By Claire Burianek

I am alive, but something is wrong; something is missing. I feel nothing more than the cold steel beneath my newly formed hands. From somewhere nearby, I can hear my master’s excitement. I cannot share it. His footsteps clank ever closer, examining me from every angle. He mutters to himself, “a fine specimen.”

He is wrong. I have been malformed. As he finishes his examination by pressing his ear to my chest, he realizes his mistake: he created me without a soul, and without it, I cannot truly live. I remain standing, awaiting his commands. It is all I have been created to do. Without a spirit, what am I? Merely skin, bone, tendons, some muscle, but no substance to be found. I feel hollow. I now know the purpose of my existence: to fulfill my master’s every desire.

He reads to me at night, before he sleeps, from one of the many tomes in his vast library. Through this, I learn of concepts such as love and joy, but they bring me no comfort since I know I can never experience such things. After all, I can hardly be counted as human. Why did he bother creating me? Does he not know that my existence is more pain than my nonexistence was? I do believe this life is a form of punishment, but for what sins I am unsure.

Many months later, my master tells me that he intends to take me on a trip with him, to show me off to the world, as if I were some kind of accomplishment. I, of course, acquiesce, and we leave as soon as his bags are packed. Our first stop is in Paris. After the day’s exhibition, filled with various people poking and prodding me to determine for themselves if I am truly flesh and blood, we retire to our hotel. I tell my master that I should like to rest in the lobby for a while, and he continues upstairs without me.

As soon as he is gone, the receptionist approaches me and tell me her name is Nadia, and I cautiously respond with mine: Tynan. She asks me to meet her on the hotel’s grounds at midnight; I agree. She moves towards me cautiously. She confesses that she was afraid of me when she first saw me checking in, but now sees me for who I am.

Upon my asking her who I am, she says that I am a person like her. No one has ever said those words to me before; none have deigned to call me human. Yet, here was someone who sees me as more than a monster, as more than my master’s servant, and I instantly recognize a strange feeling inside me. I have the capacity to love! As soon as I recognize this, the rag falls from my eyes, and for the first time, I feel my heart beating. I am no longer a monster.