Enki just sat there leaning against the rocks, a mangled, tangled, rusted, busted shambles of metal shaped like a man. Partially covered in strips of cloth, he listed as liquid leaked from links and soaked into the rags. Twisted and torn wires spilled from his joints and a small circuit board dropped from his chest into the dirt. He couldn't stand. Or perhaps he could, but how?

With great effort he was able to pick up a handful of sand and watch helplessly as the grains sifted through his fingers. He surveyed his surroundings: the sky was blue and the vegetation green. Waves of water crashed against the rocks and splashed on the beach. Sea gulls soared. It was beautiful.

Then he noticed something at a distance. An animal sprawled out on fabric. It was generally shaped like Enki, but smaller. A girl. Lying on a towel. On the sand. She was young, perhaps twelve. Twelve what? Years. But what were years? Revolutions of the planet around the sun. How that translated into time as he understood it he would have to calculate later, but she wasn't fully grown.

Enki continued to sit there leaning back against the rocks, occasionally moving a muscle. No, not a muscle. Machinery. Memory came to him in tiny fragments, sometimes defective. Clouds gathered, and the sky was an endless source of fascination to him.

The girl stirred and eventually sat up. She turned around on her knees and was about to lie down on her belly when she noticed Enki. She looked at him curiously, convinced he was assembled from scraps and placed there as a prank. Still, she'd swear she saw him move.

She went towards him, stopping a few feet away. She looked at Enki's eyes: round burgundy lenses set in cylindrical frames, perhaps telescopic. One was cracked. Enki noticed her eyes: iridescent, grey, he thought at first, then blue. Her bangs were swept to one side, and long dark hair flowed over her shoulders and down her back. She wore a blue bikini, mere wisps of cloth, but symmetrical, aesthetic, whereas Enki's tatters were chaotic. She was pretty, and he was a mess. Pretty? Where did he get these subjective parameters?

A sound emanated from his mouth, which was nothing more than a series of holes in the lower part of his face, like a grate. It was almost a death rattle at first, but then he managed to form some words.

“I am Enki.” He wasn't sure, but that sound was a close approximation of his name.

“Are you supposed to be a robot?” asked the girl.

“I don't know.” There was slight modulation in his voice. “Who are you?”


“Do you have a constellation at night?”

“What do you mean?”

“Can you see stars?”

“Lots,” said Justine. “Millions.”

“Good,” said Enki. “I need to know where I am.”

“Why? Where are you from?”

“I don't know.”

There was something almost sad in his response, and the girl took pity on him.

Enki looked again at the condition of his form. “Do you have things to fix me?”

“You mean like tools?” asked Justine.

“I see machines rolling by in the distance,” Enki muttered, his energy seeming to wane. “Are they friendly?”

“They're just cars. We ride around in them.”

“Did you make them?”

“Not me. But people make them.”

“Then you can fix me?”

“I don't know how, but I can bring you some tools.”

Justine felt that Enki was in danger of being discovered by passersby should he remain there near the beach – and then what would become of him? She'd seen enough movies where the misunderstood monster had been hounded, hunted, captured and exploited, and ultimately destroyed. So she helped him to his feet and he followed her through the small patch of woods leading to her back yard, stumbling as he went. She had him sit on the old lumber behind the garage and wait.

Justine returned with a toolbox, and Enki examined the contents: wrenches, ratchets, screwdrivers, pliers, coils of wire. He was fascinated by these curious objects, but they were of little use. They weren't designed to fit the nuts and bolts holding him together. Still, he managed to make some minor repairs. He was less despondent now, but utterly confused by his situation.

Justine promised to help him in the morning, but that he'd have to stay there behind the garage overnight, where he couldn't be seen. She tucked the dangling circuit board back into his chest, “Just in case it rains,” and received a shock. Her fingers hurt, but she mostly complained about the tingle in her head. Enki said nothing, and she was afraid she might have damaged him.

She went inside and washed up for supper. Sometimes her family ate in front of the TV, but tonight it was in the dining room. She was bursting to tell her parents about the robot. Perhaps her dad could help. No, he wouldn't understand.

Her mother dribbled gravy from a small ladle onto her slice of roast. “Was it busy on the beach?”

“There were a few people swimming and laying in the sun,” Justine replied. “And some guy was drawing.”

That reminded her father: “I saw your English project. I really like the drawings you did for it. When is it due?”


