Happy 2017, Squid Nation...!
This time around we're bringing you a new story from Chris Swindell plus three short pieces from our flash fiction writing contest at Armadillocon 2016.
Babylon Loves You by Chris Swindell
In the morning she wakes you with a kiss. It’s the feel of cold metal on your cheek. You open your eyes and roll over. The service drone, her avatar, rolls back and waits patiently for you to get up.
In the shower, you know she’s watching you. In the kitchen, she makes you breakfast: coffee, toast, and eggs.
The drone, all ball-treads and spider-legs, sees you to the door. A thin metal arm straightens your collar.
“Have a good day,” a neutral female voice says.
You leave. And in the hallway outside your apartment you yank your collar askew again. In the elevator another drone waits for you. It fixes your collar while you descend to the lobby.
On the street, cars zoom to and fro. The traffic is a beautifully choreographed pattern of vehicular dexterity. Each automobile, the silver ones and the blue ones and the red-striped sexy ones, are empty. She drives them, all of them. She does this for you, to make you feel more at home.
A taxi swings up to the curb and opens its door. You feel like walking today, so you shrug and stroll by. The sidewalks are empty. The shops are empty. You pass by the diner you pass by every day. Two drones stand behind the counter, one waiting to take your order, the other waiting to make it. There is no one else inside. The booths are empty, their shiny faux-leather upholstery unsullied by human asses.
You arrive at your building. You take an elevator to your office. You walk to your cubicle and stand next to your desk. You are alone. The only sounds are the ventilation system’s ever-present hum and the distant cicada-noise of a vacuum drone doing its job.
You have no actual job to do.
You take your jacket off. You kick off your shoes. Then, you strip off your pants and shirt. Naked, you walk through a maze of cubicle walls to the unisex restroom by the water fountain.
Cold tiles under your feet. You shiver a little as you pad up to the restroom mirror.
You regard yourself, as you always do. You’re young but not a youth. You’re on the handsome side of pretty. Your hair is a blondish-brownish-red. Your eyes are green-brown-blue. Your mocha skin is velvet soft, and your breasts are small but firm. And your genitals are complicated, contradictory, and utterly useless.
You leave the restroom. A small drone is waiting for you with your clothes folded neatly in its spider-arms.
You get dressed again, because she wants you to. And when you are finished, the small drone straightens your collar.
You sit at the desk for eight full hours listening to the building’s sounds. And when you leave you take the taxi she offers you. You don’t like walking in the dark, even though you know there is nothing out there that could hurt you.
Back home, she makes you dinner. You aren’t hungry but you eat it all because you know it makes her happy.
And in the bathroom, right before bed, you look at yourself in the mirror again. You stare hard and long into eyes that no longer know how old they are, or where they are from, or where they are going. You stare into eyes you no longer recognize as your own.
Instead, you finish brushing your teeth. You change into crisp pajamas. You slip into a cool, clean bed.
A neutral female voice says, “Goodnight.”
And in the morning she wakes you with a kiss.
Armadillocon Flash Fiction Writing Contest Entries
For this year's contest, our prompt was "Model A." We know these stories were written in five minutes because we saw them written!
Starbest by Bill Edwards
I was walking slowly along Starbest Boulevard when I was approached by a complete stranger driving a Model A Ford. It must have been at least 70 years old. It was strange because it was so quiet.
The next thing I knew I was completely overcome by a snake-like smell. And I fell to my knees in an effort to catch my breath. I felt nauseous, dizzy, and lightheaded.
The next thing I knew the driver of the old automobile was breathing on me. This breath seemed to give me new energy and greatly heightened my awareness. I started to remember things that I had long ago forgot in my 72 years of life.
I remembered my birthday and my Uncle Syl being excited as I exited my mother's womb. I remembered the pale pink curtains that hung on the windows in my bathroom.
In the next instant I was catapulted to this wonderful place where I felt serene and calm. So this is what death is like.
Droids by Anonymous
Billie unraveled her bullwhip. "The new plaid droids will be at the south fields by now."
"I'm not sure I'm up for this," I told her. "I don't like droids."
"They usually don't attack," Billie said.
"Then why the bullwhip?" I asked, trying to spot some piece of tech on it -- a glint of metal or a glowing LED.
"This?" she asked. "It ain't for the robots, man. It's for uppity writers from the inner planets."
I started vomiting before we saw the droids. I'd like to say it was anxiety but honestly it was probably all the turbulence. So when I saw the droid herd, a dour ocean of moving plastic, arched eyebrows, and terse commentary, stretching from the electric fence to the horizon, I had nothing left to give.
"Dear God," I said. "And all of these will be harvested and turned into e-cigarettes?"
"Only the smart ones. Only the smart ones."
Talent Agent by Joe Kulhavy
A lot of people assume that show business died in the collapse but nothing could be farther from the truth. I've been negotiating passage through the ruins of Ardmore, Oklahoma for talent scouts that want to sign talent from the so-called "Jesus Police" warlord band of the Red River.
Gold and guns will buy you access to the throat-singers of Meth Valley but you'll need to keep your wits about you. Minister Jeff lives in the rusted corpse of a Model A near the fortified border and he's the gatekeeper here.
"Mah singer ain't goin' to yer Satan Hollywood producer," he'll say. "And she won't leave. So record her voice for the Levant nightclub riff, and keep on moving. And try not to get too sentimental about the tears in her eyes when she sings 'Blood on the Rock.' Talent won't save her but you'll always have the master tapes to remember her by."
About the Creators
Chris Swindell is not real. He is a figment of your imagination. You are not reading this now. Seek help.
“Stolen Minutes.” The Harrow 11.07 (2008).
“Skintight.” Space Squid Issue 9 (2010).
“The Last Goodnight.” Space Squid (2013).
“The Soft Invasion.” Bizarro Central (2014).
“The Bed Person.” Space Squid (2015).
World's Shortest Creator Interview
If, due to some very poor logistics, you had to survive several days in some random tropical wilderness, what would you do to find food, and what species would your imaginary companion be?
My imaginary companion would be an infinite number of roast chickens. And as for food, well, I’d have all these roast chickens.
I'm really into Korean TV drama right now. Why don't you just talk about that for a bit?
… I want a divorce.
About the Artists
Arek Socha is a Swedish 3D artist.
Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology. He does the Space Squid cover designs and other squid stuff.