple, or, even worse, draw that stupid caricature, which they called Colin the Skin Flautist. So I took the easy way out and booked a session with the cheapest Sexbot I could find. That was close enough in my book.
When I arrived at the Robot Brothel, I was surprised at how much the place reminded of a doctor’s office. They had crappy artwork on the wall and those old timey porno mags, the kind where actual women used to pose nude. I flipped through one for fun, half amazed people could actually jerk off with this kind of material. You could see the stretch marks on these girls, even the C-section scars across their bellies. It almost made sex seem like some vulgar act.
I fidgeted around in the chair, still holding onto one of the porno mags, twisting it into a cylinder. A nurse began looking over in my direction, documenting each action, as if she were relaying the information to someone else. Eventually, the nurse came over, with a look of disgust now stitched into her brow. I sat up straight, focused on her hands, not her boobs, while she scrolled through an old iPad.
“So, you have a couple of different options here,” she said. “With your package, you can pick any of the girls in this section.”
I snatched the tablet from her hands, then cycled through the list of girls, but only noticed the older models, most of whom didn’t seem sexually attractive anymore. They had that creepy robot face, with dead eyes and plastic skin. I didn’t think anyone had sex with these types, unless, of course, they were in prison or married a long time.
“Ah, this wasn’t what I was looking for,” I said. “What else do you have?”
“What do you mean? Where are the hot robots?”
“Those are way out of your price range,” she replied. “Just pick one of these. There’s a lot of people here, Colin.”
“Wait, how’d you know my name?” I replied.
“You don’t recognize me?” she asked.
She placed both hands on her hips, as if to say, You’re a horny teenage boy, who has only touched one boob, how could you forget me? But in all honesty, she was so plain I’m surprised I even noticed her in the first place. She reminded me of wallpaper. Sure, it was sort of pretty up close up, but, when you were far away, who knew it was even there?
“You’re Lilly, right?” I replied. “Your family brought the casserole after dad died.”
“I see it made quite an impression on you,” she said, looking away.
“So,” I replied, “I’ll just take this blonde then.”
“How original,” she quipped. “Please go wait in room 4b.”
My hands shook while taking the key. I pictured a room with candles lit, scattered around the bed for that ambient effect. There were rose petals, too, sprinkled around the floor and bedding. I bet it even had a skylight, so that you could look up at the stars after sex, then contemplate the meaning of life. It was going to be the most perfect moment.
When I opened the door, there was only a bed, covered in that thin paper from the doctor’s office. I would’ve said something about the lack of romance, but Lilly was giving me that pissed off look again, the same one she had since I arrived. I snatched the lube from her hand, making sure she saw that I wasn’t happy either. She didn’t seem to care.
The robot arrived shortly thereafter. Her eyes twinkled with a subtle beauty, the kind you could only find within the hotties in those teen romance movies. I didn’t even notice her droopy plastic skin or the scuffmarks on both knees. In fact, she looked sort of like younger Taylor Swift, but with much bigger boobs and California bleached blond hair.
“Oh, baby, you’re huge,” she said in her choppy robot voice.
“Um, uh, sweetie? Can you just be normal? Like a real girl?”
“The programs are on the nightstand,” she replied. “Please input your selection, then use the dial on my back.”
My mind raced while cycling though the list. It was amazing how many different people she could become. For instance, I could be the naughty massage boy, who, while giving her a massage, decided to cop a feel. Then we’d do it. If that wasn’t enough, I could even be a student, who was acting out during class, and now needed to be punished for being such a brat. Then we’d do it. I went with an old standby, though. No need to get fancy the first time around.
“I think I’ll go with the Baywatch fantasy number twenty-four.”
“Good choice, Colin,” she replied. “Please let me reboot.”
As she vibrated with new information, I closed my eyes, attempting to collect each moment, so that nothing would be lost, not even the smell of this crappy whorehouse.
“Colin,” she said, voice rich with panic, “there’s an oil leak off the coast. If we don’t stop it soon, the whole beach will be covered. And you’re the only one who can save us.”
“That’s right,” I replied, “but before we go, let me oil you, too.”
I ran my hands over her body, ready to finally become a man. In that moment, I didn’t even notice the synthetic skin that thousands of other men had caressed. This was the culmination of seventeen years of waiting; there was no turning back.
This anticipation caused an unwanted side effect. As she fondled my penis, priming it for sex, I came onto the bed, even before she had the chance to mount me. Then it was done. The robot switched off, waiting for another session to be purchased at the register. And here I was, still a virgin, unable to place another quarter into the payphone.
