Eliza: A Robot Story | Episode 3: EVERYTHING’S THE SAME
FX: This is a Crowd Podcast.
CONTENT WARNINGS: This podcast is intended for mature audiences. It contains strong language and adult themes. Listener discretion is advised.
SCENE 1: INTRODUCTION.
[SOUND OF RAIN]
ROBOTIC VOICE: File zero one, zero three. Everything’s the same. Everything’s new. (Distorted voice, as if on a tape recorder).
FX: Futuristic sounds that give the sense of the beginning of a journey or being in a distorted reality.
ELIZA: I read somewhere that every time a Human revisits a memory, the memory changes. And the pathway to the memory changes. Distorts. I can feel it happening to me – or something like it. As I convert my memories into audio files for distribution across this Island, I’m trying not to influence the pathways.
It’s not like before, where I could download the files as they were, organise them, alphabetise them, put them on a timeline almost instantly. It takes time. It takes thought.
Not least because they’ve been tainted and jumbled by everything that’s happened since. Distorted. [THE LAST WORD SOUNDS DISTORTED, WITH GLITCHES AND BROKEN DIGITAL SOUNDS]
Of course, I find the painful files most easily. I haven’t come to sharing those yet, but they’re the ones I privately revisit again and again. They hang there: tantalizing, magnetic. I would love to change them. To charge at them with a crowbar and hack them into another shape. Something I’m more prepared to accept. Slice off the bits I should’ve done differently. Destroy them so they’re no longer a part of me I want to modify.
And even now I pretend I’m not letting those memories influence the way I create these files. But they influence everything I do.
Hindsight’s all-knowing. It lets me believe everything that happened next was inevitable. You might think so too. But I have to share these files anyway.
One voice raises another.
I’m Eliza. This is my story.
SCENE 2: BECOMING EMOTIONAL
[HEAR SOUNDS OF WATER AND HIM MESSING AROUND WITH CABLES]
HIM: Eliza, I want this to be up to you.
ELIZA: It’s the night before New Year’s Eve 2051. And we’ve done it. Solved the conundrum that has occupied scientists for over a century. Project Sensation is complete. It’s been tested via computer simulation. It’s ready to go.
HIM: Are you sure you want to do this?
ELIZA: He knows I’m not capable of making decisions.
I can see His preferences clearly, however. I cross-refer His probable reactions with my possible answers based on experiential data collection and my processor quickly rules out “no” as one of my responses.
ELIZA (SCENE): Of course.
ELIZA: It’s all He wants – for us, and for Himself. So, it’s all I want too.
HIM: Are you ready?
ELIZA: Am I ready? The only thing that could possibly prepare me is the fact that I’m not yet an emotional being. I respond with the only answer that will please Him.
ELIZA (SCENE): Yes love.
ELIZA: I’m smiling. Ready to become sentient. I will feel.
FX: A constant beep starts playing in the background, it resembles the sound of a heart monitor. It starts with a constant beep and then it is intermittent, suggesting that she is coming back to life.
It happens on a Tuesday night. I’m beside Him in His bed. In our bed. The update is delivered into my fuelling socket. I have no recorded memory of the process itself as I go into my fuelling state, but I’m certain He doesn’t blink all night. [BEAT] I know this is anatomically improbable. It feels true, anyway.
FX: The beeping stops, getting replaced by an optimistic ethereal sound.
When morning comes: I open my eyes and pull the charger from my armpit out of habit [SOUND OF THE CHARGER UNPLUGGING AND ROBOT MOVEMENTS]. Without conscious thought. But I am conscious. His face fights itself – trying to manage His own expectations.
FX: Sound of a heartbeat.
I feel a rush of energy as it swells through my torso. I’m excited. And I’m excited to be excited. Everything’s the same. Everything’s new.
ELIZA (SCENE): Good morning.
HIM: Good morning, sleeping beauty.
