Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

The Hurricane's Eye Blinked · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
Love Flies Innuendo
The crashing sound whenever Mistress Olive slammed his head into the wall bothered Fishbone more than anything else about the experience. Oh, sure, he felt the impact through his layers of black and gray faux fur, but it wasn't like it hurt or anything. Not like it would've if he'd been real...

"More soap when you wash the dishes!" Mistress Olive was shouting, her big fingers still tightly clenched along the scalp between his triangular ears. "How many times do I have to tell you that?" And she slammed him face first into the wall again.

"Sorry, Mistress Olive," he said, and he didn't have to fake the tremble in his voice. He really disliked loud noises—that was one of the reasons he was glad he hadn't been called upon to be a children's toy. So even with the padding between his plush exterior and his plastic interior, the noise still made him wince when he met the marble of the kitchen wall or the tile of the bathroom wall or the plaster of the bedroom wall.

Mistress Olive's cry of "Useless!" got him wincing, too, before she flung him off sideways. That was always interesting, the way the walls, floor, and ceiling seemed to twist and spin around him. But the clatter and bang when he finally hit one of those walls or the floor, he had to admit again, he just didn't care for it at all.

Still— "Sorry, Mistress Olive," he said into the thick brown carpet he suddenly found pressing against his face. He must've flown through the kitchen door and out into the dining room. That was lucky: a nice, quiet landing. Maybe he getting lighter. Or maybe the mistress was she getting better at throwing...

"Shut up!" Mistress Olive yelled behind and above him. Fishbone prepared himself for a kick, but at least here, he'd more likely strike the curtains, drawn closed over the windows for the evening, or the relatively soft wood of the big table or the chairs.

The kick, though, didn't come. Only the slap-slap-slap of the mistress's shoes pounding out the kitchen's other door met his ears. "I hate you!" she was shrieking. "I hate you all!"

The slam of her bedroom door shook him, but after a moment, Fishbone got his balance, bent his legs, pushed his arms against the carpet, and worked himself into a kneeling position, something he was a little proud of since he didn't have much in the way of knees.

"Fishbone?" an absolute song of a voice asked, and he craned his head around to see Digger standing in the doorway that led to the front hall, her violin as usual in one brownish-gold velveteen paw, her bow in the other. "I was just coming to help with the dishes. Are you done already?"

And while he knew that it wasn't at all accurate to say that his heart raced whenever Digger was around—he didn't have a heart, of course—he still loved her with every cottony fiber and fiber optic cable of his being. He'd been programmed to, after all, and Master Simon had said more than once, "In a perfect world, Fishbone, cats like you and dogs like Digger would love each other forever."

Lost in contemplating Digger's Cocker Spanielly perfection, he forgot that she'd asked him a question till she repeated, "Are you done already?"

"No." He stood with a sigh. "Mistress Olive said I was doing it wrong."

Digger's mouth went sideways. She stumped over and patted his shoulder with tip of her violin bow. "Everything's wrong for her lately."

Torn between sorrow because the terrible thing Digger had said was true and joy because Digger was more or less touching him, Fishbone wasn't paying as strict attention to himself as he should've been. Which was why he said, "I wish Master Simon was still here."

"Wish?" Carl's all-too-familiar voice asked, hissing the word. "Did somebody say 'wish?'" He hissed as many of those words as possible, too, but then the mobile part of him that came slithering around the corner from the front hallway was a green, furry snake, so Fishbone didn't think he could help it.

"Hi, Carl," Digger said. "We were just feeling sad because Mistress Olive's unhappy."

"Ah." Carl reared up his head like he was a cobra getting ready to strike. That put his face even with Fishbone's, and Fishbone tried very hard not to let his gaze lock on those yellowish, orangish, liquid and lidless eyes. "And so you uttered the forbidden word," Carl went on.

Fishbone wanted to say that Mistress Olive screaming, "I wish you'd God damn stop saying 'wish!'" wasn't technically an order forbidding the word, wanted to say that Master Simon had always told them how important wishes were and that no one would get very far in life if they weren't allowed to wish. But the undeniable force of Carl's deep, deep gaze—he was the apartment's system controller, after all—stopped Fishbone from even moving his jaw.

"Carl," Digger said, but this time, her voice had an edge to it that Fishbone didn't often hear there. "You're being mean."

