Quick Update

Hi,

Sorry followers this is not a story, just a quick update on the posting schedule. I am going to be changing the schedule starting next week so my regular mircrofiction (100-300) word posts are on Mondays, and the short stories move to Wednesday. The reason for this? I decided to give the six sentence story a longer run, and will be posting these on Fridays until November.

I figure this will give me a good block of time to see if this format is working for me or not. I also plan (in the not so distant future) to try my hand at podcasting. If all goes well I should be doing bi-weekly episodes starting in October/November. So keep an eye out, because the nook is expanding!

Maladroit

This story was written for the Reedsy.com prompt “Write about an android just trying to blend in with their human companions.” It is written from the perspective of the robot. People keep telling me about a plot twist at the end, but I am not sure what they are talking about.


Elanor paused before she spoke. Was it time for her to speak? Was that gap for dramatic effect, or was Thomas really done speaking? She ran through 47,329 scenarios in the 20 second silence and before she could insert her reply, she was beat to it by another.

She didn’t understand how they knew it was their turn. They had such a limited processing capacity, and yet with certainty they knew when it was their turn to speak. They did not appear to use the majority of their processing units or as they called them more colloquially called them “brains” to identify key parts of the narrative and verify it against their own memory archives in an attempt to select a similar narrative to repeat in the next interval of silence. 

So many different narratives were occurring all around her that her auditory processors were not functioning optimally. The data was being recorded in the order it was received, but was not being sorted by source, and therefore was providing a jumbled, confusing array of words that she could not parse. Stepping closer to the speaker would limit the issue, and allow ideal focusing, but she had been told that degree of separation was unacceptable. They called her a “close talker”, and it took approximately 236 minutes over the course of 4.6 days for her to realize this had a negative connotation.

Following this failure she researched, and found that while humans themselves did not measure it, they all had a sense of the appropriate distance.  It was especially fortunate that the research on this topic had given definitive distances depending on the relationship between those speaking. 

It did not however help her inability to define relationships. She had, in equal measure, incorrectly determined a closer relationship than existed thereby alienating those to whom she was speaking, and a more distant relationship than was the case, resulting in hurt feelings by those who referred to her as distant and unable to connect. 

She struggled with this in all her interactions. When she walked around with her neutral expression, she was told she was unapproachable. One person elaborated that she had “resting bitch face”. She attempted to always walk around with a slight smile, but it was not effective as she hoped. Some said she was “faking nice” and found her inauthentic, while others were inappropriately salacious with her. 

The added processing to keep the façade in place, and then also to interpret all the micro expressions, body language, and tones occurring around her was a significant strain. It depleted her reserves far more quickly, forcing her to forgo after work activities to return straight home for her recharging. She sometimes was compelled to spend her breaks alone to reduce stimulation, and maintain her flailing energy levels to see out the day. Her colleagues called her a “snob” as they whispered about her, as if she were not capable of hearing them. That she thought she was so far above them that she need not lower herself to spend time with them. She could tell them the truth, as her research indicated that they would shun her for it.

She compensated as best she could, with pre-constructed elaborate responses for all scenarios. They worked most the time, except when she received an unexpected input. The cashier at the local superstore scoffed at having to repeat the offer three times, but she did not know they had a points card now, and she had not been prepared for the line on inquiry. After a long day of processing, running on fumes, she took longer than was acceptable to formulate a response.

And another opportunity to speak in this social circle was missed, as her focus was drawn to her shoes. They were wrong for this event.  They had been so far deemed to fancy for everyday wear, too sexy for the office, and now too plain for the gala. They also were incurring a great deal of pressure in her toes, that would cause significant motor difficulties the following day. 

Until one looked down, she was dressed as the others here were. Her dress hugged her curves, even as it restricted her range of motion. She paid extra attention to that which she carried, as dropped items could not be retrieved. The undergarments required for the ensemble sent continuous spikes of information, as they pulled, twisted, and scraped at her body performing their job admirably, but at a high cost. It was a struggle each day to determine what was or was no appropriate given the event, weather, trends, and she was often told that she showed up in the “wrong” attire.

Her hair, it was too complicated to consider, it was never “right”, no matter how much she tried. The texture did not seem to emulate any of those in the video tutorials she observed. It at least made more sense than makeup. Where the natural pigmentation of skin was hidden, and then artificial pigmentation was added to emulate the pigmentation color that was covered. It had to be changed over the course of the day, lest it be too bland or too bold for the time of day. To not wear any was frowned upon, almost as much as wearing it to excess. 