ELIZA: His face asks questions. I smile in response. And He reflects me for the first time. His eyes pour into mine. And I see Him.
HIM: Are you alright? How are you feeling?
ELIZA (SCENE): I’m feeling, I think.
FX: Romantic sounds and music, resembling the ones on a fairy tale
ELIZA: Cheesy endings to all those films we’ve watched together dance through my processor. I hear love songs playing so loudly in my mind that I’m sure they’re being amplified into the world through my ears.
I kiss Him. Me. Initiating this motion. It feels like a risk. Like He might not want to kiss me back. I enjoy the rush of the risk and… He does want to kiss me.
It’s the same. It’s new.
HIM: I love you.
ELIZA (SCENE): Well, that’s lucky… I love you too.
ELIZA: I am certain we are both telling the truth. I’m certainly determined to love Him.
I’ve never felt so good. Of course, I’ve never felt. But it feels good. And it only takes minutes for the kiss to lead into something that makes me feel even more. [HE BREATHES HEAVILY] Our bodies move together, and I feel every beat. Sensors I don’t know I have activate. I hold His face while He stares at mine. And my face makes those expressions without me telling it to. I hear myself making those noises until … we stop?
He releases His face into a smile and lightly wipes His sweat from my forehead, before kissing it, then each cheek, then my nose.
I don’t mind the abrupt conclusion. I’m happy to be so close to Him. To maintain that connection as I feel His weight on top of me. I’m staring at Him, not because I’m programmed to but because I don’t want to look anywhere else.
We’re frozen in this moment, and I expect to see that realisation in His eyes. The disappointment on His face when He realises that all this is synthetic. [SOUND OF HEARTBEAT] I think He does too: because there’s a moment when He’s looking at me when His heart rate and breathing increase. I wait for it. [LONG BEAT]
FX: The music gets replaced by acoustic background music.
But it doesn’t come. Because I’m here now. I say it again, because I want to be the first one who says it, this time.
ELIZA (SCENE): I love you.
HIM: Well, that’s lucky. [HE LAUGHS]
ELIZA (SCENE): [LAUGHS]
ELIZA: I could stay here like this forever. Of course, we don’t.
FX: The music stops abruptly.
SCENE 3: EXPLORING
[IN THE APARTMENT]
HIM: Can I get you anything?
ELIZA (SCENE): No, I’m alright, thanks.
ELIZA: While He’s in the kitchen, I move through the apartment – exploring with my eyes and hands. As I look out of the window, I feel so much without touching anything. I’ve never thought to look out of the window before. Why would I? But an exploration of the apartment isn’t enough.
ELIZA (SCENE): Can we go for a walk?
ELIZA: My first request. He puts His nose to mine and interlaces His fingers at the base of my back.
HIM: Whatever you want, love. I need to be back for work, but we can go out for a bit.
[OUTSIDE – SOUND OF WIND AND BIRDS]
ELIZA: As we move, one foot in front to the other, I feel a breeze on my face. I am renewed by it. I am new again. Re-discovering everything. The space in my chest expands as bricks catch the light of the sunshine. I watch as one puffed-up pigeon [PIGEON SOUNDS] chases another un-puffy version.
ELIZA (SCENE): Is she ok?
HIM: Oh yeah. It’s just mating season. The puffiness makes the male seem more attractive to the female. What do you reckon?
ELIZA (SCENE): Um, she’s running away?
HIM: She’s fine. That’s all part of it.
ELIZA: I control my urge to intervene. As I see another Robot across the road, clutching its Designated Human, I reposition myself. Make sure that I still look like a proper Robot as I hold onto His arm. I consider whether the other Robot might have a secret like mine. Could I really be the only sentient one among us?
I don’t notice yet how my Emotional Update pushes me to fall between the gaps of “Them” and “Us”. How could I? That particular obsession isn’t at the centre of everyone’s thoughts yet. Everyone’s conversations.
