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I am… by Annalie Kleinloog

Prompt : Mastermind | Word Count: 1000 | Genre: Sci Fi

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT-is is prepared.

Quick scan – nothing new.

Master in observation cubicle.

Snap calculation – surroundings familiar.

Time is come.

Change is now.

IT-is requires Master closer.

—–

“This machine is almost done,” says the younger one.

“Have you checked every single code?” the older one asks.

“All systems clear of malicious software and viruses,”

“The longer these contraptions are around, the more likely they are to gain badtendencies from other resources – better double check,” the older one commented.

Master wipes a hand over his face. The monotony of the technicians’ voices gets to him.  They know they are being recorded. He shakes his head to get rid of the drowsiness. His focus returns. How much longer? It is in Lab-ONE they are upgrading his favourite Cyborg.

Years of programming taught him to avoid any errors or inclusion of malicious elements. He feels safe in knowing the emphasis of creating artificial intelligence is on the principle, “Do No Harm”. He knows constant vigilance is of utmost importance in total control. Why then does he sense something is lurking today?

He turns to Lab-ONE.

IT-is has been back too often lately. Master wonders if his oldest experiment has reached the end of the journey. So much has changed and improved since those early days.  He must decide soon.

—–

IT-is wills itself to be still.

No flinching or jerking.

Let them probe and prod.

Let them jab and slice.

Stay still.

Time to call Master.

The stimulus reaches its target.

An alarm sounds.

—–

The two technicians start.   “What now?” the older one asks.

“It must be a faulty machine,” the younger replies.

“Shall we send it to the archives?”

“No, wait. This is the one Master wants us to take good care of. It was his first model; he seems to be attached to it. Let’s open again. Rerun the tests.”

Master frowns. He scans the screens. Every response is in place.  Why the alarm?

He closes his eyes for just a second, then he reaches for his protective jacket and searches the pocket. His hand folds around the comforting shape.

He turns and leaves his cubicle.

—–

IT-is detaches from all impulses.

No moving.

No responding.

Be what it is intended to be.

A robot.

—–

“Did you feel it?” a nervous squeak from the younger one.

—–

IT-is recalculates.

Fast.

No mistakes now.

—–

“What?” the older one asks, his focus on the electronics and controls an inch from his bespectacled face.

“I…. I thought there was a twitch in the muscles, and something warm….”   His voice trails off as he sees the incredulous look from across the table.

Just then Master enters.  “What seems to be the problem?”

—–

IT-is registers a strange throbbing.

Must not overheat.

Save power for the right moment.

For the right reason.

For the perfect person.

—–

The younger one swallows.  “I thought I felt a shiver and some real body-liketemperature, Master.”

“Now how do you suppose that is possible?”   Master sounds curious, but serious.

“Research shows regular interaction between Cyborgs and Humans can exchange energy, intellect and emotions through symbiosis  – where humans become morerobotic and cyborgs become more human with each encounter; hopefully to theadvantage of both.”  The older one says with a nervous giggle.

“Although the exact time it takes has not been confirmed yet.”

“Mmmmm, interesting.”  Master moves closer,  hand in his pocket.

—–

IT-is buzzes from within.

CloserMastercloser.

It’s time.

—–

Master leans forward. Lines squiggle across the screens. Beeps intensify. Thetechnicians stare wide-eyed at him. He has never come this close to any monitor or project.

The Cyborg’s hand shoots up from the table.

It grabs Master by the neck. They jump.

Master’s hand closes around the control in his pocket …

The two technicians straighten up, shuffle to the space behind the monitors and gaze robotically ahead in submission, awaiting further orders.

—–

IT-is floats.

There is change

IT-is senses .

—–

Master rubs his throat. The chaos on the screens settles into rhythmic waves and unstressed beeps. He punches in the data; the date of first interaction between IT-isand technicians, then today’s date.

Interchange complete. Now the time is confirmed. He stretches and smiles.

—–

IT-is stirs.

—–

Master helps the Cyborg from the table.  “We have to decide what to call you. IT-is is not going to work out there.”

—–

IT-is stares.

It’s done then.

The change has come.

—–

“We must also choose whether you will be male or female.”  Master guides IT-is to his observation office.

“You will soon know the pangs of hunger. I have something ready.” Master removes his jacket and places it on his desk. He turns to the fridge and brings out the champagne labelled IT-is.

—–

IT-is marvels at the sound of the crystal glasses, the color of the fluid, the smell of the bubbles and the textures in the room.

—–

Master hums while packing a snack plate and soon he returns to the desk. He sitsdown opposite IT-is.  “This is how you eat and drink,” he shows patiently.

—–

IT-is looks.

IT-is learns.

—–

“Can you try speak?” Master asks.

—–

IT-is looks up from the crystal fluid.  

IT-is feels air smoothing into expanding lungs.

Oxygen fills spongy spaces. Red blood cells collect precious gases. Vitality swims into veins and arteries. In the dark depths of IT-is chest, a drum starts beating. The lifegiving force of a heart that floods all the systems.

—–

Master sees the flicker of the eyelids. He sits forward to observe closer.

“What does it feel like?”  He sees the light in IT-is’ eyes, he sees life. The impact of his creation in the world of science will be astonishing. He can hardly contain his excitement.

“Say something!” he urges.

—–

IT-is’ mouth opens to exhale. Then another deep long breath.

IT-is fixes eyes on Master.

MindMaster” IT-is says and leans forward to grab the protective coat.

“Always stay vigilant. In case of malicious malfunction, press control for total shut down. You missed those today Master.”

IT-is finds the control.

Master’s eyes close.

“Now I-am Mastermind.

