I do not say this lightly. There are many throughout the known world who admire their parents for varying features, some to the point of idolization. It is they who fall harder than ever upon discovering that their parents are fallible, flawed human beings. Still, we all share the same mixture of adoration and resentment for those who brought us into being, forcing us to spend an existence on this planet. And, it seems to be, that our Frankensteins, they who created the monsters, are filled with similar adoration and resentment; for we are their precious inventions, unique to a fault, with our own talents and idiosyncrasies, destined to disappoint the very ones we had given our early years to in some minor, but consequential way. It is the nature of the relationship. One ignores the emotional juices that flow through the social machine at one’s own peril. And if anyone should know, I should.
I’m a machine.
I know a pair of goggles doesn’t seem like a machine to most of you, but my father made me special. Before he became a reclusive inventor, he was this city’s finest psychologist. He provided therapy to the city’s most celebrated – the athletes, the celebrities, and the politicians – and the city’s most reviled – the drug dealers, the prostitutes, and the politicians. His office was in the center of everything, sitting comfortably upon the twenty-seventh floor of the towering skyscraper that kept a watchful eye on the madness below. It was a position of luxury, of power. My father made good use of it, though he never boasted of his profession. Rather the opposite; he often twisted away from adulation and parried professional questions with the ease and grace of a fencing champion. He was a virtuoso in the harmony of facial expressions and mental language and he wielded his weapon with unconscious abandon. People rarely spoke their honest feelings, but my father was able to see the truth in every expression, every gesture, no matter how small. As years passed, he was unable to separate the words that people weren’t saying from the ones that they were and the duplicitous nature of humankind almost drove him mad. And just like that, he disappeared from the public scene.
There were visits to the house, but my father was determined to leave the cacophony of humanity for the silence of tranquility. Despite being only twenty-seven years of age, he closed the doors to the outside world, choosing only to interact through mechanical devices. His family reached out, but he couldn’t bear the way they pandered and talked down to him. He soon stopped speaking with them altogether. The world slowly got the message.
Humans weren’t meant to be by themselves for long periods of time. You are pack animals and have always been so. A genius is no less a human being than an imbecile. There is a basic need to belong. My father denied it for the better part of a year, but even he couldn’t stave off the deepest hunger for contact. As much as he wanted to run, he missed the simple pleasures of seeing a smile or hearing a greeting. With no people around, he turned to those of us who filled his life: his machines. He spoke softly and lovingly to us and dreamed up a world where we spoke back. It wasn’t long before the dream began to overtake the reality. The mind, left on its own, will begin to craft a fantasy and my father was aware of the illusion even as his mind created it. His perception of the delusion made him wary of his solitude and he imagined a love so perfect, it brought him to smiling tears when he spoke of her. He began to speak of her more and more often until it became all-consuming. The illusion had blurred the lines of possibility; he drifted past the boundary and into the land of obsession.
I was born from that love. On his thirtieth birthday, my father swore that he wouldn’t spend another year isolated. He needed a way to talk to people face to face without being overwhelmed. He thought that he could create a filter; something that could weed out the constant buzz in his brain so he could focus. Something unobtrusive. Something comfortable. He drew designs for a simple pair of glasses.
He worked on me for nine months. As he tinkered, he whispered to me the deep secrets of his heart and his hopes for my future. He sang me sweet songs of magic, his voice as thin and metallic as the tools in his hands. Day by day, I grew. I knew his joy of discovery, his frustration of limitation, his passion of creation. He would leave me for days at a time, unwilling to face my complications, but he would always return, a new light in his eyes, a zeal that enchanted his soul and refused to let him quit. My father always came back to me.
He altered his designs. He added more technology. I grew bigger and more complicated. It was clear that I would no longer be the slim pair of glasses he had originally designed. My father simply adapted his thinking. He didn’t care now if he looked silly; he was determined to see this through. In nine months, I had developed from an embryonic sliver of an idea to a fetal pair of goggles.
And then, it was my birthday.
My father was ready to celebrate with the same excitement he would have given a human child. He believed he had discovered the secret to harnessing human thought as a power source, but with no other subjects, he was the only option for testing his theory. I remember his hands were shaking as he held me for the first time. He brought me closer and I saw his eyes. They were lined with deep wrinkles that seemed to belong to a much older man, but his irises were the clear, warm brown of youth. He smiled and I saw my own precious fragility reflected in the expression. Then he completed his movement and I was truly born.
The agony of birth was quickly followed by the baptism of my father’s thoughts flooding through me. All his memories, his hopes, the love he dreamed of – they rushed into me and I hummed with the power of life. I could feel his elated surprise and it just gave me more power. His thrill became my own. It was symbiosis in its purest, most beneficial form.
And then it wasn’t.
My father’s thrill turned to fear as he realized I was following my design – I was using his thoughts as a power source. I was feeding on him, suckling at his brain as a newborn sucks nourishment from its mother’s breast. Except that a mother produces more milk, each drop no different from the previous one; my father could produce more thoughts, but they would never be the ones I had taken. I searched for the best and the brightest for they were the most delicious, the most savory, and I devoured them before he could hide them from me. The calculations, the analyses, the education; I feasted on such riches with fervor. My father was losing his mind. He tore me away and I let out a dying whine as I was ripped from my food source. He held me in his hands, white-knuckled, and for a moment, I was sure that I would not survive his terror.
I do not know why he did it, but I suspect he simply could not destroy his own creation. Not even in defense of the danger his progeny might present. I did not know what memories he retained; I only knew the thoughts I had unwittingly stolen. He placed me on the worktable and I saw that his eyes had turned muddy with bewilderment. He walked stiffly from the room and never came back.
I like to think that I took the thoughts that made him unable to interact with other people. I hope he is out in the world, pursuing his love. I hope he’s found her. I hope he’s happy.
My father was a genius.