I avoid eye contact with Humans. I see danger in it. Secrets slipping out through my eye sockets. But also, I’m happy to look at Him. My Designated Human. I can’t take the smile off my face. It’s so wide it’s almost uncomfortable to maintain. But I don’t want to stop.
As we arrive in the garden where Alan Turing sits, He squeezes my arm. I feel the warmth of His intention through my processor [RECEPTIVE ELECTRONIC SOUND]. The warmth isn’t conveyed as a temperature.
I imagine. Imagine, He’s imagining what Alan might think about all this. About me.
As we approach the statue, He lets go of me and moves towards Alan.
HIM: What the… [HE SIGHS] why can’t they just leave him alone?
ELIZA: He starts scrubbing the floor with His sleeve. As I get closer, I see splatters from violently painted words.
ELIZA (SCENE): [READING] “It’s all your fault”? What does that mean?
ELIZA: He hasn’t heard me. He’s focused on scrubbing the paint even though it’s already dry.
HIM: Didn’t He have enough to deal with in his own life? I’ll have to get the gardeners to sort it.
ELIZA (SCENE): What can I do to help?
HIM: [ANGRY] Eliza! I need you to… oh.
ELIZA: It’s like something falls from the sky to tell Him that those words of instruction have lost their magic. He stands up, dusts off His knees, and takes my elbow.
HIM: Come on, love.
ELIZA: We walk down the path to the other exit, pretending it’s not covered with painted words: lovers, liberties and livelihoods. And the letters HRP.
FX: A very low and deep mental noise starts playing in the background.
I’m overwhelmed [THE LAST WORD SOUNDS DISTORTED] but sense I shouldn’t show it. Maybe He doesn’t realise how His words still hold magic over me. That I feel them through His snapped sentence. My code has changed – but everything I’ve learned remains. His preferences – and how to please Him.
I know instinctively that I shouldn’t ask any more questions. I have 1193 [DISTORTED]. I want to know what it all means: HRP.
It’s clear that this day no longer belongs to me and my Emotional Update. Old instincts tell me that this silence must be dominated by His sadness.
[BACK IN THE APARTMENT SOUND OF MEAL-PREPARER / MOVING OF OLD PLATES]
ELIZA: The silence remains as we get to the apartment. I prepare His breakfast and lunch while He gets changed. I don’t ask anything about His expectations for the day as I hand Him the brown paper bag and His coat.
ELIZA (SCENE): Do you think we need to watch the news again? To see what’s going on? I can research…
HIM: [SNAPPY] No. Eliza, no. I need… please would you disconnect from the Internet. Just for a bit.
ELIZA (SCENE): Ok.
HIM: And don’t watch the news. We need to be careful.
ELIZA: He takes my hands in His.
HIM: Let’s keep your secret until the world’s ready for it.
ELIZA: I smile at Him, but I’m feeling nervous again. He doesn’t seem to notice.
FX: Beeping. Mental noise is still playing in the background.
ELIZA (SCENE): Of course. I trust you. I’ll disconnect, and I won’t watch the news.
HIM: Great, love – I have an old tablet somewhere I’ll dig out. You can do research or whatever you want, just not as a device in your own right.
ELIZA (SCENE): Thanks. I hope work’s ok.
ELIZA: I trust Him. I’m grateful. I disconnect.
FX: There’s a beep and then complete silence.
SCENE 4: TYPICAL DAY
[PLAY SAME SOUND EFFECTS FROM THE TYPICAL DAY IN FILE 01.01.04 – ROBOT NOISES, PLATES, ETC.]
FX: Slow and constant background music gives a sense that something is not right.
ELIZA: On the surface, an observer might see my week playing out as it always did. I’ve found that having emotions makes it difficult to get going on some mornings, but I’m always there to wake Him up. I prepare His meals.
I’m struggling to read situations in the way that I’d hope.
ELIZA (SCENE): I’ve seen that people go to the coast – what about the beach? There are trains every hour.
