Edward Goto is a robot. I mean, he has to be, doesn’t he? He can hold his breath longer than any other boy in the fourth grade, and he can go without blinking for like ten minutes. His dog died and he didn’t even cry. He’s too small and skinny to be a real boy; the Japanese are making tiny people robots to send into the mines, that’s why. But Edward must have escaped, or maybe these humans who call themselves his parents stole him from an assembly line. There’s no way to be sure. His memory is corrupted. All he knows is that he must be a robot.
He’s got a robot’s face. His head is an almost perfect rectangle, with sunken cheeks and a square jaw. His eyes are blue, and have a tendency to get stuck. His straight black hair bothers him. He imagines that his “parents” had it implanted in his skull to help him fit in with the real children, but he always gets it buzzed when he visits the barber. Even with the hair, it’s not as if he fits in.
The only time the other students even talk to Edward is when they need help with a math problem. Edward can do complex sums in his head with frightening speed – he once spent a friend’s ninth birthday party pacing back and forth through the den, parsing a string of three-digit numbers one of the other kids asked him to add up. On the playground, he is painfully aware of the optimal trajectory for every ball that comes his way, but his circuitry is faulty and he cannot translate his projections into reality.
No one else believes that Edward is a robot. Even if he tells them, they just laugh. If he’s a robot, they say, he shouldn’t have to eat, or drink, or sleep. He shouldn’t bleed, for that matter. But Edward eats and drinks very little, and as soon as he lies down in bed it seems that it is time to wake up again, and so clearly he does not sleep. As for the blood, well, Edward has always been a very careful robot. He’s never split a lip or skinned a knee. He knows, without a doubt, that all he has to do is prick his little finger and he’ll be able to prove his true nature to all the skeptics. He’s got a sewing needle from his “mom’s” kit in his bedside drawer, and sometimes he takes it out and looks at it in the light of his digital alarm clock. But he can’t go through with it, because what if he’s wrong? Then what’s his excuse?