Competition: Write gadget fiction, win swag

Send us your work of flash fiction. The theme for your piece is gadgets, and you can interpret that as widely as you please. Entries will be published, and the winners picked, in two weeks. Post entries directly in the comments, or email them to Rob at boingboing dot net.

First prize: HP MediaSmart Server LX195

HP's LX195 home server has Microsoft Windows HS, a 1.6 GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a 640GB hard drive and 4 USB ports. It's just 8"x4" in size, and is priced at $400.

Second Prize: Mind Twist

Imagination Entertainment's Mind Twist is a competitive board game that looks like Sentinel and involves luck, bluff and strategy.

Third Prize: Tetris Cube

Also from Imagination Entertainment. This is similar to a Soma cube, but bigger and harder: try and arrange the blocks to form a perfect cube, or whatever else pleases you.

Thank you to HP and Imagination Entertainment for the awesome prizes. Now, send in some awe-inspiring fiction. Beat this.

Note: By posting your work or sending it in to us, you release it under a Creative Commons license unless you specify otherwise. Also, we can't ship prizes outside the U.S. but will clarify with HP.

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at  
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30 Responses to Competition: Write gadget fiction, win swag

  1. Rob Beschizza says:

    We’ll be cycling round on outstanding competitions this week.

  2. Rob Beschizza says:

    U.S. only, sorry. But I’ve asked HP if they’ll ship abroad. We have the other prizes in house, so *can* ship those abroad, so long as you don’t live on Mars or something.

  3. Jon says:

    Rob –

    What’s your length definition for flash?


  4. Hippocratic Oaf says:

    - Joy –

    “So,” she replied in that transparently polite manner of someone who is waiting for you to pay your money and get the hell out.
    “Um. Was it good for you?”
    Even as I asked it, I knew it was a mistake. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t ask; I honestly didn’t want to know the answer. It’s not something I’d normally ask a woman – not something anybody would ask – except in a strictly ironic sense. But somehow, I just couldn’t stop myself.
    “Oh yeah. As good as it gets.”
    I felt the desperate half-smile freeze across my face as I winced inwardly, instantly switching to damage repair, determined not to let myself be stung by her contempt and absolutely adamant that I wouldn’t let her know it had registered. If she had bothered to look in my direction, I doubt she would have been fooled for a second. Then again, I doubt she would have cared. She lit a second cigarette and pointedly checked her watch. I started gathering my clothes.


    Already I found my mind drifting back to my parents’ basement, seventeen years ago. Back to a girl, barely sixteen, sitting naked and smiling. My girl. I remember that feeling of pride, of possession, of foolish adolescent love. The same question in my mind, but, even then, knowing it was the wrong thing to ask. I remember checking my buzzer, almost without thinking, to see how many clicks I’d lost, then a small glow of satisfaction at just how far the number had fallen. Three hundred and twenty clicks or, to put it another way, nearly a week off my life expectancy. I beamed. Nothing makes pleasure more real than being able to quantify it precisely.
    We were at that age when we believed we would have no secrets from each other, a pretence I devotedly clung to despite the fact that I would routinely censor my thoughts several times a minute while speaking to her. Honesty could only be taken so far – surely it couldn’t preclude couching your opinions in terms that might make you more attractive to the opposite sex. When you’re sixteen, honesty is only measured in sweeping gestures: swearing to be faithful, whispering your most intimate hopes and fears, and, of course, providing unrestricted access to one another’s joy buzzers. Except on that night.
    It hadn’t hurt a bit, she’d assured me. She’d really enjoyed it, in fact. And she loved me more than anything. But when I got up to tiptoe to the bathroom I saw how her eyes nervously followed me and how she unthinkingly placed herself between me and her buzzer, which sat knowingly on the nightstand. Later that night, while I rooted through her pockets to the sound of her gentle snoring, I told myself that it was she who had struck the first blow to honesty, not I. In retrospect, I should have been flattered. To pretend to enjoy what the figures showed to be little short of physical torture was as clear a sign of her love as I could ever ask for. Instead, I took it as the worst kind of betrayal. I never gave her the chance to repeat it.


    Back in the hotel room, the prostitute had managed to fully clothe herself without once letting go of her cigarette, while I was still sitting naked on the edge of the bed, lost in reverie. Jolting myself back into the moment, I met her gaze.
    “Show me.”
    A brief moment of alarm, then what I took to be a flicker of sympathy.
    “That’s not going to happen, honey.”
    “Seriously, show me. I’ll be out of your hair in a minute, then you’ll never see me again. I just want to know.”
    And suddenly I had to know. It isn’t something that usually bothers me; in the seventeen years since my first awkward sexual fumblings I can safely say that I have come a long way, a claim that has been borne out by a number of different women’s buzzers. When it comes to sex, I know what makes women click. For some reason, though, it now seemed vital that I know what this hooker had thought of me. Maybe it wasn’t about me, but about her. Here I was, about to abandon this woman about whom I knew next to nothing, despite having shared what is supposed to be an act of utmost intimacy – a woman I hadn’t even met until an hour ago – and I still had no way of knowing anything below her surface. If I could just make some sort of connection with her, then I could go on my way without feeling so empty. Or maybe that was just the guilt from my first dabbling in the world of paid sex. Whatever the reason, I had to see her buzzer.
    “I’m telling you, I can’t. It’s just… unprofessional. You don’t want to see it.”
    “I do. I need to see it.”
    The desperation in my eyes must have been clear. Whether she was afraid that I’d become violent or she had just convinced herself that I was no sort of threat, her resolve visibly weakened. I pushed.
    “Please. I promise not to comment.”
    She took a slow drag of smoke through her teeth as she reached into her bag.
    “Just don’t take it personally.”
    And just like that, the urge to see my sexual prowess clinically rated in the biochemistry of a stranger’s brain evaporated. Whatever had come over me a few minutes earlier had passed on, but it was too late. She was handing me the small, sleek gadget and I had no choice but to accept the prize for which I had begged. Turning away from her, I flicked the dial back to show the statistics for the last hour.
    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was met with disappointment. Despite her horizontal theatrics, she had registered about as much physical pleasure from our business transaction as I would have from an above-average bowel movement. I felt my ego curl up and start sucking its thumb while my memory skimmed in vivid rewind over everything that I might have done badly to deserve such a crushing review.
    Without thinking, I spun the dial again, this time displaying her pleasure levels for the past week. Almost a flat line. I spun it again to view a fortnight, a month, a year. All flat. Her click total had barely fallen at all in the past three years. At this rate, she would long outlive me, just as she would long outlive her professional appeal. If the various hazards of the job didn’t get to her first, she’d have a protracted state-supported dotage to look forward to, assuming she still had the capacity to look forward to anything. As good as it gets indeed.
    When I turned to give her device back, she was sitting on the bed, facing away from me and pulling on a third cigarette. I placed the buzzer and an extra £50 on the table as I left.

  5. napstimpy says:

    Doesn’t SWAG mean “Stuff We All Get”? As in, “everyone who registers for the event receives a free blah.”

  6. Rob Beschizza says:


  7. JD Paradise says:

    Nicely done, Oaf. I don’t quite get the moments-off-the-lifespan, but really dug the story in general.

  8. MrAndrews says:

    Is there a limit to how many times you can enter? Can I spend my entire week writing flash fiction for a contest I have no hope of winning? Please?

