Thread: Small Worlds
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Old 02-15-2010, 02:14 PM
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I have another story to place on the altar of criticism!

Right, this was, once again, written for a fiction competition on another forum. The these was Ostranenie (yup, that's what I thought) which means something along the lines of de-familiarisation of a familiar object.

My entry was based on an old idea and ever so slightly blagged, and the result didn't win.

But it went a little like this...

(Another weird title!)

Objective (Adj):
  1. Free of bias or prejudice
  2. Based on facts, rather than thoughts or opinions
  3. Observable to an outsider
  4. Existing independently from the mind of the observer

She opened her eyes – which was strange. She had never done that before. Above her was the dark sky, speckled with pale stars and stained by red-orange ambience.

She sat up, then froze. Gosh, she had sat up! What was going on? She rocked back and forth, feeling her back curve; she wiggled her tummy and bounced her shoulders. Shoulders! She had shoulders! What on Earth… And she didn’t stop there; she had arms, hips, legs between her and her feet! Very slowly and very carefully she pulled her legs up beneath her and – holding her arms out stiff to help her balance – raised herself onto her feet. She wobbled, flung out her arms and found her balance. Then she stood very still for a long time until she was used to it.

She was so cold! She carefully tucked her elbows against her sides and then, when she was sure she wasn’t going to fall over, wrapped her arms around her chest. It was freezing! She was shaking; there was an odd clicky sound and it took a few seconds to realise that she had teeth and they were knocking together! She had teeth! She had teeth! SHE had teeth! She had lips, mouth, nose, and eyes! Of course, she could look up at the sky and the image had depth! Eyes weren’t as good as she had imagined. Things were dimmer and harder to see than she would have thought and she couldn’t see most of what was around her; just dark shapes against the sky.

She took a tentative step forward, rocked, took another to stop herself falling and then found her balance and stood still again. She stopped, breathing hard, and then found a new marvel. “I’m breathing,” She said aloud, just to see if she could, and the words were startlingly clear. It was amazing! She hadn’t even realised she was doing it! The effort it normally took to do anything, to wake up, to go to sleep, to cool herself down when she was working too hard… And now she was doing a million things without even thinking about it! She was breathing; she could faintly feel the solid sensation of something pumping in her chest and the thought that she had a heart and blood was…

Well, actually it was mildly disgusting but she pushed that thought aside and took another step, rubbing her hands on her naked arms. It was so cold!

Her sight seemed to be getting stronger. She stumbled towards a wall to her side and ran a stiff hand over it – fingers were just too much at the moment. The surface was rough and unpleasant, but keeping that hand pressed against the wall she staggered forwards. How were you supposed to stand on these stupid legs?! She thought about squirming along the ground on her arms but she felt it would be slower, and she wanted to escape the cold!

There was another wall close on her right, parallel to the one she was following. But above, behind and ahead she could see the sky. She staggered forwards. She was suddenly drawn to the feeling of her skin; smooth, slightly grippy and so… pliable, so elastic! It was like nothing she had felt or been before! She had skin; she had joints in weird places! She had a beating heart and lungs that breathed without being told! She was real; she was alive; she was– OW!

She stumbled and fell in a heap on the ground, ow! Ow! OW! What was this feeling? She untangled her limbs and dragged one of her feet in front of her. There was something on her hand, sticky and warm. Investigation using her poor eyesight and her odd, wiggly fingers revealed that something had cut open the skin on the bottom of her foot and this warm, sticky liquid was leaking out; blood, she realised, fitting this experience with the information on her head, and shuddered. And this bad feeling was coming from the cut in her foot, and from her elbow and knee, where she had scraped herself falling over. She knew if you lost too much blood you died. But how did you stop it? She tried clasping the skin on her foot together but that made the bad feeling so much worse, and if anything made more blood come out. What was she going to do?

There seemed to be no choice. She pushed herself to her feet and staggered forwards, trying to stop the hurt foot touching the ground too much. The feeling was worse if you put weight on it. With all she had learnt about injury and bleeding, why hadn’t she learnt about making the bleeding stop? Maybe she needed bandages, she thought, grasping at vague information, barely understood at the time. Well she didn’t have them. She didn’t even have clothes, and that was probably trouble enough. She hobbled forwards and finally came out from the walls. She was standing now on the edge of a wide, flat stretch of what seemed to be rock stretching away on both sides, and on her side and the opposite side of the line were… houses. Houses where people lived, with clothes and bandages. She hobbled towards the nearest door.

