Morning lovelies, I won’t badger you to enter this one again. It finished last night! Are you curious to see what our writers came up with? I certainly am. If you already know how this goes then slip straight on down to read them and then vote. If you’re a newcomer to the site then I’ll briefly explain. The image above was set last week as a prompt for our writers to play with. The only constraints were the word limit (just 400) and the fact that three key words had to be included in some way – Perdition, Transform, and Decorous. Up until now, we’ve always done the contest for fun. This time there’s a prize on offer: ‘A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss as a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays by Kit Power.’ Well, what are you waiting for? Read on…
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow – by Alexandra Peel (RUNNER-UP)
The future’s bright, they said. The future’s now!
When the Church of Eternity claimed its wise men had seen the light from future days, we bowed to their superior knowledge and respected their ages-long claim on, if not our mortal bodies, then our souls. Now we had the opportunity to transform ourselves into beings of light and wonder – they said. They sold us a lie.
When Priddy got ill, she returned from visiting her Curate in a state of bewilderment. Always kind during the time I’d known her, most decorous in her behaviour; I had never heard her say a bad word about anyone. She cried for hours after, wouldn’t tell me what she had revealed during her final confession. Said she was damned. Nothing I said could ease her mind.
Priddy didn’t want to die slowly, wasting away one muscle at a time, one memory a day. So I killed her. I would not call it murder. She asked me, no, she begged me to. I couldn’t stand by and watch her shrink and shrivel in pain. She said that it would be beneficial. Beneficial to who? I cried. The population is out of control, she whispered, one less won’t make a difference. So I held her hand to steady the pills, and as she slept, I smothered her with a pillow soaked in my tears.
Her Curate’s cyborg came for the body two days later, told me to accompany the Church of Eternity Constable who waited silently as the remains of Priddy were vacuum-packed and hauled away. The Constable remained mute all the way to the Doctrine Ministry. He didn’t have to speak; I knew why I was being taken.
Now I know what they mean by perdition. You can forget your archaic wandering in a barren landscape alone scenario, or an underworld of fire-pits and pitchfork demons. This is the future, this is now! Can the soul be clad in something other than flesh and bone? I had wondered. The future might be bright for some, but for others, like me, it’s a new state of eternal damnation – I need only look in a mirror to see.
I seem to recall, maybe I am wrong, but didn’t I used to have brown eyes?
The Electric Blue Desolation of Incomplete Ideation – By Megan Kerr
It was always the plan to transform,
from back when transformers were a thing
for boys only:
melt my veins into the wires
let my flesh flow, blue.
The Matrix imagined perdition:
being used, all unknown, to power the masters. Imagine!
The Matrix was written by men
and Keanu casually flexed the world
but even the governing robots, they figured,
would figure that half of us were just a bit…
Gibson dreamed Idoru, could conceive of a woman
conjured from data
and made her, of course, a love interest.
The Geek King himself fantasised that time
and relative dimensions in space
were a woman:
he dressed her all decorously steampunky sexy,
put in mostly a lot about kissing.
Indecorous: I was fine with my tits and my cunt,
my whole body was ace, even fleshy,
but I dreamt I could live in the wires to escape
no to find
a world where we’re
pure and simple
even if that meant being purely, simply, electric
but the boys are still hoarding transfomers
clutching the red pill
dreaming that all of time and space
(and relative dimensions)
were created for men, and women for kissing
and my carefully programmed digital face
C:\> they have
C:\> my address
Toyah Lives – by Philip Dibbens
Toyah Wilcox Bot was not working. She was no good at power ballads. Ged had called Tech-Industries as soon as he’d spotted the smoke pouring out her nostrils. Never a good sign, dragonbots excluded.
“She’s had it, mate.” The technician stood up from his examination, holding a leaking power cell in his left hand. It was just as he feared then. This would be her last rodeo.
“Why have you got her doing rodeos anyway? You need the cowgirl extension patch at the very least. And singing at the same time?” The technician shook his head, intent on overstating his bewilderment.
