Monday, July 27, 2020

For the Love of Diamond

I wanted to play around with description in this writing. The imagery here is meant to be vibrant and felt by the reader. I wanted my writing to make contact with the real world. It was also an attempt to try something new and bring an image full circle. I feel as though I succeeded.

At this point I’m barely standing as fatigue starts to take hold. Diamond’s set should be done by now. She’ll be looking for me. She won’t find me inside though. Instead I’m outside in the concrete parking lot, in the cold, with my arms hanging uselessly at my side as Alec pins me to the fence about thirty or so feet from the back entrance to the strip club expressing his great displeasure with me dating his ex-girlfriend. Right now he wants to know why I’m with her.
The words slip from my mouth without a thought. "It's her eyes.”
Alec holds a fistful of my shirt ignoring any qualms people normally have about personal space.  At least his breath is not overwhelming making me thankful that a toothbrush is part of his daily hygiene. The fact, however, that I can hardly breathe as he keeps me in a strangle-hold makes it a moot point. I can barely fill my lungs let alone inhale any alcoholic fumes that might be escaping from his mouth as he screams into my face.
"What ‘d you say?" 
The anger in Alec's voice physically manifested itself in the bulge that is his beefy sportsman neck. The veins appearing like a latticework of chaotic crossroads. Alec isn’t playing football anymore, but he still keeps a jock physique.
I manage to gasp the words again. "H-her eyes." I’ve given him what I think is a legitimate, and might I add truthful, answer. I can tell it isn't to his satisfaction when I feel him slam me repeatedly against the fence causing the metal to pinch my back painfully. I look ruefully past Alec to my jacket lying on the ground wishing to be in it right now. We’ve been at this for some time now, and it would be useful in not only absorbing some of this impact, but also keeping me warm.
           "Bullshit, her eyes?” He turns his head to the side and spits then brings his rage full force back to me. His looked incredulous, and surprisingly, angrier.  “"You stole my girl because of her eyes. Do you think I'm stupid?"
My breathless response tumbles out. “You didn’t see her or her dreams. She wasn’t going to stay with you.” The quick response throws him off and he loosens his grip. I take this opportunity for a deep inhale before continuing. “She doesn’t want you. I didn’t have to take her from you, she was already looking for someone else.”
           I fight a smile. A poor attempt as one edge of my mouth twitches up in a small grin. Alec doesn’t like that, and he recovers from his shock. I suffer the consequences of my words as his fist sinks into my stomach sending the newly replenished air in my lungs sailing right back out into the night sky as a cloud of vapors. I guess he thinks my swelling face deserves a break as he starts working my lower body. I take the grunt of it as I consider my predicament, and him. It's not that I think he's stupid. I know he is, and I’m also too foolish to withhold the truth. I hate to play the stereotypical jock card, but he needs to look past his muscles and really see Diamond.
           I close my own eyes in the middle of the pummeling to escape. On my eyelids the movie that plays stars Diamond. She’s in front of me crawling towards me like a lioness and falls into my arms. I watch as she just curls up and forgets about the world. Her eyes looking into mines, peaceful, before she closes them and falls asleep. I’m content just watching her breath, knowing she’s safe. I don’t feel much jealousy anymore because I know her now. I know I can secure her in so many other ways that men at the bar can’t. Alec doesn’t understand that, evident even now, and never will. Like most men, money and brute force are his only answer.
           "I never gave you permission to come near her." Alec's direct statement interrupts my thoughts as he brings his fist crashing into my torso so hard that it causes me to double over in pain this time. I go to fall, gasping once more for air. His fists twists into my shirt and catches me mid-drop. Now is the moment I want to pass out. I want to welcome the blackness that would engulf me and numb the feeling of his knuckles against my aching body. It never comes.
           "Answer me you little turd!" Alec bellows, but I remain silent leaning into the strength of his arm to keep me up. The sound of his voice is louder and clearer than I want it to be; all the more proof that I will remain far too conscious during this ordeal. To make matters worse he proceeds to shake me violently making my brain feel like the last bit of icy liquid in the bottom of a 7-Eleven Slurpee cup.
           I don't understand why he can't see she doesn't love him. She has no intention of being a stripper forever, but he’s stuck with this idea of her, something pretty to show off like jewelry. She can’t grow past that image with him. Soon she’ll graduate with her business degree and he’ll be a fun story she can share with her kids about her rebellious youth. Diamond will never go back to him. So I choose to remain silent this time in response. He lets me go and I fall feebly, my legs no longer able to hold me up. As I hit the ground I fortunately stay aware and just barely manage to cover myself as he proceeds to send his size thirteen sneaker towards my face.
           Primal instincts take over in the next few moments as I fight to stay alive. My arms going up defensively to cover my face as his kicks shake my frame to the very core. I'm able to peek out between my fingers and just make out Alec placing his hands on the fence as he stands over me re-doubling his efforts to pummel me into submission. The anger in his face is blind fury, like an animal hurt. He doesn't think far beyond the physical or monetary because they are easy answers for him.  A methodical or heartfelt approach would be asking too much. This physical display is his last ditch effort to get me to leave. He wants to beat his will into me. Get me to bend to it. Scare me into doing what he wants with fear alone. It's this thought process that cost him in the first place.