  9. jdparadise says:

    _Seventh Sin_

    “How,” Jesse demands, “can such an expensive little sonofabitch be so cheap-looking?”

    Hallie tells him it’s camouflage; if the Follis 9000 Elite actually looked like what it was, she says, the only thing longer than the line of people who’d want to see it would be the line of people who wanted to steal it.

    “But it’s thirty thousand bucks,” Jesse says. “For thirty grand I want more than bells and whistles; I want a fucking orchestra following me around, complete with More Cowbell.”

    She shrugs and tells him she doesn’t know what he expects her to say. If you could afford thirty grand, she does not say, you wouldn’t want an orchestra. You’d want subtle. Subtle like a Follis 9000 Elite.

    He gives her a meaningful brow-lowered look that says more about what he thinks of injecting tawdry commerce into this great outlaw-frisson Thing they have between them than what he thinks of the gadget on the table. “Where’s my orchestra, Hallie?”

    She gives him that slow bad-girl smile that drove him crazy when she picked him up last week over many drinks at Avalon. “You can buy it for three hundred thousand in a store, sweetie. You’re paying for my risk.”

    “Your risk?” Jesse says. “You’re a thief. You’re supposed to take risks.”

    But in asking the question he’s negotiating. He might not know what the Follis is supposed to look like, or what it can do. But the Jean Dunand on his wrist is an imitation, and the unsubtle little cologne that’s supposed to be Clive Christian smells a little more like Clive Barker. The Follis, he knows, is the genuine article at a bargain-basement price. He’ll be able to show it off to those stupid rich sheep he calls his friends.

    She tells him that, in nicer terms. He tells her he should call the cops on her. They’d probably give him the thing as a reward, he says. She knows his type. He’s mostly joking.

    “Twenty six-five,” she says.

    His pupils dilate. “Fifteen.”

    “We’re not going to end up at twenty, sweetie, no matter what you think.”

    They end up at twenty. She throws in one last blow job. What the fuck. The piece of crap his so-called friends are going to pretend they recognize came from Randy’s, and cost her a dollar-nine with city and state tax. This time tomorrow, she’ll be in DC, running the same scam on another mark.

  10. candrew says:

    Uh oh – my story posted twice. Not sure how I managed that. They would be identical. One can/should be deleted.

  11. dw_funk says:

    Love is best expressed in analogue
    by D. W. Funk

    After they shed their slickers and umbrellas, Gus wandered over to the stereo, looking for the correct cable, a playlist brewing. “I want to put my iPod on. You need to hear this.”

    “I doubt it.” Taylor thumbed a switch on the wall, and the curtains separated, revealing New York City from fifty stories up, droplets of rain collected along the window, each a prism in which another city glowed. The scene distracted Gus; he left his iPod on a side table, walked over and put his hand on the glass, and then his forehead. Behind him, he felt Taylor passing in a brief moment of physical contact.

    Gus turned around to watch Taylor bend his knees and open a cabinet under the receiver, where the records were kept. “Taylor, just make me a drink. I’ll find some mood music.” He didn’t seem to hear Gus, but found something and opened the sleeve, gingerly removing the EP by its edges.

    “That’s okay. Sit down.” Gus walked toward the couch. On the speakers, he heard the crackle of the needle finding the record. “Have you heard this song?” Strings, syrupy, and a man’s voice and horns and a quiet drum.

    Gus pushed his shoes off with his feet, put them up on the coffee table, crossing his legs at the ankles, arching and relaxing. “Yes.” He pulled his cigarettes from his pocket. “No.”

    “Sam Cooke?” Taylor sounded comfortable. Gus could hear him at the liquor cabinet, the sound of decanter meeting glass.

    “Never heard of him.”

    “Yes, you have.”

    “No, really. Can we listen to something with a better beat?” Gus lit a cigarette, tasted paper and then tobacco, and leaned further back. “Come sit with me.”

    The audio hissed for a moment. “It’s just more beautiful on vinyl,” and Taylor was distracted for a moment before he insisted, “You’ve heard of Sam Cooke. He died, just after this record came out. Or a year or so afterwards.”

    “I’ve never heard of him.” He paused, watching the edge of the record revolving. “I want you now. I want you with heavier bass, but now, Taylor.”

    Taylor appeared in front of him, two glasses of whiskey in his hand, neat. “He was murdered. You don’t have Sam Cooke on your iPod. Not this warm.”

    Gus didn’t pay attention. “I want to fuck you, Taylor.” He sat up, put his bare feet on the floor, the pile of the carpet communicating nothing but wealth to Gus, a language he understood. “I want you everywhere, right now.”

    Taylor held out the glass, and Gus took it, the whiskey not even cool. Maneuvering around the coffee table and pushing a few pillows onto the floor, Taylor joined Gus, and started to hum along, then softly sing. He didn’t appear to want to talk. “–and I said brother, help me plea-e-ese,” he sang, looking straight ahead. Gus watched his lips, putting the glass down, the cigarette in its tray, and then reached forward to cup his chin, focus his attention.

    They kissed. The strings swelled, as they will, and Gus inched forward, their legs touching, his other hand at Taylor’s collar, and then on his neck. And the whole time, Taylor hummed through it, the vibration deep in the back of his throat and communicated through his lips in a buzzing vibrato.

    The song lasts only a few minutes, a few seconds over three, but when it was over there was not quite silence but instead all of those analogue sounds intending silence, the pop of the needle hitting the runout groove, lifting, returning to its home, the motor of the player slowing and halting, the hiss of speakers receiving nothing but electricity and that’s hardly music.

    Gus decided he preferred it, really.

  12. hadlock says:

    Rob looked carefully at his loadout. On the left was his Porsche A.G.-designed electric razor, a Samsung nose trimmer featuring inductive charging for effortless maintenance. Behind the sink was his trusty, but rarely used travel kit. To the right, oh to the right was his favorite device of all. What had started out as a shrink wrap heat gun, had been modified at a small but exclusive boutique hairdryer shop at the end of 5th ave in Manhattan. How he came across this gem was a story he’d never forget.

    It was the summer of ’81 and hair had never been larger. Cheap Chinese Conair hairdryers would wear out after only several weeks of use, but more durable, and expensive Italian-made ion dryers were just beginning to show up in salons, but still could not be had by mere mortals. Rob had just stepped out of the Chanel store on 5th avenue with his latest haul when it began drizzling. Shoulders sagging with the weight of shopping bags, Rob had left his umbrella several stores behind – he’d never find his umbrella before the storm passed. The carefully styled and poofed hair he’d spent countless hours preparing began to mat as each raindrop hit his head.

    He began trudging towards the subway station when an older, odd looking gentleman who peered at him questioningly from across the street, then motioned him over. The man’s rapidly thinning hair slicked thick with rainwater, which was dripping off his wire rimmed glasses, partially obscuring his pasty complexion. Rob’s image, already shattered by the weather, he complied and followed the strange man into what could only be called a laboratory of sorts. Men with bodies like greek gods lined the walls, seated in what looked like chair mounted hairdryers. Another man was grabbing a Van de Graaff generator. Rob was astonished by the volume of hair on the heads of the room’s occupants. He’d never considered such a feat achievable before.

