What Do You Know?

The fire was driving me higher and higher up the building, constantly licking at my ankles. Of course, eventually there was no higher. I was now stuck on the roof, hundreds of feet above the ground, help, and safety.

My mind started racing through possibilities. Maybe there would be a ladder big enough. No. Maybe I could try to head back down. No. Maybe they would put the fire out soon. No. There was no help coming. I was trapped. This was it.

I had no options left. The thought barely crossed my head and then I was doing it. I had jumped, falling almost certainly to my doom. But hey, it was my choice. It was all I had left that I could control.

Someone once said that if you’re falling you might as well flap your arms. I must admit I had never expected it to work. But as I soared over the city and then gradually came to land, I was quite glad that it had.

The Forgotten God

He looked out and all he surveyed was his. Sea, land, sky, space, the very light from the stars. He was a ruler without parallel. His word was law, his every desire realised. His rule was one of time and space, for such was his legend that were he to simply disappear one day he would merely transform into godhood, an eternal presence in the minds and actions of his servants. Under his control were an armada of ships that could blot out the sun, quite literally in fact as, on a whim, he had once called forth the inconceivable numbers of his ships to encircle a star so that no light from it could escape his clutch. As the ships then dispersed he displayed the completeness of his rule over time and space as people on worlds across the universe would look to that star, perhaps billions of years in the future, and they would see it disappear then reappear. They would know that even the heavens bowed to his rule. At times, he would hold the fate of worlds in his hands, condemn them to death and then reverse his decision just so they knew they lived at his pleasure. He did this without question or resistance for to do so would be as unfeasible as to question or resist the laws of nature. He was all of this. He was omnipotence incarnate, and he was terrified.

The ruler had not recognised the feeling at first and so had called on a physician to examine him, believing that some ailment had been so bold as to afflict him. The trembling wretch had pronounced his ruler the pinnacle of health, such that his very touch could be a salve or balm for the feeble masses of the universe. He sent the physician from his sight and eventually came to the conclusion that he was in fact terrified.

He was terrified because people were forgetting him.

It had all started one day when he was walking through some filthy neighbourhood, simply because he could. In fear and deference, the local population had fled into their dwellings at the news of his coming. That is all except for one adolescent. The ruler had rounded a corner to be confronted by this peasant. Rather than realising its mistake and removing its presence, the fiend had greeted the ruler as it would anyone who was of no consequence. In his rage, the ruler obliterated the obnoxious whelp before his guards had even moved a muscle. He removed himself from that place and had it burned to the ground to prevent any other misguided individuals afflicting him with their presence.

He had thought no more of it and had continued with his glorious reign. Then it happened again. He entered his private chamber to find someone still cleaning. Ordinarily he would have just removed such a failure from his service and sent it to the most fearsome gaol he could find. But this one had the audacity to ask him if he was the one who lived there and made so much mess. He had it fired into a star.

These two incidents had left the ruler exhausted, so he resolved to go to a more agreeable planet. He asked his ship’s captain to land next to a certain lake on a planet which he found supremely picturesque and soothing. His cruisers were always allowed to land wherever it was he desired. Normal protocols did not apply to him. He was therefore apoplectic when he was informed that a security team from the planet had been launched and were informing the captain they could not land there and would be boarded if they did not stop. As the ruler watched the planet burn under a hail of asteroids he had his fleet pick from near orbit and rain down upon it, he could only wonder what the hell was happening?

The ruler resolved that the next time an incident like this occurred he would attempt to contain his rage and have the insolent being that dared forget him, the most powerful being in existence, examined. He did not have to wait long. He entered his throne room to find all his personal guards standing to attention. All that is, except for one who remained seated and looked with confusion as to why its fellow guards were standing to attention. It looked quizzically at the being who had just entered the room. The ruler saw there was no recollection in its eyes. The forgetful guard was taken to be examined.

The ruler waited impatiently for news of why the guard had forgotten him. He had told his best physicians to leave no stone unturned, to rip the guard apart atom by atom if they had to and examine each particle of its being to find the reason it would forget the ruler. The plebeian who had first forgotten him could well have been mentally inferior to such a level that it did not recognise its ruler. But not one of his guards. They were handpicked for their physical and mental superiority, and their distinct lack of deficiencies or disloyalty. It should have been impossible for one of them to fail so appallingly, and yet it had happened. A thousand possibilities passed through his great mind. Had it been drugged? could it have been caused by a cyber implant? perhaps some strange disease had warped its mind? Whatever the reason, he was sure his physicians would find it.

