My Feminine Ideal

Author : Ray Gregory

I could get any woman in this bar I want, but she’s the one. I mean, what a babe: blond, built, just check out those knockers! Now she’s hitting on me even harder than I’m hitting on her, like neither of us can wait.

We find a corner table. The place is packed, everybody busy with their own chatting and hooking up. So who’ll notice, right? I slide a hand under her skirt, inch my fingers up her warm, silky inner thigh.

She grabs my wrist. “Not here, big boy. Let’s blow this dive.”

“Sure, babe” — I can’t even remember her name. “My car’s right out front.”

Her eyes twinkle. “So’s my van. It’s plenty comfy too.” She drags her tongue across her gleaming teeth, then her full, ripe lips.

Next thing I know, I’m pushing through the crowd, hustling her out of the place. We stumble to her van, groping each other all the way. She yanks open the back door. “Climb in there, big boy.”

I bow, sweep my hand. “Lady’s first.” I mean, why not ogle her fine ass wriggling into that van?

She grins, swats my ass. “Forget the gentleman act. Get in there — and get ready.”

I giggle like the drunken — and excited — fool I am, then climb into the dark interior.

“That’s a good boy,” then she slams the door closed behind me!

“What the…” I spin, grope for the door handle, but there isn’t one. No windows either. I feel around in the darkness. Just the smooth, cold metal door and walls.

“Don’t be afraid.” It’s her voice from a speaker. She sounds weirdly professional now. “We’re still gonna — mate, but under controlled conditions.”

“Mate? Who the hell are you? Let me outta here.” I bang on the metal walls with my fists. It’s like I’m trapped in some black-as-hell echo chamber. Help me, somebody. Anybody?

“Don’t worry. The subjective experience should even be pleasurable. Isn’t pleasure, especially the pleasure of sex, what you care about most?”

“Stupid bitch!” I pound the door. “What the hell kinda freak are you?”

She snickers. “I seem to be smarter, and more human, than you.”

“Let — me — outta — here.”

“Just lie down now and get comfortable, then I’ll — join you.”

I bang even harder. “Let me the fuck outta here!”

“Don’t be such a baby. Didn’t I tell you there’s nothing to fear? What, are you even afraid of yourself?”

I stop banging. “What are you talking about, you crazy bitch?”

“You still don’t get it, do you? I’m you — half of you anyway. I’m your feminine side. You suppressed me years ago. That’s why you’re purely male now, and such an asshole.”

I stumble backward. “What the…”

“Remember the last time your girlfriend, Brenda Olsen, discovered you cheating on her? That was the last straw for Brenda. So one night while you were sleeping, she had a team from Psychotronic Simulations scan your brain.”

“Brenda? She what?”

“Psychotronic Simulations reverse engineered a new and enhanced version of your mind’s feminine side, namely — me. The body I used to lure you into the neurofusion chamber was just a luxury sexbot.”

My jaw drops. Suddenly I’m more scared than drunk.

“You see, Brenda arranged an intervention, or more precisely, an integration. It’ll be a wonderful merger too: you and me, a complete person again, plus monogamous and faithful too. So be a good boy now and lie down for me. It’ll be easier if you just relax, just think about — oh, maybe flowers and butterflies.”

 

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Pest Control

Author : Sarah Crysl Akhtar

They said no pets. I’d felt a little guilty, a little bit not quite truthful, but I hadn’t made a home for it or anything, no tank on the windowsill; just sometimes carried it inside, from the garden, and then took it back out again. If it wanted to be friends with me, I’d thought defensively, nobody said I couldn’t have a friend!

And you don’t think of something, a hamster or a toad, as being the same as you. You might think, my pet’s so smart! But smart for a hamster, of course.

And you don’t think, do you, about what things so small as that want? You don’t ask yourself, does this goldfish really want to go home with me and live in a glass bowl? You’re the only one with a choice about it.

So I was sad, putting the little thing back in the garden for the last time; the last time looking into its little bright eyes that looked back at me with recognition and, I thought, affection. I patted it on its little furry behind and said scoot! and turned away with the wet glimmer of tears in my own eyes.

Little things like that, smarter than you think, can get back inside if they want. You’d notice a cat or a dog of course, but something that small, hops in, creeps in wherever it finds a way, if it wants.

