The Iron Writer Challenge #27

chopsticks

The Iron Writer Challenge #27

2013 Iron Writer Spring Equinox Challenge #5

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Anne-Mason SmithE. Chris GarrisonM.D. PitmanMamie Pound

The Elements:

chopsticks

 A Wishing Well

Chopsticks

A Tow Truk

The National Tax Code in the country where you live

SnowflakesAnne Mason Smith

Anne Mason Smith

I walk silently down the dark alley, shivering in my white cardigan that hangs from my shoulders. Snow falls from the darkening sky, dotting the night with their white glow. They land on the metal roofs of the houses surrounding me, making sounds not unlike that of a penny falling into the murky depths of a wishing well.

I continue onward, my feet crunching in the fresh layer of ice, frozen on the thin blades of grass that dare survive. Finally, I spot my destination. A large tow truck rises from the snow at the end of the alley. Its paint is rusted and chipped, and the windows are smashed. The truck is dented, and the tires are nowhere in sight. No one knows what happened to it.

I sit on the hood, shivering slightly in the frigid cold. I push my hand into my pocket, and draw out a small wooden box. I open it, and smile at the present inside. I quietly close the carved box with a soft tap.

“No peeking, right?” a voice whispers from behind me, and I jump in alarm, but quickly relax when I recognize the familiar voice. I turn to face my boyfriend, Jamie. I smile, rolling my eyes and throwing myself into his arms. His arms wrap around me, and his fingers trail over my hair, ridding it of the snow trapped in the tendrils. When he pulls away, it seems like we had been together for only a second, but I know it was more than a minute. He glances at my small sweater.

“Geeze you must be freezing.” He yanks his jacket off of his shoulders and wraps it around mine. I snuggle into it’s warmth, sighing contentedly.

“Ready for your present?” he asks, his soothing voice echoing around the dark walls of the alley.  I nod, smiling like a fool. I realize I’m still holding the carved, wooden box in my hand. I quickly reach my hand out toward Jamie, holding the box gently.  He reaches his arm toward me, making our arms parallel. His hand holds a small, square plastic box. I take his and he takes mine.

“One.”  “Two.”  “Three.”  We both open our presents, and I burst out laughing. Jamie had gotten me a copy of the national tax code. I glance over at him, and see him laughing himself, holding up his pair of broken chopsticks.

“Ok, you definitely won,” I laugh, wiping the tears from my eyes. I fold up the document and place it back inside the box.

Jamie holds up his arms and shouts, “Victory is mine!”

Fare WellChrissy Garrison

E. Chris Garrison

Carole drew a breath to say her final goodbye to the family farm. The air left her as a sigh, instead. Her eyes cast to the ground where her boots trod the soil, once worked by her father, she nearly ran into the mortised stone of the well.

She smiled, despite her troubles. Despite the coming foreclosure, despite her cousin Tony allowing it to happen by selling his share to the factory farm company. Despite his smug face in her doorway, telling her she only owned the land until noon. Then it’d be the bank’s.

She smiled, remembering  how Mamaw had called it a wishing well, a magical place, containing the farm’s greatest treasure. When asked what the treasure was, Mamaw just grinned, held a finger to her lips, and said, “secrets”.

Growing up, Carole told her secret hopes to the well, imagining them held safe in the water below.

She pulled a penny from her purse. 1968, the year she was born.

How lucky!

She tossed the penny in. It pinged off stone and plunked into water.

“I wish I knew how to save the farm.”

The well whispered, “Get the treasure!”

“What?”

“You asked how to save the farm. There’s treasure down here.”

“Are you a genie?”

“A zephyr, actually, a wind spirit. I grant knowledge wishes only. I’ve fed on secrets for decades. Now, there’s not much time.”

Carole nodded and ran to the farmhouse, searching for help. She spied a tow truck in the driveway, set to drag off the family tractor at noon. She bribed Earl, the driver, and he backed the vehicle up to the well. She stood on the hook and Earl shrugged and lowered her into the dark. Her feet touched water as the line reached its limit. The dark swallowed up the glow of her penlight, until her eyes adjusted.

A carpet of pennies glowed a dingy orange under the clear water. The chill of the water came as a shock as it overflowed her boots and soaked the legs of her jeans. She bent low and shoveled the coins in the middle aside, revealing a rock plugging a hole. She used one of the chopsticks in her hair to pry at the rock, which came loose.

