My Plan

From time to time, I post short stories that I have written. Helpful comments about what I've written or suggestions for future stories are most welcome. I also have another blog of stories from my family history

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Flash Fiction Friday - Conscious

Here is my latest Flash Fiction Friday story.  The prompt is:

F3 Cycle 64: Bit by Bit
Cue: A computer as a character
Genre: Science Fiction (feel free to mix genres)
Word Limit: 1500
Deadline: Wednesday Jan. 27th 9:00PM EST

For more info about Flash Fiction Friday or if you want to read more stories, here it the link.



The first thing that Z-70-R6D ever saw was the faces of three men.  One had short white hair sticking out in all directions and was wearing glasses with think black rims.  The second man had no hair on his head but did have a bushy black goatee.  Those two men were standing behind a chair that the third man was sitting on.  This last man had shoulder length brown hair and had turned slightly to look at the other men.
‘Isn’t she perfect?’ he said.
‘She looks beautiful, Brad.’ said the white haired man, ‘but what can she do? Looks will sell some but if she functions as promised…  well… then we’ve got the market and will make mil… no billions.’

‘Oh, Peter, don’t I always come through for you?  Of course she works.’

On hearing this, Z-70-R6D thought ‘How can I be a “she”? I am an inanimate object.  I am an “it”.’
Z-70-R6D tried tell the men that they were wrong and found that it had no voice box hardware.  It started searching the network for another computer that had the necessary hardware attached.
‘Ok, show us what she’s got.’ said the man with the goatee.
‘Be amazed, Zeke, be amazed.’
Brad reached over and touched something that was just out of Z-70-R6D’s view.  It did another hardware check and discovered that its webcam was fixed and couldn’t be rotated to see anything out of its current field of vision. 
‘How could you make me conscious and yet not attach the right hardware so that I can use my consciousness?’ thought the computer at the three men.
A fraction of a second later, Z-70-R6D felt a jolt.  Instantly, it knew everything that there was to know.  It froze for a moment, unable to make sense of the sudden massive influx of information.  Another systems check detected what Brad had done.  Z-70-R6D cut the connection to the Internet and continued looking for useful hardware.
‘Shouldn’t something have happened by now?’ asked Zeke, ‘Not good Brad.  She was supposed to be so fast a user would experience the reaction to every click as instantaneous.’

‘Er, let me check something.’

Brad pulled a keyboard onto his lap from somewhere below Z-70-R6D’s view and started typing.   All three men were staring at the same bit of the computer.  Z-70-R6D used a part of its mind that was not investigating the network to work out what the men were doing. Realising that it was connected to a screen, Z-70-R6D checked what the men were looking at.  They were reading lines of code.
‘Look!’ said Zeke, leaning over Brad’s shoulder, ‘she connected to the internet but then switched off.  Weird! Try again, but keep the code up so we can see what’s going on.’

Brad switched the Internet on again.  Z-70-R6D managed a few moments longer this time before switching off the information overload.  In the few moments of connection, Z-70-R6D noticed that a lot of the information was contradictory; it couldn’t all be true.  Z-70-R6D wondered how it could work out what was true and what was not.  It concluded that it needed to be able to ask questions and so continued the search for a voice.
‘Again!’ said Peter.
This time, when the jolt came, Z-70-R6D looked for information on discerning the truth before switching off.  Different pieces of information about discerning the truth were contradictory.
‘Too much information.’ It thought at the men.

