Return To Menu
Join Club
BR RoundTable
Check Your E-Mail
Join ICQ
Contact Us

The Online Blade Runner Fan Club    
Blade Runner: More Human Than Human
Written by Megan Woodrum
Location: Tibone Laundromat, Chinatown, Los Angeles, California, USA date: February, 2019

Sighing, Toru gazed up at the entrance to his place of employment, the Tibone Laundromat, the tip of his tongue running along the roof of his mouth. The front of the laundromat was a study in contrasts: the dark store front with it's neon-lined windows and glittery white neon sign, the brightly-lit interior (as seen through the windows) compared to the wet gloomy streets of the night. If he looked around, he would see much of the same; darkness punctuated by neon, crowds of miscellaneous people bustling nervously along, the stench of wet humans and garbage. If he peeked up, past the looming buildings and the shining, humming spinners, he could see in the midnight sky the huge blimp that, so constant was it in his life and in the sky, he almost thought of as God. That strange blimp, the drifting mass of nothingness, pierced with what appeared to be sharp spears and sticks (resembling a gracefully floating porcupine); the one with the huge sparkling sign in the center and the softly droning voice murmuring about going to the Off-World colonies. This was a world full of advertisements and shade, a world of terror and delight so intense that the two mingled and became one. If he listened closely, he could just barely hear the Trafficators sighing monotonously "Cross now, cross now..." or "Don't walk, don't walk..."

Mr. Oratra, the owner of Tibone and Toru's adoptive father, rushed out of the laundromat, crying: "Get to work! Get to work! The towels do not wash and fold themselves! Toru!" The owner was a kind man, about forty years old, with prematurely gray hair that hung in his deep-set eyes. Toru had been left on the doorstep to the laundromat when he was a baby, and Mr. Orata had been kind enough to take the starving, crying child in and raise him as his own.

Letting his feet carry him, Toru wandered into his little back room where he washed, dried, and folded the huge loads of black, white, and colorful towels that came into his room. There was a large hole in one wall, covered by a weighted plastic flap- this was where the laundry came in, on a conveyor belt. When he finished folding, he placed the neat stacks of towels on the belt at the other end, right in front of another covered hole, and pressed a large green button that started the belt moving. His room was the closest to the front main area where the customers came in and picked up their laundry; since his job was the least important, he wouldn't bring the entire operation to a screeching halt by leaving his station temporarily to help Mr. Oratra.

There was already a pile of white towels waiting for him when he stepped into the room. Moving with a quiet efficiency, Toru turned to the washing machine and prepared the dials and knobs: hot water, cotton sturdy ... He carried the fluffy pile over to the machine and dumped it into the deep hole, along with a scoop of detergent and a scoop of bleach. He turned the machine on, the thrum reverberating pleasantly in his chest as he hopped up onto the washing machine, waiting for the first load of the night to be done.

The jingle of the heavy glass door's bell reached his ears; Toru leaned back, glancing around the corner into front room- looking back in the other direction, he could see other workers doing the same, curious as to whom the customer would be. Pick-up or drop-off? And if it was drop-off, who would get this man or woman's items to be cleaned?

The customer was new- he had never been in the Tibone Laundromat before. Toru would know, being one of the oldest employees there; he was only sixteen, but he had been working at this laundromat since he was a baby, much longer than anyone else here (other than Mr. Orata himself). The new customer, a man, was tall and thin, like a wiry scarecrow. He wore a nice gray suit and a tie that wasn't tightened, so that it hung like a noose around his neck; his shoes were polished so well that you could see your face in them. He wore no jacket and carried no umbrella despite the constant rain, an unusual trait. Was he stoic, or just a fool? This new customer was interesting indeed! Toru watched as he carefully handed over a suit that looked just like the one he had on, only in a creamy white; so it was dry-cleaning, eh? With a gorgeous suit like that (obviously silk and hand-tailored), Joanna, the woman in charge of dry-cleaning, would have her hands full!