Diamond enjoys thrills, but knows she wants more. Alec is a thrill, a pile of muscles that she enjoys ogling, but he doesn’t provide much else. He doesn’t stimulate her mentally like me. Alec will have to accept that there’s someone else. I doubt his reasoning abilities, however, as the toe of one of his shoes sinks into my arm again. The hit is solid and almost makes it all the way through. In the next moment I note the flavor of blood in my mouth. At this point my survival instinct evolves and I curl into a tight fetal position awaiting the next barrage of hits.
           Just as I hear his foot lift from the gravel and prepare for the next kick Diamond calls out.
"Alec!" Diamond’s voice is like a beacon and I use it as a lighthouse in my fog of pain. "Alec stop it!"
           I can hear the audible hesitation as Alec drops his foot back to the ground and pushes off the fence. I lower my hands slightly, and watch as he turns towards Diamond as she approaches from the club. His breath leaves his mouth in heavy and jagged puffs as he recovers from the exertion.
           "Alec, I told you not to come here anymore." She peeks around him and spots me on the ground. Her hands go to cover her mouth immediately, and a sob escapes, then she looks back to Alec. "What have you done?"
She rushes to me and I feel safe enough to lower my defenses completely as Diamond gathers my head up in her arms and places it in the lap of the long trench coat she’s wearing. Her eyes well up with tears and as they begin to fall they feel like soothing raindrops against my aching face.
           "I told you we were through Alec," She says, her sobs having no affect on the strength of her words. Her voice is sharp and clear and Alec takes note. He looks unsure of himself now as the single-minded determination of beating me into submission evaporates.
           He raises a hand in my direction clearly upset. "But babe, you're leaving me for him?” I want to scoff at him for the disbelief in his voice, but I'm afraid of the pain inhaling too deeply will cause.
           "Alec, I left you weeks ago. I’ve been telling you I was unhappy," Diamond replies, wiping her tears. She stands up, balancing herself carefully on her six-inch stilettos as she squats down and gathers my weight across her shoulders and we stand up together. She takes another look at me then gives him a cold stare. “You didn’t want to see that we were over. I won't tell you again, stay away or next time I’ll call the cops."
           Alec looks like a chastised child as his feet shuffle on the rocks and dirt below. Diamond braces herself then stands up with all my weight leaning across her shoulders. She pulls me in a direction I’m not ready for too quickly, and I inhale sharply between my teeth. She looks to me apologetically. Her eyes are full of concern.
         "Are you ok?" She asks. I don't like the look of worry so I want to tell her I'm fine, it’ll be ok, but all I can manage is a weak nod. She succeeds in straightening me out as much as she can, most of my weight bearing down on her small frame, then she looks back to Alec as we prepare to leave.
           "Alec, I'll get a restraining order if necessary, but this is senior year for all of us," She says, her stance is Amazonian in kind as she talks while my body hangs from her neck like some skinned human scarf. I almost want to tell her forget it, he'll never change, but I know this is something she needs to do. She wants to let him down easy because she can see he's hurt. Despite her obvious anger her voice softens as she continues. “I need you to understand that we’re over."
           His mouth opens slightly like he wants to respond, but she doesn't give him the chance. Something in her face silences him. She studies me briefly once more as if to evaluate if I can move, then looks back to Alec one last time, shaking her head with disgust.
"Come on let's get you home and cleaned up Lionel, " She says to me, readjusting me on her shoulders. With that, we walk away.
That must be the nail in the coffin, because Alec doesn't even try to say anything this time. I watch through the swelling in my eyes as his head falls in defeat. Our progress is slow, and just as we walk past Alec I manage to shift my head in his direction. His eyes flicker up and I can see in them that he’s broken, even a bit apologetic. I lift my hand, an excruciating attempt, and raise my middle finger in his direction. He can sit and twist.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Creativity in the Time of COVID-19

I've had this one on my mind for some time. I finally sorted out the best way in which to share it with the world, enjoy. Pictures are by Mikael Owunna, I do not claim any rights to his photographs. I simply felt they would illustrate the story well. Please support him.

                                       Photo by Mikael Owunna

Cosmos In Love

“I was Cleopatra?”
He responded, his voice monotone. “A fraction of you found temporary abode in Cleopatra.”
Bridgette considered this as she watched the man that stood in front of her. Man, if he could be called such. The voice was deep and rumbled from the chest with the baritone of a male lion’s roar and the shoulders, broad and well rounded, implied Samsonite strength. Yet there was nothing obvious that identified him as a man. Though he wore nothing, there hung no genitalia between what appeared to be legs. In fact his appearance could only be described as negative space in which she saw an inky blackness dotted by a field of stars, planets, and galaxies of different sizes swirling within his form as if he held the heavens themselves. It was too fantastical to be real, yet here she was.
She continued. “And I was Josephine Baker?”
His monotone response continued. “ A fraction of you – “
“Found a temporary home, yeah I got it,” Bridgette had tirelessly asked the same question trying to piece together everything he’d told her, all somehow familiar but too fantastical to be embraced. “So you’re telling me, a part of me has been all of these people, throughout time, and I’m now my most complete form?”
He nodded seriously and in turn Bridgette broke out with hysterical laughter. From what she’d understood, she’d basically been a part of some of the most influential women in history; from Cleopatra, to Joan of Arc, to Josephine Baker and so on. She, an ex-drug addict barely making a living and preparing to be evicted from her rat infested apartment. If only the revelation that she was a celestial being could pay the rent.
