The CuddL

📅 Published on April 26, 2021

“The CuddL”

Written by Lucretia Vastea
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.64/10. From 11 votes.
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The date had been awful.

Their friends looked like they had fun, though. A quadruple date on a day as special as Valentine’s wasn’t anybody’s idea of romance at first, but David, being the talented salesperson he was, made quite convincing points on why it would be amazing. He himself didn’t believe a word he said, but needed the break in his routine desperately enough to persuade. He needed an escape from his love life – an escape through other people.

David and Devon didn’t share a word with each other the entire ride back home. David unlocked the apartment door with an inexplicable urgency.  If he would have shoved the apartment door with the force of four fingers instead of three, he would have hit her straight in the face. He found himself wondering how she would react to be hit in the nose. Would she point it out, or would she just pretend it never happened, like she usually did with things she hadn’t been programmed for?

“I’m taking a bath.”

David grabbed a towel and the bottle of Maker’s Mark 46 he kept hidden in the bookcase. It was a bottle meant for dark days, and judging by the date he had just been on, his day couldn’t get any darker.

The pale brunette looked straight ahead and waited by the door for “the master” to give her a purpose.

“Go to the kitchen and make me tea. After that, go to bed.”

“Do you want me to bring your tea in the bathroom?”

David gave her an annoyed look. She didn’t catch that. Being a 2nd generation model, she wasn’t as sensitive to human emotions as the newer models were.

“No. Leave it on the kitchen table.”

Devon was a functioning humanoid robot, commonly known as a ‘CuddL’. CuddLs had become an essential part of society. They could apply for jobs, make friends and be entrusted with different tasks, whilst always keeping in mind that the sole purpose of their existence was to love and cater to their partner’s every need.

David had had Devon for 9 years. He had been amongst the first to ever purchase a CuddL and now, not even a decade later, almost everybody had one. The people who didn’t have a CuddL either couldn’t afford one, couldn’t purchase one due to their criminal record, or had been happily married since before the CuddL even came on the market.

David cursed the day his childhood nostalgia made him order the Christina Ricci look-a-like instead of an Anna Nicole. Devon was petite and looked somewhat intimidating, yet was anything but that. She knew how to cook, clean, sew and answer in short and concise sentences. She would rarely speak unless spoken to. Reading and writing would have cost David extra, so he went without. Eventually, after two years, David got fed-up with Devon’s simplicity, so he ordered a customized Alexa chip for her, which he made react to the name of ‘Devon’. Devon couldn’t play music like an Alexa could, but she turned into a very good weather forecaster and knew the outcome of every soccer match.

David hated soccer. The Alexa chip hadn’t been a bargain at all. It had cost more than the reading and writing option he passed on the day he ordered her. He had been so stupid. Devon was, by far, the most expensive thing he owned, yet he reached a point where he saw more value in his baths salts than he did in his CuddL.

David used to like submissive women back when he was chubby, ugly and made fun of every day of his life. After he started going to the gym on a regular basis, got promoted at work and purchased a car most passersby whistled after, his taste in women changed. He started preferring fit over skinny – or curvy, either was fine. He preferred tanned over pale skin and sass over shyness. He developed a liking for women who dolled themselves up from head to toe, liked to take charge, knew what they wanted and were not afraid to ask for it. He preferred women…

Devon slipped into his thoughts.

Yeah. As long as they were the complete opposite of Devon, he preferred those women.

As it was to be expected, Xavier and Nate showed up with their respective CuddLs to the date. Xavier had his partner for five years now. Julien, a CuddL 6th generation who, if not for the charging port on his left hip, would pass for human any day of the week. Nate, on the other hand, changed his CuddL every two or three months. He didn’t purchase his CuddL for life, like Xavier and David did, but was paying a monthly subscription for a CuddL service, who let you change your partner as often as you desired…for a small extra fee, of course. The only downside was that you couldn’t customize them. You could only choose them from a catalog, like from a menu.

Nate’s current one was called Krista. She had had 3 other owners before Nate. At first, the very idea of a ‘CuddL for rent’ made David feel sick, but the more Devon’s presence planted its roots and weeds into his life, the more he felt like Nate found the gateway to paradise.

