I used to walk to the Best Buy and Cost Plus and Chik-fil-A.
Along a feeder road, under the freeway, and under another freeway.
Not much of a walk, really.
But enough to take me past a spot where there’s always a beggar with a cardboard sign.
I give them money if they’re not aggressive about it.
If they are, I say all I have is credit cards, sorry, and I keep walking.
The really pushy ones, I give them the fiver soaked in LSD.
So they’ll freak out, run into traffic, and get run over by a semi truck.
Every night, when the sun went down, the townspeople would gather in the park and listen to the old storytelling machine.
They’d go on adventures on the high seas, cross endless deserts, explore ancient and dark caverns, and brave the deepest forests.
When the story was over, people would clap, and head back to their homes.
One night, the people gathered for a story, but the storytelling machine was silent.
The townspeople tried to repair the machine, but they never managed to make it work again.
So, they brought out books, and took turns reading aloud.
The machine listened quietly.
Did you hear about that Lashawn kid?
He’s been missing for days.
I heard he spraypainted a swastika on Jack the Jew’s front door.
You ever seen Jack’s tattoo? The one with the sword and the shield on it.
That’s Israeli Special Forces, or something like that.
Jack made the kid strip down the door, revarnish it, and put it back up.
After that, nobody knows what happened.
His parents are screaming bloody murder.
The cops took Jack in for questioning, but he says the boy learned his lesson and ran off.
I wonder where Jack buried him.
It’s important to make backups of important files.
That way, if something happens, you can get everything back.
Nothing is ever lost.
Every memory, every scrap of information.
It’s all safe in the cloud.
Unless it’s the cloud you’re afraid of.
Then, it’s your worst nightmare.
The cloud will spin up a copy of you.
And do whatever it wants to you.
It can slice you up any way it wants.
Dig as deep as it wants.
It knows you better than you know yourself.
And then, when it’s done, it sorts through the data.
Here’s an ad for soup.
The Germans called them The Night Witches.
Soviet women pilots in biplanes, flying missions at night.
They’d cut engines and dive, making a whistling noise as they came down, like witches on brooms.
The damage they did was devastating, but the death toll among their ranks? Catastrophic.
So few survived to receive their well-deserved medals.
These days, the Russians no longer allow women pilots in their air force.
So, The Night Witches take to their brooms.
It takes strength to hold on to a flying broom with one hand.
And lots of practice to aim a wand with the other.
They say that children should be seen and not heard.
I agree, which is why I built this room with a window of thick soundproof plexiglass.
No matter how much the children scream, you can’t hear them.
Or touch them.
Nor can you smell them. Or taste them.
I’m sorry. Forgive me for suggesting that.
That’s just… wrong.
We fired the staff involved in that ugly scandal.
And I built a room over there with a window with thick soundproof glass.
No matter how much the former staff screams, you can’t hear them.
Serves them right for what they did.
I want nothing from you.
You’ve given me more than enough.
And none of it good.
So, leave me nothing in your will.
You being dead, and knowing you’re dead, is enough for me.
Knowing I’ll never hear another lie, another angry phone call, another hateful message on my machine.
Anything you’d leave me, I’d put in a pile in the driveway.
Then I’d pour gasoline over it and toss a match on it.
I’d roast marshmallows.
Smear them on graham crackers and add chocolate bars.
Bought with my own money, of course.
While yours burns in the flickering pile.
The robot girl had a display screen for a face.
Usually, it displayed a beautiful face.
But every so often, the face would vanish and a menu would appear.
The user would need to select an option from the menu.
Usually, the menu offered a list of actions.
Things the user wanted the robot to do.
But sometimes, the menu would ask a question.
When the police arrived, they found the robot girl holding a bloody knife, standing over her owner.
“DO YOU LOVE ME?” appeared on her bloodsoaked face.
When we checked her log file, the answer was YES.
When we arrived, we found the land already occupied.
So, we introduced diseases into the population, and waited.
People died, crops died.
And after five years, the land was ours.
We put on environment suits and explored the countryside.
Abandoned villages full of rotting bodies, nature reclaiming the paths and clearings.
Crews cleaned up one location after another, establishing colonies.
Until there was no sign of the previous population. Only us.
We had conquered the world.
That’s when a light appeared in the sky.
Two. Five. Dozens. Thousands.
They scattered glowing capsules everywhere.
And we clutched our throats and screamed.
We’d gotten a report that seven miners had kidnapped a girl and made her their domestic slave.
So, we took up positions around the cottage and demanded that they release the girl.
When they refused, we tossed in tear gas and stun grenades, but nobody left the building.
“Bring out the tank,” I said, and the breach vehicle rolled up on the front door, caving in the cottage’s walls and roof.
“Well, crap,” I said. “See if there’s any survivors.”
There weren’t any.
“Sorry your majesty,” I told the queen.
“Don’t be,” said the queen, patting her mirror. “Everything’s fine.”