Android and Eve

Flash Fiction Friday is a series currently curated by Alanah Andrews. If you’d like to submit flash fiction for publication, please contact Introvert Press.

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Android and Eve

‘You know, I’m gettin’ real sick of these hunks of junk takin’ all our jobs.’

Steven glanced over his shoulder at the woman behind the bar, then looked at Roy with amusement. ‘You mean these hunks of highly intricate circuitry and flesh reproduction?’

Roy waved his hand in the air, as though fanning Steven’s words away, and took another long sip of his beer. ‘Don’t matter what pretty words ya use, Steve. We both know that they’re just flesh covered computers, walkin’ and talkin’ but you know what they ain’t doin?’

‘What’s that, Roy?’ asked Steven good-naturedly, tapping his finger lightly on the side of his own empty glass. He had heard the rants before, from others, but Roy had generally been, if not exactly an android-sympathiser, at least indifferent towards the AIs.

‘They ain’t thinkin’, Steve,’ announced Roy. ‘Not really. They just do what they’re programmed for. That one behind ya, pouring beer is prob’ly all it knows how to do. Just cogs and wheels turnin’ round tellin’ it to put the glass under the tap and pull the lever.’

‘So how’s she going to take your job?’

Roy sighed. ‘Not our jobs, Steven,’ said Roy. ‘We are artists. We are creative. Ya can’t program creativity.’ Steven thought that calling themselves artists was a bit of a stretch. Working in image manipulation for the local advertising agency was a job which required more patience than creativity.

‘How could you tell she was an AI?’ Steve asked with amusement. From their positioning at the table, the woman behind the bar looked completely human to him.

‘You can jus’ tell,’ said Roy, knowingly. ‘Plus, you can see the difference when ya look into their…’ he gestured towards his eyes. Steven nodded. It was a subtle difference, but if you knew what to look for you could tell older androids from humans by the thick ring around the pupil. Something to do with the optical zoom on older models. Newer androids, of course, with newer technology had no such flaws.

‘But if androids can only do menial tasks,’ said Steven, reasonably, ‘why are you so worried about them taking all the jobs?’

Roy drained his beer, slapping the glass down on the table with a loud clink. Then he leaned in close to Steven, one hand on his shoulder in confidence. ‘I said they can only do what they’re programmed to do.’ His voice was low. ‘Didya know there’s one in parliament now? Far out, we’ll have a robot prime minister in my lifetime if things don’t change.’

‘Roy,’ said Steven kindly. ‘You do realise AIs were granted citizenship before you were even born. It makes sense that some are slowly becoming represented in parliament.’

But Roy wasn’t listening. ‘It’s jus’ plain wrong,’ he said loudly, and Steve noticed with some embarrassment that the woman behind the bar was watching them. ‘They ain’t got no soul ya see. God made Adam and Eve not Android and Eve.’ Then he snorted. ‘Guess that means Mary-Anne’s gonna end up in hell with no-one there beside her.’

 Steven looked sadly at his colleague. Now it made sense. The rant, the anger. ‘She’s moved on then?’

Roy didn’t answer. Instead, he clicked his fingers at the bartender and gestured towards his glass. She nodded and started pouring another.

‘Moved on? Yeah, guess ya can call it that. I call it downgraded. Couldn’t get another living human to love her, see? So she had to go for a computer.’

‘I’m really sorry, Roy. But you have been divorced for a year. You must have been prepared for this.’

As they talked, the bartender came over with Roy’s beer and placed it on the table, collecting the empty glass. Up close, Steven could see the tell-tale ring around the android’s pupil – the clue that had tipped off Roy.  ‘Excuse me,’ said Steve suddenly to the woman. ‘I was just wondering if this is your fulltime job?’

Roy glared at Steve.

‘Oh no,’ said the bartender, smiling ruefully. ‘I’m actually studying medicine. I just work here to help pay the fees.’

Roy looked as though he was about to choke on his beer. Steven thanked the woman and turned back to Roy. ‘I guess they don’t just do what they’re programmed to do.’

Roy furiously chugged down his beer and wiped the froth off his moustache with the back of his hand. ‘It coulda at least had the decency to wear contacts,’ said Roy, gesturing towards the bartender. ‘Rather than flaunting its…’ he waved his arms around, searching for the right word.

‘Artificiality?’ suggested Steve.

‘Yeh, artificiality,’ repeated Roy. ‘Anyways, I’m gonna hit the hay. See ya at work.’

As Roy left the building, the bartender came back over to the table to pick up the empty glass.

‘Why haven’t you told him?’ she asked quietly.

