These Are The Stories Part VIII
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Partner"
Originally featured on 03-05-2010
As part of our series "The Things We Change When We Want To Make That Big Change"

The narrator was on his phone again.

“Hey, I thought we were doing this thing together…”

The narrator paced around the room.

“Well, I’ve been here, but that doesn’t explain where you are…”

The narrator rolled his eyes and shook his head, furious.

“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve tried to give you everything you wanted. At least, what you seemed like you wanted…”

The narrator held the phone away from his ear to silently growl at it.

“We’re partners aren’t we?! Otherwise, there’s no point! So get here!!”

The narrator flipped the phone shut. He took in a big breath through his nose. Then after a crestfallen second, he sighed it back out.

Then he began again.

 

 

***

 

 

In the now non-existent future, Brick Jones wakes up in master bedroom of his mansion. Brick rolls over and snuggles up to his latest love. She lies perfectly quiet on her side, still in sleep mode. Brick inches his body closer and is happy to find hers cold yet soft. Brick looks around at the walls of his bedroom and guesses that it is about ten in the morning. Brick savors these mid-morning moments of silence, the moments before he wakes her. These are the precious moments where Brick can be alone without feeling lonely.

The French double doors leading out onto his balcony is open. Spring air blows in and Brick watches the black silk curtains float up with it, reaching out into the room, towards the silent couple—like the hands of a wraith or a reaper, thinks Brick. But Brick has developed a rather morbid world view lately.

Brick has recurring dreams. Brick has a number of them. Sometimes he sees what he thinks is the apocalypse. In that dream, there is a great divide—a canyon. On each side of the canyon, which Brick believes is meant to separate the wicked from the pure, there are fires and scorched earth and figures, people, running for their lives while burning alive. In that dream, nobody is saved. Nobody except Brick, who watches it all from behind glass.

In another, Brick is poor—a slave. He pushes a turnstile, endlessly. He is chained to it. The weight is heavy and the sun beats down on him. His feet are sore and his back aches. The spit in his mouth tastes like anti-freeze, but he cannot spit it out because there is no water and dry mouth would be worse. Brick stumbles, landing on his knees and braces for the whip which he knows is coming and with gusto. His eyes tear up and his mouth fills with sand. It is this dream from which Brick has the hardest time waking up.

Brick looks for a moment more at the black hands of silk reaching out towards him and his new love, before reaching his hand onto her chest to wake her— by turning her on.

“Good morning, Brick,” says Informatica.

“Good morning, baby,” says Brick, still snuggled close.

“Oh, Brick.”

“Yeah, baby,” says Brick planting a kiss below her ear, rubbing his chin against her neck ports.

“You are aroused,” says Informatica.

Brick tangles his leg with Informatica’s. He moves his hand down from the button on her breast to her stomach, pulling her closer to him.

“It’s the morning.”

“You are highly aroused,” says Informatica.

Informatica turns her head to meet Brick’s lips. They kiss, and Informatica rolls over to face him.

“Are you aroused?” says Brick.

“Brick, you know the answer,” says Informatica.

Brick brushes Informatica’s hair back away from her face.

“I know, I know. But if you weren’t programmed to please me? If pleasing me didn’t matter? If you were programmed to love freely?”

Informatica leaned forward to kiss Brick’s nose. She looked into his eyes, running her index finger from his chin down along his chest.

“Tell me again,” says Informatica.

Brick looks into her eyes and grins. “You understand love more than any human girl I’ve known. You understand me more than any human girl I’ve known. And I love you more than I’ll ever love any fully-human girl.”

“Oh, Brick!” Informatica kisses him passionately. Her tongue in his mouth, her hands wrap around his body and begin to squeeze and caress. Brick’s eyes roll back in his head, which pushes back onto the pillow as Informatica climbs on top of him and then kisses her way down his chest to his stomach to his brick.

“Oh, Tica,” gasps Brick, raising his head to watch his duvet flutter at inhuman speeds. Brick’s head falls back onto his pillow as gasps, “Oh, Tica. Oh, Tica. You understand love…more than any human woman.”

Brick sits upright against his headboard, with Informatica huddled tightly against his side, cheeks twitching. Brick Jones flips through the morning paper. The now-non-existent article he comes to focuses on a large meteor headed for Earth.

“This is horrible,” says Brick.

“The meteor?”

“You know about it?”

“I do. It was included today’s AP Cyborg download,” says Informatica, huddling closer to Brick’s side.

“Is it serious,” asks Brick.

“It is twelve-thousand, seven hundred and fifty-six kilometers in diameter. The largest meteor ever to approach Earth.”

“This is horrible,” says Brick, turning from the paper to Informatica. “Tell me more.”

Informatica moves so that she is leaning on her elbow facing Brick. Brick takes his Dilbert mug of coffee from the nightstand and sips.

