Plugs

As he died, Albert’s only regret was that he would soon be the subject of this ridiculous story.

“So have you decided yet?” Becca asked. “What you’re doing Friday?”

“Oh, God knows. Last-minute house party with the boys, probably.” Selwyn rubbed absently at her temples. “At least if the apocalypse comes there’ll be plenty of gin in the house. You’re invited, of course.”

“Thank you,” said Becca.

“And you? First Night again?”

Becca snorted. “Once was enough, thanks,” she said. “Especially this year, with freezing rain as a bonus!”

“You think it’ll still be coming down on Friday?”

“It’s been two weeks, hasn’t it?” said Becca. She nodded toward the window. “Does it look to you like it’s planning to let up by then?”

Selwyn considered the thick, cottony light filtering through the glass. “Not likely,” she admitted.

Becca watched her rise and walk to the window, watched her face shade into silhouette. Behind it, runnels of rain made bright worms on the pane.

“Do you think,” Becca said, quietly, “that everything’s really going to blow up?”

The shadowed face was silent. “Depends what you mean by that,” it said at last.

“You know what I mean. Everything really stopping working. Lights going out all over the world.”

“A technological apocalypse,” Selwyn said, slowly, “seems to me unlikely.” She paused. “What people do, of course, that’s more unpredictable.”

“There’s all kinds of doomsday predictions going round,” said Becca. “I’ve never felt so medieval.” She hesitated. “I could almost believe, at moments, that it really is going to end.”

“Do you really think that will happen?” Selwyn asked in her low voice.

“I don’t know,” said Becca. “I – you know I wouldn’t, ordinarily. But this is such a strange time. What if something really is coming that will change the world? Again?”

“A singularity,” said Selwyn. “You can’t see it coming, but before and after it, history is different.”

“Yes, like that,” said Becca. She shuddered a little. “You think you’re in the real world, and then something impossible happens. And you say, Oh! The world was like that, all along.”

Selwyn came over to her, touched her gently on the head. “Don’t kill yourself over this. You’ll find out in three days what the end of the story is.”

“I guess we will,” said Becca. Her hand closed and opened upon the desk. “Stay a little longer, please.”

Selwyn leaned one hip on the edge of the desk, and stroked Becca’s hair again. They stayed there together some time, in silence, looking out at the rain.

Although this masquerades as a short story, it actually crams the known universe down your neural network.  Each pixel barrages your retina in photons arrayed to convey a trillion trillion trillion bits of information.  Glimpsing the first letter of this story has made you want to invest a month’s credits into our bank account, but hey, at least we’re honest.

After reading this far, you have the knowledge of three races from the Milky Way’s more intelligent arthropods stored in your brain.  How many of your friends can boast that?  (Shortly, all of them.  You will convince them to look at the first letters of this story, and they will soon sink a month’s credits in our accounts.)

All you have to know about your new knowledge is how to access it.  At present, this technology is limited to Random Access Memory—that is, it may require green tea on your Great Aunt Betsy’s veranda or a quiet afternoon of clinking dominoes at a local café, but it will all surface sooner or later, whether you want it to or not.

In clinical experiments, 98.9 % of those about to be crushed by pillow-rock monsters on the planet Xartan are able to recall the necessary escape data in order to skedaddle in the nick of time (unfortunately, in the same trials, only 3.4% were able to retrieve data on man-eating orchids, lying in wait just the other side of the cliff face–a problem our programmers are working on as we transmit this data to you).

Of course, next year around this time, you will act on a compulsive whim to purchase The All-New Complete Guide to Complete Guides, 2.0–updated to prevent your desire to buy our competitors’ viral Complete Guides so that you don’t go into bankruptcy buying various guides.  Those that do have a 27.6% probability of becoming schizophrenic, hydrophobic, and apoplectic.

That’s it!  The last of the data is loaded.  Enjoy you new life to the best of your ability.

Author’s note: this story is dedicated to my friend Julie, her daughter Matilda, and her partner Kirk, because (as will surprise no-one who knows Julie) her daughter arrived in the world with a similar entourage.

Though we live in the Internet Age, Sofia’s birth was announced in the usual way: a voice was heard crying the news from the sacred cave in Damascus (interrupting the congress of lovers in the condominium above); a woman fell down beside the holy well at Chartres (now a cathedral), saying, “She is come!”; and a spirit stood amid the burning lamps of the Pituk gompa’s altar in Tibet, waiting quietly until the monks understood, but since they know to watch for these signs, that didn’t take long.

Perhaps every mother feels—on a good day, for a brief moment—that her child is the Messiah. Only a few know for sure, and the news does not generally please them. Sofia’s parents, both professors at the Università di Roma “La Sapienza,” just looked confused when the angel Gabriel showed up while they were cooking dinner, alighting on the mushroom basket by the door, which never recovered.

“I’m positive I helped with conception,” pointed out her father Rafaelo. “And since we are—were?—atheists, I’m afraid God wasn’t on our minds at the time.”

“Yes yes yes,” Gabriel replied. “If you’ve glanced at your human race lately, you know the Divine does not to do anything the same way twice.”

Sofia’s mother, Catriona, looked down at her belly, where a bump the size of a small pecorino cheese liked to move about, first high, then low and off to the side: Sofia.

“At least that explains the animals, caro,” she said to her husband.

“Animals?”  asked Gabriel sharply.

“They follow me around. Cats, dogs, pigeons, hawks, rats, foxes—any creature in the city. I walk to work and by the time I get there I look like a zoo on the move.”

“The odd thing is,” pointed out Rafaelo, “They never eat each other, not even when they disperse.”

“A sign of Universal Peace,” nodded Gabriel.

“That’s very nice, but someone has to clean up all the poop afterwards,” said Catriona.

“Ah! Not unlike having a baby, then,” said Gabriel. He groomed each wing with the air of one who has done his job. “Well! That wraps it up for now. Expect further communications as events warrant.”

“—But,” Catriona began, suddenly realizing how very many questions she had, yet too late, for Gabriel had ascended in golden state, leaving behind only fragments of wicker and footprints in the fungus.

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