Tag: Fiction

Zombeh 1.1

Tom Stovel and Amy Blithe (35, both) lived in a treehouse on a corner of Hickory Street in Savannah, Georgia. The walls of their top-floor two-bedroom apartment were paper thin, and there were too many windows. It felt just short of camping. Glamping, maybe.

The house was built well before lead paint had been banned. The ceiling fans were installed before bulb sizes had been standardized. The kitchen had been remodeled to include a clothes washer and dryer with a dishwasher in between – about six full paces away from the sink. They could not use more than two appliances in the same room without tripping a fuse, the box for which was hidden behind the refrigerator.

The apartment was a pain in the ass, for sure, but it was oddly comfortable. It was home.

Drew and Foster Effingham (39 and 32 respectively) lived in the apartment below. Instead of glamping, the Effinghams dwelled in the equivalent of a Hobbit’s den – the ceilings were only seven feet high – and the concrete floors of what was once a prototype garage sloped in all directions beneath thin carpet. Their washer and dryer was an afterthought, stowed in the storage space around the side of the house near the trashcans in the alley.

The neighborhood was a grid, as were all neighborhoods in the city. The four of them would sit in their driveway smoking cigarettes and waving to the pedestrians walking their dogs. Savannah, after all, was a dog kind of town. The couples would drink beer and tell stories, getting downright rowdy when the boys had had one too many – when shouting over one another became the only way to be heard.

They never really saw their neighbors doing the same.

The neighbors all owned their land. They built fences around eighth-acre lots for their kids and dogs to play in. They stayed inside and did things that real adults do, venturing out only for the aforementioned walks and bit of light gardening.

“Fucking grown-ups, the bunch of them,” Drew would say. His compatriots would toast in agreement.

*

They knew something was wrong when the power went out. Of course, the power went out regularly in a house built before electricity was a sure thing, but it only ever stayed out for a few hours at a time, usually in the middle of the night when they’d all fallen asleep with all of the switches on. This time, however, it didn’t come back on and blind everyone. They woke up to warming fridges and no internet.

Their cellphones were all dead.

It was going to be a rough day.

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Echo: Charlie 1.2

(previously)

Charlie was a robot. An android, if you would like to be technical. Charlie loved to be technical. To be perfectly technical, Charlie was a cyborg. All cyborgs are androids. Not all androids are cyborgs.

Some androids are constructed out of 100% artificial material. Cyborgs are at least partially organic. Charlie was free range organic. Free range in that he ­­­­was left to his own devices out in the world. In society.

Society, Charlie would say, is comprised of a collective – a composite of independent minds coming together to form a single cohesive unit. A society is a supraorganism, and Charlie was allowed to participate. The supraorganism included Charlie.

That made society itself an android – more specifically, a cyborg.

This made Charlie happy.

At least, Charlie assumed that he was happy. All of his systems were functioning properly. His future appeared to be stable. He wanted for nothing. He fit in.

Charlie had a job. Charlie’s job was to take care of those within society who could not (chose not to) take care of themselves. A large section of society had chosen to embrace the android lifestyle, lending their brains (their central processing units) to what was called (and what was technically) The Hive. These individuals pooled their resources in order to create a completely artificial reality, a reality which only they could see. In this reality, anything was possible. Anyone could be who they like. They could do what they like. And because of their infinite well of processing power, they could live a thousand lifetimes in the time it took to sneeze.

Not that Charlie ever sneezed.

Charlie’s skin was real skin. The cartilage in his nose was real cartilage. The hair in his nostrils was real hair. He should have been able to sneeze. But his inventors forgot to include nerve endings in the appropriate places for such a thing.

No, Charlie definitely was not human. Nor would he ever be.

It was not a sad thought. Charlie had no drive to be human. He was programmed. And however sophisticated that programming was, his brain did not include the appropriate synapses for such a desire.

Charlie was, however, programmed quite suitably for his position as Liaison to Wellbeing. A human would have thought this nothing more than a fancy name for a glorified janitor, but to Charlie, it was everything. He would walk up and down sterile white halls in the sterile white building that housed thousands of humans in 10×10 rooms. Inside these rooms, the humans would sit or lay, exercise or eat according to their bodies’ needs. The humans were on autopilot – quite literally – and Charlie was tasked with making sure that the humans in Building 314, Floor 15 were functioning properly while their minds were away.

The human body operated best on nine hours of sleep. Each body was slightly different, of course, but the right mixture of nutrients could get anyone and everyone into the similar rhythms. The human body also required daily activity to keep the muscles properly toned. Peak physical condition allowed for peak mental states, boosting the processing power of each individual central processing unit, thereby boosting the power of The Hive’s capabilities.

As in any system, there were occasional hiccups. As Charlie paced his floor, he kept sharp eye on the red, yellow and green indicators on each white door. Green meant the bodies were in a resting, relaxed state. Yellow meant that the bodies were either eating or exercising – the two most dangerous activities a human being could perform. Red signaled an emergency, usually meaning that a body’s swallow reflex had engaged before its food was properly masticated, or a foot had come down improperly during a treadmill session. Charlie would enter these rooms, save the human if he could and put them right again. On a rare occasion – the rarest, really – a human body would short circuit. A heart’s valve would malfunction, or brain would have what was known as an aneurysm. In such instances, Charlie would tote their bodies to the morgue on the ninth floor. What happened to them there, Charlie was not programmed to question.

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