A little girl without a mother learns that one's heart can be filled with no more than a doll.
Silken dolls, chapter 1
December 15, 1992, 9:12am. Sanft’s eighth birthday.
“Daddy, daddy! Can I really open it!?” Sanft called joyously from the living room.
“Let me get there first!” Tinte, her father called back from his shop. He left a half-finished ceramic doll on the table and met with his ecstatic daughter. She held a large pink package that was apparently too heavy to lift from the floor, scissors poised in her small, thin fingers.
“Please, can I open it yet daddy?” Her eyes twitched painfully in childish anticipation at the thought of the marvelous toy that lay just beyond a barrier of flimsy pink paper and golden ribbon. Tears almost streaming down her strained face.
“Go ahead, it’s yours.” He laughed at his daughter’s dramatic anguish as it fled from her face.
She squealed with delight and clutched the package. She slid her scissors over the ribbon and clenched, the wrapping shredded easily from her ferocious eight year old fingers.
As the box fell open, Sanft watched in awe as a life-sized doll was revealed to her. It was a doll of a girl only a few years older than Sanft herself, it had long golden hair and a silk dress that covered its body. Tinte had crafted this doll himself and had not shied away from too much detail, the doll’s eyes were soft instead of glassy and its skin was soft to the touch.
“Her name is Seiden Angesicht, I made her just for you. And guess what!”
“Today’s her fourteenth birthday!”
Sanft’s eyes grew big and she hugged the doll’s slender waist. “Guess what big sister, today’s my birthday too!”
Tinte excused himself to allow Sanft time with her new doll, also to work on another one.
The next doll would be a boy, a build of about eighteen years old. This one, already having his bones crafted from iron, would be able to walk. Tinte’s friend in silicon valley was currently making a brain for it. Its name would be Eisen Schaffte.
Once Eisen was animated, Tinte vowed to do the same for seiden. Then there would be more, plans for robotic dolls littered Tinte’s dingy shop. They would be the companion of tomorrow, everyone would have a doll for their very own. Tinte even dared to dream that his dolls may someday become equal to man, both in body and mind.
People didn’t understand his dream, they thought he was just some crazy german dollmaker who had caught a bit of hubris. They would all laugh and point at him, once a group had tried to take his daughter away, but he had won that battle.
It may not have helped that he was a 57 year old man in a hand-made house on the mountain with his daughter. Anyone might think that he had completely lost his head. Also, that he made cute toy dolls for a living may have affected his reputation.
A cry broke his concentration. “Daddy, the phone is ringing!” Sanft’s soft voice just barely penetrated the thick walls of Tinte’s shop.
He entered the real house to find Sanft pressing the phone against Seiden’s soft face, it smooshed wonderfully against the molded plastic in an expression belonging to a bored child. Tinte shooed her away and grabbed the phone himself.
“Hello?” The man on the other end had been trying to speak with the doll, but had enough patience for Tinte to pick up.
“Yes? Craig?” Tinte spoke between the man’s words.
“Tinte? What happened?”
“My daughter was playing with her new doll.”
“The new soft one?”
“Yeah, thanks for the artificial skin again.”
“No problem, you paid for it. Anyway, I have something new for you.”
“And the artificial muscles to go with it. Although the brain isn’t very smart yet, it’s basically just a robot operating system right now.”
“That doesn’t matter yet, we’re not trying to make people. When can you come up with it?”
“I’ll be there in a few days. By the way, the new muscles won’t work on the iron frame you sent me the schematics for, you’ll need a lighter frame. Maybe ceramic, like the 00003 model you sent over.”
“I’ll have it ready by the time you get here.” Tinte moved the phone to his shoulder and picked out the plan for a ceramically boned doll out from a folder, Sanft carried Seiden into her room and made Tinte smile.
“Tinte, Are you sure that you don’t want to patent this? You’d be the most famous robotisist since Asimov!”
“Asimov wrote about robots, he never built one.”
“Either way!” Craig was getting exited. “You can’t say you don’t want people to know you for this! You made this and now you don’t even want it?”
“Craig, I haven’t done anything purely for money in the last twenty-eight years. This is a labor of love for my art. Goodbye.” The phone clicked and left him without anyone to talk with, his daughter laughed joyously from her room.
Every artist wishes for his creations to take life, Pygmalion had his dream come true because he loved his creation, and so did Tinte. But Pygmalion had the help of a god and Tinte was apparently not good enough to inspire a miracle.
