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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.


J.P. Reynolds is a mathematician and, apparently, a science fiction writer. He lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife and an ever-expanding flock of furry housemates. Find him on Twitter @jpreynlds, where he often tweets about basketball but also occasionally about other things. This is his first published story.

You take a swig of water, rinse the toothpaste out of your mouth, and look at your reflection in the mirror. "Well," you think, "I guess I'm a robot."
This thought has long been at the back of your mind. As a small child, maybe 5 or 6 years old, you wondered if it could account for the strange ringing in your ears, which came and went seemingly at random. It was only just now, however, that you became confident, nearly certain. By your own estimate, there is a 95% chance that you're a robot. Taking into account that your synthetic mind, surely more competent with calculations than the average human's, arrived at this figure you bump the confidence index to 96.7%.
You exit the bathroom and turn to walk down the hall, where you know your partner is in bed. You picture a dog curled up at their feet and a cat stretched out across your side of the bed. Do you need to tell them the truth? (Them being your partner, not the dog and cat, you internally clarify.)
You have known each other for the better part of a decade, have been married for five years, and it has never come up. If you live the rest of your lives happily married and they never realize that they are married to a synthetic being, is that so bad? Though not a person, you are still the same person. Your partner has never said "The thing I love most about you is that you're an organic being."
You are now a quarter of the way down the hall. You feel as though you are moving in slow motion, your thoughts whizzing by at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. (Metaphorically, you internally qualify.) Now that you are aware of the nature of your being, you have unlocked some heretofore-hidden processing power. Did your makers put this safeguard in place to keep you from potentially revealing to others what you did not yet know yourself?
On the subject of makers, do your parents know? Surely your mother would know if she had given birth to a nonhuman entity. There are two plausible explanations you can think of: (1) You were not organically birthed, but instead adopted by parents who knew they were bringing a robot into their family. (2) You were secretly replaced by a robot, perhaps following an accident, perhaps by a shady government organization.
You shake your head as if to dislodge this line of thought. You are distracting yourself from the problem at hand. You craft a few lines of code, setting an internal reminder, "Revisit parent problem tomorrow at 8 a.m."
You reach the midpoint between the bathroom and bedroom door. (Calculated exactly, you note.) Do you owe it to your partner to tell the truth? This type of problem was never your specialty, a shortcoming you now understand. (Who ever heard of a robot who specializes in human ethics?) The person whose advice you need is your partner's, who is a philosopher by training and a person of strong moral character by habit, so you construct a simulation of your partner and pose the question. The simulation insists on you telling their organic analogue the truth. However, a counterargument that you find quite persuasive is, "What if you don't want to be married to a robot and leave me?"
You cannot be the only Undercover Robot As Person. (The only UnRAP, you think, generating acronyms on the fly without missing a beat.) You imagine starting a support group for UnRAPs whose partners leave them. You can picture the room, fluorescent lights hanging over a circle of plastic folding chairs, a burnt pot of coffee on a folding table in the corner, just like on TV. You think the other UnRAPs will appreciate the familiarity of the scene, the knowledge that the available data tells them this is supposed to be a safe and comforting space.
With two more steps you'll be at the bedroom door. At this point, you've created a complex neural net and are using it to run thousands of simulated conversations. You are ready for every argument and counter-argument. You can predict every outcome with an acceptable confidence index. You wonder if you even need to bother bringing the issue up. Would it be wrong to jump to the conclusion and save you both the pain of this conversation? (You wonder if you still need to feel pain or if you can turn down your emotional pain receptors.)
You reach for the doorknob. You take a deep breath in an attempt to ease the part of your brain that clings to its previously-assumed humanity before entering the bedroom.
"We've got to talk. I already know everything you could possibly say but you think I owe it to you to have this conversation. I'm a robot. Beep boop, boop beep."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

Author Comments

On the one hand, the idea of a person who has convinced themselves they are actually an android has been bouncing around in my head for a while. On the other hand, I talk a lot with my therapist about mindfulness and not allowing the past or imagined futures to guide your behavior. I put the two hands together and this story came out.

- J.P. Reynolds
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