Laura and Paula
Michel Encinosa Fķ
Axxůn 144 Ė November 2004
(Translation: Daniel W. Koon)

        Laura is my favorite doll. She has intelligent eyes, like sheís thinking. Her dress is red, her skin is cloned human tissue. She is a foot tall and, with the brand-new interface we put in her, she can talk and sing and even repeat tongue twisters. Daddy is away for most of the day, but Iím never bored with Laura. We play, we walk through the nice part of the neighborhood: the south, never the north. We tell each other bedtime stories and we sleep together. I still have my other dolls, but the truth is that they canít compare to Laura. Sheís the queen and she knows that I love her.
        Paula is Daddyís doll. She doesnít live with us, but she comes home with Daddy almost every day. She is my size and hardly ever speaks. Sometimes she asks for something, but she never speaks to me. Once when Daddy went into the hallway to talk with a neighbor, Paula sat down on the sofa, and I started to draw her.
        After a while she came over to me, leaned forward, almost touching my shoulder with her face, and said:
        ďI like to draw too."
        Daddy returned. Paula turned away and went with him into his room.
        I have never seen Daddy play with Paula. And he never peeks in on Laura and me. You have to talk to dolls and feed them, dress them and undress them, wash them and brush their hair, sleep with them and hug them. Sometimes I put my ear up against Daddyís door, and I hear him tell her that he loves her, the same as I do with Laura before kissing her and sleeping with her at my side.
        Sometimes I imagine Laura walking by herself on the street, next to me. Guiding her with the vocoder is very uncomfortable. She knows how to eat and drink, but sometimes I prefer to keep her off food for a few days so I donít have to empty out her insides too often. She is very piggy, always asking for ice cream and cookies. She also likes to be bathed and brushed. But she is too big for me, and Daddy doesnít help me bathe her. He doesnít even look at her or touch her except to plug in some new device or to change her batteries. I would do that myself, except that Iím afraid of damaging her. She is delicate, and she looks very frightened whenever she sees Daddy coming to open her up. Whenever that happens, I go to another room and sit and wait, biting my nails. I canít bear to be away from her for even a second. And she canít stand to be away from me either. I swear.
        Paula never looks at things around her. When she comes, she enters right behind Daddy and goes right to his room, except every once in a while. She is very pretty, and she seems to walk on clouds. Daddy has never introduced us, and I only know that sheís called Paula because thatís what it says on the plate that always, always, always hangs from her neck. They go into his room, and they are there for several hours and then Daddy comes out to drink a beer and hunt for some sports channel, while I can hear the shower behind the door and Paula singing some song very quietly. Maybe Laura could take a bath by herself like Paula. Or have one of those dresses that Paula wears. They are terrific, better than Lauraís red dress. They are silvery and transparent, very short. I have never seen her wear the same one twice. She must have a lot of them. And they all look good on her, very good.
        Once I told Daddy that Iíd like to dress like Paula. Daddy slapped my face and said bad things about Paula and her clothes. Still, he brought her later, that same day, and they were all kisses and caresses, and he had her in his room until early morning. I heard their voices and sounds. My face hurt and I was afraid of Daddy, so I clung to Laura until daybreak, when Daddy left.
        While I had breakfast, Paula came out of the room. I told her she could have breakfast with me. Very slowly, she sat herself at the table, spread butter on some toast and nibbled at it. I held a glass of cold milk against my face: it felt swollen. Paula started to stare at me and even opened her mouth to speak, but instead of speaking she stood up and left, leaving the toast uneaten on the plate.
        I try to teach Laura to play heptadimensional labyrinth, but her chip isnít good enough for that. Iíll have to ask Daddy to get her a more powerful one. The noises in the room have stopped, but Daddy hasnít come out, and I donít hear the shower either. Maybe they are talking. Sometimes they do that.
        Yes, they are talking. But very loudly, shouting.
        The door opens, and out walks Paula, buttoning her dress.
        She sees me, walks over to me and puts her hand on my head. Then she walks to the drawing on the wall:
        ďWill you give me this?"
        I donít answer. She takes the drawing, folds it and leaves.
        Laura asks me to teach her again. She likes to learn. But I know I canít, so I ask her to play doctor. Laura asks me why I donít paint her. The fact is I donít really want to.
        Almost asleep, I hear Daddy arrive followed by someone, but it is not Paula, I know because I know her footsteps. I go into the living room and I see Daddy with a new doll. Go to sleep, Daddy tells me.
        I look at the doll. She is not as pretty as Paula. Freckly, skinny, and she just stares at her shoes. I canít make out the name on her plate. They enter Daddyís room and he turns the lock. I hear him say something, but I donít know what.
        In my bed, Laura is quiet. Too quiet. I touch her. She is cold. I check the battery indicator. Itís at zero.
        Daddy will have to change the battery. But I donít want to bother him now, because he never bothers me. Itíll have to be tomorrow. The chip too. I put her on the floor, at the foot of the bed. I donít want to sleep hugging a cold thing, even if it is Laura.
        Michel Encinosa Fķ was born in Havana in 1974. He is presently considered one of the top epic fantasy writers in Cuba. He published two books of stories in 2001: Sol negro (Black sun) and NiŮos de neon (Neon children) and has been included in various anthologies, including Polvo en el viento (Dust in the wind), IMFC, Argentina,1999, Horizontes probables (Probable horizons), Lectorum, Mexico, 1999 and Cosmos Latinos, Wesleyan University Press, USA, 2003.
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