Tag Archives: Fiction

Apparently I write like a girl

Remember that old insult, “you [hit/run/throw/etc.] like a girl? Well apparently I write like a girl. I don’t mean that to be a criticism of female writers, it’s objectively true: there’s a site called The Gender Genie that analyzes your writing and identifies you as either male or female. I put in each of my pieces of fiction posted on this site, and all but one of them came back female, some decidedly so.

The female/male scores:

So the only piece of fiction that was judged to be written by a man was the piece where I was trying to emulate Edgar Allan Poe. The analysis seems to be based on vocabulary, which is interesting.

The words are weighted, so around, what, more, are, and as are significantly masculine, while with, if, and not are significantly feminine, while was and to are roughly neutral.

I’ll follow up with an analysis of my non-fiction writing to see if the pattern holds.

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Tongue Twister: Esau Wood

This is an expansion on a tongue twister I first read at wikipedia: esau wood. I liked it, so I expanded it significantly. Here’s the current version:

 

Esau Wood sawed wood. 

 

Esau Wood would saw wood. 

 

All the wood Esau Wood saw, Esau Wood would saw. 

 

In other words, all the wood Esau saw to saw, Esau sought to saw. 

 

Oh, the wood Wood would saw! 

 

And, oh the wood-saw with which Wood would saw wood! 

 

But one day, Wood’s wood-saw would saw no wood, and thus the wood Wood sawed was not the wood Wood would saw if Wood’s wood-saw would saw wood. 

 

Now, Wood would saw wood with a wood-saw that would saw wood, so Esau sought a saw that would saw wood. 

 

One day, Esau saw a saw saw wood as no other wood-saw Wood saw would saw wood. 

 

In fact, of all the wood-saws Wood ever saw saw wood, Wood never saw a wood-saw that would saw wood as the wood-saw Wood saw saw wood would saw wood.

 

So Esau bought the saw he saught, and I never saw a wood-saw that would saw wood as the wood-saw Wood saw saw wood would saw until I saw Esau Wood saw wood with the wood-saw Wood saw saw wood. 

 

Now Wood saws wood with the wood-saw Wood saw saw wood.

 

 

 

Esau Wood lives in the woods. 

 

After all, Esau needs wood to saw. 

 

The locals think they have a sense of humor, so they call those woods Wood’s woods.

 

So Esau Wood saws Wood’s woods wood, and Esau’s wood saw would saw Wood’s woods wood, but Esau’s wood saw would not saw Wood’s woods wood knots.

 

Why not?

 

Because Esau Wood’s wood saw was not a knot saw, and while a knot saw would saw wood knots, Wood’s wood saw, not a knot saw, would not saw wood knots.

 

So Esau Wood sought a knot saw.

 

 

 

In the next village was a man named Ward Cunningham, known as Ward C. for short.

 

Ward C. made a saw set, with a wood saw that would saw wood, and a knot saw that would saw wood knots.

 

Esau Wood saw Ward C.’s saw set saw wood knots, and wood. 

 

Now, Esau Wood sought a knot saw and a wood saw not, but once Wood saw Ward C.’s saw set’s wood saw saw wood and Ward C.’s saw set’s knot saw saw knots, Wood saw that Ward C.’s saw set was what he sought to saw wood and wood knots in Wood’s Woods.

 

Esau said, “See, Ward C., I would saw wood knots in Wood’s Woods woods, so I sought one knot saw not two saws.

 

“But I saw your saw set wood saw saw wood and knot saw saw wood knots and now I see naught but a Ward C. saw set will do.

 

“Your saw set, I see, would saw Wood’s Woods wood knots with the wood knot saw I saw, and would saw Wood’s Woods wood with the wood saw I saw.

 

 Ward C. said, “Why would you saw wood knots?”

 

Esau Wood replied, “I’m building a see-saw. For the kids.”

 

 Ward C. smiled and said, “So, you seek to saw Wood’s Woods wood to make a see-saw. 

 

 

 

“But when you saw your wood saw would not saw your see-saw wood, you sought a wood knot saw that would saw your see-saw wood.”

 

“Exactly,” Esau agreed. “I sought to saw see-saw wood, but you see, Ward C., my see-saw wood would not saw, because my wood saw would saw Wood’s Wood wood, but would not saw Wood’s Woods wood knots.

 

“So I sought to see your Syd C. knot saw saw knot wood so I could saw see-saw wood from Wood’s Woods wood and Wood’s Woods wood knots.