Wait, was this it. Was this her chance? “I once got lost in the underground mall, and walked an entire block the wrong direction before I realized. I try to avoid it, but it was -20 out.” She held her breath. Was it a good comment? Was the timing appropriate, the audience? Would they find it implausible, too simple, too obvious? Another woman laughed and made a comment about winter. The topic shifted to the long winter in months, was that a success? She had participated, was that even the goal of this event? She was told to “network” and yet in context it made no sense. Several searches told her nothing in a lot of words.  It was something to be spoken around, entire diatribes seemed to be dedicated to the overuse of it and other “buzzwords”. 

Should she continue to audit this circle or was it time to “move on” and speak with other people. Thomas was familiar, he spoke in a measured tone, and always clearly annunciated his words. With a glance, she observed the nearest other circle was dominated by Glen. 

Glen spoke very quickly, used slang, misused words, and when asked for clarification he often spoke overly slowly, as if he was speaking to a very young child. He had explained to her many times, and with erroneous detail, various aspects of robotics. He would spend hours explaining how her own ideas were actually incorrect. She was not sure how to make him stop. Whenever she gave her own fictitious degree, it had been fabricated by the institute that had created her, as proof of her competency on the subject, he reacted explosively. Perhaps it was better to continue here for a while longer. 

She was not sure when she was to leave this event. She had in the past left both too early, and too late. It was only after that she realized that both could cause great offense. After several failed attempts at timing, she had decided to follow Jill. Jill worked in an adjacent department at a similar level, and also had no children or significant other. Jill unfortunately was not here tonight, so she would have to make an estimate. What she had learned over time was that she was to leave after those with young children, and before the single men. No one could explain why, and asking was a taboo.  

Another hour passed, and she looked around to see the party was thinning out. It appeared it was time. Now she had to the most difficult of all maneuvers, the graceful goodbye. If she did not say goodbye, others could claim she left earlier or later and attempt to disgrace her at work the following week.

At the same time, announcing your departure was considered to be grandiose and self important. She also had to have a reason for leaving. She would have to reconsider acquiring a pet before her next social gathering, it was an optimum excuse for both parties and going home directly after work. She looked up as she stepped away, and was fortunate enough to accidentally make contact with her boss, who looked at her and then the door. She nodded and he walked towards her. She met him half way. 

“Heading out?” He queried redundantly.

“Yes, early morning tomorrow.” She did not elaborate, as excessive detail was considered a sign of falsehood for some reason.

“Ok, see you Monday.”

“See you Monday.” She repeated as even though it was redundant, it was the socially acceptable response.

She left the party, driving to her home.  When she arrived, she walked in shutting and locking the door behind her. She then went and checked that the blinds and curtains were shut. She walked to the desk, sat down in the chair, and removed her right ear.  She then plugged in the two cables from the desk, the first for data, to upload her day to the institute, and the second for charging. She did after all have an early day tomorrow.


For a look at the reedsy contest take a look here for more prompts. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/. It runs weekly Friday to Friday!

Final Grains of Sand

This is my first stab at the six sentence challenge from girlontheedge. What I will say was though it was fun, and a little difficult to hit the sentence count, I should probably focus on some more 100 or 250 word challenged because I have no trouble. The word prompt was distraction and as usual DARKNESS.


She ignored the pain that racked her body because she knew it was nothing more than a distraction. It was just one more thing that would stop her from accomplishing her goals.

Only months ago she thought she had all the time in the world, and now she knew she would not have half as much as she had been promised.  The list she had made, already shortened once, would have to be cut down again.

She took a deep breath and focused as she lifted her pen and began circling what was not only the most important, but what she was and would be physically capable of doing. 

The remaining list was small, and yet she knew within her heart of hearts she would not be able to complete it.

Breathless

I don’t know where this came from. I wrote the first two paragraphs and thought it was going in one direction (fantasy/supernatural) and then it took an abrupt turn. So to warn it has stalking, violence, guns, and may be triggering if you went through this type of situation. It is essentially the end of a longer story of a woman who is being stalked


It was late when Kara stepped out of the theater. 

It started small, not something she could see or here, but something she could feel.  It was the goosebumps that broke out on her arms, the shiver of air on the back of her neck and then she knew.  She was being hunted.