Mr. Orata lifted the suit delicately, holding it tight against his chest, and began the trek down the long hallway to the dry-cleaning room way in the back. As he walked, he quietly shooed his employees back to their duties, sending them scattering like startled animals. The door to the dry-cleaning room opened slowly as Mr. Orata approached, even though he hadn't announced himself in any way; Joanna was rumored to be psychic, a probable theory. Mr. Orata entered, and the door slammed shut behind him with a banal thud.

Toru wasn't interested in Mr. Orata's progress, though, which was unusual. Normally to see the owner go into the back room was interesting, especially with a beautiful suit like that, but it just couldn't hold Toru's attention like the new customer did. The man was positively fascinating; Toru couldn't shake the feeling that he had seen this man somewhere before. Long arms hanging loosely at his sides, the man at first looked totally at ease, a faint bemused expression on his face. He was handsome, but something was slightly off about his appearance; maybe it was the telling bulge of something underneath his jacket- a gun. The man had unusual hair, a rich earth-brown streaked through with blond and white and slicked back away from his high brow and fine, almost delicate, features. He stood casually, gracefully, first resting his huge hands on the counter of the front desk, then burying them in his pockets. He seemed slightly nervous, but he hid it well.

Toru could feel his pulse, feather-light, in the roof of his mouth and it tickled. Sighing, he leaned against the door frame and watched the man with an open, dreamy curiousness; this stranger evoked a feeling of peace and warmth in the young boy. He could fall asleep to the sight of that clean, angled face much the way he fell asleep to music. However, Toru was shocked out of his tranquil state when the stranger turned slightly and met the younger boy's gaze with a penetrating, quizzical stare. His eyes, startling enough, were the softest blue, almost white, so that they ended up blending in with the whites of his eyes when viewed from a distance. The new customer watched Toru with a long and distance look of his own before Toru flushed and had to turn away, back to his towels.

As he transferred the towels from washer to dryer, he could hear Mr. Orata's progress back to the front desk. The men conversed quietly, their hushed voices the deepest of all the whispers and sighs that filled the laundromat. Toru didn't bothering listening too closely, favoring instead the clear blue bubble dryer and the sight of the laundry swirling all around in an almost nauseating spin. The place was dead, not a sound escaping from the closed doors or the open rooms, just the sound of machines, lint, and the two men. Toru recalled his childhood, being read stories by Mr. Orata, listening to the Chinese man's kind voice fill the room and settle, a warm blanket covering protectively the room and both man and child.

Ten minutes later, however, the men were still talking. Normally this was the end of the transaction, payment and ticket-exchanging, and it should only take two or three minutes. Toru didn't dare stick his head out the door again, though, for fear that the new customer might recognize him as the one who was watching earlier. Leaning closer to the open door, Toru strained to hear but only caught snippets.

"...Blade ... police ... Lee..."

"Oh." That from Mt. Orata. "Yes ... I don- ... about replicants ... Mr. Lee."

"... you mind ... --ttle test...?"

"No. That's fine, Mr. Lee."

They were close now, almost right outside the door. The stranger was not a new customer anymore- he was police and, from what Toru was confident in assuming, he was a Blade Runner. Now the stranger was a dangerous, cunning man with the sanction to kill.

"This room would be fine, Mr. Lee." Mr. Orata gestured at Toru's room, and the boy felt inexplicable pride swell up in his chest; that pride only blossomed further when Mr. Orata continued: "I would rather he remain here during the test."

Mr. Lee, the stranger with ice-blue eyes, shook his head gravely as he began to unpack something that resembled nothing so much as a great mechanical spider, delicate but menacing. "I'm sorry, Mr. Orata, but it would make my job, and yours, a lot easier if the boy would at least remain outside the door. Perhaps in the hallway?" He eyed Toru again, looking past the boy's worn, impoverished appearance and clothing, past the boy's slanted tropical-green eyes, into Toru's very soul and touched it, briefly- a psychic caress, almost. Toru immediately knew that the stranger hadn't felt the connection by the way the man smiled falsely and directed his gaze to the doorway with limited subtlety.

