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Yona's Android

Michelle Denham lives and writes in the desert. Her stories have previously appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, and A Future Fire.
"Tell me again about the dragons."
Yona's android stands at the edge of the dome, pressing her hand against the glass wall and looking out into the wastelands of the asteroid.
"I have told you about the dragons, Ha-yoon. Come away from there," Minji says. Irrationally, she wants to say, You will smudge the glass, except Ha-yoon's silver hand would do no such thing.
"But I want to hear about the dragons again," Ha-yoon says, not moving away from the glass.
Minji wonders if Yona programmed the android to be disobedient. But that's a stupid thing to wonder about as well, and Minji curses herself for having so many stupid thoughts on this outing. Yona's android is (many experts have assured her) the most sophisticated AI in existence. More human than human, I would say, said one particularly fat scientist. Why, I would even call her a person!
Ha-yoon did not look human, not entirely. Humanform, just the way Yona had built her: rail-thin, and mostly slender legs, narrow hips, and sleek metal. At four feet tall, Ha-yoon could pass as a human child, except that Yona did not give her a face.
Yona didn't give her hair, either. She formed Ha-yoon's head to have large cat-like ears at the top, and she painted pink whiskers on her otherwise white, blank face. It's the uncanny valley principal, Yona had explained when Minji asked. If you try to make robots look like people, they're creepy. If you don't try, then they're cute. See? She's cute. Everyone will love Ha-yoon.
"I want to hear about the dragons," Ha-yoon says again, this time stamping her foot. She's wearing a poofy pink dress that Minji helped pick out. Minji can't stand how thin Ha-yoon looks, and she purposefully picks dresses that don't cling. This pink dress has fluffy animals sewn on the bottom--Alpaca, the store clerk had said. You used to get wool from them.
"Dragons don't exist."
"Lots of things don't exist," Ha-yoon says, a tad mockingly. "Like lions and bears and alpaca."
"Dragons never existed," Minji says, growing tired of this outing. "Let's go back to town, Ha-yoon. I have a headache."
"Not until you tell me about the dragons," Ha-yoon insists.
"Fine. They were mythical creatures, a long time ago. My mother said they lived in air and water--"
"Tell me about the water," Ha-yoon says.
"It was unimaginably large, like the sky. You couldn't see the end. And the dragons lived there--"
"The water wasn't in tanks," Ha-yoon interrupts.
"No, not in tanks. It was--" Here, her imagination fails. "Well, you've seen the pictures. It was in the ground. Like it grew there."
"And the dragons lived there and sometimes the sky, and they were huge," Ha-yoon says.
"Yes, huge. Like the ships." Ha-yoon likes going down to Port and staring at the space ships. She is fascinated by ships in the same way Yona was fascinated by people, and Minji fully expects Ha-yoon to design a better space vessel someday. (Just like Yona had designed a better person.)
"And they had four fingers," Ha-yoon says, holding her own hand out. "Like me."
"The divine ones did. Lesser dragons only had three fingers," Minji says. It had been the fingers that started this whole thing. Ha-yoon wanted to know why she only had four fingers when people had five, and because Yona never told Minji why she designed Ha-yoon that way, Minji just blurted out, So that you could be like a dragon.
"I bet they were beautiful," Ha-yoon says. "I bet they were like gods." The android looks down at her fingers again, looks down at her body, and then stares back out at the expanse beyond the dome.
Yona would do that. It disturbs Minji how much Ha-yoon can act like a woman she never met. Yona would look down at her hands and her body and she would say, Why do we have bodies, Minji? Why do we have to be trapped in these--things--that get so fat and disgusting and need so much. I just want to be a consciousness. But Yona had never been fat; she'd been almost as thin as her android when she died.
"Dragons don't exist," Minji says, taking Ha-yoon by the hand. "And we're going home now."
"I want to be a dragon," Ha-yoon says, coming along without resistance. "I'm going to be one, someday."
Unbidden, Minji thinks about the story her mother used to tell her, about the fish that leapt into the sky and transformed into a dragon. And she thinks about Yona. She always thinks about Yona.
"Don't," she says. "If you turn into a dragon, I'll be lonely."
"I wouldn't leave you behind, Minji," Ha-yoon says, which is a promise that Yona never made and couldn't keep.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

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