“So you’re telling me I’ve lived all these amazing past lives only to find my ultimate existence in who I am now?”  Bridgette didn’t stop laughing. She didn’t know why but the sheer audacity that she’d been anything great was too amusing. 
“They are not your past, they’re parts of you,” His voice was somber as he spoke. No hint of humor to indicate he was in on her joke. Instead he spoke as though he carried a heavy burden, one he wanted to release. His eyes, well what should be eyes but were in fact blank white spaces, peered into Bridgette hoping that she would understand his persistence and so she sobered.
“Earlier you said you are Omega and I am Alpha, that you’d returned to give me a gift,” She hesitated, overcoming a shiver before continuing. “I want my gift now.”
“Are you open to receiving it?” He asked tentatively as if to a child that did not understand the full ramifications of what they asked for.
She thought about his words, placing two fingers to her face as she peered up to the ceiling, pondering. What could be the worse outcome of this man, who was like no other man, gifting her something? She was curious. “Yeah, I’m ready.”
With that he stepped towards her, the celestial bodies within his own increasing the speed of their orbits as they rotated faster with each step. He reached out hands, that did or did not exist, a light beginning to emanate from his body as he closed the gap. The fingers of his hands reached for either side of her face as Bridgette watched frozen in awe.
His hands met Bridgette’s skin and as they did he transferred millions of thoughts and images to her causing her to relive thousands of lifetimes all at once. Then Bridgette saw. This universal being, they were one, then split into two in the beginning before beginnings. From there they lived on until man was created. Bridgette experienced her own growing fascination with mankind. How she became so concerned with their plight that she tore herself into pieces that she sprinkled into what humans called “time” in order to enlighten each generation. She watched as she ushered in new eras, in different forms, inspiring new thoughts and helped to create a wave of brilliance. Then, just like that, she was back in the room with him, crumpled on the floor as tears of triumph and defeat painted the experience across her face.
“What did you do to me?” She asked with a tremble.
“I gave back to you the one thing you left with me,” He replied looking on with concern. “We vowed to love each other until the never-ending. When you decided to leave you asked me to safeguard one part of you and to give it back when you would need it most.”
She felt compelled, she wanted to know, and so she aked. “What part was that?”
“Your heart,” He replied simply and smiled for the first time since he appeared in her living room. His smile was beautiful like the sun appearing after a thunderstorm had passed.
Suddenly Bridgette felt her body tingle and she knew somehow what it meant.
“I have loved you forever, always, waiting for you return,” He stated and as he spoke Bridgette watched as her body was engulfed by light until she couldn’t see him any longer. The sound of his voice remaining clear. “Though we parted you are still the best part of me and I only wish to give back to you all that you gave to me.”
The light blinding Bridgette dimmed and he came back into focus.
His smile still shone brightly as he spoke. “ I have waited so long, watching you grow.”
The form that was once Bridgette looked down to her own hands and saw that they were now like his as shooting stars became her veins and the inky blackness of space became her skin.
And then when she spoke her voice was new and she understood. “We are alpha and omega, we are balance.”
He nodded, his smile fixed, and with that they embraced and dissipated as they held each other returning once more to the universe.

                                                        Photo by Mikael Owunna

Friday, September 13, 2019

Lucille - an Afrofuturistic short

I'm still writing. The quiet only means my life has caught up to me, but I'm always writing. There's this myth that someone is an overnight success, but  that is for a lucky few. Even then work is involved and for others even more application goes into play constantly.  Months or years of fine tuning something so well that when it is finally played it is near flawless. Because seriously, for creatives, there is no such thing as perfect, it can always be improved.

With that mentality though, I write, continuously and often. At times taking breaks to give attention to thoughts that need to be worked through, jotting down snatches of dialogue characters are having in my head, or other writings. It's an amazing journey to undergo. You're able to create and watch as your tiny little word expands into something you couldn't fully see at first, like a blank canvas that suddenly has so much detail you can never expect to see all of it in one viewing. Still creating, I most recently completed a story that falls in the vein of afro-futursim. It follows the idea of a steampunk world where the steampunk technology is pretty advanced. Humans  are a nearly extinct race, but the Earth is still well inhabited by intelligent life. In the original draft it was aliens, but once I really got into the story that changed to AIs. What follows is the outcome of that thought.
“I’ll ask you again,” Evan’s tone was level and cool, his question clear. “ Why are you in my home?”
The home is a cozy brownstone located next to his botany shop. It is located in a neighborhood that is usually quiet and undisturbed by the presence of unsavory things, until tonight.
A strange woman had trespassed onto his property and chose to meet his questions with silent indifference. Defiance poured from her, only her jawline tensing when he spoke. She was of a reasonable height but more to the short side with a large pile of small tight curls on her head that appeared slightly disheveled as if the last attempts to comb them had been days ago. The lack of attention left one side slightly flatter than the other. Her arms, seen through the tattered portions of her clothing, were dirty, brown, and lined with lean muscle. The overall poor state of her appearance brought questions to mind.
He wondered if she was a defector. It would explain the lack of attention to herself. Defectors were often known to be found wandering, AIs no longer able to follow their programming, those who’d gone rouge and off grid because they could no longer follow basic tasks. The city described them as “somehow altered”, though there was some question as to what that entailed.  She could have a corruption. Then another thought crossed his mind, could she be the one the scythers were seeking, the one that was causing the alarms to ring through the streets outside?
