Author: Katlina Sommerberg

The library doors opened, after scanning Erica’s face and bags. She came every Thursday, chocolate crescent in hand, and curled into her favorite armchair. Erica usually created digital art, but she dabbled in the ancient craft of pencil and paper today, despite the abysmal demand for traditional drawings.

After all, automation and universal basic income wrecked economics. Climate change wrecked the environment. And the fallout wrecked the human population.

The only surviving settlement, descended from the Oceanix City design, contained ten machines for every human.

In the library, more robots organized the shelves than humans visited in a week. One flew over Erica’s head as she followed it with her eyes, doodling a replica in her journal.

She had ten pages of cartoon drones by the time Joana appeared, her luminous neon green hoodie casting shifting geometric designs across the walls. Erica twirled her brown hair around the pencil, fidgeting as she looked out the window.

Last Thursday, Erica saw the woman’s screen as she labored over a poem and crawled through Twitter flash fiction hashtags; she became one of JoanaTheWanderer’s three hundred followers. Then she practiced initiating a conversation with her mirror, as she trusted AI‌ coaches more than the old school advice blogs – even if those blogs, too, were probably written by machines.

She tripped over her feet as she walked over to Joana’s table, smiling awkwardly. “You’re Joana, right? I read your micropoem about… honestly, I read all of them.” She could’ve smacked her head; the AI‌ said that was too much, too fast.

“I’m sorry, most of them are trash. I‌ can’t stand to reread anything I‌ tweet.” The oversized hoodie obscured her eyes, but her voice was friendly.

“I don’t think they are.”

“Thank you. Your journal… can I‌ see those?”

Erica passed her the journal, and a long moment passed as Joana slowly flipped through the pages. A giggle came from the hoodie, and Erica died inside, until the other woman spoke again.

“Say, let’s get a coffee. Your whimsical sketches and my trash poems aren’t too different.”