Steven just shrugged. ‘I thought we lived in a world which wasn’t divided by race.’

‘We do. And you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.’ She gestured towards Steven’s face, towards the contacts that he always wore.

‘I’m not here for a lecture,’ said Steve, rising abruptly and heading towards the exit. The woman’s robotic eyes bored into his back all the way to the door.

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Alanah Andrews is an English teacher in Australia, who dreams of one day travelling the world in a bus. If you like her writing, check out her website: www.alanahandrews.com

A New Conversation about Guns

We need to make new symbols. Make new signs.
Make a new language. With these we’ll define the world.

lyrics to New Beginnings by Tracey Chapman

She’s on to something.

Imagine the conversation about guns if we had to start all over making terms for things. What if phrases like “gun control” and “second amendment remedies” were forgotten. What if groups like the NRA didn’t exist and Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense were not in existence.

WHAT IF we started over and all the arguments were new.

People with a negative view about guns didn’t use the Newtown Massacre as an opening argument. And people with a positive view of guns didn’t point to Chicago as the reason laws restricting use of guns don’t work.

Me personally, I’m one of those with a negative view. But just think if for one moment I could sit down with someone who has a positive view, and we could – as Tracey Chapman says “make a new language”.

I can sit down and express that I do NOT want to take guns away from everyone. My partner in this conversation could communicate that in fact they do NOT think all laws restricting guns are bad. We could find common ground. We could, together, look at the deaths from guns and agree that it is tragic. My conversation partner could tell me about the time their firearm was used to shoot a mountain lion attacking his dog. And I would listen. I could relay the experience I had with a loved one getting shot by someone. And they would listen.

I could express that gun ownership does not equate to someone being an “ammosexual” another term we would not remember. They could express that it’s good to hear a view from a liberal, without them being a libtard. And that word could be gone from our vocabulary.

What if we ALL just committed to listen. We talk past one another so much of the time. We want to TELL people what they should think. Instead of telling others, we could SHOW each other why we think the way we do.

We have an amendment to the Constitution. The second amendment. What if we each sat with each other and talked about the second amendment – about our Bill of Rights. The WHOLE Bill of Rights with the respect it deserves, and the scrutiny it deserves.What if that conversation took place at dinner tables, in bars, at PTA, at the grain elevator, at the beach, or in local caucuses. What if it took place with a commitment to listen.

WHAT IF?

We could create a new language. We could create terms like:

Firearm education: not training for shooting, but about statistics of gun ownership, gun use and accidental gun deaths. No spin to the statistics — just the facts. It could be taught in civics, at community colleges, at churches, at book clubs.

Gun population: not a gun registration but a look at where guns are located by city, state, or nation. Talk about the correlation of guns to regions. What does a rural citizen use guns for as opposed to an urban setting.

Potential Risk: not about gun safety, but about why people have guns. Talk about how those guns are used specifically. Let gun owners talk about the risks they face and how they are using guns to address those risks. Let those who do not use guns talk about their experiences without a gun, and how they avoided – or dealt with directly – the identified risks.

Americanization of Guns: not about manufacturing guns in the US, but how the US has a unique dynamic with guns. Look at gun use around the world and compare it to the US. Those who own guns can look at how other countries get along with out lots of guns. Those who don’t own guns can examine what is unique about America that might explain why gun use is popular.

I’m tired of the fight. My position feels intrinsic to me, because it is so personal. I imagine those who own guns feel that same intrinsic feeling. We need to talk to one another. We need to be a neighborhood, a city, a state, and a country that can think critically, act communally and address the issues related to guns.

There is much to be said and done around the issue of guns. Maybe we can just start talking to each other, rather than assuming things about one another. We’ve had so many tragedies. The latest being the shooter of several officers and a state Representative. He’s recuperating.

How can we make our country recuperate?

Therein lies the question.

A Voice from Nigeria

A modern poem sent to us by Laju Ereyitomi Oyewoli, in the style of a traditional praise of one’s own clan. The Itsekiri people live in Nigeria’s Niger Delta area and traditionally refer to their land as the Kingdom of Iwerre. The area is a key centre of Nigeria’s crude oil and natural gas production.