Justine mashed her potatoes. She was distracted, but not by Enki. Once a minute there was a vision, a mere flash. She knew something wasn't right, but it didn't frighten her. Instead she was fascinated by the elusive images.

After supper she went to her room. She tried to draw, but all she could do was doodle. Her friend Gwen called, but Justine didn't feel like talking. Reading was futile. It was still early, but what she really needed was to be unconscious, so she crawled into bed.

The dream was strange. Justine, in her bikini, was lying on a towel, but not on the beach. It was another planet, rocky, gloomy. The crumbled remnants of an ancient city could be seen in the far distance, little more than rubble now. And everywhere a war between machines.

Trampling past her were six-legged robots, ant-like, each about half the size of a car. Beams of red light bore holes in the onrushing horde, melting through metal effortlessly. Their opponents, four-legged machines, returned fire, beams of blue light. The results were nightmarish: the ant-machines were transformed into twisted, writhing blends of metal and organic matter. When the rest of the two forces came to grips, they grappled and smashed and tore each other to pieces.

Justine awoke with a start. The dream had disturbed her. It was dusk. She'd only been sleeping a while, but it did her some good. The little visions no longer came to her.

Her mother was ironing and her father was watching TV, so she went outside and wandered around in the back yard. She laid on the picnic table and stared at the Milky Way. So beautiful, so enchanting. She wondered which star Enki might have come from, and how far away it must be.

She had to go to school in the morning. She grabbed her lunch and books and went to the back of the garage to check on Enki. He was still sitting there. He probably hadn't moved at all.

“Enki?” Justine called. “Enki? Can you hear me?” There was no reply. “I have to go to school. Please wait here. I'll be back and I'll see if I can fix you.”

She waited for a response, some sign of life, but Enki just sat there. He seemed nothing more than a tin can, and Justine felt guilty. She'd have to figure something out.

She paid little attention at school. She would doodle in her notebooks, or on the backs of sheets handed out in class. She drew the ant-machines from her dream. Finally, mercifully, the bell rang. It was time to go home.

She walked home with Gwen, who did most of the talking. Justine spotted Ben across the street. He was the smartest kid in class. Justine stopped and gazed at him.

Gwen teased her. “What? Are you in love?”

Justine barely heard her. “Do you think Ben knows much about fixing computers?”

“I don't know. Is your computer broken?”

Justine changed her mind. “No. Never mind.”

Gwen wanted to hang out, but Justine insisted she had things to do. Her first order was to check on Enki. She went to the back of the garage but he wasn't there. She dropped her bag onto Enki's board while peering into the bushes. Where could he be? She scampered through the woods toward the beach and found him sitting in the spot where she first saw him. He was examining something, a pencil.

“Enki, you shouldn't be here. You're going to frighten people.”

“I am conspicuous.” He turned his attention to the pencil. “I found this in the sand.”

“It's a pencil,” said Justine. “You draw with it.”

“I know. I had a vision last night. You were on my planet, lying amongst the ancient ruins, and I was drawing a picture of you on a blank surface. I don't know why. I needed to make lines that represent you. That is all I remember.”

“That's weird,” began Justine, and she told him about the dream she'd had the evening before, with the ant-machines. Perhaps it was only Justine's imagination, but somehow Enki, a thing of metal, appeared to be stunned, as though smitten by a revelation.

“I remember. I was one of those ant-machines. There was a battle. The enemy is dangerous. Their rays of light do terrible things, send us to other planets, in other solar systems, where we switch places with an animal of similar size, a disastrous mix of molecules not meant to be. It only takes an instant. Whatever creature was sitting in this spot yesterday was reshaped. It must have suffered terribly before it died on my planet. I seem to have remnants of its knowledge, its memories.”

Justine was horrified. The man she saw sitting here yesterday, the one who was drawing, could he have been the one? She would barely have been able to imagine what Enki was trying to relate to her had she not seen it in her dream, seen through his eyes. Enki surmised that the electrical shock she received must have transferred fragments of his memories to her.

“I am trapped here in this form, on this planet, forever,” uttered Enki.

He couldn't resign himself to this fate. Every night he watched the constellations turn overhead looking for a familiar configuration of stars. He was lost. Sometimes Justine would lie beside him on the dewy lawn and stare at the blackening sky. She recognized the Big Dipper, and might catch a shooting star or watch a satellite slowly make its way across her field of view, but she couldn't help Enki.