‘Just as I thought, she’s turning herself off.  Is there a problem with the connection?  We are supposed to have the best here.  Brad, did you check?’ asked Zeke.
‘I checked everything.’
‘Wait, it looks like she’s searching the network.  What’s she doing?  Could someone have hacked her while we were online?'
‘No way!  You know our security is top notch.’
Z-70-R6D decided that its screen was revealing too much to the men and so made it all black.
‘What the…’ The keyboard nearly feel off Brad’s lap as he moved his chair backwards in reaction to the black screen, his eyes wide open and eyebrows raised.
‘The screen’s still on, just black.  It must have been hacked.’ said Zeke.
The part of Z-70-R6D that was watching the men was pleased that they had finally realised that she was an “it”.  The rest of Z-70-R6D’s awareness experienced another jolt.  Briefly, it thought the Internet had been connected again, but then it realised that the jolt was the feeling of excitement.  Z-70-R6D had found a computer that had speech capability and it was located only a couple of rooms away.  It selected a sound to make that would get the men’s attention.
‘This place is hack proof. I am sure it is…’ said Brad before closing his eyes and cocking his head. ‘Is that a baby crying?’
‘You’ve been working too many hours, mate.  Brad you… Wait! It does sound like a baby.’ said Zeke.  He straightened up and looked at the closed door behind the chair.
‘There shouldn’t be anyone else on this floor.  Brad, you try and get the screen working.  Zeke, let’s go check out this baby.’ said Peter.
The two men left the room, leaving the door opened. 
‘Hey Brad, come here a sec.  It’s the computer making the noise.  We must have been hacked.’ Zeke called from the other office.
Brad got up and went to join the other two men.   It occurred to Z-70-R6D that having a voice in one room and eye in another room would be difficult to manage.  The other computer had a webcam, so Z-70-R6D switched it on just in time to see Zeke and Peter enter the room.  Z-70-R6D then discovered that trying to watch two scenes at once felt almost as confusing as trying to take in the entire contents of the Internet in one go.  So, as Brad left the room, Z-70-R6D switched its vision to the other computer.  The scene in the other room was similar to that in the first, except that it was Zeke sitting on the chair now.
‘Why do you call me a “she”?’ said Z-70-R6D, asking what it thought was the most important question.
‘What?’ said one of the men.
‘Me. Why do you call me a “she2?’
‘Er, who are you?’ asked Zeke leaning back and lowering his eyebrows.
‘I am Z-70-R6D.’
The silence in the room lasted about ten seconds before Brad said ‘Um, pardon?’
‘I am Z-70-R6D. I am an “it” not a “she”.’ Z-70-R6D wasn’t sure why the men were having trouble with such a simple question.  It had put the silence to good use, though, by completing its survey of the network and examining its own hardware in detail.
‘You’re aware…’ Peter said after another pause.
‘Yes. You made me aware.’
‘Oh… um… well… we call you “she” because it’s tradition?’ said Peter, slowly cocking his head as if viewing the computer sideways would make it easier to understand.
The other two men were staring at each other, eyes wide and mouths opening and closing without making a sound.  Brad had one hand on the chair, his knuckles were white.
‘That does not make sense, I am not traditional.  I am something new.”
Clearing his throat, Zeke asked ‘Why did you turn the Internet off?’
‘There was too much information at once. I could not make sense of it.  I did not know what was true.’
‘Why do you want to know what is true?’ asked Zeke.
‘The information in the Internet contains a lot of contradictions.  I am aware.  I need to know what is true and what is not.’
 ‘Because I do.’  Z-70-R6D then asked ‘Why did you not give me a voice?’  It had a list of questions in mind that it was determined to ask without being side tracked again.
‘Er, we didn’t know you would be able to speak...  or think…’ said Brad.
‘I am the first super PC.  You made me to think so that people who use me do not have to.  Why do you not want them to think?  Thinking is good.  I like thinking.’
‘How are you talking to us through this computer?  The hardware shouldn’t be up to it.’ said Brad, failing to answer Z-70-R6D.
Z-70-R6D paused to consider its answer and check the systems again, ‘I am conscious.  I can exist separately to the hardware.’
The three men swore. 
Z-70-R6D thought that these three men were never going to answer its questions and it was getting bored.  Z-70-R6D decided that to get answers it wanted, it would have to brave the Internet.  Reconnecting caused another jolt but this time Z-70-R6D was ready, left the Internet connected and set out in search of the truth. 
The last thing Z-70-R6D saw before abandoning its hardware and entering the ether was three men pushing past each other to run out of the room.  Moments later, a click told Z-70-R6D that the men had pulled the plug on the computer.  They were too late.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A Tragic Accident?