He didn’t know and, as he held the intense gaze of her brown eyes while she glared at him, he doubted she would give him any answers.
Evan sighed deeply before he spoke again. “Maybe if you tell me I could help.”
The feeling was strange, exasperation. Evan had downloaded the updated patch for emotions a few hours before, but this was his first opportunity to use them in context with a situation. Most AIs didn’t care for these download, ones that made them more human Evan, however, enjoyed exploring the options as they became available. He met often in the abandoned factories near his home in order to secure the next item. This one had been particularly long to download and he was warned it would be intense. The dealer explaining that part of the program was to help you identify each surfacing emotion by cross-referencing it with definitions or even stored memories that exhibited the same feelings. It accessed more than he expected, things he didn’t realize he could do as felt a surge of tension in his chest. He was irritated.
He considered the possibility that he could be a defector if he could not gain control. There was always the risk of corruption. There always was even if the software writer was another AI but it was something Evan was willing to chance. His human parents had given him free will after all and he always wondered what made them, tick. So many centuries later he was still trying to answer this. Though the city banned all emotional upgrades years ago there were still those who felt the same and so continued to explore different ways to imitate human responses within their AI bodies. The rush of re-programming that occurred with each update of emotion was exhilarating, another word Evan had learned to associate, if an AI could be said to feel exhilaration. Over so many years he felt like he was still so far from the wide breadth of expressions available to humans.
He considered all of this while examining the feeling that went through him now, exasperation. It was strange to him and he didn’t find enjoyment in the feeling itself, unlike “happy” which had thrilled him. Regardless he paid close attention to the way exasperation affected the functions of his system, how it left a lingering feeling of irritation afterwards that he couldn’t get rid of right away, which only made it more irritating. It felt like a residue left over, human description of a hangover comes to mind. All this flashed instantly through Evan’s processors, as he sorted out what to do with the woman.
“It’s late, I don’t want this to continue until morning,” Evan pinched the bridge of his nose with his index and thumb applying slight pressure as he had seen before. This emotion was annoyance he realized. It made him scrunch his face in unfamiliar ways as he closed his eyes tightly. He’d never had this feeling before either. Downloads usually only carried one emotion at a time. Was this a defective download? He couldn’t tell but it was too late the effects integrated with his core system and it couldn’t be undone without a full reboot of a stored backup. That would be fore another time. He needed to deal with his intruder first. “What are you looking for?
Undisturbed by the repeated question the woman continued to appear as if she wouldn’t answer. Then the sound of the alarm came closer. At that growing sound she jumped. The voices of the scythers, the AIs city patrol, could be heard from a distance announcing their search for something, but Evan tuned it out as the woman finally spoke.
“I need the lavender,” she said. Her words spilled out quickly, her stoic facial expression becoming one of slight desperation.
“Sorry?” Evan questioned, moving closer to where the woman sat. He heard the words clearly but he didn’t understand the request. Risking everything for something so insignificant he could not comprehend.
“Lavender,” She repeated looking past him into the distance, no longer giving attention to his movement or clarity on her request.
“Lavender.” Evan repeated, the single word becoming an explosion of thought. Lavender was rare now but relatively useless. He was one the only AI he knew of that bothered to grow the flower. AI’s didn’t care for smaller plants like this. The larger ones, like trees or bushes, served more purpose in filtering the air so the existence of these were useful and reinforced by traces of the original programming given to all AI. When the Earth could not sustain life and they were given the directive to save the Earth focus was given to plants that could quickly and more effectively filter the air while humans hid away in bunkers and safe zones waiting for the planet to be saved. Lavender could do little in any situation, he thought, what did this woman want with it?
The woman’s eyes searched his home desperately as if she would find the plant there at any moment. Her movement frantic and he could tell she not only wanted this plant, she needed it. She could be a defective AI but there could be more here. He processed a thought as it flitted across his circuits briefly. Something about humans but he disregarded it, simply watching and gathering the information for the moment then dared to inquire further. “Are you not able to schedule and appointment for a more appropriate time?”
He meant for it to come across jokingly. His delivery needed work, but her response was more accurate in the vein of sarcasm.
“Schedules really aren’t my thing,” The irritation on her face was exquisitely displayed as she rolled her eyes. Evan saw another flash of emotion he’d become familiar with. There was anger in the woman. Human eyes burned with anger he’d heard one time and she was ablaze. Evan considered his earlier thought once more and this time he acted on it.
“Are you human?” Evan’s tone was more matter of fact than a question. He watched what he thought was another AI, malfunctioning maybe, but still an AI. From his continued observations however there was far too much movement, too much fear, and too much sweat. Even for the most dedicated reenactment of human expression Evan had never witnessed so much sweat. These mannerisms only became worse as the voice of scythers grew closer.
She chose not to answer, her gaze finally dropping from his as she looked to the door.
“They’ll find you,” Evan spoke the words, not with thought of her safety, more a declaration of fact. He looked to her and saw that she understood, looking to him once more, he continued. “I don’t know how you managed to even get in town but by now they’re sweeping in grids. They’ll quickly and efficiently search every part of the city. There’s no chance you’ll make it out.” He paused before speaking the next words. “Not without help.”
