ART OF WRITING Story Challenge for 7th October 2013

Tobias Mastgrave has once again come up with a story challenge, and as always it got the mental cogs spinning.

The rules are as below:

– We –

Theme: The Awakening of Ancient Gods

Genre: Science Fiction

Setting: A heavily populated, technologically advance central world

Character Archetypes: The Android Servant, The Skeptical Genius Scientist, The Prophet, Insane Homeless Man

Items:  A holy icon, a powerful weapon, and a bracelet

– We –

The story came in at 1050 words; slightly over the 1000 word limit, but is as full and succinct as I could make it.

Without further delay:

– We –

GOOD BOOKS AND EVIL SCIENCE

The elevator and its deadly cargo lowered silently.

The scientist, in a three piece suit with a Tyrian purple tie, took in the cityscape of Loughborough before the glass case descended into the sprawl of apartment towers.

He turned to the robot, who stood nonchalantly, the scene reflected off its androgynous glass-like exterior.  “Can you believe that there was once less than a tenth of the people living here, Eugene?”

The robot’s voice was eerily of male human, a slight metallic buzz beginning and ending its words.  “Yes, Sir Alfred.  The population density was five hundred and ninety five people per square kilometre according to a midyear estimate taken by the Office for National Statistics in 2011.”

Sir Alfred Mountsorrel smirked and gave a slight shake of his head.  “A silly question.  Of course you would know that.  What is it considered to be now?”

“Fifteen thousand two hundred and fifty people per square kilometre, sir.  It overtook the population density of London ninety seven years ago.”

“And the unemployment level among the human population?”

“Sixty five point six percent, and rising.”

“And the increase in religious belief?”

“It continues its resurgence, sir.”

Alfred smiled at his automated attendant.  “That’s why I prefer robots to humans.  You have all the answers, and only have to be told once.  So many humans have grown lazy and self-entitled, happy to live in squalor while demanding they be fed and clothed.  When they cannot earn it, they turn to a non-existent higher power to save them.”

Eugene showed no emotion, just as Alfred liked it.  Emotion was weakness, and stopped progress.

He continued on.  “Robots are perfectly happy in their role.  As long as you have some Sun to recharge your solar panels, everything goes swimmingly.”

The robot buzzed.  “That was as we were designed, sir.  The concept of continuous improvement has proven to the detriment of the human population.  The pressure of competition and depleting resources led to a dramatic increase in depression.  Many killed themselves, and those that could not fell below the poverty line.”

A ding indicated the elevator had reached the ground floor.  Alfred looked to the metal briefcase in his left hand as the doors slid aside.  As the pair stepped out onto the path, the human population showed itself in its hideous glory.  Every building in view had the glass panes of their ground floors broken, and crowded within were those who could not afford the modest million pound monthly rent of the apartments above.  The squalor assaulted Alfred’s sensibilities, while Eugene remained nonchalant.

Alfred removed the case from under his arm, and clicked it open.  Within was a handgun, and below it a container of sorts.

“Well, Eugene.  We need a test subject for the Atomiser.  If we can prove it works, we may have found a way to address our energy and resources crisis.  Pick a person, any person.”

The robot shook its head.  “I am unable to kill humans, or select one to be killed.  They have nothing to damage me, so self-defence is not required.”

Alfred rolled his eyes.  “Given half the chance, they would destroy you.  The depths of disdain for robots by these people are beyond measure.  Walk over and see.”

Eugene walked across the street to the closest group of squatters.  The fires rising from the barrels reflected off its body, and caught the eye of those who were facing the street.  One man stood up and pointed, a flashing red band around his dirt-covered wrist.  With a guttural yell, he barged through those standing or sitting between him and Eugene.  Many howled at the man to stop, their raised hands showing the same band.

The robot watched disinterestedly at the human charging him.  As the man reached it and raised his fist, lines of blue electricity ran from the band and around his body.  He crumpled to the floor, a vague smell of burnt flesh wafting into the air.  Those who had watched turned away from Eugene, irrationally fearful.  Robots were programmed not to harm humans, but fear was the dominating factor of their lives.

Alfred chuckled to himself as he watched the spectacle, always amused by the one person who would try and attack.  The bands ensured the unemployed did not attack another’s personal property.  They had been rolled out across Loughborough after the ‘Ground Floor Reclamation’ attacks, and had proven very effective in both limiting property damage and increasing the feeling of futility among the unwashed masses.

His eyes were drawn to a pair sitting just inside the broken windows.  They sat huddled over something, talking animatedly.  The scientist placed the handgun into his pocket, and approached the two men.  The stench in the area was barely tolerable, making him take his handkerchief from his pocket and place it over his mouth and nose.

The man sitting against the wall had a crazed gleam in his eye, a slow red glow underneath the threadbare sleeves of his well-worn jumper and jeans.  The other stood in contrast to him, a fine yet managed level of stubble and a fine though worn suit.  Alfred was shocked to see that, as the man held a book open, he did not have a wristband.

“You.  What is your name?  Why do you not have a wristband?”

The relatively well-kempt man gave him a withering glare.  “I am Moe, and I have just arrived in town.”  He held up his book.  “I have come to spread the Good Word, and bring hope to these poor displaced people.  Leave me in peace to speak with Joe here.”

“The Good Word, you say?  How is it good?  All it does is misplace people’s beliefs.  They believe an unknown entity actually cares enough to provide for them, instead of their providing for themselves?”

“It is meant to inspire us to care for one another in times of despair and need.”

“One must be useful, and I have found use for them.”  He removed the gun from his pocket, and pointed it at Moe.  “The wretches will be atomised and reassembled into a useful resource.”

Moe shut the book and raised it between himself and the Atomiser, staring angrily at the scientist.  Alfred’s eyes widened as the book cover began to glow with an otherworldly light.

– We –

Hope it was an enjoyable read.  Feedback always appreciated =)

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2 responses

  1. I like it. Do you think you might do more with this?

    1. I hope so, as it would be an interesting premise for God to reinvest himself on Earth due to a twisted section of humanity deciding obedient robots are ‘better’ than humans supposedly ‘without a use’. The ‘Atomiser’ is an idea I’ve had bouncing around my head for some time, so to place it in a story is quite therapeutic =)

      The website providing the challenges has over 300 challenges to work through, so there is plenty of practice and inspiration to be found =)

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