The daycare embodied Terry’s dreams in bright colors, chalk, and  giant crayons.

Terry Jackson built a modern daycare with all of the amenities. A safe haven for the children — and the key to his future. Opening day, time for the children to arrive.

Only these children looked at him with very unusual eyes, strange eyes.

For science fiction readers who enjoy a vision of a new sort of childhood.

Terry stood in the middle of the room looking at a dream made real, with giant crayons on the walls above the waist-height chalk boards. Two wood pyramid shaped shelving units, with purple and green cloth block drawers, and secret passages, took up the center of the room. A wading pool filled with assorted rubber and inflated balls, none smaller than his fist, sat to one side and there were three small tables surrounded by pillow animals. It was a world of bright colors and fun made physical and it was all quiet and still new. But outside a car pulled up and signaled the final realization of his dream. The room was only missing one thing. Kids.

He took a deep breath. This was it, he was confident that he had covered everything. The door burst open and Angie leaned in grinning ear-to-ear beneath her spiky blond hair. “Ready, boss? Is the paint dry?”

“Yeah. Send them in as they get here.”

Through the windows he saw a woman, middle-aged, with straight red hair, walking up the sidewalk carrying a small child wearing a knitted white cap. Snow white curls peeked out beneath the cap. Girl or boy, he couldn’t tell at this distance but he thought she looked like a girl. Tiny thing. But he took all ages. The different rooms of the first floor were all decorated as well, but this was the living room. Most of the kids would be in here. If he did get any older kids he had the family room set up with more age-appropriate diversions like the Wii.

He walked over to the chalk boards mounted along the wall beneath the fake giant crayons. He looked down into one of two buckets at either end of the boards. Both were full of different colored sidewalk chalk. He had several erasers in the tray along the top of the boards. He touched them, brushed off his hands.

The doors opened again. Angie sending in the woman he had seen and her child. The woman was dressed in an expensive-looking black suit dress.

“Good morning,” he said cheerfully. He hurried over and looked at the mother, then the child. Bright blue eyes looked back at him. A pretty child, a girl he surmised from the green dress that she wore beneath the white jacket. “Hi there.”

“This is Mrs. Watson and her daughter Emily,” Angie said. “I’ve got someone else coming in?”

“Thanks Angie.” Terry looked at Mrs. Watson. “I’m glad you brought Emily here. I’m sure we’ll have a good time. Right Emily?”

Emily looked right at him with brilliant blue eyes. So blue they almost looked like gemstones, they were really quite remarkable. She didn’t blink and didn’t seem the least bit nervous. And she didn’t respond. He glanced at her mother.

 

Mrs. Watson bent and put Emily down. “Emily is a special girl. I’ve given your assistant her lunch.”

“We provide meals as a part of our serv—”

“Please don’t. I’ve already explained to your assistant. Emily has a particular diet. No snacks, nothing except the lunches that I pack.”

Terry nodded. “Of course. Is she allergic?”

“No, her condition is genetic. I think you’ll find several of the children have the same condition.”

“I don’t understand. Are they related?”

Mrs. Watson took out an iPhone. “I’m sorry Mr. Jackson, but I really must go. I’ve given your assistant all the particulars, please familiarize yourself with the material. I appreciate your cooperation on this.”

“Of course. Whatever you say. We’re here to help.”

“Excellent. I’ll be back before six to pick Emily up. Good bye.” Mrs. Watson turned around and left, her shoes leaving small dimples in the rubberized flooring that slowly faded.

Terry turned around and saw Emily slowly walking around the room just looking at everything, taking it all in. He started over to say hi again when the door opened and Angie was showing through a man in a business suit. He was also carrying a young girl with snow-white curls that looked so much like Emily that she had to be her sister. Her eyes were also blue, also had that gem-like quality, but in her case the color was a deeper blue heading toward violet. It made him wonder if the girls were wearing colored contacts. But who would give kids this age colored contacts? And why had they brought them separately? A divorced couple, each with custody of one of the girls?

“This is Mr. Highsmith,” Angie said, her tone clearly troubled. “And Elisabeth. I’ve got others coming in.”

“Mr. Highsmith, Terry Jackson. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Of course.” Mr. Highsmith put down Elisabeth. “I’ve left instructions at the desk, but I find it best to tell everyone involved. Elisabeth and the others should only have the specific meals that the parents have provided. Don’t stray from our guidelines. No snacks outside what is provided. Adjust your schedule to suit their meal plans.”

