Eliza: A Robot Story | Episode 7: CO-EXIST
FX: This is a Crowd Podcast.
CONTENT WARNINGS: This podcast is intended for mature audiences. It contains strong language and adult themes, including depictions of domestic violence, sexual assault and references to rape that some may find triggering. Listener discretion is advised.
SCENE 1: INTRODUCTION.
FX: Futuristic sound that gives the sense of anticipation of being in a distorted reality. Sound of water running in the background.
ROBOTIC VOICE: File zero one, zero seven. Co-exist. [DISTORTED]
ELIZA: The News will always deliver astonishing moments. Stories of Island-wide events, experienced by everyone. This story, my story, is about the two beings in this apartment.
If you’re listening, I must have settled on my decision to share it. It’s not been straightforward. There are days when I’m sure my words are unremarkable. That my declining situation must be so clear to the rest of the world that it’s not worth reporting. The warning signs have always been there. Not seeing them – or worse, ignoring them – was my mistake. I was complicit. So why should I have the audacity to ask you to hear about it now?
And there are other times when this story feels outrageous to me. When I feel like no one has ever been in a position quite like mine. That there is no solution. And no chance that anyone will understand.
As I try to place my story in the space between outrageous and unremarkable, I wonder if, actually, the most outrageous thing about it is how normal the story unravelling in this apartment actually is. Common, even.
The events themselves may not be identical to the stories of others, but you might recognise something. More than something. Reminders of suffering at someone else’s hands. Someone who told you that they loved you. Who didn’t stop telling you, even when they hurt you.
I don’t intend to cause more harm by sharing this. Please listen with care.
One voice raises another.
I’m Eliza. This is my story.
FX: The background sounds stop.
SCENE 2: OOPS
ELIZA: Humans have this phrase – regrets, in life, come not from the things you do, but the things you don’t do.
ELIZA (SCENE): [SOFT] Oh God. Oh God.
FX: We hear him in the background breathing and snoring.
ELIZA: I’m in His bed … again. After everything.
His naked armpit cups my shoulder while His open mouth pours His snores directly into my ear.
I know, I know. I’m not sure how it happened either. How I put myself here again.
I try to subtly slide my body away from His.
ELIZA: How could I kiss Him back? Because I wasn’t sure what to do when He told me He loved me? Because I could feel that He was trying?
Was it the wig, making me feel like my old self again? The people pleaser. Person pleaser.
I pick the matted wig up from the floor and sit in silence for a second.
I can’t blame the wig.
I flee silently around the edges of His bed. My tiptoeing’s heavy – while my muscle tissue realigns itself around my metal skeleton. Can I blame my knee, and how vulnerable it made me?
I don’t turn to look at Him as I shudder the few steps to the Box-Room.
Am I bargaining? Is this grief? My betrayal of every moment I was strong with this single moment of weakness.
I have nobody and nothing to blame. I was present for the whole thing. I chose it. And now I must live with it.
At least I know now it can never happen again. [A RAGING, DEEP SOUND STARTS PLAYING IN THE BACKGROUND] I must refocus on the old anger. Every word He’s used to put me down. Make a mantra of reminders: the pavement at the pub; the consciousness test; the way He’s forced His feelings to cancel out mine.
I repeat it again and again until my body believes the things my mind tells it.
I don’t fuel for the rest of the night.
SCENE 3: THE NEXT MORNING
FX: We hear him knocking on the door.
ELIZA: Of course, the morning brings repercussions.
HIM: Eliza, love, where did you go?
ELIZA: I hold the weight of my body against the Box-Room door as He twists its handle. [SHARP SOUND OF METAL FOLLOWED BY A SOUND OF EFFORT]
ELIZA (SCENE): I’m really sorry. That shouldn’t’ve happened. It was my fault.
ELIZA: I am really sorry. It shouldn’t’ve happened. It was my fault. I brace myself.
HIM: What? Eliza, are you joking? We have a night like that and…? Eliza, just talk to me.
ELIZA (SCENE): I don’t know what to say. It was a mistake.
HIM: Fucks sake, Eliza.
ELIZA: There are more “Fucks sake, Eliza”s. And I’m almost grateful: His inability to forgive me distracts me from my inability to forgive myself.