Common sense should’ve told me to get hard again, place it anywhere in her body, then call it a day. But no. That would’ve been far too easy. I dressed myself in the robot’s silky kimono instead, ready to raise hell about my faulty Sexbot.
As I exited the room, something about the place seemed almost ominous now. The sexy jazz music had completely disappeared, so had the low lighting. Now the hallway felt like an interrogation room, which chipped away at the confidence I’d developed. There were voices in the distance, muffled by a heavy curtain that separated me from the waiting room. I almost turned back once the shouting began, but the thought of staying a virgin forever pushed me forward.
A deranged man paced around the lobby, shouting at the staff, who were lined up against the wall, just like a firing squad. I stood there, kimono open, manhood exposed to the world. Some fight or flight response should’ve kicked my butt into gear, but I just stood there, gazing at the men and women pushed against the office furniture. I must’ve let out a squeak or something, because the man whipped around, aiming his gun at my manhood, which was now shriveled.
“Get in the line, pervert,” he yelled, motioning toward me.
I wedged myself between Lilly and some other girl, hoping he might mistake me for a woman in this stupid kimono. That didn’t turn out to be the case. The man directed all of his anger toward me, pointing his gun squarely at my penis. He didn’t even take his eyes off me once the phone rang.
“Oh, good. It’s the cops, ready to save these sickos,” he said, now holding the phone. “Here, you answer it, robot-fucker.”
He shoved the phone into my chest, prompting me to answer it with his gun. My voice creaked hello, yet no one on the other end answered. It was just an automated recording, reminding us the police cannot negotiate with dissents.
“Um, uh, Mr.?”
“Just call me Liberator.”
“Well, Mr. Liberator,” I said, “they won’t negotiate with you.”
“And who told you this?”
“The Automated 911 system.”
“Of course,” he screamed, “another fucking robot to deal with. Well now, tell your robot friend on the other line that this is its goddamn fault.”
The Liberator waved his gun, positioning it straight up in the air, like a bandit celebrating a heist. The world moved in fast-forward after he began firing. The bullets just seemed to appear, then quickly disappear into the ceiling above, almost as if they never existed in the first place.
We all doubled over in fear, clinging to each other, asking ourselves, What will happen if he actually shoots me? I, however, already knew the answer to that question. Nothing will happen. We humans, I’m afraid, aren’t far off from our robot companions. When you turn off the switch, we also go. Dad didn’t rise to heaven when he died. The color just left his face and he pooped his pants. That was it, no more dad.
Luckily we didn’t have to worry about death, since The Liberator stopped when he ran out of bullets. He didn’t even reload, but rather breathed heavily, surveying the damage he caused. Lilly, who seemed unfazed by his outburst, squeezed my hand, reminding me of our implicit connection.
“I didn’t want to do any of that,” The Liberator said, pointing the gun back at my penis. “You tell them it was the system’s fault. Do you hear me you sicko? It was their fault.”
“Uh huh,” I replied, head tucked into my chest. “I will.”
Lilly squeezed my hand again, her fingernails digging into my flesh, tearing at the soft part of my palm. I wanted to yelp, yet the scowl developing on her face told me otherwise.
“We didn’t do anything mister,” she said. “We’re innocents in all of this.”
“Shh,” I whispered. “You’re going to get us killed, Lilly.”
The Liberator didn’t respond to either of us. He began reloading his gun, careful not to take his eyes off the task at hand.
“You’re right,” he replied. “This isn’t your fault. But you, just like the rest of them, help perpetuate this faulty system. Everyday more and more working class people are squeezed out of a job, and all because some robot can do it for cheaper.”
“Well, what do you expect us to do?” she said. “And besides, we’ve both given enough. I work this crappy job so my family can make ends meet, and this guy over here lost his dad in the worker rebellion of 2016. We’re no slouches in that department.”
“This kid right here?” he said, shoving the gun in my face. “He lost his daddy?”
“Yep,” she replied. “His dad was one of the first to speak out.”
The Liberator pounced on me, pinning me down with a knee. He pressed his gun into my chest, then moved close to my face, just inches away. Each time he exhaled, his spittle dotted my face, coating it in a light glaze of saliva.
“You,” he said, “are the reason we’re in this goddman mess.”
“I’m sorry?” I whimpered, eyes now closed to protect against his hot breath. “But I don’t even know what I did wrong.”
“Do you believe this?” he asked. “You’re at a robot whorehouse and you don’t know what you did? Do you think your daddy, who wanted worker equality, would want you here?”
“Truthfully, I don’t think he would’ve approved of any of this.”
“Oh, now you’re gettin’ glib with me,” he replied. “No, I don’t think so either, yet here you are. What do you think your daddy would do? I think he’d say it’s time for your punishment.”
