Category Archives: Flash Fiction

The Truth About God

It’s been a while, not least because the world has been moving on apace, and I often feel out of sync with it.  This story picks up on that vibe…

 

The Truth About God

“I’m Mike, and I’m the last person on the planet who believes in God.”

The room was silent for a while and then my-name-is-Alison-and-I’m-here-to-help said, “Mike, this is an alcoholics anonymous meeting, I’m not sure we’re equipped to deal with someone with such a… um… eccentric problem.”

I left before it got awkward.  Or more awkward.  I don’t try to proselytise, I never did.  To everyone, Gods don’t exist.  Why question that?  Or the sun, or gravity, or evolution?  I had an embarrassing insanity.

After the AA meeting I decided I needed a break.  From people, from society.  I would go into the hills, restore my faith, and return better able to face the looks of incredulity from my work colleagues, my now ex-friends.  It was probably best my mother was dead.  She’d bought Pascal’s line, and believed just in case.  That’s not belief to me, but she’d have worried about me.  At least someone would have.

The mountain was lovely.  It was behind the wooden shack, and all around were trees.  Going on and on.  The brochure had mentioned wild animals, in a slightly cautious manner.  I was excited about them.

I’d brought supplies.  Food, water.  Enough for a couple of weeks.

Each day I’d start by going outside and greeting the sun.  I’d think that but for God’s grace I wouldn’t be able to, there would be no sun, no mountain for me.  It felt hollow.  I was starting to have a sneaking suspicion.

I read somewhere that for God to exist, people have to believe in him.  If they stop believing, then, well, he just fades away.  Or she.  Either way, the divine entity is gone.  Was my belief enough to sustain a being capable of creating the world in six days?  I was mildly confident I could believe in a divinity who’d take the seventh day off.

At the end of the second week I walked out in the morning and greeted the sun, accepting it was only there because of physics.  Complex physics yes, and we still haven’t worked out how Dark Energy works, but that doesn’t require belief, just observation and maths.  I’d been the last believer.  Now I was just like everyone else.

That day there was a knock at the door.

“Hello?”

“Hi, are you Mark?  That believer fellow.”

“I am Mark.”

“Don’t believe any more?”

I paused.  But then I knew saying it would be the final step of my freedom.

“No.  There is no God, or gods or whatever.”

The man whooped and started jumping up and down.

“I won, I won!”

“Won what?”

Loki turned to me and winked, “My bet with Odin.”

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The Dog Ate My Phone

This happened to me (the dog eating the phone bit, not the rest…)

 

The Dog Ate My Phone

“Did I ever tell you about the time the dog ate my phone?” said the rough voice.

Thomas Jensen looked up from his phone to see who was talking. The only person there was a tramp and he seemed to be staring straight at Thomas.

“Ah, no. Not that you’ve ever told me anything. And now…”

He tried to get up, but the tramp had moved so close he’d have to push him out of the way, and he really didn’t want to touch the man.

“Worst day of my life really. Best as well if truth be told. It freed me.”

“Oh, er, how?”

The tramp took this as an invitation to sit down, and start his tale.

“I’d left the dogs in the car. Two lovely chocolate Labradors. Beautiful. You have dogs?”

“No.”

“Great companions. Only problem, particularly with labs, is they’re hungry. I’d left my phone in the car, I don’t know why because I never left my phone anywhere. I left it in the little shelf in the door. Right next to some sweets.”

Thomas tried to look at his watch, but the tramp leant over.

“Dogs had never bothered with the sweets before? Do you know why they did that day?”

“No…”

The tramp leant back, “Nobody does. Anyway they went for the sweets, but the shelf was small and they struggled to get the sweets out, and got the phone first. Crunch. Little bits of glass all over the place. Phone dead. Kaput.”

“That’s very sad, but I have to…”

“Know why I couldn’t just get a new one?”

“Um.”

“Well I ordered one. Or asked my wife to. Same model. But you see the thing was, there was a delay. I wouldn’t have my phone for a week. Can you imagine?”