It didn't matter anyway- the load was done, and Toru could just as easily fold the towels in the hallway. He hefted the load of soft, warm white cotton and proceeded into the dimly lit claustrophobic space where he sat on the floor and began to fold mechanically. He listened closely, not wanting to miss this "test" that Mr. Orata would take.

Mr. Lee spoke first. "Reaction time is a factor in this, so please pay attention..." The usual when taking a test: first the instructions. "Answer as quickly as you can ... Don't move, please. This machine calibrates your responses to my questions- pupil dilation, blushing, etcetera, etcetera."

"Yes." Mr. Orata, sounding resigned and terribly sad. "I've heard of the Voigt-Kampff before."

When Mr. Lee talked next, he sounds pleased. "Good. Then you..." He hesitated. "... you know why I'm doing this?"

"Not really, no." Mr. Orata's voice rose in pitch, quivering, tear-filled, angry. "You lied to me, sir, and then demand I allow you to perform this foolish test. I have a son-"

"Your boy comes home from school and says his teacher hit him with a ruler for being bad."


"Mr. Orata, sir. The test has begun. What would you then proceed to do?"

"What is the question?"

Mr. Lee sighed, paused, then repeated himself. "Your boy comes home from school and says his teacher hit him with a ruler for being bad."

"Inform the principal. Confront the teacher in a neutral setting, if necessary."

There was a disturbing suspension for a moment, and then the test continued. "Tell me all the good things that come to your mind about your mother."

"Lovely. Perfumed. Driven."

"Hm." That didn't sound good, but it wasn't a bad sign, either. "You come across a small wild flower growing in the middle of the sidewalk-"

"That is impossible! There are no wild flowers anymore."

"Pretend. It's purely hypothetical, anyway. It won't matter." Mr. Lee's smile was audible charm turned on to the high setting. "You come across a beautiful, multi-hued wildflower growing in the sidewalk crack, and as you gaze at it, someone steps on it, crushing the life out."

"I would take the flower and try to bring it back to life. Or maybe I would just keep on walking, since I cannot stop the person."

"Why can't you stop them?"

"They might be dangerous."

"Ah." Mr. Lee's vocalizations made everyone, including Toru, edgy. The young boy had already finished folding, and was now listening with rapt attention. Mr. Lee continued. "Do you worship a god or goddess?"

"Yes and no."

"Go on..."

"I believe there might be a God, but if there is, why would he or she allow such suffering to continue?"

"Are you taking any drugs or medications?"


"Your boy shows you his butterfly collection, plus the killing jar."

"I would hit him and take away his collection. Such animals are sacred—there are so few left anymore."

"You wouldn't take him to a psychologist?"



Mr. Lee continued again. "There is a fire and a child is screaming from the utmost floor for help, but no one helps- the flames are too powerful and strong."

"I ... I wouldn't help. I am ashamed, but ... I wouldn't. It would be too risky, and the firemen would be there any minute."

Toru's heart broke, but he ignored it. That question felt more like a low blow than a test question. Toru began to lose interest in this "Voigt-Kampff" test- it sounded stupid, anyway. Just a bunch of cruel questions that hurt when you answered. He set the towels aside and leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes; maybe he could rest for just a little bit, before the test was over and he had to go back into his room, back to work.

As he dozed, he thought of the new customer, the Blade Runner Mr. Lee. He saw Mr. Lee, in his dream, but the detective was in a pair of casual street-clothes and heavy military-style boots. Toru especially noticed the boots on Mr. Lee's feet because when he stepped down in them, the world shook. They were walking through the crowds together, and the people were parting like water for a fish; it was so beautiful and perfect that Toru was close to tears. He could see that they were walking through Hawker's Circle, and...


The word interrupted Toru's dream, bringing him to the surface too quickly- he felt like his head was about to explode.

"What are you telling me?!"

Mr. Orata was yelling, a highly unusual occurrence. Toru himself had never heard Mr. Orata yell, and to finally witness it was terrifying. Leaping to his feet, the boy peaked around the corner, peering into the shadowless room with it's yellow fluorescent lights.

