Plugs

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

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

Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

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

In Human Management

by Trent Walters

Summer was over.  Ripe melons on the yetrop trees occasionally burst in the sun, scattering dollops of sticky juice across the ground to the pleasure of the ants and flung its feather seeds on the wind.  Pairs of harburt birds flapped lazily over the orchard, in search of cattle that Takashi let amble too far from the stinging reach of his air-pellet gun.  He hated harming life.

Apart from one person, Takashi’s life was idyllic and calm.  While the world toiled in automated towers scratching the upper atmosphere, Takashi absorbed the soft chirr of insects and rustle of tree limbs, watching over cattle grazing.  That one person was his laser-packing boss, Brunhilda, whom he half-admired, half-despised and who stopped by daily to say that the cattle had grazed the wrong pasture, or that he ought to kill the harburts.

Often she wore an invisibility shield to creep up on Takashi and catch him idle.  Although she rarely did, she demanded action on postponed chores:  Prune back the yetrops in the southwest; thin the northwest thickets; cull the nonproductive silk-milk goats wasting resources–a chore he often neglected until she’d done it herself, dinging his life rating to upper management.  He’d never looked at his life rating but suspected he’d fallen to eighty percent of his allotted two hundred years.  He could have knocked some off hers, but it would have hurt him more than her in terms of guilt.

One afternoon, lounging under a yetrop, a ripe melon burst on his head.  Takashi spluttered, wiped the sticky juice stinging his eyes.  Brunhilda stood over him, not smiling.  “You have unfinished work.”

“I’m on break.”

“It’s overdue.  Your dog–”

“Nana.”

“–was to be recycled last week.”

“I put in for a stay.”

“Denied.”

Takashi stood.  “She’s my companion.”

Brunhilda stepped into his space.  “Your companion is deaf, lame, half-blind, not even human.  Help me out here.  I’m trying to get into human management.”

“What do I get?”

“I won’t ding you.”

Takashi glared.  He grabbed the laser out of her holster, briefly pointed it at her, then off to the side.  A harburt squawked and tumbled.  Its companion dove after.

“Great.  How about the dog?”

“Recalculate resource distribution, and get back to me.”

Resource distribution buoyed for the area, allowing Nana’s stay of execution, but she died shortly thereafter.  Takashi took sick leave.  That Brunhilda was displeased about the entire affair was the only comfort Takashi had.

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