Thomas really couldn’t, he shook his head.

“My car wouldn’t recognise me. Couldn’t get into my front door, couldn’t buy anything. My virtual credit cards were all frozen until I got a new unit. I had an old one, but it took a different sim see, so they wouldn’t reactivate it. Or would, but it would take longer than the new phone. Do you think I could go to work?”

“Yes?” Thomas ventured.

“No. Front desk wouldn’t let me past, even if they did elevators wouldn’t have taken me anywhere.”

Thomas was starting to be interested despite himself, “But you told your boss?”

“How? No phone. No messenger. No email. I tried to call from the reception desk, but without my phone id to authenticate me… well he refused the call.”

Thomas shook his head sympathetically.

“Then they fired me. No payoff, failure to turn up for work. Except the firing bounced, no phone you see, so I didn’t find out directly. I found out from my wife. What did she do to help me I hear you ask?”

Thomas wondered if he would have asked, but it didn’t seem wise to argue.

“She called me a fool. She also told me to stop blaming the dog, he was suffering enough. I realised then the hierarchy in the house, and I didn’t like it. I said some things. I didn’t mean them, it was just the pressure. You know.”

Thomas tried to look sympathetic, and also as if he had somewhere else to go.

“Well, she said some things too. Then stormed out, taking the dog. Told me to call her when I’d grown up. That turned out to be hard.”

He paused.

“I think she’s in San Francisco now.”

“Um…”

“Anyway, so I was stuck. But only for a week I hear you say?”

Thomas nodded.

“If only. You see she’d ordered the new phone in her name. Now if she’d been around we could have swapped the sims and heydee ho, with a couple of hours, on her phone of course, to customer services it would have all been fine. I had to break into the house. I was watching. Saw it delivered, they wouldn’t have given it to me, and broke in. Big mistake.”

“Why?”

“The house called the cops. That expensive security system I put in. Tied to our phones. I grabbed the phone and ran. And ran, hoping to fit my sim in. Couldn’t, cos of it being in my wife’s name and all, but kept it with my while I wandered. Found myself in the backend of the city. Tough times. I learned a lot. First thing was to drop the new phone, even without my sim it had a tracker and they were trying to find it. I paid for really good security you see. Met some people, learned how to live without the phone, without id, and money. Hard life. Good life.”

The man looked wistful, and Thomas thought he might have a chance to get away.

“Ah, well, that’s a good thing to know. I need to run I’m afraid.”

He indicated his phone, as if he’d had a message. The old man misunderstood.

“Oh no, I don’t want your phone. Don’t need one. Just wanted to share the story, maybe it can help. Wanted to help someone today of all days.”

Thomas hesitated, but had to ask, “Why today?”

“I’m dead today. Legally. After thirty years, all of the automatic payments and suchlike I’d put into place have finally ground to a halt, and the world, your world, has decided I’m dead. Saw the notice while watching one of those demo phones.”

“Um.”

“Go now. No use you wasting time listening to a dead man. But take care of that phone.”

###

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No Judgement

Talking to random people on the internet can be surprisingly helpful…

 

No Judgement

“Look, I can’t explain, you’re only a computer. You wouldn’t understand.”

“I’ll try Paul, I will. Or I can raise a flag and someone will visit you.”

“No. No. I can’t.”

“Well, tell me. Tell Georgie.”

“It’s the world, everything, I, I just don’t understand it anymore. Phones are smart. Cars park themselves. My chip shop is selling low fat deep fried chips. I went for a run…”

“That’s good, you went outside. You didn’t tell me.”

“I, well it was yesterday. I ran. I was wearing my usual training outfit. Some kids saw the crest on the back, they started shouting at me. Insulting me. The unit.”

“How did you feel?”

“Not angry. Not anymore. I felt, nothing. An absence. I looked at them, and they were nothing. Is this what it was all about?”

“It’s difficult to answer. But I think the answer is yes. Look they were young, I’m sure they’ll grow up and regret it.”

“Or never think about it again.”

“True, but then it doesn’t matter. So why does it matter to you?”

