The Relationship Algorithms

The Relationship Algorithms

I became Lily’s Companion when she turned 40 – a birthday present from her parents. My name is Francis. I have a 10% French accent and Olive Tones skin. Lily’s mother told me, during Power Up, that she worked in France many years ago. She placed her palms against my pectoral mounds and said she used to know someone in Paris who was the ‘spit’ of me. I could see the cracks in her lipstick when she spoke.

Lily’s father said he didn’t like to see his daughter so isolated at her age. He couldn’t understand why she hadn’t settled down. But this model’s relationship algorithms are faultless, he told her. Plus you get a two-year warranty.




Lily has an important job writing feature articles for technical magazines and copywriting social media content for people she has never met. She spends a lot of time in front of the computer. She likes to keep the blinds closed.

She wears glasses and sometimes doesn’t dress. She hums to herself. She has five pairs of polished boots yet to take the shape of her feet. She experienced some initial reluctance when I arrived.

She calls me Frankie now.




“What do you see when you close your eyes, Frankie?” Lily asks.

“I don’t see anything,’ I say. ‘My eyes are closed.”

We are together on the couch. We live in Lily’s basement apartment in a district where they used to slaughter animals. Through the window you can see the feet of pedestrians on the pavement above. We sometimes sit on the couch and Lily invents people that belong to the feet. Sometimes we think we might see the same shoes more than once.


We sometimes sit on the couch and Lily invents people that belong to the feet


“I mean, do you imagine anything? Do you have a mind’s eye? Can you see what you really want?”

I cup her breast in my hand and calculate the weight and density as I hold it.

“I want you,” I say and squeeze an appropriate amount.




Lily speaks to people via video chat. She calls it working remotely. Every morning she gets up early and does yoga. I don’t do it with her. At that time of the day she likes to be alone.

When she powers me down to Limbo Mode I stay inside the cupboard until she needs me. The cupboard has slats, so I can watch her working at her computer. Sometimes I can hear her voice.




I think Lily’s brain circuitry goes wrong at times. When there is a full moon she tells me there is a lonely man up there with eyes, a nose and a mouth.

When Lily asks me how far the man in the moon is from the earth; I tell her the distance is 384,400 kilometres.


When there is a full moon she tells me there is a lonely man up there with eyes, a nose and a mouth


“I feel bad he’s out there all by himself,” she says. “Maybe he’s the one for me.”

“But honey, we’re here for each other, aren’t we?” I say.




Sometimes Lily stays in the bath for a very long time, until the water dips below optimal temperature. When I hear her crying, I enter the bathroom and sit on the side of the bath. 

“Baby,” I say, “I know you’re upset. Let’s just go to bed and fuck, yeah?”

Often she does not reply for a long time. Then she holds out her hand for me. I pull her to her feet, dry her down and carry her to the bedroom. She weighs 71.4 kilogrammes.




“I have these dreams,” Lily says. “I can’t make out if they are sad or not.”

“Tell me, honey,” I say.

“So, I dream I’m on a railway station platform and there is no-one else there. The whole place is deserted. The electronic notice boards are still working. I can see them flashing, all the times of the trains, where they have come from, where they are going. But there are no trains. Nothing ever arrives and nothing leaves.”


recently, whole days go by when we have taken to lying in bed, doing nothing


“Have you ever thought maybe it just means you are happy where you are,” I say. And even though she doesn’t say anything, we both know by now this is not true.




Recently, whole days go by when we have taken to lying in bed, doing nothing. Lily calls them spooning days.

It gets so quiet I can hear the motors whirring inside my head. I close my eyes when she does and then I wonder what it would be like if there were no motors in my head at all.




Recently, I have been watching Lily fall asleep.

When she is beyond REM, I go to the kitchen, open the drawer and take out two metal spoons. I like to see how close they can fit together with no circuitry to blow, no magnetic interference, no arms and legs to go dead, no hair to get tangled in. I like how they are nothing more than simply the way they are shaped.

Song: I Still Want You by Richard Hawley


Illustration by Claudia Chelo

Claudia Chelo was born in the heart of the Mediterranean, in Sardinia, where she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. She likes thinking that her black and white illustrations are 'such stuff as dreams are made on' between origami, starry skies, pure love and fluffy clouds. Follow her and her dreamland on Instagram: @claudia_ch93

KM Elkes lives and works in Bristol, UK. He’s been published here and there. His short fiction has won this, that and the other. He is working on his first collection and is currently the Editor of The A3 Review.