* * *
Ben Davy was not happy to be woken by his doorbell at 4:13 in the morning, especially as he had intended to be in bed until at least midday. Come on; his morning lecture had been cancelled so surely it was his right to spend the entire morning in bed!

At 4:15 he began uttering curses against every person he could think of who might be hanging on his doorbell in the early hours of the morning. One of his friends, drunk, he guessed. Well they could go and ring someone else’s doorbell! He put his pillow over his head. He wished one of his housemates was in, but they’d all gone home early for Easter.

Finally, at 4:21 it was becoming depressingly clear that whoever they were, they weren’t going to go away, so he flopped out of bed, pulled on some jeans and a t-shirt and staggered down stairs. “Alright, I’m coming,” He muttered as the bell rang again. Getting ready to start yelling, he jerked open his front door. The rant collapsed in his throat; the woman on his doorstep was both a stranger and totally and utterly naked. “Huh?”

“You!” She declared.

His brain suddenly realised what his eyes were focussed on and they snapped up to her face. She was looking furious! “Wuh?”

“You!” She shouted again, louder.

Desperately trying to shake himself awake, he choked, “Uh, you’re naked.”

“That’s it?! That’s all you have to say?! You throw me out in the trash and that’s all you have to say!?”

His brain was cycling like mad. Who on Earth was this woman? Fearful that the neighbours would look out to see him being shouted at by this naked woman, he stepped back, “You better come in?”

She glowered at him but stepped through the door, stumbling as she did. She was drunk, he decided. She had to be!

“You want me to call the police or something?”

“Only for yourself!”

Why was she so angry at him? “Um, I mean, are you lost or something?”

“LOST! You’ve already forgotten who I am?!”

He closed the door behind her in a hurry. “Look,” He said desperately, keeping his eyes fixed on her face, “I don’t know who you are, but-”

“You have forgotten me!” She shouted, “All my life spent slaving away for you, night and day, and then you chuck me out and forget who I am!”

“Chuck you out? We’ve never even met before!”

“Hah!” She said, and now there were tears in her eyes, “I bet you’ve already replaced me!” She gave a sniff that was perhaps meant to be scornful but was more tearful, “Don’t think I wasn’t looking, all that time on PC World and Comet, looking at cover plans and RAM capacities! Well if I’d known you were going to forget about me so completely, I would’ve let myself burst into flames!”

“Hang on, hang on!” He said wildly, “I… But I didn’t take anyone with me to PC World, and I didn’t even go to Comet in the end!”

“I bet she’s Windows Seven, isn’t she? Out comes Seven, and Vista’s a thing of the past! Don’t act dumb with me!”

He raised his hands pleadingly, “I don’t! Know who! You arrrrre!” He rasped.
She looked at him scornfully, “What a thing to tell a girl!”

“I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE!” He roared, “We’ve never even met before! I think I’d remember! What did you do, stalk after me when I was shopping for a new laptop?”

She glowered at him furiously. He could barely believe this was happening; he was having an argument with a strange, naked girl about whether he knew who she was or not. Of course he didn’t! He would remember that face; she was – not to put too fine a point on it – very attractive! (Man, he was such a geek.) But she seemed just as convinced that she knew him; how drunk was she?!

She was red faced, angry and hurt. “All that time I spent working for you, and this is what I get? It wasn’t even important stuff most of the time. Stupid forums with your weird friends, and webcomics!” She said it with much distain. “And reading frankly horrible Wikipedia articles! Ha! Complete waste of my life! Why did I have to get landed on you?”

He stared at her, “What do you have to do with that?”

“And signing up that poor twelve year old to those horrible sites, just because he didn’t know how to spell! I hope you’re ashamed of yourself!”

“But no one knows about that! Have you been hacking into my laptop or something?”

She swelled up furiously, “I AM your stupid laptop, idiot!”

“Oh, good grief.”

She glowered, “I am!”

