The Shore

The shore of the island was a slow slope that acted as a social avenue for centuries. The villagers spent many hours a day in the waters, playing, working, socializing, hunting in the clear-blue ocean, their footsteps quickly disappearing as the bright white sand moved around them.

Sail-boats were the lifeline of the village, the waters that carried them out to sea had earlier flowed through the veins of the island, from the snow-covered peaks. The villagers understood the complex water cycle, saw that the water flowing down the mountains and through their delta and out to sea was a force that had kept their village alive through the ages.

The elder of the village taught the young men, he showed and instructed as was done in his own teenage years. The men chopped bits of wood out of a long tree trunk. The trunk had been shaped into a slender angled shape, and now more chunks of it would be ripped away, as it was done for the longest time. The canoe was taking shape at the water’s edge.

The elder walked around and inspected the work, directed his unmotivated crew. He was the last of the builders, these were boys and young men who built the canoe out of tradition, not out of desire. The elder had prayed for students, he received those who had no thirst for learning.

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JR – part 3

Two months after our launch we made the headlines when one of our bots saved the life of a twenty-nine year old woman in Chicago.

You talk with a friendly AI for a few hours a day, week in and week out, and the software on the other side is bound to learn a thing or two about you. As you walk around your studio apartment, heating up a bowl of water to make dinner, the laptop sits in a corner and streams audio through your random assortment of free speakers, an artificial voice – noticeable only to a small cadre of audiophiles – asks about your day, and you talk as you unwind and settle into the everyday routine. The call is going to last three hours and you’re going to feel it, personally. The software also might end up inferring some interesting tidbits, like that you have a misdiagnosed medical condition and the drugs your psychiatrist has you on are actually conflicting with the rare ingredient in the authentic Thai dishes you are so fond of having every few days. The AI alerted the woman of this, who then asked the psychiatrist, and a few minutes of Googling revealed a dangerous drug interaction.

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From: Instagram
To: HisDudenessEleventy
Date: Fri, April 21, 2017 at 12:44 PM

We have exciting news, HisDudenessEleventy! Starting today you will be able to take advantage of an exciting new feature we’re making available to select power-users – AutoGram! This is an amazing digital assistant we’ve been developing in secret for the past two years and it will revolutionize the way you use Instagram. Or, rather, the way you’ll be able to use Instagram even less.

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Archivist – 2

The elevator came to a stop and the doors opened into a dark-paneled lobby. There were two swinging doors on the other side. We walked through the doors and were faced with the Border Control. The guards smiled. Their semi-automatic rifles smiled, too.

There were three guards on duty so each of us walked toward one, chatted a bit, proved that we were ourselves to a minion of a government that knew where we were every moment of the day, and walked on through into the surface world.

The lobby past the guards contained half a dozen elevators. We piled into the first that showed up. All the buttons were lit up. Clarice pushed the button for the garage, then pushed the lobby button and the elevator lurched upwards.

We first stopped in the parking garage, a tinted car already waiting for Clarice, who slid into it and swung the door closed with a practiced motion, all done while the elevator was still irised open. Her handbag had a picture of Mickey on it and Clarice carried a Disney towel over her arm.

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Archivist – 1

I met a cute boy on the train.

Taking the train back home from work, I was talking with my sister on Skype. She was in Chicago, an hour ahead, and had already started cooking dinner. She told me about her day as I watched her move around her kitchen, knives moving up and down, water boiling on the stove.

Christa had to go and we said our I love yous, when I looked down the train car and saw a cute boy I’d never seen before. He was reading an old paperback, black background and a familiar crest on top of it. I remembered the book and felt excitement at seeing this, the re-birth of the novel, happening right in front of me.

The boy looked to be in his late twenties, early thirties. He had on a plain gray jacket over a green sweater. A book in one hand, a small backpack behind his legs, he sat there and read for a while.

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“So I figure we ride this thing out as long as we can, collect enough paychecks to buy our way out, and…” I make a sailing motion with my hand, then take another drink of beer.

Ryan looked incredulously at me and says “Don’t know if I’ve been living under a rock these past few days, but what the fuck are you talking about?”

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The car merged across four lanes of slow-moving traffic onto the on-ramp, when the world turned around and I was hanging to the side of a cliff.

The car’s wheels stuck to the ground, the air-freshener still pointed in the direction of the road, and the rest of the surroundings kept their normal orientation, but now I was seeing the highway in an unfamiliar light.

When a plane takes off you notice it, right? The cabin is tilted upward, away from Earth’s surface and toward the sky, and you somehow can tell, can look down the long stretch of the carpeted surface of that strange aluminum tube and somehow see that, yes, it is pointed up, even though you’ve not moved, that the belt around your waist is still nice and snug. You can look “up”, in the direction of the cockpit, and appreciate that the people in front of you are higher, in some sense, than you are.

Same thing here. The car continued its forward trajectory through the on-ramp and I banked into the turn, but all along the world seemed to stand on edge. I was driving on a vertical wall, banking further up the wall, moving in an impossible way, stuck to a cliff and continued our upward progression.

I glimpsed cars in my mirrors and they continued on their merry way, oblivious to the fact that the Earth was now exerting a completely different pull on us, that we were now stuck to this planet in a whole new imaginative way, something worthy of a crappy sci-fi series on a cable channel or a one-off episode of a teenage-angst-meets-super-hero show.

Then the bit of wax in my ear stopped moving and the world rotated back to its former orientation and the moment passed. Damn, I need to clean my ears more often.

JR – part 2

The next day I got up and started working. My first move was to send an email to work and claim that a previously-undiscovered variety of flesh-eating bacteria had made my lungs its home for the foreseeable future, so I might have to take a day or two off.

I then coded for sixty hours, slept for twelve, and finally barged into Dave’s place at around 10am. I was carrying a box of coffee in one hand, a white paper bag with bright colors painted on it in the other hand, and my backpack.

Dave was of course on the phone, I could hear my voice coming out of the bakelite speaker.

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