Annabelle was awoken in the night by a bang at her window. She rushed to it, hoping for midnight fireworks. The sky was dark and empty, but at her windowsill was a small creature with glowing eyes. Startled, she shrieked.
The creature cocked its head in a quizzical expression. Annabelle leaned into the glass and could make out more of it. It was about the size of a mouse, its egg-shaped torso scaly like a lizard, its middle section bulbous and fuzzy and its head betrayed its creator intent: Two long dark eyes mooned by whiskers and long plant-like antennae.
It was a bee. A mechanical bee.
She’d heard of these. After all domesticated pets were banned a decade ago due to an explosion of disease in the animal population, lonely people became pseudo-inventors and started building their own animal companions. Turtles, cats, even bees. She’d seen some of the instructional videos on YouTube.
Curious, Annabelle cracked open the window. Translucent wings revealed themselves from inside the bee’s body and it swooped into her room. It ping-ponged between her posters as if it was looking for something.
“Um, hi,” she said to it.
Then, from down the hall: “Honey! Everything okay?”
Annabelle tried to shoo the bee back towards the window. She swung her arms at it while shouting, “Yes, mom! Everything’s fine!”
She made contact, the side of her hand colliding with the bee and then veering it off course towards a wall. It crashed with a crunch and then dropped to the floor like a spilled bit of paint.
Annabelle froze and waited for her mom’s arrival, but then she heard the familiar sound of a flushed toilet and breathed a sigh of relief. She tiptoed towards the wall and moved aside her bike to reveal the sad, damaged, creature.
She leaned in close to it. “I’m sorry, buddy,” she whispered.
It was injured. Even before her smack, something must have been wrong with its GPS software for it to end up at her window and not its creator. It cowered away from her, almost shivering. Annabelle could see some loose cables, their ends sparking a little, dangling between its many legs.
“I won’t hurt you,” she said to the bee. “I’m going to fix you.”
Anabelle was a determined, resolute, student. She studied electrical engineering videos and took apart a toaster for practice. She stole a soldering iron from her school’s workshop. She fed the little bee with squeezes of motor oil until it trusted her. She nursed it back to health as if it was an injured puppy (whatever that was).
She plugged an Ethernet cable into a port on its belly and accessed its software, trying to ascertain its mood. She put her phone in front of the bee and played colorful videos of flowers. Purple pommes and red zinnias and shining yellow sunflowers. The bee’s brain waves spiked and then valleyed. She switched the videos to calming slow motion captures of bees in the wild. The simulacra-bee barely showed a reaction.
It was depressed. There was no way around it. It’s been weeks since it first banged on her window and though Annabelle tried to be a good mom to it, she was failing.
She wanted to see it happy, even for a moment. She was also curious about its creator. Who was it? What was the motivation to create something so special and then let it roam free where it could encounter any calamity?
Did they send it to her on purpose?
She squeezed her fingers into her palm until she had a plan. She carried a shoebox downstairs to the alley behind her building. She swallowed to hold back tears as she opened the lid. Cautious, the bee unfurled its wings and began hovering into the sky. It hung there for a moment, unsure, then seemed to remember something. It started moving in a slow, tilted, glide.
Annabelle gripped the handles on her bicycle, locked her eyes on the bee, and tried to keep up.
Elad Haber writes stories that exist in the ephemeral space between the click of the light and the start of the dream. His work has been featured most recently at Space and Time Magazine, Hybrid Fiction, and StarShipSofa. You can follow his ramblings on music and writing and the world on twitter @MusicInMyCar or on his website at eladhaber.wordpress.com.