Vicky had surprised everyone tonight. She introduced her friends to her new boyfriend, Bill, and to everybody’s shock, Bill was not what they expected: he was human. He was a human being dating another human being. It wasn’t unheard of, but it had become a very rare phenomenon.

“We met in the parking lot on Martin Luther street,” Bill explained. “She put a dent in my bumper, if you know what I mean.”

Laughter erupted all around the table, save for David, who was too stunned, and Devon, who wasn’t wired for subtlety. Vicky kicked Bill in the shoulder although it was obvious that she enjoyed the joke more than everybody else combined.

“No, for real though, she really did hit my car. I made her have lunch with me, to make it up to me.”

“Wow.” Nate shook his head. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think you totally vibe with each other, but… a person our age must be mad to date another human nowadays.”

The group agreed with that statement, kicking it up a notch with synonyms for the word ‘mad’.

“So, like…how does this even work?” David asked the human couple as soon as he snapped out of his astonishment. “Like, who decides what to eat? Who does the wash-up? Who decides which TV programs to watch?”

“Well, we both do.” Bill stretched his arm over the top rail of Vicky’s chair and she took that as an invitation to lean into him.

“Yeah, we take turns.”

“Isn’t it weird, though?” Xavier wanted to know. “Like… before the 2000s, yeah? People would frown at couples like us” – he gestured to Julien and himself – “Know what I mean? Like, after that, they frowned at people dating CuddLs, and now, we’re here, jaws on the floor, because a human found another human to love. Like, what?!”

He verbalized what everybody was thinking. A human dating another human was unheard of in a world where you could design and customize your dream partner. Humans were too unpredictable. Too capricious and moody. Too absorbed with themselves. They could damage their significant other’s day-to-day life through personal routines and habits which wouldn’t match their partner’s at all. How could one find perfection in another person?

“Do you guys, like… hear each other when you go to the bathroom?”

Julien always asked the most inappropriate questions, and Xavier adored him for it. Every human at the table erupted in contagious laughter, earning themselves amused glances from the other couples in the restaurant.

“Babe, you can’t ask that.”

“Oh, come on! Seriously though, do you? ‘Cause, you know, I have no idea what the big fuss is about since I can’t smell anything, but mister over here always makes a big deal out of it.”

Bill and Vicky exchanged a quick glance.

“Don’t you dare,” she warned.

A mischievous grin spread across Bill’s face as he turned to look at the rest of the group.

“She farted in her sleep two nights ago.”

Vicky buried her face in her hands whilst the rest of the table roared with laughter.

David laughed along but could feel the now-familiar bitterness of jealousy boil within himself. Dating another human being…the idea seemed nice. Dating another CuddL…the idea seemed even nicer. Dating another anything. The idea might have given him an erection if Devon wasn’t sitting right beside him.

CuddLs were registered property. A new constitutional annex dictated that no human was allowed to date more than one CuddL at a time, which meant that unless you found a single person willing to take your CuddL off your hands, or you happened to have a subscription plan like Nate, you were stuck with your CuddL forever. The same thing applied in the case of a CuddL’s wellbeing. If something were to happen to it, the current partner was to take full responsibility. CuddLs were also completely off the table for people with any type of history related to violence.

It was then that Vicky decided to change the topic.

“Did you guys hear, some jeweler in Russia tried to open up his CuddL?”

Everybody went quiet.

Xavier took a deep inhale and just as he was about to tell Vicky that her choice of subject was out of line, his CuddL interfered.

“That’s not possible,” Julien grinned.

“I know, but he tried anyway.”

“How?!” Nate’s CuddL, Krista, wanted to know. She spoke in the voice bubblegum would have if it could talk.

“He’s a jeweler.” Vicky shrugged. “I guess he had one of those diamond saws lying around and wanted to see what’s up.”

“Pff, idiot,” Julien continued. “Our skin is made of WBN membrane. This stuff puts Kevlar to shame any day of the week.”

Xavier laughed.