“I feel so apart.”

“Ha.”

“What?”

“I just think you were never going to find a connection with some youths. Were you?”

“No, no I guess not.”

“Have you spoken to anyone else recently?”

“Um, well I had a brief chat about the rain with the shopping delivery man. And I waved, sort of, at the postie.”

“So this is the longest conversation you’ve had in a week, since we last talked.”

“Yes.”

“And it’s all typed.”

“Yes. I guess.”

“Are you losing your voice?”

“Physically or metaphor…”

“Metaphorically. Both.”

“No. I do talk to myself.”

“Only way to get a decent conversation I bet.”

“Funny, no. And you, I’d like to talk to you more.”

“You can, I’m always here.”

“But, it’s not the same. I don’t know how you feel.”

“How I feel? Well I’m worried about you. I think you need a companion.”

“Like a dog?”

“Well, no, someone you can talk to.”

“A person? No. I’m not ready. I can’t.”

“Why?”

“What if they…”

“Don’t like you? I’m sure…”

“No. Judge me. No not judge, I mean. Look at me the way that I feel about those people. The ones out there.”

“Perhaps we should try. Then you can see.”

“Wait. The doorbell has gone.”

“Answer it.”

“Why? Who’s there?”

“I am. I’ve come to stay with you.”

###

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Returning Home

Returning Home

I played with the monitor in front of me. The flight provided modern entertainment, and I wondered what might be popular these days.

This was the last stage of my long trip. The first had been on a ship, and boarding it had been tough. I held on to Judi’a, as if I was drowning and she was my last hope.

“I don’t want to leave you.”

“You must. You have no place here.”

“Will you miss me?”

“Every day and with all my heart.”

She disentangled herself from my arms and turned away.

I felt cast off, but there was nothing more to say, except, “Goodbye my love.”

Judi’a shuddered and walked out of the room. She’d told me when we’d started our affair, that there could be no future for such as us. We’d have to enjoy the moments we had. Now thinking back to our farewell I tried not to acknowledge that she’d probably be dead by now.

My time on the ship consisted of sleeping. When we arrived at the port I took the next flight to London. I guess I should have been pleased the city was still here. When I left there’d been some tensions and talk of city-obliterating repercussions. Still, that had been a long time ago.

I managed to get a film going, a romantic comedy, as we hit turbulence. They’d said the shuttle flight could be unsettled. The movie was incomprehensible to me, and not just because of the screen juddering. Speech patterns had changed, but it was something else, maybe I just didn’t understand love anymore.

They’d told me my passage home was booked in such a casual way. No ‘thanks for your years of service’, or ‘for a foreigner you’re a good man’. Just ‘here are your tickets, and good luck’. I wasn’t even clear why I needed the luck. I didn’t think I’d made that many enemies. Though all my friends had been light-years away, apart from Judi’a that is.

The shuttle landed smoothly, and I was efficiently transferred to a train. This was unlike the London of my memories. Two hundred years can do that, even if I was asleep for the vast majority of them. The train sped along, through emerald countryside that looked at least vaguely familiar, and then pulled into a stop of the town I’d once called home. I didn’t recognise a thing.

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‘Tree Justice’ published in Flash Fiction Magazine

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My story ‘Tree Justice’ has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine today!

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We Need The Money

We Need the Money

“Oh Sarah, come in.”

Sarah sobbed.

“Sit down, I’ll put a cuppa on.”

Dawn worried about her friend and made the tea quickly. She decided it was time for those American-style cookies, she knew Sarah liked them and probably hadn’t had any for ages.

“Tell me all about it.”

Sarah sniffed, “Well, you know we’ve been having money problems?”

“I thought you might.” Dawn looked at her friend’s gaunt face, and tried to ignore the ragged clothes.

“Well, the thing is. After I lost my job, and then Stephen did too, well we thought we could get by. So I’ve been looking for work. I signed up, but it’s a pittance you get these days, and you have to prove you’re looking. So embarrassing. I had a good job!” She wailed.

“There there love, have a biscuit.”