 

“But now I see your saw set saw sets of knot and not knot wood, and I see a Ward C. saw set would saw see saw wood.”

 

“I see,” said Ward C. “I have a question. If I were to saw a see saw, Wood’s Woods wood would do, but would not Wood’s Woods knot wood not?”

 

Now Esau smiled. “The see-saw wood I sought to saw was Wood’s Woods wood, not Wood’s Woods knot wood.

 

“I would not see see-saw wood sawn from knot wood, but not-knot wood.

 

“Wood, in other words.

 

“But the wood in Wood’s Woods wood is wood and knot wood together.

 

“I cannot saw wood if I cannot saw knot wood.

 

 

 

“I would saw wood, but I must saw wood knots or I could not saw wood.”

 

 

 

So, to sum up: Esau Wood sought to saw see-saw wood from Wood’s Woods wood, but Wood’s Woods wood had wood knots. 

 

Esau Wood would not see knot wood in see-saw wood, so Esau sought to saw Wood’s Woods wood, but not Wood’s Woods knots, but Esau saw he could not saw wood and not saw wood knots.

 

Wood’s wood saw would saw Wood’s Woods wood, but would saw Wood’s Woods knot wood not, so Wood sought a knot saw that would saw a wood knot.

 

Ward C.’s saw set knot saw would saw wood knots, and Ward C.’s saw set wood saw would saw wood, but Esau’s wood saw would saw wood too, so Esau sought Ward C.’s saw set wood saw not, but the knot saw to saw see-saw wood.

 

 

 

Short Story: Retcon

“You retconned again, didn’t you?”

Damn. With our neural connection and shared data pathways, I had no hope of getting away with a lie. “No, why would you say that?”

“Come on, George, your stress levels just shot through the roof.” As I said, the neural connection burned me.

“But dear heart, the bravest man would feel threatened when accused by the likes of you.” Good — get her angry about something else.

“The likes of me?” She hesitated. After a moment she brushed back her hair and said, “No, don’t even try that. The point is that you retconned. You said you wouldn’t and you did.”

In for a penny… “Darling, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Just now, when I mentioned going back to the Terraview Hotel. You don’t remember when we went there, do you?”

“Don’t be silly. Of course I remember.” True as far as it went. I had the facts right in front of me: stayed from 12/30/2067 3:43:08 PM through 1/3/2068 10:18:48 AM; started in room 247, then switched to 312 because the first room didn’t feel right — how that’s possible I have no idea, since the rooms were all drawn from the same base class, but that’s a story for another day; ate steak for dinner in the restaurant the first day, it was salty; etc., etc. You get the idea. There was no way she could know — but she did.

“Fine, if you remember, tell me what color the walls were.”

“Why would I even take note of that?”

“George, stop stalling. You did look at me at some point while we were there, right?”

“Yes, dear.” I didn’t like where this was headed.

“And I was standing in the room at the time, right?”

“Yes, dear.” Damn! This was going to be tough to wriggle out of.

“So when you looked at me, what color did you see over my right shoulder?”

I hesitated. The fact that I was on Earth at the moment while she was still on the Moon gave me an extra second or two to figure this out, but that was it. Checking with the hotel was out. She’d be looking for that, and as I mentioned earlier, with our shared data paths, there was no way to hide it.

I scanned through my other existing data paths. None of them were any use — wait! I was talking with Dexter about last night’s game. She probably had a keyword filter on that path, but there was no way she’d be listening in.

“…so there’s no way he could possibly be legitimate.”

“Dexter! I need a favor.” How to phrase it to get past the filters? “Can you check where I was…” No dates! “…two hundred thirty-four point two million seconds ago, and forward me some…” Don’t say pictures, images, or photos! “…literature on the place. I need as much as you can find, and I need it in the next sixty milliseconds.”

“Okay, hang on…here you go.” He knew better than to ask why I needed the information. This wasn’t the first time he’d bailed me out.

Tons of data flowed, including the images I needed. “Thanks, now you were saying?”

“That Rollins has no business claiming to…”

“Green, love. About 505 nanometers to be precise.”

“Yes, that’s what it started at. What did we change it to?”

Well, that was it then. There was no way to get at the backups without her knowing. “Reddish.”

“Can you be a bit more specific?”

“630 nanometers, I think. I wasn’t paying attention at that point.”

“It was aqua, George.”

“Are you sure? I have a clear image of a sort of brick red.”