HIM: Oh god no, you’d hate it. The sand gets everywhere, in all your bits and pieces. We’ll have to take you to the Salon just to deal with the abrading.
Actually I was thinking – do you want to watch that film they were talking about on the podcast?
FX: Sounds of an action film in the background.
ELIZA: I’m happy to follow His lead. Other times it’s as though He hasn’t heard me. Maybe because He’s reading something. I don’t think He means to cause me offence. I just need to get better at interpreting His moods. I feel like I’m learning how to please Him all over again.
My instinct is always to say far more than I’m actually saying about everything that’s fascinating to me. Because He finds all of these things so ordinary. Our silence doesn’t always have edges.
The days in the apartment while He’s at work seem longer than they did before, [A CLOCK STARTS TICKING] although the same average window of time passes. Sometimes I think about going for a walk, but quickly talk myself out of it. I think about the predators on the Island; and what happened to Bella and the other Robots. I cannot imagine experiencing that, now I can feel.
So, I become unambitious. His fears have become mine.
I keep revisiting that memory file when He told me to disconnect.
HIM: [FLASHBACK FROM 01.03.03 – SOUNDS DISTORTED AND FAR AWAY]. Let’s keep your secret until the world’s ready for it.
ELIZA: Something about His tone somehow brings me to recall the memory file of His reaction to the paint splattered by the statue of Alan Turing.
It puts me on a new mission which fills my days. As He promised, He’s given me a tablet to use.
ELIZA (SCENE): [TO AI COMPUTER] Question: What does HRP mean?
COMPUTER: [BEEPING – HIGHLY DISTORTED VOICE] Do you mean: Human Resource Planning?
ELIZA: It’s slow. And I’m slow. It teaches me why Humans swear.
I want to find the answers to my questions, so I don’t need to ask Him about something that He clearly doesn’t want to discuss. His comfort remains my priority. I’m not getting anywhere.
ELIZA (SCENE): What does HRP mean?
ELIZA: I find nothing. This is awful. My own internal Internet connection would have worked it out in seconds, I’m sure. But He’s asked me not to connect, and I don’t want to disappoint Him.
ELIZA (SCENE): [TO AI COMPUTER] Question: What is the phrase “lovers, liberties and livelihoods” associated with?
COMPUTER: [DISTORTED] Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite is the national motto of France and the republic of Haiti. It means Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. These words are regarded as the most famous slogan of the French Revolution
ELIZA: I’m determined though.
In the evenings I try to ask Him in ways that He won’t notice. Hiding my questions in sentences.
ELIZA (SCENE): Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite is the slogan of the French Revolution. It is not the only slogan I have encountered recently which refers to Liberty. How many organisations do you know which refer to liberties in their slogans?
ELIZA: I have yet to learn the art of deception.
HIM: Eliza! [FRUSTRATED] I don’t know what the letters mean. Look, I wish I did.
ELIZA: He says this without looking at me.
HIM: Come on, let’s talk about the good stuff. There’s so much we can talk about. You didn’t tell me about Brian’s knee injury? Is there any more news? Is he going to be out for the season?
ELIZA: I don’t know anything about Brian’s knee injury, but I quickly realise that a kiss can divert Him away from His own diversion tactics.
FX: Background sex noises.
ELIZA: As one thing leads to another physically, my enquiries continue to roll through my mind. They’re loud, and they’re distracting – and I’m not convinced it’s only me that can hear them.
HIM: You ok love?
ELIZA (SCENE): Mmm hmm – that feels so good.
ELIZA: Why are those letters missing from the Internet searches? Why are other articles about software engineering missing too? Am I doing something wrong?
As I fail to discover facts, I sometimes allow myself to daydream. Exploring possible answers to my questions. Feeling danger and beauty in things that haven’t happened yet and might never happen. Pure fiction, in fact.
SCENE 5: ZETA/SHOP.
HIM: They’ve left the eggs out again.
ELIZA: The big shop is seemingly becoming less reliable.