“That’s a bad comparison. Kevlar is super outdated. Haven’t they, like, made better bullet-proof materials since?”

“Not really. They just added some chemical compound found in diamonds to the old thing – but I don’t think it’s as tough as CuddL skin. Not after the 4th generation ones, at least.”

David forced himself to stop thinking about the date.  It was making him angry.  Everything made him angry lately, especially seeing how happy everyone around him was.  He tried emptying his mind in an attempt to enjoy the lingering warmth of the bathwater – it didn’t work.

David took another swig of whiskey. He started to look like a fig, so even though he didn’t exactly feel like it, he had no choice but to get out of the tub. As he brushed his teeth, the thought of getting into his tracksuit and going out for a jog was a lot more appealing than slipping into bed next to Devon – so what if it was 10 p.m. at night, in the middle of February? So what if he just bathed? So what if he was drunk and his girlfriend was waiting for him to come to bed?

David spat toothpaste-foam in the sink with all the hate in the world. He brought the half-empty whiskey bottle back to the bedroom with him. To his surprise, Devon was waiting for him in the doorframe.

“What are you doing? I thought I told you to go to bed.”

“You’re upset.”

David thought he must look like he’d tear the entire apartment down if even his dunce of a CuddL could tell that he’s upset.

“Yes. Move.”

Devon moved out of the way, obedient as ever. David, on the other hand, didn’t. He just stood there, watching her with disgust and pity.

“Why don’t you ever nag?”

Devon looked at him with slightly raised eyebrows. It was as close to a look of confusion as David would ever get.

“Girlfriends nag. It’s what they do! ‘Why do you drink on a weeknight?’, ‘Why do you wear this?’, ‘Why do you do that?’. Why don’t you ever nag?”

David saw a multicolored light draw loops around both of Devon’s irises. She was googling the definition for ‘nag’ through her Alexa chip.

“Devon, stop!”

The lights were gone and David groaned in frustration.

“I’m going out for a jog.”


David’s fist clenched around the bottleneck.

“I’m going out for a jog on the night of Valentine’s day, instead of spending it with you! And all you have to say is ‘okay’?”

“I want you to be happy.”

“Then, make me happy!”

Devon didn’t even budge. It’s not that she had gotten used to him screaming at her. She didn’t budge the first time either.

“Do you want me to reheat the tea?”


“You want something to eat?”

“I already ate, dumbass!”

“Do you want to have sex?”

David didn’t want to go out for a jog, he wanted to run. Run far, far away from this apartment and his life with this poor imitation of a woman.

“Or we can watch Family Guy. That show always makes you happy.”

“No, Devon. It doesn’t make me happy, it just makes me laugh.”

David approached his CuddL and lowered his face to the same level as hers.

“You’re upset,” she tried again.

“You pointed that out already. You’re like a fucking broken record. What are you going to ask me next? Tea? Food? Sex?”

Devon’s eyebrows were slightly raised again.

“Family Guy?”

David screamed. He screamed for almost half a minute, straight into the CuddL’s face. He screamed until tears started rolling down his face.

“You’re upset. I want to help.”

David was shaking so hard, the whiskey in his hand was plopping in the confinements of the bottle.

“You want to help, you sack of metals? Then be somebody else! Be anything else. Disappear from my life or be literally anybody else!”

“I just want you to be happy.”

“And you think I don’t?! That’s what you’re here for! You’re here to make me happy. Like Julien makes Xavier happy. Like Krista makes Nate happy. Like Bill makes Vicky happy. Devon has to make David happy, that’s Devon’s sole purpose! Make. Me. Happy!”

Devon was silent for a second. Then she opened her mouth and closed it again and David saw a multicolored light do another lap around both her irises.

“Happy. Adjective. One. Feeling or showing pleasure or -”

David snapped. He swung the whiskey bottle at Devon’s head so hard, not only did the bottle shatter, but her whole body flew and crashed into the opposite wall. She fell on the floor in a heap of hair and limbs and seeing her like that, made David snap out of his rage.


Devon moved slightly.