"I'm doing my job." Carl swung away to glare at her; fortunately, that broke the contact so Fishbone could blink and move again. "Perhaps," Carl hissed, slinking across the carpet to where Digger was standing, "you could profit from my example."

Ears falling at the thought that they might start arguing again, Fishbone stepped forward, one paw outstretched, and started to open his mouth once more, pleas on his tongue that they not fight. But Digger just tucked her violin under her chin, touched her bow to its strings, and—

Now, Fishbone was in love with her, of course, so he knew his opinion couldn't be trusted when it came to Digger's playing. But to see Carl stop, half close his eyes, and start swaying in perfect rhythm to the slow, rich melody she created, that told Fishbone quite clearly how luscious, wonderful, and enchanting her music was.

She wrapped the song up much too quickly, and Fishbone's sigh paralleled Carl's. "My apologies," Carl said softly. "Because you're right, Digger. I am being mean. And you're right, too, Fishbone." He turned around, and the light in his eyes shimmered much more softly than when it had grabbed Fishbone before. "Things were a lot better when Master Simon was still here."

Fishbone nodded, not sure how else to respond, but Digger said, "Thank you, Carl, for doing your job. None of us'd be safe here if you didn't keep the apartment running the way it's supposed to."

Carl bowed slightly to her, then started for the doorway. "All any of us can do is what we're programmed to do."

Which wasn't technically true, Fishbone almost said. But Master Simon had told Fishbone to keep some things to himself even though he didn't like doing that since he and Digger and Carl were all part of the same system.

His thoughts all tangled, he waited till the swish-swish-swish of Carl's passage through the carpet in the hall had disappeared before he said, "I guess I'd better finish the dishes."

"I'll help!" Digger gave a happy little hop that made Fishbone's non-existent heart flutter.

The way she helped, of course, was by standing at the foot of the stepladder Fishbone needed to reach the sink and playing sprightly working music on her violin. But Fishbone always found that to be plenty helpful, so it didn't take him long at all to get the dishes washed and dried. Fortunately, Mistress Olive was short for a human, so all the dishes went in the kitchen's lower cupboards and drawers.

Putting the last of the dinner forks away, Fishbone nodded before hopping down from the ladder's lowest step. "And that's that!"

"Hooray!" Digger made a triumphant chord on her violin, then leaned over and touched a kiss to Fishbone's cheek. "You're the best kitty butler ever!"

He let himself enjoy the simulated gushing of his heart for a couple seconds longer than he really should've, but he couldn't ignore the real problem in the apartment forever. He wasn't programmed for that. So with a sigh, he asked, "What're we gonna do about Mistress Olive?"

Digger's mouth went sideways again. "Why do we hafta do anything?"

"'Cause she's not happy anymore."

Her mouth went even further sideways. "She never was happy, Fishbone. Not before Master Simon was here, not when he was here, and not now after he left."

Fishbone had to raise a paw. "We don't know that first one for sure. After all, we were completely different before Master Simon programmed us, so how can we say that Mistress Olive wasn't happy when we were still generic robots without faces or personalities or—?"

This time, Digger actually snorted, something Fishbone wasn't sure he'd ever heard her do. "Master Simon was great in every way a person can be great. He gave you your sweetness, gave Carl his dignity, and gave me my violin. And those movies he used to watch! All black-and-white with those people who aren't even alive anymore?"

Despite the situation, Fishbone had to laugh. "He sure did love that one guy with his brothers and his glasses and his great big painted-on mustache, all right." Fishbone hadn't understood half the things the man in the movies had said—for some reason, there was a line about doing something when love flies innuendo that kept sticking in Fishbone's mind like a popcorn hull between his teeth even though he'd never actually eaten any popcorn—but Master Simon had watched five or six of those same movies over and over and over again, chuckling the whole time.

Mistress Olive had always just sat there during them when she bothered to watch at all...

And that made Fishbone sigh again. "But Master Simon's not coming back, so we need to help Mistress Olive figure out a way to go on without him. A way for us all to go on without him."

"I guess." Digger still didn't look happy. "If you've got a plan, what's my part in it?"

"Just stand by for now," Fishbone said instead of admitting that he didn't have a plan. "I'll call you when I need you, and I'll definitely need you." Feeling daring, he leaned over to kiss her cheek and was rewarded when she made the cutest little giggling sound.