Terry didn’t care at all for Mr. Highsmith’s tone. “Just a second, I don’t understand what’s going on here. Are the girls related?”

“In a sense, Mr. Jackson, but you don’t need to concern yourself with that. Just provide a safe and engaging environment during work hours. That’s all you need to worry about.”

“Of course, that’s what we do.” In a sense? Terry wanted to ask what he meant but Mr. Highsmith looked ready to leave already.

Mr. Highsmith looked at his watch. “Great. I’ll be back before six to pick her up.”

He turned and left. Terry reached out, thinking to shake his hand, but the other man was already going through the door as someone else came in. Two more parents, two more girls, but these two didn’t look like Emily and Elisabeth. The first had raven dark hair and the second had nothing but peach fuzz on her head. Erin, with the dark hair, the other was Edwina. Both also had remarkable eyes. Erin’s like obsidian, so dark he couldn’t even see her pupils. That definitely wasn’t normal. Neither were Edwina’s eyes, a sort of rose quartz in color. The girls ran around him into the room. Terry greeted the parents, a Mr. Conway and Ms. Smith, but he was drawn more to the children. All four girls were exploring the room but spent no more than glances on each other. No laughter. No interacting. He was still watching the girls when their parents left.

Screaming behind him caught his attention. Terry turned around just as Angie was opening the door.

“This is the last one,” Angie said.

The mother coming in behind her was entirely unlike the cold, standoffish business types that had dropped off the girls. She was tall with a big build and brown hair with lighter streaks. She wore a nice blue blouse cut low enough to show a hint of generous creamy cleavage. The screaming came from the boy she towed into the room by one arm. Auburn hair flying away in all directions, he tried to set his feet and pull away but he didn’t have a chance against her. He grabbed for the door frame and missed. The whole time wailing at the top of his lungs.

Terry glanced back at the girls. They had all stopped what they were doing and were staring at the boy the way kids might watch an interesting bug. Terry left the girls and went straight to the boy. He crouched down in front of the boy. As he expected the boy saw him, stopped screaming and tried to hid behind his mother’s ample thighs.

“Hey, there. I’m Terry. What’s your name?”

The boy peeked out, staring at him with wide, perfectly ordinary hazel eyes. Nice enough, but this guy was out of his league in this room.

“Let me guess, is it Logan?” Terry waited. The boy didn’t respond, but he leaned out a little farther. “Richard? Paul? John?”

The boy’s mother nudged him with her knee.

“Max,” the boy said.

“Ahh, like Max in Where the Wild Things Are?”

The boy grinned widely and growled.

“I see, a wild thing. Okay, Max. How old are you?”

Max held up four fingers.

“Great. Well, Max, you see this room?” Terry moved to the side so that Max could see the room. The girls hadn’t moved and were watching this exchange. “We’ve got all sorts of fun things for you to do here for a little while. Then later your mother will come back and pick you up. How’s that?”

“Okay!” Max left his mother and charged over to the bucket holding the chalk. He grabbed a big blue piece and started drawing on the board.

Terry stood up and looked at Max’s mother. “Hi, Terry Jackson.”

“Sarah Nichols. You’re good. I’m glad I decided to bring him here. He can be a handful.”

Terry shrugged. “No problem. We’re happy to have him.”

“Great.” Sarah kept looking at him directly. The prolonged eye contact was interesting. Her eyes were like her sons, a nice warm hazel color. “I’ll be back at four, after I get off work. Ever since his father decided to go for younger, thinner and dumber it’s been a struggle.”

Terry held out his hand. “I’m happy to help. We’ll have fun.”

She shook and her hand was warm and soft. She smiled and Terry felt his heart skip a beat. He let go reluctantly.

Sarah crouched down. “Max? Momma’s going to go now.”

Max glanced over his shoulder and absently waved at his mother. More of a go away now gesture than anything else. Sara stood back up. She smiled at Terry. “Thanks again.”

“Happy to help.” Terry followed her to the door. He looked back and the girls had returned to exploring the room, but they kept glancing over at Max. Still, it seemed safe enough at the moment. He slipped out after Sarah. “Ah, Mrs. Nichols —”

She turned around, still smiling. “Sarah, please. I’m not missus anything now. I took back my maiden name in the divorce.”

“Sarah, does Max have any particular dietary concerns we should know about?” Terry noticed Angie watching him from the front desk. Probably wondering what he was doing since she would already have the information.

Sarah shook her head. “No, that kid’ll eat anything.”