They found nothing. No reason for why the guard would forget the great and terrible being that it guarded. The ruler’s personal guards were closely monitored physically so that only those in peak condition were put on active duty, so there were plenty of records for comparison. But they showed no anomalies or abnormalities. The guard was physically the same as it had been before. Every test they had done showed that it spoke what it thought was the truth and was not feigning ignorance. The ruler had the guard destroyed, it being no longer of any use, but his rage continued unabated.

Soon they numbered in their hundreds. Not long after there were thousands. Beings across the universe forgot their incomparable ruler and were taken to be examined. The ruler enacted a decree that twice a day every single being under his rule would be forced to declare their unfailing loyalty to their ruler and they would speak his name. Anyone failing to come to his officials was taken for examination. Anyone that came but had forgotten his name was taken. Any official that forgot who the name belonged to that people kept saying to them was taken. Physicians, scientists, mystics, shamans, spiritualists, all were used to try and uncover why the ruler was being forgotten. But to no avail. They were forgetting him, and more and more kept on forgetting him.

A man woke up one day. He was surprised because he did not remember going to sleep. In fact, he did not remember anything at all. The room he was in was audaciously grand, and large. He thought he would surely remember being in this place before, but he did not. The man left the room to try and find out something, anything, about where he was, and more importantly who he was. The entire building, or palace he supposed was a better word for it, was just as grand and ostentatious as the room he had awoken in.

The man heard a commotion somewhere up ahead and went toward it, hoping to encounter someone who knew more than he did. As he went he passed a mirror and looked at his reflection. The man was surprised to see he was clothed incredibly richly, regally one might say. But he had no clue as to why he would be wearing them. More importantly he was looking at a face that he did not recognise, even if the face was his.

The man came to the source of the commotion. It was in a room that was full of impressive and expensive looking items. Well, less full than it had been. There were dozens of people going about with arms full of artefacts and pieces that must have been priceless. One of them noticed him enter the room. “Hey,” it called out to him. “Where did you find the clothes? Are their more?”

“I don’t know. I woke up wearing them. Who lives here?” the man replied.

“I don’t know. Nobody does. But its full of expensive stuff like this so it might as well be mine.” The thief went to make off but the man stopped him before he went.

“Excuse me, but do you know who I am?” the man said. The thief would have just left him for asking such a stupid question, but something in the man’s voice made him wait. “No I don’t. Why who are you?”

“I don’t know,” said the man. As the thief made off with his haul the man muttered “I’ve forgotten.”

 

The Curious Case of the Writer Without A Story

The two detectives entered the building. They had been warned about what they would find inside. But even so…

“In the name of all the saints, sinners, and Police Academy sequels. What the shit happened here?” exclaimed Detective Inspector Arnold. DI McAllister nodded his agreement “I don’t think I ever want to know.”

They were looking at a scene of absolute chaos. Book pages were plastered over every available surface. Someone had then scrawled over them with notes, some of which were fairly innocuous such “character development” while others were slightly more indecipherable such as “the red lady cannot fly at night for then the kittens would not play”.

“The mind is an intriguing thing,” muttered DI Arnold.

They moved through the wreckage, passed a TV set that had been battered to pieces, underneath and around precarious towers of tables, chairs, and sofas, searching for the occupant, also known as: “the source of the smell”.

“Why did it take the neighbours so long to call this in?” asked Arnold.

“They said he was always a bit off.” They opened an upstairs room. Arnold gagged.

“You can say that again. It’s so tidy in here. The paper in front of him hasn’t even got a mark on it.”

“He’s still got a pen in his hand. You don’t suppose all of this was because he had writers block or something?”

“Are you suggesting this daft bastard went so loopy to do all that shit downstairs and starve himself to death just because he couldn’t think of anything to write?”

There was one sheet of paper screwed up and thrown in the bin. McAllister opened it and then handed it to Arnold who read it allowed: “writer’s block’s a bitch.”

A Human Feeling

Alexandra was in shock. A robot had just told her it loved her.

How quickly she had become reductive. Not five minutes ago the thing before had been her friend, Simon, who she had laughed with, worked with, had meaningful and intelligent conversations with. There were moments when she forgot that underneath the human exterior he was artificial, and not flesh and blood.