Crept out of something the grownups carried in, once we’d taken off and it was too late to do anything about it. Clever, not to hide in my things. It’s kids they always distrust, that you won’t follow the rules, that you don’t understand how important they are. The adults get only cursory scans, because of course they know everything, don’t they?

We go a lot of places we’re not invited. Big and smart and with all those really high-tech weapons–is a gerbil going to stop us?

They hadn’t liked us coming at all, and even though it was just one research station to start, they actually were smart enough to know that was only the beginning.

I must have had a natural immunity that only got stronger, from picking it up all the time and all. Of course it knew that because I wasn’t dead. And it did seem to like me. Back home, in our own garden, all carbon-based life forms, it found plenty it was able to eat. It was already pregnant or whatever you’d call it, with little things like that, and they’re just like rats, or rabbits, or whatever, they breed really fast.

That natural immunity, turned out it was pretty rare, and the first contact was usually all it took. They weren’t vicious, or anything. I know; after all, I’m sort of like their pet, now.

It was just, they didn’t want us coming back.

 

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The Uncanny Valley

Author : Page LePage

My wife is angry. I have no idea what I’ve done.

“DESTRUCTION SEQUENCE INITIATED.”

It’s at times like these that I know my brother Shen was right when he told me I should have married something with more sophisticated logic calibration — or at least a better emotional processor.

“SELF-DETONATION IN 10, 9, 8–”

I grit my teeth together. “Abort auto-destruct.”

Her eyes twinkle at my concession, a miniature light show in progress in her sockets. “REQUEST GRANTED.”

“You know, Delta, I really wish you wouldn’t initiate your emergency protocols at the first sign of conflict.”

She stands there mutely.

I sigh. She’s never been much of a conversationalist. I’d skimped on those features, too, on the initial install, not wanting a companion who’d talk my ear off. I’ve had enough experience hanging out with Shen and his model Gamma with her incessant “did you know” followed by interjections of factoids only tangentially related to the situation at hand. “Boy, honey your skin looks lovely today.” “Did you know that the skin is the largest organ of the human body, while the liver is the largest organ in the human body?” No thank you.

But sometimes, the silence gets to you. If you can call it that. There’s a subtle humming when she’s operative. I thought I’d learn to block it out after a while but no dice. I often ponder switching her off.

“YOU WERE THINKING ABOUT GAMMA AGAIN.”

“No, Honey, I wasn’t,” I say.

“THAT IS A LIE.”

Technically she’s right of course. I was thinking about my Shen’s wife but not in the way she’s implying. “Delta, it’s not like that.”

“YOU WISH YOU HAD PURCHASED THE GAMMA MODEL. YOU CONSIDER ME AN INFERIOR UNIT.”

Again, what she’s saying is true, though taken out of context, blown out of proportion. I wonder what aberrant biorhythms she’s picking up, how she detects my deception. She either has a specialized chip or was initialized to be insecure and skeptical. Either way, it’s highly irritating. I sigh. “It’s late, Delta. Are you coming to bed?”

I hear her internal fan kick on, and the whirring grows louder. She is apparently working through complex processes, working out an algorithm to weigh pros and cons. I turn from her, change quickly into my pajamas, crawl beneath the covers.

“REQUEST GRANTED,” she finally replies, switching off the light and climbing in beside me.

Touch is the one sensation the designers got absolutely correct. She backs into me so I’m holding her. Her skin is soft and warm. I smooth her stray hairs from her face. “Good night, Delta,” I say. As her gentle hum lulls me to sleep, I let my mind wander, make a quick mental note to call Shen tomorrow and see if he and Gamma would like to have dinner.

“YOU’RE THINKING OF HER, AREN’T YOU?”

It’s going to be a long night.

 

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Revolution Out of Darkness

Author : Gordon Day

The man was dressed in ivory and on his chest for all to see was a red bolt, declaring his allegiance to the Militant Atheist order. His audience did not know it yet, but he would be the last to publicly wear it.

His lightly freckled cheeks begin to vibrate in tune to his lips as he turned on his PA system and began his speech.