Under it was a silver dollar, adorned by LIBERTY, a woman’s head with flowing hair, and 1794.

“Worth more than enough,” whispered the zephyr.

She shouted, and the driver hauled her back up, where Tony waited. He snatched the coin from her, laughing.

She said, “Zephyr, I wish I knew how to stop him!”

Whispers in her ear told her what to do.

“Tony, I still own this farm, and you’re trespassing! And according to the US Tax Code, that coin is mine. You saw it, right Earl?”

Earl nodded.

Tony spat and threw the coin back in the well.

Carole didn’t mind retrieving it again. The coin’s ten million dollar bounty was well worth it.

“Thank you, Mamaw,” said Carole.

“You’re welcome, dearheart,” said the zephyr.

AttackedMichael Pitman

M.D.Pitman

Meredith ran her fingers through her hair to its end several times before grabbing a fist full. She exhaled a deep breath and cut the twelve inches that hung from her hand. She looked at the clump of blonde hair that lay in the sink and thought about how he stroked it before he slapped her across her face. She smeared a tear as she rubbed her cheek, still feeling the sting of his open-handed slap.

The pain of every slap was felt as every clump of hair fell into the sink.

Meredith stared into the mirror over the sink. Underneath a short, choppy haircut glared a pair of empty, red-swollen eyes. The face in the mirror was both vulnerable and stone.

She closed her eyes and thoughts of his touch over her body flooded her mind. Tears ran down her face.

The scissors thudded as they landed on the pile of hair. She turned to turn on the shower.

Steam filled the small square room before she stripped down and stepped inside. The water burned and she flinched, but the water needed to sanitize his touch away.

Meredith leaned her head against the hard shower wall as the water pounded on her back.

Just a few hours earlier, she was watching television waiting for Sam, the regular Lucky Well delivery guy, to bring her favorite meal. She always tipped a few dollars too many because she had thought he was cute.

She muted the television because one of the income tax preparer commercials came on and then ripped through the restaurant’s wishing well logo. That’s when the door flew open.

Sam rushed in the room and attacked her. Meredith grabbed the chopsticks from the coffee table but he grabbed her hand and broke them.

Sam pinned Meredith against the floor, gently caressing her hair and face before beating it black and blue. He didn’t speak, only grunted, as he ripped open her T-shirt.

He paused. Meredith grabbed one of the broken chopsticks that lay next to her and slammed it in his ear. He fell limp to the side.

Red and blue lights cascaded the side of her apartment building and the wall opposite her window as a policewoman talked with her.

“You’re brave to have fought back,” the officer said. Meredith nodded in agreement though she didn’t feel brave.

She felt rather alone as she was alone, no one to turn to or talk with.

After her shower, Meredith heard a beeping of a truck backing up. One police car remained in front of her building, blocking the traffic as a tow truck backed up to the delivery truck.

Meredith fumbled the business card of the policewoman who spoke with her, saying to call her day or night. Then she looked at the blood-stained carpet in front of her television. Then walked into her bedroom and began packing.

She dialed the number on the phone.

“Officer Warren, can I help you?”

“This is Meredith,” she paused. “From earlier tonight.”

Extra Sauce, Extra CheeseMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

Every Wednesday night between six and six-thirty, I ring your doorbell. You take too long to answer. You apologize.

 “Hey there Trey, sorry it took me so long to come to the door,” you say.

“Travis,” I shout over the sound of a rumbling tow truck.

“Excuse me?” you say, thinking you misheard.

“My name is Travis. Not Trey.” I say.

 You apologize again. “Extra sauce. Extra cheese,” I say, just like every other time.

 “Wow, you guys are fast this week, still nice and hot“, you say, like you’re surprised. I nod my head. My smile is polite, no teeth.

 “Thank you Travis!” you say, handing me the cash, so glad to see me, like my parents feel the same as you about the National Tax Code, like they hate Obama. You imagine I’m a student and that my mom and dad pay for my apartment somewhere near the mall. “You are the best delivery person we have around here” you say, thinking that I’m taking all this to heart. Would you still say that if you knew I made my home in the pocket park across from your house?

“I love your house,” I say. You imagine I’m flirting.

 “…and a little something for the wishing well”, you say, giving me five dollars and the leftover coins.

 “Thanks,” I say.

 “See you next time…don’t work too hard,” you say, with a big, white-toothed smile. You wave goodbye like we’re leaving the Country Club, like we’ve been friends for years, like you’re a beauty queen in the top ten.