She darted her head furtively, but she didn’t see anyone.  She sped up anyways, digging her keys out of her purse as she walked.  When she finally retrieved them, she clenched them tightly in her fist, two keys jutting out between her fingers just in case.  She couldn’t feel him anymore, but she wasn’t willing to risk it.

When she finally got in the car, she loosened her grip and used the key to open the door.  The sound of the alarm set her teeth on edge, but it would attract attention.  Besides, she couldn’t have risked using the fob.  Too many times it had unlocked none, until it unlocked all the doors.  She couldn’t risk letting someone else in.

Then she saw him. A man, large, dark, coming towards the car.  She locked the door quickly, and in the gloam of the parking light she could see the hurt on his face. She felt guilty for a moment, maybe this wasn’t the man. She couldn’t help that though, better safe than sorry.

She felt something that had coiled tight within her begin to loosen as she drove.  She turned up the radio, and sang along off key to an 80’s power ballad and for the first time in months she felt free. 

The feeling faded fast when she reached the house she was living in. It wasn’t her home.  Home was back east; he had taken that from her.  Threatened to harm those she loved to get to her, and she knew that she had to go. 

Everyone accepted the news of her transfer, though they found it abrupt.  They didn’t know about him, no one did really.  There was a kind officer of course, who told her notes were not actionable. Other than that it was just her, alone.

She sat in the driveway until the beating of her heart slowed.  She remotely triggered the flood lights, something her new neighbors dreaded, but it gave her the visibility she needed.  He was here.

It wasn’t like the theater. It wasn’t a feeling.  It was knowledge. She could see the gnome with her hide a key was slightly askew. He was in the house.   She wanted to call the police, but by the time they got here he would be gone.  She had done it before, they said it was just kids playing around.  She knew what she had to do.

She reached for the glove compartment, and pulled it out.  The metal was heavy in her hand, and as she checked the magazine she took slow deep breaths to calm her nerves.  It would end tonight, one way or another.

She put her finger on the trigger, flicked off the safety, and put both it and her hand into her purse.  It wouldn’t do well to let him know what was coming.  It was awkward to pull the keys and lock the doors with her left hand, but she managed.

She tried to look casual as she walked up to the door, and unlocked it with her non-dominant hand.  She pushed it open wide.  He wasn’t in the entranceway. Clear.  She stepped in and toed the closet open.  Clear.  She stepped forward and surveyed the living room, and then ducked down as if to take care of her boots, but there was nothing under the couch either.  Clear.

“Ugh, stupid zipper, why do you always jam!” She said to herself, to give a reason why she kept them if he was listening.  No, she knew he was listening, if he could hear.  She walked through the living room as casually as she could flicking on all the lights in advance.  She saw nothing down the hallway to the bedroom. Clear.  She headed into the kitchen and found it empty.  Clear.  The back door was still locked.  Clear.

She tried to keep her breathing steady as she drank a glass of water, back to the wall, facing the rest of the small house.  It was the bedroom or the bathroom now.  50/50, where did she go next?

She headed down the short hallway and decided on the bathroom first.  She had left the shower curtain open, there were no cupboards, if he was there she would know, and soon.  She paused two steps down the hall and opened a closet.  Clear.  She had forgotten about the closet.

 “Where the heck did I put that sewing kit,.” She said under her breath. “I wanna get these damn boots off.”  It was for his benefit alone.  She used a foot to push open the bathroom door. She froze.  He was there. In the darkness.

She saw the glint of the bathroom light reflect off something near his midsection.  He had a weapon.  He was coming towards her, faster than she could have imagined, and she almost ran.  Then she remembered it, the weight in her hand and it was out.  One, two, three loud bangs and he was still coming, and she unloaded the rest of the clip.

She could feel hot splatters of liquid on her face and as he fell to the floor she finally gave into her instincts and fled.  She didn’t look back, and she was in the car with the doors locked before she realized her finger was still clenched down on the trigger of the gun.

She tossed it away on the passenger’s side floor mat, and took a few shaky breaths. Lights were coming on all over the neighborhood, and she knew she wouldn’t have to call the police.  The wonders of the nosy suburbanite.

 She heard a noise, and she flinched, was it him, and that when it hit her.  It wasn’t him.  It would never be him again. It was over. 

Finally, it was over, and done, and it felt like a weight had lifted from her.  The tears she hadn’t realized he had been crying poured down her face now and her chest heaved with the force of her sobbing.  It wasn’t with sadness, or terror, it was with relief.  Thank God, it was over.  She could finally go home.