Saturday, July 14, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Android and the Wondering Chamber

It's that time again!  Chuck Wendig, over at Terribleminds, as posted a Flash Fiction Challenge.  This time we have to start a story using this sentence:

“The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.”

As always, the rules are no more than 1000 words.  Below is my entry into the fray, which clocks in at 986.  Enjoy.  If you have compliments--and especially if you have criticisms--post them in the comments below.  I'm always looking to improve my craft.

Photo by: Los Paseos

The Wondering Chamber

The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.  Everyone stares, mouths agape, while he marches up to the front desk.  The Cassandra Corp receptionist hasn’t seen him yet; she is busy talking on her headset phone.  The android waits for her to finish her phone call.  

Various brightly colored posters adorn the wall.  One features a little girl of color grinning, her two front teeth missing.  The poster reads, “Cassandra Corp’s wondering chamber will let me see what I should be when I grow up.”  Another features a pudgy man sitting on the couch next to an angry looking woman.  Arms crossed, brow furrowed, lips pursed, she looks away from him at the wall.  The man shrugs at the camera and below him the caption reads, “Thanks to Cassandra Corp, I can see whether we should have gotten married.”

The receptionist’s phone call ends, but she doesn’t turn to engage the android.

“Excuse me, I would like the use of a wondering chamber,” he says once she has finished.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I simply would like access to a wondering chamber.  I have money.”  As he says this, he places a card down on the counter.  “You will find 5000 credits on there.  That should be plenty.”

The woman stares at the card for a moment before turning back to the computer.

“Wondering chambers are not intended for android use.  Cassandra Corp is dedicated to the finest services possible; however, it is against company policy as well as the functionality of the chambers themselves, to service an android.  Many apologies and please have a nice day.”  

Her voice is flat and she doesn’t look at him while she speaks.

“Is there any way you could reconsid--”

The woman whirls to face him.  Her eyes are steel.  Her mouth is pressed into a tight line.

“If you don’t turn around and leave now, I will call security and report you as malfunctioning.  I’ll call for your immediate deactivation.  Do you understand me?”

He nods and turns to leave.  The other receptionists and customers have turned back to what they were doing, but he hears their whispered remarks.  

“Uppity androids.”

“What does he think he is, a human?”

A wondering chamber to his left comes open with a hiss, a giant metal egg cracking open.  The person inside stumbles out, trembling.  His eyes are wide.  His face is pale.  He slides to the ground next to the chamber and runs a hand through his hair.  When his eyes fall upon the android, he lets out a shriek and claws at the floor.

“Get that freak away from me!  He killed me!  He killed me!”

The android feels people grabbing his arms, forcing them behind his back.  He could easily throw them off and free himself, but he doesn’t.  The man in front of the wondering chamber begins rocking himself and weeping.

Downtown, the police question him for hours.  One officer, a young, fit man with sandy brown hair, leans onto the table and glares at the android over small, stylish glasses.

“How do you know that man?  Have you ever met him before?”

The android accesses his memory banks and runs a facial recognition scan, but turns up no results.

The second officer, a barrel-chested, older officer, scratches his graying beard and leans against the wall, crossing his arms.

“What were you doing trying to access a wondering chamber?”

“My programming does not prevent me from seeking out extracurricular activities.  I merely wanted to engage in a fantasy.”

“What could you possibly want to fantasize about?  Is there a usb port you want to plug into?  A little data exchange?” the younger one asks.

The android smiles.  “I wanted to experience what it was like to be human.”

The older officer sneers.  “You’ll never know what it’s like to be human.  You gotta have a soul for that.  You’re an appliance, an overly advanced toaster oven.”

“I am curious why we are still engaged in this.  We’ve established I’ve never encountered the man, and wondering chambers are simply dreams, correct?”

They eventually let him go.  The wondering chambers are simply for wondering.  They can’t use fantasies as evidence, even against androids.  As he leaves the station, a commercial for Cassandra Corp comes on their television screen.

As he turns a corner, someone shouts, “Hey!  You!”

The android turns and sees the man from the wondering chamber approaching him.  He has two friends with them.  They’re all wearing bulky hoodies.  The android realizes that it’s cold out.  He looks down at his synthetic skin, at his bare arms.  Perhaps a t-shirt was not the appropriate attire for this time of year.

“Why did you kill me, huh?” the man shouts.  

He rushes up to the android and begins pushing his chest.  The android doesn’t budge--he’s too heavy to be pushed.  That doesn’t stop the man.  He continues pushing the android in the chest over and over again, while his friends circle them, leering at the android and whispering insults.  From inside their hoodies, they pull out metal pipes.

The first blow connects with his shoulder.  He doesn’t think it does any internal damage, merely tears his synthetic skin.  The second blow is to his back.  Nothing.  The third blow, however, is at the base of his head.  HIs vision stutters and for a second he is blind.  He stumbles and steps on one of the men’s toes.  He hears the crunch of bones and the man howls in pain.  He tries to apologize but a blow to the throat disengages his voice box.

The man from the wondering chamber charges forward.  The android steps aside to dodge, but the man trips over the android’s foot and flies into the street at the same time as an oncoming bus.  The android hears the man’s bones crunch under the tires and looks away.

9 comments:

  1. Very cool. Minority report meets Blade Runner.

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    1. Thanks, man. And thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Totally Phillip K. Dick. I love it!
    Which I totally wrote before I read the other comment. Guess it's unanimous thus far.

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  3. I really liked this. So much fun to see the different directions everyone takes their prompts. :)

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  4. Keep me away from THESE wondering chambers! A good example of how we can be our own worst enemies!

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  5. A little bit scary, a little bit funny, very well done.

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  6. Thank you guys very much for your comments. And thanks for stopping by, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  7. Nicely done! Not enough robot stories from the robot's point of view.
    This is an excellent addition to the canon!

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  8. Great story. I love the name 'Cassandra Corp', too. It fits perfectly with the setting and the story.

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