Deletable Love

Mom and dad are outside the room, watching me on the view screen. I grip the small holoroom remote in my hand. Pixels swirl around me, transforming into a park. As soon as I see Ava on a bench reading my mouth is dry and there’s tears in my eyes.

I don’t even know what to say or how to say it. My parents want me to delete my girlfriend.

Ava looks up from her book and smiles, but it slides away. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“My parents want me to erase the program,” I say. I can’t believe I blurt it out like that. The horrible look on her face twists my guts. “I’m sorry.”

“Why?” Her voice is barely a whisper.

Hot tears drench my face. I clench my teeth and take an unsteady breath through my nose. “Mom and dad don’t think we’re legit. They think it’s wrong for us to be together.”

Her dark eyes meet mine. There’s tears there, but I can tell she’s more angry than anything.

“What’s wrong with what we have? Why do they get to decide who you love?”

They shouldn’t be able to. I tried to tell my parents that when we argued. But I live in their house. Their rules. Either I delete Ava and get a real girlfriend or they will. What other choice did I have?

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” I say. “You’ve been my everything for the last six months. I love you.”

“Yeah, I can see that. And what’s in your hand. Is that it? The remote. You’re going to do it aren’t you, you’re going to kill me?”

She sounds so hurt and my heart feels like it’s gonna burst. I hadn’t even thought about it like that. But she’s right. Deletion will do more than end her program. It will erase her forever.

I don’t know what to say. All I can do is stare at the beautiful girl in front of me and wonder what the hell is so wrong with loving her. Ava is every bit as real to me as anyone else I’ve ever known. She’s more than a program.

She takes a deep breath, wipes the tears from her face, and sets her jaw. “Just do it,” she says, voice steady. It’s amazing how strong she is. How brave. I love her so much.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want be the one to do it, but I wanted to say goodbye. I love you.” I take a few steps toward her.

I feel like I’m gonna puke. I raise the remote and I’m about to do it when she says my name.

“I know it’s not your fault. I love you too. Keep me right here,” she says and she points to my heart.

I press two buttons. Ava fragments and the world around us crumbles. Her small body fades as pixels drop and dissipate. The last piece of her to go is her bright, toothy smile.

I’m alone in the empty holoroom. It wasn’t how I wanted my goodbye to go, but my parents were watching. I had to make them believe I’d done it. Before I deleted, I saved a copy. I doubt they’ll verify the files are gone. It’ll be some time before I’ll risk seeing her again. I’ll have to sneak visits when my parents aren’t around. But I love Ava with all of my heart, and I refuse to let my parents tell me that I can’t love a hologram.

Eric Fomley’s stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, and Galaxy’s Edge. You can read more of his stories on his website

Old Girl

He lets me ride up front all the way to the clinic, lets me hang my head out the window and feel the breeze rush through my hair the way he knows I like but seldom lets me do.

He doesn’t talk to me the way he usually does. Even when we’re sitting in the waiting room, he just stares at the tacky sail boat wallpaper and runs his fingers through my hair. I’m not sure what’s wrong. None of this feels the way it did the other times we came to the clinic.

I try to nestle in close to him. To comfort him, even though I’m not sure what it is that’s bothering him. He pushes me down and there’s no brightness to his eyes when he looks at me.

I feel the weight of his sadness on my heart and I too sit and stare and wait.

The doctor comes in and lays a blanket on the metal examination table. It’s a dingy pink with cartoon characters from an old movie for kids.

Master stands and helps me sit on the table. It’s hard to sit on, even with the blanket there, and it hurts my butt to sit still. The doctor puts a hand on my back to steady me, looks down at me with a smile plastered on his face. Doing his best to help me feel at ease.

But why shouldn’t I feel at ease? I’ve had shots and vaccinations so many times before.

The doctor looks over to master.

“How old is she?”

“Eighty Seven.”

Doc makes a low whistling sound. “She’s an old girl. What’s wrong with her?” He glances at my arms and legs, turns my face with his hand.

“She’s not been herself. Doesn’t have the energy she used to. Spends most of the day laying around.”

“Well that’s pretty normal, especially at her age. Has she been getting sick?”

“Yeah. She’s been throwing up a lot. Blood in her stool. I can tell she doesn’t feel good.”

My heart skips a beat. I’d wondered why he’d spent so much time looking at me the last few days. I swore it was just something I ate. Did he really think something more was wrong with me?

“Well at her age, this kind of animal, you usually see the liver and kidneys go first. A lot of what you’ll see is that sort of sickness before the end.”

“I know. I put it off as long as I could. I just don’t want her suffering.”

“You did the right thing bringing her in. Its the hardest part of pet ownership,” the doctor says.

So that’s what this was about. Dread tingles my spine. Cold clutches my heart.

“Do you want to be in the room?”

Master looks at me with those sad, dim eyes.


The doctor nods and turns his back to us, opening one of the cabinet drawers and grabbing a prepackaged disposable syringe and a vial of clear fluid.

I breathe out a ragged sigh. I don’t blame my master. I’m not what I was. My health degrades each day. I did feel sick, I wasn’t myself.

Master pets me gently. Holds me firmly on the table.

I start to shake. Tears form in my eyes.

The Doctor grabs my arm, turns it over, exposing the veins. He sticks the needle in, flushing the reservoir.

Master looks away, to the wall behind me.

A smile twitches at the corners of my lips. He’s an old robot. But always kind to me. I felt his love. We’d had a good run together. I hope, as the chilly fluid swirls through my veins, that he finds another human to help comfort him in this lonely world.

Eric Fomley’s stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, and elsewhere. More of his stores can be found at