Iwere ni mi
For I belong to the powerful bloodline
Of the proud Iginua
Whose haughtiness sent him out of Benin
Down to Ode Itsekiri
That we may reside in the richness and splendorous wealth of our pride

Iwere ni mi
For I belong to the historic people of itsekiri
Whose powerful Olus define the history of times
In their heroic deeds

For Omi Iwere ni mi
A people whose greatness has always Shine brighter
Among the sands of time

by Laju Ereyitomi Oyewoli

The Truckstop at the Edge of the Universe

“Piece of SHIT! Turn on, damn it! —Testing. Testing.—OK, there we go. Red lights across. About time! I can’t believe this actually worked. No! No! Don’t you do it! You stay right there! Don’t make me hit—I swear to —There, that’s better. Holding the red. Nine minutes and twelve seconds. Moving on.  How do I start this? Ages ago? In the beginning? No, no, too cliché. Once upon a time? What other way is there? Damn, why did it have to come to this? It should never be this difficult.

I suppose the beginning it is, but only for a moment. I really don’t see much of a choice at this point and I don’t have much time. When all else fails, right? Let’s get this over with.

Since time is slipping through my fingers and I don’t see any way out of this mess and never believed in miracles, I should probably just get on with it and get right to it. I’m not sure who’ll hear this, but I’d appreciate anyone at this point. Even the Blugenns could make their ugly appearance and I wouldn’t give a shit. I’m hoping this rigged relay will at least reach the Omega Gate, and local harvesters will pick up on my signal, but even at their top speed I’m guessing it would already be too late. Time moves funny out here. So I’ll make this proverbial message in a bottle as quick as I can and tell you what I know so far, to anyone who may be able to hear it. Damn, based on the clock, I’m estimating less than three hours before I’m nothing more than a bubbling flesh puddle, sizzling on the floor. I hope this works. I don’t want to go out like that.

The following is my official last will and testament, and full confession. I confess to my actions today in this manner to hopefully bring peace to the mates and children of the fallen.  If this message is found, please share this with all remaining members of my family. They may be hard to find, some I haven’t spoken to since I was a child, and some won’t even care, but regardless they need to hear it. In fact, the whole universe needs to hear it. We’re in some deep shit—Right. Let’s do this.

I’ll start this off by saying; all great empires eventually come to an end. At least all the ones I’ve heard about have ended.

Earth was no different than any other self proclaimed empire throughout the cosmos. Earth was just a tiny speck of rock among many other puny specks of rock.

Five thousand years ago, the mighty Earth ceased to harbor life, as you probably already know. Or maybe you didn’t. Surprise!

The human’s planet continued to spin on its axis while orbiting the sun, and its tiny moon still rotated around the lifeless rock, but all living things on Earth’s surface were extinguished in the blink of an eye.

The destruction was thought to be the result of a cataclysm which wiped out all sentience in the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond. Nothing survived in the galactic local group. Microbes, bacteria, and the building blocks of life were annihilated. Trees and flowers turned to ash. Thermal vents at the deepest points of the oceans stopped venting.

Some of our varied historians say an omnipotent malevolent force was responsible. Others tell stories of a cosmic explosion. A black hole was trapped inside, or might have collided with, another black hole, and the overlapping gravity wells pulled in a supernova, or a pulsar, or some such shit. I’m not a scientist nor will I claim to be. I don’t know how it happened. Who really knows what happened? All we have now are the stories, whether true or not, passed down from generation to generation. Fables of ancient worlds.

To be honest, no one really cares about history anymore, unfortunately, including me. There’s too much to do to even give the theories a passing thought. In the Exterior, my home at the outskirts of the Vega Grid, life moves too fast.

Once hearing word of the galaxy’s destruction and the Milky Way and other sectors now devoid of life, independent missions were established by volunteers, contracted through the Elite class, to retrieve anything in the cosmos that may prove to be of value. Remnants of cultures and fragments of history were salvaged from these long dead worlds and brought back to the Exterior for study and trade. When the travelers found something worth recovering, the galactic scavengers then sought out legitimate buyers across the region.

Everything has a price. And that’s where I come in.

Over the millennia these scavengers adopted the name, Truckers. An old Earth title. Transporters of goods. The front line for supplies. To those in the Exterior who’re hearing this, you owe your lives and livelihoods to the Truckers. If not for them, we would be merely a fraction of what we are today. We all need to stop taking everything for granted.

Sometimes the Truckers would be months and for some, years, before returning to the Exterior. Their extended missions would drain their ship’s drive engines, and they’d be forced to wait until enough energy was replenished in their reserve tanks, so they could have enough to jump back home. They’d return tired, missing their families, children and pets, but if they were lucky and diligent in their labor they’d have enough material stored in the cargo bays ready for distribution to keep them from having to venture out again for many months.

They’d find soil deep in the ground where it was still fertile, free from toxins, and usable for growing plants and crops. Plants you eat today. Perhaps eating right now. Are you enjoying that sweet corn? Thank a Trucker. Do those copper tokens pay your worker wages? Thank a Trucker.

