Author's Note: I know a few in-progress stories of mine haven't been updated in a while, so here's a little one-shot to keep fans happy.
One of a Kind
"Can't you hear me?" Dib cried out into the night. No answer came as he pressed his hands again to the window. By the condensation gathering on the glass, the boy could tell it was very cold outside, but even as the early winter breeze blew by, failing to make his hair or trench coat even budge, he couldn't feel the rapidly dropping temperature at all. It was an odd feeling he hadn't quite grown accustomed to yet.
He sighed, nearly surprised that the exhale did not release a cloud into the chilly air, and gazed into the living room, noticing that he could see fairly clearly through his own hands, which were softly faded patches of color beyond which the room was visible.
The dark enclosure on the other side of the window was dimly lit only by the window itself, and by the television, in front of which a young girl was seated in a sofa.
"Gaz, can you hear me?" Dib called out to his sister. Gaz, who was sporting a purple sweater and staring sullenly at the T.V., didn't respond to him. She fidgeted every so often, even twitched or gasped when the program she was watching made a sudden sound. To calm herself down, she would stroke the cast that encased her left arm, and the sling that also supported the arm. The girl had been very easily frightened lately, as often was the case in someone recovering from trauma.
A man's proud stride into the room startled her badly, and the man placed a hand on her shoulder apologetically.
"I'm sorry, Daughter," Professor Membrane said, "I was just so excited to show you something." Dib noticed that the scientist held a long box under his arm.
"What's that?" Gaz asked.
"Something that I'm sure will cheer you up." The professor proudly set the box on the floor and removed the lid. Dib watched as a shiny metallic being shot up into sitting position, and then climbed out of the box and stood grinning at Gaz. Dib felt a sickening feeling upon realization that the being was an android made in his exact likeness.
Professor Membrane stood marveling at his latest creation, hands on hips and chest puffed out to its full extent. He waited, expecting a shower of praise and gratitude from his daughter. Dib watched for any change in expression on Gaz's face, but the change in his younger sibling was that of disappointment.
"Dad, how…could you?"
"How could I do what?" her father asked, obviously let down by her reaction.
"I…thought this would be good for both of us," Professor Membrane explained, "we both miss him, so I thought another one of him would suffice."
Gaz replied with a forlorn look, and the man sat down beside her and gently placed an arm around her.
"Don't worry, Daughter," he assured her, "this one will be better. You don't like his voice, so with the push of a button you can change it to a different voice, or even shut him up when you want."
Dib stood bewildered, unable to believe his dad had done such a thing.
"Why…?" he asked, and when no one answered, he began to slowly tap on the glass with one finger.
"There's that annoying tree branch hitting the window again," Membrane commented, knowing fully well that there was no tree in front of the house, nor any lone branch caught against the pane.
Gaz turned to stare somberly at the window, and her brother strained his now intangible eyes until he caught what he was looking for-a moistened look in her eyes, which did indeed seem to be in direct eye contact with him. She opened her mouth slightly and pantomimed something he had to pay close attention to make out.
Dib looked pleadingly at her, but she shook her head and turned back to their father.
"Well, Daughter," the professor lowered his voice, "I didn't really have that window installed for you to stare longingly out of it so much. I just thought you needed the serotonin in the sun's rays to help cheer you up, though granted that it's winter and nighttime at the moment. What do you look at out there, anyway?"
Tell him, Dib implored silently, Tell him, Gaz…please…
"Nothing," Gaz mumbled, "I'm just jittery."
Her father studied her for a minute, glanced at the Dib robot, and back at her.
"Would you rather have a human replacement?" he asked gently.
"No," Gaz replied in a small voice.
"Good, then you must be fine with the robot," Professor Membrane said happily, fully misunderstanding her.
"No, I meant-" Gaz started, but the scientist had already swiftly left the room.
A tear ran down Dib's transparent cheek. He had expected for the best from his father, and his father had let him down again. He recalled having overheard an exclusive meeting between his dad and the press a week ago. Certainly the headline "Renowned Scientist Accidentally Kills Son in Failed Experiment" and the detailed and name-specific article that would follow would greatly damage Membrane's worldwide reputation. The press had agreed to say nothing of it-Dib suspected there was a large bribe involved-and no one besides family and the press knew of the accident, save for the police, who, though they had scheduled one last court appearance, were frighteningly close to dismissing the whole case.
Gaz glanced halfheartedly at the Dib robot.
"Hi, Gaz!" the android exclaimed, and then he frowned. "Everything okay? You look sad."
The girl paused, her eyes darted to the human Dib outside, and then she bit her lip. Out of a growing curiosity as to how the robot would respond, she turned back to the mechanical Dib and asked, "Who are you?"
He was taken aback by the question. "Gaz, I'm Dib-your brother! Are you feeling okay? Did the accident give you amnesia or something?"
"Dib," she said slowly, looking deeply into the android's worried eyes, "what happened to you in the accident?"
A confused look again spread over the Dib robot's face.
"I…I, um…died?" he said as more of a question, and waited for her to confirm it. She remained silent. This being looked, sounded, and acted like Dib, but Gaz could not make herself believe he was Dib. The girl sighed and looked at the ground.
"Yes, Dib…you died."
She looked out towards the window again, and this time, the robot followed her eyes. Suddenly he gasped and jumped a little, then turned away, frightened at what he saw in the yard. He believed Dib was standing out there as well as Gaz believed, and was bewildered at seeing a transparent double of himself staring in at them.
"It's only your reflection, Dib," Gaz reassured the robot to calm him.
"One of a kind, isn't he?" Professor Membrane asked as he re-entered the room with an unfinished device of some sort.
"Everyone is," Gaz said under her breath, and Dib locked eyes with her.
"Gaz, tell him," Dib asked, "Tell Dad I'm still here. Help him believe."
She shook her head, and Dib could hear her whisper in the air, though his sister didn't move her lips.
No. You're…you're gone.
Dib's eyes widened.
"No, Gaz, I'm still here! Don't stop believing, Gaz, please believe…"
Gaz continued shaking her head.
It hurts…Go away…You're not here…
Dib cried out into the winter night again, and Gaz shuddered and squeezed her eyes shut. After an eerie silence she opened them and cautiously looked out to the window again. But the only thing she beheld was an empty yard and the street beyond. She knew, in the back of her mind, that her brother was still screaming silently, and though the Dib robot could still see and hear him, Gaz no longer let herself…believe.
"One of a kind," she whispered.
"You always talk like he's nearby, Daughter," her father said in a grave tone, "He's not here, Gaz…He's gone."
"I know he is," Gaz forced her eyes away from the window, knowing she didn't speak the truth.