by Izzy Todd
The ancient robot had exposed wiring where its outer casing had been pulled off and had rusted away in flakes. There was a certain similarity to organic injuries in the irregular red-brown patches that covered it, the inner workings underneath vaguely reminiscent of tendon and muscle and vein. It went without saying, however, that nothing with a heartbeat could have continued to survive practically gutted – a cavern was hollowed out of its torso where systems the bot had deemed superfluous had been clawed out with prying metal fingers and left in handfuls across the planet.
It had a loping sort of stride that sent spilt wires and tubing waving back and forth as it walked, the latter long since dry of the oily black liquid that permanently stained the area around its gaping wound. It stood oddly hunched, back curved at too much of an angle to pass, even in silhouette, for the human it would have otherwise resembled; yet the crooked and apathetic posture was an unsettling fit for an android as well.
Its eyes were glass and one had long since shattered, becoming foggy with the web of cracks inside it. It tended to glaze over with condensation, water accumulating within and sloshing gently when it moved. The robot would stand in stillness for hours until the eye drained, patiently waiting with its head cocked for it to trickle down into its chest cavity and water the plants growing there.
Blades of grass and vines curled inside what the rain had steadfastly peeled away across centuries, twining between the wires and emerging from other holes, but it was the repository of earth in the robot's abdomen that it was most proud of. It carried a small knot of night-blooming flowers in its shade, protecting them with the hull it had left and sustaining them diligently despite the damaged this inflicted.
Greenery spread from the pit of its stomach, the majority of the tendrils coiling around what amounted to steel ribs and keeping the plants anchored no matter how the robot moved, but it was always gentle, ginger, mindful of its passenger. Some stalks reached further, one spiraling down one leg and dragging behind the bot when it walked. Another effectively tethered one of the bot's arms to its side, dotting its hand with new, small leaves.
“There is life in me,” the bot would whisper, vocal processor still functional enough to convey reverence and awe, and shield its flowers from those who would attempt to fix it.