 As you close the door, you suspect that you’re my favorite customer. You smile at yourself in the front hall mirror, adjust the chopsticks holding up your hair. You hand the kids their pizza and the two liter Sprite and pour yourself a Cabernet from the bar in the kitchen.

“Wash your hands,” you call after them.

Later, from the park bench, I can see your house.  The top floor is all lit up. Your silhouette floats room to room in an aquarium of color and light. I imagine your hair and your purple silk pajamas flowing backward as you swim, ducking in and out of an old castle, past a shipwreck, neon-green pebbles just beneath your feet.

 You never stop and look out into the dark. You’ve forgotten I exist.

Lying here, my back is pressed hard against the wooden slats. Through the fat Magnolia leaves I find the night sky and wonder if I could sleep in the tree top, like Robinson Crusoe. I shift my weight and cross my arms over my chest. There is only darkness and black. No moon. But that’s what makes the stars so bright.

The Iron Writer Challenge #26

8ball

The Iron Writer Challenge #26

2013 Iron Writer Spring Equinox Challenge #4

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Azure EwingK A DaVurVictoria DoughterySusan Edman

The Elements:

A Magic 8 Ball
Hand held lawn clippers
World’s 1st Submersible Aircraft
A mechanical Geisha

A Day in the Life of an Aeronautical EngineerAzure Ewing

Azure Ewing

As he ran through the seemingly endless halls of the warehouse, James became increasingly more certain that this was not the way the life of one of the design staff for the world’s first submersible aircraft was supposed to end.

It had been a trying day thus far.

James came to a stop behind a large shelf containing boxes upon boxes of miscellaneous objects, reviewed the events that had brought him here, and listened for the telltale snip-snip that he had been running from.

He had flown in from Jordan at around five in the morning, and had checked into the hotel just fifteen minutes away from the Tokyo international airport. He had planned to meet one of his old college friends at a tea-house in the area, but he had received a voicemail saying to meet him at a warehouse instead. James remembered the whirring noise that had greeted him from the aisles of the warehouse as he had opened the door and called, “Hachiro? Are you in here?”

As he walked down the aisles, he had heard slow footsteps echoing around him. “Hachiro, this isn’t particularly funny,” he had said. Then the sound.

Snip-snip.

                     Snip-snip.

                                                Snip-snip.

It had drawn closer to him, until the automaton had appeared from around a corner and moved sluggishly towards James. It was a Geisha, made entirely from rusted steel. It moved in the same fashion as an old wind-up toy, but with murderous purpose, clutching a pair of old lawn snips. James remembered gazing into the burning orange eyes as they looked at him, from the middle of a beautiful robotic face.

The chase had begun.

Immediately, James had begun at a dead sprint in the opposite direction towards where he believed the exit to be. After several twists and turns in the aisles, he realized that the sound of the snips opening and closing had grown faster, but more distant. Following his memory, he had sprinted down a labyrinth of shelves, only to become lost in the warehouse of junk that seemed determined to serve as his tomb.

At this moment that he had thought that he should focus on somehow disabling the geisha, if he was unable to find the exit. He now knelt behind a shelf. He reached up into one of the boxes and pulled out two objects. One was a magnet the size of his fist, and the other was a Magic 8-ball. Both were of a size that made them easy to throw.

Snip-snip. A moment, and then – there! James muttered a quiet prayer, and lobbed the magnet towards the grim steel figure. It attached with a hollow clang, but the figure lurched on, faster now. James, in a panicked last effort, threw the Magic 8-ball at the geisha that was now only two feet away. It cracked open, and the icosahedral die clattered to the floor.

As the snips swung towards his neck, James read the face of the die.

“Outlook not so good.”

Flower TownK. A. DaVur

K. A. DaVur

The town was beautiful once. No more. Desires had decayed, cheapened, and the once regal Okikya had given way to bordellos and tourist traps where visitors could pay to be dressed in the elaborate clothes and make up of an apprentice. Hotaru passed one of the former, where a robotic geisha with eerie glowing eyes and a fan made of garden shears propositioned passersby.  Her jerky, rusted movements, meant to be provocative, menaced. Some clever soul had stuck a dildo between her legs.  Everywhere was filth: garbage shoved up against the wall; oily, foul-smelling pools collected in the street. Hotaru could smell urine and rot; from one of the apartments above she could hear a hungry baby’s cry. When did this happen?  Had she really been gone solong?  Businessmen, drunk and loud, careened down the street.  She pulled one hand close, tight against the night. The other hugged her shamisan to her chest.  The men bounced off of her.  Faintly, she could hear the silk strings moan inside their case.