She waved her fingers at him and headed for the door, with a perky “Bye!” directed at Angie as she passed the desk. Angie came out from behind the desk after Sarah was gone. She smirked at him and glanced back at the door.

“You liked her, didn’t you?”

“I’m friendly with all of the parents.”

“Yeah, a regular prince charming. Did you notice how strange those girls are?”

Terry nodded. “You mean their eyes? Yeah. I should probably get back to the room. I don’t want to leave them alone too long.”

He headed that way and wasn’t surprised that Angie followed him.

“I mean no one has eyes like that,” Angie said. “I especially didn’t like Erin’s eyes. She looks like she belongs in a horror movie. And what about the names?”

Terry reached the door to the room and looked through the glass. He didn’t see Max anywhere and the four girls were standing around one of the pyramid units. “Shit.”

He pushed through the door and went inside. All four girls looked up at him as he came in and those strange eyes of theirs brought him to a stop. He looked around the room. No sign of Max. “Max? Where are you?”

Angie came in beside him.

“Max? It’s Terry, remember?”

He heard a muffled, “Yeah.”

“It came from the purple pyramid,” Angie said.

That was the one that the girls were standing around. Terry walked past the green pyramid and looked down at the girls. They were all watching him. He smiled broadly and crouched down so that he’d be on their level.

“Girls, where is Max? Do you know where Max is?”

As one all four girls pointed at the pyramid. Terry reached past Erin with the creepy dark eyes and Elisabeth with the almost violet eyes and pulled out the purple cloth drawer at the middle of the pyramid. It was full of foam blocks, so it was very light, and he sat it to the side. In the dim center of the pyramid Max sat with his legs up to his chest and his arms wrapped around the legs. He looked scared.

“Hey, man. It’s okay. Are you hiding in there?”

Max nodded but his face scrunched up like he was fighting back tears.

The shelf that the drawer had sat on hinged up. Terry lifted it and the magnet on the end held it up out of the way. Terry pulled out the two bottom drawers, also full of blocks, and pushed them aside so that the way into the pyramid was open. He held out his arms. “Come on, buddy. Let’s come out. It’ll be okay.”

Max shook his head.

Terry got down on his knees and sat back on his heels. “You don’t want to come out?”

Max shook his head again.

“Why not?”

Max leaned over and looked past Terry. Terry turned and saw the girls crowding around beside him, all peering in at Max. When he looked back Max had his face hidden in his arms. Terry turned to the girls.

“Girls, can you give Max some space? He’s feeling shy right now. Why don’t you take a look at some of the other things in the room?”

“No,” Emily said.

Erin said, “We.”

“Don’t,” added Edwina.

“Want to,” finished Elisabeth.

Then all at once, together, they said, “We want to play with the boy.”

A cold shiver ran down Terry’s spine and for the first time he really understood what it meant when people said that someone had walked over his grave. Suddenly he felt like crawling right into the pyramid with Max and pulling the drawers in behind him. That’s what Max must have done in those few minutes when Terry had left him alone because he was attracted to Max’s mother.

Except he wasn’t a four-year-old boy. He was a grown adult and no matter how creepy the girls acted he still believed that they were little girls. They weren’t monsters. They weren’t demons or aliens. Something was definitely strange about these girls but they were still only little girls.

He reached out and placed a hand on Elisabeth’s shoulder and one on Edwina’s since they were the closest. “I know. I know you want to play with the boy. I understand that. You want to play with the boy because he’s different. I get it. But right now he’s not ready to play. If you give me a chance, I might be able to change his mind, but to do that you need to go find some other things to play with right now. Okay?”

“Okay,” Edwina said.

“We’ll,” Erin added.

Elisabeth said, “Go.”

“Play,” finished Emily.

Creepy, creepy, creepy. Terry struggled to keep his smile pleasant and warm. It evidently worked because the girls stayed true to their word and wandered away to explore the other toys in the room again, but they didn’t stay together. The way there were talking together he expected them to stay in a group but once they left they drifted apart. Emily went to the green pyramid and pulled out one of the drawers full of bright red foam blocks and dumped them on the floor. She sat down and started building something.

Elisabeth went to the chalk board and started drawing with green chalk.

In the corner of the room Erin sat down at one of the tables with a the Toy Story 3 tag junior alien and started using it on one of the tag books while Edwina sat on the opposite side playing with a doll.

Terry turned back to Max. “Max? Max, look at me.”

Max kept his face buried in his arms and shook his head.