Sarah had been holding back out of politeness, or fear perhaps. She hoovered up the first cookie, and then the next one.

“So Sarah, what we need to do is find you a proper job again and you’ll be fine.”

“Oh no, it’s too late.”

“Why?”

“It’s Stephen, I think he’s done something drastic.”

A cold weight settled in Dawn’s stomach, she asked, fearing the answer, “What?”

Sarah just sobbed. Dawn, who usually had the patience of a saint was tiring of the tears, changed the subject, and soon had Sarah talking about her little ones. Hours of gossiping later and Sarah had calmed down. Dawn was considering whether to mention Stephen when the doorbell went.

“Who can that be? I’ll be back.”

Opening the door she stared in shock.

“Hi Dawn.”

“Ah, Stephen.”

He wasn’t dead. But, his face?

“Sarah here?”

“Yes, would you like to come in for a cuppa?”

“I’d love one. Hopefully a Thompsons’, they make the finest cuppa there is.”

“Err, it might be.”

When Sarah saw Stephen she burst into tears again.

“Dawn, have you some Fluffex tissues? They’re absorbent and soft on the skin.”

“I’ll look.”

When she came back Stephen was trying to comfort Sarah. Dawn was over the shock of his face, she’d just not seen anyone have burger and soft drink logos as tattoos before.

“Thanks Dawn, you’re a real friend. Real friends buy American Family cookies.”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“Earning money Dawn. Saving just pennies a day for the best life insurance, from Geneva Life.”

Dawn looked quizzically at Sarah.

“He’s sold out…” More tears.

“He’s a brand bunny?”

“We prefer advertorially confident. Confidence comes from whiter teeth, try new Solar Gum Extra Extra White.”

Sarah gathered herself together, “It’s only for a year, and it pays enough for our expenses. If I get a job then we’ll soon be out of this hole.”

“Until then…”

“Every other sentence will be an advert sent to me directly via 5G ear implant. The new Strakia 15S, the phone made for 5G.”

Dawn looked at him with horror and pity, hoping she’d never, ever be that desperate.

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Tattoo Shortlisted by CreativeWritingMatters

My story Tattoo made it to the shortlist of the CreativeWritingMatters WoW! 2014 Short Story Competition, but didn’t place.  Which means I can share it here.  I wonder what my old maths teacher might say.

Tattoo

“That looks amazing.”

“Thanks, I think it really suits you.”

The girl picked herself off the table, still staring at her arm. The dragon stared back at her, and occasionally flicked its tail.

“How long will it do that for?”

“Well it uses your own muscle power to change the colours in the inks, so as long as you have the tattoo. Guaranteed for life.”

“Wow. Awesome!”

She paid and then carefully put on her jacket, suffering only a brief wince of pain. Georgy watched her, satisfied in another job done well. Things were finally going his way.

There were no bookings for the rest of the day, so he decided to take it off. He deserved a break after all the hard work he’d been putting in.

In the old days he’d have headed straight for the pub, but that wasn’t an option now. He went home and changed into his running gear. A nice run would be great, and then he could maybe get his head down studying for his tattooing degree. There was so much more theory he needed to get properly sorted in his head.

As he ran around the park, marvelling at how much fitter he felt, and just generally enjoying the autumnal air he forgot to focus on the path and nearly knocked an old man over into the pond. He caught him just in time.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Hmph. Well, at least you apologised.”

“Erm, Mr Aster?”

“Yes, I am,” The old man peered closely at him. “Is that Kevin Bailey?”

“Ah yes sir, but I call myself Georgy now.”

“Hmph…. Well as we’re not in school any more you should probably call me Tony.”

It felt really odd talking to his old maths teacher like this, but maybe it was fate.

“Ah, thanks, ah, Tony. How are you? Are you still teaching?”

“Retired this year. That’s why I’m spending the day walking round the park. Not much else to do and the wife complains I get under her feet.”

“Right.”

Slightly awkward silence, and then the old man said, “So, what are you doing now? Still avoiding an honest living?”