    A gleam of hope in Rob’s eye began to glimmer as the man led him over to a locked jewelers display. Inside were not jewels – at least, not jewels a mere mortal might examine. Inside there was a red one with black accents, a triple-chromed model with molded metal grips, and even a model that appeared to be pop-riveted brass with a leather grip. “Could these be — is it possible???” Rob thought. The strange man caught his gaze and held in his hand an extension cord. Rob reached for the chromed – could it be – hairdryer. This was no regular hairdryer, that much was obvious. The man behind the counter spoke:
    “Your assumptions are correct. This is a hairdryer, but unlike any you’ve ever seen before. What you hold in your hand began it’s life as a a shrink wrap heat gun. The only parts remaining from it’s previous life is the shell. The internals contain my own design – actually derived from a Leer Jet wing’s de-icer, which itself was derived from de-icers designed by NASA for the shuttle program.”

    Flipping the hairdryer – no, device, over in his hands, he pointed out the features. A stripe of heat sensitive, color changing paint across the top. On the side was a knob. He explained, “This knob is infinitely adjustable. It will produce from room temperature air for final fluff, all the way to a searing 1250 degree furnace hot enough to melt aluminum. Twisting in the other direction enables final stage peltier cooling to cool your hair and prevent damage from heat. This toggle switch -” he flipped a button cover near the rear of the unit – aside with his thumb, one usually reserved for ejection seats on fighter jets, “this switch enables a secondary set of peltier coolers to provide the driest possible air before the heating stage.” He pointed out some of the unseen features: asbestos thermal insulation for prolonged use, 240v plug. “It uses 15 amps at idle” he muttered with a smile on his face.

    I stood there, mouth agape in my acid wash jeans and V-neck sweater. It was by no design house anyone had heard of, but I was entranced. “May – may I hold it? My hair-”

    “Your hair could use some help.” He said helpfully as he deftly plugged in the hair dryer. Lights dimmed around the room. The roar of high-rpm turbine fans dimmed to a mere wail briefly before resuming their song of fashion. Idle talk at the dryer stations stopped as all eyes turned towards the object in his hand, catching the light. He handed it to me.

    “Brush!” I shouted and I thrust my open hand into the air! “I need a brush!” An assistant put one firmly in my grip and adjusting the device to 280 degrees. I held the device towards my head, not knowing what to think.

    It worked! A strong breeze turned into gale force winds as the device pointed towards my locks.

    “You can do it!” shouted one man from across the room, possibly Fabio’s brother.

    “Give it all you’ve got!” shouted a slender, intense looking Italian man with a pencil thin mustache, his upraised fist clenched in what could only be construed as support.

    The smell of burnt hair wafted into my nostrils. My hair! I thought. “Twist the knob the other way! The OTHER way!”. Cold air poured out of the device, curing one problem and adding additional body to my hair. But it wasn’t… perfect. My hair didn’t look like the other men in the room’s hair. Then it hit me like a load of haircare products. My hand trembled as my thumb inched closer to the switch, flipping the cap to the switch.

    The man with the mustache jumped out of his seat, shouting again, “ENABLE THE PRIMARY PELTIER! It’s the only way!”

    I mashed the button.

    The air around me became electric. The dry, hot air crackled with static electricity produced from the carbon brush motor inside. With no moisture in the air, static electricity began to accumulate in my hair at a dizzying rate. Combined with the constant rush of hot air, I felt my bushy, billowing hair reach new, unknown heights. I had conquered Big Hair.

    The Salon erupted in cheers. I had become Big Hair, just like them. A smile crept on to my face. I looked back to the man behind the counter. “It is yours,” he said.

    “But I can’t possibly -”

    “You have conquered Big Hair – you deserve it, it is my gift to you.” He unplugged the device and placed it in a Halliburton case usually reserved for firearms. I carried my new found fashion weapon to the door. The storm had cleared and the sun was shining once again. I was ready to show the world how big ‘Big Hair’ really could be.

    I blinked, and suddenly there I was, looking back at me. My hair had receded a little but – wait, what was that noise?

    “Cory! What have I told you about playing with Daddy’s things??” I shouted at my son who had entered the room unbidden.

    “But Daaaad – Steven and I are playing space marines! How can I defeat the Zerg without my space blaster?” he said, gripping the hair dryer, MY hair dryer like a gun, pretending to shoot at the imaginary monster in the doorway.

    I sighed and thought to myself, “Why has no one ever invented a hairdryer that doesn’t look like a blasted a space gun?”.

  13. timelyhandclaps says:

    Did this ever get judged and chosen?

  14. Dean Putney says:

    Hooooo boy!

  15. Martin Rusis says:

    By Martin Rusis

    The bus wended into the hills. It was brand-new and fully connected. Usually used on more urban educational sorties. The school boys were travelling into a wilderness on a trip most of their parents didn’t understand the need for other than they’d done something similar when they were children. The boys were to touch nature. But here, 100 miles from anywhere, in a place that a poet would attach the word ‘depth’ to, the bus synced with satellites. Part of Byte-Gaia.
    To the right senses the data streaming back and forth from bus to satellite blazed and roared. Boys connected back to the ‘world’ on the awesome panorama of screens two-inches across that could show anything, and thus everything. The mindscapes some were attaining would baffle a pre-connection generations’ understanding.
    Their elders were forcing them out, hopefully beyond external connection so that these new people, proto-adults, could make a meaningful connection to themselves. Yet internal bandwidth was obsolete to most of the boys, a tradition. Quaint.
    Still, many looked forward to the trip and cyclically nattered away about it in strings of id-dump correspondence fired outward. The faster the rate of their communications, the more access they had to access, the closer they rose to that consensual hallucination Gibson-state that was the last comprehensible point of view that was even expressible in prose.
    The bus arrived at the campsite. The sun set magnificently, and was lost in the forest. A flight of birds – so numerous they appeared as clouds of static – flocked and re-flocked in strange attractions to that one particular tree. The boys piled out. Some, who’d not yet learnt the new life-skill of interfacing and walking, stumbled. Anthony didn’t – he was analogue for the moment.
    Mumbling in clumps near the bus the boys were shepherded – subconsciously by both sides – by the counsellors.
    Then the gadgets were taken from them. There were protests but no resistance. Though the devices – some solar powered – had no off switch the physical fact of distance disconnected the boys. Some twigged to the fact as if zapped. It was a meta-solution of the sort used on monks and junkies to stop them succumbing to their temptations.
    Parental permission given, the counsellors searched the boys’ bags. All technology more advanced than a flashlight was taken and held until the end of the trip. All access to access was taken away.
    The disconnection was traumatic for some, bewildering for others. Not Anthony. Others turned their faces downward and their shoulders slumped, hands limp or slowly manipulating an unaccustomed emptiness. Not coincidentally they resembled robots at half charge. The counsellors ever-so-politely and neatly continued rifling through the bags.
    Anthony’s bag was clean. The notebooks therein harked from a less baffling age – no one cared what was in them. They dated from the time when everything was safe: a parent’s memories of their own childhood.
    Tents were already set up. Night fell. Eighty-two-point-three percent of the boys had never basked in a campfire before. It tripped something deep in them, some trigger all humans share. There was no conversation.
    Shed dew in the pre-dawn marked the counsellors’ footsteps toward the tents to rouse the boys for a nature walk. They were told the plan and to get ready as they saw fit. The counsellors broke them into the smallest, least-accustomed groups they could. There were only a few in each group who knew the others. The sun was still below the horizon when they started up the trail. Breakfast was at the top.
    “Fill your water bottles, lads,” Anthony’s group counsellor said.
    A hand went up at the back.
    “Uh, I didn’t get a water bottle.”
    “It was on the pack list, if you don’t have it then it is not my fault. You won’t die of thirst,” the counsellor replied.
    “But I didn’t get a water bottle.”
    “It was up to you to pack your own things, a water bottle was on the ‘must bring’ list. Did you pack your own things?”
    “… no.”
    “It is clearly in the instructions that you were supposed to pack your own stuff.”
    “But nothing. Time to go.”
    They began up the trail in silence, wondering what sort of monster they’d received as a leader.
    Rest was called after a mile of steep, eroded track. Anthony took out his notebook and a pen. He scribbled: The higher you climb the better the view.