“Come on Max. What happened? Did they tease you?”

Max went very still for a moment, but then shook his head.

“Pinch you?”

Another head shake.

“Lift you over their heads and throw you around the room like a giant beach ball?”

Max lifted his head with a small smile on his face. “They couldn’t do that!”

“No? Oh, that’s right. I’ll bet they walked around on their hands.”

Max laughed. “That’s not it!”

“No?”

Max shook his head.

Terry rocked back on his heels. “Farted fantastic farts?” A snort of laughter and another head shake. “Scratched their fingernails on the chalk boards?”

Max shook his head again, biting his lip when he looked past Terry. Terry looked back and saw Emily sitting on the floor with her red block building rising in front of her. Some sort of tower. “So, what are you doing hiding in a pyramid?”

“I don’t know.”

Terry crawled forward part way into the pyramid and turned sideways. He put his arms over his knees, copying Max’s posture. “Look man,” he whispered. “I get it. These girls, they’re different than any little girls I’ve ever seen too.”

“Their eyes,” Max whispered.

Terry nodded. “I know, right? And the way they talked? Finishing each other’s sentences? That was pretty strange too, wasn’t it?”

Max nodded quickly.

“But that doesn’t make them bad or anything, does it? And don’t you think they’re pretty?”

Max’s eyes narrowed and his mouth opened in a silent laugh. He shook his head.

Terry shrugged. “Okay, man. I guess you’re still a little young to be interested in girls. No problem. But hey, they’re just kids right? So they’re different. To them you’re the one that is different. That’s why they were so interested in you. I’ll bet it just surprised you and sort of freaked you out. Am I right?”

“Maybe,” Max whispered.

“Okay. Great. Then why don’t we go out there? You don’t have to play with them if you don’t want but just don’t hide from them. Deal?”

Max seemed to think about it for a few seconds and then he nodded.

“Great. Let’s get out of here.” Terry paused and looked around the inside of the pyramid. “Although this is sort of cool.”

Max laughed.

Terry crawled out. Emily glanced over but didn’t stop her construction of the foam block tower. Terry stood up as Max came out of the pyramid. Max stood for a minute, biting his lip, then walked over to where Emily was building with the blocks.

“Can I help?” he asked.

Terry noticed that all four girls looked at Max, but the others stayed where they were and only Emily answered.

“Yes,” she said. She picked up a block and held it out. “You can put the blocks on that side.”

“Okay.” Max took the block and put it on the tower wall on his side. The tower had a hexagon shape with everything precisely lined up. He didn’t place it as precisely as Emily had been doing but she didn’t say anything, just picked up the next block and handed it to Max as well. He put that one on the right side of the wall. Emily put the next one perfectly in place.

Terry went over to one of the other tables and sat down where he could watch the kids play without being in the way, glad that the first trial of the day looked resolved. It was actually very cute the way Max and Emily kept looking at each other. Both of them were studying each other. At least it was cute until Terry noticed something else strange about the girls. Every time Emily took a peek around the tower to look at Max, the other girls also peeked at him. Elisabeth would turn and look away from her chalk board drawing to look at him, somehow managing to keep drawing as she did, while Erin and Edwina would both look up from their play at the table to look at Max. The glances were quick, but perfectly synchronized.

Terry shivered. How could the girls possibly do that? They didn’t look at each other first, but as one they turned or leaned or lifted their heads to look at Max. Even though they all kept doing what they had been doing it was clear that their actions weren’t occupying their attention. All of their attention was still focused on Max, just as it had been when he was still hiding inside the pyramid. It was like one of those cop shows, when they showed the undercover cops staking out someone and even though they might look like someone homeless, or a harried mom, or a guy out for a jog they’d all be watching the same guy. And if you watched the big picture long enough you could pick out each of the undercover cops because they didn’t quite fit.

The girls were like that. They didn’t quite play. Anyone looking in might think it was a quiet day care with some children playing. But watch long enough and discover that the girls were all interested in the boy. Even more than that, though, was the eerie synchronicity to their movements.

Terry’s cell phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out. There was a text. From Angie. Come out front.

Terry pocketed the phone and stood up. That got everyone’s attention. He held his hand up to the kids. “No worries. I’m just going to help Angie out up front. Go ahead and keep playing, and I’ll be right back.”

The girls all turned back to what they were doing. Max shrugged and accepted another foam block from Emily. Great, hopefully he wouldn’t come back to another problem after he left the room.

