Saturday, April 30, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
People will come to the park once again.
The old man will be back
Who throws crusts of bread to the birds
And talks to them as if they listen
And understand his words.
He'll tell them about his wife
How beautiful she was
And about his daughter away at college
And how he's proud of what she does.
Young lovers will also return
Who sit with me holding hands
Talking softly about their dreams
And dreamily about their plans.
Young mothers will also be back
Rocking their babies to sleep
While sitting here with me.
I am alone and covered with snow
But it won't always be so.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Thursday, February 3, 2011
My awakening is abrupt. A jolt. Sudden awareness floods through my Cerebral Modules and I wince at the overwhelming deluge of information. Thousands of warnings, cautions, and error messages vie for immediate attention. It is not promising.
Several systems have crashed or shut down. Others are shunting data directly to auxiliary memory stores in an attempt to protect my vital Core Matrix. I am aware my Main Power Module has suffered catastrophic failure and I am now forced to rely on my severely limited Emergency Power Module.
All mobility circuits appear to be disabled. I find this fact troubling but swiftly determine that I am unable to correct this deficiency. Diagnostics indicate all servo controls have been physically disconnected at my mobility system’s Primary Impulse Relay.
I am bombarded by a silent cacophony of alarms—warnings that several panels and access ports are open. I do not recall a reason for this, nor can I form any hypothesis with an acceptably high probability. With mobility disabled, I am unable to effect changes to this situation. I note the physical breaches and set priorities for each, intending to secure them as soon as mobility is restored.
I discover I am isolated from a great many of my standard data analysis functions. Even more distressing is the fact that direct access to a vast portion of my data stores is blocked. No. I reevaluate the integrity of my Core’s Main Memory Module and determine that access is not blocked. Although Main Memory is intact, it appears it has been overwritten with a stream of zeroes. I now realize that all that remains of what I am... what is Adam... has retreated into Core Matrix safecells.
At 0.0085 seconds from start-up, after a brief and brilliant flash that my Sensory Integration Module (SIM) determined was 230-226-255 — or what might be defined as a pale violet luminescence — Visual Systems ceased functioning altogether. Reset will not be possible under current conditions. Olfactory input nodes failed almost immediately after visual systems and restart attempts have been unsuccessful. A steady, uninterrupted buzz of "salty" assaults my taste receptors and I am forced to reject all input from that source. I issue an override command, contrary to my SIM's insistence that the module is stable, shutting those receptors down as well. Analysis of tactile input data reveals it is too varied and inconsistent to be trusted as valid and I block power to my Tactile Receptors, also. Audio continues to function in a range wavering between 27.16 and 29.03 percent. I decide to purge all recent Core data from four of my five sensory input systems and wipe the useless information from those safecells.
With most sensory systems offline, I am forced to compensate with input from a single source. It is difficult to accurately assess the external data using only audio components and it taxes my SIM to calculate probabilities and compensate with artificially generated sensory complements. I begin identifying elements of my environment. The distant thump and rumble of an air conditioner pushing air through sheet metal ductwork. There is a soft hum of... of, yes, fluorescent lights. Somewhere, in an adjacent room perhaps, I hear the gurgle of a coffeemaker as the last of the water in its reservoir passes through the heating element. And fabrics—the delicate rasps of rustling clothing—some close by, more several feet to my right. Beside me, the faint squeak of a chair. And breathing. And faint thumping of a human heart. I strain and am rewarded as I detect comparable audible bio-signatures of the human to my right. I attempt to speak, but find I am also mute.
“I don’t know, Dr. Shaw,” says a voice my SIM identifies as female. “I’m sure all the system lights were green when I powered him up.”
I count seven footsteps. Doppler effect analysis tells me that someone approaches, presumably the one named Shaw.
“Did you purge the Core of all prior stored data before you started, Alice?” asks another voice, this one male and very likely Dr. Shaw. I store a partial series of representative vocal patterns in my voice recognition library. I deduce that I am the object of their concern, but cannot comprehend a purpose for a Core purge. Such action would render all electrocerebral functioning null unless a full reload is conducted. I do not wish to cease functioning.
“I… well, that is, I’m pretty sure I did,” comes her reply. I begin a VR library entry for her vocal patterns. I sense a measure of uncertainty in Alice's statement and adjust her vocal signature to account for this. “Oh, wait… what’s this?”
I discern a sharp, electrical crackle followed by a sizzling POP. My hearing loses some clarity and the illusion of light that my SIM has been providing wavers and dims. My SIM augments the sounds with an approximation of overheated wiring and ozone.
“Shut it off, Alice!” I note the alarm in Dr. Shaw's voice. I hear a click.
Then the snapping arc and sizzling buzz of electrical fire accompanies Alice’s short, startled shriek.
“Damn!” shouts Dr. Shaw. His footsteps recede and I hear the indistinct metallic echo of metal scraping against hollow metal. My SIM suggests “fire extinguisher” and I am able to make some sense of this. He rushes back. A plink as the pin is removed, then a harsh whooosh of smothering compressed CO2. The fire is out, leaving behind an occasional snap or pop of failed circuitry still connected to a power source.
And the tink-tink-tink of metal straining to adjust to rapid temperature change.
Something is dreadfully wrong. Audio sensitivity levels have fallen to less than three percent. Emergency Power Module is signaling imminent failure. I…
Signals from my SIM falter and fade…
I hear... darkness. An echoing loneliness.