Unbeknownst to The Liberator, Lilly reached for my hand, interlocking it with her own. In that moment, I felt as if she were a parachute: something that could save me, but only when you asked for its help. This thought kept repeating, growing fainter with each passing moment. It disappeared once he began corralling us into a small group. I whimpered as he prodded us toward the champagne room with his gun, certain there wasn’t a happy ending inside that room.
The Liberator held the gun near my temple, muttering, attempting to formulate a thought. Each time his voice raised slightly above a whisper, I flinched, ready for the bullet.
“Alright, I know your punishment,” he said, spitting into my ear. “I want you to do her.”
Even though I would’ve welcomed the freebie, I couldn’t imagine humping Lilly from behind, while these people just stared at me, slack-jawed and unimpressed. I imagined them snickering amongst themselves, unable to control their laughter once they saw my penis fully erected.
She felt the same way. Not about my penis, but the thought of sex. We gazed into each other’s eyes, blinking, afraid to initiate coitus. No one wanted to seem like the desperate one.
Before I could undress, the Liberator hit me with his gun, almost knocking me out.
“Not her you idiot,” he said. “Her over there, in the corner.”
He pointed toward a slumped over robot in hot tub, who was still preforming fellatio, even though there was no penis in her mouth. She reminded me of those goldfish that gulp near the surface once you placed food in their tank. They didn’t even know what was going on, or if they were hungry. It was more of a reaction, rather than a real response.
The crowd looked at me, then the robot, then back at me. They did this several times, as if to say, Hey, just stick it in, give it a few pumps, then this guy will let us go home. Yet, if I gave him what he wanted, I’d be losing my virginity. I know that was the whole reason for being here, but wasn’t there supposed to be romance? None of these people lost it that way. Why should I? As I grumbled to myself, the group pushed me toward the robot, a sacrificial lamb led to the slaughter.
I gave the robot a bearhug, careful not to get near that mouth, which still gasped for air like a goldfish. On her back, near the control panel, I felt the fetish dial. There were several settings, including an asphyxiation mode, with the patterned Intensity Grip, so that you could feel the strength of a man, even from a woman. No one would notice if I cranked it to ten, then waited for death. After all, this model only stops once it hears the safe word from you.
I initiated the fetish mode with this in mind, trying to think of a safe word that had no meaning, but everything seemed to have some subtext, a message hidden below the surface.
“Safe word, please,” the robot said.
“Coconut baby,” I replied under my breath. “Coconut baby.”
The robot began clinching her hands, sort of like Frankenstein’s monster, lumbering across the champagne room. The Liberator, at this point, aimed the gun at her, shouting at the top of his lungs. He screamed the word coconut baby to no avail. The group shouted, too, afraid she might find their neck. Most disappeared before she could come close, leaving the Liberator all alone, crouched behind the bed.
Even when he began unloading his gun, she never stopped grasping for his throat, sure that was what he wanted. It was almost beautiful. Here was a man who hated robots, now pursued by a robot, one who wanted only to give him pleasure.
When the two met, they wrested on the bed like lovers, twisting, both straining to gain control of his neck. He, of course, lost the battle, turning almost violet. The robot didn’t react to his skin color. She kept grinding against his penis, positive her moves were bringing pleasure, not pain. The rest of the group fled, not waiting around to see if he’d recover. Only Lilly remained. She squeezed my hand, much like before, then wrapped herself around me.
Instantly, I got a boner. No, not from all the strangling, but from that simple gesture. It was what brought me here in the first place. Yeah, sure, part of me wanted sex, that wasn’t some secret. But the most important thing was a connection, I think. That’s what the other kids made fun of me about. People are sort of freaked out when you can’t muster a genuine human relationship. After all, those connections are all we have. Think about it. Every celebration is based on those relationships, even our own funeral. Most of tend to forget that fact, especially The Liberator, who was still fighting off the beautiful Sexbot. He just couldn’t see she just wanted a tiny piece of his humanity.
I yelled the safe word once he became really blue. The Liberator gasped for air, moaning, his hands surveying the damage. His cries intensified after she began humping his little wiener again. It would’ve been easy to yell the safe word once more, so she could finished the job, but I turned to Lilly instead, then kissed her on the forehead, as if to say, Let’s get out of here, honey.
William Lemon received his M.A. in Literature and Writing at California State University San Marcos, then began teaching English at the Community College level. For the past several years, he has taught at Santa Monica College and Irvine Valley College. He has been published in Bartleby Snopes, BlazeVOX, Drunk Monkeys, and the Eunoia Review.