Issue 105 Jun 2022
Merel Moors is a student at Mermoz High school in Saint Louis, Alsace, France. Merel is one of three winners of a flash fiction contest her school held. Each student was to write about a societal problem that worries them. This is Merel’s story.
From a distance, Rachel seemed like a strong, intelligent young woman, always ready to help, always in control... but those who know her story know that she is not in control at all, especially since that night. Since that night, she has not only lost control, but she has also lost her happiness, her will to live and her serenity.
Rachel graduated in Sociology last year from the prestigious Cambridge University in England. She has been looking for a company to hire her for a few months. When the Norel company finally contacted her, she was ecstatic. She was so excited to experience the working world; it was a dream come true. However, the dream quickly escalated into a nightmare.
Rachel was 1.78m tall with long blond hair and light blue eyes and had a Norwegian dad that she never knew. It wasn’t easy to grow up without a dad, she was jealous of the other girls whose dad always came to pick them up at school or brought them to dance courses. Moreover, her mom never wanted to talk about it. “There is no point in rehashing bad memories,” she said.
Her mother Dorothea, who was French, was drowning in work and little present during Rachel's childhood. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but cold. Her parents did not speak to her since she told them she was pregnant at 16. At that age, it seemed wise for Dorothea to follow the "love of her life" to England and settle down to raise their child. And so it was, until the child's father abandoned her for another woman two years later. The young mother found a job in a restaurant as a waitress where she worked from 8am to 10pm almost every day. It wasn't easy, and she had thought of getting rid of the child and going back to live with her parents, although she would never admit it to Rachel. However, she never did. Instead she raised her strictly and pushed her to get the best grades in her class while warning her about the bad behavior of boys.
At dawn, three kids slay a monster.
Breathing hard, Saturn drops to zir knees. Ze clutches a black knife in one fist, and the hot, still-beating heart of the Harbinger in the other. The air crackles—Gus still holding his black metal staff high above his head, lightning bearing down on the other-dimensional being. Gus hurls bolt after bolt from dark clouds like a twelve-year-old Thor, striking the Harbinger in the same smoking spot, forcing its many-eyed face into the dirt.
Bronwyn rushes to Saturn’s side, dropping her goopy, green-stained broadsword to prop zem up. Strands of brown hair escape her ponytail, clinging to the spatters of Harbinger blood on her face. “You good?”
Ze shrugs her off. Bronwyn has severed many of the Harbinger’s arms, which squirm and flop and grasp even after dismemberment, but Gus has the right idea. Whenever it seems to be dying, the monster only transforms again, growing in power with every contortion of limbs.
When Saturn’s eyes focus, zir vision fluctuates between two separate worlds overlain. The In-Between, with its purple sky of dying stars, its moon-rock mountains, the toxic-waste reek of the world-devourer’s open wounds—and the playground in the town of Tedium, Ontario, with its rusty metal play structure and its rotting gazebo. In both worlds, a storm rages throughout the dawn, hovering above the battle. Lightning strikes around them, shattering boulders in the In-Between and severing the branches from Earth trees.
I can feel Colonel Baker’s unforgiving gaze over my shoulder. I have worked for the man for six months now, and lived with him longer, but his intensity still jacks my heart rate. I need to pee.
Some kind of bug stopped his precious battlebots dead in their tracks this morning, and he expects me to fix it.
“Are they going to work, Kit?” the Colonel demands. “Bodhi tells me you are the best robot guy around. Won the state contest or some shit like that. A ‘badass’ was his exact description, I think.”
Bodhi is the colonel’s son and a senior at Branson Academy like me. He had the foulest mouth of anyone I knew. Until I met his dad that is. Ironic, since nothing lathers up the colonel faster than Bodhi letting an f-bomb slip at the dinner table.
“I think so, Colonel,” I say.
“You best know so, son” he says. “Showtime is in four hours, and without the battlebots, there ain’t no show.” The colonel turns and stalks off.
That’s “foster” son, Colonel.
From another room, I hear “Rockin’ Robin” for the millionth time.
The colonel, as he reminds Bodhi, and everyone else, whenever possible, paid more than a million dollars to gen-edit his son en-vitro to meet his exacting standards, a laser focus being most important. Bodhi has been practicing his performance of the hundred-year-old song for weeks. I know the song and dance so well, I sometimes catch myself singing and dancing.
Then, I see it. A bad set of self-modifying routines in a rarely used portion of the battlebots learning algorithms is what bricked them. Makes sense. We are hardly using them for their intended purpose. There are bound to be other unforeseen edge cases in the battlebot software. Hopefully, none will trigger during the show. We’d need another six months to test the code completely.