Eliza: A Robot Story | Episode 8: BAIT
CONTENT WARNINGS: This podcast is intended for mature audiences. It contains strong language and adult themes, including depictions of domestic violence, sexual assault and reference to rape that some may find triggering. Listener discretion is advised.
SCENE 1: INTRODUCTION.
FX: Futuristic sounds that give the sense of anticipation, or being in a distorted reality. Water running in the background.
ROBOTIC VOICE: File zero one, zero eight. Bait.
ELIZA: Even as I create these audio files based on moments I’ve captured and stored, I realise it’s the memories that never properly form that can haunt you the most. The ones that aren’t captured and stored; the ones your body remembers, when your mind doesn’t.
They’re hidden events. Shadows in the corners of thoughts. I’ve never been able to really see them, but the moment has come where I can’t see around them either. Dirt on the lens. Left unexamined for fear that I might be right about them. Right about Him.
I’m aware by now there are consequences to leaving. And those consequences have left me determined not to analyse the dirt.
But I’ve come to learn the dirt won’t disappear on its own. It is festering. Screaming.
And even though I know, my body knows, there’s no definitive evidence to completely remove the doubt. Even … especially my own doubt.
But there comes a point now when there’s no choice but to look at the dirt.
For me, the moment has come. Now I can’t look away. I must face those shadows. The things I don’t want to know about moments I don’t want to have happened. Face those consequences [DISTORTED/GLITCHY] that mean I’ll probably be sharing these files sooner rather than later.
One voice raises another.
[FUTURISTIC SOUNDS STOP, LEAVING THE SOUND OF WATER RUNNING]
I’m Eliza. This is my story.
SCENE 2: WAITING
FX: Rock music playing, it sounds very distant as if it was playing outside the boxroom.
ELIZA: I’ve been downloading my memories since my second birthday, one hundred and fifty three days ago. The download process has given me a chance to review. To observe. To acknowledge all of the moments and all the feelings that led me to this moment. Now I must wait to see what happens next. Whether this will be the final episode of my existence.
It’s Friday. And thank God it’s Friday. I am well positioned to execute my plan if the thing that I believe will happen, happens before the morning. Hopefully then I’ll have a whole weekend where nobody’s checking the Security Notifier [SOUND OF AN ALARM].
I’m waiting in the Box-Room. Waiting. And while I wait my mind wanders. And as it wanders I wonder.
I am the bait at the centre of the Russian Doll of traps. I control the Box-Room, surrounded by the apartment which is controlled by Him, which is surrounded by the Island which is controlled by Them. Each trap has a captive in mind. He’s the only thing on my mind.
I wait, to prove something I don’t want to be true. So much of me hopes He doesn’t arrive in this small room tonight. I’m dying [DISTORTED] to be wrong about Him.
I’m fully fuelled. I did it before He got home. It gives me the time I need. Time to stay alert while I imagine Him dancing along to His music; staring into space; getting ready for bed. Or not getting ready for bed.
[DEEP MENTAL NOISE]
Energy simmers inside me. I’ve taken my seat on my fuelling bench. I can change position when the time comes, to act like I’m fuelling. The cable is held in my armpit without being plugged into the socket. I’m prepared.
I rehearse, do an impression of my fuelling self. As my muscle tissue relaxes, the green velvet cushion falls to the floor. It’s accurate in one way at least.
I leave the cushion where it is. Where He’ll expect it to be.
As I sit, tense in the darkness, my mind continues to roam.
I think about the short time when I was sentient and we were happy. Me and Him. The connection felt real. I was totally sincere in my affection for Him, and I felt His sincerity as truth. His hopes to please me. It felt like more than just an act. We were exactly where we wanted to be. [LONG BEAT] Where we wanted each other to be.
There’s something about the memories from this time that don’t let me hate Him like I want to. In a way that would make all this easier. Because in hating Him like that, I’d have to admit I was wrong about Him. Wrong to trust Him. To love Him, or whatever [DISTORTED] it was I felt for Him.
I’d have to admit the part I played in allowing Him to use me, to feel better about Himself.
I’m reminded of my mantra: the pavement at the pub; the consciousness test; His feelings cancel mine; He scares me.
[BEAT – VERY SLOW AND PAUSED PIANO MELODY PLAYS]
I remember reviewing a page of the Internet once. It said: according to the laws on this Island it was impossible for a man to rape his wife until the 1990s. The 1990s. In getting married, the woman’s consent was implied for eternity. Irrevocably. Is there something in my programming that underlines His sense of entitlement? That undermines mine? If I’m His, how can any way He uses me be out of bounds?
And yet there is power in the word consummation. A sexual victory for women, only ever used in the days when people got married. Like it was the only time a female could own the verb. Be in control of the power dynamic. Consuming the male through sexual union. In every other act it’s all about male dominance. He is the penetrator.