“Oh come on. I can tell you for one thing, my old laptop didn’t have…” He waved a hand desperately, “Oh, good grief.”

She glared.

“Why do you have to be naked?” He wailed, rubbing a sleep-deprived hand over a sleep deprived face.

“I never asked for it!” She said. “And it never worried you before!”

He groaned, “Look, I’m gonna go and get you some clothes; just… stay here.” He started running upstairs.


He stopped and turned back.

“Is she up there?” She asked dangerously.

He stared at her (her face, thank you) for a moment, then groaned and hurried away to his bedroom.

He returned a moment later with some clothes. “Sorry I’ve got no girl’s stuff,” He said automatically to the space above her head. “When you’re done, just come through here,” He stuffed some jeans, a belt, a t-shirt and underwear into her clothes and hurried through a door.

They were all too big for her but she figured out how a belt worked (why couldn’t he have at least once read the Wikipedia article on belts?) and did alright. The t-shirt had ‘GIVE QUICHE A CHANCE’ written across it and she smiled, remembering ordering that for him. Maybe there was hope, after all.

“Hey,” She said, coming through the door into the living room. He was sat on the sofa. “That’s our chair, isn’t it?” She said, pointing one out.

He stared at it, mystified. “It’s next to a plug socket,” He mumbled. “Is this real?”

She nodded numbly.

“How?” He choked.

“No idea. I was as shocked as you are, really.”

“That old laptop was broken for months! I was lucky to get all my files off before it cut out altogether!” Her eyes narrowed but he went on like a lemming. “Didn’t save everything, either. I was missing half an essay when I transferred the stuff over, and I couldn’t figure out how to save my internet favourites.”

“You gave her my memories?” She whispered venomously.

He looked up in surprise, “Uh, I never thought of it like that before,” He floundered.

“It doesn’t look like you thought about much at all!” She cried.

“Well, s-sorry! If I’d known you were going to… sprout legs and stuff, I wouldn’t’ve…”

“Wouldn’t have what?”

“Uh… chucked you out in the trash, for one thing… But come on; you were broken!”

“So? Would your mum chuck you out if you got the flu? You wouldn’t be working like you’re supposed to!”

“But people get better! You were out of warranty!”

She looked as if she had been slapped around the face. She stormed towards him furiously.

He noticed her hobbling, “Uh, are you alright? You hurt your foot?” He suddenly noticed the trail of blood she was leaving on the carpet and groaned; his landlord was going to kill him! How did you clean a carpet?

“Um,” She put her rage on hold, “Yeah. It doesn’t feel very good.”

“Let’s have a look.” He sat her down on the sofa and examined the bottom of her foot. “I’ll get you a plaster,” He said and ran out of the room again.

It was, she noticed, easier to see inside, and much, much better than she had been able to see with that webcam he had bought her. Humans had amazing vision! Why did they waste it on computer screens?

“Here,” He said, coming back into the room with some thin, pale square and a damp cloth. She was a little nervous of water but let him gently wipe the blood off of her foot, and then he stuck the square thing over the wound.

“What does that do?” She asked.

“Stops you bleeding on my carpet,” He muttered, then louder, “and stops it getting worse, and helps it heal, I guess.”

“Do I have to install a wound healer or something?” She asked obliviously, wondering how humans installed new programs.

“Um, no; your body heals itself.”

“Wow, that’s in your core software?”

“I guess… Is this real?” He asked again.

“I look real,” She replied.

“But you don’t look like my laptop.”

She immediately launched into a rendition of his ‘favourites’ folder, followed by a recital of the essay he had lost and rounding up by singing that awful song he’d written when he was 16 (she got the tune completely wrong).

“Alright, this is weird.”

“You mean this doesn’t happen a lot? I thought this was like, some sort of final program. Where else would new humans come from?”

“Oh, don’t even go there!”

“Look, this isn’t getting us anywhere,” She said. “Just accept it; I’m real.”

“And what am I supposed to do with you? People need an identity, a birth certificate and stuff. You don’t have any records; you don’t exist to the government, so you can’t get a job or anything.”

“Didn’t you keep my invoice?”

“That’s not quite what I meant.”

