The human mind will always be superior to machines because machines are only tools of human minds.

This story is paired with Chapter 21 of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 


The mad scientist hopes, as he scours fields and ditches for dead bodies, that he will happen upon the woman of his dreams.

You know, the one. Perhaps a leggy one. Not too many warts. A good sense of sarcasm. Likes Radiohead. Or, Iron and Wine.

Or at least one with whom he can get along. Some one. Any one. Doesn’t even have to be a fellow mad scientist. Doesn’t even have to be mad. Doesn’t even have to like science.

He can ease his commitment to his stated preferences, especially if it is for the love of his life.

He starts online dating. Uploads pictures his humble assistant Igor takes of him with his lab coat off. He answers multiple choice question after multiple choice question on his personality, his views on art and politics, his desire for kinkiness in the bedroom. He sends messages to the women matched to him. It seems an understandable mechanism. A perfect polyamory between science, mathematics, technology, and personality dynamics. It’s a mechanism that has worked for countless others. He believes that, after enough runs, the mechanism is sure to work for him.

Months of silence ensue. Hundreds of messages go unanswered. Conversations fizzle out upon the mention of a hint of a date. So, the mad scientist roams the fields and ditches for six or seven hours at a time in the dead of night. This worries Igor sick, but the mad scientist tells Igor these walks are cathartic.

This, of course, is a lie. All an empty field on a deep purple night does is give the mad scientist free reign to worry. To worry about what he’s entered online as his occupation. Scientist. What he’s entered online as his eye color. Black. His favorite music. Indie Alternative. His height. 5’6″.

He’s actually 5’5″ without shoes on. But can an inch make such a grave difference?

He finds himself often on these nights in both a physical and existential ditch.

Angst, as they call it.

And he tries to lift himself out of this angst.

He tells himself these women don’t know what they’re missing.

They’re missing a big sack of awesome.

He’s the cutest, most intellectual, kindest mad scientist he knows.

But he’s the only mad scientist he knows. This realization digs into him and leaves open in him a fresh angst, which catalyzes his bitterness at the whole mechanism. The inability of words and a picture on a webpage to fully capture oneself. The inability of the multiple choice question format to satisfy one’s sense of self. Then, he blames himself for believing so strongly in such a mechanism.

It’s enough to make one mad. Mad and desperate. So desperate that, when he finds, in a physical analog to his existential ditch, the body of a man closely resembling Don Johnson from Miami Vice, he sees an opportunity to reinvigorate his pursuit of the love of his life via continuing his lifelong work developing cyborgs from the dead.

The mad scientist downloads into this dead Don Johnson doppelgänger all the data pertaining to the mad scientist’s algorithmically calculated matches. He installs the necessary software and hardware for photo-recognition and sociability, essentially creating a bionic wingman.

The mad scientist calls his bionic wingman Don Juanson.

Though, at the bar, he introduces himself as Don.

Don introduces the mad scientist to various women with whom he is at least a 70% match.

The mad scientist has polite conversations with each one. They smile at his jokes. They respond with agreeability to what he says, using words like “totally,” “really interesting,” or simply “yeah.”

He asks about getting a cup of coffee.

He asks about getting dinner.

He asks for phone numbers.

They each find their polite ways to demur and leave.

Maybe it’s his shirt. Maybe it’s his breath.

Don grins at him, reassures him that his breath and shirt are both fine. He floats the idea that maybe 70% isn’t high enough.

So they wait for a 90% match to come along.

This takes an hour and a half, maybe. The mad scientist pulls at his shirt, awkwardly taking care that it doesn’t drape awkwardly on his flabby-scrawny frame. He goes to the bathroom multiple times to arrange each strand of hair with microscopic precision.

As he leaves the bathroom for the last time, he sees Don talking to a gorgeous woman. Perhaps she is the mad scientist’s 90% match. She leans toward Don, puts her drink right next to his. She bares her perfect smile at him. The way she watches him talk looks to the mad scientist like the way children look when they’re watching their favorite cartoons.

The mad scientist’s heartbeat throbs through him like high heels echoing in an empty hallway. There is the sense that everything he has wanted is about to come to him. The mad scientist’s remade mechanism will achieve its end. His steps are slow with the sincere belief that he is walking into his fate. His chest swells with pride at his creation. He envisions, after winning her heart, that he will buy the whole bar a round of drinks and will toast this newly perfected polyamory of science, mathematics, technology, personality, and now faith. The words press on the insides of his lips.

To Don!

But oftentimes clichéd fate waits till we are mid-stride to jar us completely. Don and the woman leave before the mad scientist returns. They do this in plain sight. And the mad scientist goes speechless an inch away from shouting distance. When he sits to his beer, his hand shakes in tipping the half-empty pint to his dry mouth.

He buys more pints and sips them in silence. He gets a pen from the bartender and draws on the back of coasters what look like schematics.

Each time a woman enters, he glances over and looks ponderously at her. But this lasts only a moment until he returns to his designs.

Whether they are designs for the creation of the love of his life or a tool of ultimate revenge is unsure, since the words and lines are both too minute and too distraught for legibility.


DH VarmaD.H. Varma is a Prose Fellow at the University of Notre Dame’s MFA program. His work has appeared in Oxford American Magazine, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, and mikrokosmos