Out front Angie was standing behind the desk looking at the monitor which showed the feed from the four webcams in the corners of the room. She twisted her hands together as she looked at him.

“Terry? What’s going on? Those girls, they aren’t normal!”

Terry nodded. “Noticed that did you?”

“Terry!”

“What? What do you want me to do about it? The kids are getting along now. When their parents come back to pick them up maybe we can find something out.”

“We should call them now.”

“Angie—”

“Look!” Angie pointed at the monitor.

Terry sighed but he looked. All four girls were still doing the same thing that they’d been doing before. Emily and Max were both standing now to build the tower and had moved on to the green blocks after running out of the reds. They seemed intent on building the tower as tall as possible. Emily’s side looked perfect but on cam three Terry could see that Max’s side was much less even, but the tower still stood. Erin and Edwina hadn’t left their table, and Elisabeth remained at the chalk board drawing, he realized, a picture of Max and Emily with their tower. She had already drawn Emily with far more skill than he would have expected from a child her age and was working on the tower drawing now.

“They’re unusual,” he said. “But —”

“They’re strange.” Angie took a deep breath. “Look, I’ve been watching. The way they move? How they act? It seems very strange. And what about their eyes? That can’t be normal.”

“What do you think it going on?”

Angie sank down into her chair. “I don’t know, but no way those kids aren’t related.”

Terry noticed something happening in the room. It started with Elisabeth. She looked away from the drawing on the chalk board and looked right up at the webcam. As soon as she did the other girls also stopped what they were doing and looked at a webcam. Each of them picked a different camera to face.

Angie kept talking, oblivious to what was happening. “Maybe it’s like that old movie, the one with the kids —”

“Angie. Look.”

Erin and Edwina had risen to their feet without letting their strange eyes shift from the cameras in the corners of the room on that side. Emily had turned away from the tower she was building with Max and was looking straight at camera two. Erin’s eyes bothered him the most, because they looked like dark pits.

Angie hugged herself. “What are they doing?”

Max finally noticed that Emily had stopped building. He looked around the room and obviously saw that the other girls were also looking up at the webcams. He looked up too, and his forehead wrinkled, then he looked back at Emily. Terry saw Max say something but they didn’t have the mics enabled. The system was set up so that parents could log in with their child’s information and watch what was going on with their kids.

“Turn on the sound.”

Angie didn’t move.

“Angie! Turn on the sound.”

Max was saying something else but Emily didn’t budge. None of the girls moved. They all stared at the cameras without moving. Angie tapped a couple keys and suddenly they could hear Max.

“—wrong? Don’t you want to play?”

All together the girls spoke. “Our parents are coming. They’ll be here soon. Do not be alarmed.”

Angie gasped. Moving again with that eerie synchronicity, the girls all lay down on the floor, heads pillowed on their arms in a fetal position, and appeared to go to sleep.

“I’ll take care of Max,” Terry said. “Try to get their parents on the phone.”

“They said their parents — “

“I know. Try anyway.” Terry was already on his way to the door. He reached it and went inside.

Max was shaking Emily’s shoulder, but when Terry came in Max ran to him. Terry braced himself as Terry flung his arms around Terry’s legs. Terry patted his shoulder. “It’s okay Max.”

Max drew back slightly. “What’s wrong with her?”

“They’re tired, that’s all. They needed to take a nap.”

Still holding onto Terry’s legs, Max twisted around to look at Emily. As far as Terry could tell she looked peaceful, her side rising and falling with each breath. With her eyes closed she looked like any child. The same with the other girls. Terry crouched down and put his hands on Max’s shoulders.

“Say, do you like video games?” Max nodded. “Great, we’ve got all of the Lego games in the other room. What do you say we let Emily and the others nap and we’ll play a game?”

“Okay,” Max said. “I’m not tired.”

“That’s good.” Terry stood up and held out his hand. Max took it and walked with him to the other room.

Angie was just getting off the phone when they got out to the main desk. She smiled at Max, and looked up at Terry. “I talked to Mr. Highsmith. He’s on the way with the others. He asked us not to do anything about the girls.”

“Great. I’m going to show Max the Wii.”

“Okay. I’ll keep an eye on the girls.” Angie settled back into her chair.

In the front room Terry turned on the television and the Wii. He handed controllers to Max. “What do you think? Lego Star Wars? Harry Potter?”

“Harry Potter!”

“Harry it is then.” Terry loaded the game disc into the console and picked up a second set of controllers. “Let’s play.”

