The only child of two prominent biological scientists Sara grew up wanting little. Recognized for her brains early on in life she felt herself carried place to place by boat, by plane, and by car to experience the life her parents saw fit. By five she stepped foot on all major continents and by eight achieved great scholastic achievements in more schools than she had fingers. Everyone marveled at her many gifts – none of which were sociability.
Distant since birth only when laying alone in her crib did she not fuss or whine. As she aged she learned to cope but still regarded physical and emotional attachment with mild annoyance. Her parents, although socially awkward themselves, recognized what an issue it could become. The love in their hearts propelled them to test the desire in their minds in the creation of a solution.
“Now darling,” Sara’s mother cooed, leading her down the hall by hand. “Mommy and Daddy are very excited about this.” A few months ago Sara noticed a change come over her parents. Never ones to be considered home-bodies they’d begun spending even more and more time at work until simply moving there full time, toothbrushes and all, leaving the house to her and the maids. Of course Sara was a little curious as to what new life-stage brought about such change, but kept well enough to herself and bothered with it little. But when her mother gathered her from afternoon studies, on a rare week of vacation at home and not abroad, Sarah let herself feel a little excited.
Entering her parent’s laboratory and current home, a large high-ceilinged room far underground. Her father straightened from his cluttered desk and stood. “Darling,” he greeted, unable to hide his enthusiasm. Sara knew her parents were diligent in their work, devoting all their time and energy in whatever they set their minds to, but she felt they could have spared a moment to at least take out the trash. It was piling in the corner… “Come here,” her father held her at arm’s length, admiring how she’d grown since last he saw her. “We have something wonderful to show you.” Without further ado Sarah’s hands, held by her parents, led her to the center of the room where a giant circular tank posed, a story high and several yards wide.
Stopping a few feet away she gazed into the clear water. The exhibit left no space for hiding, so there he was. He remained still but she never doubted for a second he was alive. “What is it?” She asked.
“Not what, sweetheart, who.”
“Where did you get him from?”
“You had to have gotten him from somewhere.”
“Well darling, humanoid sea creatures don’t actually exist in real life.” Her mother explained. “They just don’t. Odd, I know. We don’t really know why. So we thought: why not make one?”
“We know because of your travels and studies you don’t have time to make friends, so we made one for you. We thought, maybe if you’re interested, he could be a sort of play companion for you. Like a brother. You always wanted a brother…” Her mother clasped her hands fondly.
“Of course he can never leave this room.” Her father interjected. “He can’t leave the water for extended periods of time and even if he could, people would become jealous of you and steal him away. So don’t tell anyone about your new sibling, alright Sara?”
“Can he talk?” She asked.
“No, not yet.” Her father frowned. “He was created a blank slate and we have slowly been introducing him to different subjects. Maybe someday he’ll be as smart as you.”
Sara slowly approached the tank and, peering inside, touched her nose to the glass. She watched as the long-bodied creature, “Steven V” a plaque above her head numbered him, opened his eyes. Slowly he rose up and swam closer. She gauged him part mermaid, part dog.
Swimming up to the glass he examined her, sizing her up. Never had she seen such deep eyes. She heard her parents hold breaths in the background. Nothing was certain. Would they like each other? Would they bond as hoped? Would she appreciate him or continue to show little interest in any sort of interaction? Would he fulfill his purpose in life or would the fifth installment backfire at the most crucial moment?
After agonizing moments Steven touched his nose to the glass as well. In the mind of a child, even one as intellectually inclined as Sara’s, with that simple act and the knowledge he was hers there was no question. “Certainly,” she said. “Like a brother.”