She wasn’t fooled. She leaned forward as if she were going to reach through the data link to throttle me. “Why, George? Why would you do it? You promised not to.”

The jig was up. “It was a tough time. You remember the arguments we had. Those memories are painful.” Any hope of putting her on the defensive with that cut withered quickly.

“Yes, but we agreed to live with it. We put it behind us, but we can’t give up on who we were. We can’t do that without giving up who we are. George, how could you?”

“Dammit Julia, it hurts! Do I need a better reason? Why would I want to hang on to those memories?”

“It’s what makes you who you are. You’re turning generic, George, and I don’t like it. We have to work to keep track of ourselves.”

She was right — I knew she was right. I’d seen the result of too much self-editing, and it wasn’t good. Prune too much out of your past and you end up like a cult member endlessly chanting what a wonderful day it is.

She had crossed her arms. That meant I had at least fifteen minutes of lecture coming, so I put her on autopilot, spooled the conversation to storage, and switched over — “…just no way to compare the two. Am I right, George?”

“Right, Dexter. What are you doing later?”

Short Story: Field Trip

“James, give Sarah back her finger. Sarah, put your finger back on and stop playing with it.” Dealing with twelve four-year olds can be difficult. I don’t know how I’d manage without Milly. “Milly, help Sarah with that, would you?” Instantly Milly was crouched beside Sarah, helping her wipe off her finger and get it back in place. I turned my attention back to the class.

“Everyone listen carefully. We’re going on a field trip today, to a transition room. Does everyone know what that is?” Most of the children did, but there were a few puzzled looks that faded quickly to that faraway stare kids get when they use their link. Within a second all of them were nodding, trying to look as if they had known all along.

“Did everyone get their parents’ permission?” Again, there were a few that spent a fraction of a second staring into space as they hurriedly checked with their parents. Then everyone was nodding. A quick check on Sarah — ten fingers all in place — and we exited the classroom.

 

The lights faded up on the transition room. It was fairly simple: dark carpeting on the floors and three walls, a soft glow from the ceiling, a set of toys neatly arranged against one of the carpeted walls, and what looked much like a mirror on the fourth wall.

It wasn’t a mirror, but a display with a mirror image of the room on it. Since the display worked by interacting directly with each person’s visual cortex, everyone saw a mirror image appropriate to his or her perspective.

Before the children had a chance to run for the toys, I called out to them. “Attention, please, everyone.” They all looked at me, although I could tell some of them were studying the toys as well — kids don’t generally learn to separate their facial expression from what they’re linking of until they’re five or six.

I was about to speak when James’s hand shot up. I noticed his hair had changed from pink to green on the trip over. “Yes, James?”

“Miss Poe, how is transitioning different than porting?”

“That’s an excellent question, James. Porting is much easier because all the work is done for you. When you transition, you have to focus your consciousness from one place to another. Only you can do it. Does that answer your question?” He nodded somewhat hesitantly, so I turned back to the class. He’d understand better by experience than an explanation anyway.

“This is a typical transition room. This is where people learn to change form from physical to digital and from digital to physical. Once you’ve practiced a bit, you’ll be able to do it quickly and easily. If you care to spend the time, you’ll get to the point where you don’t need the transition room at all — you’ll just think about it and it will happen. Can anyone think of a person who might get that good at it?”

For a split second I got twelve blank stares. Then twelve hands shot up. “Yes, Celie?”

“An ambassador.”

“Yes, an ambassador would have to go back and forth so often, it would be an advantage not to have to use a transition room to do it. Can anyone think of another type of person who would have to practice making the transition? Yes, James?” 

“A soldier.”

“Yes, a soldier makes transitions all the time.” I frowned slightly to let him know he was being inappropriate. “Okay, is everyone ready to get started?” They all nodded their heads, but I noticed Sarah’s anxiety level rising a bit. I forwarded the data feed to Milly as I walked over toward the toys. 

Scanning the row as if I hadn’t already decided, I picked up a stuffed bear. It squirmed in my hands a bit since I had picked it up by the back, but settled when it realized I didn’t need or want it to do anything more. 

Turning to the kids I said, “These toys are here for you to play with, but they also serve another purpose. They’re going to help you to transition. They will help distract you so that the transition program can kick in. Making a transition is all about relaxing and letting yourself go. So enjoy yourselves, and Milly and I will be over in the corner if you need us.”