Murmuring comforts she hurried on, double-checking the address the ocheesan had slid under a cup of tea.  Her thoughts were the jumbled, chaotic refrain of a Magic 8 ball.  “Can I do this?  Ask again later.  Will this work?  My sources say ‘yes.’ Will we die in the attempt? It is decidedly so.” She wished, for the thousandth time, that Daito were here.  Of course, were Daito still alive, she never would have been given this honor, this burden.  Finally, she arrived.  Unlike the rest of the buildings, the tea shop had been kept clean; the windows were clear and the stoop had been scrubbed recently.  The sweetness of flowers penetrated the malodor. Though the shop was dark the door was open. Hotaru glanced one last time at the heavens, memorizing them as she used to memorize dances, or the planes of Daito’s face, and walked soundlessly through.

Two men with expressionless faces checked her credentials and pointed her down a long stair. Hotaru descended. Cold penetrated her frail bones. She lost count of the stairs after two hundred. The walls turned from concrete to dirt, and then began to weep seawater.  Her calves ached and blood whooshed in her ears.   Finally, she came to a metal door. She knocked. It opened with a hiss.

Here, at last, was life.  Old men, wrinkled as walnuts, sat cross-legged, bringing pictures to life with ink and brush.  Somewhere, Hotaru could hear the bell-like tones of a soprano.  In another hold Samurai practiced their katas with elegant precision.  And, everywhere, were children.  Laughing, playing, learning.  Daito would have approved.  Finally, painfully, Hotaru released her daughter’s hand, watched as the girl ran giggling to join her peers. For the first time in a great while, Hotaru felt as though she could breathe.  They would depart in the morning, to soar for as long as they must. So long as they lived, Japan lived as well.   Perhaps not all was lost.  Perhaps hope lay, not in the stars, but in the deep.

Decisions, DecisionsSusan Edman

Susan Edman

Terrell stood back and stared at the small painting on the easel in front of him.  Studying the progress of his painting, he stood frozen in place except for a slow, meditative side-to-side tilting of his head.  This motion and his wide-eyed, inquisitive yet reserved expression were reminiscent of a mechanical geisha whose turnkey was nearing its final revolution. He was full of the dichotomy of opinions and emotions that attend creative expression.  The handles of the garden shears looked properly wooden, but, unfortunately, the green metal of the shears looked wooden too. Hmm.  Ok. Garden art had never been his forte – he excelled at portraits – but his wife had encouraged him to decorate their garden shed with “paintings of garden-y things” and this painting was his third attempt in a series of six 5×7 representational garden implements that, when rustically framed, would grace (cover the holes of?) the shed.

The first of the paintings, lovingly named, “plastic water can,” had received an “All signs point to yes” when asked, “Is this painting complete?” The couple employed a magic 8 ball when they didn’t want to risk the fallout from offering their true opinions of each other’s art projects or when they found it difficult to make any decision in general.  What had started out as a jokey third-party inquiry method had somehow become an integral part of their lives.  It had even gotten to the point where magic 8 ball had been asked such weighty questions as, “Should we have children now?”  “Should we refinance the house?”   “Should we order cole slaw with the extra crispy?”

Terrell tended to fidget endlessly with his paintings, so his wife had suggested he use magic 8 ball to remove himself from the decision-making process and allow magic 8 ball to declare the painting good enough or not.   So far, “plastic water can” and “seed packet” had received positive, painting-ending suggestions from magic 8 ball.  So far so good.  He knew the shears weren’t ready for 8 ball’s opinion and wouldn’t be until he could deduce how to properly represent a metallic surface in his painting.  Magic 8 ball couldn’t help him there.  Stan could.  He needed to talk to Stan.

Terrell’s neighbor Stan loved to paint model military aircraft.  To date, Stan had hung a menagerie of seaplanes, transports, cargos, bombers, fighters, and helicopters from the ceilings of every room in his house. Even Stan’s bathroom ceilings stood well-guarded against miniature aircraft attacks.  When Terrell asked Stan about Stan’s latest vanity license plate, “VTOL,” Stan winked and replied that the acronym stood for an aircraft that he soon hoped “to display in his pool” and left it at that.