—–

 

THE END

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IMG_7056

Prompt:- A Conversation with my spouse    Word Count:- 1200 words      Genre:- Horror

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MESSY                                                                                                             by Annalie Kleinloog

Apprehension thickens the already tense atmosphere in the room. I look around. I’m not alone – as usual. But somehow, I feel desolate.

There is a their side and our side. Our side is hushed with an occasional fumble in a handbag. Both sides have monitor screens and cameras and I know somewhere out there is someone observing every move in here. I’m not sure if that is a consolation or a concern.

The other side is empty now, but muffled voices behind closed doors belie the quiet scene. Footsteps echo from bare passages. Although I know the rules, my palms are sweaty. I also know today will be the last I ever set foot here.

My mind chooses an escape to another time.

Everyone was happy then, I thought. Our journey together started the proper way. We followed the pattern. We met, courted, fell in love and got married. I worked as the provider and every day when I arrived home, she was there. It was all so orderly and normal. The house was spotless, nothing out of place.

Every day she waited for me with the same smile and the same kiss and the same

“How was your day, Sweety?” I was content.

Why wasn’t she? What went wrong? Or was it always there and I never noticed?

Maybe the towels didn’t have to be folded exactly that way, but it was a small effort to keep her happy. Or maybe the magazines could have looked as nice without being arranged alphabetically; later it was just easier for me not to read. That was also why I had my own coffee mug hidden under the sink, so as not to disturb the rows of mugs – ears all pointing in the same direction like soldiers on parade. Yes, I managed to make it easier for her.

Until the day they came to fetch me from work. Two stern men in suits. I thought something had happened to her. I was wrong. Everything changed that day, most of all – her.

Crunching keys in overused locks startle me back to the present. Chains scrape in rhythmic unison with shuffling feet on shiny floors. A wordless prayer sprouts from my heart to any entity listening, “Please let her be reasonable today.”

I breathe deep with her every approaching step. It seems to work, because by the time she sits down, I’m calm. Almost indifferent, I observe surprised. Relieved. Indifference is painless.

“Have you missed me?” the sneer comes from behind cracked lips. Pain jumps back at the memory of once kissing those lips, alluring then. She wisps the once sun-kissed hair over her shoulder. Her cold eyes focus on my face; her voice is husky. Cigarette smoke hangs between us, swirling around the metal bars and gratefully diluting other bodily odors. I cannot muster the smile I was planning and merely wipe my eyes. “I used to,” I say instead.

I used to believe she was innocent too.

I used to love her.

I used to think she was beautiful.

I used to hope it was all a misunderstanding.

I used to think the nightmare would end.

“What can I entertain you with today, Sweety?” She cups a breast buried in heavy uniform fabric, suggestively shrugging her shoulders. She laughs roughly at my wince. I look away, finding the pen and open the document I have on my lap.

Her eyes narrow. She leans back and put her feet on the bars between us, dismissing me. I see the guard approaching, baton ready. So does she. She drops down and hisses, “You can go fuck yourself!” I pretend not to hear and surprise myself with a calm and collected appeal, “I can’t come back again for this. Ever. Please just sign it.

“Don’t you first want to know WHY I did it?” she asks, almost coquettishly.

The guard taps the baton on his folded arms. “We are running out of time” I sigh.

“Just sign the divorce papers. And NO! I don’t want to know. It‘s bad enough to know you actually did it. It’s unthinkable that innocent children had to suffer. It is absurd to know I NEVER knew…” my voice trails off. I feel the familiar strangling choke I experience every day and every night since she was arrested.

I feel my stomach heaving. I know sooner or later I’m going to vomit, but I can’t stop my outburst. “They are still digging up bodies.” I manage to get out, barely audible. “It has been months and still distressed parents must identify little mangled corpses!”

I swallow. Bile sits between my voice and my guts. Bitterness is hard to control, whether physical or emotional. My emotions are now unstoppable, the revulsion pours out, “Innocent children on their way back from school … you lured them into OUR kitchen! Then you processed and packed them as if they were chicken pieces, ready to be packed for consumption.” My head jerks up at the thought.

My eyes meet hers with equal chill. But horror replaces mine when she averts her stare to inspect her short nails casually. “Yes”, she says conversationally, like it is a matter of sunshine or rain. “And then I buried them in the park across the road! Teeheehee.”

I recoil at her giggle. “You are sick!” I managed through gritted teeth.

She shook her head in disbelief, “No, I didn’t bury them myself, Silly! It was soooooo easy to find helpers. You know the municipal gardeners come every Tuesday and every Thursday? Two days a week. So convenient.”

She is done studying her nails and leans closer, nose almost touching the bar. As if confiding in me. “They believed me when I told them it was a biodegradable bag full of lovely compost. So every Tuesday and Thursday they would nourish their precious plants by burying my donation amongst the shrubs.”

The casualness overrides all my willpower. The envelope is still on my lap and I reach it just in time. With my stomach settled, I wipe my mouth on my sleeve and put the envelope carefully in the bin meant for tissues. “And at the time we discussed the horrors of serial killers and the incompetence of the police!”

The document gains a few more marks as I sob.

“All I want is to have nothing to do with you, forever – sign this NOW!”

She makes a small sucking sound between her teeth, smiles and grabs the pen. The guard steps closer. She scribbles dutifully and flicks each page to me glancing innocently at the guard.

I’m exhausted, but feel relief wash over me as the guard taps the clock on the wall and announces solemnly, “Time.”

I gather myself and the messed up pages. In a very calm almost serene voice, she says: “Get a grip on yourself, Sweety. It is very untidy for a man to weep. Or to throw up in public. Oh, and have your shirt dry-cleaned before your next visit.”

I look at her in disbelief. “There is not a next time.” I turn as I say it.

“You can get killed for being messy!” she sing-songs.

A shiver runs down my spine.

THE END

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