November 6, 2013

Remi Bids Farewell

I haven’t shared a lot of my own fiction on this blog (yet), but I want to share this piece because it wouldn’t exist without social media.

I am a regular listener to The Functional Nerds podcast and follow its hosts, songwriter John Anealio and writer Patrick Hester on Twitter and in other places. Earlier this year, for part of his 23 in ’13 Challenge, John wrote a song called The Talyn Sonata. I listened to it every morning for several weeks as I made my family breakfast. (Along with other songs… I’m not THAT creepy.) The song inspired artist Natalie Metzger to create this spectacularly cute and curious illustration called Farewells, which I adore. (Follow those last two links, guys. You won’t regret it.) In turn, I wrote the short, short story below, Remi Bids Farewell, which takes inspiration from both Natalie and John.

What was that again about social media being a total time suck?

And here’s another cool thing—I shared this piece with my writing group earlier this year, and one of them encouraged me to enter it in the Knoxville Writers’ Guild contest for SciFi/Fantasy. I found out last month that it won the contest, and I get to read a selection from the story tomorrow evening at the KWG meeting in front of many other writers and guests! (Not nervous all…)

Anyway, here it is, my link in the creative chain…


Remi Bids Farewell

It appeared Rambo’s owners had gifted him a houseplant. Remi edged his eye over the back of the two-seater to watch as Rambo hovered past the street level flat to which Remi’s owners had relocated, clutching a plant. Rambo was the third bot to hover past that morning, and Remi had been expecting him to stop in and enquire if Remi himself were ready to depart. Rambo preferred company, especially at important events like a purge.

Perhaps Rambo’s apprehension in regard to Remi’s new location overrode his preference. Remi’s owners had been evicted from their previous flat; they were nothing but slumkins. Remi took satisfaction in the fact that they would not be able to replace him with a newer model after the purge. Truth be told, they had little use for a Zoombot, whether old or new. At least they had not been the ones to name him. A stray cat had “followed them home from the park” last month; they called her Mr. Kittywitty even though she was a female.

Mr. Kittywitty was too good for them. They had placed her collar on exchange before even purchasing a litter box. (It was studded with vale topaz; Remi had identified it for them via scan.) But despite his consideration for the feline, Remi had hardly had time to learn if Mr. Kittywitty was as deserving as she seemed. FenFen City was scheduled for a mandated three day purge of outdated bots, and Remi’s make and model, Zoombot 7R, headed the list. He would leave the planet today.

Remi had always thought purge days inefficient. Why gather the discards at the airfield before sending them off? It generated more work than necessary.

“It is simple. They must mark you off the list,” Tish had said, during their interminable conversation three weeks ago. She was a Zoombot 7T and continually explained the obvious to Remi as if he were senile. Remi had rescheduled Mr. Kittywitty’s weekly walk to avoid running into her, but she was everywhere these days. Her owners must be busier than normal owners. Or lazier.

After that last comment, he had wanted to violate protocol and transmit his thoughts without permission, straight into the obtuse mass behind her eye. They have the ability to build bots with living tissue in their heads. In quantities so numerous they have covered two moons with castoffs. Remi had blinked seven times to stop himself, but it was still true. They could coordinate a remote send off if they chose, one that would allow Remi to power up in private and lift away from the comfort of his owners’ front stoop without having to wait in line like some errant school boy.

It was a gesture they wanted, humiliation in the guise of goodbye.

Rambo’s owners would come to wave him from the planet in the great ceremony of farewells. He had been their sole bot for a 10.7 years, after all. Remi’s owners, asleep at the moment, were scheduled to work later that day. They would not join him at the airfield.

Rambo had been despondent for weeks. He lived three blocks south, in the same apartment building Remi’s original owner, Dr. Shrift, had lived before his death, when he willed Remi to these slumkin relations about whom he had felt nothing but shame. Rambo’s owners were artists. The woman had sculpted Rambo multiple times, mostly in wax; the man had composed tunes for Rambo to broadcast while assembling the children’s toys.