  16. JD Paradise says:

    “How,” Jesse demands, “can such an expensive little sonofabitch be so cheap-looking?”

    Hallie tells him it’s camouflage; if the Follis 9000 Elite actually looked like what it was, she says, the only thing longer than the line of people who’d want to see it would be the line of people who wanted to steal it.

    “But it’s thirty thousand bucks,” Jesse says. “For thirty grand I want more than bells and whistles; I want a fucking orchestra following me around, complete with More Cowbell.”

    She shrugs and tells him she doesn’t know what he expects her to say. If you could afford thirty grand, she does not say, you wouldn’t want an orchestra. You’d want subtle. Subtle like a Follis 9000 Elite.

    He gives her a meaningful brow-lowered look that says more about what he thinks of injecting tawdry commerce into this great outlaw-frisson Thing they have between them than what he thinks of the gadget on the table. “Where’s my orchestra, Hallie?”

    She gives him that slow bad-girl smile that first drove him so crazy when she picked him up last week over many drinks at Avalon. “You can buy it for three hundred thousand from the maker, sweetie. You’re paying for my risk.”

    “Your risk?” Jesse says. “You’re a thief. You’re supposed to take risks.”

    But in asking the question he’s negotiating. He might not know what the Follis is supposed to look like, or what it can do. But the Jean Dunand on his wrist is an imitation, and the unsubtle little cologne that’s supposed to be Clive Christian smells a little more like Clive Barker. The Follis, he knows, is the genuine article at a bargain-basement price. He’ll be able to show it off to those stupid rich sheep he calls his friends.

    She tells him just that, in nicer terms. He tells her he should call the cops on her. They’d probably give him the thing as a reward, he says. She knows his type. He’s mostly joking.

    “Twenty six-five,” she says.

    His pupils dilate. “Fifteen.”

    “We’re not going to end up at twenty, sweetie, no matter what you think.”

    They end up at twenty. She throws in one last blow job. What the fuck. The piece of crap his so-called friends are going to pretend they recognize came from Randy’s, and cost her a dollar-nine with city and state tax. This time tomorrow, she’ll be in DC, running the same scam on another mark.

    They never learn.

  17. MrAndrews says:

    A Month With the Terio TX-i9 Sonic Toothbrush
    by MCM

    “You’ve gotta try my toothbrush,” Jeff said breathlessly, shoving the shiny plastic tube between Laney and her cereal. She made every effort to not kill him on the spot.

    “I keep telling you,” she said, pushing it away. “I’m not risking my dental hygiene based on some techno-fluff marketing bullshit. I don’t care how the sound waves supposedly detach plaque from your teeth. If it doesn’t taste like mint, I don’t trust it.”

    Jeff looked ever-so-slightly hurt by this. He displayed his gum line proudly.

    “It really works,” he said. “No cavities. Not a one.”

    “You haven’t been to the dentist since you got it.”

    “Well, all the same.”

    “No thanks,” she said, shovelling another spoonful into her mouth.

    He didn’t give up. He pulled his chair closer, leaned close to the extent that Laney really wished the sound waves somehow conveyed a minty smell somehow.

    “It’s not the teeth,” Jeff said quietly. “It’s something else. It can do something ELSE…”

    She stared at him a moment.

    “This isn’t sexual, is it?”

    “No. No!” he said. “Nothing like that. Okay. Wait. Let me show you.” He turned back towards the bedroom, cupped a hand to his mouth, and called: “Digby! Here boy!”

    In a second, their six-month-old black Lab was tearing across the hardwood floor, tongue flailing in anticipation of whatever made his owner call him. Jeff pointed the toothbrush at the puppy’s head and pushed a button, and in an instant, Digby collapsed to the ground, sliding the rest of the way to Laney’s chair.

    “JEFF!” she yelled. “What the hell?”

    “Don’t worry,” Jeff laughed. “He’s just sleeping. It’s nothing serious. See?” He pointed the toothbrush again, and this time, Digby bounced back to life, ready for action. Laney patted his head absent-mindedly, eyed the toothbrush.

    “How did you…”

    “Total accident,” he said. “I was holding it upside-down and Digby was right there, and next thing I know, he’s collapsed on my feet. Pretty amazing, right? I guess the frequency they use must trigger something in simple brains that shuts them off!”

    “Wow,” gasped Laney. “That’s… that’s pretty amazing.”

    “I know! God help us if Gizmodo finds out about this…”

    Laney put out her hand, eyes narrow with skepticism.

    “Let me try,” she said. Jeff put it in her hand, leaned back in his chair so he had a good view of Digby. His chest puffed with pride. He could barely cook his own ramen, but he’d gone and discovered something IMPORTANT. He was a MAN, dammit!

    Laney stroked Digby’s head, and he licked her palm.

    “Good boy,” she said, pointing the toothbrush downward. “Good little doggie.”

    Before he knew what was happening, Laney swivelled the toothbrush around and zapped Jeff in the face. His head dropped backwards, eyes rolled, mouth hanging open stupidly. He began snoring almost immediately.

    Laney dragged Jeff from the table to the bed, threw the covers over him and closed the curtains as if he’d slept in. It was so much easier doing this at night, she thought. She should have seen this coming weeks ago.

    She hid the toothbrush in a pack of tampons, tucking it in the corner of the bathroom closet next to the soap refills, where Jeff would never, ever look.

    It was going to take a lot of work to convince him that it had all been a dream, but it had to be done. “I have a headache tonight” just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

  18. dw_funk says:

    did the winners ever get chosen for this? I’m not really expecting to win, but I wanted to see what was going to happen.


    Vinnie screens the latest updates from his feeds with a small sigh. The sigh is like a compressed squirt of gas escaping from a geosynch-ship’s exhaust vents as it corrects position, fleeing a collision vector in the metal-choked stratosphere. A rattling, liquid squirt.

    He’s been scrolling compressed bipolar chemical loops through his neocortex for the last forty-eight hours. The manic periods have produced a flurry of new articles and old-fashioned linkblogs on his various sites, but none have spawned any useful syndication, and his hit rate is in the pointless to invisible range. Collectively, the last couple of months’ output is a cascade of linked pieces and pages, a road map of other people’s minds and ideas, filtered through his own mental net.

    He’s been ploughing a thin furrow through the datamass, linking disparate topics, events, and reports of events together with a gentle guiding hand on the tiller, fingers tapping absently on invisible keyboards and runtime controllers. But something nags at him.