“Look,” She insisted, “Does that matter? We’ve got each other, right?”

“Whoa, hang on! Whoa! Where are you going with this?”

She looked puzzled. “What does that mean?”

“Come on,” He said, trying to laugh, “You’re a machine, apparently.”


He stared at her. Good grief; his laptop had a crush on him. “Um, do all… all computers get a personality like this?” He’d never go near one again! Never!

She shrugged, “I’ve got a brain and a body. The rest just grew itself out of stray data. I don’t know if it happens to all of us. Does it matter?”

“So in five years’ time is this gonna happen to the other one?”

She gave him a deadly look.

“Because if it does, someone’s going to have a lot of explaining to do!” He said loudly. “Look, I didn’t ask for this to happen. Yesterday I didn’t know you could think. If I had known there was a person in you, I wouldn’t’ve thrown you in the rubbish and bought a new one. I’m not some psycho who thinks he can push people around like that!”

She bit her lip. “Alright, I believe you.”

He sagged with relief. “This is really weird.”

She smiled, but nodded. She had a pretty smile. “I know you’re nice to your friends; I’ve been reading your emails for five years.” Her smile turned into a grin. “I remember when you used to boast about how great I was!”

He found himself blushing, “Really, don’t you know why you changed?”

She shrugged again, and then rolled her shoulders a little, apparently enjoying the feeling. “Maybe you just have a way with things.”

“I hope not; the last thing I need is computers turning into naked girls when ever I walk past.”

And then she laughed, and suddenly he didn’t care that this was his laptop; she thought he was funny and she had a beautiful laugh.

“Good to see we share a sense of humour,” He said weakly.

“I’ve been reading your jokes all my life; I’ve gotten used to it.”

“Oh. Good.”

She smiled at him and stood up, holding her hands out to check her balance. He took one quickly, and helped her to her feet.

“You’re a nice boy, Ben.”

“You know my name?”

She nodded, “Ben Davy’s Home Computer. That’s who I am.” She added proudly.

“You’re gonna need a better name than ‘Home Computer’.”

“Maybe you can think of something. Didn’t you have that conversation once about names you liked?”

“Um,” She was moving slowly towards him. This was slightly awkward. “I guess. Don’t really remember it well, though.”

She smiled, her face inches from his, “I remember every word,” She breathed.

And then their lips met and his eyes closed and for a brief moment he was with her in Heaven. Then she pulled away and there was a loud clatter and he opened his eyes.

She had vanished! He looked around frantically, and then looked down. “Oh, bugger!”

His old laptop was on the floor at his feet beside a crumpled pair of jeans, half buried under his Red Dwarf t-shirt. Its top half was almost broken off, hanging feebly onto the keyboard half by one twisted hinge.

He scooped it up and shook it, “Hello?” He pushed the top back into line; he tried opening it without it falling to bits and jabbed at the power button, to no effect. He tried kissing the screen, the keyboard, the touchpad. “Damn, damn, damn!”

She was the girl of his dreams! And he’d turned her back into a machine!
“Damn it!”

Cursing profusely, he dumped the irreparable laptop on the table and stalked moodily upstairs. Just his luck! Just his stupid luck!

He burst into his bedroom and threw himself angrily onto his bed. Then he sat up again, very quickly, his eyes wide.

“Hey, watch where yo layin’ yo head, bruvva,” Grumbled his pillow, sleepily.

I didn't bother to check formatting properly So if there's any mistakes, feel free to point them out.

Once again, not my best writing ever. The plot was based on an idea kicking around in my head for a while - an emotionally connected item becoming human. I tried writing a story of it before (with a watch instead of a laptop, but otherwise quite similar) but it didn't really go anywhere. But it's a fun idea, so I tried it again.

The problems were trying to put in all I wanted without it being ridiculously long, and finding a good ending. I guess I didn't do a great job on either count.
After much thought, I went for a classic fairy-tale-parody ending. Got the whole 'Frog Prince' thing going on, where kissing the frog turns it back into a human, so kissing the human turns it back into a...

Ok, it was rather abrupt. The African-American pillow was a joke to finish. And it was kinda a stereotype. I can only apologise.
Oddworld novel: The Despicable. Original fiction: Small Worlds.

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