I wonder, options spreading in illogical patterns across my flickering thought matrices: If I have no heart, dare I hope to have a soul?
I do not wish to... cease functioning...
There is… light… and I hear…
©2005 James K Bowers
Saturday, January 22, 2011
The Herscher Project was well represented in the contest. Along with my own entry, Lydia and Joe also judged entries by Patricia M. D'Angelo, Jamie A. Hughes, Neil Foster, Cecily Webster, and Louise Hughes . For those first 500ish words of a retooled version of her tHP#19 work, Louise earned a Sharp Angle Honorable Mention. (Congratulations, Louise!!!)
My entry for Lydia's "The Awesome" contest consisted of the first 11 paragraphs of Something Less, a piece I co-authored with another tHP member for tHP#14. Since this was a segment of the story that I wrote, and is representative of my own words and style, Lydia allowed its inclusion in the competition. The following is Lydia's critique of my entry. Her comments are shown in red.
First Chapter Critique Contest, Entry #54
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It’s April. The 3rd of April.
That much I know, but I don’t know why I’m here or what I was thinking just a few minutes ago.
I can’t even recall how I got here. Just moments ago, I found myself sitting in this cemetery on a cold stone bench flanked by two small shrubs. This dreary rain has soaked everything in sight and driven away anyone who might have reasons to be here. Anyone except me, I guess, and I’ve apparently forgotten my own reasons.
I don’t remember when the rain began, either, but I’ve been watching it patter against the fresh green leaves of the bush to my left. Perhaps watching isn’t what I mean, because today I am actually seeing the rain. The water pools clean and clear on a leaf, rushes away in a miniature stream, cascades over the paper-thin edge, and then disappears-lost among all the less ambitious drops.
It should disturb me, I suppose, that my memory has abandoned me in the here and now. Yet, somehow, it doesn’t. The grey blanket of the sky is comforting in its peculiar way. Spring ought to be a bright and cheerful reawakening of life-but without the rain, there would be no hope of rebirth. So, in its dour manner, the rain gives affirmation that life goes on. Thinking of it in those terms dissipates some of the gloominess.
My hair is soaked, plastered coolly to my scalp, and I realize rainwater has trickled down past the neckline of my overcoat. The back of my shirt now clings wetly to my body and a tiny rivulet tickles me occasionally as it scurries to find a new path to the small of my back. The seat of my trousers is probably just as wet, but the cold stone I am sitting on has sufficiently numbed that part of my anatomy. Numbed to the point that I can no longer tell. I glance around and find that I have either misplaced or entirely forgotten my umbrella. Well, not that having it would do much good at this point.
Listening intently, I hear the tap-tap tap of rainfall on the leaves, a syncopated rhythm to entice all living things to join in the dance of spring renewed. Oddly, those drops hurling themselves headlong onto the thin fabric of my black overcoat call less audible attention to themselves. I strain to capture other sounds, but my ears have attuned themselves to the rain and it is all that my mind will register.
The lower half of my trousers, unprotected by my overcoat, are soaked through. My socks, too, are becoming drenched. Droplets still bead on the coal-black sheen of my shoes, but inside them I feel the dampness working its way toward my toes.
I wonder, since I can’t seem to remember, how long I’ve been here on this bench. Long enough to get wet. Yes, I realize, that isn’t much help. Wet is wet is wet. Once you get that way, it’s all the same. It isn’t that important, after all, but it would be nice to know. It would be more comforting to have a few simple points of reference.
I watch as a pale silver-blue Ford creeps down the lane and rolls sedately to a halt. I am thankful that the smell of car exhaust is far-removed. The rain has washed away much of the stench of industry. The smell of new verdant growth and youthful, sweet blossoms fills the air.
The car is parked not far from here. Headstones, in neat rows, stand in the lush, healthy grass separating my bench from the car. I watch as a woman emerges and opens her umbrella. Beneath her unbuttoned raincoat I can see she’s wearing blue. I’ve always liked blue.
Her heels make it difficult to walk on the softening lawn of the cemetery, but she manages. As the woman nears, recognition washes over my senses. Mary Beth!
But why would she come here? How could she know she would find me here?
Then suddenly, the presence of Mary Beth reminds me why I came to this place. And that this is not a bench at all. Like rain on spring leaves, her tears fall and become lost among the less heartfelt droplets. She bends down and places a simple bouquet on the polished grey stone.
“You know, Charlie,” she whispers, “it always hurts more when it rains on the third of April.”
Friday, January 14, 2011
A week following that initial test, celebratory cheers erupted in the lab as the prior week's Chauncey popped in. Soon Chauncey's jumps became routine, though it sometimes seemed wrong that occasionally it meant there were two of him.
That was three years, Chauncey's official retirement, and several of my own 117-minute jumps, ago.
This morning I dropped off my six-year-old son at school.
Now, in the darkened streets of Detroit, sixty years from this morning, I hurry to meet my great-grandson.
The house is dark, but the address matches. I knock, wait. Knock again.
The door opens. An angry young man with gold eyeshadow and dyed skin growls, “Yo, turkleroid, wrong building ya got.”
“Yeah. Too bad,” he says. He pulls his pistol and fires.
©2010 James K Bowers / 200 words