Then he met Craig, Craig said that he should take more from the golem stories. Beings made from clay and animated by part of the owner’s soul, but they were always weaker in mind and spirit than the maker. Craig wanted to do that, but with a computer so as to inspire sentience in the newly made golem.
Tinte didn’t know about a soul, but the computer was still good without one and Tinte could afford Craig his delusions. Tinte could care less, his dolls would move on their own and that was enough for him.
In his shop, molten ceramics poured into a new mold and were put to the side to cool, harden to their true strength. They would be twice as strong as bone and almost as flexible with a slight advantage of weight. This doll would become a boy of athletic build, a body-age of about seventeen. Small loops covered each bone where artificial muscle and tendon would connect to it.
Small cords were taken from the artificial flesh that Craig had sent a few months ago. These would become vocal cords for when the doll could use them. More flesh was cut according to how much would eventually cover this doll, accounting for the new muscle that Craig would bring later.
The doll’s eyes were basically gel cameras that attached to optic nerves that would connect to Craig’s brain. Touch nerves had already been interwoven into the flesh by Craig’s team in California, even Seiden was covered by active touch nerves.
But she had no brain, although she was made in the same way that this new doll would be made. Once the process was perfect, Tinte would remake her as the best model ever and have a daughter that would die or grow old like Sanft would.
Tinte would make a family of dolls and live with them until he died. He would make a husband for Sanft that could be trusted with his little girl. His art would life forever and keep his memory alive.
“Daddy!” Once again, Sanft’s voice tore him away from his shop.
“What is it, honey?” She sat with Seiden in front of the television.
“We want to watch TV, but we can’t reach the remote.” It was on the shelf so she wouldn’t stay up too late on the glowing box. He took it from its perch and handed it over to the waiting hands of his daughter.
Most of Tinte’s could wait until the next day, so he sat and watched Sanft play with her toy. She flipped through the channels, asking Seiden each time if she liked it or not. It was really a cute spectacle, a proof of the innocence of children.
Tinte rarely left his shop except to play with Sanft or eat, sleep. As a result, Sanft ended up being very self-reliant even at her young age. She was taught by him on weekends and devoured the continuous stream of books that Tinte ordered.
Sanft took greatly after her mother, she had always been a brilliant woman. She was actually the one who convinced Tinte to make dolls instead of being a military engineer. She wrote books as long as she lived, but had failed to instill the talent in Sanft before she died.
By the program’s end, Sanft had fallen asleep in Seiden’s lap. Tinte, being the good father, moved Seiden’s arms to hold Sanft’s head. Sanft must have stayed awake the previous night to fall asleep at noon.
Tinte ran his fingers through Seiden’s soft, cool hair. Sanft clenched around her leg and cuddled her head deeper into the doll’s soft lap. And yet, Seiden showed no emotion, no smile or coo for the love she was getting.
That would change soon.
Sanft lay there contently. Seiden’s lap was soft and warm, her hands rested on Sanft’s head. Daddy’s dolls had always been cute, but Sanft had never been able to use one’s lap as a pillow. Sanft’s arms cuddled high on Seiden’s leg and the silk dress felt amazing on Sanft’s cheek.
After a while, daddy went to work in his shop, leaving the girls alone. Sanft grunted to carry the doll into the bathroom. Seiden’s dress slid off easily and Sanft poised her as to sit in the bath. Sanft soon turned on the water and joined the doll.
Daddy really hadn’t spared any details, it was hard to believe that this beautiful girl had really been built and not born. If Seiden could move, nobody would know the difference between her and a real girl.
Seiden wasn’t really dirty except for the drool on her lap and that washed off easily in the warm water. After washing herself, Sanft laid back using Seiden’s chest as a pillow this time.
“big sis, do you like me?” Sanft asked the doll.
“I love you so much. Why do you think I might not?” Sanft answered in what could only be Seiden’s voice.
“I wanted to have someone beside daddy love me. You’re the only other kid that I’ve ever seen.” Sanft felt her eyes tighten.
“Do you love me, little sis?”
“Of course I do Seiden! I love you so much, big sis!” Sanft turned and hugged the doll tightly around the waist.
Sanft dried them both and raided her dresser for clothes that would fit her sister. She eventually found a pink sundress and some underwear from her mother’s old wardrobe. Seiden looked so cute that Sanft had no choice but to kiss her nose.
Sanft had never had a friend beside her father’s dolls, she didn’t know that she wanted any. Daddy said that he would allow her to attend middle school, but she dreaded being forced to leave her home for some school dormitory. Daddy also said that it was normal for people to have many friends, and while he may not like people, she wasn’t as cynical.