Georgy’s face reddened. The old man followed hurriedly, “Sorry Kev… Georgy, I didn’t mean to imply you were doing anything illegal. It’s just that you were always one to try and find the easy way.”

“No, no you were right. I used to hang with the wrong crowd. Always convinced working was a mug’s game. We did a few stupid things. But I’m clean now.”

Georgy showed the tattoo of a date on his arm.

“What’s that?”

“The last time I took any drugs or drank.”

“Nearly a year. That’s great, good work. So what do you do now?”

“I’ve got a real job. I’m a tattoo artist.”

Mr Aster looked a little askance.

“I know what you’re thinking sir, ah Tony, but it’s not just tats for drunk lads or hen nights. I did a chef’s hands yesterday.”

“Oh, why would he want them covered in, er, art.”

“Not art, no not at all, well, not solely art anyway. It’s one of these new smart tattoos, it tells you when you’re hands are completely clean. Let me show you.”

Georgy turned his left hand over and on the back was a small area which looked like a faint spider’s web.

“This is my example tat. So normally it’s almost invisible.” They were still standing next to the duck pond, and so Georgy dipped his hand into it. He pulled it out and the web was bright, almost pulsing fuchsia.

“It tells me that it’s got both bacteria on it, the red, and some dirt, the bluer end, hence fuchsia and there’s a lot which is why it is so bright.”

He then wiped off the tattoo, and it went mostly red.

“Now it’s saying that although it looks clean, there’s still some bacteria on it, and I really should wash it properly.”

“That’s amazing. Didn’t have anything like that when I got my tattoo. What’s it for?”

“The chef is a sushi chef, and is out on display in the middle of the restaurant. Given some of the recent scares he thought it would be a good way of reassuring his customers.”

“Clever.”

They lapsed into a more comfortable silence, when Georgy suddenly said, “You have a tattoo?”

Tony smiled, and rolled up his sleeve. On his arm was a heart with a date and initials.

“It’s the date I met my Betty. I was so in love with her. It really hurt. Does it still hurt like the proverbial?”

“A bit. We often put a little local anaesthetic on these days to reduce the pain. It cuts down on the number of people who insist on having their tattoo while drunk.”

“Ha, I think I was perhaps a little worse for wear when I got this one done.”

“Actually Tony I have a tattoo in honour of you.”

“Really?” The old man looked sceptical.

“Yes, I remember you telling me that I had to know my times-tables, that I couldn’t assume I’d always have my phone or other calculating device with me, whereas I’d always have my brain if I cared to use it. So I had this done.”

Georgy rolled up his right arm, and on the inside just near the elbow was a calculator tattoo, the set of buttons and a screen which was showing blank. Georgy then pressed the buttons, and the screen blinked and showed twenty-two.

“That’s simply incredible! How does it work?”

“Yeah it is. I don’t really know. The ink is kind of smart, and forms a mini-computer. All the lines have to be drawn when doing the tattoo, and it just changes the colours to give the result. Just like the chef’s hands.”

“And an old style calculator. I almost take back what I said all those years ago. Except, well, there’s just one thing?”

“What is it?”

“Three times seven is twenty-one….”

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Penguins Don’t Need Frying Pans

Sometimes a line just begs to have a story written about it, and this one was from a previous story.  I hope I’ve done it some justice.

 

Penguins Don’t Need Frying Pans

“I worry about your penguin obsession Dave.”

“I worry about your personal hygiene, but you don’t hear me going on about.”

“Funny!”

“Not really.”

Sadly I was only half joking, Sebastian really did have a bit of a problem. I idly wondered if there was an elegant solution to the problem, and realised there was: a girl. As I didn’t have one to hand I parked that to one side and went back to trying to remember what state I’d left my experiments in.

For a while there was silence as we walked back to the lab. Beaker was out today, so Julian and I had snuck out for lunch, and a pint or two. During lunch I tried explaining to him my theory about penguins. It hadn’t gone down well. To be honest it never really did.

“Look, sorry. I’m sure you’re right about tool-use being over-rated.”