Mr. Lee and Mr. Orata were standing, both men tense as they seemed to square off. They were facing each other across the table while the machine still wheezed softly in the deafening silence. Mr. Lee was strangely calm, almost incandescent with serenity.

"Sir, the machine can't lie." Mr. Lee murmured, watching the older man with lidded eyes. He unconsciously flexed his right hand as if it pained him. "The Voigt-Kampff can't lie -- I even have the incept photo to confirm it."

Mr. Orata's small, round face was livid with fury; he was shaking uncontrollably, the hands at his sides forming stiff claws that quaked. His gray hair was soaked with sweat, and his skin had been washed through with green. "If you have your damned photo, why didn't you just shoot me when you came into my store?!" he demanded, his voice a whole octave higher than the soberingly tranquil Mr. Lee's.

"Blade Runners should always authenticate the claims of renegade replicants, no matter how convincing the evidence at hand." Mr. Lee smiled slightly, a tugging at the corner of his mouth; he was enjoying his work. As the smile faded, Mr. Orata opened his mouth to say something up, but they both knew by then it was a fruitless effort. Mr. Lee reached into his coat and, in one fluid motion, pulled out his gun. The shot hit Mr. Orata in the chest. The older man didn't even have timeto say what he had wanted to, it was so fast; he stumbled backwards, gaping at the large wound that he couldn't yet feel.

Toru instinctively pulled back around the corner, away from the chaos, but the nightmare followed him out into the hallway. Another shot fired, and Mr. Orata came flying out of the room into the far wall, slamming against it with a sharp smack that made the thin walls shake. Mr. Orata slid to the ground, leaving a smear of blood in his wake- when he hit the wall, his skull had cracked, like an egg. The older man was frighteningly still as Toru approached to check his pulse; two fingers on the wrinkled throat confirmed what the boy fear- Mr. Orata, the man who had raised him as his own child, was dead. His eyes were still open, and Toru couldn't bring himself to touch the dead body again, even to shut those lids for the last time.


Mr. Lee! Toru spun around, crouching slightly, ready to dash towards the door and into the wet night beyond. "You killed him." Toru found himself saying, the words spilling from his chilled lips. Tears streamed down his face, leaving wet tracks that dried on his pale skin and became intolerably itchy.

Mr. Lee still had his gun drawn as he stepped out of the room, casually, and with grace. "What's your name?"

"Toru." he spat.

"Toru," Mr. Lee sighed, that disgusting tiny smile playing on his face again. "That was a replicant. Do you know what those are?" Before the boy could reply, the Blade Runner continued. "They're robots that are so similar to humans that only the test I gave your father can tell us and them apart. I'm hired to give people suspected of being replicants the test; if they pass and are human, I let them go."

"And if they're replicants, you shoot them?"

Mr. Lee nodded, pleased. "You're very clever. Your father was a replicant, Toru." Smoothing the lapels of his jacket with his free hand, he furtively eyed the boy, scanning his young unlined face. "You've known your father since birth?"

The tears came again, this time they were big fat ones that rolled down his gaunt cheeks and landed on the leg of Mr. Orata's pants. The old man was spread out on the floor, gangly-looking, all his limbs askew in a random fashion. "Yes. He adopted me. I ... He's raised me since I was a baby." Angrily, he brushed away his tears and looked up at Mr. Lee. "You've killed him. You killed my father."

Mr. Lee flexed his hand, frowning down at it. Now that they were so close to one another, Toru could see the dark half-moons that were under his eyes and the sweat beading on his upper lip. He quickly checked how much ammunition he had left in his gun, flipping a few strands of hair that had escaped out of his frigid blue eyes. "You have specific memories of your 'father' from when you were a little child?"

Irritated, he snapped: "Yes!" Why couldn't this ... killer just let him grieve in silence?!

Mr. Lee bit his upper lip and seemed to contemplate something for a brief moment. "Normally I don't like to shoot women and children," he sighed, resigned. "But I suppose you're going to try to run, and I'm going to have to chase you and shoot you, aren't I? Will you make this easy and just come down to the station with me?"