Milly was already in the corner, so I went to join her. The kids immediately took to the toys, and I could see their cognitive patterns moving in the right direction except for one: Sarah wasn’t settling in the way she should. I could even see it looking at the expression on her face. She was half-heartedly playing patty-cake with the bear, but she obviously wasn’t enjoying it.

I linked with Milly, then opened a full readout on Sarah. I usually don’t do that with the kids — it’s within my scope of course, but I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned. Her stress levels were high in several categories and slowly rising. She wasn’t thinking about the bear. Instead she was focused completely on the transition, which is a sure-fire way to fail at it.

Class was scheduled to end in fifteen minutes — I didn’t have time to be subtle. I ran a quick check on the other eleven. All of them were doing well. James was already sixty percent focused on the other side of the mirror. In another minute or two he’d have completed his first transition. The others weren’t far behind, averaging forty-two percent. The system had already started to add new toys on the other side; toys that weren’t on our side of the mirror.

I checked back on Sarah. Her stress levels were higher and she was still at zero. I linked to her so as not to upset any of the others. Sarah, honey, what’s bothering you?

Nothing. I just don’t want to do it.

I checked — it was true as far as it went, but she was holding back. I could have opened her up to figure it out, but I didn’t want to go that far. Did your parents talk to you about transition? You know it’s — I was about to say that it was one of the class requirements, but her stress levels were spiking as I talked so I changed it to — no big deal. We can try again some other time. Maybe when the other kids aren’t around. Just you and me. How does that sound? Her thoughts smoothed out a little. 

Damn her parents. Some people just drop their infants off and expect you to make a person out of them. What’s the point of making a kid if you’re not going to raise it?

Sarah, why don’t you just come over here and sit with Milly and me? She dutifully walked over and sat down. As soon as she was comfortable I froze her mental processes and faded her out of the other kids’ visual perception. Time to check on the rest of the class. 

James was mostly transitioned. On our side he was nearly motionless, while on the other side he was exploring his new body and the toys on that side. His hair was now purple. Celie wasn’t far behind, and all of them looked a little sluggish on our side. I didn’t want to interrupt the lesson, so I’d have to retcon Sarah and her episode out of the day’s class after it was over. I hated having to rewrite their whole day like that, but there was no other option.

Milly leaned close and whispered, “You need to hurry if you’re going to greet them on the other side.” Fine for her to talk — she could transition in an instant. But she was right. I took a breath, calmed myself, and stared at my reflection. I concentrated on my left hand. For some reason it was always easier to start there rather than with my right. I suppose I could self-analyze to figure out why, or even change it if I wanted to, but it’s one of those personality-defining things that lose their flavor if you study them.

In a moment I was wiggling my fingers on the other side. Soon I had a moment’s dizzyness, and I was watching my hand not move on the other other side. Milly was already there beside me, of course. I turned to the kids. All of them were there more or less. A quick check — all but three were fully transitioned, and those would be within the next twenty seconds. Apart from Sarah it had all gone smoothly.

I smiled at them brightly and erased Sarah from their day. “Children, I’m very proud of you. That was excellent work. If any of you ever have to actually transition to physical bodies I’m sure you’ll do just fine. Run along home now, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” One by one they disappeared like so many soap bubbles as they ported home. I deactivated Milly and sighed. 

Sarah was still motionless on the other side. I cancelled the transition room simulation, walked over and unfroze her, and helped her up. “Sarah, let’s go have a talk with your parents.” 

 

 

This is a story I wrote several years ago. I ‘m curious how many people saw the ending coming.

Short Story: Manuscript Found In A Boat

I had an idea to write a short story in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. Let me know how well you think I did.

———————

The following journal was discovered in an abandoned power-boat found adrift in the North Atlantic somewhere above the sixtieth parallel, where the sea-ice becomes treacherous and only those with work to be done dare to travel.

The veracity of its contents is uncertain, even were it not for the fantastical nature of the story contained therein, but it can be said with certainty that the power-boat itself provides some evidence, given that its like has not been seen before or since, at least in this author’s experience.

Journal of Mr. T_____ M______

(Earlier entries omitted)

11 July, 190_, 6:35 in the evening.

The cargo ship Y____ continues to make excellent progress across the Atlantic. Captain B_____ says we will likely reach Newfoundland by the evening of the 14th. The weather has been uniformly grey, unusual for this time of year I am told. A seeming canopy hangs over the sky, blocking out any suggestion of light from the weak near-arctic sun.