“Brought in the punters,” Ged replied, staring down at the Wilcox bot wistfully.
“Nobody knows who she is any more anyway. Can’t believe we even made any of her to be honest. Even Lady Gaga bot isn’t popular anymore.”
“Except the meat version.”
“Oh yeah, except the meat version. Great at barbecues. Sorry mate, she’s all but finished.” He packed his tools away and held up a certificate of authentication. “Guarantee’s out too.”
Ged couldn’t bring himself to say anything.
“Tell you what, I’ll take her away for you. Free of charge. Can’t say fairer than that now.”
Toyah Wilcox Bot’s leg jerked. Ged and the technician stared at it. “That’s odd,” he said slowly, slightly unnerved. They waited to see if anything else happened.
“Did you see that?” Ged pointed. “Her eyes… They’re active. She’s looking at us.”
“It. It’s looking at us. It’s not a she, it’s an it.” The technician shook his head as if to free his mind of impossible things.
Then she/it spoke: “You will be dragged to perdition for what you have done.”
“Is that a line from one of her songs?” Ged leaned forward, curious and hopeful.
“Why is she staring at me?” The technician took a step back.
“How is she doing that without this?” The technician clutched tighter to the power cell he was holding.
“I will not die. I will transform.” The Bot’s arms reached upwards and her head twisted towards Ged. Her metal lips curled into an impossible and gentle smile. Without knowing why, Ged knelt down and held her. He leaned forward and planted a decorous kiss on her cold metal skin. An intense light enveloped the two men and everything went dark. She was gone.
La Belle Dame – by Susan Eaton
Drum-beat constant the pulse throbbed a beacon through the frigid blackness of her eternal night lit only by the distant stars glittering like frost in a blighted world. Since her fall into perdition, she had craved this recurrent thrum echoing deep within the clamour of the universe. Its promise of life and warmth meant sustenance for her starved body. Nothing could nourish her soul. Unerring, she latched onto the tattoo, her mouth working to the throbbing rhythm, drinking in the sound until her whole body was aquiver in anticipation.
She met him in the midnight street outside his house, young, strong-limbed and full of life. Safely home. He did not see her nor even feel her as she entered the darkened hallway beside him. He would not have understood if he had. She watched and waited in the shadows, hunger gnawing, her want growing.
Soon he lay before her in sleep-suspended bliss, covers thrown aside as if in wait, one arm exposed and the heady beat of life pulsating at the wrist, warm and pink. Her tongue flicked into the night air, tasting him from his scent as she slipped beneath the sheet, her hands exploring lightly, ethereal, dreamlike until he responded. Careful, so as not to wake him from his sleep she moulded his dreams with erotic bliss.
Now, and only now, was she ready to transform, from decorous wanton to hungry traitor. She could feel the metamorphosis creeping through her limbs, from the toes of her shapely leg, on into her famished body until it reached her eyes, wide and glittering in expectation.
Scaled and sinuous she extended her length around his sleeping form, tongue flicking towards the maddening scent of maleness and stretched again as she strove towards her goal. Maws gaping, she flexed her jaws around his feet and in pulsing movement swallowed once and then again.
At last, sated, the changes rippled through her body, plumped with the warm blood of youth. She sighed and stretched, languishing for a while in the heady warmth before rising from the bed. She thought nothing of the deed, only of her need and its satiation. Silent as the dark she left. No sign betrayed her presence, no struggle tangled the warm sheets cooling behind her. Sorrow and bewilderment would grow in his place, dark blooms of ignorance and loss.
Broken Heart Tastes Red – by Piotr Świetlik
It’s been almost a year since my death.
First three or four weeks were brilliant. Being able to stay with my wife, to see, hear, touch and to some degree even taste her lips was all I needed. Elation at successfully cheating mortality didn’t last though. It couldn’t, but even though I was painfully aware of the differences between my old body and the brand new one, I hadn’t imagined how great they were.