They’d bring back gems, water and ice blocks, rusted chunks of steel, gold, coal, seedlings from the underground vaults, and the gases harvested from a planet named, Jupiter: Hydrogen, methane, helium, ammonia, and for a small elite group occupying the interior of the Exterior, sulfur was brought back for a reason we still speculate on.

Who am I to ask questions? Best to mind my own business.

That’s what I do best. I mind my business.

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Jeremy Morang Bio: Father of two. Enjoys the simple life. Dreams to one day be published. Lives in a small town in Central Maine. Works with adults with physical and cognitive disabilities in a quality assurance capacity. Been writing seriously since 2011. Love my family, my new dog and relishing every moment with my wife. Enjoys eating dessert first. Works on a personal blog mixing fantasy and autobiographical stories named, Tales of the Chronicles.

A Life in Mexico: Being Dead

Banda music, the Latin-flavored polka music, played from the center of town.

Lupé was thinking about Maria. Maria lived down the path from Lupé. She walked by the lower part of his yard every morning about 7:00 AM. She worked at the small tortilla shop on the main block in town. Tortillas were one thing the little rancho made that could always be counted on to produce an income for those who worked there. It wasn’t a big income, but any income in this rancho was a good income. The money is why he thought of Maria. She hadn’t been going to work.

Lupé thought maybe her hours changed when he stopped seeing her walk to work. Lupé began to notice a few strangers walk from the main road down the path toward Maria’s house after a few weeks. By the time he identified the strangers as a doctor and a few family members the rumors about Maria had spread. Some said she had cancer. Others said she had fallen prey to demons. Others say a curse had been cast.

Whatever the story was about Maria’s illness, he was shocked to see the doctor and Maria’s husband help her out to the main road. She was so thin. Lupé didn’t recognize her. She’d always been a pudgy, matronly figure. Now her dress hung on her. There was a man on each of her arm directing her down the path to her husband’s truck. Finally, her husband had to pick her up and carry her the remaining distance to the truck. She placed her head against his chest and almost disappeared in his arms.

Even though he wasn’t religious, Lupé crossed himself. He heard his mother’s voice say a prayer as she too watched with concern as this shell of a woman walk down the path.

“She doesn’t look good,” Lupé said to his mother.

“She is dying,” his mother said.

“How do you know that mother?” Lupé asked.

“I just do,” she said. “Old women know these things. As you get close to death, you recognize your fellow travelers.”

“Mother,” he said. “Be quiet, you will live to be a hundred.”

“That is not far off my dear,” his mother said.

Lupé knew his mother was right about her age and time on this Earth. He shuddered at the thought of having to care for his brother alone.

“Are you scared of dying mother?” The question came as a shock to both of them. Lupé was not one to ask probing questions and his mother was not one to dwell on her own mortality, even though it consumed most of her thinking.

“I’m not scared of dying, mijo” she said with assurity. “Being dead will be good.”

“Good?” he asked with some alarm in his voice.

“Yes,” she said with simplicity. “I’m tired.”

Lupé ignored the response.

The truck with Maria and her husband sputtered to life. He heard it complain as it chugged uphill the two blocks until he could turn left and descend the long road down the mountain.

“We will not see Maria again,” his mother said.

“How do you know that?” Lupé snapped.

“She told me,” his mother said matter-of-factly.

“When did she tell you this?” he said slowly, watching his mother at the stove.

“Just now,” she said.

The hair on Lupé’s arms tingled. “What do you mean, ‘just now’?”

“Just now on the way down the road. In the truck,” she said softly.

Lupé didn’t know what to say.

“Being dead isn’t the end, mijo,” she said. “She’s free now. She’s home.”

“But how do you know?” Lupé asked a bit at a loss for words.

“My dear boy,” his mother said, still stirring the beans and lard. “I am near that occasion myself, and as you get closer you see things and hear things from beyond the veil.”

Lupé stood there consuming what his mother had said.

The banda music in town stopped, almost as if to give him time to digest what his mother had said. The silence rang through the streets in the absence of the music. The wind came down from the mountain, warm and humid. His mother turned her head into the breeze.

“Adios, Maria…mi amiga. Vaya con Dios,” his mother whispered to the wind.

Emmanuel Idaago Odogo

Emmanuel Idaago Odogo: Lagos, Nigeria

Poetry is my thing. It lets me express myself in the most creatively captivating way. In poetry, every word is heavily pregnant, and can be beautifully understood in different ways; even in ways different from the poet’s, but equally beautiful. As a poet, I can express myself and still be my non-talkative self.

Connect with the Author here.