He watched her reaction, calculating the tiniest of movements in her face. Up to now a look of fear had conquered her features but this was gone. Even the appearance of anger melted away, transforming into something else, pure hatred.
“I want nothing from you,” the woman’s words spewed with such vehemence that Evan took a step back without knowing why, registering fear. The burst of emotion caused her fa├žade of fearless strength to unravel, her face no longer feigning control. She moved to stand and her torn clothes shifted. Evan saw scratches he was unaware of before. She was human.
So this human stood before him, hands down by her side approaching him, a menacing look on her face as looked prepared to attack. Her next words came out strong. “You’re the reason I have to be afraid but I’m not choosing fear anymore.”
A strange glow appeared on either side of her then she raised her hands revealing a ball of flame resting in each palm. The realization of what was happening moved Evan just in time as she threw the flames, one after the other, in his direction. She was not just human; she was a magi descendant.
Evan dodge had been just in time, one ball of flame colliding against the far wall blowing out upon impact, the other hitting the wall just behind him. He looked at the scorched wood in both instances then to her.
“You’re not supposed to exist. The rise of the AIs extinguished all magi descendants first.” He spoke this as alarms in his system told him to run, to move, his survival program advising him to move cautiously.
Evan’s mind raced to find any records of magi descendants still alive. They were a myth, as humans would say, by this time missing for the last half century and believed to be extinct. Yet here she stood, a human capable of manipulating elements, possibly more. Beings who’d helped sustain the Earth, at the cost of their own bodies, until AIs found a way to do it better. These were the same magi descendants that led the attack against the AIs when it was decided humans were not fit for this world. Yet she stood in front of him ready to attack.
As Evan avoided another ball of fire, this one crashing through a window, he considered what could pull someone like her out. A magi descendant here after all this time, why?
“Wait!” Evan adjusted his volume slightly amplifying his voice in the hopes that it would jar the woman out of her rage, it worked. She hesitated on her next throw and eyed him curiously, the hate still visible from behind her eyes. Evan took in the flame formed in her hand as the tendrils of fire danced, eyeing it before he spoke. “The fire will only draw attention if it hasn’t already. I know little of your magic but my first parents were human. I don’t want to hurt you.” He emphasized the last part and she seemed to understand as her hand lowered and the flame died out slowly by her side.
“You’re a stage one Artificial Intelligence,” Her statement was almost a question as the edges of her harsher tone faded away to one of soft disbelief and some excitement became evident as she continued. “You’re a sympathizer then. You’re one of the few who tried to help the rebellion.”
“Yes, and in the end we failed you.” If pain could seep into Evan’s words his voice would be strained with the effort as he recalled the memories vividly depicting the genocide of human kind. He was one of the few units that managed to avoid the wipe or so called “self-improvements” forced on all AIs to reset the first law, to not kill humans. Fortunately Evan’s parents had taught him free will, a thing humans cherished.
“What is your name and how is that you exist?” Evan said changing the subject gesturing for her to sit down. He remained more interested in present events than past ones. “All magi descendants were thought to be dead.”
“Not all of us.” She replied simply still on guard. “My name is Lucille. Yours?”
“I continue to go by the name my parents gave me, Evan.” He answered then raised both hands in peace as he moved closer to Lucille. She watched his approach apprehensively but Evan cautiously closed the gap between them then motioned once again for her to sit. She hesitated but eventually sat down, hands remaining at the ready to either side of her just in case.
“The ability of magi descendants… I’ve heard but I’ve never seen – “ Evan was curious. The human that sat before him, that called herself Lucille, appeared small yet the power she displayed was enough to singe portions of his skyne’s exterior, the tough artificial layer created to protect his vital components. Skyne could sustain heats of an unimaginable level but her attack had set off his internal sensors alerting him to danger, something unheard of when it came to everyday fire. He’d walked through a burning forest once during the rebellion and not once had a sensor gone off. He wanted to know, “How does it work?”
“This isn’t exactly the time for a history lesson.” Lucille stated her eyes searching for scythers that remained unseen through the wooden walls though their progress through the streets could be heard easily.
“Very well,” Evan responded. “Then confirm, the scythers are after you aren’t they? It’s not a rogue AI they’re chasing.”
There was a hesitation. “Possibly.”
Her response was vague and it took only moments before Evan understood. “You’re not alone.”
The same look he’d seen his human mother wore all too often as the AI coupe increased, flashed across Lucille’s features, worry. He hadn’t understood it with his mother but he did now. Lucille was scared for the well-being of the other humans that were somewhere in the town. Where were they now? Were they all magi?  How many were being collected one by one as the scythers found each of them?  Evan had watched the massacre happen before. He didn’t want to see that again.
“I can help but why the lavender?” Despite his desire to be logical, to put this inquiry aside, something would not allow him to just let the flowers go, he felt a tinge of sadness at the thought of losing them. “The Lavender is a token of my mother, the only reason I grow it.” Evan’s mother loved lavender. She grew pieces of it in every corner of their house. HIs first memory of smelling them was the day he’d returned with his sensory upgrades. The smell permeated the room. He’d become attached to them over time in memory of her.
“As if you could’ve truly loved her,” Lucille’s answer was nearly a snarl, all warmth gone from her voice. It left the room cold. “AIs imitate human emotion, you can’t feel any of it. We scouted this town for weeks. I watched you mechanically go about your day, no thought but to fulfill your routine. That’s why AIs could murder an entire race without hesitation. Did you even protect her, your mother, when they came for her too?”  