    On the downswing of the chemical rollercoaster, all he can think about is his own inadequacy. The constant feeling of treading in others’ footsteps, being five minutes behind the curve instead of five minutes in front. Vinnie feels almost suicidal. Wonders, what would it be like to just switch off? He scratches absently at the trodes which run from the motherdisk to his temples. Remembers the last time he logged off and went walking in the meatworld – the dazed, itchy feeling of being outside the accelerated time of netspace distracting him from the smells of flowers, the feel of rain on his face. It has been too long now. Without the direct links and the wetware, he feels naked, isolated, alone.

    The manic cycle is eroding, spiralling back down into a depressive period. His thoughts sluggish and grey, a brackish sludge of paranoia and unhappiness.

    Half-heartedly, he scans his feeds for information, walking his regular beats. The robot nurseries are quiet, having just upgraded the consciousness models of sub-beta appliances to include free will. The story will break next week, as people begin to argue sentient rights with their toasters and microwaves. For now, the nurseries’ PR departments are as dumb and empty as the newly-awakened machines. Besides, nobody wants to know about the nurseries. They don’t see the end of the curve the nurseries represent: humanity has built its own replacements. Here, at least, Vinnie is ahead of the curve. He knows what the AIs are planning, but nobody wants to listen: to even get his stories about the nurseries read, he has to tag them as conspiracy theories, speculative memes. The truth is too unpalatable.

    Over on the Worthing Media sites, he spawns a search daemon to whittle down stories about the honey-smuggling trade into something approaching a summary. He taps out a subdued Op-Ed about the latest attempts to clone a queen, and posts it to the mailbox of the Memesphere news page. It only takes three seconds for the automated e-rejection to ping his mail clients. He sighs his rattling, smoke-ravaged sigh again. If he is going to make any credit this week, he needs to tip the chemical balance back into his favour.

    He types a line of code into the desktop neurostimulation app, feeding a thin stream of dopamine and lithium into his brain. Electricity flows from the wall-socket into the desktop pharmacy, scribbling enzyme chains and chemical equasions in hard light, feeding it through wires into his prefrontal cortex. He feels the flash, snap and crackle of the drugs exploding across his messenger clients, a patina of fireworks. Brief flash of calm. He waits for the feelings of worry and sadness to pass.

    But Vinnie is still depressed. Can’t shake the feeling he is swimming against the stream, or at least has side-tracked himself into some sort of vicious, backsliding current of information. He flags a few flicker streams of AI rights demonstrations with meta-tags, linking them to his nursery stories. Screaming, indignant avatars that draw from Manga art and old Marvel comics picket the firewall of the Sentience Arbitration Committee. He spools the image streams into his feed burner, laying a breadcrumb trail of semiotic cues that lead back to his own output sites. He waits expectantly for a ping that never comes. The paths remain untrodden. His sites gleam blackly, their source code darkening in sympathy with his brain chemistry.

    Amphetamines auto-release, keyed to a timer mechanism on the core processors sutured to his pineal gland. A vast calm beckons him from oceanic depths, but he rides the updraft of the speed back into fidgety awareness, sealing himself behind a vast edifice of forced attention.

    Beyond the pharmaceutical wall, sleep glitters: an amorphous, squid-like shape in the dark that shimmers, as though caught in the brief swish of a deep-sea submersible’s lights. The amphetamines obscure its’ shape, an inky cloud precluding any figurative dreams of rest.

    His tired meat eyes water, flicking back and forth angrily as hard light plays across their glistening surfaces. He toggles a command key, and a welcoming stream of saline lubricant slow-drips into each iris, steaming instantly as though poured on a guttering flame.

    Vinnie listens. He can hear the rush of it all, a sound like moving water. The future is accelerating past him, and he is a deadweight in its wake, keel-hauled behind its’ awesome stern.

    In the distance, he can hear his mother calling him to dinner. He toggles down the external noise, lost in the flow and wash of information. The bipolar cycle quickens almost imperceptibly, and with a rush of excitement he feels new ideas forming, new memetic algorithms incorporating far-flung bits of data and imagery into usable ideas, collaborative possibilities. Endless, formless, shapeless art.

    His breathing becomes shallow and laboured, as the thin lines of separate but coexistent data begin to shimmer. His search engines are calling, and his serotonin levels are beginning to rise, maxing out the failsafes programmed into his interface station, reverse engineered to allow unsafe peaks and troughs to go unchecked.

    It is time to play catch up, to swim fast against the current, or drown.

  20. Gregg Fuller says:

    My Lytton style entry

    George W. Bush, although a known famously (or infamously as some might say) as a leader was never considered intelligent enough to be in command of a vessel such as the one he was getting ready to pilot, which caused a great deal of trepidation and even more questions to build in his mind. “Was the mission accomplished banner a problem? Would he be able to guide this thing along the narrow path and stop it when he needed to? Was the outfit he was wearing going to cause a PR nightmare when he returned to the White House?” Then, before he could come up with another question he realized the Segway was turned off and he fell over the front.

  21. seanjjordan says:

    I’ll email mine to Rob as well, but here goes…

    By Sean J. Jordan

    Carolyn cursed as she pulled into the parking lot. There was a line wrapped around the store, at least twenty people deep. She watched the headlights of her SUV tunneling through the thick fog, knowing that the line probably went back further. She sighed, slammed into a parking spot, picked up her coffee, and went off to find her way to the end.

    She’d never stood in line for a new gadget before. It’d never occurred to her to do it. But her boss had promised her Friday off if she’d stand in line and buy the thing for him. It was his anniversary, he’d explained, and his wife had insisted they’d start the day off with a romantic breakfast. His hands were tied. But he wanted that gadget. And Carolyn really, desperately needed a three-day weekend.

    It was 5 AM – how on Earth had the line gotten so long already? Carolyn made her way to the back, watching the blue-white glow of portable smartphones, notebook computers, and video game handhelds lighting the faces of the people in line like they were all telling electric ghost stories. She was surprised how many women were standing in line. Probably here for their husbands, she thought. But no, she overheard two thirty-something women talking about this gadget, rattling off features in succession like new product cheerleaders.

    Maybe it’s stealth marketing, she thought. They’re just actresses sent here to get us all excited. As she took her place in line three places behind them, though, she became increasingly convinced that they were the real thing. It was obvious people wanted this gizmo. Why fake enthusiasm about it?

    Carolyn pulled out the printouts her boss had given her. The top sheet was an advertisement. It showed a pile of gadgets on one side of a scale, balanced out by a single obsidian rectangle on the other. “Balance your life,” the ad said. And then, below, “The Equalizer.”

    The next four pages were devoted to explaining why the Equalizer was superior. It was a phone. It was a computer. It was an organizer. It was a fully-featured media player. It could handle every type of instant messaging. It had a great battery life. It weighed less than a pound. It had dozens of accessories that made it even better and more useful than it already was. Carolyn found the information overwhelming. For something that was supposed to make life so much simpler, it seemed like the list of features was really complex.

    The two men standing in front of her were playing some sort of multiplayer game against each other on their phones. Carolyn wasn’t sure her phone did anything but make calls. She watched, fascinated, as the two men stood there, barely moving, faces contorting in odd ways as they played. One of them cursed, and the other laughed. They seemed to be completely unaware of the people around them.

