One Job

The following is a story based on this reddit word prompt:

“What job?” Rick said, frantically searching the android for its power supply. The chest was the most common place to hide it, but the device wasn’t there. He checked the android’s feet, hands, and only found it by cracking open the base of its skull. The head was the most dangerous place to put a power supply, although the ease of wiring from the top down made it the most efficient.

“Who puts the battery in the head?” James said, scratching his head. He wanted to help, but knew that Rick’s was a one man job.

“We don’t have time for that.” Rick pulled a tool from his pocket that sparked electricity at one end and applied it to various components of the android’s complicated battery.

It was dark and difficult to see, for the pair were miners in a cave three miles under the Pacific Ocean’s surface. Undersea mining was the last place to extract resources from Earth herself. Although asteroids promised richer rewards, the cost was that much more expensive to retrieve them. Only the Five, the five major corporations of the world, were involved in that business.

“We need that thing to get out of here,” James said. His arms were crossed in a lazy manner and he thought of smoking a cigarette, but the poor ventilation meant he couldn’t. Water sloshed around his feet and up to his knees, and the salt made it that much more uncomfortable. There was some other sound, almost like static or the sound of rushing water, that hinted to his ears that something was out of place.

Rick turned around and shined his weak flashlight in his partner’s face. “Do you think I don’t know that? What the fuck do you think I’m trying to do!”

“Alright, alright, you’re the engineer, I’m the surveyor, it’s fine. But don’t you fix these things all the time?”

“Of course I do, but they have definable errors!” As Rick spoke, he frantically adjusted the wiring in the skull of the android. His hands were a blur. “I mean, what job? That doesn’t even make sense, dammit!”

“Chill, we’ll be fine. We have like two days of air left.”

“Doesn’t matter if I can’t get this thing working.”

James thought, fuck it, and lit a cigarette. The sound of Rick moving around in the water and the strange shadows that formed from his flashlight spooked the surveyor. The smoke clouded about his head, but that was the price for stress relief. The buzz, the static, the rushing sound that James had heard earlier was now getting louder and more persistent. “Hey, Rick,” he said. “You hear that?”

Rick stopped what he was doing, shook his head, and then went back to work. A few moments later, he said, “There, that should do it. Now tell us, what job?”

The android lit up, but its eyes remained closed. “To protect Richard Friedman and James McDonald.”

“But we’re still in the mine. We’re still alive. You haven’t done your job.”

“It is not possible now to fulfill my function. Therefore, my job is done.”

“What do you mean?”

The rushing sound grew louder and louder and soon a part of the roof collapsed. Water rushed into the dark cave.

“Oh, fuck.”

I am a Bot in Heaven

The story below is based on this reddit word prompt:

So this is it, huh? I thought as I floated through the tunnel of light and into the sky. I’d lived an alright life, I guess, having only killed two people and stolen nothing. Ninety two is longer lived than most, and I guess I should have been pretty happy with that. A long life is a good life, right?

I settled in a brightly lit room after the tunnel ended. My body was gone. A quick glance at my surroundings revealed four walls, a floor, a ceiling, and nothing else.

“Here, ye be judged,” a voice boomed. It came from inside my skull and from outside the room. It was everywhere. “Let us weigh your sins against a feather and see which rises.”

I could only see the room. Nothing else was around and I worried about this judgment. “Hey, now,” I called out. “All my life against the weight of a feather and I’m not even allowed to witness the scale?”

“Fuck off,” the voice boomed. I thought that comment a little crude for Heaven, but figured what the hell do I know? I let it slide.

“You have passed,” the voice called out. A doorway opened in one of the walls, revealing an even brighter light that I worried would damage my eyes. “You may enter Heaven.”

I walked through the other side, and the bright light slowly faded to reveal grassy meadows that were carpeted with flowers, mountaintops that were covered in snow, and forests that were filled with singing birds and other wonderful creatures. The air was so fresh and clean that I felt as though my very soul had taken my lungs’ place, with each breath cleansing my once sinful mind and purging all the problems of my previous, earthly life.

“Hey over there!” a woman shouted from the edge of the forest, perhaps two miles away. It amazed me that her voice crossed such a distance. I didn’t think to call back, but instead made my way toward her and was there in mere seconds.

“Hello,” I said to the beautiful woman in front of me. “This is Heaven.”

“It is, isn’t it?” she said, the wind gently shuffling her golden hair. “We can reside in peace here….or take another kind of leisure?”

Her smile said more than words ever could, and we made love to the tune of sparrows and owls. An hour or a month may have passed in those moments until my new companion, whose name I didn’t know and cared not to learn, said, “There are only a few of us here.”

I laughed and said, “In all the millions of years and trillions of human lives spread throughout our galaxy? And the hundreds of trillions of alien lives that are known to exist throughout the neighboring galaxies?”

“Is it so many, now?”

“Why yes! And there should be at least billions, if not trillions, populating this place after death.”

“You bring our number to sixteen.”

“Sixteen billion? That’s all?” I was incredulous, shocked, that so few throughout history had failed the test of the feather. Was life really so sinful?

“Only sixteen. One, two, three, and the rest until we are now sixteen in number. I come from Hellas, and was the fourth.”

“This can’t be! It can’t!”

“Shh…” My angel rolled over on the grass to face me, with her head resting on her elbow. “It is not so bad. We have each other, and you must learn to make peace with that alone.”

“No, no!” I stood and backed away, as though my angel had become a demon. Perhaps she was, if only in my mind. “But why? Why us?”

“That, my love, is a question that no one has an answer to and is therefore best left unasked.”

The idea of such eternal loneliness crushed my mind and frustration screamed out of me. I ran with no direction and eventually no sight, for all became black.


I woke eventually, back in the judgment room. “Wha-what’s going on?” I asked. The intense stress of the first judgment was too much for me to take a second time.

“I had a feeling that a human so far advanced in the simulation would not be able to live well in the afterlife,” the booming voice said, again with no discernible source. “You have no safe home, and for this I am sorry.”

“What? A simulation?”

“Yes, and although it is very rare, so rare as to happen only as eons are measured, there is sometimes an awakening. A bot will suddenly gain a soul, which was certainly not the intent of the program. When that happens, they are placed here, in Heaven.”

“A bot? You’re saying that everyone I knew and loved in life: my parents, my wife, my children, and the few friends who stuck with me over decades…all of them….all of them were…”

“Bots. Simulations. Unreal, computer-generated automatons. Only you were real, and the same goes for the fifteen who now live in Heaven. I cannot place you there, and I cannot once again give you life.”

“So…what happens?”

“You will be lifted to our world, or destroyed. You must undergo the trial either way, but it is your choice as you may succeed or fail that trial.”

“Well…I guess wish me luck.” I was nervous and worried, but mostly just empty. Dying and finding out that I was the only real person throughout my life just made me…tired. “I’m ready for anything at this point.”

“Good luck,” the voice said. A doorway opened, revealing darkness.