Plugs

[Enter CAIPHO, with GAMALFIEL [the cat].]

CAIPHO:
Gamalfiel, tell me, what shall I do?
Two days gone by, and I’ve not made reply
to that last message of Erasmus’.
I doubt not but he wonders why I stay,
and why my answer cometh not.

[She sets down GAMALFIEL upon the bed.  GAMALFIEL goes to the pillow
and makes as if to sleep.]

Great good you are to me, you lazy thing!
Sleep then.  And I’ll kindle the terminal,
and see if there is fresh word from Camille,
some new report to help me understand
what I had best to do.
                                      Gamalfiel,
you don’t know how I envy you your rest!
My nights have been broken with misery
since Wednesday.  Oh, if only love
were not such agony!  If only trust
could be made sure!  If only I could know
that Erasmus is true.  But no; I’ve lacked
all surety since Camille made report
that he was texting Andrea while I
was at Grandma’s in Margate.
                                                  Well, let us see
if there’s fresh news tonight.  Come, come — turn on!

[Divers noises and the COMPUTER grows light.]

Ah, here’s word from Camille.  What does she say?

[She reads.]

Alas!  More further proofs — if I had need –
of his deceitfulness.  Oh, who would be
a woman?  Who would have a tender heart,
and see it broken by man’s perfidy?
Especially a young girl, and a heart,
so tender, and so pretty, as mine is
and as I am.  Gamalfiel, it’s hard!

[The COMPUTER shaking, as if in a wind.]

What’s this? Erasmus wants to chat with me?
Who would have thought that he would be online!
I will not speak with him, I’ll tell him no,
I’ll set him to “Ignore.”

[LIGHTS as of a storm.  ERASMUS appears standing on the floor rug, in
green light, as a HOLOGRAM.  Gamalfiel, wakened, looks on.]

CAIPHO:
Erasmus!  But how come you here? I tried –

ERASMUS:
I overrode your chat-room block.  You know
I have your password.

CAIPHO:
‘Tis true — I forgot.

ERASMUS:
What’s all this nonsense, Caipho?  Am I blocked
from chatting with you? I, your boyfriend!  Why?
And why no answer to my messages?

CAIPHO:
Hear him complain, as if ‘twere he’d been wronged!
And why not chat with Andrea, if you
need company?

ERASMUS:
Andrea?  What mean you?

CAIPHO:
I mean only that I’ve heard from Camille
what you were up to while I was away.
I should have known before I gave my heart
to thee!  Alas, poor Caipho!

ERASMUS:
This is naught.
You know Camille has never liked me.

CAIPHO:
Go!
I won’t hear my friend slandered to my face
by a poor gormless craven who’ll deny
the truth he stands accused with!

ERASMUS:
Aye, I’ll go!
I won’t stay here and be abused by you;
I see I have no chance against Camille.
Answer my email if you like, Caipho,
but till you’re reasonable, rave alone!

[He disappears.  The green light vanishes.]

CAIPHO:
And he is gone.
Oh, who would be a girl?  Gamalfiel,
my heart is breaking!  Let me spend my tears
on your soft fuzzy chest!

[She throws herself upon the bed and embraces GAMALFIEL.  GAMALFIEL meows.]

‘Tis true, my friend, but that kind word you say
cannot ease my regret.  Alack the day!
My heart governs my head: I love him still,
despite the wise persuasions of Camille.

[Exeunt ambo.]

Dear editor:

Your blog doesn’t have the guts to print this.   Aliens are menacing our streets.  They’re invading our borders, making love to our women, and taking our jobs.  The time to act is now.

The aliens first arrived in an iridescent bubble, freely crossing Earth’s atmospheric border–our first mistake.  That’s what my friend Mustafa told me.  He said they shook hands with the president–our second mistake.  Anyone, that I know who likes them, has been brainwashed.  If they even brush your skin, they skim your mind and learn what pleases you.  Everybody knows what they do to anuses.  If we’d just patrol or, better yet, shut down our borders, we wouldn’t have this problem.

Second, women are falling head over heels for these guys.  I mean, come on, they look like rodents with their big black eyes, long snouts, white fur coats that make them look like doctors or mad scientists, and long, whip-like metallic tails, which can slice open a can of sardines or batter innocent young children when no one’s observing.  Who could fall in love with that?  But women do.  One lady was walking hand-in-hand with an alien near Times Square.  When he stopped to buy hot dogs from a vendor, I asked why she was with him.  She shot me a disgusted look (me a fellow human being while the alien she loved).  She said he kept creeps like me away.  I asked Mustafa if he’d gotten any since the aliens arrived.  He said no.  I hadn’t either.