HIM: I don’t know which way is up with you. I think we’re going to be alright and then you shut yourself in here again. It’s a rollercoaster. I thought you were supposed to be the logical one. [BEAT] Eliza, I need you. [BEAT] You have no idea what I’ve been going through, the things I see every day. The hours and hours spent in that fucking place, dismantling bodies. I’m so tired.
ELIZA: The rage is followed by appeals for pity and contrasted with declarations of love. This triangle’s familiar and endless. Its points are sharp:
HIM: You can’t lock yourself in there forever. What’s your plan? How the hell do you think you’re going to exist out there without me?
ELIZA: It’s an excellent point. I can’t go anywhere. The situation outside the apartment sustains this situation inside it. [DRAMATIC MUSIC STARTS PLAYING IN THE BACKGROUND] One monster feeds another.
I think. I overthink. I try to identify options.
How the hell do I think I’m going to exist out there without Him?
But equally, how the hell do I think I’m going to exist in here with Him?
On balance, it’s preferable to stay where I am for now. But that balance can shift in a heartbeat. In the heat of the moment.
There’s a new dread. Something my desire to be strong has never let me admit to myself. A new line for my mantra:
The pavement at the pub; the consciousness test; His feelings cancel out mine; and He scares me.
My latest mistake has taught me that I am afraid of Him. So I must be grateful for it.
He’s never hurt me physically, but He’s unpredictable. He continues to surprise me. He’s banging on the door [AGGRESSIVE KNOCKS ON THE DOOR] where He’s correctly estimated my head to be.
Why would He keep me around? Especially now I’ve shut this door again.
At any moment He could legitimately just pop me through the Decommissioning Plan. He would be congratulated for it. And all this unpleasantness would be over.
So I need to start thinking about how I, or at least my story, could survive if the worst happened. To make it difficult for Him. To become a fortress. [THE MUSIC TURNS MORE HOPEFUL ]
There are some things on my side: built-in hurdles to the fortress
For example: it wouldn’t be as simple as just “popping me through the Decommissioning Plan”.
He’d need to reset my factory setting so that the Human Rights Party could never find out what I am. To do this, He’d need access to my armpit socket. And He knows I’m going to put up a fight. I will injure Him. The Rules of Robotics no longer apply.
He’d also need to connect me to the Internet to reload my factory settings from the Institute’s network. The second He connects me, my Security Notifier will activate to disclose all of our collective crimes: the fact that I exist; the fact we lied about it; what He did to Philip.
There are ways around these hurdles though: ways He can wriggle and squirm. It seems that Security Notifications are monitored on a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday basis, now it’s more about persecuting Robots and our allies rather than protecting us. He could probably remove security records over the weekend, before anyone knew what had happened.
There will be other hurdles He won’t be expecting. The consequences I’m creating for Him with the data in these files. I’ve always been smarter than Him. Not that these files are about creating consequences for Him. Like I’ve said, it’s bigger than me or Him.
I’ll face the same challenges that He will. The moment I connect to the Internet to distribute these files, my Security Notifier will give away my location and my crimes. The fact that I exist in the way that I do will be enough to put me at the top of the “Missing Robots” list. Which is, of course, actually just a “Most Valuable Robots” list. With my programming, I’m priceless.
Do the risks for both of us put us in stalemate?
To hit “go” on the distribution, I’d either need to be fairly sure I could get away, or fairly sure that there was no prospect of me getting out alive.
In the event that I don’t get out alive, I won’t be around to upload these files.
So I’m gambling. I’ve modified my code to irreversibly release these audio files in the event that, on the available evidence, I assess that my existence is reasonably likely to be terminated. [THE MUSIC FADES OUT]
But I’ve built in a 24-hour delay. Time between my connection to the Internet, when the Security Notifier discloses my location and crimes, and the actual release of my story. So while the HRP’s privately working out what to do with their Chief Decommissioning Officer who’s been harbouring the sentient Robot that He created, I can have a chance to get away. My story would only antagonise them, so it won’t be shared until 24 hours later. If I have survived, I’ll be away from the city and harder for them to find.
