Plugs

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Archive for November, 2010

Sunrise

Friday, November 26th, 2010

The peacocks seemed to spend their nights down by the river. Possibly in the apple trees. I never went down to check. They probably would have heard me coming; it would have been inconclusive.

Anyway, I meant to tell you about the robot. What was I saying? Oh yeah, the metal. It had this sheen, iridescent–guess that’s what got me started on peacocks.

So the robot was made with tiny speakers all over it, and supposedly emitted all these subsonic sounds, like wind, leaves, and sounds insects make and only other insects can hear. So it could wander around the enclosures without spooking anything.

Guess it worked, because it used to walk around in this really, slow, calm way, and none of the animals minded. There’d be a deer grazing, a mother deer, with fawns, and she’d just look up, and just when I thought she’d spring away, she didn’t. Might not have spooked the animals, but it kind of spooked me.

I got used to it, the way you get used to things working a lot with an android. And then it started picking up other odd sounds on its speakers, sounds I could hear. Static, hums, high screechy whistles, and, once, when we were working together to re-contour some of the erosion breaks along the lake road, what I could have sworn was the “don’t expect to see the sunrise,” spoken with this accent like the scientists in the programs have, like someone who’s spoken Math all their life.

I dropped my shovel. The robot kept digging, at least until it noticed I’d stopped. Then it did that head-tilt triangulation thing, checking me out in infrared and echolocation and whatever else it’s got, which always looks to me like confusion, so I said, “What was that?”

It acted like it didn’t have a human language chipset, although I was sure those come standard. I started wondering if it wasn’t a stray signal, if it was a threat. If the robot harbored some glitch that approximated hate. The rest of the afternoon crawled.

Finally, it turned to me. “I have analyzed my utterance.” Its consonants, crickety; its vowels, river splash and burble.

It held its shovel like an ax. I expected it would bury me, or the pieces that had been me, in one of the retaining banks.

“95% chance of complete cloud cover, all day,” it said.

Apocalypses

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

If he weren’t already dead— head torn off of his neck with a thick, tearing sound, and I swear I can still taste the blood that fountained up and spattered my face—I’d kill him all over again. John was the one who was going to live through the robot apocalypse—he had been making sure of it for years. Oh, he didn’t know it would be robots, not for sure. He had been prepared for it to be any of a number of apocalypses. It could have been the classic zombies or cold war fallout; the earth could have been struck by an asteroid, the sun could have winked out, a wolf could have eaten the moon. He was prepared for any eventuality: canned food, a wall of weapons. Survival guides, handbooks, medical kits, medical-grade pharmaceuticals, and extra can openers. He had trained himself to make knots, suture a wound, and had a pretty good idea of how to restructure and rebuild a society that had been decimated by a virus so virulent you’d think it had a mind of his own.

The point is—he was ready. He knew everything. And he told me, a throb in his voice and his hand on his heart, that he’d protect me. I told him, I don’t want to live through the apocalypse. I told him, just let me fall into the crack that splits the earth in two, and don’t worry about fishing me out. Just figure out how to stick the two sides of the whole back together, and get on with things.

You’ll think differently when it happens, he said.

Not likely, I said. I’m afraid to say I snorted, in a derisive way. I turned the page in the June 25th issue of The New Yorker.

I’ll keep you alive no matter what, he said.

Don’t bother, I said airily.

He should have listened to me. I mean, you know it’s my fault he died. Lunging to shove me out of the way of the pincer-clawed, traction-treaded harvester, he took the blow that was meant for me. I was so tired of running, and I didn’t think he had seen me stop. I didn’t think he had seen me turn and throw my hands up and say Fine! Okay! You win! He hadn’t believed I really meant it. Worse, I hadn’t believed he had meant it, either.

If he weren’t already dead— head torn off of his neck with a thick, tearing sound, and I swear I can still taste the blood that fountained up and spattered my face—I’d kill him all over again. John was the one who was going to live through the robot apocalypse—he had been making sure of it for years. Oh, he didn’t know it would be robots, not for sure. He had been prepared for it to be any of a number of apocalypses. It could have been the classic zombies or cold war fallout; the earth could have been struck by an asteroid, the sun could have winked out, a wolf could have eaten the moon. He was prepared for any eventuality: canned food, a wall of weapons. Survival guides, handbooks, medical kits, medical-grade pharmaceuticals, and extra can openers. He had trained himself to make knots, suture a wound, and had a pretty good idea of how to restructure and rebuild a society that had been decimated by a virus so virulent you’d think it had a mind of his own.

The point is—he was ready. He knew everything. And he told me, a throb in his voice and his hand on his heart, that he’d protect me. I told him, I don’t want to live through the apocalypse. I told him, just let me fall into the crack that splits the earth in two, and don’t worry about fishing me out. Just figure out how to stick the two sides of the whole back together, and get on with things.

You’ll think differently when it happens, he said.

Not likely, I said. I’m afraid to say I snorted, in a derisive way. I turned the page in the June 25th issue of The New Yorker.

I’ll keep you alive no matter what, he said.

Don’t bother, I said airily.

He should have listened to me. I mean, you know it’s my fault he died. Lunging to shove me out of the way of the pincer-clawed, traction-treaded harvester, he took the blow that was meant for me. I was so tired of running, and I didn’t think he had seen me stop. I didn’t think he had seen me turn and throw my hands up and say Fine! Okay! You win! He hadn’t believed I really meant it. Worse, I hadn’t believed he had meant it, either.

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