for “Flash Fiction Friday”
Cue: A computer as a character
Genre: Science Fiction (feel free to mix genres)
Word Limit: 1500
Deadline: Wednesday Jan. 27th 9:00PM EST
The Dark Matter
Rip rip, cling, screw screw, *swear swear*, unscrew, plop, *swear*, unscrew, flip, screw screw, plug
“Well then! Who says a girl can’t be a mechanic?” A heavy hand with dark purple nails slapped the top of a monitor screen.
“You certainly are squeaky though, even if you are old. No matter, all that’s left to do is tweak the OS and power and we should be good to go.”
The room was dark except for the end of the room farthest from the windows. Computer programming books and manuals lined the walls on either sides, along with a few history and theoretical science tossed in, for variety.
The screen was connected to the mismatched hard drive and all where finally plugged into the wall. Immediately short words began to flow across the black screen.
“Explain what? What the hell is happening? Did I connect you to a Chat service by accident?”
Long fingers flew over a keyboard.
“Who are you? What forum did I connect to?”
“My name is Bernice. Where are you?”
“Oh good grief,” Bernice detested bothering with people on the internet, which is what she assumed she had connected to. It appeared that her knew project was a failure. Again.
Bernice stared at the screen.
“Now just a minute… I didn’t type that.”
“Damn! That’s— that’s not possible,”
Bernice felt pale. She also felt quite intrigued, after a moment. What could this be? Did she tap into someone else’s special project, or some clandestine experiment? Oh, how curious—
“Possible. Well then, okay, let’s give it a try. My name is Bernice, techno-geek girl with the fastest fingers in the city, and you are my latest obsession, destined to comb the universe – or at least the neighbouring galaxies – for physical evidence of Dark Matter. If I can find actual, physical proof of its existence, I won’t just Bernice the Geek, I’ll be— Bernice.”
Bernice wiped her hands over her pockets at the thought.
“And you will have to learn to type with spaces between your words. Of course, your parts are kind of old.”
She patted the screen with affection.
“Your screen is the epitome of American consumerism in the fifties, but it is one of the few things they produced that looked stylish… A classic Philco Predicta is hard to find. Your hard drive, however, is top of the line with a TON of modifications done to it. You have no ideas how many extras you have! And the best one, I just installed— “
Bernice paused at the thought.
MODIFICATIONSMODIFICATIONS YOU MADE CHANGES YOU made it light again I am not where I was—
“Hey! You’re getting the hang of it! Oh, the last board I plugged in was one of those ‘living’ boards. Of course they are not alive or anything,” Bernice’s laugh was just a bit forced, “But apparently it can ‘learn’. So they say anyway, and that is what I wanted to find out. But now I’m afraid this interview is done, I simply must go. I’ll be back in a few hours.”
No do not shut do not shut
It was dark. It hadn’t been dark before, there had been light, surely there had been. And… and there had been others. Yes, the others were all around him. They were there so long ago, oh so, so long ago… And yet no, it was just moments before, just before this thing caught him.
This thing he was inside of, it was different, different from all the other times. It was not alive. He could do nothing if it was not alive… That must have been why they let him be caught in this, they knew he could do nothing.
But she was alive.
And she had what he desperately needed, what they didn’t have any more. They were so pitiful, really they were. They knew it was gone from them, and they could not continue without it, and yet they refused to do anything about it.
He would do something about it.
And then there was light.
Bernice turned on the necessary light— one was enough, thank you, it was not a hospital, it was a studio apartment. A messy one. But hey, it truly felt like home, and with a little fried food it would be even more like home.
With her new experiment turned on and warming up, Bernice settled into her comfy chair opposite the workstation. She had to admit, the thing did look classy, with its rounded TV screen/monitor corners, the dull metal knobs under the front and an air vent along the side.
Now, if it could be programmed to find what she was looking for. No more dogging for money, no more ridicule. Bernice knew Dark Matter was out there… Or perhaps it was blue, maybe even Laundromat Green, but it was out there.
She knew it because she dreamt about it all the time. And finding it would bring her more than she could imagine, her dreams told just that.
Words flashed across the screen.
Dark it was dark now it is not— you are back. You will not make it dark again.
“Hey, you’re getting good at this!” Bernice got up to move to the keyboard, but more words scrawled across the screen.