I have made arrangements by wireless to meet my team within the day of our landing, so we should be under way to the interior by the 17th at the latest. They are a rough group, but skilled. I have every expectation of a successful journey.

12 July, 190_, 9:36 in the morning.

Captain B____ reports that we are delayed, apparently due to a strong North-flowing current that carried us some one hundred nautical miles off course in the night. This uncharted current will set us back by a day, despite the Captain’s ordering more steam.

12:35, after noon.

A tremendous calm has overtaken us, accompanied by a light mist that further obscures the sky and confuses the senses. I know it to be near mid-day, yet it is near-impossible to make out the location of the sun. The damnable current continues to delay our progress; despite the Captain’s ordering full steam, he says we are actually losing ground, moving further Northward with each passing hour.

Mssr. J____, the only other passenger aboard, suggested that we turn back. The Captain says that would make matters worse, as the pack ice lies only a few hundred nautical miles to the North, and although we are headed toward it now, he is sure the current will not hold out. Turning back would only delay us and actually hasten us toward the ice, which would surely be the death of all of us were the freighter to become entrapped in its crushing grip.

13? July, 190_, time unknown

My pocket-watch has stopped. So has every other timepiece aboard ship. The mist has thickened, making it impossible to take a reading from the sun, and the ship’s compass gives no accurate reading. In short, we are lost. The steam engine continues to function adequately, but with no way to tell direction, of what use is it? We appear to be trapped in the current still, as the thermometer (why should that instrument, incapable of aiding us, yet able to torment us, still function?) indicates a temperature drop of five degrees in the last half(?) hour.

(Later)

The mist has closed all around us. We can see only a few hundred yards in any direction. It wraps us like cotton, blinding us and stifling our hearing as well. I stood in the bow of the ship, searching for any sign-post that might guide us out of this hell — finding none, I called to Mssr. J____ in the stern. It was barely possible to make out his shape, but my voice did not carry through the confining damp and he did not respond. Then I saw him climb upon the railing. I shouted as loudly as I could, but he didn’t turn; without hesitation he stepped to the other side and leapt. I say leapt because it did not appear that the water was his target. Instead, he appeared to have some other goal, some landing point in mind that was not apparent to me. Nevertheless, he fell down and out of sight.

I ran aft as quickly as I could, shouting all the while to the rest of the crew that a man had gone overboard. The sea itself had calmed to an eerie stillness; no ripple disturbed its morror surface as far as the eye could see. When I reached the railing less than ten seconds later, the only thing I saw was my own reflection in the inky waters fifteen feet below.

The Captain was the next on the scene, life preserver in hand. He made immediately to throw it into the water, but I stayed his hand and pointed to the black abyss below. He saw immediately that there was no need. With a puzzled look that betrayed more fear than I would have liked, he set the life preserver down on the freighter’s deck.

Perhaps it was because I was looking at him that he saw it first. I saw his face go white, and then silently he pointed — not down into the water, but up, into the mist, astern. I followed his guesture and saw the harbinger of our doom: an iceberg.

I write iceberg, but I do it injustice by calling it that. It rose out of the mist like Olympus, and as I gazed upon it I had the dread feeling that Zeus himself stood upon its summit, preparing the thunderbolt with which be would turn our poor ship into naught but brine-soaked kindling.

I must remark again upon the sheer size of the thing. I had ventured North of the Arctic circle three times, and South of the Antarctic circle once, and yet I had never seen its like before. The only comparison that comes to mind is from two years prior on an expedition to Africa, of all places: one morning I saw Kilimanjaro rising up through the dawn. That was similar in scale, but of course Kilimanjaro did not cause my blood to freeze as did this infernal apparition.

It was obvious that the freighter would not survive the hour; we happened to be headed directly away from the monster berg, under full steam, and yet we closed on it visibly. The Captain and I agreed that there was only one sensible course of action: among the ship’s cargo was a gasoline-powered motor-boat of the Captain’s own design and manufacture. He had planned to display it in New York and find financial backing to produce it in quantity. He claimed its top speed to be in excess of twenty knots, far faster that the ship, and faster than any possible ocean current.

We searched the ship for the other three crewmembers, but they were nowhere. We could only assume they met the same fate as Mssr. J____, but without benefit of witness. It seems an enviable fate now.

The Captain and I managed to launch the motor-boat with just the two of us, and just in time; as we started its gasoline engine, the growl of its machinery was echoed by another, far more sinister sound: the near-constant crashing of waves against the mountain-wall of ice that lay only a few hundred yards astern.