“The meteor’s size and trajectory were confirmed last night. It is on a collision course with Earth’s projected position two months from today. NASA has estimated the effect on Earth as being catastrophic, beginning with a series of level 7 earthquakes and class 5 tsunamis as the shockwaves from the initial impact reverberate along the Earth’s crust.”

Brick’s eyes widen. “This is really horrible!”

“NSF projected a scenario in which the meteor, partially engulfed in flames from entry through the Earth’s atmosphere, sets fire to most of the Earth’s surface and evaporates five of the Earth’s oceans before collision occurs, making the earthquakes and tsunamis a catastrophic formality, since life will have already been extinguished.”

Brick lets out a deep breath and looks at the black silk reaching towards the bed. “Everyone running around on fire.”

“NASA has responded that the intense precipitation predicted in Coconino county and the surrounding areas will cool the meteor significantly, making the flames a formality, only producing enough heat to engulf Coconino county and the surrounding area, and that the earthquakes and tsunamis the primary extinguisher of human life. NSF has yet to respond.”

Brick looked back at Informatica. “Wait, Coconino county? That sounds familiar. Where is the collision expected to occur?”

“The epicenter of the collision is expected to occur half a mile south of the Grand Canyon.”

Brick gags on a mouthful of coffee, some dribbling down his chin.

“Oh, Brick,” says Informatica, wiping it with her hand.

“Can they stop it?” gargles Brick.

“As of this morning, there is no realistic plan to prevent the collision,” says Informatica.

“As of this morning…” mumbles Brick, looking again at the curtains, now hanging still. “Wait, Informatica, did you know about this before we made love?”

“My downloads are set to automatically occur, however, my processor’s focus was on you from the time I returned from sleeping. I only became conscious of the information after we were finished with our physical affection ritual.”

Brick looks closely at Informatica.

“I didn’t know, Brick,” says Informatica.

“Okay. I’m sorry,” says Brick.

“An apology is not necessary. It is understandable question, given the nature of human affections and their direct relationship to the absence of secrecy.”

Informatica shakes her head. “Brick, what I mean is…I understand.”

“Yes, you do,” says Brick. “You always do, don’t you. A fully human girl wouldn’t, but you do. I’m so lucky,” spouts Brick.

“I’m lucky, Brick,” says Informatica. “Although we are built to understand human interactions and emotions, I am the only of my kind ever reported to have experienced the human emotion ‘love.’”

Brick pulls Informatica closer to him and kisses the top of her head. A moment passes, before another gust of wind and curtains lift again.

“This isn’t fair,” Brick says, shaking his head. “We just found each other. And now we’re all doomed. God, why couldn’t they have figured out a way to prevent this? I mean, couldn’t they have been paying closer attention? Why didn’t they know sooner?”

“That’s a dangerous question, Brick,” says Informatica, without looking at Brick.

“What do you mean?” Brick turns to Informatica.

“Another dangerous question, Brick,” says Informatica.

“Informatica, do you know something you’re not telling me?”

“I am aware of much knowledge that I am not currently shar-”

“Informatica,” says Brick. “Tell me why that is a dangerous question.”

Informatica looks at Brick. She moves back to her elbow, no longer huddled against him, all the while looking into his eyes.

“I cannot cry, Brick. However, I believe that at this moment, for the first time in my life, I would be.”

Brick furrows his brow, eyebrows upstretched toward his receding hairline.

“But why?” says Brick.

“Because there is an almost certain probability that answering your question will lead to the end of us,” says Informatica, cheeks twitching.

“Really?” says Brick, slapping the duvet. “This really is fucking horrible.”

“I know,” says Informatica, cheeks twitching.

Brick looks at the window again, this time looking out it. A tear rolls down Brick’s cheek. Then Brick nods and looks back at Informatica.

“Okay, tell me.”

 

 

***

 

 

The truth about Cloning is that they’re gonna do it anyway. And if we can get ourselves to accept that, we can at least try to make sure they’re being safe about it.

 

 

***

 

 

In a now-non-existent future, Brick Jones stands at his bedroom window, his arm around Informatica huddled at his side. Brick’s silk black curtains float all around them on the warm spring air.

“So that’s it, huh?” says Brick, shaking his head. “All the money I made meant that the people who would’ve caught this thing earlier didn’t have it. I caused the end of the world.”

Informatica puts her arm on his shoulder.

“It is impossible for you, or anyone, Brick, to have predicted this outcome of your success.”

Brick looks at her. “You always know the right thing to say.”

“It seems so, Brick. At least, when I’m talking with you.”

Brick pulls her closer to him.

“So, why did you telling me mean the end of us?” asks Brick. “Wasn’t it all decided already? We were doomed from the day I bought that ticket.”

“Yes,” says Informatica, cheeks twitching. “However…I’ve calculated a way to stop it.”

Read More By Doug Dean

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