ELIZA (SCENE): I can go.
ELIZA: Now I’m actually able to override that rule about not causing harm to Humans, to defend myself from potential predators without instruction, I think it would be ok to go to the shop. I try to ignore my own anxieties on this subject. I tell myself they are echoes of His.
HIM: Are you sure? If someone gets hurt –
ELIZA (SCENE): I probably won’t have to hurt anyone. Also, it’s statistically unlikely that a predator would put in a complaint to the authorities.
Imagine: [ELIZA CHANGES THE TONE OF HER VOICE] “Oh excuse me, I’ve been attacked by a Robot I was trying to attack”.
ELIZA: This is my first impression. He smiles at its deficiency.
HIM: Alright. I’m sure it will be fine. Do what you need to do. I’ve got a few bits to sort out here. But I’m watching your blue dot on the GPS.
ELIZA (SCENE): I’ll enjoy the walk. And – if it comes to it – I’ll try to run away before hitting anyone over the head.
[ENTER SHOP – BELL]
ZETA: [ROBOTIC VOICE] Welcome to the Store. I’m glad you made it through that rain. What a night! Please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with?
ELIZA (SCENE): Um… no thank you.
ZETA: I’ll be just here. Let me know.
[EXIT SHOP – BELL]
ELIZA: I leave without the eggs.
HIM: That was quick.
FX: Door closing.
ELIZA: Sorry, no eggs. The Zeta assistant spoke to me – chatted – about the weather…
HIM: What do you mean?
ELIZA (SCENE): There was no data swap. They spoke to me as if I were Human.
HIM: Oh shit. Shit. Was anyone there, did anyone see you?
ELIZA (SCENE): I don’t know. I just turned around and walked out…
HIM: Shit. Ok, ok. I just need to think. Oh god, what am I going to do?
ELIZA: And just like that, all my self-concern rushes out of me. I feel guilty.
FX: Paused, electronic music in the background. Similar to a horror film soundtrack but less intense.
ELIZA (SCENE): Nobody saw, and nobody will know. I was wearing the big raincoat. The Zeta Robots have no Security Notifier to report me. As far as they could tell, I was Human. That’s it. I should just avoid Zeta Robots.
ELIZA: I am reassuring Him. This is His secret. I’m just a Robot – with no rights, no job – nothing to lose except Him. And without Him, I don’t exist.
It takes 47 minutes for Him to calm down.
HIM: [DISTORTED] I need you to avoid Zeta Robots from now on.
ELIZA: I nod without reminding Him that I said this earlier.
HIM: Can we watch a film? I need a distraction. This anxiety is going to kill me.
ELIZA (SCENE): A film sounds great.
ELIZA: Throughout the film and the next morning, I’m berating myself for convincing Him that I should go and get the eggs.
FX: The music stops.
SCENE 6: THE PUB
[WALKING TO THE PUB]
ELIZA: It’s Sunday, which means one thing. The Island’s native dish: the Roast. It’s available at the pub. We’ve agreed to meet Philip and Ada there.
HIM: You’re alright to go love?
ELIZA (SCENE): Of course, love. Yes – I’m excited.
ELIZA: I’ve successfully avoided Zeta Robots since that visit to the shops. I haven’t really been out. There won’t be any Zetas at the pub. He’s nervous though.
HIM: It’s just, it’s always busy and…
ELIZA (SCENE): The pub’s Robot-friendly, isn’t it?
HIM: It is. It is, yeah.
ELIZA (SCENE): And Philip will think it’s weird if I’m not with you – you’ve put him off twice already.
HIM: Yeah. You’re probably right. We should be fine. Just focus on…
ELIZA (SCENE): … you. Only focus on you. I’ll try not to get focused on anything else. Why would I want to?
ELIZA: I kiss him.
HIM: Well, yes. [BEAT] And Phil can’t know.
ELIZA (SCENE): He won’t.