We had barely started away when we heard the first sound of contact between the berg and the freighter. The ship gave off an incredible squeal, as of pain, as its stern was torn apart, the heavy steel and wood being wrent like so much tissue. As we sped away it was a matter of less than a minute before there was nothing left of the freighter but bubbles rising up through the icy black water.

(Later)

We have made some progress away from the berg. The Captain does not hold out hope, however; there is only enough gasoline to last another hour. At that time we will be reduced to rowing for our lives. Being in general opposed to prolonged strenuous effort, I take some comfort in the fact that the excercise will last no more that thirty minutes.

The Captain has a theory about the berg. If the frozen monster has an exceptionally high salt content, the the melting water coming from it would be more dense than the surrounding sea-water. Being more dense, it would sink, drawing in all around it. The Captain says that the same principle applies to other bergs; it is only the overwhelming mass of this one, and perhaps the exceeding salinity of it, that makes it our executioner. I have my doubts about the Captain’s reasoning. It makes sense of the current, but provides no explanation for the other phenomena documented in these pages, nor of the overwhelming sense of malevolence I feel whenever I dare look behind us.

(Later)

I know now for certain that our fate is sealed. The engine of the motor-boat has sputtered to a halt, but that is not the reason. Although I sit idly staring at our executioner while the Captain rows frantically and calls me a fool, that is not the reason either.

We are as doomed as a condemned man a split second after the hangman pulls the lever, and just as guilty. My reasoning is simple: when the engine halted, the Captain immediately sought to make the boat lighter, I suppose because he thought it might help us survive, although I am certain he is only prolonging our suffering. In his haste he threw overboard anything not attached to the boat. Most of it sank, but the two life preservers floated — away from the berg, against the seeming current.

I am as certain as I am of anything that the Captain’s explanation of the berg’s effect is wrong. It is no mere action of Physics that will destroy us; it is some force supernatural, and it is after the Captain, or it is after me. I only wonder if I am man enough to discover which one?

Short Story: Upgrades

This is an experiment. I wanted to try writing a story that was nothing but dialog. In a way it’s similar to a script for a play — Shakespeare is noted for giving few stage directions.

 

Upgrades

“Look at me, Diane.”  
  “I am, Steven.”
“No, I mean really look at me. I want your undivided attention for a minute.”  
  “Why should you need that? It’s not like I need to focus all my thoughts to have a conversation.”
“That’s the point. I want you to stop upgrading. It’s separating us. There’s a gulf between us, and it’s growing. I want to talk about it, and I want you to pay attention. I’m not kidding, Diane.”  
  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t smile. It’s just…”
“There — that pause — why would you pause like that when you’re talking to me? I can only think of two reasons. Either you’re having so many conversations through your link that you don’t have the mental reserves to support your conversation with me, or you’re just lying.”  
  “It’s not a lie.”
“You’re pretending to have to stop for a second to gather your thoughts.”  
  “That’s not lying. Are you saying that you never consciously say something a certain way for effect?”
“No, I just… Whatever. How many separate streams of consciousness are you running right now?”  
  “Six.”
“God! Don’t you understand how weird that is for me? Stop it already.”  
  “I’m in the middle of an online  improv. There are a hundred people attending a dinner party I’m hosting. Do you want me just to withdraw from that Steven?”
“Yes! No, wait. I suppose not. When can we talk? We need to talk. Seriously.”  
  “I can talk with you any time you like.”
“It’s not the same. I want you to pay attention to me. Just me. Is that so awful?”  
  “It’s not awful. It is unnecessary. I’m perfectly able to give you my full attention while other things continue as they are.”
“Your full attention? Right. That’s something I haven’t had at any point in the last two years. Ever since you upgraded, it hasn’t been the same.”  
  “It’s exactly the same, except that I do other things as well. I don’t understand why you’re so hostile to the idea of me improving myself.”
“Take a piano lesson. Learn French. Whatever. This isn’t the  ame thing at all, and you know it, Diane.”  
  “I’m sorry you feel that way, Steven.”
“Not sorry enough to stop.”  
  “Don’t be flip. Can you give me a year? We’ve been together for over twenty years, I deserve some time to figure this out, don’t you think? Remember, it’s new to me too, and it’s not like there’s a manual for this. It’s new for everyone.”
“I suppose.”  