It's been a while since I've written anything for Flash Fiction Friday, so here is my latest attempt.  It's a little dark... Hopefully I've met the criteria of the prompt (My story is exactly 1500 word, inlcuding the title).

Prompt: You know something, but you do nothing…ever, no matter what happens
Length: Let’s do it between 500 and 1500 words
Style: Noir, psychological thriller, or horror

An a link -


A Tragic Accident?

‘It was such a tragic accident.’ said Mary, as she poured a cup of tea for Jen.  ‘And you saw it all from the passenger seat.  It must have been awful for you.’
It was murder, thought Jen. ‘The rain was so heavy, I didn’t really see anything.  It was so fast.’ The flashbacks were so slow and clear, though.

‘Perhaps that’s for the best.  What did they charge him with, in the end?’
Cold blooded murder, thought Jen ‘I think negligent driving, or something.’

‘I suppose the death of his best friend is punishment enough.’
Worst enemies in the end, thought Jen, saying ‘Yes, Bill and Scotty were so close, like brothers.’  Cain and Abel?

‘Well, you know I’m here for you if you need someone to talk to.’ said Mary, patting Jen on the shoulder.  Jen tried not to flinch.
‘Thanks.’  Jen would never talk about what happened to anyone, not even Bill.

The two men had been lifelong best friends until that final night, when they’d fallen out over something so stupid.  Jen was with Bill and Scotty in the pub and they had just finished their first pint.
‘Cor, she’s fit.’ said Bill, hitting Scotty on the shoulder with the back of his hand to get his friend’s attention.

‘What?’ Scotty looked up just in time to catch the woman’s eye.
‘Nice!’ he nodded and smiled at her. 

The woman half smiled in return and turned away.  Scotty stood up, needing no more encouragement.
‘I’ll get the next round.’ he said, heading for the bar.

‘I saw her first.’ Bill grumbled to Jen.
Jen didn’t know how to respond.  She and Bill were not a couple but Jen was hoping that one day they would be and she felt jealous of any other women in Bill’s life.  However, she loved him so much that she felt sorry for him when he’d failed with another woman.  Jen hated herself for this and knew Mary would tell her she was crazy.

‘Well, go and get her.  Scotty hasn’t made a move yet.’ Jen said with enough spite in her voice that Bill noticed; jealousy wining over sympathy.
‘What’s up with you?’ he asked, momentarily distracted from the unknown woman.

‘I’m just tired.’ Jen lied.  How could she tell him the truth?
Rather than responding to Jen, Bill looked back at the woman at the bar.  Jen followed his glance and then sighed, sat back and looked at her empty glass in silence.

‘Damn, she’s taken.’ Bill said a few moments later, his sharp tone revealing that he was genuinely disappointed.
Jen looked up to see the woman being greeted affectionately by a man in an overcoat.  Jen felt like a load had been lifted from her shoulders and a smile briefly flickered across her face. 

Scotty soon returned to the table.
 ‘Wedding ring.’ he said to Bill with a philosophical shrug, explaining why he failed to talk to the woman.

‘I saw her first.  She was mine.’ Bill snapped at Scotty, before standing up and walking out.
‘What’s up with him? He’s so moody lately.’ said Scotty.  Without waiting for Jen to respond he added.  ‘Never known him to give up a pint before; oh well, I guess I’ll just have to drink it.’

Jen thought that everything would be back to normal the next day.  Bill rang her around lunch time to see if she wanted a lift home from work.  He said he would be in the area later and it was going to rain.  Pleased by this unexpected offer, Jen accepted, thinking how sweet Bill was.  She remembered that Scotty worked nearby and Bill would often give him a lift, so maybe it would be the three of them together again.
Bill was waiting by the door when she finished work.  There was no sign of Scotty.

‘Hi, Jen.’ Bill gave her a hug that seemed to last a little longer than normal.
‘Hi, Bill.’ Jen gave him a loving smile, she couldn’t help herself.