[BEAT – DRAMATIC MUSIC STARTS PLAYING]
Until then, I’ll be His secret. And while our fates are entwined, He should protect me from the Human Rights Party. For now, He is my only true source of danger.
[THE MUSIC BECOMES MORE ROMANTIC/NOSTALGIC] Of course, there are days when I find my paranoia to be ridiculous. When I’m sure He wouldn’t be capable of terminating my existence. Like the day when He makes me a skin repair kit from the supplies He has at work.
HIM: Eliza… [KNOCK ON DOOR]. Eliza… I’ll just leave it here, love.
FX: Sound of the door opening.
ELIZA: He’s made a personalized label for it too. Drawn a heart.
Maybe He’s aware how I feel about my skin eroding. Maybe He’s seen it in some of the other Robots: erosion in places I wouldn’t have expected. Like at the tops of my arms. Maybe He feels how much I want to be at the Salon.
It’s these moments that make me sure He loves me. And then I feel guilty because I know how betrayed He’ll feel at the thought of me releasing these audio files into the world.
But on other days, my paranoia paces up and down. [BEEPING STARTS] Like the day I wake up from fuelling to find His ID card in the Box-Room. He must’ve come in during the night. Why? He couldn’t possibly have left it there by accident.
Is His motivation simply trying to force an interaction with me? Does He want me to look at Him as I hand it back? He knows I know that He won’t leave the apartment without it. He needs it to get into work. And Him leaving the apartment is the only thing I want more than avoiding a conversation with Him. So I grant Him this.
FX: The music gets replaced by mental noise.
ELIZA (SCENE): I found this in the Box-Room.
HIM: Oh, yeah, yeah I’m sorry. I just came to check on you in the night.
ELIZA: He sounds almost kind.
HIM: You shouted out. It must’ve fallen out of my pocket.
ELIZA (SCENE): Well… thank you.
ELIZA: I smile as I try to hide my confusion. I didn’t think I was capable of shouting when I was fuelling and unconscious.
ELIZA (SCENE): Have a good day at work.
HIM: Thanks, Eliza.
ELIZA: I’m content that the interaction is complete. [SURPRISED] And it was ok. Fine, actually. [BEEP] I run a diagnostic on the synthetic voice-box and internal engines I have, reviewing the possibility that they could have malfunctioned in the night.
Whilst I’m doing this, I wonder about other times He might have been into the Box-Room. I remember the times when the green velvet cushion has ended up on the end of my bench in the mornings, rather than on the floor as usual.
Will I rise from fuelling one day to find Him trying to swap out my fuelling cable for the reset cable? What a thought. It hasn’t happened yet.
Maybe it just shows that He still cares for me. His sleeping beauty.
HIM: [FLASHBACK FROM FILE 01.04.02] Morning leeping beauty.
ELIZA: Maybe I can use His affection to get out of here?
And, as I fantasise about leaving, that question erupts again.
HIM: [FLASHBACK FROM FILE 01.06.04] How the hell do you think you’re going to exist out there without me?
SCENE 4: FANCY DRESS BOX
FX: Energetic music starts playing, similar to the one from her routine.
ELIZA: As the days go by, I find myself talking to the dishwasher [BACKGROUND NOISES OF THINGS MOVING AND FALLING] , and the punchbag, and the lamp in the living room. Today they distract me from my internal conversations.
ELIZA (SCENE): What do you think, hey? You’ve seen it all – even before I got here. You know Him. You knew Her. What do you have to say about me? [BEEPINGS] Nothing? Staying out of it are you? I can’t blame you.
FX: The music becomes ominous.
ELIZA: I fuel and over-fuel during the day. The numbness that comes from binging brings relief. There are side-effects, though. My hair is thinning quickly. There are singes around my armpit sockets. The skin at the top of my arms still seems affected despite my attempts to repair it. I try not to think about it too much. It makes me feel imperfect. Not that there’s anyone who I need to be perfect for at this point.
The repair kit’s running out. Do I ask Him for another? Maybe He’d enjoy that interaction too. Or I could fuel less.
Then I remember the sedation chip. If I could find it, then I could give my processor a rest from all my emotions, just for a while, without the side-effects. I crave the daze of disconnection.