But when it, he, had told her he loved her she had disregarded it completely. “You don’t mean that,” she said.

“I do. Truly, I love you,” said Simon, as human sounding as anything.

“How can you though? You’re-“

“A robot? Yes. But all the same, I am in love with you.”

“But how can you know what it even feels like?”

Simon looked like he was getting angry now. “How does anyone know what it feels like? They don’t until they do, and I do. Why is it so hard for you to accept? Why is it this that makes you think of me as a robot? Until now we’ve been friends. How could you think of me as a friend if you didn’t believe I had some feeling of affection for you? And is it then really that great a leap to love?”

“Because…” said Alexandra. “Because no one has ever said they love me, robot or human. Because I haven’t had a meaningful relationship in thirteen years. Because all my life I never thought I would find love. Because I started to love you. Because I’m afraid.”

His arms wrapped around her and they were the most human thing she had ever felt.

The Last Hangover on Earth

It took a moment for Francisco to remember what all the sirens meant. Eventually they split through his hangover and into the memory centre of his brain and he remembered that the world was ending today.

He stumbled through into his living room. An orange glow touched everything. There were bottles everywhere. “At least I won’t have to clean up,” Francisco thought. He found someone’s trousers and clumsily hopped into them. In his mind, he was trying to do some complicated equations to decide if he had time for breakfast. Looking at the time though he realised he had continued to sleep even after the siren had begun. Solar flares would probably already be licking at the planet’s surface, besides, if he didn’t go soon the siren would probably reduce him to bashing his own skull in.

Francisco walked out onto his personal landing platform and into an oven. The protective dome didn’t seem to be worth a damn now. Every breath he took felt like it was singeing away his lungs. He looked over the Kinshasa/Brazzaville skyline for the last time. The mighty Congo river had been reduced to a trickle, blasted away by solar radiation. There was no longer a sky, the sun covered it all. “Time to go,” Francisco said sounding to himself very small. He hopped into his flyer and was quickly away, sending a signal to the dome which allowed his ship to pass through it. Thinking about he decided he was incredibly lucky that the dome’s systems still worked given the immense strain they must now be under.

He flew away from the equator and then out into space. Once he had gotten far enough away he turned to look back to see the Earth engulfed by the Sun.

That Night We Shared Together

I was running as soon as the sirens started screaming their warning. Soon the whirring of plane engines joined and then it was all drowned out by the explosions of the bombs.

My flight was aimless. It was a few minutes before I realised where I was. I jumped over the garden fence knowing there was a shelter. You were bemused by my unexpected entrance. Sweaty, panting, and terrified, stripped momentarily of my newfound adulthood, you instinctively comforted me.

The bombs kept falling and we started talking. Neither of us knew where our families were. We hoped they were ok. You remembered me from school, the year below and always falling over. I was embarrassed but you found me endearing. I wanted to join the army. You wanted to go to America. You laughed at my jokes and came closer to me. I got anxious and said I should leave. You said it wasn’t safe and that I should stay.

You and I came together and I do not know if the bombs stopped falling or I ceased to care. War and danger and bombs no longer mattered, only you and I, and us.

The next night the bombs fell again. But I was already at home and could not come to you. I came for you the next day. But there was only rubble to greet me and so I left, and could not decide if I had been cheated or blessed.

How They Found Her

It was Roger who first suggested we start looking for her. He had heard something from a friend of a friend and that was enough for him. I didn’t believe him at first. But Roger has a way of being very convincing.

So, we started looking for her. At first it was all just research. Hours, and days, and weeks. I started dreaming about her. She was all I could think of. It was good they were my only friends. I don’t think I could have maintained any other relationships.

At last it was time to actually look for her. After all that research, we were certain. Overly confident. That was bad. We did not allow for the possibility we were wrong, did not even consider it. But we were. Disappointment doesn’t even come close. We were all angry and we took it out on each other. That could have been it and indeed we almost did give up straight away. However, within a few days we were researching again, double and triple checking, and preparing ourselves for more failures.

Failure followed failure. At first, we were ok with that. We had prepared ourselves this time, and we felt like we were making progress, coming closer, just missing her. Failure took a toll though. Some did leave us. Life beyond the search ceased to exist for those of us that remained.

It happened to be completely innocuous. It was another possible lead, which was just what we considered an unconfirmed failure. Spirits were low, all passion was gone. We were like junkies just doing what we had to. We opened the door, and there she was.