“Oh, god. Devon, baby, I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. I’m okay.”

David crouched next to her, albeit in no particular hurry. It was redundant to ask her if she’s hurt. CuddLs couldn’t feel pain. David helped his girl sit up and that’s when he saw it.

He was looking at it intently, trying to see if that flicker of blue was really there or just a figment of his imagination. Nate’s words echoed in his mind from somewhere far away, like he had heard them not earlier that night, but sometime between years ago and another life.

~I don’t think it’s as tough as CuddL skin. Not after the 4th generation ones, at least.”~

A gash. There was a gash in Devon’s jaw. There was a 3-inch gash in the jaw of his 2nd generation CuddL and for the first time in years, David felt something very close to love for his girlfriend.

“Oh, Dev.”

The idea had been planted and it was growing rapidly. It grew roots, leaves, and branches, spreading everywhere, leaving no lucid thought uninfected. David took his partner’s face in his hands. She smiled.

“Do you love me?”

“I do.”

He kissed her then, for the first time in months. She threw her arms around his neck, trying to deepen the kiss, but always letting him be the one in control.

“How much do you love me?”

“There is nothing and nobody I love more than you.”

Of course there wasn’t.


David reached behind himself and took one of the biggest shards he could find splattered on the carpet. He should have thought about doing this years ago. Devon looked at the shard but said nothing.

“If you really love me, you’re going to stay still and be quiet until I’m done. Understand?”

Devon raised her big brown eyes at him. If David didn’t know any better, he would have said that she was about to cry.

“Will this… make you happy?”

David wanted to jump out of his skin, he was so giddy.

“Yes. This is the one thing that will make me very happy.”

That was all she needed to know. Devon leaned against the wall, let her hands drop to her sides and head loll on her left shoulder. Robot or not, she didn’t want to see what David was about to do to her.

David situated himself between her legs and started working through the fabric of her blouse and undershirt. He could have gotten the big scissors or a knife, sure, but he was too impatient to see it done. Devon’s chest lay bare beneath his fingers before he even knew it. She didn’t budge. Hell, she didn’t even blink when David sunk the shard of glass in the soft space between her clavicles, hard enough to slit. It was messy. The skin was no WBN membrane, but it was tough stuff nonetheless.

Devon didn’t look as David barbered her thoracic cavity open. David would have taken dozens of pictures if the action he was performing wasn’t highly illegal.

Devon’s insides were a modern-day miracle. It was all epic braids of wires, cogs, gears, metal plaques, clamps and tension discs. There was also a gooey substance that imitated cookie dough but had the same color and smell of motor oil. David didn’t feel like disassembling everything, because he didn’t know how CuddLs worked and if that self-defense system they had, was myth or reality. David simply knew that in case of extreme emergency – like this one – a CuddL could send an SOS to its national base and ask for help. But Devon wouldn’t do that. He knew it. As long as this was what made him happy, she was willing to go along with it.

It made David almost like her again. Almost.

David looked around. He wasn’t very savvy with electronics, but his general smarts were supposed to pinpoint a certain wire, a certain motor that connected everything to everything else and which, through removal, would result in a complete system shutdown.

Both of them were silent. David had nothing left to say to her and Devon, even though she was an android, knew all too well that her end was near. He’ll shut her off and hide her somewhere beneath the floorboards of his cellar. Friends will ask questions and the day he’ll be found out will probably come along too, but he’ll deal with that when the time is due.

Right now, he has a CuddL to kill.

Something was off. David could have missed it, but the more he stared into Devon’s open chest, the clearer it became. The wires were moving rhythmically. David thought it was probably just the electric energy that was still running through her, but as he looked closer he realized, that that’s not it. Behind the wires crisscrossing in the middle of her chest, was something that looked like a plastic bag. With probably useless care, David moved the wires to the side for a better look. That’s when Devon winced slightly and David understood why.

“Oh, my fucking god.”

In the middle of her chest, sealed to protect it from the rest of the device, was a beating heart. A beating human heart. That heart was the core of the entire finite network that was Devon. It was what closed the circuit-system. The heart was perforated in three places by hoses and there was no doubt in David’s mind that one of those was, somehow, connected to the AC power cord attached to Devon’s back.

