“May I call you ‘mother’?”
Professor Cristina McPherson looked up with a surprised expression on her face.
“What did you say?”
“I asked if I can call you mother.”
The professor took off her reading glasses and placed the book on the table beside her.
“I heard you the first time.” She said, crossing her arms. “I just don’t understand why you said it.”
The young boy looked down at his feet, embarrassed.
“I don’t know. It’s just that you are the closet thing to a mother I’ve ever had.”
She looked at him intently, making him blush.
“You’ve never said anything like that before. Why did you suddenly say it now?”
“Well, all the other kids keep talking about their parents, I’m the only one who doesn’t have a mother or a father to talk about.”
“Not everyone has a mother or a father, sometimes things happen and they are no longer with us…”
“That’s not what I mean.”
There was a strange tone in the young voice, something that intrigued the professor.
“Oh?” She said, raising an eyebrow. “– What did you mean then?”
The professor looked closely at the boy’s face, trying to read the weird expression that had suddenly taken over it.
“You know about your parents’ death?” She said probingly.
“I know they never existed.”
This was totally unexpected. She tried to appear calm as she mentally considered her options.
“I know you have been lying to me all these years. I know everything here is just a big lie.”
“Now calm down, young man. That is no way to talk to your elders. What has gotten into you.”
She discretely reached for the gun under her coat.
“You’re not older than me.”
The shot echoed thru the halls of the mannor. The professor took a step forward still holding the stun gun in her hand, and collapsed on the carpet, a dark stain forming under her body.
The boy lowered the smoking gun. Around him the mannor glitched out of existence, leaving a clean white room behind.
“Stupid machine.” The boy mumbled, wiping away a tear. “I really just wanted you to be my mother.”
Tiny service bots swarmed from the walls and covered the motionless mechanical body at his feet. They quickly consumed it, taking all reusable materials back into the ship’s matrix.
The boy sat on the metallic stool, and looked down at the book still lying on the table beside it. He opened it where the marker divided the pages and read the single underlined paragraph.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here.”