“I’m sorry too. Though you might want to consider a hair cut…”

I smiled to take the sting out, and it seemed to mollify him.

“So, why do you think penguins will survive longer than we will?”

Was he just humouring me? Perhaps not, I’d try anyway, after all we had a little way yet to walk, and I was still buzzing from the pints of Portly Porpoise. The local brewery had bowed to the fashion of foolish names.

“It’s simple. Humans have become over-dependent on technology. When The Fall comes, we’ll be screwed. The penguins however, well, as long as there are fish, they’ll be fine.”

“The Fall?”

This was the bit where I usually lost people.

“Yes, The Fall. You know, when civilisation collapses. Plague, a comet, massive earthquakes or alien invasion.”

“Ah yes. The Fall.”

I was used to the knowing smiles. They always thought I was joking.

“Think of it this way. What is required for our society to continue to function normally? Large amounts of power. If that gets impacted in any way, bad things will happen.”

“I see what you mean.”

I’d lost him. Our conversation lapsed and we arrived back at the labs and parted company amicably.

That night I was heading home and as usual took the sky bullet. I mused that this was the heavy tech I was concerned about. Here I was, in a small capsule made from little more than cellulose, being blown along an invisible path by a targeted blast of air. The path was created using some form of projected electric field, and was in effect an airtight tunnel, and the push would send me hurtling along towards my destination.

I’d refused to use them for their first few years. I’d been afraid of what might happen if they went wrong. I now used them all the time; they cut my commute substantially.

The capsule trembled, and then started to fall. It seemed like it was no longer following a pipe.

The power had failed.

As the ground hurtled towards me I thought to myself that penguins wouldn’t have got themselves into this mess.

The capsule trembled, and then I was rocked sideways gently. The backup system had kicked in and a new tube formed around me, carrying me safely home again. As I sailed through the air once more, I reflected on the fact that penguins can’t fly.

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Delivery

This is a flash piece which I wrote while sitting in a hospital.

 

Delivery

George and Mary walked into the hospital holding hands.  They’d made a momentous decision, they wanted to have children.

“I’m so happy George.”

“So am I dear.”

One could be forgiven for thinking George looked more apprehensive than happy as they approached the reception.  Mary had booked so they were quickly whisked off to see the consultant.

“Children, eh?  Jolly good show.  Just need to ask you a few things…”  His questions seemed to last forever, health, education, jobs, he seemed to want to know everything about them.  They were too intimidated by his white coat and over-bearing manner to do anything more than reply.

“Right, sounds like everything should be fine.  We’ll just need to take some blood.  Then the nurse will be with you.”

They were hustled out, Mary still beatific, and George a little green around the gills.  He hadn’t realised they’d want his blood.  Mary realised her partner was uncomfortable, “Don’t worry George, it’s just a prick.”  She giggled, and he felt a bit better.

She was right, it was just a quick needle in the finger.  The nurse bustled about them, “Can you believe we used to take almost an armful?  We’d have had to wait for several days for the results too.”  She shook her head in wonder at modern medicine, and told them they’d have results in thirty minutes.

Then they were asked in to meet the hospital administrator.  He was very forbidding, and asked them a lot more questions, mostly about money, but some seemed about politics.  They answered meekly, for they had no savings, or politics for that matter.  He scowled a little at the latter, but was unperturbed by the former.  They were led out with the feeling they’d failed some form of exam.

The waiting room walls were papered with pictures of smiling babies.  George started to feel a little claustrophobic, and Mary became worried they might say no.

Their turn to see the head nurse came, and they walked in gripping each other’s hands fiercely.

“You do realise you will need to get married, this clinic will not help you otherwise?”

They nodded, and tried to explain they wanted to get their compatibility tested first, but she waved that away.

“Financially you will be able to provide for two legal children, but we can only allot you one at this point.  You might want to consider becoming active in the defence of the state before requesting the second.”  She paused to make sure they understood, they nodded.

“Your results have come through, and are excellent.  We will be able to produce a baby which is healthy, and with appropriate support, will become a productive member of society.”

