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

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.


by Rudi Dornemann

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.

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