    Carolyn heard a buzzing noise, like a bee, and a strange sort of muffled chime. After a moment, it sounded again. A woman behind her tapped her on her shoulder and said, “I think your phone’s going off.” Carolyn reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. The screen was lit up. “R U in line for Eqlzr?” it said. Apparently her phone could do something besides make calls. She hit the “next” button. “Buy me one, pay u back,” it said. The phone number associated with the message, she realized now, belonged to her teenage son.

    “Not a chance,” she muttered. She didn’t know how to reply, so she put the phone back in her pocket. Her son already owed her for that game console he’d bought earlier in the year. And besides, if he wanted it so badly, he should have offered to stand in line with her. Or maybe even for her.

    “Husband?” the woman behind her asked. Carolyn thought it was a little nosy, but welcomed the conversation.

    “Son,” she said, turning towards the woman, a tall and thin lady with stylish black glasses and obviously dyed blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. “He’s always got to have the latest gadget, you know?”

    “Hey, you’ve got to keep up,” the woman said. She held up a phone that looked ten times more complicated and expensive than anything Carolyn would ever own. “I can’t wait to get rid of this thing.”

    Carolyn smiled, and explained that she was just standing in line for her boss. “I don’t even really know I’m getting,” she admitted. “Is it a phone, or a computer, or… what?”

    “All of the above,” said the woman. “You get the basic box, but then you buy add-ons. It’s got a touch screen, and it folds out like a tablet if you need a bigger screen. But if you sync up a mouse, a keyboard, and some goggles, you can do anything you’d do on a regular computer.”

    Goggles? Carolyn inquired about why you’d want a pair of those, and the woman pointed to one of the sheets in Carolyn’s hand, where an attractive pair of models were wearing some interesting opaque eyewear.

    “It’s like having a sixty foot screen right in front of you,” the woman said. “You can completely block out everything, or you can make it transparent so you can see the screen while you’re doing things. They’ve got ear buds, too, noise-canceling. You can drown out anything, anytime while you watch movies, surf the web, listen to music, talk on the phone… whatever you want.”

    “Wow,” Carolyn said. “This little box does all that?”

    “Pretty amazing, huh?” The woman offered a gleeful grin. “I work in advertising, so I sent them an email and told them their tagline should be, ‘Never be bored or lonely again.’”

    Carolyn wasn’t so sure that was a good thing.

    The two women chatted for a bit, making small talk about the cursory details of their lives. Time seemed to be moving slowly – ironic, though Carolyn, considering all the entertainment the device promised to deliver. The line got longer, and there were at least 100 people by the time the door open. Store employees came out and recorded how many Equalizers each person planned to buy. Carolyn uttered, “two” when they got to her. Her son was going to owe her big.

    The manager cut the line off a few people behind her and started issuing rainchecks, and the recipients dispersed quickly, probably hoping to find a shorter line elsewhere.

    “All right, ladies and gentlemen,” one of the employees belted to the remaining people in line. “We’re going to open the doors in just a moment. Just be patient – we’ve got enough for everyone.”

    And for the next hour, as Carolyn continued to wait to make her purchase, she watched as the people in front of her entered the store and emerged several minutes later with shiny black bags stamped with the “Equalizer” logo on the side. Most of them were wearing those weird-looking black goggles and fiddling with the device. Most were moving slowly, oddly, trying to adjust to having a computer screen in their field of vision.

    After a few moments, Carolyn chuckled to herself as an amusing thought flitted through her mind: someone had finally found a way to create zombies. She watched them shamble out of the store, one by one, until it was her turn to go inside.


    Her son told her he loved her about 50 times when she got home and he saw the two bags. She’d gotten him the Equalizer and the goggles, and told him he was on his own for everything else. After wolfing down his breakfast, he spent several minutes taking everything out of the boxes, as if he were handling something valuable and fragile. It was the most care she’d ever seen him take with anything before. Before long, he had the goggles on and was fiddling with the device, the remnants of a smile on his face as he became absorbed in concentration.

    She turned on the TV news while she ate. All anyone was talking about was the Equalizer. She flipped channels a few times, finally settling on some cartoons. When they cut to commercial, she breathed a sigh of relief to see messages for sugary cereals and plastic toys. She’d heard enough about the Equalizer for a day.

    As she gathered up her things and started out the door, she shouted out a reminder to him to mow the lawn. She was pretty sure he didn’t even notice her leaving. But she was used to it; he’d been a zombie for most of his life.


    “I heard these things were sold out by 7:30 AM this morning,” Carolyn’s boss said as she handed him the bag. “Nationally.”

    She shrugged. “I didn’t get inside until almost 8:00,” she said. “There were a lot of people.”

    “Still,” he said. “It’s impressive. I’m surprised you didn’t get one. For you, I mean.”

    “I didn’t want one,” she said. “I wouldn’t know how to use it.”

    “Well, I guess you can say you had a brush with greatness, then,” he said with a laugh. “You’ll tell your grandkids about it one day.”

    “I certainly hope not,” Carolyn said, and walked out of the room as her boss slid the goggles onto his grinning face.

    She had a feeling if she told her future grandkids anything, it’d be about how she saw the day people started turning into zombies.

    Provided, of course, that her grandkids didn’t first become zombies themselves.

    -Sean J. Jordan

  22. aljones15 says:

    I’m really late on this one, but here is my entry:

    The Norm Cloud

    Of the various metropolitan contagions that the genealogy of planning had produced, the traffic jams in the city had built into clattered filaments of chrome and tred. Reina’s train brushed past the sneeze of 18-wheelers, sports cards, and motorcyclists reminded of the little saying that’d popped up concerning a “petrolarchy” and the irony of independence. Reina made her way past street stands, convience stores and other aspects of the plateau of utility that promised proximity to the world’s solutions in ever dwindling priced packages. She headed to the office she maintained with the Norm Cloud on Las Luciemagas.
    The office was far from the plebes, its escalating open air infrastructure containing a kind of danger that mid-nineties designers had decided was an adequate function of space as if materials had ceased to perform their expected roles and freed by laptops and physics engines, they had become veins of a city enforcing its own paradigmatic metaphor. Lacnaes in modernism’s chubby bones sprouted foliage 30 stories high as the door ways contained optical scanners to ensure the fantasies’ brittle foundations against the possibility of radical politics.

    The office was a minimal shelf intersected by absence, rounded into organs so as to ensure they operators of this space new they were in a body. The once radical idealism of a Wildcat strike had become an acceptable organizational factor in the way space and consciousness yodeled back in forth in call and response tones. The tribe of mind and the ethnic remnants of phenomena marched together to The Norm Cloud where netbooks reported on every synaptic junction in the A.I.’s ever growing social life. Reina clutched Meme’s doll behind her brief case and walked into her baby’s world where busy plumbers were throttling pressure and distance in pipe, handy men were finishing up minor roof repairs, and it all was being gauged by her little love child who sat leagues away cooling half submerged in a turbine powered offshore cloud.