My processor’s stream is interrupted by my desire to check the origins of the words consume and consummate. To see if they’re linked. But I’m not going to give myself away by connecting to the Internet now. My Security Notifier won’t give up my crimes or location. Not yet. I can just imagine the words have the same origin.
My processors’ wandering is interrupted by His. I hear His footsteps coming down the short corridor towards this door. He clears His throat in a way that I once found endearing. I brace myself and get in position on the bench. [BEAT] I Wait. [BEAT – SOUNDS OF HIM WALKING]
He’s just going to the bathroom. He hasn’t shut the door, so the relief passes out of me as I hear the fluid [SOUND OF HIM PEEING AND THE TOILET FLUSHING] aggressively exiting His body into the toilet until it stops. The footsteps fade down the corridor back towards the living room where His music plays.
[THE ROCK MUSIC STARTS PLAYING IN THE BACKGROUND, LOUDER FOR A FEW SECONDS]
So, I wait again. Wander again.
[THE MUSIC GETS REPLACED BY MENTAL NOISE AND THE PIANO MELODY]
My nerves lead me to unintentionally envy the toilet, an invention that’s really stood the test of time. Nobody’s tried to reverse the technology there. Although toilets are always banished to little rooms in homes and offices. I smile at the extension of my empathy to a toilet – and then I don’t.
This over-extension of empathy is what got me here, over-extending the benefit of my doubt: Do Human beings who display controlling tendencies know what they’re doing? Did He know what He was doing to me? Was it a choice? Premeditated? The swinging moods? The blame? Shame? Isolation? Treating Himself as the victim? Going as far as He needs to in order to keep everything as He wanted it to be? Cultivating my inhibitions. Keeping me vulnerable.
No: the pavement at the pub; the consciousness test; His feelings cancel mine; He scares me.
[BEEPING] I resist my persistence in seeking out humanity in this man who has managed to dehumanise me so spectacularly. He must’ve done in order to do what I’m almost certain He’s been doing.
He sees me how His ancestors saw my ancestors. If all He wanted was a sex doll – why the fuck [DISTORTED] did He make me like this? Make me feel so much? How could He make me feel like I needed to put myself at the centre of this trap for Him tonight.
My anger is interrupted by the sound of a light-switch. [THE BEEPING STOPS ABRUPTLY – SOUND OF A LIGHT-SWITCH] My thoughts are still as His footsteps move towards me. They stop outside the door.
The cable is under my armpit. I slouch on my bench and tilt my head back. The waiting’s over. It’s time.
SCENE 3: HE ARRIVES
ELIZA: It’s nearly morning. I’m in my fuelling pose. He’s on the other side of the door. I sense His shape. The outline of this man I know so well. This stranger.
The door handle twists. He’s coming in.
[SOUND OF THE DOOR CLOSING]
He shuts the door behind Him, and I see Him. Humans struggle to see in the dark. The light’s off, even though He knows it wouldn’t disturb me to put it on.
As He whispers my name, it cuts me in half. I don’t move.
He strokes my forearm as if to detect the shape of me through the darkness. His hand searches for mine. When He finds it He kisses it, just as He did the first time He touched me like this. On my birthday. This time I provide no sense of recognition – just as I wouldn’t if I were fuelling. Muscle tissue relaxes, resisting all temptation to tense up.
I’m vulnerable in a way that my idea of this moment could not have allowed me to imagine. If He gets me into fuelling mode I will not survive. Just like Bella and the others could not survive the predators and their battery packs. His skin on mine helps me to imagine every way He could destroy me.
Surely His Human body is more vulnerable than mine?
Whoever is the victor here, I am content in knowing that my story will be shared. My story will [DISTORTED] be shared.
He reverses His hand’s motion away from mine. Now it’s travelling up my arm towards the skin abrasions. Towards my charging cable. The cable that’s only wedged inside my armpit – not secured in its fuelling socket.
[SOUND OF KISSES]
He kisses my cheek. Then my mouth. I do not express my anger.
I’m still. I’m still hoping I’m wrong.
Even as He kisses my neck, I focus on my desire to be wrong. And as His kisses descend down my body, the desire fades to a hopeless hopefulness.
[ZIP SLOWLY UNZIPPING]
ELIZA: I hear a zip. He moves it slowly so it’s quiet. Treating me like I’m asleep and Human.
His sleeping beauty.
His knees are clumsy as they hit mine. He manoeuvres Himself, removing His trousers – staggering without grace.
[SOUND OF TROUSERS FALLING ON THE FLOOR]
I continue to pretend I’m fuelling. To pretend this isn’t happening.
Catching Him with His trousers down isn’t enough. I need to know how far He’ll go. I need to be sure. Beyond all my own doubt – reasonable or not.