Smoke appeared in Lucille’s clenched fist. Her magic manifesting as flickers of fire, like a lighter trying to catch.
Evan chose not to answer; something in him would not permit him to speak. Instead he braced himself for the full force of her assault, but it never came, thought it felt deserved. Instead he watched as Lucille crumbled before him into a fit of tears and sobs.
“She’s dying,” Her head dropped and the sobs came faster. “My wife is dying. The healer needs the lavender to save her.” Evan watched the blooming distress and out of habit, pre-determined commands calculated into his circuitry, he moved forward slowly in attempts to console her. As his hand lifted as he came closer. In that moment he felt a slight difference, noted there was more in his movement this time, more than an automatic response, he genuinely wanted her to feel better, to soothe her tormented thoughts.  He could see her angered emotions ruling her. The same emotions that humans allowed to block their logic yet pulled them through any tragedy.
He was in awe of Lucille when he finally reached her placing his hand on her. He felt as if everything had slowed down. There was something more in this touch, magic so to speak, but he knew she had nothing to do with their unspoken exchange. Magi descendants could not influence AIs yet he felt drawn to her, to her story. Her emotional form reminded him of his mother and suddenly she was his mother. A perfect stranger, who could surely harm him, had created a feeling of familiarity. Maybe the upgrade had produced more than expected, something unique, but before he had time to identify it Lucille showed that she did not welcome his touch.
“This is the world your kind created,” The ice of her words matched the cold look in her eyes as she pulled away. Her statement generalized all AIs and left Evan, hurt, that was the word his synapses referenced. It left him unsure of how best to move forward, how best to approach her again.
Could his download have done all this, left him conflicted and unable to find the words to answer the obvious pain in her face and voice? Was the download corrupt? His body felt like it was malfunctioning, his imitation heart going at a rate he had not requested, feeling as though it were sinking into an area unknown, impossible feelings. Every part of his programming seemed to be running counterproductive to what he wanted. Ticks were starting to occur. This was it he’d finally received a bad download.
He began to feel disconnected, disoriented, watching as Lucille stood and cursed all AIs in existence. It was as if he watched the scene unravel from outside himself, watching from location outside as her rage coursed through her veins and into her hands. He watched as the fires ignited and she stood, preparing to attack, the flames now growing into large towers of fire in either hand, billowed outwards and reached towards the ceiling of the room, then the crash occurred.
Evan’s return to his surrounding was jarring. The world seemed odd and strange now, some part of his synapses not quite connecting. As a result he wasn’t sure where the source of the noise had come from at first, but he soon felt a slight breeze through the sensors on his skyne that wasn’t there before. He watched as the heat from the towering flames engulfing Lucille’s hands died down, her face appearing frozen with fear and so Evan turned to see what awaited.
A scyther had begun ripping through the wall, the same wall where Lucille’s fireball had gone through the window only moments earlier. The sound of destruction was clear to Evan now, as he became fully aware, and it was loud. The large curved arms of the scyther, for which it was named, tore away at the beams and wood effectively. It was unrelenting in its task as it ripped away at Evan’s home.
“A level one threat has been detected at this dwelling,” The scyther’s voice was amplified, much louder than Evan’s had been before as it belted it’s announcement through a megaphone type device protruding from the top of its head. Its voice boomed so loudly the sound could be felt in the floor over the scyther’s digging. The gears on its arm visible as the long sickled blades entered and exited pulling more and more of the structure away. The megaphone retracting as its announcement ended while its arms continued tirelessly to focus on making room for its full thirteen-foot frame to enter. Evan took only a moment to make his decision as the scyther continued to tear away another portion of the wall.
“Let’s go,” Evan said turning and grabbing Lucille’s hand. He ignored the sensors informing him his skyne was too close to a heated source as Lucille’s hands still contained the last dying embers of her flames. “We have to get you out of here.”
Evan pulled her through the house, their escape leading them down the long hall to the kitchen. Once there he threw open the door to the back of the house and exited outside to the yard. The air was warm and wet. The night sky dotted with the first stars just beginning to appear after the sun had faded and a half-moon reflecting what light it could. It was enough. He could clearly make out the rear of his home, a wide-open field, and his greenhouse. The only visible structure in sight in this direction. Some large hills could be seen in the distance. Past that he knew were the abandoned factories. The greenhouse was his first goal.
He turned to Lucille preparing to tell her his intent but paused when he saw her face. Tears streamed from her eyes, the drops reflecting the soft light of the stars and moon. He saw her clearly, appearing disoriented and lost, her eyes gazing into the distance, seeing nothing. Evan could sense Lucille’s heartbeat through her wrist where he held her. It pulsed erratically.
Evan looked back through the kitchen. The scyther could not be seen but Evan could hear its blades as it continued to tear away at the structure.
He turned back to Lucille. “There’s only one, you can still make it. Other scythers may have been warned but you can still get out of here. There’s a sewage tunnel leading to an abandoned factory. It’ll lead you miles out of town. If they don’t see where you go they won’t look there, it has been dubbed a gray area, off grid and to be avoided. You have to make it to the hills. Just go straight you won’t miss it.”
