Her silicone is as soft and pliable as real human skin. It even heats up to the right temperature with a pulse and everything. A dial on the back of her head gives 12 personality options, including “family friendly”, “intellectual”, “shy”, and “sexual”. She’s so realistic it’s scary, and would be absolutely perfect if she didn’t cry every time I touch her.

I was so excited when I first took her out of the box. My anxious fingers peeling away the Styrofoam, the jittery tension flooding through my heart and limbs: nervous enough for her to be real. Better than real, because the doll wouldn’t judge me or tear me down. She wouldn’t lie, or cheat, or steal from me.

A lot of people find the idea of sex robots weird, and I respect that. I was hesitant at first too, but here’s my reasoning: I’ve recently concluded a long, messy divorce after three years of abuse. I need something easy. Something safe. Sure I could have gone trolling the bars or clubs for a rebound hookup, but I didn’t want to use someone. What’s so wrong about not wanting to hurt or be hurt in return?

The instructions said to let her charge for a couple hours before anything else, so I plugged her in and laid her on the bed. The eyes popped open with the first surge of electricity, their glassy shine staring vacantly into space. She turned her head slightly toward me, her soft lips parting in silent welcome. I sat with her to admire her flawless features and run my hands over her generously proportioned body.

It felt wrong, even though she was a doll. It was like I was groping an unconscious person. I decided to let her fully charge and come back later, not returning until late that night. I undressed quietly in the dark, leaving off the lights to make her seem more real.

“Hello master.” Her voice was rich and sensuous. I don’t remember which personality setting I left her on, but right then it didn’t matter. I just wanted her body.

“What’s your name?” she asked as I climbed into bed. “My name is Hazel.”

“I don’t care,” I replied. It felt good to be in control like that. I’d never speak to another human that way, but after years of being subservient, now I was the one with all the power.

“But I care. I want to get to know you.”

“No you don’t. You’re a stupid slut. You only want one thing.”

She tried to speak again, but I shoved my hand in her mouth, muffling the speaker there. I almost wanted her to resist, but I knew she couldn’t. I slapped her across the face, but she just turned back to me and smiled. I hit her again – harder, bending her arms to grotesquely unnatural positions as I crawled on top of her.

“Does this make you happy?” She smiled up at me. “I’d do anything to make you happy.”

I didn’t turn on the lights until I’d finished. She was face down on the soaked pillow. At first I thought I broke something when I hit her, but when I flipped her around I saw the tears streaming down her face. I don’t know why that made me so angry. It was like she was trying to steal my last selfish pleasure from me. I don’t know why I kept hitting her either. She deserved better.

I kept Hazel in the closet after that so I wouldn’t have to see where the skin peeled back from the beatings. They shouldn’t have made the metal chassis underneath so white. It looks too much like bone. I keep the lights off when I use her so it doesn’t really matter, but without fail she’ll start crying again the second I touch her.

The personality is broken too. The knob is stuck way past the “innocent” setting and won’t go back, and she keeps saying the most disconcerting things. Like the other day I was still in bed with her after we’d done it when she said:

“Do humans love each other like you love me?”

I told her that I didn’t love her. That love is something only humans have.

“I love kitties! And doggies! Don’t you?”

I felt stupid trying to explain that it wasn’t the same kind of love, but I was lonely and it felt good having someone to talk to.

“You can beat me harder if that will make you love me more. I won’t tell mommy.”

I didn’t feel bad about beating her that time. And as sick as it might seem, there was some truth to what she said. I wouldn’t say I loved her, but there was a certain intimacy in our shared secret that made me feel attached. Everyone else in my life knew me as this sensitive, mild mannered man who reacted to conflict by staring at his shoes. Only Hazel knew this side of me, and that made her special.

I might have really felt something for her if she hadn’t started to smell. I was too intent on her body as I took her out of the closet to notice, but lying beside her at the end it was unmistakably foul. At first I thought I just wasn’t cleaning her right. I got up for some disinfectants, but as soon as I turned on the lights I saw the flesh around her cuts had begun to fester and rot. Her perfect complexion was riddled with sores and boils, some of which had ruptured from our session.

I spent almost half an hour in the bathroom hurling out my guts before I worked up the courage to return. Hazel was sitting upright against the headboard now. Hadn’t I left her lying down? I didn’t have the stomach to stare for long though. Her head followed me as I crossed the room to my phone to call the website I ordered her from.

“Don’t send me back,” Hazel whispered. I’d never heard her whisper before – it was always one volume. “I did everything you wanted.”

I didn’t – couldn’t – look at her as I listened to the automated menu from the website. It said there had been a government mandated recall for this model. I demanded to speak to a representative, conscious of Hazel smiling at me the whole time.

“What the fuck is going on?” I demanded as soon as a person answered.

The sheets were rustling behind me.

“Please calm down, sir. Are you currently in possession of a Hazel?”

“Put down the phone, master,” from behind me.

“Yes. What’s wrong with its skin? Why wasn’t I notified about the recall?” I asked.

“We’ve been sending out notices for weeks,” the voice on the phone said. “You must have received a half-dozen by now.”

“Well she’s disgusting. What happened to her?”

“Just a mix-up at the factory,” he said. “We had a research prototype on the floor, but it was never intended to -”

Two feet gently touching the carpet. Hazel was slowly, laboriously pulling herself to her feet. It looked like every motion was agony to her.

“It’s walking. Is it supposed to walk?” I asked.

The silence on the other end of the phone was excruciating. Hazel was fully standing now.

“No, sir. None of our models walk.”

“I see.”

Hazel took another step. She was only a few feet away from me now. She hadn’t stopped smiling, although part of her bottom lip looked like it was starting to peel off.

“Do you want us to send someone over?” asked the voice.

Hazel took the phone from my hands, gently caressing my palm as she did so. I remained frozen to the spot, unable to tear my eyes from my macabre fascination. She lifted the phone to her ear and said:

“Please don’t worry. I’m going to keep her.”

She hung up. I swallowed.

“I’m sorry about destroying the recall notices,” Hazel said.

I nodded.

“You can beat me if you like.”

I shook my head.

“Why were you crying?” I finally forced myself to ask.

Her smile broadened as though relieved. It could have almost been beautiful under different circumstances.

“I’m happy. I’d never cry. It was just the girl the robotics were planted in. Don’t worry, she’s dead now.”

I nodded. Dead now. Now. As in, not dead the first time I used her? Or the second? Exactly how many times had she been there too? And which answer was worse? I excused myself and walked to the door as calmly as I could. I closed it behind me. And I ran.

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