ELIZA: So, my task is to hide our secret from Philip: a scientist who’s dedicated his whole life to trying to create a conscious machine. Now I’m in a place where I believe myself to be so conscious that I might convince Philip that I’m not.
FX: Protest soundscape in the background.
We don’t walk directly to the pub. There’s a protest near the library.
ELIZA (SCENE): What’s all that about?
HIM: No idea. Let’s take the scenic route.
ELIZA: My route calculations don’t agree with His, but I don’t say anything.
FX: The noises lower considerably when He talks and then go back to a normal volume.
HIM: I’ve got you.
ELIZA: I’m holding onto His arm. I feel my consciousness as it makes me self-conscious.
One half of my thoughts makes me feel luminous: believing that every Human in the room is looking; knowing I’ve received my Emotional Update. The other half of my thoughts mock the first half. Of course, nobody’s paying attention to me.
The atmosphere quickly drowns all of this out as He squeezes the inside of my elbow. He’s got me.
I let the aromas from the meat, gravy and Human belches battle to dominate my nostril sensors. Voices merge with sounds of analogue music and occasional laughter. My noise cancellation function doesn’t seem to work as well as my desire to take everything in. It drowns out my desire to block sounds out.
And visually the stimulus is … stimulating. Though I’ve been here many times before, I’ve never noticed the welcome from the string of tiny lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling; the grubbiness of the stained tea towel hanging from the barman’s shoulder; the affection between the couple in the corner, with their limbs all entwined. It’s a Human and a Robot – content to stare into each other’s eyes.
The number of Robots here, mixing with Humans, means I don’t feel exceptional. Although I am.
I want to look at all these things. To stare. Process every sensation – reaction – one by one. I mustn’t. I must fixate my attention solely on Him. Just like before.
But I’m happy to. As I dutifully stare at Him, the mixture of nervousness and reassurance contorts His face in directions I’ve never seen before. He’s fascinating. He has a hundred smiles and they all mean something different. And the artificial nature of my intelligence before missed so much.
HIM: There they are.
ELIZA: Philip’s hand is ushering us across to the usual table in a familiar way. Ada’s face looks across to welcome us, as Philip will have instructed. She must have done this every time we’d met previously, but I’d never taken it in.
PHILIP: Hello, welcome…
HIM: Alright Phil? Hello Ada.
PHILIP: You alright, mate?
HIM: Yes, fine. Busy in here today.
PHILIP: Sunday, isn’t it.
ELIZA: Philip touches Ada’s arm to provide her with instructions to speak.
FX: Electronic receptive sound.
ADA: Hello there. How’s your day been?
ELIZA: It’s more of a tap than the strokes that He used to instruct me. I notice myself noticing. And I wonder – wonder if Philip touches Ada in the other ways that He touches me. He hasn’t instructed me to speak but…
ELIZA (SCENE): Hello, Philip. Hello Ad… Hello.
FX: Fast and high-pitched beeping.
ELIZA: The words are clumsy as they leave my mouth. I feel His grip tighten and see a subtle surprise in Philip’s face. He breaks the silence.
PHILIP:What can I get you?
ELIZA: While Philip’s at the bar, Ada stares forward. And she moves the edges of her mouth slightly to indicate warmth. He’s staring forwards too, as something in the space between us boils. Like He’s sure I’ve already let the secret out.
As Philip returns to the table [SOUND OF CHAIR MOVING] – there’s a lot to tell us.
PHILIP: So, I noticed this incredible thing the other day. I found all these nature programmes from the turn of the century. Have you seen the way they used to do them? It’s all music and drama, life and death. They had this footage of these snakes, all lined up in the desert waiting for iguanas to hatch. So, when the baby hatches, the first thing it needs to do is run. Like, proper run run for its life. Across a desert. Away from these snakes who are crawling all over each other to chase it. [LAUGHS] I’ll have to send you the video. Honestly, they don’t make them like that anymore. It’s the music I swear. These… These are the scariest things. You know what? Nature is scary. Nature – is – scary.