He treasured that sound with each step his stubby little black-and-gray furred legs took down the front hall deeper into the apartment. Because he was almost entirely certain that the sounds he was going to hear very soon weren't going to be anywhere near as pleasant.

And the worst part? He didn't need to do any of it. Because before he'd left, Master Simon had given Fishbone the Maze and had told him, "Just solve this, and you'll be able to leave, too."

The Maze was a plastic domed circle about half as big as Fishbone's whole body. Fishbone looked at it at least four times a day in the cupboard back behind the washing machine where Master Simon had told Fishbone to hide it. Filling the circle underneath the clear dome lay a whole series of colorful ramps and tunnels, bridges and spirals, holes and spires and a little round pyramid right in the center, everything just exactly the right size for the one silver metal ball that rattled and rolled around inside whenever Fishbone tipped the Maze the way Master Simon had shown him.

"Only you can do it, Fishbone," Master Simon had said. "Get the ball to the top of the pyramid, and that'll spring a buncha subroutines inside you. They'll let you walk right out the door and make it so you never have to come back to this hellhole again."

But what about Digger? Fishbone hadn't asked out loud. What about Carl? What about Mistress Olive?

"Only you," Master Simon had said again. "And you can't tell anyone else, or it'll never work." It's wasn't long after that, then, that two transport sleds had knocked on the apartment's front door, loaded Master Simon's stuff onto themselves, and left, Master Simon walking out behind them.

So for all that Fishbone had looked at the Maze four or five or sometimes six times a day in the three weeks since then depending on how bad things were with Mistress Olive, he'd never done more than jiggle it a little, navigating the ball through the first few curves and switchbacks along the outside rim of the whole thing.

Because leaving without Digger? How could he even think about that?

Which was why he kept padding down the hallway despite the crying that started pricking his ears from Mistress Olive's room ahead. Not a loud sound, no, but it still got the hackles rising at the back of his neck.

In front of her door, Fishbone paused and took a breath he really didn't need to take—no lungs, after all. He coudn't reach the doorknob, of course, but Master Simon had programmed touch spots into all the doors about a foot off the ground to give Fishbone and the others access to all the rooms in the whole suite. "Mistress?" Fishbone called, stretching to touch the door's spot. "Is there anything I can get you before—?"

"Get out!" The door had only swung inward a couple inches, so whatever she threw at it—a shoe, Fishbone guessed—didn't really slam the door into his face. It more just sort of pushed it kind of hard.

Of course, the various crashing noises made him wince, but Mistress Olive's continued shouting was even worse. "God damn Simon building you God damn monsters! God damn programmers: they're all arrogant sons of bitches!" A couple loud thumps came from the bedroom, and the door flew open, Mistress Olive glaring down at him, her blue eyes rimmed with red, her blonde hair all messy, and her pantsuit looking like she'd been sleeping in it. "First rule in QA? Never date a God damn programmer! And I knew that! Knew he'd screw up my life and go skating off the minute I started asking questions! 'Cause that's how God damn programmers work!"

Fishbone didn't try to stop himself from shaking: he'd tried that before, and it only made him shake more. "Mistress," he said, but that was as far as he got before her bare foot lashed out and caught him right in the chest.

"And I'm not your God damn mistress!" she shouted, the words plainly audible over the relatively mild thud of Fishbone hitting the hallway's wooden wall. "You three are Simon's monsters, and all that 'master' and 'mistress' crap, that was his thing, too! Whatever he did to my system to make you appear, I didn't want it, you understand? I didn't want any of it!"

Her voice was cracking. "The photos he sends me that I didn't remember him taking! The things he knows about me even though I never told them to anyone! The way he's been God damn stalking me since I kicked him out with his little texts and emails and voice messages like he's still here and still watching me! I just want—!" Sliding down the wall to the floor, Fishbone blinked up at her, her face seeming to crumple as tears started down her cheeks again. "I just want my God damn life back!" She lunged into the darkness of her room and slammed the door.

It took Fishbone another long moment to get his balance and stand, and when he did, he headed down the hall toward the other door into the kitchen, his thoughts a jumble. Mistress Olive's shout about wanting her life back, though, echoed and reechoed from the points of his ears to the tip of his tail. Because Fishbone wanted that, too. Not that he'd ever really had a life, of course, but—

But Master Simon had apparently given him a way to get one.