Before Terrell left to consult Stan, he suddenly wondered if Stan would indeed be a reliable source to help him with his painting. Terrell instinctively reached over and picked up magic 8 ball and flipped it over.  He waited for the inky white triangle to bob into vision. “My sources say no.”

Terrell returned to the easel and decided to figure it out on his own.

Happy HourVictoria Doughtery

Victoria Dougherty

Day 243

“It is decidedly so,” the Magic 8 Ball says.  I asked if I was bored – that’s how bored I am.  I stare out the goddamned window and all I see are the fish.  A school of rose red Alfonsinos that gape at me with their buggy eyes like they’re judging me for having a third martini.

“What are you, my effing wife?”

I sound meaner than I actually feel.  I’m not mad at the damned fish.  None of this is their fault.  Like the fact that the only things that seem to give me one modicum of joy are (and not always in this order) beating off, unloading on Mimoko – who actually is my wife, sort of – and pruning my Meyer lemon tree with a rusty pair of garden shears that I brought down with me from my old house.  The one I shared with my real wife and not this Japanese piece of sh*t.  She doesn’t even work anymore.  At least not after the rear compartment flooded.  Now that was a full scale disaster – but hell, I’m alive and Mimoko still looks pretty good even if her eyes won’t move and her voice sounds garbled and creepy when I endeavor to turn her on.

“Never loved you anyway,” I tell her and it’s the first thing that’s cracked me up all day.  Of course, she just keeps sitting in the co-pilot’s seat and staring out into the depths with me – pretending to be interested in what I have to say.

“You like Alfonsinos?” I ask her.  “They call them Tasmanian Red Snapper down her.  Or up there, rather.”

She doesn’t care.

And she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the martini I made for her, either.

“Peeled a garnish for you from my last Meyer lemon,” I remind her.

She keeps smiling, but I know it’s fake.

How can you even try to have a relationship with a goddamned Geisha when you know it’s her job to appear enthralled by your miserable life?  It’s like loving a hooker.  But at least the hooker’s a warm body.  And a warm mouth.

Now I’ve got to beat off again.

Still Day 243

“Signs point to yes,” the ball tells me.  My question was, “Can I maintain an erection after three martinis at 46 years of age?” Despite the encouraging answer, I decide there’s not much hope in raising the bridge.  Takes too much time.  And I’d rather have a fourth martini.  Keeps me from thinking about the crack in the cockpit window.

Some fully submersible aircraft.

F*ck.  Mr. Sunshine, my real wife used to call me.  Don’t have one positive thing to say.

Ah, but the 8 Ball does.  So I ask my question – since it’s in such a fantabulous mood today.  I shake it and turn it on its ass.

“You may rely on it,” reads the little white triangle.

I asked, “Am I gonna die down here?”

The Iron Writer Challenge #25

trilobite

The Iron Writer Challenge #25

2013 Iron Writer Spring Equinox Challenge #3

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Anne Mason SmithBethany RoyerDani J CaileJohnna Murphy

The Elements:

   A Trilobite

Alka Seltzer

A romantic robot

A dead rainbow

Forgotten HopeAnne Mason Smith

Anne-Mason Smith

My name is Amorette, and I am the last human being.  My world is gone.  Destroyed.  Save yourself.  Before it’s too late, I think to myself as I walk, the debris crunching under my feet, like the spindly bones of a long-gone trilobite.  Like the bones of the humans, now gone from this world.  If only I could’ve warned them.  If only I could’ve saved them.  If only…

I shake my head, dispersing the morose thoughts.  Stopping, I furiously wiping my face free of the tears creating paths through the mud smeared on it.  I swallow, only to find my throat dry, parched.  I lick my dry lips.

I stuff my hands in my pockets, staring at the dusty ground. I spot a broken piece of glass, weakly trying to reflect the sun’s poor light.  I bend down and slide my fingers under it, gently lifting it out of the dirt.  I hold it up, angling it towards the sun just like my elementary school teacher used to do.

I catch the slight sign of a rainbow, and smile weakly.  At least there is a bit of happiness in this dead world, even if it is a rainbow with its brilliant shimmer gone, drained until it seemingly had no light or purpose at all.

Averting my gaze, I decide to look some more.  I notice broken pieces of steel, and wonder what they could’ve made when put together.  Probably something magnificent.  My random brother would probably say it would make a “romantic robot” if put together.  I close my eyes as a tear slides down my face, and picture his round, childish face, his green eyes always filled with laughter.  He could make anyone laugh.

