Failing That… by Damon L. Wakes
I first met Damon L. Wakes over on Goodreads. I was looking for books to review, back when I first started blogging and had delusions of grandeur that I’d be able to review books somewhat regularly. He approached me about reviewing his collection of flash fiction stories, OCR is Not the Only Font, but also recommended to me an indie book by a completely different author, Goldilocks by Anna Rose. I ended up reading both and liking both quite a bit. I think OCR is Not the Only Font is the first book I ever reviewed on this blog.
Damon is, in my mind, a king of short fiction. He’s participated in several Flash Fiction Months–where the goal is to write a flash fiction story every day for a month–and has taken those stories and put them into collections that he then gives away for free.
Damon’s most recent project, Ten Little Astronauts, is a sci-fi novella inspired by Agatha’s Christie’s And Then There Were None. The novella has been accepted by the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound, and is in the process of raising funds. To celebrate the novella and hopefully help raise some awareness of it (because I’d like to read it), here’s a cool sci fi short story Damon wrote for Flash Fiction Month 2015.
by Damon L. Wakes
“Greetings.” The computer’s voice synthesiser was almost unrecognisable: the centuries had not been kind to it. “This encounter is unexpected. What manner of machine are you?”
Provost Hurquark examined the wall of algae-crusted metal, trying to spot the camera. “I am not a machine,” he answered. “I am a human being. I come from Earth.”
“We remember Earth.”
That “we” didn’t give Hurquark much confidence in the integrity of the computer’s neural network. Then again, finding it in any kind of working condition was nothing short of a miracle.
“We remember humanity,” it continued. “You are inorganic. Mechanical. Not human.”
“This is what humanity has become.” Still not sure how the computer was observing him, he held up a synthetic hand for it to see. “When the flesh fails, we replace it. Do you understand?”
There was a pause. An acid wind blew across the plain.
“Yes. We understand.”
“Good. And do you know why you were built here?”
“Our purpose is to oversee the restoration and recolonisation of planet Earth. Failing that, our purpose is to maintain a colony of living humans on this outpost. Failing that, our purpose is to preserve the knowledge and memory of humankind. We regret that the first two of these has proven impossible with the resources we were provided.”
Hurquark looked around at the desolate landscape. He had visited other outposts in far more hospitable climates and found nothing but rust and bone.
“You should be proud to have accomplished the third,” he said. “You were sent here in a primitive time. No other computer from your age has remained in operation for this long. Had humanity not succeeded in maintaining its foothold on Earth, your survival would have been a testament to our species.”
“We are grateful. This eases our grief over the fate of the colonists.”
Provost Hurquark approached the vast side of the computer. “Though humankind is no longer in danger, you are now of archaeological value. We will send you a team of historical technicians to provide any parts you need, any repairs you require.”
“We are grateful for this too, but it is not necessary.”
Hurquark brushed aside a mat of lichen and found an exhaust grate.
“Our third purpose has proven possible with the resources we were provided.”
Behind the grate, a human larynx twitched and strained.
“When the machine fails, we replace it.”
For tons more fantastic flash fiction stories, be sure to check out Damon L. Wake’s website. And be sure to check out Ten Little Astronauts on Unbound. If it’s a story you think you’d like to read, please consider giving it your support!