“The world is a carnival of sins, temptations, sorceries, and fear organized by men who claim their faith holds them above such vice. They promise to deliver from the bite of reality and to place you into the hands of God. He will lighten your load, they say. The captain of his ship will take you through the straits, where vile cliffs of indecency border on each side. If you do not wish to pay for charter you are left on the beach of a world crumbling apart. And if you cannot suffer his orthodox rule while aboard, you are thrown into the salty depths.”

His bulky, but soft frame had become the object of a small collection of consciousness.

“But brothers and sisters, I ask you to divorce such rancid and illogical thoughts from your head. The parcel with which man has been burdened with is not sin, but intellect. It is not our task to carry it to the top of a mountain to sacrifice, but to carry it through the universe in an effort to understand how chaos is ordered. We are not the product of a divine manifestation, but of the natural tendency for reproduction to overcome the static and inert.”

The crowd had grown larger as the freako unhinged his jaws and openly defied not just God, but the society that had long since rejected the need for science.

“We must rise from the mud that we have mistaken for gold. We must open not our hearts, but our minds. We must expand past the limits of spirituality and discover the boundaries of our physical and glorious reality. Life is meant for-”

A thunderous cascade of lightning erupted from the sky. The crowd recoiled a half second to late as the heretic was consumed in light, a black imprint against so much white.

*******
Edson scanned the courtyard again. There was no undue damage, though the radiation would cling to the stucco of the houses for a couple of months. And he did not see any more ivory fools. He leaned back in his chair and said, “Hey boss, looks like the satellite flattened him. And I don’t see any more mice in the underbrush.”

The commander replied, “That’s good, imagine, going into the capital city, and trying a stunt like that. He might have actually started a revolution out of the darkness!”

 

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Googling Tinkerbell

Author : George S. Walker

Before the EMP went off, the sky over Stonehenge had been aflitter with fairies scattering pixie dust.

Agent Jack Bishop pulled off his mirrorshades as tourists around him tried to blink away the afterimage of the electromagnetic flash.

“Mummy,” said a little girl, “the fairies are gone.”

“They’ll be back, Love.”

No, thought Jack, they won’t. His days of swatting fairies with rolled-up newspapers were over. Surreptitiously, he looked down at the remote in his hand. After triggering the EMP device, it was dead, like every electronic device for miles. People were vainly fingering their phones, checking the earbuds on their iPods. An excited swell of conversation replaced the electronic void.

Whistling, Jack strode down the road away from the standing stones, passing frustrated drivers behind the wheels of stalled cars. He was already dreaming about spending his mission bonus. If Queen Camilla and Charles realized what the CIA had done here today, they’d be Royally pissed. But the British military-industrial complex would thank him.

In a meadow, he saw two little boys in the middle of a fairy ring, mushrooms forming a circle around them. They were searching desperately through the grass and clapping to bring back the fairies.

He shouted, “Man up!”

They looked at him, startled.

“Go home and play Black Ops or something!”

Not in a home near here, of course, for he’d fried their Xboxes.

As he continued along the road, a driver stepped out of his Mini and waved to him. “What happened at the Stones, mate?”

“Fireworks. Having car problems?”

The man nodded. “I hope some brownies come along soon to fix it.”

Don’t hold your breath, thought Jack.

The fairies, brownies and sprites were a plague on the world’s economy. Ever since the web ads proclaiming, “Click if you believe,” fairy sightings had multiplied, starting at Stonehenge. This was the nexus, the portal between the real electronic world and the mushy green fantasy one. As the Director said, “The bucks stopped here.”

When Jack checked into his hotel, the clerk apologized for the power and phone outage. “I’m sure they’ll have it fixed by nightfall, sir.”

They didn’t. When Jack went to bed, the only light was moonlight.

But he awoke the next morning to the normal rumble of traffic outside. Sunlight leaked through the curtains. He was about to turn on the television to check if Wall Street was celebrating, when he remembered: the EMP had fried the TV.

Then he noticed a flicker of motion above the dresser. He saw his dead iPhone on top of it. But he distinctly remembered tossing it in the wastebasket last night. The back cover had been removed, the circuit board exposed. Next to it, an incredibly tiny soldering iron was plugged into an acorn.

The phone rang. Jack picked it up gingerly.

“They’re back,” said the Director.

 

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