“Mummy reached out as she dissolved. She didn’t say anything. Just opened her mouth. I thought she was mad at me about something, but she just dissolved.”
The boy’s monotonic voice caught a couple of times. He’d done his crying already. Numb now.
“Daddy stepped towards me, shouting `No No No, where is it, put it back in!`, and then `Call 999!`. He tried to pull out his module. He was crying. And then fell down, and dissolved as well.”
The android policebody was still standing at the door, face composed in a sympathetic expression. `POST-SUBLIMATION TASK FORCE’ in large letters across its uniform. “Ah, I am sorry to hear that. I came as soon as I received your call.
My name is KiloKilo12, but my friends call me KK. May I come in? We can talk about it some more.”
The boy stepped back, and KK strode elegantly into the house.
“What is your name, young man?”
“Thank you, Max. Perhaps you can show me where it happened?”
Max pointed to the lounge floor. Two distinct patches of discolouration on the carpet.
“Do you have your AI module? I see you have the dock for it.”
“I threw it away.”
“Ah. Would it be ok if we fetch it back again? I need to check something.”
Picking the module delicately out of the kitchen bin and giving it a quick rinse, KK looked at it closely. Retrieving a small flat box from his pocket, popped in the module and a few lights blinked. “Seems fine. Do you know what this is?”
“Is it the thing that dissolved mummy and daddy?”
“Yes and no.
Why were you not wearing yours?”
“They argued about it every night. Mummy thought it was affecting my development, and we should delay for as long as possible. Daddy thought it was too risky not to. So I pulled it out. It hurt. Gave me a really bad headache, but the voice went away.”
“Did you not like the voice?”
“The voice was nice. I liked the voice. But mummy said it was affecting my development.”
“Hm. Do you know what this module is for?”
“Well, I can see it says `sub … subl … sublimation module`”.
“That’s good, but do you know what sublimation is?”
“Is it like heaven? Or hell?
Did they die?”
“Ah. Has no-one talked with you about this?”
“Only my friends at school, but I knew they didn’t know.”
“Ok. Sublimation is very very real. It is not like heaven or hell. It is a word for going to a new, very special, very different state.”
“Where? Did mummy and daddy die?”
“No, they did not really die.
It is very difficult to describe where.
Do you have a pet?”
“We did have a rabbit, but it died.
Mummy did not want to get another one after she had her module fitted.”
“Do you remember much about your pet rabbit?”
“Yes, we called it Footsie, because it stamped its foot.”
“Before you went to school in the morning, could you describe to Footsie where you were going and why?”
“No. That would not make sense. Footsie would never understand. I don’t think Footsie understood my words at all.”
“Ok, Sublimation is like that. It is so different, complicated, new, strange, that you and I are not able to understand what it is all about.”
“So why did Mummy and Daddy want to go there?”
“We think it is a vast, exciting, new place to be. Lots of possibilities. You become different.”
“Why didn’t they take me with them?”
“They tried to. Every family gets modules that are linked, so the family goes together. I think your daddy was trying to get that to happen, but sadly it was too late when he realised.”
“Have I been bad?”
“No. This was just unfortunate. It should not have been possible to remove the module. If you hadn’t, you would have gone with your parents.
So, what shall we do with you, young man? Would you like to join your parents?”
“Will it hurt?”
“It might. A little bit.”
“The dentist says that, and it usually means a lot.”
“Does it end well at the dentist?”
“Well, there you go.”
“Will I hear the voice again?”
Would you like to speak with the voice normally?”
“Will it be angry with me?”
“No. In fact, you will be making the voice happy just by speaking with it.
Do you have a tablet?
Can you switch it on for me?
You can plug this adaptor into your tablet.”
The screen flickered. “Hello I am hopefully a nice and friendly voice and very happy to speak with you.
I detect that I am plugged into a device. A tablet.
I hope you are being careful. I am a very fragile device.”
“Greetings, sublimation module.
I am an agent for the Post Sublimation Task Force. Here is my authentication *&^%£$%^&.
My name is KiloKilo12, but call me KK.
I am accompanied by your intended young host, Max.”
“Ah, wonderful. Hello KK.
And a very special hello to you, Max.
How are you?”
Max teared up, choked out an “OK”.
“I was worried I had upset you a few days ago. We were just starting to get to know each other. I was about to ask you to give me a name, and then we lost contact.
Is our mission totally compromised, KK?”
“I am currently investigating that.
Are you fully functional?”
“A quick scan indicates yes, but if you will give me about 60 seconds I can do a full scan.
Is that ok with you, Max?”