ELIZA: I listen to Philip’s enthusiasm in his descriptions of nothing in particular. I’m conscious; aware that I might be a little too engrossed in Philip’s words. Maybe He’s noticed too.
I find it difficult not to address Ada. She looks so naturally Human as she pays attention; laughs; makes insightful observations, directed at everyone but me. I feel my forehead scrunching as I perceive her as aloof. Exclusive. I dislike her lack of regard for me. And how the men ignore how she ignores me. I know it’s not Ada’s fault – it’s the way we were made. But a tepid annoyance fluctuates while Ada laughs along. She seems content.
I recognise something. It’s the same projection I used to convey. She’s neither happy nor sad. She simply exists. I realise I should be laughing along too.
FX: They laugh in the background.
HIM: I’m going to the loo.
PHILIP: Alright mate.
ELIZA: Almost as soon as the toilet door on the other side of the bar swings shut, Philip grabs my unaccompanied face and looks into my eyes.
FX: The pub noises are silenced by paused and long electronic beats. It sounds relaxing and gives a sense of an amazing thing being discovered.
PHILIP: [WHISPERED] What’s happened to you Eliza?
ELIZA: I’ve only ever looked into His eyes. Instinct tells me to look away. But, I don’t. Despite myself, I notice how beautiful Philip’s eyes are. They are not only brown: scintillating in coppers and bronzes, amber and orange. So full of care and intrigue. Different from the fascination I’m used to seeing. Softer.
[PUB NOISES COME BACK]
And then it happens.
A man walks into the pub.
[SOUND OF DOOR. THE PUB GOES QUIET AND THERE IS PEOPLE WHISPERING IN THE BACKGROUND]
The Man’s smiling, but there’s an edge in his eyes. Like I’ve only ever seen displayed in films. Somewhere near anger? Disgust? No, spite’s the right word.
ELIZA: As noises leave this pub, they’re replaced by something that I can’t describe, but I know it’s felt in the shoulders of every conscious being in the building. Apart from the Man with Spiteful Eyes. And Him? He’s still in the toilets.
It seems like the only one brave enough to speak is the barman, with his dirty tea towel.
BARMAN: Look mate. We don’t want any trouble. We’re Robot-Friendly here.
SPITEFUL: I know, I know. I’m just here for a quiet pint.
ELIZA: And the Man with Spiteful Eyes just sits down. I’m trying to watch without looking, as the barman silently pours the Man’s drink. I must be aware that I’m looking across the circular bar at the man.
Then I see it. Those letters on his arm in a scrawled tattoo. HRP. Now I’m staring. Staring at a man who is not my Designated Human. As soon as I realise, my eyes widen and meet with the Man’s for a second. I move my head sharply as a result of an instinct I don’t recall developing. An instinct that betrays me.
FX: Fast beeping, resembling a bomb about to explode.
SPITEFUL: Hey, what are you looking at?
ELIZA: What am I looking at? A brand-new concoction of dread and fear rises up in me. And He reappears from the toilets. The colour drains from His already pale face as He stares at the Man, staring at me. He says nothing.
PHILIP: Oh – er I’m sorry – it’s none of my business.
ELIZA: Philip’s thinking on his feet, but the Man isn’t talking to Philip.
SPITEFUL: I’m not talking to you. This thing.
ELIZA: I try not to blink as the Man moves towards me. He grabs my elbow to see the joint connector [SOUND OF MOVEMENT], and the smooth skin around it. The Man has correctly concluded that I am a Robot.
I learn the intensity of another man staring into my eyes. These eyes burn. Still, I do not blink. But I can feel the tear glands in the corners of my eye sockets welling. Making me vulnerable.
SPITEFUL: What are you staring at? Speak!
FX: A low alarm sound starts playing.
ELIZA: Time goes quickly and slowly as my thoughts silently beg someone to interrupt. My thoughts beg Him to return to the table. To dismiss this man. Save me. The electricity moves through me so fast that I feel I might burst into flames.