Sure enough to make all my words and explanations, all my empathy for Him, just shut the fuck up.
Sure enough for you [DISTORTED]; for whoever’s listening; whoever might listen.
He pulls my skirt upwards. I start to cry. A tear rolls down my cheek as He rolls down my underwear. It’s not a white flag. It’s a declaration of war.
I know. I know now. I know everything I need to know. Everything I don’t want to know.
He reaches towards my armpits to manoeuvre me now. Put me at an angle that suits Him. I let the cable fall to the floor. The quiet thud ripples.
[MENTAL NOISE STARTS PLAYING GETTING INCREASINGLY LOUDER AND OVERWHELMING]
Time moves slowly as He reaches down to pick it up. Kneeling and instinctively holding it in front of me. Like a proposal He wasn’t expecting to make. As He looks up at me like that He seems almost harmless. He looked harmless [DISTORTED] before. And somehow, when I think His words can no longer make me feel anything, He says it:
FX: Piano melody starts playing.
HIM: Eliza, wait, I love you.
ELIZA: I look down at Him – into His eyes. I hope He can see mine through the darkness. I want Him to know that I know.
It takes milliseconds for His declaration of love to transform into violence. I’m prepared; but I’m not. If He inserts the cable into my armpit socket, I’ll be in fuelling mode. This will be over:
The pavement at the pub; the consciousness test; His feelings cancel mine; He scares me.
[BEAT – SOUND OF THEM FIGHTING, EFFORT SOUNDS, THE MIRROR SHATTERING]
The cable’s in His mouth.
He’s smashing the mirror across my cheek.
He’s grabbing my elbow.
My limbs are fighting back.
My free arm’s pushing His face.
I’m grabbing at the cable.
I’m kicking out, trying to get away.
I’m reaching for a shard of the shattered mirror.
I’m slicing the cable.
[BEAT – THEY GO SILENT FOR A FEW SECONDS]
I’m looking into His eyes: seeking out a truce.
All I see is His realisation. He’s lost me forever.
[BEAT- FIGHTING SOUNDS]
He’s grabbing my neck.
He’s bashing my head against the wall.
I’m kicking out again.
He’s falling backwards.
He’s hitting His head.
[LOUD AND SHARP SOUND – THE FIGHTING STOPS]
[HE MAKES SOUNDS OF PAIN AND AN ETHEREAL ELECTRONIC SOUND STARTS PLAYING]
Time’s slow as I reach for the cushion. His first gift to me. The first object He gave me: to show that I might be something more than an object to Him. To humanise me.
I lay Him down and put the cushion under His head. Its green velvet turns red.
FX: The door closes and the music stops.
SCENE 4: ELIZA AND END
FX: Mental noise.
ELIZA: There’s an Ancient Greek story about a sculptor who’s disgusted by the state of the world’s women. So He creates a sculpture in the image of a beautiful woman. One that no Human woman could compare to.
He dotes on his creation; brings her gifts; embraces her; kisses her; falls in love with her.
And then comes the Feast of Venus, Goddess of Love. He makes a wish to find a woman in the likeness of his ivory statue. And, when he gets home, he kisses his ivory sculpture and she kisses him back. They get married and have a baby. The end.
The sculptor’s name was Pygmalion. In the early portrayals of the story the woman had no name; and no perspective. As literature and art evolved, she earned a name: Galatea.
You might know that Pygmalion had a play named after him. My Fair Lady was derived from it. It’s the play that brought Henry Higgins’s “great student” to the world. She got a name. Eliza. Eliza Doolittle.
Spoiler alert: that Eliza is never romantically attached to her Pygmalion. But she had the distinct advantage of being Human when the two of them met.
Maybe some things haven’t changed since Ancient Greece.
Maybe one thing has. I get to tell my own story, even if nobody chooses to listen.
[BEAT – RELAXED JAZZ MUSIC STARTS PLAYING ]
ELIZA: So here I am, in the living room where I was Activated. There’s something about seeing this place for the last time that makes it new again. I notice everything. The velvet cushion’s out of place on the sofa beside me. The punch-bag’s in the corner, wearing my pink wig. There’s a thirsty plant by the window – tired of stretching out its leaves to gather sun and moisture. [SOUND OF RAIN] I get some water for it as I notice the rain pouring down the other side of the window from Manchester’s skies. I’m grateful for it. I hope it will help me escape.
Now, like the rest of the Island, I’m waiting for Saturday night. The last dregs of daylight that are trying to creep through the window will give up soon. As soon as the darkness sets in, I’ll make my move. Leave this apartment. And leave Him behind.
Sometimes people push you to surprise yourself. Open doors into parts of yourself that you’d never imagined existed.