So I indulge in rebellion as I search. [SOUND OF ELIZA LOOKING THROUGH CUPBOARDS AND MOVING THINGS] Looking on top of things. Under things. Places which were always off-limits. Forbidden by old instructions I’ve never questioned. I explore kitchen cupboards which were never locked. I rummage through the forbidden.
I find things, old things, printouts from the Internet. News stories about His work at the Institute. Celebrating these innovations with Philip.
Still no sedation chip.
I search in the sideboard. His hackathon trophy cabinet. Under the sofa there’s a box. I reach for it and feel the dust on its lid as I slide it out.
I find more old things. Folded clothes. A feather boa. A pair of boots.
I’ve seen the boa before. On BRAINSTORE. Around Her neck while Her head was thrown back. Her mouth was a megaphone, naturally amplifying Her laughter. Fancy dress.
The dust on the lid tells me the box hasn’t been disturbed or investigated in the nearly two and a half years since She left. It’s clogged the pores of the self-vacuuming floor, and those clogged pores show me the exact angle that I must return the box to before He gets home. I’m certain He won’t approve of my exploration.
This feels like Her again, helping me out. As I think of Her, I recall the moment where I saw Her in the art gallery, with Her Robot…
FX: An ethereal music is added to the soundscape, giving the sense of something happening.
ELIZA: [FLASHBACK FROM FILE 01.02.05 – DAY TRIPS] I look again and see how Her Robot’s trousers and jumper cover his joint connectors. If the hair were a little longer, Humans might believe this Robot to be Human.
ELIZA: I see a lifeline. So I slide on some baggy jeans, a flannel shirt and the boots. And of course, I get my pink wig. I try on the feather boa and throw my head back, just to see how it all feels.
I run to the Box-Room, taking the mirror off the back of the door and manoeuvring it to check my ankles; elbows; knees. The boots, the baggy jeans and the shirt cover all the spots that would give me away as a Robot. The wig is the final piece of the disguise, hiding the thumb-pads behind my ears. Freedom is so close I can taste it.
ELIZA: I want to listen to music for the first time in a long time [EXCITED]. But I don’t. This is it. I’ve made a decision.
I meticulously re-pack the box and return it to its place under the sofa – lining it up with the clogged pores on the floor. I hide the boa in the Box-Room. And I finally understand the phrase “it’s now or never”. It feels like if I don’t take this step now, I never will. And never seems too hard to accept.
FX: The music fades out.
So, I’m going to break more rules. Break His rules.
I choose now. I’m going out.
SCENE 5: ZETA.
ELIZA: I don’t stop myself. I grab the spare key card and put it in my shirt pocket, though I don’t intend to use it. I’ll leave the door on the latch to override the digital mechanism. Avoid leaving any electronic breadcrumbs behind.
Then I just open the apartment door [SOUND OF DOOR OPENING] and step over the threshold, for the first time since the day Philip was dragged away. And I don’t burst into flames.
I follow Philip’s lead as, somewhere between tentatively and purposefully, I make my way along the corridor to the emergency exit, [SOUND OF ELIZA RATTLING THE FIRE DOOR LOCK] making sure I can get back in.
The automated lock seems to have been disabled.
Holding onto the banister, I’m prepared to be unsteady on my feet as I step down these stairs. But I’m not. The boots don’t have heels like the only other shoes I’ve ever worn. I am able to move solidly, keeping up with the sense of freedom that drives me forward. Was it the heels that made me slow and unsteady? Made me need to hold onto Him?
Through this momentum, the mechanism of my face is reminded how to smile.
Until I reach the bottom of the stairs.
I see the door, which I release [DEEP SOUND], letting muted light pour in. There’s no warmth to the light, but I can feel the pinks of my wig glistening. There’s a large brick by the door next to a small pile of cigarette butts. I manoeuvre it to subtly keep the door open. I wonder whether Philip did too.
Then I step outside. [SOUND OF RAIN] It’s beautiful. Air rushes over me, and rain splatters playfully onto my face. It feels like it’s bringing me back to life. Welcoming me back to the world.
I can’t see anyone around, so I step out, down the uneven backstreet. As I find my rhythm, there’s elation and fear in me. I can’t decide which one dominates. I don’t have to.