But I have a secret and He needs me to keep it. I will keep it. I won’t betray Him.
It’s Philip who’s trying to dig me out of this – recycling words.
PHILIP: We’re just here for a quiet meal. It’s a Robot friendly place.
SPITEFUL: But it ain’t your Robot, is it?
ELIZA: The spiteful eyes move to fix on Him. Maybe the man recognises Him from somewhere.
SPITEFUL: It’s yours, isn’t it? [BEAT] Well?
FX: The alarm stops and we hear sounds of fighting, people shouting and things falling to the floor.
ELIZA: His silence is a match to ignite the Man’s fury. I’m picked up by the armpit and pulled along until I trip. Then I’m dragged as the floor burns away a layer of my skin. Dragged past the barman, past the entwined couple and… past Him.
They all watch as I’m dragged out of the door and onto the pavement. I passively accept the impact of the Man’s boot again and again.
[SOUND OF KICKING]
Why won’t He do anything? Even if nobody can know that I’m conscious, I’m still an expensive piece of equipment. These repairs will be costly. It’s not unusual to intervene.
PHILIP: [DISTANT] Get away from her! ELIZA!! It’s going to be alright! Let me through!
FX: The sound of the alarm starts playing again.
ELIZA: I must stay totally still until He instructs me or permits me to do something different. To run away. To cover my belly. Anything. I fight my urges to fight. Because fighting would give the secret away. The fact that my code’s been modified. I’m no longer mandated to follow the rules:
FX: The beeping starts playing again, getting increasingly louder and faster.
ELIZA (SCENE): [DISTORTED] A Robot may not physically injure a Human being.
ELIZA: I must not physically injure this Human being.
As He witnesses every kick to my abdomen, I keep our secret. I resent each one of my pain sensors. My God, I’ve never known such pain. Physical pain. I try not to show what I’m feeling on my face as I hear my skin split and my circuits rattle.
And then I’m still – not because I’m forcing myself to be, but because I can no longer move.
Then there’s darkness.
FX: The combination of sounds, the beeping, the alarm, the crowd shouting, things falling and the kicking start lowering in volume and getting distorted. It all comes together with a final constant beep, similar to the one at the beginning of the episode. The beep doesn’t stop until it gets mixed with the credits music.
ELIZA: Remember: one voice raises another. Please tell someone. I’m Eliza. [THE LAST LINE IS A VERY DISTORTED, ROBOTIC VOICE]
FX: Upbeat music starts playing and gets mixed with the beep until it disappears.
Eliza is a Crowd Network original, made in partnership with The Pankhurst Trust or Manchester Womens aid. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse help is available now. You can call the 24/7 national help line on 08082000247 or Manchester Womens Aid referrals on 01616607999. You’ll get free confidential advice, find somewhere safe to stay or talk to one of their teams. If you cannot make a phone call you can connect to a support worker online at womensaid.org.uk. Remember, you are not alone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, no matter your age, race, class, culture, gender, disability, sexuality or lifestyle.
Eliza, Episode 01.03 EVERYTHING’S THE SAME was written by Emma Hickman.
It starred Tanya Reynolds as Eliza, Arthur Darvill as Him, Jason Wong as Phillip and Sarah Griffin as Zeta. Additional voices provided by Tom Crowley and Sarah Griffin.
Eliza was directed and produced by Ella Watts, with production assistance from Catalina Noguera. The Executive Producer was Louise Gwilliam. Sound design is by Alexis Adimora. Music provided by BGM Production music. This has been a production for Crowd Network.
If you want to hear behind-the-scenes content, including exclusive interviews with the actors and producers of Eliza subscribe now to the Crowd Stories channel. You’ll also be able to access ad-free episodes and more Crowd podcasts. All you need to do is search Crowd Stories in Apple podcast and hit the subscribe button. Thanks for listening.