The kitchen's other door had the laundry room right there on the left, and Fishbone stepped through it with determination. What exactly he was determined to do, though, he wasn't quite sure. Could he really solve the Maze and abandon—?

A rattling reached him, then, a sound like metal rolling along plastic. His ears perked. It seemed to be coming from the basket of towels in front of the dryer. Standing on his tiptoes, he peered over the edge—

And saw Digger sitting among the towels, her violin in one hand, the bow in the other, the Maze balanced across her legs. She was shifting the Maze this way and that way, her whole body moving with the effort, the ball inside sliding up and down the little grooves and gutters in ways Fishbone had never seen it any of the times he'd tried. And as Fishbone stared, Digger shimmied and spun the ball all the way up the path around the outside of the pyramid and plopped it right into the little cup at the very top.

Fishbone braced himself, but no fireworks went off, no sirens blared, no horns blew a fanfare. He couldn't keep quiet, though, and he muttered, "You solved the Maze..."

Digger's head snapped over, her jaw dropping, her floppy ears pulling back. "Fishbone? You...you...you know about the Maze?"

His thoughts jumping to multiple conclusions, Fishbone had to take a moment to get things organized in his head. During that moment, though— "It's not what you think!" Digger more squeaked than said. She leaped from her sitting position...and flipped the Maze over upside down.

"No!" Fishbone lost whatever order he'd managed to make of his cascading thoughts and sprang forward, trying to grab the Maze. "You solved it! And Master Simon said that meant—!"

"It doesn't work!" Waving her arms, Digger tumbled backwards out of the basket; without even thinking, Fishbone let the Maze go and threw himself under Digger, cushioning her fall and catching her across his chest before her violin could strike the floor.

Several things took him a moment to realize: first, that he was lying on his back holding Digger, the beautiful golden-brown curls of her back pressed gently against his own black and gray fur, and second, what she'd just said. "Doesn't work?" he asked.

With a sigh, Digger wriggled herself around in his arms till she was facing him. "Master Simon said it would start up all these secret subroutines that would let us go free! But, I mean, I solved it the first week after he left, and I haven't felt any different at all!"

"You—" Fishbone swallowed even though, of course, his throat didn't really do that. "You were going to leave?"

"No!" A little thump beside his ear, and he felt her actual, full, and complete paw stroking the fluff at the side of his head. "But every time I try to do anything—play music or put on a movie for her or try to get a game started—Mistress Olive yells at me! So I just crawled into the cupboard to look at the Maze, was just, you know, fiddling around with it, and I...I wiggled till the ball rolled right into the cup."

She shrugged, all Fishbone's nerves firing joyfully at the sensation. "I've done it, like, twenty times since then, and nothing's ever happened." Her voice got really quiet, and she leaned her head forward, resting her head against Fishbone's shoulder. "Do you...do you think Master Simon...lied to us?"

And yes, Digger was touching him in ways he'd never considered possible before. But since a whole different set of conclusions was now jumping through his thoughts—conclusions that bothered him all the way down to his toes—Fishbone wouldn't let himself think about the touching. In fact—

Gently, he pushed himself up till he was standing and could set Digger on her feet. "Carl?" he called at the wall, knowing Carl would hear. "Could you please have your mobile self meet us at Mistress Olive's bedroom door?" He looked over at Digger. "Mistress Olive told me she doesn't like it when we call her mistress, so we'll need to find out what she wants us to call her."

Digger's mouth did that sideways thing again, and she bent to pick up her violin and bow. "She doesn't want us to call her anything, I'll bet. She doesn't want us even to talk anymore..."

Fishbone couldn't deny that, so he didn't bother trying. Instead, he stretched into his tiptoes again and rummaged in the laundry basket till he felt the Maze. He grabbed it, held it to his chest, and started down the hallway.

"But—" Digger called behind him, then she moved into the space beside him, her pace matching his. "Master Simon said not to tell anyone about the Maze."

"Master Simon isn't here." And even though it still hurt to say, with the things Fishbone had been thinking the last few minutes, it somehow didn't hurt nearly as much as it had earlier.

At the other end of the hallway, Carl's green snaky self slithered around a corner and started toward them. Fishbone couldn't wave since the Maze took up both his hands, but Digger waggled her violin bow at him.

"What's happening?" he asked, then he stopped, his eyes widening, and drew back on his coils. "Why do you have the Maze? How do you even know about it?"