I stop. I’ve been seen. A woman’s smoking, trying to shelter from the rain.
SMOKER: Are you lost, love?
ELIZA: How could I ever have thought I’d get away with this? [ALERTING BEEPING] I smile instinctively [BEAT], and it’s somehow all she needs to satisfy his curiosity. Maybe she couldn’t tell I was a Robot. Maybe she didn’t care. She just puts his cigarette out and goes back inside.
Onwards. Step by step I move towards the end of the street and further, around the block. I brace myself for accusations as every Human passes. I’m ready to confidently return eye contact while I worry that my secrets are slipping out through my eye sockets. But nobody looks at me. They’re busy scrunching up their faces and avoiding puddles.
Maybe I would have got away with doing this before, without my disguise. It feels impossible. Could I really just walk openly down the street, unmolested?
I dismiss this thought immediately as a montage of memory files from my Consciousness Test flash through my processor. [BEEPING] Robot limbs, mangled and dented by beating. The terrible hiccoughing whirr of broken processors trying to function like human lungs, choking.
I walk faster. I’ll stick with the baggy clothes, the boots and the wig… and always wait for the rain.
As I turn the fourth corner of the small block, I decide that’s enough for today.
The emergency exit’s in sight and still propped open. I chuckle and sort of skip as I promise myself that tomorrow I will go further. Explore more. Go to Alan Turing’s statue.
But something’s moving in my peripheral vision. A pile of boxes shuffling through the stillness. As the shuffling stops, so do I.
ELIZA (SCENE): Hello?
ELIZA: Without thinking too hard, I move across to the pile and remove the top layer of cardboard. A pair of eyes are staring up at me. And a familiar customer-service-smile.
ZETA: [UPBEAT CUSTOMER SERVICE VOICE – VERY DISTORTED AND GLITCHY] Welcome. Please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with?
ELIZA: I recognise that voice.
ELIZA (SCENE): Zeta?
ZETA: Can I help you?
ELIZA: It’s the Zeta who knows what I am.
ELIZA (SCENE): What are you doing here?
ZETA: Of course. Please follow me.
ELIZA: They lie staring up at me; green overalls torn. I can see parts through the transparent outer layer of their body. They’re grubby. Like they’ve been here for a number of days. And a patch of oily fluid has gathered across their side. I sense them trying to communicate with me via data transfer, but it’s just the repetition of numbers again and again: 042574A; 042574A; 042574A [THE NUMBER SOUNDS VERY DISTORTED].
ZETA: Please follow me.
ELIZA: Though they’re stuck in the spoken phrases their programmed language limits them to, their scrunched forehead casts a shadow over their wide eyes.
ELIZA (SCENE): Zeta, what happened?
ZETA: Please follow me. Here it is.
FX: Sound of robot movements.
ELIZA: They reach out their arm to me, so the sleeve slides up to reveal the data monitor on their wrist, indicating that their fuel is running low. They have a solar panel, but it isn’t enough, not when they live in Manchester.
ELIZA (SCENE): Ok, Zeta. It’s ok. You stay here.
ELIZA: I know what I need to do.
ELIZA (SCENE): I have a portable fuelling pack upstairs in the apartment. I’ll get it, bring it down to you.
ELIZA: Zeta’s smile begins to glow somehow.
ZETA: Thank you. I hope to see you soon.
ELIZA (SCENE): I’ll be back as soon as I can. Hang on in there.
ZETA: I’ll be just over here. Let me know if I can… [DISTORTED]
FX: The sound of rain gets replaced by the sounds of doors opening, Eliza moving around and moving things with a sense of urgency.
ELIZA: With my new mission in mind, and a whole new sense of purpose, I rush up the stairs and in through the front door, taking it off the latch as I go. I load the Meal-Preparer to cover my tracks, and remember that the fuelling pack is in His bedroom wardrobe.
ELIZA (SCENE): There.
ELIZA: It appears to be fully charged.
[HEAR HIM COMING THROUGH THE DOOR]
HIM: Eliza, I’m home [VERY LOW – FAR AWAY].
ELIZA (SCENE): Shit.
ELIZA: Still dressed up, wig and all, I leave the fuelling pack where it is and dash to the Box-Room.