I draw in a sharp breath and open my eyes.  It doesn’t do anything good to think of him.  Johnny is gone, and he’s never coming back, I declare silently, and continue forward, my legs heavy and stiff, as if they’ve suddenly transformed into lead.  I blink, and my vision is suddenly blurred, but not with tears.

The world starts to spin.  Slowly, at first, but then it picks up speed.  Darkness presses on the edge of my vision.  I feel myself hit the ground, but it feels as if from afar, as if I’m not completely in my body.  My vision fades, not unlike an alka-seltzer tablet dissolving in water.  My mind slows before stopping, and I finally fade away.

I never thought I would die like this.  I’d always imagined a bed in a hospital, my grandchildren gathered around my old and sick body.  I never could’ve imagined that this would happen.  I never thought my world would end.  I never thought I would die along with the earth, my home, my world.

My name is Amorette, and I am gone.  If anyone is still out there, save yourself.  Please.  Don’t let the world die.  Don’t stop trying.  Don’t forget the way life used to be, because you never know when it’ll be torn from your grasp.

Fist Full of Rosesbethany-royer

Bethany J Royer

Nostrils flaring, eyes ablaze, Nan estimated 50 people were standing behind the yellow police tape just feet away from the body.

“Christ on a cracker, Sam, what the hell?”

The young sap of an officer gave a shrug of both embarrassment and apology. “I know, I know, what can I say, you’re popular?”

“It’s a whole bloody block stepping all over my crime scene!”

Sam could only mouth the word sorry while ushering a trio of onlookers who had broken from the crowd back behind the line. Nan was about to dismiss him entirely when she noted the singular steel-claw rising above the mass and the tinny voice that followed, demanding attention.

“Mandrin? Good God, it’s a right ol’ circus. I’ll have his hide, badge, and balls,” Nan mumbled, raking a hand through her gray hair before settling the glasses back into position. She then crossed the dirt lot surrounding an abandoned four-story apartment complex to the shrouded body. On any other given day it would be any other body but the crowd of rubber-neckers proved otherwise.

This is getting out of hand, she thought; the protruding obstruction bursting notably up from the chest of the victim beneath the blanket a testament to the very fact.

Nan bent down, hearing the familiar pop of aged kneecaps, the trilobite necklace bouncing from her bosom to pendulum above the body, as she tweezed the cover between her fingers.

She saw all that she needed.

“Well, is it the same guy? It’s the same guy, isn’t it?” said Sam, watching her steel blue eyes sweep from the body to the crowd. “It has to be the same guy, I mean … look at it.”

“Why the hell is Mandrin here?”

“It’s already all over the news so what did you expect? He’s your biggest fan,” replied Sam with a smirk. “They don’t call them a romantic robot for nothing; he’s been spouting sonnets and passing out roses since he arrived.”

“All for you,” said the monotone staccato of the two-wheeled robot from behind the yellow rope, waving a mass of roses in one claw while the other was held to the left of his boxed face in something akin of smitten, obsessive bliss. “All for the lovely Nancy Washington, top ace detective.”

“Oh brother,” Nan moaned, the trilobite necklace swinging violently from the end of its chain.

“Jeez, you still wear that thing?” said Sam in disgust. “That was found on the first victim … I can’t believe they let you keep it.”

“Helps me think,” said Nan with a nod over one shoulder. “Do an old gal a favor, would you? See that corner market across the street, I need a blue box, water and cup, got me?”

“Sure, Alka Seltzer, gotch ya, but tell me, is it him?”

Nan lifted the blanket to the tell-tale signature of their serial killer -a bright, multi-colored painted knife plunged straight through the heart.

“They don’t call him the Dead Rainbow for nothing,” she said.

Cynthia the RobotDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

She was starting to effervesce like an Alka-Seltzer on the ocean floor as the seals on her aluminium body cracked open due to the pressure and began to leak. Cynthia the robot could only imagine how her circuits would cope with the influx of salt water.

“Oh my! I am done! Undone!”

Forty years of service for her master was a good run by all accounts, but unfortunately updates for her model had become infrequent and finally she had become obsolete. However, there were surely better graves than this.

“Oh, death, many have called thee…”

But it wasn’t really a death, she couldn’t really ever die, more decay, disintegrate. Her neuron fusion reactor would keep her active for millennia.