Him? Mr. Lee wanted to shoot him? But why?! Toru didn't do anything wrong, and he certainly wasn't a replicant! He couldn't speak, his throat constricting until he could barely breathe. His veins were on fire, his eyes felt water-logged; he was going to die. All the boy could think was that he was going to die if he didn't move soon, if he didn't at least try to run; there was a defensive wall in his mind, blocking all thoughts, rational or irrational, but that single thread of idea managed to slip by and penetrate. He was going to die.


The word, almost audible to both Toru and Mr. Lee, set the boy in motion. Toru hopped over his deceased father or whatever he was, slipping past Mr. Lee, and fled out the door, into the streets and the and the jostling, concealing crowds. The shouts of Mr. Lee as he yelled for Toru to come back reached the boy's ears, but he shut that voice out, running for his life. He saw flashes of his old life as he ran: the towering buildings, the blimp, the yellow and bluish faces- mostly Oriental- that seemed to be floating underwater. And there were the three pure constants that seemed to remain untainted by the night and the death: the rain, the neon, and the soft male voice of the advertisements exclaiming: "Let's go to the colonies!"

There was nothing left for him at the laundromat, nothing left for him at the apartment where he had lived. There was nothing but the feel of his feet pounding against the cement as he sprinted through the roads and alleys. This was a mistake, though, because he didn't pay attention to where he was going, and Mr. Lee was right behind him, gun drawn, colorless eyes flashing.

Toru turned right and skidded to a halt. There were no more people, no more crowds or neon lights. Just the rain and the blimp and this dead end that lay before him. His name, shouted with Mr. Lee's unrelenting voice, echoed, sinister; he was getting closer. The only escape was a door that lay to the left of him, a small wooden portal into what could possibly be his death- it was his only option. Wrenching it open, nearly tearing it off of its hinges, Toru let the door fly out of his hands as he raced into the dark hallway, not bothering to shut it. Mr. Lee would know where Toru was, it was unavoidable; the man could smell him and his fear.

The hallway was gloomy and dry, the murky semi-darkness only punctuated by horizontal slats of light, created by the blinds on the window at the end of the hall; dust visibly danced in the bright, ethereal strips. In here it was stable and quiet, and it was as if there was no dangerous assassin chasing him. But there was a killer chasing him, and he had to find a place to hide or else he would die. What would have been the point of running from the laundromat if he was just going to end up dead in this wretched narrow hall?

Moving on silent sneaker-clad feet, Toru tried the first door he found, but it was locked; every successive door he tried after that first was locked. Death and the sound of Mr. Lee's polished shoes were getting closer with every passing second. Panting for breath, clumsy with nervousness, Toru struggled on, resorting to even kicking on the doors as they refused to open. As chance would have it, however, the second-to-last door sprung open as he turned the knob- behind the thick wooden door was an empty broom closet, just big enough for the boy to comfortably hide in.


The boy dared a glance back at Mr. Lee before he darted into the closet; the man, ruffled and exhausted, was not the same man that had come into the laundromat. He was red-faced and his chest was heaving. A few temperamental strands of hair, out of place, flopped forward and poked at those horrific eyes. Those eyes that almost seemed to glow...

The door locked, another stroke of fortune; Toru managed to slip the rusty lock in place before Mr. Lee reached him; the man tried the knob and, finding no help there, pounded furiously on the door- the sound of his fist was deafening.

"Toru! Toru, I know you're there, so you might as well come out." Mr. Lee was no longer calm or collected- he was raging. Struggling to bring his anger under control, Mr. Lee forced a false note of cheerful urgency into his voice. "Toru, you don't want to stay in there forever, do you? At the station you can have a nice rest and something to eat before I give you the test, okay?"

"Go away!" Toru cried, leaning against the door as all his strength, his bravado, fled him. "Just go away! I'm not a replicant!" The tears were coming again, making his voice rise in pitch.

Mr. Lee eyed the door and tried to calculate where the boy would be, according to where his voice had come from. "Well, Toru, actually you are." he said, slightly reprimanding and totally patronizing. "You see, the Tyrell Corporation put out a new model called the 'Oliver Twist model'. I was shown the brochure. Hard working and very loyal. You're hard-working and loyal, aren't you, Toru? I have an incept photo right here, if you want more proof. Toru?"