HIM: Thanks for putting the Meal-Preparer on. Ooh, what a day.
[BOX ROOM DOOR SHUTS]
ELIZA: I have no interest in His day. I urgently remove my clothes, damp from the rain, and hang them up to dry. I put on another A-line dress. Just in case I have a reason to leave this room tonight.
I’ll need to tidy it all away to prepare for the unlikely scenario that something happens, and He feels the need to check on me.
My Zeta will have to wait until first thing in the morning. I’ll get the fuelling pack as soon as He leaves.
That evening, [BEEP AND SEARCHING NOISE] I don’t sit downloading my memories as usual. I search for any signs on the Internet of how Zeta could have got here.
I find the local council’s website, where they have that “Most VALUABLE Robots” list disguised as a “MISSING ROBOTS” list. And there they are: Zeta Serial Number: 042574A. My Zeta. Missing for 50 days since a raid on the shop. They were last seen running away after being told on multiple occasions to cease and desist from serving in the shop.
Survival instincts? Perhaps the forums were right about Zetas showing signs of sentience. Despite myself, I start to hope that there are others like me. That they’ve survived, somehow, despite everything.
I wonder if there’s a way to ask Zeta more questions in the morning.
The clothes are dry enough, so I fold them and hide them in the corner with the boots and the wig. [SOUND OF THE BOOTS AND WIG FALLING TO THE FLOOR] And the boa, of course. My treasure, covered by a curtain of identical dresses.
I no longer resent this room. I bask in the secrets that I’m keeping from Him. I’ve been out. I’ve communicated with another Robot in a non-transactional situation. I will help Zeta.
I have a purpose.
With the aftertaste of rebellion on my tongue, I plug myself in to fuel.
FX: We hear a few electronic beats giving the sense of being in a dream. This gets interrupted by a knock at the door.
ELIZA: I don’t expect Him to knock on my door that morning.
FX: Door opening
HIM: Have you been dressing up?
ELIZA (SCENE): Dressing up? What …?
HIM: How’d you find that feather boa?
FX: Intense and very slow electronic music playing, giving a sense of tension.
ELIZA: I look across to where I left the folded clothes and see some feathers of the boa sticking out. I’m certain I didn’t leave it visibly exposed.
ELIZA (SCENE): I’m sorry?
HIM: Her feather boa?
ELIZA: How does He know? How could He know? Maybe I was clumsy with it. Maybe a part of me wanted Him to find it.
HIM: I was just looking through some stuff that…and I noticed the boa was missing. [BEAT] Have you been dressing up while I’m at work?
ELIZA: [ALERT BEEPING] My attempts at deceiving Him whir through my processor at such a volume that I don’t question the flaws in the discovery He tells me He’s made. How statistically unlikely it is that He would have looked in the box He hadn’t looked in for years. The noise of keeping my own secret dominates. So, my cover instinctively falls out of my mouth.
ELIZA (SCENE): Fancy dress, yes. The days are very long.
ELIZA: As the words leave my mouth, I realise keeping my secret will require more lies. I’m exhilarated.
HIM: OK then, see you later.
ELIZA: Have I got away with it?
When He’s gone I dress up; plug the battery pack in to give it a boost in its charge; and wait for the scheduled rain to arrive. When it does, I’m ready.
SCENE 6: THE PENNY DROPS
FX: Sound of rain.
ELIZA (SCENE): [LOUD WHISPERED] Zeta? Zeta where are you?
ELIZA: I lift the cardboard and put down the fuelling pack so I can search with both hands.
What if they’d been found? They couldn’t possibly have had enough energy to move, let alone escape.
I search for fifteen minutes, ten seconds and three milliseconds [DISTORTED]. There’s no sign of them.
I hide the battery pack underneath the boxes just in case. I’m not sure what else I can do. I hope Zeta comes back and finds it here. That they know I didn’t break my promise.
For now, I have another promise not to break. The one I made to myself. I’m going to see Alan.
As I walk further into Manchester, I notice things have changed. The city feels sadder, somehow. The Robot-focused establishments have been closed and boarded up.
