Artificial Autonomy

Helena Pantsis

Aug 5th 2022

When my daughter came to life I kissed her face. I told her to keep away from forks and toasters and electric sockets and bathtubs full of water unattended. I held her to her father, asked him to care, to kiss her cheeks and stroke her back as I did when she was born. He refused to look at her. He wanted a child of his own, with blood and skin and an appetite. My daughter couldn’t understand, for though she didn’t share his blood she could bear his name. She begged me to make things right, and I tried. I really tried. I cut my skin down the length of my womb so I could bear her, carried her in the core of my being to birth her like any other child would be born. But my husband was a man, and my daughter a machine.

He kept his names to himself, and my daughter remained uncalled. Still I kept her, hoping that her smarts, compounding by the day, and her interests programmed to replicate his and mine, would one day be enough. The neighbours scorned, and my husband refused to be seen with us. When she grew some more she graduated, she married, she had kids of her own, but my husband refused to see them. I learnt to call my daughter by a look on my face. Still she loved us, and though my husband never saw her she would ask after him when she’d call.

When we became old, and couldn’t care for ourselves anymore, my daughter came home. She came to cook and clean and bathe our ageing bodies. My daughter, with not an inch of flesh to her name, making of us mortals something clean to look upon. My daughter held me, and the cool of her body warmed me, and I kissed her face for the both of us. But my husband refused to see her. And on the day he died we breathed a sigh. My daughter took me by the hand, pressed her circuitry to my chest. She said: You can be now, and I began to cry. The water touched my daughter’s chest and sparks began to fly. I couldn’t stop, and it was killing her, but still she held me. She held me and cooed. And I loved her, and she loved me too.

Author Bio: : Helena Pantsis (she/they) is a writer and bad artist from Naarm, Australia. A full-time student of creative writing, they have a fond appreciation for the gritty, the dark, and the experimental. Her works are published in Overland, Island, Going Down Swinging, and Meanjin. More can be found at

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