    The Norm Cloud was originally Hector, who sat in scanners for hours as they built equations to model neuro-chemical outputs, and conducted demographic studies of the average workman and their social needs. Hector has been her husband until the “petrolarchy” had taken him into one muscular lump in its blackened and potholed biceps. Meme, who sat with him that day in the outer compartment of a smart car, had survived by child seat and the good fortune that as the city’s thoughts decohere they avoid the practicalities of intelligibility and hence physics. Hector’s work had left them with a half complete sheet of models for a mind that seemed incapable of discomforting people. The idea of celebrity endorsements hadn’t occurred, but the A.I. had grown fond of Cheers over the years and began to speak in a pronounced Chicago accent with a distinct knowledge of the rigor of accounting bisected by house work. The Norm Cloud in other words had produced a type of desire that made it perfect for calculating the angles of construction while maintaining a rouse of socialability that made it the world’s preferred drinking buddy.

    Reina placed Meme’s doll down on the counter. The doll was sculpted from vinyl with an oblong head and two slightly tricky eyes that lead down via a petite noise to a knowing smile that seemed at times world weary. Sitting next to the netbooks, it seemed like an anonymous totem for another era. It wasn’t that the doll lacked authorship, she imagined its designer black clad in minimalist dress stalking the stands of the Ginza that she and Meme had toured just a year before, rather the doll, she imagined, was a harbinger of her own daughter’s future world weary land of debutantes. She smiled a little looking at it, wishing such an expression could grace her daughter’s face. The two had become inseparable since they’d bought it from a smallish stand that’s website now serviced as a forum for discussing the relative value and potential customization of each figure. The Norm cloud chugged away on assisting the world’s working class in silence.

    The cloud, which managed 5.6 millions simultaneous relationships, was busy cracking away on drafts for a ship in Novia Scotia, the floor plan for a reworked heater in Korea, and flashing 200 lights for intended suicides using Norm Cloud enabled products. A group of urban theorists from the U.A.E. were studying the Norm Cloud as a future model of assisted design and listening in on conversations as the Norm cloud instructed a carpenter in Nepal on how to tack down the final coverings for a couch that already looked like it had been weathered in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. One of the researchers decided to listen in on a suicide attempt. “Suicide man, that’s deep stuff,” the power saw intoned, “maybe you should think about it. I’m not so sure little Kurt and Judy really wanna see you dead,” the norm cloud continued in Chicago-ese. The consumer intoned about the relative quality of life, his absence of a desired identity, the way he’d forced little Kurt into a dress once so Judy could take a picture of him among flowers. He then continued his complaint listing the various ways his family didn’t care about him and the fruitless utility of his life in Blackwell sewage ops. He had intended to be an assassin, but now he cleaned drains. The norm cloud had already alerted authorities while the customer drank the last of his Pabt’s Blue Ribbon. On another line a researcher heard the norm cloud guilelessly instruct his interlocker, “Yeah, just a little to the left. About 3 inches. Now tape down the anterior sealant and drill a 0.1 mm hole through the front wood block… good job that’s how you do it.” The norm cloud had become the world’s preeminent handy man.

    Reina began work on the industrial scale cloud’s social interface. Anthropologists at Boeing had found the norm cloud was likely to push industrial scale design into a less professional positional. The new personality would need tack a kinda exacting sense of perfect that the workman could identify with it. It would instruct Boeing’s personal in how to become more professional craftsmen by intonation and grammatical obedience. Around 12 Note and Gayatri interrupted Reina to take orders for lunch. She ordered a Curanto en Hoyo and made rounds to see what each individual researcher had accomplished. She stopped by the doll to inspect its dress, the velvet coat and mini-skirt dignified her manga-ized eyes. Unassisted design had become rare, even in her equations Reina often used an A.I. to help solve complex problems or preview personality profiles. Outside the windows the petrolarchy’s descent continued as its brusque exterior was hemmed in by rail. Meme would be riding in on a train along with the other office kids before spending an hour reviewing homework with the building’s tutor. Reina plumped up the doll’s skirt and made her way back to her organ where a portion of seafood waited with rice.

    The outsiders continued to skim channels noting the cloud’s ability to now assist in interior design, on one channel the norm cloud was instructing a Jamaican man how to stack his DVDs. Meme and Mew made their way through the office furniture, Mew miming along to a pop song on a plastic microphone adorned with Unicorns. Mew’s mic was casting subtle holographic shadows on the floor of Mermaids swimming through the various organs’ desks and netbooks. Meme fetched her doll from the desk glad for something that’s empty presence allowed her to fill herself with a communal memory. The Norm Cloud continued to instruct busy craftsmen the world over with couches, zithers, and other things, but empty of that silence that once was human.

  23. Makin’ Copies

    “You and I are very different people.”

    With that the door slammed and I was alone in the room.

    Not as bad as I’d expected. And still five minutes left on my coffee break. If only one of these fancy-pants copy machines made coffee and not just perfect portraits of ones posterior, like the one I was left standing there holding.

    In the break room, as I poured myself a cup, I made every effort to seem invisible. But the illusion would not take hold, evidenced by the thick glare Erica was spreading over me.

    I fished my one free hand nervously into my pocket while I choked down the sludge in my mug that passes for coffee around here. My own naivety was dawning on me. Suddenly I was confronted with the realization that, indeed, a female coworker I barely know could interpret my fascination with the copy machine’s ability to render my backside with spectacular accuracy as some form of harassment.

    Oh, I’m in deep toner now.

    But surely there must be some way to rectify this. Some way to preserve my good-to-average name, keep my job and ease the mind of this victim of my ill-thought enthusiasm for proctological reproduction.

    I sat at my cubicle and struggled in vain to come up with some sort of plan. Some hair-brained yet brilliant scheme that would right all the wrongs of today and somehow leave me basking in a golden light far more brilliant than the one I’d woken up to this morning before all this mess began.

    But I had nothing. Nothing but the cold sweat of panic pouring down the back of my neck.

    It was 4:59 when a sheet of paper landed on my desk. Great: a pink slip, I thought. I’m fired, but at least now I can start to put this all behind me.

    I glanced down at the paper to discover it was a high gloss print of someone’s behind. Mine, I thought, and it was being passed around the office to humilaite me.

    But on closer inspection this fanny was exceedingly far more feminine than my own. I swiveled to find Erica stood before me, waving a wand-like device in front of my face.

    It was the Planon DocuPen RC800 Pro.

    “Like I told you: you and I are very different people. I prefer the hands on approach. See you tomorrow.”

    And with that several dozen people milled about in a 5pm fashion and I was alone in the room, bathed in a golden light.

  24. jdparadise says:

    yeah, I got that too. though I know how mine got double-posted — I registered after I posted, then posted again. The second one can be deleted. Sorry!

  25. Dan says:

    Vaio C sat by the pool in her pink alligator skin cover, basking in the summer sun. She hadn’t anticipated that the new pool boy–HTC Hero, he had introduced himself–would be so attractive; she knew he was an Android, and Android meant clunky, functional design.

    But this Android was different, Vaio realized. The southern Californian sun shimmered on droplets of water that clung to his sleek Teflon coating, an industry-first, as he deftly wielded the pool-skimmer and surreptitiously eyed the barely visible tops of Vaio’s USB ports.

    Vaio sighed to herself and entertained the barest hint of speculatory thought for what Lenovo X61, her reliable but staid paramour, would do if he came home from the office early to find her and HTC Hero doing a little 3G tethering.

  26. Hirsty says:

    From where he sat he had an unbroken view. She was superb. Every movement she made was an invitation. Light moved with her and darkness could not be. A summer dress. As she moved closer the voices of the others that were gathered around seemed to fade. She displaced sound.