“Seiden, do you think that I’ll be able to take you to school with me?”
The doll just sat there, speechless. Seiden must not have known for her silence, Sanft moved to the bed and lay there with her. Sanft lay her head atop her sister’s soft chest, sobbing lightly at the thought of their imminent separation.
“Big sis, I don’t want to leave you here!” She said between her short sobs. “Why can’t you be a real sister!?” She broke into racking tears and hugged the doll until it hurt her arms.
Sanft’s face was wet and she soon met with a sort of fevered sleep. She would later swear that Seiden had taken her into her arms, coddled her in the warm safety of a sister’s embrace.
In her dreams, Sanft played in the snow with a girl that almost seemed to blend in with the snow around her. She had sheet white skin like the doll, like Seiden, but her eyes were living with joy and love. The girl was as Sanft wanted to have in Seiden.
Craig Aldrich had many times been told that he would look at home with a dozen books piled before him. In fact, the time he didn’t use for eating or sleeping was usually used for research.
To this day, the german engineer turned dollmaker named Tinte had taken tens of hours of Craig’s time. He made amazing automatomous bodies, but had no aspiration to go with the genius. All he wanted to do was make these dolls as a companion for people, The man couldn’t understand the uses that his creations would have.
“Craig, aren’t you leaving?” Alice said from behind a crate of artificial muscle. “I got three of those operating systems that you wanted, I had to spend two hours getting Jeremy to hand them over.”
“Yeah, I’ll go as soon as my truck gets here.” He said and took the case from the short ginger assistant. “I said I’d be there in two days, it can’t take that long to get to Colorado. Did you get the other thing for me?”
She ruffled in her purse and produced two lacy pink bows. “I still don’t see why that old guy would want these.” Craig took the bows from her.
“He has a daughter.” Craig said and stuffed them back in her purse. I thought she’d like to have a little something.” Alice started kneading her hands. “What’s up, Al?”
“Well, I’m not doing anything for a few days.”
“Can I come with you?”
He thought it over for a bit. “Sure, why not? I’m sure I can swing another hotel bed.” She started turning red. “as long as you can keep a secret.”
“Alright, go pack and get back here in two hours.” She slipped quickly between the mechanical clutter covering Craig’s shop to get at her locker for clean clothes.
The phone rang and Craig answered. “hello, you have Craig Aldrich, extension number 8103-7402. What’s up?”
“Yes, hello?” A thickly-accented Japanese woman. “I was told that you’re involved in the production of an android?”
Craig knew that it would leak out at some point. “And you are?”
“Sayako Ashima, I develop robotic control systems for prosthetic limbs. I wanted to get onboard before you hire another programmer.”
“I’m not sure you’ll be needed ms. Ashima, but I’ll keep your number on file in case we need you.” He wondered. “How did you hear about this project in the first place?”
“I received an E-mail from a ‘soft1’, I assumed that she was part of the project. She told me about how her father would create the first autonomous android, everyone in the industry was notified, but no one knows soft1, so we can’t find the father. We were told that you were involved, it’s amazing you haven’t been contacted yet.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Craig said warily.
Craig had thought that Tinte’s daughter was only eight years old, but she already had contacts overseas that he himself hade never heard about. Either way, more people was always welcome, especi-ally the Japanese ones.
Tinte had best be ready with that new doll by the time Craig arrived, it was hard enough to take five sick days in a row.
Craig looked again at the picture that Tinte had sent him. A teenage-looking doll with pale skin and long, blonde hair, out of context, it was a naked girl, but that was simply the masterful worksmanship that continued to push Craig through the endless, coffee-fueled nights, staring at a shining screen that he knew would take away his sight. Tinte named her ‘Seiden Angesicht’, meaning something close to ‘silk face’, Craig had no doubt that it was as soft as it seemed to be in the picture, he’d invented the skin himself.
Tinte had also sent a picture of his daughter, her short blonde hair curled in tight spirals around her head and neck. She was a young twin of the doll and anyone would think at first that they were natural sisters. No doubt that it would be with her for the rest of her life.
Then the calls started to pour in.
Calls, from people throughout the industry overlapped each other. Craig eventually stopped caring and told the secretary to turn away callers, let it be her death bed. This soft1 was starting to really tick him off.
Come to think of it, Tinte’s daughter was named Sanft, soft in german. She was just a little girl, not that less was expected of the offspring from a genius of such a caliber.