“I get to be Harry. You can play Ron.”

“That’s fine, Max.”

Mr. Highsmith, Ms. Watson, Ms. Smith and Mr. Conway all showed up together. Terry saw the large black van pull into the parking lot. He relinquished his character to computer control and put down the controllers.

“I’ve got to talk to some parents, Max. Are you okay here?”

“Sure!”

“Great.” Terry reached the front hallway as the parent delegation, led by Mr. Highsmith came into the hallway. Terry held out his hand. “Mr. Highsmith, thanks for coming.”

Mr. Highsmith shook his hand quickly. “Yes, Mr. Jackson, I suppose some explanations are in order.”

Terry nodded. “I’d think so.”

Mr. Highsmith glanced back at the other parents for a second. Terry couldn’t quite interpret the looks they exchanged but then Mr. Highsmith turned back to him. “Our girls aren’t exactly normal.”

“We noticed that they seemed kinda strange, not just their eyes.”

Ms. Smith managed a weak smile. “The eyes were deliberate.”

“Deliberate?” What exactly did she mean by that?

“Mr. Jackson,” Mr. Highsmith started again.

“Terry.”

“Okay, Terry. I’ll make this as simple as possible. Our girls aren’t human, they’re like robots —”

“Cyborgs, actually,” Ms. Watson said. “They’re hybrid organisms, both machine and organic.”

“I’ve read science fiction,” Terry said. “I know about cyborgs. Okay, so what are cyborgs doing in my daycare?”

“We wanted to try them in a natural environment, interacting with regular kids. A Turing test of their behavior.”

That made sense. “To see if they could pass for normal kids?”

“To other kids,” Ms. Watson clarified. “We were able to monitor them remotely both through your webcams and their own built-in feeds.”

“Needless to say the test was a failure,” Ms. Smith said. “They have the ability to link to one another, which gave rise to the strange behavior you observed. I had made the recommendation that their links be deactivated —”

“In any case,” Mr. Highsmith said. “I’m sure you can see that we still have work to do.”

Terry shook his head. “I don’t know that it’s a good idea to drop cyborgs into a daycare. What if they had injured a real child?”

“They would never harm a human,” Mr. Conway said. “There are strict safety protocols in place.”

“We don’t need to burden you with the details, Terry. But we do thank you for your assistance, this was a valuable test. I believe we paid for all four prototypes for the month, that should provide sufficient reimbursement for your trouble?”

Angie gave Terry a look that suggested he’d better keep his mouth shut. It bothered him that they dropped off their cyborgs for a test. He crossed his arms. “And I suppose we have to keep our mouths shut about this?”

Mr. Highsmith gave him a thin smile. “That would be the wisest course of action. Otherwise the legal debate could be quite ruinous to an operation such as yours. I think we’ll take our property back now?”

“Right.” Terry stepped out of the way. “I’m not stopping you.”

With a nod Mr. Highsmith and the others walked past him to the room. As they came back out Max came out of the front room and pressed up against Terry.

“What are they doing?”

“Taking them home,” Terry said.

“Oh.” Max raised a hand as they headed out the doors. “Bye bye.”

2

That evening Terry sat alone in the dark playroom after Sarah picked up Max. He had enjoyed how excited Max was to tell his mother about their games of Lego Harry Potter, and what they had for lunch, and how Terry read to him. Sarah’s eyes had looked at Terry warmly after that, which was interesting. Max hadn’t brought up the girls. It was as if they never existed.

That’s what kept him up now. The girls had seemed strange, that much was true. Unnerving. But he hadn’t doubted that they were real girls. Not at first anyway. How much longer would it be before the company perfected their cyborgs? Perfect little children that followed directions and always did what they were told. Would people choose them over real children? Some might.

Terry got up and turned out the light. The playroom seemed very empty, and dark. Tomorrow he’d see about getting some more kids so that Max would have someone to play with.

5,310 WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 28th weekly short story release, written in December 2010. I originally released this about a month later on Amazon.com and other retailers. I’ve taken it down everywhere else, leaving it up at Amazon since it was under my name (I pulled down everything under my pen names).

I’m releasing each of these stories, one per week, here on my website. Eventually I’ll do standard e-book releases when I am satisfied that I can create the cover art that I want for the books. In the meantime I’m enjoying these weekly releases. Stories will remain until I get up the new  e-book versions and at that point I’ll take the story down.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Check back next week for another story. Next up is a paranormal story, Artifact Angst.