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The picture you’re staring at was taken sometime in the 70s. It’s the only image I have left of my son, and the artificial being known as "ANTRAN", whom we had adopted into our family at the time.

It was a warm summer back in the mid-seventies. I was driving home from my logging company after a long shift, but I had to make a stop at the local garbage tip to drop off some old desks my mother had given us. When I got there, something caught my eye as I bent down. Upon closer inspection, I was shocked to see what I originally thought was a doll; a plastic outer shell with metal limbs and, more shockingly, a humanoid face, with cold, dark eyes. I’ll be honest and say I was curious at the time. I was incredibly impressed with the workmanship of this thing, so I didn’t think twice before placing it carefully along the back seat of my car and taking it home.

My son's interest was almost as intense as mine. We bonded over the course of a few days opening it up, looking at its circuitry, and seeing if anything had been misplaced or broken. Eventually, to our surprise, the being, or android, seemed to come to life. Its limbs turned, its hands gripped, its eyes displayed a somewhat sentient tint, and, after a few moments, it managed to stand on its own accord. Needless to say, we were scared, yet fascinated. I thought to myself about who could have created such a wonderful, remarkable piece of work.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realised this wasn’t a toy, or a doll. It showed incredible signs of intelligence and "thinking" ability. It learned to do everyday things such as taking the trash out and playing with my son's toys. It even had a favourite; a small, red car that it’d drive alongside the kitchen counters. It learned to mimic our ways - trying to eat from a fork, despite having no digestive system, and moving its mouth, despite lacking the ability to speak. I knew this was something else. Perhaps a military piece of hardware, or a private project? I knew I should have handed him in, but when I watched my boy play with it so happily, his face lit up, I couldn’t do it. He’d always been so lonely, and this thing was one of his only friends. What kind of father would I be to deny him the right to happiness? It couldn’t hurt to allow him to keep it for a while.

We named him "ANTRAN", which was the print in capitals written in small font across his back. A few months passed quickly, and family life seemed to be improving. He was one of us. My lad's grades improved, his mood improved, everything was getting better. Until one evening in July.

I was sitting in my armchair with a beer watching television. My boy and ANTRAN were knelt down on the rug, play fighting with one another, as boys do. Suddenly, my attention was drawn to a loud gasp. I looked down and saw my child gripping his arm.

“What’s wrong, Adam?” I asked.

He rolled up his sleeve. On his skin was a large, red mark covering his forearm. “ANTRAN pinched me,” he replied, in a shaky voice.

The mark was indeed red. It would soon bruise into a swollen, purple lump. My fatherly instincts took over, and like a parent telling off a naughty child, I shouted at the android. Its cold, metallic face, for a moment, seemed to show genuine sadness and sorrow, as though it was apologetic that it didn’t know its own strength. Then its lips moved. Whether it was trying to muster up the words to say sorry through language or merely copying what I was doing, I will never know. Later on in the evening, I apologised for the shouting, told it everything was okay, and thought nothing of it.

A few weeks later, my child came into my room. It must have been early morning. My slumber was interrupted by the gentle creaking of my bedroom door.

“Dad,” he whispered.

“Yes, son?” I replied.

“It keeps looking at me.”

“What? What does?” I asked him, through tired eyes.

“ANTRAN. He keeps looking at me, at the end of my bed.”

His voice trembled, fearful. I could tell something wasn’t right. I noticed him rubbing his other arm and immediately called him over. Pulling up his sleeve, my heart sank. More bruises. Must have been four or five, all the way up his small arms.

“Take off your shirt, Adam,” I asked, trying to keep calm, I could feel a cocktail of emotions rising within me: panic, fear, anger. He took it off, and as the waist pulled over his small head, my heart sunk further and my eyes welled up. Before me, my son stood, his small frame coated in bruises of different sizes and shades of browns and purples.

Immediately, I got up and stormed to Adam's room. Nothing.

I shouted at the top of my lungs for the being, looking under the bed and out the closed bedroom window. Suddenly, there was a loud knock from above us, then hard footsteps.

“It’s in the loft,” I whispered, my eyes to the heavens.

As I paced down the corridor, I noticed that the walls on either side of me were coated in scratches, all the way up to the now swinging piece of string that lead to the small loft door. Slowly, I pulled it open, telling my scared son to stay where he was. The ladder fell down, and I climbed up. Taking a hold of the torch we left on the side of the opening, I switched it on, only to find the small window we had in there smashed. It had escaped.

Immediately, I considered calling the emergency services, but who was going to believe me? A sentient metallic being hurting my child? They’d take one look at the bruises and have locked me up for abuse. I had no choice but to keep quiet.

Weeks, then months passed. Every time we went outside, we noticed ever-increasing signs of ANTRAN'S presence: the familiar scratch marks alongside the bricking of my home. Also, plants had been disturbed, with patches of mud leading up to the windows. I feared for my son. I never let him out of my sight as I took him to and from school. What had caused this sudden hostility towards us? Had we done it wrong? Was it my shouting? I found myself speaking out loud in the evenings, apologizing to the walls, to an empty room, in the hopes ANTRAN would hear, that he would stop the taunting and endless stalking of my home. But my attempts were in vain, and if I had known what would come, I wouldn’t have slept that night.

My rest was once again disturbed, this time by a bloodcurdling scream. My eyes darted open, and immediately, almost as a natural instinct, I rushed to my son's room. It was too late. The room had been turned upside down. Everything was on the floor, the bedsheets ripped and his window smashed. I burst into tears, screaming at the top of my voice for my son back.

I called the police, telling them he had been kidnapped. They asked if I'd seen the culprit, so I lied and said I hadn’t, hoping the images of my son would be enough. Like they’d believe that this "doll" was sentient or harmful. For the next few days, I cried myself to sleep, sobbing like a child. Life wasn’t worth living anymore. I wished I'd never found that thing. I'd betrayed my son's trust in me as a father to protect him. Now, I'd paid the price.

It was a September dawn; I was sat in my armchair drinking when I heard the pantry door creak open.

“Adam?!” I called, rushing to the kitchen.

Again, nothing.

Except there on the kitchen counter was ANTRAN'S favourite red toy car.

Original author unknown

Originally uploaded on August 25th, 2011