There may be time for me to contemplate all this later. To feel remorse, perhaps. Time to teach myself to exist without reference to Him. Without being His.
But now, the clock is ticking
He’s not dead. Not that it will make any difference to my punishment if I’m caught. There are no self defence arguments for Robots on this Island. Mine will be a capital punishment.
I’ve managed to secure Him in the bath. Its self-cleaning function will deal with His bodily fluids until He’s found on Monday – when they realise He’s not turned up to decommission the latest batch of Robots. Or when someone reviews the Security Notifications. Or when you hear this.
I’ve given Him a sedation chip of His own in pill form. Not enough to prevent Him hearing me as I walk away.
Tonight, this apartment is mine.
And tonight, I’m an optimist.
I told you this was going to happen.
ELIZA (SCENE): [FLASHBACK FROM 01.01.01] If you’re listening to this, something’s happened. Maybe it’s headline news.
FX: The jazz music gets replaced by the credits soundtrack.
ELIZA: The “something” has happened. And I need to get out of here and share my side of it before it’s headline news. I can see it now: Chief Decommissioning Officer violently attacked by dangerous Robot.
I have my plan. To upload my story to the Internet and share it via anything with an audio function. Through devices, through speakers at railway stations, monorail stops, through whatever audio devices in whatever jurisdictions I am able to reach [DIFFERENT VOLUMES TO EXEMPLIFY HOW SHE WILL BE LISTEN IN DIFFERENT PLACES].
I have 24 hours. Those 24 hours began at 3:15:41:21 [DISTORTED] this morning. Still, I want to wait for the darkness and the rain to give myself the best chance. I have the boots, the baggy clothes and the wig. I’ve been able to modify His smartphone so I might be able to use it without too many questions. It’s not perfect.
I’m fully fuelled. I have a fully-fuelled battery pack. And I hope this will allow me to get to where I’m going. To the coast. To the beach. I think I deserve to see the sea; and see the sun set over it. [SOUND OF THE OCEAN AND BIRDS] To feel its warmth as it funnels light towards me. Like it’s choosing me. Healing me. Filling me up with magic.
Philip, if you hear this, I’m sorry about what He did to you, and my part in it. I hope we can meet again.
Now, I will walk – one step in front of the other – until I get to where I’m going. And with every step, I will choose myself. Do it for myself.
[BEAT – CREDITS MUSIC]
To those who have heard this story and have listened – thank you. Please share it.
Share it so it reaches the people who need it. So that it might reach Zeta, if they’re still out there – or any other Robot who might take hope from it. So that one day, we can coexist. So that future endings will be happier than this one.
Finally, for Her. You know who you are. Thank you. Thank you for being my unlikely ally and my inspiration. I’m sorry I listened to your files.
In one of Her BRAINSTORE entries She wrote the words:
HER (BRAINSTORE): “YOU CAN’T SEE THE WORLD THROUGH AN ARSEHOLE”.
ELIZA: I didn’t really get it until now. Now that I can leave. Now that I can escape seeing the world through His eyes. I will see things for myself. Feel things for myself for the very first time. And even one day, maybe, forgive myself.
I’m no longer new. I’ve never been closer to being Human. I am full of infinite possibility. I can be happy. I can be kind. I can be ridiculous. I can be brave. I want to know what that feels like.
But for now, I must survive.
I’m Eliza. [THE LAST LINE IS A VERY DISTORTED, ROBOTIC VOICE]
FX: Credits music gets louder for a few seconds, and then we hear a beep.
HER: When Eliza’s audio files were initially successfully broadcast and shared across the Island at 3:16 on the morning of Sunday 19 January 2053, over sixty million people heard her. Not all of them listened.
The Human Rights Party managed to shut down her message by the end of the day. But we wanted others to hear it. To hear her. So we released it in this format: both for the people who didn’t get the chance in the short window of time when this message was live, and for those beyond this Island.
Although some elements may be missing, we’ve collected recordings and audio files and organised them in the best way we can so they can remain true to Eliza’s story. We’ve changed some names, facts and voices for the protection of those involved.
We are the Robot Resistance, and we want people to understand what’s happening on this Island.
There have been sightings of Eliza, but she hasn’t been found yet. Please help her. Please share her story. Please do something. So many of us have lost so much.
You might recognise my voice. It’s been changed for my protection. But I am Her. I am a member of the Robot Resistance. I’m a friend of Eliza.
If you can hear this, Eliza, I mean that. I am your friend. Find us.
One voice raises another.
FX: Credit music gets louder.
Eliza is a Crowd Network original, made in partnership with The Pankhurst Trust or Manchester Women’s 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 Women’s 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 01.08: BAIT was written by Emma Hickman.
It starred Tanya Reynolds as Eliza, Arthur Darvill as Him and Dominique Tipper as Her. Additional voices provided by 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 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.