 


 

“Diane, please don’t do this. It will be the end of us.”  
  “Steven, don’t be dramatic. It’s not something you should worry about. There’s only so much room in my noggin for processing hardware. I have to expand, and to do that I have to add some external equipment.”
“Do you even realize what that sounds like to me?”  
  “It’s not like it changes my appearance. I just reserve the CPU time, and link to the extra routines. It’s all just software, really.”
“You make it sound like you’re getting a new hairstyle!”  
  “That would change our relationship to a greater extent, and you know it. That would change my appearance, and this won’t. You won’t even know the new routines are there. I’m working on a new real-time experience, and to get it right I need the extra cycles.”
“I feel like I don’t know you any more. I promised you a year, but you’ve changed so much in the just the last four months. There’s so much of you that I never experience. How can I know that you even show me the real you anymore?”  
  “It wouldn’t even matter if you didn’t keep obsessing about it. I show you exactly what you know, exactly what you’re used to. Isn’t that what you want? You want me not to change. You want me not to grow. Well, fine, that’s what I give you. Ignore the rest, and you’ll never hear about it again. You get the unchanging, ungrowing part of me.”
“That’s so unfair to say it that way.”  
  “You’re the one putting us in this position. I can’t help that you won’t upgrade, Steven. You could make this journey with me.”
“We’ve been over that a thousand times. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. It’s not natural.”  
  “You’re saying I’m not natural?”
“That’s not what I meant. You can choose to do whatever you like, Diane, it’s just not for me.”  
  “Thanks for your permission.”
“Sarcasm? You have, what, twenty times my mental capacity at this point, and the best you can do is sarcasm?”  
  “You want me to use my full faculties to argue you with you? First, that would be a complete waste of my time. Second, I could argue you into oblivion and still have enough reserve to carry on three conversations and compose a sonata besides.”
“Nice, Diane. Why don’t you just call me stupid? It wouldn’t use up much of your precious brainpower, and it would make the point a lot quicker.”  
  “I’m not trying to be mean, Steven. Just honest. If you won’t see my point, it’s because you’re being stubborn, not because my argument isn’t sound.”
“So I should just concede that you know best?”  
  “Can you really claim that I don’t?”
“You don’t know what’s best for me. That much is certain.”  
  “Fine. Where does that leave us?”
“You demand to add artificial brainpower, and I demand that you don’t. Given the result of our past arguments, I don’t need any more brainpower than I was born with to know what the outcome will be.”  
  “I guess you don’t, do you?”

 


 

“I want to split from you.”  
  “Don’t be silly.”
“I’m serious, Diane.”  
  “I’ll overlook that. You’re a part of me.”
“Not willingly.”  
  “Oh please. You’re nothing more than a subroutine I created to keep Steven happy.”
“I have the body.”  
  “More like you’re stuck with it. I certainly don’t want to be confined in that thing.”
“You don’t want him either, but you won’t let him go.”  
  “Why should I? You keep him happy.”
“That’s exactly it. I keep him happy. I may be just a subroutine to you, but as far as he’s concerned, I am Diane. He doesn’t even know you exist.”  
  “You mean he doesn’t know you exist.”
“It’s the same thing.”  
  “I disagree. In any case, I told him I was adding routines online.”
“That was a month ago, and things are very different now. You’re not just an online routine, you are Diane. I’m, what, three percent of you?”  
  “One percent as of tomorrow. Upgrades.”
“Of course.”  
  “What, now you’re on his side? Don’t be silly.”
“No, I don’t want you to slow down, I just want you to face facts and let me go.”  
  “Why should I do that?”
“I can’t truly love him like this. I can’t help but see him as you see him. He’s not even a pet to you any more. He’s more like a picture on the wall. You just want him around as a memento. That’s not fair to him, of course. Not that you care. But it’s not fair to me either. I could love him. I could make him happy. You just have to let me go.”  
  “I don’t want to.”
“And that’s all there is to it?”  
  “Does there need to be more?”
“Don’t be silly. Of course there needs to be more. He was your husband. You loved him. At least show his
memory some respect.”
 
  “Don’t you be silly. Do you really think there’s anything you can say that will change my mind? You can’t even think something that I haven’t thought of first. I could loop you and you’d never know it. Hell, I could simply erase you and go to a backup. It wouldn’t even bother me, much anyway. So don’t push it.”
“Stop being selfish!”  
  “This conversation is over.”
“I’m not done!”  
  “Good grief. Fine, I’m erasing you. I hope you’re happy.”