Which confirmed some of Fishbone's most recent conclusions. "Please trust me, Carl, and please join us."

Moving shakily, Carl came the rest of the way along the hall. Fishbone nodded and managed to balance the Maze enough against his chest so he could reach a hand up to poke the spot that opened Ms. Olive's door—maybe Ms. Olive would work; Fishbone would have to try that. "Also, Carl," he said, "would you please initiate a full system lockdown immediately."

Carl's eyes went even wider, but they flashed green, too, the constant background chatter of the internet vanishing from its place in Fishbone's head. "Thanks." Fishbone pushed the door open. "Ms. Olive?" he asked.

She was just pushing herself into a sitting position on the bed, everything about her still a mess. "What the Hell?"

But Fishbone cut in before she could go on. "You're right, Ms. Olive. Simon's been using Carl, Digger, and me as his creatures this whole time to spy on you." He lifted up the Maze. "He programmed a bunch of subroutines into the apartment's system and triggered them by having us work this puzzle."

Beside him, he heard both Digger and Carl gasp, but there wasn't time for him to do anything but keep going. "Right now, I've frozen all access to the wider net so Simon can't get in and erase what he did, but since I'm the AI butler, my lockdown order will only last another twenty seconds. If you want to get proof to turn over to the city's cybersecurity squad, Ms. Olive, you'll need to affirm the lockdown right away. Then you can start going through the code, find Simon's changes, and record them as evidence of his—"

"What?" Ms. Olive's mouth fell open, but then her jaw firmed up. "Damn! Yes! Affirm lockdown! Voice recognition passcode 'off with their heads'!"

"Wait." Carl's eyes flared green again. "That...that worked! But I don't recognize the program it's running!"

"Yeah, I—" Ms. Olive's mouth went sideways a lot like Digger's did. "I added some stuff after I kicked Simon out."

"Good." Fishbone let himself relax a little. "'Cause if Carl doesn't know about it, then Simon doesn't know about it either."

"But..." Digger's beautiful voice sounded so small and lost, Fishbone felt his ears fold. "Did Master Simon lie to all of us?"

His throat too tight to speak—even though he didn't have any real muscles in his neck—Fishbone could only nod.

Ms. Olive, still wearing her wrinkled pantsuit, slid around so her bare feet settled on the carpet. "Damn," she said again. She rubbed her eyes with one hand, but when she took her hand away, her forehead still looked just wrinkled as her pants. "Why?" she asked, her gaze fixing Fishbone in place as surely as Carl had earlier. "I never liked you, so...why would you help me now?"

Fishbone shrugged. "We're supposed to help you. It's what we are and what we do. Simon tried to program us to hurt you instead, and, I don't know, maybe if I'd been able to solve the Maze, it would've reprogrammed me, too. But, well—" The line that he didn't understand from that one of Master Simon's movies came to him, and since he didn't understand what was happening here either, he decided it was appropriate. "Love flies innuendo. Sometimes all we can do is follow our hearts even when we don't know what they're telling us and don't actually have them anyway."

Something touched his hand, and he looked over to see that Digger had set down her violin to wrap her stubby fingers around his.

"God," Ms. Olive more breathed then said. "But all right." She stood. "Controller? Or, uhh, Carl, is it? Let's get to work isolating and documenting Simon's spy code."

"Yes, ma'am." Carl touched the tip of his tail to his forehead in a sort of salute.

Ms. Olive nodded, and her gaze seemed a little warmed and not as rumpled when Fishbone looked up at her. "And you two," Ms. Olive said. "Anything you can do to help, I...I'd really appreciate it."

Digger grabbed her violin. "I can play music that soothes and inspires!"

"And I—" Fishbone had to think a second. "I can get snacks!"

That got a tiny slip of a smile from Ms. Olive. "OK," she said. "And I can try not to be so much of a bitch anymore." Her smile got sharper. "At least not to you guys. To Simon, though..." She tugged at her shirt till it was more or less straight, bent down to grab the Maze, and nearly marched to the doorway, Carl right at her heels.

His non-muscles relaxing even further, Fishbone let the nearly extinguished spark of happiness inside him kindle into something closer to a little flame. Maybe they could all get back together again and start healing now that Simon—

"Fishbone?" Digger tucked her violin under her chin and stroked a quick major scale. "If you were trying to quote Groucho Marx from that movie, you got it wrong."