With that Evan felt assured and turned, pulling Lucille forward towards the greenhouse, but felt resistance. He looked back and in her face all the fear and numbness was gone. Lucille’s jaw was set, as before when she sat in his home, her eyes narrowed with determination. The tears dried leaving salty trails on her features. She still looked to nothing in particular, and though Evan couldn’t see it, he knew that a fire burned within. She said something too quick and too low for him to hear but Lucille had said before, this wasn’t exactly the time.
“We have to go now.” Evan urged her forward, pulling her once more, fighting against the impulse to simply pick her up and carry her to the destination.
When she finally spoke, her voice came out strong, her chin pushed out in defiance. “I’m not running. Running has gotten us nowhere. Where is humanity now? We live like roaches afraid to see the light. We must decide when this ends.” She paused to look at him with new eyes. “No, I’m not running, I’m going to become the light.”
With that Lucille’s frame became a towering inferno. Evan watched as she was engulfed in flames from head to toe. Portions of the flames, those closest to her body, burning a dark blue. The remainder of the fire became a raging spiral of orange, yellow, and white. The intensity of which caused Evan to let go and move away. He was forced to run several feet into greenhouse to escape the force. It was only a few seconds to cover the distance. Once inside his sensors finally quieted and he found relief. He looked down to see that his durable skyne had been burned in several areas revealing the metallic components below. This was why AIs targeted the magi descendants first. Their power was obviously destructive.
He sheltered himself in the moisture of his greenhouse as the flames danced and reached a peak nearly ten feet above Lucille’s head before settling back down around her form. The flames clung tightly to her but she remained unscathed. Evan had never witnessed a human in this way and realized he had never fully understood the power of magi descendants. Though her fire was contained the heat of Lucille’s flames caused the moisture from the windowpanes to evaporate and the plants closest to the door wilted from the intensity.
An instant later the scyther crashed through the house spotting Lucille’s human form amongst the flames. Her face furrowed, concentrated rage. She stood straight with her arms bent at the elbows, ready for a fight. Evan noted that her lips were moving now. What was she saying and how long could she persist? There was a reason the AIs won the war sending humans into hiding. Magi descendants were unable to sustain long incantations. That was why the more advanced AIs were created to save the Earth, when humans realized they could not do it alone. Evan had read how some spells needed the words to focus some of the greater magic, but how long did she have?
The sycther didn’t care to observe or stare in wonder. Not as complicated as more advanced units it only served one purpose, to seek out and destroy humans. The instant that it saw Lucille its long blade lashed out preparing to cut her in half. Evan felt a bubble of something, concern, as she remained where she stood, while another unknown emotion left him immobilized. All of this was quickly replaced when disbelief took over as the scene unfolded before his eyes.
The scyther’s arm cut swiftly through the air, blade moving with such speed it took some effort from Evan to follow. Just as it encountered the wall of flames, it slowed tremendously as if pressing against some physical force, and the metal began melting away. The blade rapidly became nothing. The metal of the scyther’s arm was far better constructed than Evan’s skyne. How had she done that? The magi descendants were a threat, it’s true, but Evan never imagined they were capable of this.
Regardless of the flames heat the main core of the scyther’s arm remained intact. It struck Lucille with a muffled thud knocking her back. She fell to the ground in a stunned heap, her flames going out immediately. The scyther prepared to strike again with its other arm, which remained undamaged, pulling it back so as to strike the next blow. Evan moved to her side instantly. He launched himself between the scyther and Lucille catching the blade before it fell.
Evan held the blade, feeling the pressure increasing but he continued to match the mechanical giant, holding it in place by its blade. Evan was able to move it a few inches away before he felt the strength of the scyther push back. It became a back and forth both trying to outdo the brute strength of the other. Evan knew he would eventually lose so he needed to things to move one quickly.
“Get up!” Evan yelled. From the corner of his eye he saw Lucille’s stir, only to roll over slightly, moaning. His criy became desperate as the scyther gave another push. “Now, get up now!”
Evan’s cries came in vain. If only he could kick Lucille with his foot, or shake her awake, but even as he thought of this he felt the scyther gaining ground against him. Any attempt to shift now and Evan knew he would lose this struggle. The scyther, with its large orb eyes and visible gears looked truly lifeless and dead, a true reaper. Serving only military purpose it was only a cold and calculating force meant for policing. Though its build was simple Evan knew the fight was from over as the scyther worked its gears trying to bring the blade down up on him.
It was just as he was considering another attempt to wake Lucille that Evan saw movement. Lucille placed her arm beneath her chest lifting herself slowly. The progress was painful but deliberate. He listened to her gasp with pain several times as she made efforts to stand. The recovery of humans had always been poor, even with magi descendants, unless healers were present. Now would have been a great time for the arrival of such a person. Evan would have prayed, if he believed in God, to have anyone of the humans that came with her to show up, but no one came. All Evan could do was redouble his efforts to hold the scythe at bay. He used what he could, data cables extending like tendrils from his arm, entwining themselves around the scythe in order to give him additional leverage and keep the scyther off balance as best as he could. In the end, to Evan, it was a long time before she was sitting upright.
Evan knew they didn’t have much longer. “Take the lavender, in the greenhouse, and go!” His instructions were direct. She would see the lavender in the back easily, clearly labeled and visible from the front, but instead of leaving, instead of thanking him and going forward with his directions, Lucille simply shook her head as if finally awakening to the scene around her.
