When the neighbors found out I was building a woman, the mocking began. Lonely old coot. Disturbing. Clever. Admiration or disgust varied by personality and taste. Distant relatives, whether by blood or stagnant relationship, suddenly needed to express their opinion as I sculpted her chassis and crafted her limbs.
I ignored them. They had never cared what I did before; why should I listen now? My house was no more or less lonely than it had been since the accident. Whispers of “robot girlfriend” and “crazy grandpa” disappeared beneath the hiss of molten metal pouring into forms shaped like ribs.
“At least make her older,” a grandneice begged, eyeing the thin skeleton and strewn circuit boards on my worktable. We hadn’t talked since she was ten, yet here she stood. “It’s still creepy, but don’t make it that creepy.”
“I know what I’m doing,” I replied softly, and held out a hand. “Will you pass me that soldering pen?”
She left soon after, eager to get back to her own family. They always assumed and spoke and left, and I had far too much work to waste time convincing them. I turned on the radio and went back to sewing spiderweb-thin nerve circuits into place. Just me and the precious machine humming in the corner, years of research finally coming to artificial life.
I knew what they thought beneath the open derision. I had cracked from the strain of the accident. Pitiable. Sad. They’d long since dismissed my explanations and pleas as the obsessions of a man sunk in denial. A waste, they clucked, as the field of cybernetic prosthetics moved on without me.
It didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered. And if I had to move on without them, so be it.
The months stretched as her delicate form crept to life. Fine Kevlar filaments made her hair durable and flowing. Glass domes set over visual nodes made her eyes. Soft silicon gel covered her synthetic muscles to mimic insulating fat. And with each day, my longing increased.
“We’ll be together soon,” I whispered to my creation. The coffin-like contraption in the corner blinked softly in the dim light.
I had worked so long that the finishing touch caught me by surprise, like a thief in the night. Literal night; was it two in the morning, or three? I sat and studied her for another hour, desperate to catch any mistake, any fatal flaw that could undo all my labors.
It didn’t seem right for her first moments to be in darkness, in secret. But on the brink of fulfilment, with the moon still kissing the sky, I couldn’t bear the agony of waiting. With a desperate prayer, I connected the final circuit and turned her on.
Loading bars on the display of the immense machine filling the other half of my workspace flickered and changed for the first time in decades, as the information lovingly stored inside drained through cords into a metal brain. The transmitter light blinked, flickered, turned steady. A carbon-steel finger in synthetic skin twitched. My pulse raced as my creation sat up, young and beautiful and innocent as the day I last saw her. I held my breath as her green eyes flickered and focused on me.
“Hello, Papa,” she said. And smiled. “You really did it.”
I swallowed, my heart ready to burst as we embraced. My masterpiece felt as real as living flesh in my arms, more real than the broken, comatose body that had patiently clung to life in the corner of my basement. The years of work and ridicule and hopelessness faded away like smoke in a refreshing wind. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else had ever mattered compared to this.
My daughter was home.