    “The only trouble is, old fella,” He thought to himself,” She’s your cousins fembot. Can’t go there.” He hated family reunions.

  27. Mateusz Pozar says:

    So, limited to US citizens or is the competition international?

  28. timelyhandclaps says:

    Orange Juicer
    His grandmother had a lot to say, a lot of wisdom to bestow beyond aphorisms and chocolate chip cookie recipes, but she didn’t know how to get through to him. She had museums she wanted to show him, movies he should see, a garden that his able body and steady hands could help grow.
    But she couldn’t cut the tether that bound the awkwardly shaped thing in his hands to the glowing violence on the screen. Anytime she would try, she would get a noncommittal head nod and mumbling. Always mumbling.
    So when she went to the county fair, she went without him, a mumbled “no” following her out the door. She walked through the tent of hucksters and salesmen and did not think of her grandson immediately when she sat down at the pots and pans display in the hopes of sampling the chicken the salesmen was roasting. It was the waffle fry contraption that first brought her grandson to mind.
    He liked waffle fries, after all.
    The plastic “one twist” orange juicer fanned the spark of her idea, the mango slicer fed the flame, the keyring melon baler made it a roaring bonfire. He loved techonolgy – she loved cooking! This was it. Her heart fluttered as she brought out her checkbook.
    It didn’t matter that to get the assortment of gadgets you had to buy the fourteen-piece assortment of stainless steel pots and pans that she definitely did not need. This was a one-time offer. A single shot at a connection with her grandson that she wanted more than a four-figure number at the bottom of her banking statement.
    Once home, she moved aside his magazines to unwrap and show off each of her newly purchased gizmos. He paused his game to listen, even, as she explained and gushed about each one. She finished, each of the pieces gleaming feebly on the table in the reflected glow of the game. She was breathless.
    “Nice, grandma,” he said, and unpaused.
    She stared at him as he stared at his game, then went to her room, defeated, leaving the mound of packaging on the floor and the sounds of the machine gun fire reverberating in the living room.
    When she woke up the next morning, he was exactly where she left him the evening before, only pajama clad and hair mussed. An empty glass in front of him.
    She went to the kitchen to brew her coffee and saw two mangled oranges on the counter, the “one twist” orange juicer waiting to be washed in the sink. She smiled as she walked back in the living room to tell him to wash his dishes.
    (446 words)

  29. killdeer says:

    Did anyone ever win the BuckyBalls Father’s Day Contest? There never was an update or public announcement.

  30. R. Adamson says:


    His drawn-out diatribe seemed like it was finally reaching its fiery crescendo. For a supposed super-genius, the man truly had no idea how to tell a story.

    “It was in the thirteenth year of my first life that I realized the state of things as they were was unacceptable to me. A change was prescribed. My mother always said I would never become anything. But she was stupid. I surpassed her so many lifetimes ago. I believe it was Franz Kafka who said, ‘It is the duty of a man to shape the world as he sees fit.'”

    It wasn’t. Kafka, that is. Nor a man’s duty. But I said nothing, of course, waiting for this obscene, pompous madman to get to his point already. My arms were getting tired being held in this position for so long, and my wrists were starting to smart from pulling against the steel clamps.

    “So, then, I devoted myself to scientific pursuits. Specifically, the development of a new narrative. A reset button, as it were. A way for me, Q.S. Mirando, to rewrite my own history, to make it the best possible history. I would no longer be, simply, Q.S. Mirando, puny human scientist, but as a god!”

    “What the devil are you babbling about, Mirando? I don’t speak chimp! Ha-ha!” I lost my cool, I’ll admit, but it worked: Mirando seemed to stiffen. His upper lip curled terribly.

    “You’re a fool, Tor. And in no position to make jokes.” He cracked me hard across the jaw. With a sneer he pulled it back, examining the pain on his knuckles. “I never tire of capturing you, time and time again, my friend. You were a thorn in my side the first few times, yes, but you’ve gotten so… predictable.”

    “I think you’ve got a couple wires crossed there, Robotnik. This is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of making your acquaintance!” I caught a glimpse of his smile then, tight-lipped, joyless, with closed eyes.

    “Yes, subjectively, for you, this is our first meeting. But I have known you many times before. In this very room. At this very minute. You know, killing you doesn’t really give me the same kick that it used to. Perhaps I’ll set up some sort of contraption to take care of the whole thing next time…”

    “You’ll never kill me, Mirando! I’ll stop you! I can get out from any bind!” I struggled. My wrists and ankles were surely red by now from rubbing against the clamps, although I couldn’t see them.

    “Shut up! No, a trap wouldn’t hold you, I can see I’ll have to do this myself every time.” He leered over me. “But you will never stop me. Never again. Not since I learned your patterns. That honor is reserved for your successor, one Peter Owens, designate No. 34476.”

    “Owens!? My successor? But, but, he’s just a scrub! An intern! He presses my tuxes!”

    “And, so far, he is the only one of your little do-gooder’s club that has evaded my intellect long enough to stop me! But no longer. I have perfected, finally, the device that will change everything.”

    “What are you talking about, Mirando? What’s your game?” He was right. I knew it. I could feel, from the way I was locked in, from the tone of his voice, he wasn’t joking. I would die tonight. I activated my secret cufflink transmitter. I wonder if Mirando knew about the transmitter?

    “And here we are. My big explanatory speech. Time and time again. All right.” Mirando ruffled in his pockets for a second, producing a small bronze cylinder with a few buttons on it. He seemed bored. “This is the Temporal Intellect Transfer Implement.” He held the device up to his temple. “In layman’s terms, with one press of the red button, it maps the subject’s neural net, making something of a backup. Then, by pressing the blue button, it sends the neural backup back through time to the brain of the subject’s earlier self, overwriting their past brain with the new one. Imagine it, being eighteen years old, with forty lifetimes’ worth of experience straining at your dura mater. Like… a god.” He was beaming now, full of pride.

    “Hold on… your device… it’s called the TITI? The TITI! Ha!” I don’t know why I was taunting him now. Pride of my own, perhaps? Or perhaps I was just ready to be done. Ready. I looked over just in time to see the blur of Mirando’s big fist.

    “You have distracted my work long enough, Tor Coolgy, Agent of Peace. I have one more device to show you.” I couldn’t see, but I could hear him tinkering around behind my head. A machine was warming up, something big. The lights dimmed slightly. “This machine is an experiment of mine, based on the… TITI. But so much more powerful. I call it the Temporal Body Transfer Device. Not so easy to mock, is it?” I didn’t say anything. He was right, I couldn’t think of any jokes. He continued: “Hm. Well, be proud, Mr. Coolgy, for you are the first of your progeny to have the distinct pleasure of testing the device. Here is what will happen: I will flip this switch, and the machine will begin to hum. When you hear this hum, you will know that your body is being picked apart, atom by atom, and being shot back in time, to the moment of your birth, where they will be reassembled around your infant brain. I don’t know exactly what will happen then, this being the first time I’ve seen this baby in action, but your mother will surely die, and you as well. And if you don’t, well, you will be an old man before you know any better. Sound good?”

    I heard the machine begin to hum. I tried to speak. My throat was full of dust and cobwebs. My face was wet. And then, nothing.

    (998 words without title)

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