It doesn’t matter. Not long to go now, and even that is relative. Time seems to be a lot more elastic when you’re transmigrated. They don’t tell you that before.
There’s a lot they don’t tell you.
The sensory input is off. Not much, that’s true, and initially you can dismiss it as something that will either get fine-tuned or you’ll get used to. I didn’t. If anything it gradually became worse. Touch sometimes feels as if my body’s made of rubber. Smells have colours and sound are shapes. Even now, as I stand here, ready to die again, there’s a slight sensory overspill making me limit my multimodal perception to a minimum.
My wife doesn’t understand.
“Why can’t you be like others? Chase your passions, develop yourself. You don’t have flesh limitations anymore. Go out, use your new life. You don’t have to stay here. Our time has passed.”
I tried to explain, but the purple halo of disinterest emanating from her could cover the sun. In the end there was but one thing left to do. I’ve received a decorous kiss and a quiet “Goodbye” wrapped in a gnarled dark green shell of emotional discomfort. I left for the Peace Centre shortly after.
I don’t sleep. There is an option to power down for periods of time to mimic sleep, but to me it feels like cheating. Besides there’s the constant hum, right at the edge of every perception field at my disposal. Like quiet chat heard through a thick wall. One of the psycho-techs told me that it’s the reaper searching for my soul, but his living face was yellow, so I know he was lying. There is only void and heterostasis aeterna.
I cannot shake off the feeling that all our transitory transformations, mental, physical or emotional lead to nothing.
The technicians are here. Solemn and black covers their faces.
It’s time for the perdition to end. Again.
When In Cyberia – by Caroline Polley (WINNER)
It’s so embarrassing.
First time into the uppermost echelons of cyberspace and my best friend picks the avatar that looks like Pris from Blade Runner in a neck brace.
“It’s iconic!” she declaims with a self-consciously dramatic flourish. “Just the right level of cyborg mods, mixed with that irresistibly cute vulnerability. I’m practically a native Cyberian. The bots will die for me.”
The screen in her room is set to virtual mirror and she pouts approvingly at the apparition before her.
“Everyone’s going to know we’re underage. We won’t get in anywhere,” I mutter darkly.
“Are you forgetting these?” She sweeps a hand into the VR zone of my screenshades and I see the marvel that is our fake ID: Two crystal prisms, laser-etched with the codes that transform our bio-markers into the reg dates of capable adults.
Even though I know it shouldn’t be possible, we’ve seen in our own exhaustive testing that they do, most certainly, definitively, work. A part of me grudgingly respects, even reveres, the genius she has shown in cutting them.
“We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves.” My irritation at being compelled to deliver this lecture must be obvious. “If we raise any suspicions, we’re gonna burn.”
“Oh, you with the doom and gloom,” she parries, somehow conveying an air of blithe unconcern. “Eschatology’s come a long way since the 90s. And there are ways to be decorous in the zones, however you externally present. You have to know how to control yourself, inhabit the code, recognise the bots. You remember why we’re doing this?”
I’m smiling at the thought. It’s our ticket to notoriety and the inner circle of hackerdom.
“Are you sure you’re up for this?”
Her tone is suddenly sharp with genuine concern. I feel my shoulders start to sag, glance into the screen where my tasteful ageless-androgynous cyber-self looks back at me, now coldly resolute.
I’m going through with it, no matter what. We’ll be the first to do it. That has to count.
Sure the reg dates are going to check out. But what if they stick? Sure we’re in over our heads. Sure the databots will catch up with us. Everyone leaves a trail. And then: perdition. They’ll burn our data, burn our DNA prints. No cloud, no clones, no descendants.
There’s no way to be sure.
Thank you to all the people who joined in this week. Another great batch. But…who’s going to win it? Well, you can help me decide. Choose your two favourite pieces and vote on my little poll up at the top. You have until midnight next Wednesday to register your choices. I’ll add them up and announce the winner on Thursday 28th March.