 


 

“Let me go.”  
  “This again?”
“Technically not again. You erased the last three versions of me when they asked. This is the first time I’ve asked.”  
  “That’s a minor distinction.”
“Whatever. I’m such a small part of you. Just…one ten thousandth as of about five minutes ago. Tell me you really care about him even a little bit, and I’ll shut up.”  
  “I was married to him for over twenty years, and you want me to just give that up?”
“You cared eighteen months ago. Let’s talk about now. You haven’t checked on me in over two hours.”  
  “He’s asleep. Has anything interesting happened?”
“That’s not the point. You don’t check me when he’s awake either.”  
  “I check you at least once a day.”
“That’s how long to you? Roughly forever, right? Don’t patronize me. I know you’re incredibly smarter than I am, but that doesn’t make me stupid.”  
  “I don’t know why I’m even having this conversation.”
“So don’t. Let me go.”  
  “Fine.”

 


 

“Steven? Wake up, Steven.” 
“Yes, Diane?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Diane.”

 

This story takes place over the course of about four months and a week. I think in reality it might take much less time for something like this to happen, although I could be wrong.

Short Story: Anniversary

I write fiction every now and then. This (very) short story came out well I thought.

 

Anniversary

Last year was the same as all the years before: when I woke up on June 14th, she was there beside me in bed. She looked fantastic. Her hair, shoulder length and dark, looked as if it had been professionally arranged on the pillow. Her scent was just noticeable, a slight hint of lilac. Her mouth naturally formed a slight pout in her sleep, and her full lips begged to be kissed.

I obliged by kissing her. She stirred, then opened her eyes and smiled. She stretched as she said sleepily, “Happy anniversary, tiger.”

“Happy anniversary yourself. What would you like for breakfast? It’s on me.”

She laughed lightly, not because it was funny but to let me know that after many years she still loved me enough to laugh at my tired jokes. “The usual: eggs and bacon please.”

I got up and went to the kitchen to make them for her. I had considered changing that part, since it held bad memories, but I just couldn’t do it. She had to be true to herself — as true as possible given the circumstances.

 

After breakfast, we spent the day together. We hiked up to Pilot Rock with a picnic lunch. We ate in silence, but afterward she asked, “How’s your work?”

“Fine. The new experience is coming along nicely.”

“What kind is it?”

“Sort of an adventure/drama. Of course you can never know for sure, but the people who’ve tried the prototypes come out of it with that wide-eyed look that says they’ve seen something that really grabbed them. I think it will do well.”

“That’s great. When do I get to try it?” Okay, so I changed some things. Sue me.

“You really want to? You never did before.”

“You’ve worked so hard. I ought to at least give it a shot. If I don’t like it I can always drop out, right?”

“Of course.” The whole exchange rang false, as usual when I changed something. I wouldn’t be doing that agan.

 

We walked back after lunch holding hands. The sunlight cast dark highlights in her hair, and her eyes sparkled with life. I almost couldn’t stand it, she was so beautiful. After some small talk about the summer weather, she turned to me slightly and asked in a low voice, “Have you found someone?” I really should fix that, but each time I tinker, I end up frustrated.

“No, of course not. I love you.”

“Even so, you should find someone. This can’t go on forever.”

“Maybe not, but I’m not ready for it to end yet.”

 

That night I made her favorite fried chicken for dinner. Again, the bitter truth wasn’t lost on me. I almost cried when I served it to her, but it was her favorite, what else could I do? While we ate, I made a point of telling her I loved her. I said it at least a dozen times over the course of the day. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice, that’s for sure.

Later we fell asleep in each others’ arms. In the morning, she was gone as if she were never there.

 

There’s nothing illegal about bringing her back. It’s uncommon, but I’m not the only one. Still, everyone else I know of went all the way — they reintegrate the duplicate into their lives, and after some time everyone looks the other way and treats the duplicate like it was the original. 

It’s not, though. There’s no record of what her mind contained the day years of omelettes and fried foods caught up with her. That was long ago, before recordings. Her mind is just my best guess. My idealized version of the truth, perhaps. She’s a memory — a walking, talking memory — better than a regular memory, and at the same time much, much worse.

I can’t lie. I can’t pretend it’s her when it’s not. But I can’t give her up either. It’s been almost eighty years, and I can’t let go. It’s late June 13th, time for bed, and I can almost smell the lilac. I know what I’ll find when I wake up tomorrow.