Shadow of a Boy – By Kristine Ong Muslim
Arthur opened one of the Fed-Ex envelopes on the mantel and inspected its contents. Pictures and a medical certificate of a boy named Kelvin White slid out of the envelope. He remembered the name from the local newspaper item he had read two days ago. The boy had died after being hit by a stray bullet when two neighboring gangs in the projects went at each other.
He promised the boy’s mother that he would have everything ready after Kelvin White’s service. He would have to start working on the hands and feet this afternoon.
In the kitchen, one of the prototypes was making breakfast. Oppenheimer, the dog, nuzzled at its feet, impatiently asking for food.
“I’ll take care of that.” Arthur called out to it. “Stay away from the stove.” The heat from the stove could affect its hearing, a design flaw that he had corrected in the new models.
“Of course, Arthur,” it smiled and walked away after placing two golden pancakes on a plate. “I apologize.”
Arthur sometimes wondered what that boy-contraption with no eyes could see, what it thought of him, its creator. Of course, it had the likeness of a boy of about ten or eleven, but the glass eyes that Arthur brought for it from the taxidermist downtown looked exactly like artificial eyes — pupils that would never dilate, eyes that could not convey any emotion.
Would this thing know pain? Would it know how to forgive or how to be happy?
Arthur wanted for it to be safe. He had sent out too many of these things to the world, peopled the world with little boys and girls who would never grow up, would never hurt anyone or cause anyone to grieve. These machines — they would never get sick or feel ashamed or die.
Arthur was still trying to remember its name. All the early prototypes looked alike, and all of them had the same glass eyes. Before he was able to finally utter its name, the creature approached him and politely asked for permission to go out of the house.
The honk of the school bus outside beckoned to it.