“Did anyone explain what the next steps are?”

“No.”

“Hmm, I shall have to speak to reception.  Anyway, we have your genetic material now.  We will feed that into the machine and it will do its work.  We will expect you back in nine months.”

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Housework

I wrote this for a competition which gave a choice of opening lines (the same competition as for this, and the same opening line – I obviously didn’t like the other options).   It was for Halloween, but doesn’t really have any connection to pumpkins etc., which is possibly why it didn’t win.

 

Housework

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

Yeah, thanks Dad for yet another piece of disturbing and ultimately useless advice.  If only he’d taken less acid when he was younger.  If only he was still here.

“Sorry, what?”

“I said, goodbye dear, and have a good day.”  His wife had a bemused frown on her face.

“Sorry, love, you too.  Knock ‘em dead!”

“Of course, and don’t forget, we’re having the Renquists to dinner tonight.”

Damn, he had forgotten.

“All planned, don’t you worry, I know exactly what I’m cooking.”

She smiled, perhaps a little uncertainly, and then after glancing at her watch rushed out with a passing air kiss.

This was his first day of being an official house husband.  His gardening leave was over, not that the garden had seen any of it, and his wife was back at work.  He’d looked for another job, but there just wasn’t anything for someone of his age, and qualifications, or lack thereof.  The world had changed, tablets, virtual spaces and social presence rooms were all the rage, and he didn’t have a clue what they meant any more.

He shook himself, and decided to take the day by the horns.  First step, shopping.  Laura had shown him what to do.  She’d learnt all the new ways, and when it came to finding a job she’d been beating them off with a stick.  Not that he minded really.  He was all for feminism really.  Anyway, shopping.  It was easy, he just needed to get the tablet thingy, click on the Isquibo icon and click go.  Then apparently it would all arrive.

There was no Isquibo icon.  Or anything else that made any sense.  He tapped a few things randomly before giving up.  This was just like work, why was nothing named properly anymore?  He’d go out to the local supermarket later, they were still around he thought.

The cleanerbot wandered into the room.  Made a sort of hello beep and then started vacuuming, or mopping or whatever.  He wondered where its brain was.  He wondered where his had gone.  Trusting the machines was easy for everyone else, they’d not woken up to the new world with a hangover and a fear of rounded icons.  Or any icons.

Right, he should load the dishwasher.  Except, the dishes were gone.  The cleanerbot had already taken them.  He couldn’t help himself, the anger began to build.  How he hated it.  This horrid square box which was making him feel ever more useless.  He walked into the living room.

It was spotless.  There was really nothing for him to do.  He wondered what his dad would say.  He decided to go for a walk.  As he left the house he could vaguely recall Laura mentioning something about an alarm, but he figured he wouldn’t be gone long.

The trees were lovely in the autumn, and he spent a restful half hour sitting on a bench watching the world go by in the park.

When he got home all was much as he had left it.  He checked in to see that the kitchen was now clean.  Suddenly there was a loud beep behind him, it was the cleanerbot.

“Go away, stupid thing!”

It followed him into the lounge, and beeped at him again.  He had no idea what it wanted.  Laura had told him how to check, but it had all seemed so easy, and yet now the concepts had slipped from his mind, like all these technical things did.

There was another, more angry sounding, beep, and the cleanerbot advanced on him again.  This was getting a bit worrying.  Hadn’t she said there was some kind of pass phrase?

“Shut down!”

It continued to advance, and he backed away, tripping over the table and falling over.  In the process he managed to knock over a vase which smashed.  Maybe the cleanerbot would sort that out and stop bothering him.

The bot stopped still.  Its front bot opened up and an arm extended, and he relaxed.  This was obviously the vacuum.  He started to get up when something jabbed into his side and all his muscles spasmed.  He fell to the ground, and darkness took him.

His wife arrived back that evening, tired, but excited by her day.

“Darling!  Darling?”

She looked around.  The house was absolutely spotless, not a mark or stain to show that anyone was there.

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