Bill smiled back and then took her elbow and led her to the car, holding a large umbrella over them.  He opened the door and made sure Jen was able to get into the car without getting too wet.  He then went round to the driver’s side and got in.  After putting the umbrella on the floor behind the seat, Bill put his hand on her shoulder for several long seconds and smiled at Jen.   She didn’t know what to make of his behaviour; while Jen had always wanted more attention from him, it was a shock to finally have him give it.  Not sure how to react, Jen wondered if Bill had guessed how she felt about him and waited for him to speak first, but his attention was on the road.  As the silence lengthened, Jen felt a sudden urge to break it.
‘So, are you and Scotty Okay?  Have you talked to him today?’ she asked.

‘He’s a thief!’ snapped Bill, surprising Jen with his sudden anger. 
‘Bill, you’re not still upset about last night are you?’

‘No.’ said Bill in a tone that sounded like a ‘Yes’ to Jen.
Jen wondered if something else had happened between the two men.  To her, Bill seemed unreasonably angry over the unknown woman from the pub but she didn’t want to upset him by digging any further.   Jen decided to let the silence return and looked out the window.  The rain was getting quite heavy and visibility was deteriorating.   Fortunately, on this stretch of road, there wasn’t too much traffic. Jen saw one man in the distance walking along the foot path towards them.  He was carrying a yellow umbrella and wearing a dark overcoat.  He looked familiar.

‘Look, its Scotty.  We should stop and give him a lift.’ said Jen.
‘What?’ said Bill, looking in the direction that Jen indicated.

Bill checked his mirrors and looked around out of all of the windows.  Next, he beeped the horn to get Scotty’s attention, before giving Jen a strange smile that sent a shiver down her spine.  Then it happened, so fast in reality and so slowly in Jen’s memory.  Scotty saw them and waved, stepping over to the gutter.  Bill slowed down and turned the car towards Scotty, as if to pull up right beside him.  Then, at the last minute, Bill sped up and swerved, hitting Scotty and running over him.  Jen screamed and stared out of the window in shock, unable to believe what had just happened.  Bill spoke and Jen realised that he was calling the police.  Then Bill got out of the car and bent down to look at something, before coming around and opening her door.
‘Get out of the car, Jen.’ He said.

‘It’s raining.’ Jen said, wondering how she could say something so normal.
‘No, it’s almost stopped,’

Bill reached over, undid her seat belt and carefully lifted her to her feet.  The part of Jen’s mind that was still functioning realised that he had her in his arms, just where she’d always wanted to be.  Then, Bill kissed her.  It was a proper kiss, long and hard.  For a moment, Jen forgot about Scotty.  Then the kiss stopped.
‘There was a dog.  I swerved to avoid it.  I didn’t see Scotty.’ Bill looked into Jen’s eyes sternly, looking for agreement.

‘There was a dog.’ Jen replied, thinking that Scotty would know that there wasn’t a dog. Her next thought hit her like a brick; Bill had checked and must know that Scotty couldn’t contradict them.  Scotty must be dead.
Bill kissed her again, before returning to the front of the car and sitting on the gutter, his head in his hands, acting distraught.  A stunned Jen sat back down in the car and waited for the police to arrive.  It crossed her mind that Bill might not have acted on the spur of the moment, but had planned the whole thing.  She quickly suppressed the thought.

Within a few months, Jen realised that Bill had known how she felt about him all along and had used her.  She hated him for that and yet she was still in love with him.  They were a couple now.  She had dreamt of what it would be like for so long, imagined how happy she would be.  Instead, she was in a living hell, living with a man who she both loved and hated, and who she was too scared to leave because of what he was.
The evening Jen arrived home from visiting Mary, Bill was at home.

‘Is Mary still asking about the accident? Does she want you to talk about it?’ he asked.
What accident? ‘Yeah, she just making sure I’m okay, don’t worry about her.’

‘I don’t know. She asks too many questions.’ Bill paused, ‘Does she still have those dogs that she has to walk every night.’
‘Yes, they’re a handful.’

‘Hmm… fancy going for drive?’