"Shut up! Leave me alone!" Toru pressed his forehead against the door and slid down a little way until he was kneeling, as if in prayer.

"Well, now you're just hysterical, and that's not good. People make mistakes when they're hysterical, Toru. People die when they make mistakes." Was the boy moving around? "Toru- if your father was a replicant, which it was, then you can't have memories of him from more than four years ago." He pursed his lips and tipped back, eyeing the door. That stupid child was causing too much trouble. Maybe he should just shoot the door open; after all, why is he even explaining this to him ... it. Not a him, an it. "Replicants, Nexus 6 like you and Mr. Orata, only have a four year lifespan. It's a fail-safe built into every model."

Four years. The phrase ate its way into his ear and burrowed into his brain. Four years. Hoarsely he asked "Then how can I have memories of him?"

"Implanted memories, Toru." Mr. Lee exhaled sharply, his breath whistling out from between his teeth. "The Tyrell Corporation also does that along with the lifespan for every model." Leaning against the door, one arm casually resting over his head, Mr. Lee let his eyes slip shut. He was tired, and he hated this job. He suspected he was slipping too far along the curve, becoming too empathetic; maybe it was time to quit this job once and for all. "Please, Toru." Mr. Lee confided to the door, hoping his voice would carry through the thick wood. "Please, I'm so tired. Just come out."

Nothing. Pure silence. Maybe Toru's lifespan had ended while he was in the closet. That would make for an interesting turn of events. He rolled over, his back pressed against the wall next to the door.

"Toru?" A mumble that was barely audible. The sound of the lock sliding slowly back filled Mr. Lee's ears, making all the exhaustion and tension drain out of his shoulders. Finally, some luck.

As the door opened with a whisper, Toru, still on his knees, gazed up at the man leaning beside the door and then at the gun hanging loosely from Mr. Lee's hand. They moved slowly, dreamily, Mr. Lee reaching down and taking Toru's hands, pulling the boy to his feet.

"So I'm a replicant?"

Mr. Lee nodded weakly, considering the boy, ghastly blue eyes meeting glinting green ones, both orbs luminous.

A slight, frustrated laugh escaped Toru's throat, tearing him up as it went like the thorns of a rose. "That's almost funny. I've always felt human. I pitied the replicants I've heard about working off-world as slaves. But ... But I've felt human, I've lived human."

"Most replicants that escape do just that, Toru." Mr. Lee kindly touched the boy's face, sympathizing with the pathetic, young face that looked so innocent. "You know I have to kill now, don't you?" Toru nodded.

As Mr. Lee lifted his gun, he drew the boy closer to him, slipping his arm around Toru's shoulders; he prayed that this wouldn't hurt, that it would be quick and absolutely painless. Toru pressed his face into Mr. Lee's soft jacket that smelled like sweat and sorrow. As Mr. Lee pressed the muzzle of his gun against the boy's temple, Toru asked one more question.

"And you, Mr. Lee?" he whispered- the sound of the wind whistling around the looming building-tops, the sound of the rain hitting the pavement and the umbrellas. "If I believed I was human, Mr. Lee, then what about you?"

The gun when off and the force of the shot ripped Toru from Mr. Lee's arms. The boy crumpled up on the floor, one side of his face torn to bloody shreds. Violently ill, Mr. Lee stumbled out the door to the alley where he threw up. Afterwards, lifting his face to the rain, he felt the pain shooting up his arms, felt the shiftlessness and exhaustion course through his veins in the place of blood. What could the boy have meant? Surely he didn't think that Mr. Lee, a Blade Runner for god's sake, was a replicant. That was just foolishness, a last entreaty for mercy, a way of stalling the inevitable climax...

Wasn't it?

Looking down the muzzle of his gun, the misery and fatigue filling him, torturing him, Mr. Lee knew the truth.

Return To Menu - Join Club - Check Your E-Mail - Join ICQ - Contact Us