According to many sources, Tinte was working as an engineer for the german armed forces from 1978-1983. During that time, it was rumored that he designed several mechanized animals, not humans, that could be used as weapons. Fortunately for Craig, those schematics went missing in 1983, the day after Tinte’s discharge.
But those were only rumors.
What was sure, in 1982, Tinte met with his future wife. One year later, they were married. In 1984, Sanft was born. In 1987, Tinte’s wife went missing and was never heard from again, she was pronounced dead not long after.
In 1990, Tinte and Craig met at a robotics conference in Colorado, thereby starting their friendship, partnership. In 1991, Craig shipped 300lbs of synthetic flesh and 400 yards of synthetic skin to Tinte’s shop in Colorado, one year later, present day, the doll ‘Seiden Angesicht’ was finished and given to Tinte’s daughter as a plaything.
All of that material had cost Craig 200,000 dollars, not actuall that bad for such a promising project.
In the hall, Alice was talking into a new kind of phone that could be tucked behind an ear. It looked ridiculous as of yet, but that was almost always the case for new technology. No doubt the dolls would be ridiculed as soon as they came out, especially if Tinte insisted on having explicit detail on each and every inch of the doll. The media would jump on the ‘sex toy’ argument, but Tinte, the artist that he was, couldn’t be bothered to care about what people thought. He was much too busy doing something great for them.
Craig thought of the possibilities.
Wars becoming like complicated chess games, robotic servants-(cliché), AI, better prosthetics, planetary exploration. The list went on as long as one cared enough to continue listing things. Surely they could be companions like Tinte wanted, but more than that, all dangerous or unpleasant jobs could be taken from people and given to a good doll.
And to think, Craig would have helped to make it all possible.
“Hello mom.” Alice said into the phone that hung from her ear.
“Your mother isn’t here.” Her father said, the television was blaring filler music from across the room.
“That’s fine, I won’t be coming home this weekend.”
“I’m going to Colorado with my boss to see a customer.”
“Whatever you say, girlie. I’ll have your mother call when she gets back from the store
“Thanks dad.” She switched it off.
Out of her locker, Alice took a bag with three changes of clothes and her last month’s paycheck. It would be worth it to spend five whole days with Craig. He still appeared to have no idea.
Craig was, after all, only the latest addition to her crush list, even though she’d liked him for the last three years. Alice had actually applied to be his assistant for that very reason, she hadn’t known that he was such a dr. Frankenstein, trying to create life by shoving a bunch of parts together.
Since the last year, she had seen hair, eyeballs, sheets of flesh, and most recently, muscle and sinew come out of Craig’s lab. once she swore that he was whispering into a disembodied ear, only to find out he was testing word-recognition software. He even had a deep scar under his left ear from testing a strand of muscle(electroactive-polymer) that had whipped him like the electricity that he was using on it.
She thought it made him look a little less geeky.
And that took effort. He was 6”2’ with sandy brown hair and thick, horn-rimmed glasses. He wore brown suits and was never seen without a book in his hand. Just the kind of guy who had probably spent the majority of his younger years looking at white porcelain and a torrent of swirling water.
As a result, he became a roboticist. Altough, even now, he was under constant scrutiny for working with some shady dollmaker in the mountains, basically a hermit. Apparently, he had proposed several failed designs and wasn’t respected by his supposed ‘peers’.
Alice couldn’t care less.
“Alice!” Craig yelled from the other room. “The truck is here, we need to go when they finish loading!”
“Coming!” She yelled back.
Back at the loading dock, about a dozen large men were loading the stereotypical wooden crates into a truck designed for heavy loads, it had four back tires.
“Alright, Alice.” Craig said from the driver’s seat as she jumped in. “We’ll go for three hours and switch drivers. Colorado is a long way for two days.”
“Right!” She replied, maybe a bit too perky.
The packers Finished and patted the back of the great metal beast to signal Craig. He started the engine and they pulled away from the raised cement of the loading dock.
Unfortunately, the radio was stuck on the rap station like any crappy rental, so the two of them were forced either to talk or listen to the sound of silence for several hours. Alice quickly decide on the first.
“Can you imagine what would happen if we were pulled over?” She said trying to be funny. “We have a literal ton of realistic flesh in the back.”
“I’ve already sent word ahead.” He kept his annoying deadpan, which, unsurprisingly, annoyed Alice deeply on a moral level.
“It was a joke.” She sighed in theatrical disapproval. Most of his type had no sense of humor.
“I know.” That confused her. “It still doesn’t make my statement any less true.”
“This is going to be a long trip…”