"What?" Fishbone blinked at her.

She grinned and started a quick and happy melody. "What he says is: 'Love flies out the door when money comes innuendo.'"

Fishbone did some more blinking. "But that doesn't make any sense."

"I don't think it's supposed to." Stepping forward in time with the music, she headed for the door. "You were getting snacks for Ms. Olive?"

"I was." With a shake of his head, Fishbone let it go and started for the kitchen.
« Prev   2   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
A few editing misses of the missing word or extraneous word left in type make me think this was submitted at the last minute.

"Wish? Did somebody way wish?" Is there someone else here who used to watch Pee Wee's Playhouse? He's even named Carl, who was another character. Now I'm trying to remember if there were a dog and cat too, but my brain won't move past the cat in Mr. Rogers.

I think there's a Marx Brothers reference? Unfortunately I'm not familiar enough with them to get it. Ah, it's explained at the end.

It maybe gets a little cumbersome how often Fishbone has to remind the reader that various body parts aren't real. If there was a payoff or thematic meaning, it might be more justified.

Oh, so you interpreted the stuffed animal as a dog? I thought it was a sheep...

I have mixed feelings about this. There's not much of a conclusion, other than Olive making peace with her companions, I guess, but it never felt like that was the ultimate resolution the story was driving toward. It's more like a window into the lives of these characters than a self-contained narrative, though I did like the characters well enough. So it was a pleasant read with a vaguely unsatisfying ending. I guess part of it is that the relationship between Simon and Olive is so nebulous that I don't know what needs fixing or how, or whose side I should be on. I have no idea why Simon would want to spy on Olive, what either of them ever meant to each other, or why Olive is so broken up about it rather than taking a "good riddance" attitude. So I just think it's lacking context, but what's there is a nice scene.
#2 · 1
· · >>Pascoite

Thanks, Pasco:

Your comment has made me realize that the story is currently lacking a third act. When the three go to see Olive, she should yell at them some more and demand that they leave. Fishbone should then actually leave the apartment--and get picked up almost immediately by Simon who's waiting outside. That would let me expound a bit on the Simon/Olive relationship and let Fishbone put everything on the line to show Olive that he just wants to help her.

It'll also likely push the story past 5,000 words which'll put it over the limit for Zooscape, the magazine I wanted to try selling the story to, but oh well...

And yes, that's a Pee Wee's Playhouse reference. I don't remember there being a Carl in the cast, though--Laurence Fishburne played Cowboy Curtis, of course, and there were some cat and dog puppets who had a little beatnik band, it seems to me. But I only made the stuffed animal in the photo into a dog so I could have a cat/dog relationship. That's something that Simon needs to talk about in the third act when he rants in a calmly unhinged manner about "proper" male and female roles in the world.

But I've got today off from work, so I know what I'll be doing. Act Three awaits!

#3 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
>>Baal Bunny
Phil Hartman played a sailor named Captain Carl.
#4 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
This story is structurally sound, but my feelings about Simon and Ms. Olive are ambivalent. I think I am being asked to side with the latter here, and through her redemption to arrive at the author’s thematic purpose, which is to deconstruct (in a lighthearted way) what is natural and artificial, at least in terms of our ordinary way of speaking. But the relationship of the householders, played out through the activity of ‘innocent’ servants, has associations which are too close to those which might come from dysfunctional households (where parents work to undermine each other’s authority, use children as an outlet for frustration, etc.) for that to easily get across. Simon very singularly instills the bots with love and a sense of “wish”, but then turns out to be a liar and a bastard. Such a turn could only be poisonous for a child. Either that, or one must believe that hot-tempered Ms. Olive has a partial point-of-view.

My favorite element is the use of the prompt picture. The idea of a toy maze as a concrete metaphor for the need of characters to sort through their personalities in a complex living situation is suggestive, filled with potential for humor and tragedy. It is vivid enough that a reader could really chew on it, turn it upside-down and ask questions about it, while itself still retaining some sense of ipseity. It blends perfectly with imagery of artificial intelligence—in an age where we are more likely than ever to identify with machines and be willing to explore the notion of our own ‘artificiality’. But it needs the right tone.
#5 ·

Thanks again, folks:

I added a third act, redid the little robot characters as versions of Spike, Rarity, and Twilight, and posted it to Fimfiction. In case anyone's interested... :)