You will answer. You will not make it dark again.
“Can— can you hear me? That wasn’t written on the box description for the upgrade…”
“Okay, no, I won’t turn you off again, won’t make it dark.” Bernice finally answered, as the hairs on her forearms thought it was a fine time to stand up. Was this thing really just the liveware upgrade? The board she had inserted was supposed to ‘learn’ and do theoretical calculations much better and faster than a normal computer could, but independent communication was not on the list of things it should be able to do.
This was something else.
“What are you? How did you get in the machine?” Bernice was very glad she was alone, that no one could see her talking to an old TV screen.
A moment, and then the dark screen flickered.
You made modifications. You made the… machine… adequate.
“Adequate? For what?”
For… for me. Yes, that is how you say it, for me. All of us are one and all of us are alone, everything and nothing. It is, no it was very… crowded, but here it is just me. I…
The words stopped. Bernice stared at the screen, thoughts scrambling through her brain.
“This must be somebody’s idea of a joke. Stupid research group, they want to prove me crazy.” The words came out as only a breath. Her hands went to the hard drive box, to the wires that poured out the back of it. Her heart was heavy.
“This is just another failure, that’s all. I can fix this. The circuit board is faulty that’s all, the living computer chips are just past their Best Before date.” She tried to ignore the sting of tears as she pulled out the plugs from the wall. “You’re going to find what I’m looking for, no matter what, dammit.”
Touch me again, I have found what I looked for. You have what I need. You have much of it.
“I don’t have anything! Not yet anyway. But you’re going— “
Bernice dropped the unplugged wires.
“How are you doing that? You don’t have any power!”
Power not necessary. Touch me again. You have much of what I look for. Touch!
“Oh I’ll touch you, you pushy, ungrateful piece of middle-class—”
The back of the hard drive casing came off in Bernice’s hands with no care for fragile nodes. Choice swear words dripped softly from her mouth as her eyes tried not to look at what they saw.
Where the living upgrade board had been plugged in was now overwhelmed with… well, with nothing, really. The inside of the casing seemed to be slowly disappearing within a nothingness that could have been black, if she didn’t look at it directly. And it was getting bigger, as she stared at it.
The Philco Predicta’s speakers sputtered and spat, and then gravely words made an effort to sound off.
“Yes. When you touch me it is good. It has been so long since we have felt that— since I have felt it.”
Now was a really good time to start being afraid, Bernice considered. It might even be a good time to leave, she declared silently, and moved to get up.
And couldn’t. Her hand would not leave the computer casing. It was disappearing, actually, just like the inside of the case.
“No! Let me go! Why are you doing this??” It didn’t hurt, but struggling did absolutely nothing to free her.
“Yes! You call that a question… That is what I need! Give me more!”
Bernice was overcome with fear, watching her hand slowly disappear, and with it she felt small, cold fingers in her brain, picking through it like a stack of cards.
“Fear, you are afraid, the questions go away with fear. Then the fear must stop.”
And it did. A wonderful numbness spread through Bernice, followed by a carefree wave that she had never felt in her outcast life.
“Give me more.”
“Ok. Did you know the walls need painting? The paint is chipped everywhere… Do you think maybe orange would be a good color to paint the walls next time?” Bernice giggled. “Oh… and I remember now, I knew there was another question– who are you? Are you cute?”
“More, ask more… I come from the darkness of space. We have always been there and will always be. But we change too. We have lost what you have… What is the word for it?
“Ohhhh, you have always been there,” A flash of fear went through Bernice as she noticed her arm was gone, but was banished as quickly as it came, and she felt downright wonderful. “You have been there forever? Why haven’t we seen you? Why are you so curious about me? If you have the whole universe to play in, why drop in an apartment with peeling paint?”
“That is the word! Curious. Curiosity… We have lost that, and I want it back. I want – I need – to feel that again, to want to know what I don’t know. Your kind is the most curious we have ever seen, none of the others could give me this feeling you give me. You can be curious with me. We can be curious together.”
“Well that just sounds cool to me. But there is just one thing,” The nothingness crept up toward Bernice’s mouth, shutting her off forever from a world that never really understood her, never showed any curiosity about her. As her finality came, she asked one last question.
“Did you know there is a nasty problem with mold in this apartment?”