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While standing in the doorway, Igraine’s feet felt nailed to the floor. Her fingers clenching the crutch were trembling, and her breathing was erratic as her gaze followed the trail of cotton stuffing across the carpet to the nightstand.
There, Anwin used to sit. But the doll was gone. Vanished. Nowhere to be seen.
Igraine couldn’t believe this was real as she followed the littered stuffing to the bed. Oui, it must have come from the bed! She told herself. Something must have gotten into the mattress. Anwin just fell off the top. Right? Igraine walked up to the commode. No, Anwin. She lay down on the floor to look under the furniture. No, Anwin. She pulled the sheets off her bed. No Anwin, and the mattress was intact. Desperately, Igraine scanned the room with her augmented eye. Nothing. Just the trail of crumpled cotton. Rodents couldn’t have taken her, she thought. How could- Igraine looked up to the air vent above her bed.
The grate had been removed.
Immediately, she jumped on the mattress and peered into the narrow shaft. But even with her infra-vision, it was impossible to trace the culprit’s steps.
Whilst standing in the doorway to her room, Igraine looked at the playpen.
Anwin was sitting in the middle of the enclosure with the power cord still attached to her hand. Whilst situated motionless on her backside, Anwin resembled the doll she used to be.
But it isn’t Anwin, is it? Igraine considered. It was the little robot who happened to wear Anwin like a costume. And yet, it was hard for Igraine to separate the two.
As an Associate, Igraine once met a human who possessed people like disposable costumes. But even a man criminally insane like him couldn’t help but suffer from dysmorphia upon seeing somebody else’s face in the mirror. At those moments, he would believe he had become that person. But that made the man live a lifetime. This little robot. Well, that one might have been produced yesterday.
Igraine snapped out of her contemplations when Anwin raised her head. “Oh. I’m back, Anwin. Are you still recharging?”
The doll crawled to her feet to look at Igraine through the bars with those blank eyes and nodded.
Igraine squeezed her lips together, not knowing what to say. And to think she used to have whole conversations with the doll. But now that Anwin had a will of her own, Igraine could no longer project her thoughts onto her. “You want something to sit on?” she asked. Then she picked up one of the embroidered bed pillows and dropped it in the corner of the pen.
But Anwin just looked up at her, showing little interest in the makeshift couch.
Igraine rubbed her eyes, thinking of what to do. Her daily routine had been interrupted by her current assignment, and now she didn’t know how to spend her afternoon.
Whilst looking around the room, the calendar on the wall grabbed her attention.
Igraine shrugged her shoulders upon seeing that today was marked with a sunny smile. “Of course it’s time.” She sat down behind her desk and opened the drawer. There was her syringe kit which she needed to inoculate herself. After stroking up her sleeve, she held up the syringe, made sure to squeeze the air out of the needle, and then injected herself with the turquoise fluid contained inside. After all these years, she still couldn’t bear the needle’s sting.
Anwin observed her with her head tilted.
“Non, Anwin. You don’t need medicine,” Igraine assured her while lowering her sleeve. That’s when she noticed the tennis ball in the far corner of Anwin’s pen. “Oh. We can at least get some exercise. You want to come to the gymnasium, Anwin?”
The doll raised her arms in response.
“Oui, oui. Go get your hat,” she said pointing at Anwin’s flat cap on the floor. As the doll raced to get her hat, Igraine gathered her things and a moment later they walked off to the gymnasium on the second floor. Not many of the women residing in Sanctuary made use of the gym outside of the classes. With Anwin around, that was probably a good thing as well.
Inside the dressing area, Igraine slipped into her baggy breeches and put on her slim-fitted vest under the watchful gaze of the doll who seemed anxious. “What is it, Anwin?”
The doll lifted her dress.
“Anwin, behave,” Igraine said, sternly. “Do you want to change clothes?” She sighed as Anwin was pulling up her skirt again. “I don’t have other clothes for you. Come,” she said with a wave of her hand and led the doll inside the gymnasium. “Well…” Her voice reverberated through the empty hall as she looked at the doll. “You can watch or join me, I suppose.”
The doll just gave her a blank stare.
Igraine shrugged. “I’ll just get started then.” Anwin was standing by the side as Igraine began warming up.
But then Anwin began mimicking her movements in her own doll-like way. She raised her arms in the air while trying to stand on her toes. Fell over while stretching her legs and failed to synchronize her limbs while doing jumping jacks. And yet, it didn’t make Anwin lose any enthusiasm. She was