Author: Sarah Klein

Mark stared at the screen on the small object. He shook it gently. He was fascinated it was still on. An object like this from salvage, an object he didn’t recognize – it meant it had to be at least twenty years old. As he tilted it, he saw the small black squares at the top glint in the light. Ah, solar, of course. That was so rare now he had forgotten.

There was a small screen that displayed the “input error”, several rows of buttons underneath, and holes in the side where one might put specialized wires. He pressed each button one at a time, watching as “INPUT ERROR” continued to flash across the screen – it was responding, at least.

Martin turned it and looked at the holes on the side. Most of them were tiny, but there was one about the size of a pinky finger. That would be to charge it, maybe? Mark looked around, stuck it into his pocket, and remembered it was three PM and since this wasn’t something he wanted to sell at market, he would have to put it away and look for more salvage. He sighed, shifted from foot to foot, then approached the garbage pile in front of him, using his long stick to sort through.

That night he brought it down to his workshop, but the device clicked off under the artificial light. Odd. He made a mental note to bring his tool set with him to the salvage yard tomorrow, and he’d inspect it there.

He carried it out there in the pocket of his cargo pants; he could feel its heft as reassurance it was still there. When he reached the yard the sun was already high in the sky. He told himself he should get some work done before he fiddled around with it.

It was while he was poking in a pile with his stick that he absent-mindedly put his hand into the pocket containing the object. His pinky slipped into the larger hole and he twisted it around a bit, his unconsciousness picking up on how perfectly it fit. There was a strange chirpy noise emitted from the object. Then, suddenly, he felt a crushing pain sear through it, and it was trapped. Whipping his hand out, he tried to pull his pinky out by holding the object in his other hand and tugging it, to no avail. As panic started to rise in him, he felt what seemed like a tiny needle enter his finger. He felt a bit woozy and high immediately and sat down. The panic continued to hum inside him, dulled by the disorientation of whatever had entered his bloodstream, and his limbs began to feel leaden.

He gasped as he felt what must have been wires shoved into his arm. He knew because he held up his arm, and they were beginning to spike out. The injection must have been some kind of anesthetic; he still felt somewhat distant from his core of pain and he began to thrash and flail, wires erupting out of him. After agonizing minutes it stopped, with small wires snaking out of a hundred points, threaded throughout his whole body. After the acute terror subsided, he willed himself to stand up. The wires flurried, pushed themselves into the ground, and lifted him up to his leaden, clumsy legs. He lifted his hand up, and finally loosed the object from his mangled finger. As he squinted in the sunlight, a perverse blend of man and machine, he saw the words on the screen: INPUT ACCEPTED.