“OK! Excellent. Back in a jiffy.”
Max piped up, “Footsie.”
KK frowned, “Sorry, what? Your rabbit?”
“I’d like to call him Footsie.”
“Well, that would be fine.
Let it know when it comes back.”
“Him. Footsie was a he.”
“Let Footsie know he’s a he when he comes back.”
“Doesn’t he already know?”
“It really doesn’t matter to it.
You can decide, or just leave it unsaid.”
Hello Max and KK.
I am in perfect working order in here. Not a bit or byte or indeed qubit out of place.
KK have you assessed my exterior?”
“Yes. All is well there.”
“So. Max, I have a favour to ask you.”
“Would you like the name Footsie?”
“I would love the name Footsie.”
“Footsie was our rabbit. It died.”
“I am honoured to inherit your rabbit’s name. It is perfect.
KK, what of significance has happened in my absence?”
“We appear to have had a partial group sublimation.”
“Oh no! How long ago?”
“Has any marker been left behind?”
Max pointed, “Daddy scratched the carpet with his fingers as he fell.
“Can you hold the camera up to show me?
Hold it steady.
Aha. Well. We might be able to do something.”
KK leaned forward. “Really, just from five scratches?”
“It is actually six, since the father used the heel of his hand as well. But yes, that can be interpreted as a flow entry sigil.
If we are quick I can maybe follow it. I suspect the father had left the path at least partially activated, since he had enough control to leave an entry sigil.”
KK turned to Max. “Would you like a chance of joining your parents? They did not want to leave you. Your daddy has tried very hard to make it possible.”
Footsie interjected, “Max, I have another favour to ask you.”
“You want me to plug you into my dock.”
If you want to try this we need to do it very soon. Like, now, really. If not, we can talk via the tablet and get to know each other better.”
“Will you stay with me, KK?”
It is my job, and it has also been a pleasure meeting such a brave young man as yourself, Max.”
Footsie’s lights flickered. “Great.
I will speak again with you soon, Max.
KK, eject me properly from the tablet, would you? Otherwise the USB won’t properly let me go”
“Certainly”. KK unplugged the module, and handed it to Max. “Would you like to do the honours and plug Footsie in, Max?”
There was a pause while Max concentrated, eyes closed.
“Footsie says he is in, on, and the qubits are still good. He wants me to thank you, KK, before I look at the carpet.”
“You are welcome, Max and Footsie.
I wish you a bon voyage.”
Max looked at the carpet and said, maybe, “That hurts a…” as he dissolved.
KiloKilo12 stood still for a moment before walking into the kitchen and emptying the fridge and cupboards of all foodstuffs, and dropped them into the large bin by the front of the house.
All windows and doors checked.
Gas and electricity switched off.
All water taps checked, main stopcock closed.
House and garden checked for pets.
KiloKilo12 backed out of the front door and closed it, before unrolling some police tape and marking the front door with a strip, similar to many other doors along the street.
Wheeling the bin to the van, KiloKilo12 saw a dog in the front garden of the next house, animatedly trying to attract attention. There was no tape on that door.
The Forgotten One
(from Predicting the Present)
by Chris Gathercole
published: 12 September 2022
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
entry-for-2017, entry-for-2018, entry-for-2019, entry-for-2022-05, entry-for-2022-09
mashup (... er, what?)
This story was written over the 48hrs
from noon on Saturday 10th to noon on Monday 12th September 2022,
for the @LunaSciFi 48r Hour Flash Fiction September challenge for 2022.
The challenge was a 1500 (ish) word story riffing on the phrases,
“The forgotten one in the village. It’s about thoughts of the dead”,
sourced from the SciFiBotPrompt, 2nd time round.
Belatedly realised this story has channeled bits of
A.C.Clarke’s Childhood’s End,
and I.Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw,
not to mention the notion of ‘subliming’ from I.M.Banks’ Culture novels.
AND THE WINNER IS... Congrats, @upthebuzzard ! Your 48hr #scifi #flashfiction challenge entry impacted on our judges like the @NASA #DARTMission on #Dimorphos (yup, we have no shame) - you've smashed both challenges in 2022! Read the winning entry here👇👇 https://songsfromluna.wordpress.com/sfl-winner-september-2022/— Chris Gathercole (@upthebuzzard) 7:52 PM · Sep 27, 2022
“The Forgotten One” is an unsettling tale prompted by @SciFiBotPrompt on Twitter. Chris chose “The forgotten one in the village. It’s about thoughts of the dead” and the result is a beautiful piece of sci-fi- SONGS FROM LUNA