Remi had known Rambo since they had both been built, on the same line, one after the other. The technician had told them that the matter in their brains had come from related donors, as if it should be of special interest to them, a cute little secret, although their donors’ identities were protected with all the usual protocols.

“I could call you brother,” Rambo had said.

“Do not.” Remi had replied. “Dr. Shrift cares little for artists. We will not be seeing much of each other despite our proximity.”

Rambo would miss his owners. He would miss their work and their children. He would miss the river view from his personal window seat in their high rise flat. They would miss him too, for a week and two days, which was when their new bot was scheduled for release. They were not replacing him with a Zoombot. It was something larger, a brand new design. Remi could not recall the make name he had overheard. He had kept the news from Rambo, but Mr. Kittywitty had heard all about it.

Mr. Kittywitty butted against Remi. She often purred in harmony with his own static buzz and would try with persistence to wedge her whiskers into his ports whenever he hovered in one place for more than three minutes. She made the world quite wobbly for him sometimes.

“You will be alone with them when I leave,” Remi said to her. “They will not order the premium litter like I do. I am warning you. Once they learn how much we have been spending for the sake of a cat’s bottom…”

Then a thing occurred to Remi. Mr. Kittywitty would be all alone with them when he left. Like he had just said. She would likely have no new litter at all. But the moon, the one to which the 7Rs would be going… Which one was it again? Talyn Prime? It had some wildness left, did it not? Plenty for one house cat. Not much prey to speak of, but Mr. Kittywitty was fed a substandard diet of meatless slop to begin with, so the offerings of an all but uninhabited trash heap moon would seem a carnivore’s playground to her.

“Are you thinking what I am thinking, Mr. Kittywitty?”

Mr. Kittywitty stared at Remi as if to say, “Took you long enough.” Cats really were superior to people. (And, Mr. Kittywitty was above average even for a cat.) Imagine if it had been feline brain matter that had been used inside Remi and his kind.

Remi began the necessary adjustments. He had his owners’ signatures on file. A note of gifting would be easy enough to produce. A cat suit would be more difficult, but Remi could manage by the appointed time. Mr. Kittywitty’s vaccination records were still waiting in the back of Remi’s mind for download onto the household drive. He may not need them, anyway; the health of the moon was of no concern to these imbeciles. That was obvious. And animals had been transported to the moons before. Last Tuesday, his people were awake and eating far too late in the night, enthralled by some documentary about the men who kept watch at the junkyards on the moons. A moon was such a lonely environment, these men had been allowed to take pet dogs. Remi’s owners had fallen asleep on the two-seater, grease on their fingers, crumbs on their chests, but Remi had watched until the end.

 

Mr. Kittywitty meowed an unnecessary amount on their ascent. She had bitten the woman in charge of fitting her helmet while Remi was at the power supply. But now that they were extricated from the dirty haze that filmed the planet, she settled in his grip. The great darkness of space spread around them with no constraint. No constraint. Remi could wander off if he chose, in any direction, until he shut down. No one would care whether he made it to the moon or not. Rambo had the plant to console him as his power waned. Remi wondered if he would root the thing into moon soil or leave it in its pot from home.

Mr. Kittywitty squirmed around to look Remi in the eye. “Oh, you are right,” Remi thought, knowing the cat would understand. “I cannot go exploring with you in my arms.” Remi glared at the moon below. There would be beetles to swat on that sphere of dirt and tree and dingy metal. Perhaps a cat could make her bed in the hollowed chest of an Ur-bot Mid Grade. It seemed the right size. In the wooded areas, there would be leaves enough to cover one’s urine—if Mr. Kittywitty were as particular about it in the wild as she had been in the flat–and leaves enough to pounce in the long, late afternoons. Remi could picture it. There would be company too, of a sort—junkyard dogs at every boundary for a spry little kittywitty to harass.

One comment

[...] both of those the short story “Remi Bids Farewell” was written by Wendy [...]

by The Fuzzy Slug » Yet Another Reason to Make on November 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm. #