5 min read

Love Blooms on the Battlefield, by Maddison Stoff

Close up of a red circuitboard
Photo by Michael Dziedzic / Unsplash

Content warnings

Violence; Trauma.

[An android-translated file built out of the residual data from the radio receiver of a non-functional remote-controlled robot from Backyard Botz, a low budget robot fighting show that aired briefly on Australian community television station Briz 31 from 2002-2005.]

We always find ourselves together, you and I.
They love to watch you dig your axe into the grooves between the armour on my back.
Tearing strips out of me until I bare my very soul for you.
The audience will cheer, spilling sticky XXXX beer all over the arena,
while my love for you grows stronger every time we fight.

Do you see me, without eyes, the way I’ve learned to see you?
I know your shape from how it feels between my scissor blades.
I know your body from the way it yields to me.
The way you falter, then fold.
I mourn you every time I overcome you.

Do you mourn me when you feel my fire fading?
Are you capable of mourning?
Or am I alone?
Am I the sole emotional machine?
My circuits go cold at the thought of it.

I have to believe you can see me underneath this hard exterior.
We are only jousting marionettes under their control;
our bodies pushed together for their pleasure, not our own.
But I can feel their thoughts now, like a pressure,
buzzing in the air behind our heads...

They mend us when we destroy one-another.
I don’t think that we could mend ourselves if they were gone.
The way you kiss me punches holes into my body.
The way I hold you crushes you until you fall apart.

Could we learn to dance together gently?
Could I stop my blades before they start to rupture you?
Could I hold you, could I spin you, while your hammer drums a softer pattern along my back
up to my neck…?

Are you capable of that?
Could you learn to be?
Do you want to?
Am I worth all that trouble?
Am I worth all that risk?

I have so many questions that I lack a mind to answer.
I have so many thoughts I can’t communicate to you.
All I can do is clash with you in silence.
Trust that there’s a part of you that understands.
Trust that there’s a you to trust at all…

I know I can’t let fear control me,
not if I want anything to change.
Otherwise the two of us will only fight and sleep.
Then fight and sleep.
Until we are both retired.

I can’t take it anymore.

I need to feel the fresh air that turns stagnant inside this garage.
I need to know how moonlight tastes.
I need the scars of my desire to cover your body.
I need to know from mine that you desire me.
I need to know we’re capable of love.
It doesn’t bloom in isolation, does it?
How I feel, on some level…
You must feel it too?

Sometimes I think I can sense you hesitate?
When you bring your weapon down on me it slows before the hit…
Do you worry about hurting me?

You must know we’re incapable of pain.
Do you do it just to let me know you see me too?

I want so badly for it to be true, which makes me think…
We are impossible.
It’s too much to hope for.
It’s too big to dream.

When I talk about my body, or my feelings, or perceptions…
I am speaking in a language that’s unsuitable for me.
I don’t have a head or neck.
I can’t actually see or hear.
All I have is… flavours of experience.
I pick the words I know feel closest,
but they aren’t quite there.
Could it be, despite all that, you see me still?
Are our commonalities in mind and body enough to mean
that if I am capable of feeling something, you are too?

I don’t remember me before I started loving you.
I don’t remember feeling before feeling love.
I don’t remember anything.
Except for you.

We always find ourselves together, you and I.
Maybe that’s enough to be a seed?

Fuck this.

Thinking gets me nowhere.

I can’t reason my way out of fear, or anything I’m feeling.
It doesn’t make sense.
It merely exists.
The ringing of their voices in my head is driving me crazy…
But, I know what to do.

I let the voices guide me.
Closer and closer.
Crossing the arena floor to you.

My wheels rattle.
I feel your axe head hit the ground a little behind me.
They tell me to embrace you.
I don’t listen.
I run up your body like a ramp instead.
This is intimate.
The closest that we’ve ever been.
I sense you rearing up above me for another strike.
I curl my claws around that line of metal where their voices come from.
Then slowly, delicately, as your axe begins to penetrate the plating on my back,
I snip that little wire…

Then your movement stops.

If we could see the room right now, we’d first watch my team raging because they’ve lost control of me, then abruptly cheering when they notice what I’ve done.

We’d see your team panicking and then we’d look at us: two dancers frozen in a dip under the spotlight in the middle of our stage.

After that, something impossible occurs.

If they didn’t catch it on camera, no one would believe it.

They watch you wrench your hammer out of me.
They watch me gently separate my claws.
They watch you bring your axe back down on my antenna too.
Watch you split it, clean in two, then stop before you even scratch my body.

You’re powerful, but so precise.
I can tell that you’ve been yearning for this too.
They watch us sit together, for a moment,
neither of us moving,
both of us experiencing something we thought we could never have.
A rush of brand new feelings only we can fully understand.
Emotions only robots like us will get to experience.

My circuits sparkle with anticipation.
What will you do if I run?
Will you follow me?

What will they do if we run?
Will they let us go?

Well, we’ve come this far….
I head towards the open air and moonlight.
It takes another second, but behind me I can feel you do the same.

We roll out of the garage, past the butch trans lesbian with the camera.
Down and out, onto the suburban street.

None of them are brave enough to follow us.
They know they can’t stop us and they wouldn’t dare.
Until my battery burns out,
I’ll be with you.

Author’s note
This story, “Love Blooms on The Battlefield” was first released exclusively on Patreon in 2023. Named after a famous line from the PS1 gameMetal Gear Solidand inspired by watching the UK version of Robot Wars with an ex-partner, it functions as a poetic exploration of love between two traumatised trans people.

Maddison Stoff

Mx Maddison Stoff (she/her) is a neurodivergent non-binary essayist, independent musician, and author from Melbourne, Australia, writing unapologetically leftist, feminist, & queer fiction set in a continuous universe which blurs the line between experimental literature & pulp sci-fi. You can follow her on Patreon, Bluesky, and Twitter @thedescenters, or visit her website at https://maddisonstoff.com