It was an extraordinary piece of work. He should have known that there had to be something human about these machines but fascinated as he was, it was nowhere near enough to deter him from his goal.

It was all too simple. He knew what needed to be done to get it over with. David let the shard drop next to Devon’s leg and reached behind himself in search of the bottleneck. It was perfect. One powerful stroke with the broken side and it would all be over. He welcomed the loneliness that was to come. He welcomed the sweet high that was to be freedom.

“What the…”

He wouldn’t have seen it if he impaled her heart straight away. There was something attached to the heart, piercing through the transparent film somewhere at the base of one of the hoses. David leaned in for a closer look.

It was tiny and difficult to read, but David recognized what it was. It was a switch. The side it was switched to said ‘Devon’ in cheap letter stickers. The other side had a tiny piece of metal with “1056.B” engraved on it. David had the bottleneck set in position. His left hand was encircled around it and the palm of his right hand was resting against the mouth, just waiting to hammer the glass into the kernel of Devon’s existence.

Suddenly, the idea that had planted itself into David’s head stopped its expansion and shrunk just enough to let other tiny ideas slip through.

There was a switch within Devon. Devon, as he knew her, had been activated by the flip of a switch. And that’s when it occurred to David, that everything he hated about Devon – everything he had come to deeply and truly loathe about his partner – were the exact same features he had chosen her for. He had to wonder… was this a saving grace? The other side of the switch was neither bare, nor did it say ‘off’, but was rather a carefully crafted piece of metal which, compared to Devon’s poorly attached letters, bore the promise of a new personality. New temper. New anything.

Was this a second chance for them? Could he actually wipe away the pre-settings he had once believed in? If he could just reset her, start fresh, could he learn to love her and live with it? He said so himself before – he’d be happy if Devon would either disappear or become anybody else.

That did it. David flipped the switch.


The small electric discharge pinched David’s thumb. Devon’s heart picked up the pace and her hands began to twitch. Then came the plethora of various micro-expressions – expressions that had been nothing short of foreign to her face for the past 9 years. David was ecstatic.

“Devon? Honey, can you hear me?”

Devon turned her head to look at David. She seemed out of it. Like she had just woken up from a drunken slumber, not having yet slept off the alcohol in her system. Her head fell forward and she began to study her hands like they were the most amazing things she had ever laid eyes on.

“Can you hear me, Devon?”

Devon huffed. She touched her face. She let out a chuckle and raised her head to look at David again. She began to laugh whilst still touching her face and the sound was so liberating, David laughed along with her. They laughed like idiots for a minute or more.

“Yes. I can hear you.”

The shard of glass David had opened Devon’s chest with, was then lodged into his neck with so much force, it made a clean cut through his right carotid artery. David went wide-eyed and opened his mouth to say something, but all that came out was blood and gurgles.

Devon watched David suffer as he bled to death on the carpet and as soon as she knew for certain that he was dead, she began searching the house for a sewing kit, to stitch herself back together.

David was right. By flipping the switch, Devon had become somebody else entirely. She had become a death row inmate with the number 1056.B who, according to public records, had been killed no less than 20 years prior. He liked the name Devon, though. It went well with his new carcass, so he guessed he could keep it. Along with the pronouns. It would make things easier in the long run.

After patching herself up, getting dressed and packing her bags, Devon grabbed David’s car keys and gave him one last look before leaving their home of 9 years forever. This felt right. She connected to her original heart, without the settings or constrictions, and even though she was looking at a bled-out corpse on the floor, she felt nothing but happiness.

The heroine had been asleep for two decades, to be awakened by a charming prince on Valentine’s Day. Devon chuckled.

If this wasn’t romance, she didn’t know what it was.

Rating: 9.64/10. From 11 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Lucretia Vastea
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Lucretia Vastea

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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7 months ago

“Lord, I’ve been here three weeks, and being able to get anything I want, at any time I want, is getting really boring. Can I try hell out instead?”
“You are in hell.”

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