by Laurie E. Smith

Something inside me is broken, and I don't know what it is.

I dance down the street like I've always done, but it's a broken step. My inner clock is out of tune. People have been talking. I can hear them, when they think I'm far enough away that I can't: "What the hell's wrong with Joe?"

I'm lucky, I suppose. The police didn't destroy me after they took me away from David. They returned me to my owner and slapped her with a fine big enough that she almost didn't take me back at all. But I had made good money for her in the past, so she figured that I was worth it.

Not anymore.

She's had two different technicians run diagnostics on me, and they both claimed that I'm perfectly fine. In perfect working order. "You just don't see a unit this old in this kind of condition," one of them told her. "He should be ticking along like a happy pocket watch."

But I stumble, and I catch myself faltering halfway through a spin. All my fibres and servos are in perfect working order, so why am I no longer at home on this bright glittering street, with its neon glare and its welcoming shadows?

I must be broken.

I haven't had a customer in three nights. My owner says that if I don't clean up my act she'll have to scrap me, or sell me to a Flesh Fair. I wouldn't mind that. It's not like I haven't seen one before. And perhaps it would be for the best.

My inner clock is out of time.

I miss you, David. I miss you so much.