“I wake eternally…”

Not even the latest social apps could stall her demise in the eyes of her master. New dances, mannerisms, speech, none of them were able to assimilate into her memory banks correctly. They caused havoc with her silicon membranes, especially hitting her 17th Century Literature and massive Modern Romance collection knowledge chips, turning her into a high-brow romantic robot spewing out absurdities when the occasion demanded. About every other minute, apparently.

“My heart is heavy, like a dead rainbow on a cool summer’s day. Resplendent colours, beaten by the sun’s rays, succumbing to their impeccable touch, and fade, they fade, die…”

She was sure that the last straw was when she plunged into a full epitaph at the funeral of a distant relative of her master. Not only did it break etiquette for a robot to speak at a funeral but the finished work wasn’t very good, either. Some more educated members attending would say it was a mystifying mixture of Donne and Woodiwiss, others would say it was just bad.

Her left leg began to crumble and the lower part from her knee joint down broke off, slowly floating away.

“I would have followed you, then you would not have escaped…”

Yes, it was definitely that and not the time shortly after when she created an ode to the new chemical toilet onboard her master’s yacht, scribbling the 274 line horror on the starboard deck. It took her some time, and much regret, to remove it. She had, however, busied herself by creating an assortment of Haiku love poems. Perhaps she would work on them later.

A small nondescript fish swam by.

“You are indeed a fine sight, little creature, better for thy stroke…”

The fish blew a bubble and quickly swam away. As she turned her head to watch it go, Cynthia saw some detail in a rock.

“What luck! A trilobite! If I was to inform my master…”

An idea appeared. She would write her master a love poem, a poem so exquisite, so pure and full of devotion that it would touch him so deeply he would have to take her back. To be 01001101 with her master again! The thought filled 11100100 her with joy and happiness!

“My…” 11110001 “…love…” 00011001 “…is…” 11000…

Field TripJohnna Murphy

Johnna Murphy

“By all appearances, Sir, that rainbow is dead!” The monotone voice broke through my concentration and I looked up from my experiment to give the robot an evil glance.

“I can see that, Bot.”  I told him, my voice dripping with annoyance.  “I don’t think it was ever alive in the first place.  The light from this alien sun is different.  We might be hopelessly lost.”

Here I was, orbiting planet Sol3, whatever and wherever that meant.  It was the last data received before the navigation device went down.  My most recent attempt to repower it had been an utter failure and I really didn’t know what to try next.

We were circling what appeared to be the planet’s only moon, after being drawn here by the broken navigation box.  Then we started picking up eerie transmissions from System Sol, a system thought to be devoid of life.

 I scanned through the strange transmissions I was receiving.  They seemed to be coming from Sol3, but they were all chaos and made no sense. “Plop plop, fizz fizz,”  sang the latest transmission.  The transmissions were bits and pieces.  I probably could get something more accurate if I dropped into a closer orbit, but I feared what people might be like on this “uninhabited”  world.

“I’m getting video!” Bot’s voice interrupted my thoughts again.  He turned on the holoview and an image of two robots holding hands appeared, accompanied by a strange sound, “waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalleee.”  Then there was a flicker and it was gone.  Bot experimentally grabbed for my hand, which I snatched back reflexively.

“Stop that!  No getting romantic! In fact, don’t turn on the holoview again.” What was I even saying?  Bot doesn’t have feelings, no machine does.  I grabbed my head in my hands.  I need to get out of here; I’m starting to panic. 

I looked again at the field guide on my computer screen, the one with information about System Sol, where I was stranded. For the first time, I noticed that it did mention life but only here, on Sol3.  A little picture of a creature called a trilobite was there along with descriptions of marine life, plants, and reptilian stompers.  Still no mention of anything intelligent enough to create the transmissions, therefore still creepy.

A shudder of fear overcame me. I desperately revisited my latest attempt to get home.  The sunbeams were captured, but the resulting rainbows were completely lifeless.  They definitely didn’t turn on the Nav-Box.  I was in real trouble with no way out.  Was I reduced to randomly roaming the galaxy hoping to happen upon known space? I want home… I’m sorry that I didn’t listen!

Tears of anger and frustration threatened, when suddenly a beeping followed by an angry voice came from the com.  “You drove without permission and low on rainbows?!”

“Mom??”

“You’re in big trouble! You’re coming straight home.”  The ship overdrive suddenly kicked in and it took off.  Relieved, I laughed aloud. My friends will love hearing about this!