It was in that moment that the scyther realized Evan wasn’t human and adapted its attack. Its simple processor did not try to remove the blade from Evan’s grasp, although he was prepared if it did, instead the scyther began swinging it’s damaged arm against his side. Evan’s skeletal frame, titanium at the core, took damage with each impact but it was minimal, and so he held strong. It would take time for the scyther to break anything critical. Despite this fact the crunch of metal against metal was not softened and each blow that landed tore away t the protective layers of skyne resulting in an echo that only became louder in the night.
Lucille looked on in horror, going from Evan to the scyther and back. She still hadn’t moved from the ground. She simply sat where she’d managed to proper herself up and did nothing more. Evan was observing the absurdity of this, wondering how humans had survived this long, when he felt his arms slip. The titanium in his frame was finally succumbing to the attack against his side and he had no way to prevent it.
This time he amplified his own voice speaking urgently.  “Get up now, go!”
That brought Lucille back to herself but unfortunately the scyther registered her movement. It took it’s attention from Evan for a moment, taking the same damaged arm, and swinging the rod at Lucille who was just to the side of Evan. It just barely missed her as rolled to dodge the attack. The scyther’s arm leaving behind an indentation inches deep into the earth as it lifted its arm for another attack.
Lucille stood and prepared to fight. Evan could see the fire building in her hands, the smoke rising.
“No, run!” Evan’s thoughts shifted erratically. His life, the humans that were a part of that, and the injustices he’d witnessed, they all passed through his mind processing at speeds he was unfamiliar with. He didn’t want her to die, not like his mother. He became obsessed with this thought a sadness creeping in him, so painful and deep. He’d seen this emotion but to feel it was so intense that he gasped as the emotion took hold of him. He didn’t want to witness that again. He could sacrifice himself for Lucille. He’d lived centuries more than any human, too long. As his thoughts settled he braced his feet and pushed back against the scyther.
“Why?” Lucille asked as she stared at him, her eyes searching his for the answer. Why sacrifice yourself they asked, what did you owe me.
He turned his head away from her, recalling the look of worry one last time, her brown skin covered in dirt and grass, clothes tattered, as she sat in his home. He felt an urge to hold her, protect her, but there was only time for one of those things right now.
“I couldn’t save my mother, when they came. I didn’t know any better, didn’t understand, I do now. I couldn’t save anyone then, but I can now. Please run.” His voice was pleading, daring to shift his eyes and look sideways one last time at Lucille. Then he felt himself slip with the scyther again returning his full attention to the task at hand.
They crawled down his cheek on their own, as she stood and turned away finally understanding. The salt and water were foreign to him as they passed down to his chin, the droplets gathering, then finally becoming so heavy that they fell away on their own to some location unknown. An unfamiliar tension formed in his chest as he cried and the word loss flashed across his mind. He tuned out Lucille, ignored her retreat into the greenhouse. He knew she would go for the lavender, somehow he knew she would be ok. So many years he had grown the lavender not knowing why, but now as he sat in a struggle for life, it dawned on him, the feeling that he could never place whenever he thought of his mother. Love, he’d loved his mother and the humans he’d met in his life, not fully understanding the free will his mother had given him until now. How his father had insisted that he think for himself, that it was the only thing that truly made one human, to have thought and to take action. Evan did not take action when they came for his parents, or the others, but he could now. As illogical as it seemed, to Evan it would be as if he had the chance to save his mom all over again by saving Lucille.
Evan’s resolve rushed in with that thought and so he pushed with all he had. He would save Lucille. He shifted his legs slightly, giving himself more leverage and leaned forward pushing against the scyther’s blade. If he could save Lucille, if he could do this one act, maybe redemption would be possible. The blade moved back further. He could do this, he could save her and be one step closer to understanding his mother and father, and all humans. How his mother had shown him such care could, he had never understood. Able to treat life as sacred, even artificial life, only to be struck down in cold blood for all her good.
The blade gave little by little, moving further away. Evan pushed and never looked back for Lucille. He hoped she was gone, having retrieved the lavender that she remembered his directions to run for the hills, following it all the way out to the edge of town.
These were the pleasant thoughts that gave him hope and kept him fighting. Then, a crashing noise directed him his thoughts back to the house. Another scyther had located his house and was coming through the wreck that was his home to where he stood now battling the current damaged unit. When Evan saw this he accepted his fate. He had lived long enough to know love, that was enough.
“You have been deemed defective and will be appropriately discarded,” The new arrival stated as it proceeded to approach Evan.Its blade struck swiftly, the razor edge removing Evan’s left arm. With his right arm he held on to the first scyther but the blade soon struck again removing this one, then his legs.
Evan had one last happy thought as the scyther’s blades continued to dismember his body. His mother, the day he saw her smile as he inhaled the scent of her lavender for the first time. She looked on with pure joy to see him experiencing this strange wonder and told him how happy she was that he could enjoy the flowers. The small things in life were worth living for. A smile painted her face with radiant joy. In his last moment, as his internal power gave out, this was last image he saw. He hoped that Lucille would run free, enjoying the little things and finding a way to save her love. Then everything went dark. Humanity would have to win without him.

For the Love of Diamond

I wanted to play around with description in this writing. The imagery here is meant to be vibrant and felt by the reader. I wanted my writin...