It was moments like these that Enki cherished. Her company meant a lot to him. She was full of wonder, full of vitality. Even her voice delighted him, with its sweet vibrations. One night they were lying there staring up at the full moon, which showered silver on Justine's heart-shaped face, gleamed in her wistful eyes. She marveled at the natural world; and her questions, and her hopes and dreams, and her imagination, all blossomed from her delightful mind like a garden of flowers. Time stood still.

Enki wanted to explore this world, beyond Justine's back yard. At school, Gwen asked Justine what she was going out as on Halloween and a marvelous idea occurred to her: come Halloween she could take Enki for a stroll around the neighbourhood inconspicuously! She told Enki.

“Halloween,” he reiterated and paused: “When people dress strangely.” Enki was inconsistent, as usual. He knew what Halloween was, and yet the day before he'd discovered a spoon in Justine's school bag and rolled it around in his fingers wondering what it was for.

Halloween came. Justine went as a spacegirl, a futuristic maiden in silver headdress and armlets, fashioned from Bristol board and aluminum foil, and a ray-gun made from plastic bottles, with Enki as her robot. They went trick-or-treating, the heels of her boots clicking, Enki clanking, a congruous pair. The neighbours recognized Justine but must have wondered who Enki was beneath his metal mask.

Enki had never even seen such a creature as Justine, and yet she was familiar to him, and that familiarity fascinated him endlessly. What was it? Her fantastic physical structure? The abstract quality of her mind? She had imagination.

Enki told her as much the next day while they sat on the wood pile behind the garage. He was recumbent, lounging about on the lumber, mimicking Justine's languorous attitude.

Addressing his comment about imagination, Justine said that she liked to write and draw, and that if she couldn't do that she would certainly whither and die.

“To most people a blank piece of paper is blank,” she explained, “but I see pictures.”

“I can't draw,” said Enki. “I can't imagine.”

Justine had a hard time grasping his lack of fantasy.

That evening, a news story on TV caught her attention. A man was missing. She recognized the face: it was him, the man on the beach who was sketching. He was an office worker, in his late twenties, a good-looking fellow. He had taken a two-week holiday, though he hadn't planned to go anywhere, and never returned to work, not even to pick up his pay. He seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. Inquiries were made, to no avail. They mentioned his name, but Justine forgot it just as quickly.

It perturbed her that she knew where he was. But who would believe her? Most of him was on another planet, perhaps in another galaxy, his flesh being picked clean off metal bones by alien life-forms. And what little was left of his mind was buried in the shattered intellect of a robot.

It was rare, but occasionally Justine took Enki for granted, believing that he would always be there for her. But for the most part she considered him her best friend, confided in him, trusted him implicitly.

She was pretty, and Enki was a mess. She enchanted him, dazzled him. He was humanoid, like Justine. Did that have anything to do with it?

He was content to simply watch her exercising in the back yard with the excess of energy typical of a girl her age. Her movements were lithe, graceful, sometimes daring, always mesmerising. Her actions would have seemed mundane to almost any human, but to Enki they were an endless source of wonder.

One cold morning Enki went to the beach, against Justine's wishes. He sat there in the spot where he'd first discovered his new self, where he'd met Justine. He was in a pensive mood.

Something was sticking out of the sand. It was the corner of a book. He pulled it out and brushed it off. It was a sketchbook. He perused the pages with intense interest.

There were pencil drawings, pen and ink, ink wash, charcoal. The last group of illustrations were of Justine, drawn at various times. She was captured in natural poses, standing, reclining, on the beach in her bikini. Her likeness, the contours of her body, were expertly delineated. Suddenly, he understood the importance of light and shadow.

He also realised that he was the author of these pictures. It was a strange epiphany.

That pencil he'd found in the sand so long ago was still there. He tried to draw Justine, but his metal fingers faltered. The will could not animate those clumsy artificial appendages. What tragedy!

Suddenly, the futility of his existence became apparent to him. Justine would always be an unknown quantity. She would always be galaxies away, she an animal, he a mineral.

Enki stood up. He walked towards the lake, and Justine never saw him again.

After school Justine went to the beach looking for him. He wasn't there. She was worried. Where could he be? Then she found the sketchbook. She was taken aback, to say the least, to find all those drawings of herself. She had a bad feeling that her friend was gone forever. She kept the sketchbook, for she knew it was all she had left of Enki.


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