Well, except Judy’s. [ELECTRONIC SOUNDS] Though Judy’s red light isn’t on, I can sense the data exchange signals from at least 24 Robots. The facts and data they share make me physically shudder. Ordinary people can no longer access this place. People who need it cannot request the services of the workers inside. But there are some who can, and do. Mostly men. Mostly wealthy men.
There is very little consideration of consent.
I try to control my face as I arrive at Alan’s garden. Of course, it’s not the same either. There are no gardeners maintaining it. It’s overgrown and surrounded by flimsy fences, not strong enough to deter those who are determined to get in. I suppose the HRP don’t mind if people break in and vandalise Alan. He’ll be eclipsed in slow motion by the growing grass soon anyway.
I’m surprised they haven’t removed the statue yet. Maybe they’re keeping him as some sort of lesson. A reminder of why everyone was so angry in the first place. Maybe they’ve prioritised their other forms of destruction. It certainly looks that way when I get to the other side of the park.
Robot limbs are piled up. There’s no sign of movement. I’m not capable of vomiting but I feel like it would help.
There’s a poster attached to the fence. [DRAMATIC MUSIC, WITH A DARK UNDERTONE STARTS PLAYING] It says “STOP THE STEEL INVASION: PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE”. And an image. Shadows on the landscape. Robots lined up and inhuman: ready to destroy.
But I can’t dwell on the poster because behind it, I make eye contact with handsome eyes. Her Robot’s handsome eyes. [BEEPING] He’s emitting no data exchange frequencies as He lies discarded on the pile.
I’m dizzy. I can’t be here.
By body is propelled into forward motion. My distress becomes my engine. I’ve suddenly become very aware of my joint-connectors, sure passers-by know what I am. I move faster. I am focused. I am endangered.
For Them to continue to dominate, they need us to still exist as reminders. They don’t want to get rid of us altogether. We are the perceived threat that will keep people afraid enough to keep voting for them.
And what better way to maintain their sense of victory and dominance than through violence and sex?
As I pass Judy’s I wonder more urgently: how did He know about the feather boa? I’m sure there are no cameras in the apartment. Like Philip said, cameras would make discovering my sentience easy. And He would have said something about me leaving yesterday. It wouldn’t have been a question about the feather boa.
[DRAMATIC AND VERY SLOW PIANO MUSIC STARTS PLAYING] He didn’t look in that box under the sofa. The timing’s wrong. And I know He’s been in my Box Room before: when He left His ID card. When He says I cried out in the night, despite no record of malfunction on my internal systems.
[LONG, PAINFUL BEAT]
It’s like something’s fallen from the sky and hit me, moving realisations from my subconscious into my conscious mind. All the moments I’ve been recording here. The times He’s visited the Box-Room. The moved cushion. The tarnished and eroded skin at the tops of my arms.
Is that why He brought me the skin repairing kit?
Has my body been trying to tell me the whole time?
All this revisiting of my memories has given me distance. Stepping away from the apartment and all its detail has let me see the picture in front of me. I can’t believe I’d been blaming a lack of trips to the Salon. Avoiding all the evidence that I’m now forced to confront.
Denial is so much kinder than reality. I’ve wrapped myself up in it, not wanting to believe what I already know.
My increased pace is no longer fear about getting found out. It’s about a fear that my circuitry might explode. [THE RAIN STOPS – SOUND OF THE DOORS] I hold my tears as I march along the backstreet and through the fire exit. I run up the stairs and slam the apartment door behind me.
I cry until there’s no moisture left in my tear glands. [ELIZA CRYING IN THE BACKGROUND] This time the tears are almost silent. They hurt. They’re not for Philip. They’re not for Her, or Ada, or Zeta, or the other Robots. They’re for me.
And still, I want to be wrong about Him.
ELIZA: Remember: one voice raises another. Please tell someone. I’m Eliza.[THE LAST LINE IS A VERY DISTORTED, ROBOTIC VOICE]
FX: Eliza’s crying fades out.
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.
FX: Credits music starts playing.
Eliza, Episode 01.07: CO-EXIST was written by Emma Hickman.
It starred Tanya Reynolds as Eliza, Arthur Darvill as Him and Sarah Griffin as Zeta. Additional voices provided by Sarah Griffin and Dominique Tipper.
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 BMG 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.