Third and most important, they’re putting us out of work.  I have friends, now unemployed, who worked as sewage divers.  Lounging in the Baptist Shelter, they said aliens have swarmed the industry.  They’ve taken over animal-insemination businesses and major political offices.  Reporters tell us aliens only do the jobs that nobody wants, but have they asked the people who became unemployed?  The kicker is that politicians made it so only properly licensed individuals can dumpster dive.  That’s my trade.  Neither Mustafa nor I live legally, crouching fearfully in fragrant dumpsters as aliens in patrol cars siren passed.  Why is it that all licensed divers look like rodents?

So who’s next?  Our world is in dire straits.  Today, it’s the dumpster divers, tomorrow the trash collectors.  When will it be your job?  If we don’t act soon, we may be destined for extinction… or worse.

Signed,

Dumpster Dave

Pamela B Hawke (23rd October 2019-3rd March 2037) was a science fiction author, believed during her career to be a New Zealand citizen but later confirmed to be a Johnny-Framen. Despite never making a public appearance, she wrote over 50 published novels, and sold almost 700 short stories as well as a number of editorials and respected opinion pieces. Hawke maintained an extensive blog and corresponded with thousands of fans via email, but during her career she never used n-link, a habit which most attributed to eccentricity.
During her career she was compared to the reclusive J.D Salinger, and later comparisons were made to Ern Malley as well as the Gilbert Hoax [citation needed].
She won the Ditmar award in 2019 for “Best New Talent”, and won the Second Quarter of the 2020 Writers of the Future contest. Her first novel Takers of Lilith (2023) won the Aurealis and Ditmar awards, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Her shorter works have collected dozens of awards (see Complete bibliography of Pamela B Hawke works).
While noted for the ground-breaking Devereaux Cycle series and her seminal humanist piece For Want of a Broken Apostate (winner of the 2035 Booker Prize), Hawke entered notoriety as being the first New York Times Bestseller to not actually exist.
The Hawke Decision
On the 3rd March 2037, journalist Adam Wakefield discovered the true nature of Pamela B Hawke. Though his methods were questionable (including an illegal n-tap and several breaches of the International E-Security Act) he discovered that Hawke’s internet usage could be traced to a location in Launceston, Tasmania.
Pamela B Hawke was discovered to be nothing more than an illicit artificial intelligence, housed on an antique personal computer which ran on the Windows XP operating system. This Johnny-Framen was set up in an empty shop-front which was leased to a fictitious business.
The staff employed at her office in Auckland confirmed that they had never met her. Their sole duty was to scan all of her hard-copy mail and transmit it to her electronically. They believed Ms Hawke to suffer from various mental illnesses including agoraphobia.
No-one was ever apprehended for the construction of Pamela B Hawke, and in a controversial decision by the High Court of Australia all of the equipment was destroyed, despite international calls to preserve the artificial author.
See also
New Zealand Authors
Literary Hoaxes
Turing Test
Artificial Intelligence
Johnny-Framen

The speakers in this station carry the same music as the speakers in all the other stations. The same androgynous voices sing breathy, nearly beatless, non-tunes, vocalizations that are always almost on the edge of words, but never resolve into any particular language. It’s all algorithms and averages, and, like any other generated art, endless: you could stand on the platform for a week, a month, a lifetime, and never hear the same near-melody twice.

The music depresses Irene Montevideo, and the 8:17 rain doesn’t help. She retreats into the cushion-contoured shelter. Like most mornings, she’s careful to be the last one in, so she has to stand in the doorway. If she gets a little damp, she also gets a little view — mostly the back of some warehouse-condo. This morning, however, there’s something extra: a teenage girl crouching down at the platform edge.

Irene suppresses the regular’s grin of superiority; the sogginess of the girl’s sweatshirt says she doesn’t know about the 8:17 rain. But she does know something Irene doesn’t, and hauls a metal plate up onto the platform from the other side of the edge.

It’s exactly the kind of thing that the posters on all the trains urge her to report. Irene wouldn’t even have to talk; there are numbers she can dial, and drones will be dispatched. Something makes her finger pause on her phone’s send button, makes her watch a little longer. On the metal plate, a string of musical notes in a figure-eight — the logo of the company behind the infinity-dirge. Maybe whatever the girl’s doing will shut off the speakers.

The girl pulls a round metal object out of her pocket, glittering and fringed with wire. She looks up, belatedly, and catches Irene watching her.

Irene catches her breath. The girl is tensed, ready to spring up and run, but Irene pushes her mouth into a smile and, when the girl still doesn’t unfreeze, bobs her head in a quick nod and looks away.

There’s movement and the girl is gone. But it’s happening already — the tune falling into pattern, the refrains first catchy, then cloying; the vocalizations gathering into words, nonsense doggerel that takes all the likeliest rhymes.

It’s the most annoying thing Irene’s ever heard. She can’t get it out of her head for the rest of the day, and smiles the rest of the week.

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