Authors: Scott C Lyerly
Tags: #apocalypse, #love story, #science fiction, #robots, #asimov, #killer robots, #gammons, #robot love story
How It Ends
Scott C Lyerly
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are
fictitious. Any similarity to persons, living or dead, or
situations, real or imagined, is coincidental and not intended by
Significant liberties were taken in regards to
geography, academic policies, and elapsed time frames for the
purpose of overall story-telling. Any inconsistencies are solely
the fault of the author.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
used, reproduced, or transmitted in any form in any means,
electronic of mechanical, without permission in writing from the
author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles or reviews.
I would like to express my gratitude to the following
people for their support during the writing of this book: Paul and
Mark at Silverthought; my friend Norm for his advice and prompting;
my friend and editor Russell; and my family for their support,
guidance, and ability to see the typos I never did.
Copyright 2013 Scott C Lyerly
"Nature (the art whereby God hath made and governs the world) is
by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also
imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal. For seeing life is
but a motion of Limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principal
part within; why may we not say, that all Automata (Engines that
move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an
artificial life? For what is the Heart, but a Spring; and the
Nerves, but so many Strings; and the Joints, but so many Wheels,
giving motion to the whole Body, such as was intended by the
Artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating that rational and most
excellent work of Nature, Man."
~ Thomas Hobbes, “Leviathan”
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The last robot was activated and led
Its head swiveled and its eyes, nothing more
than photoreceptors, scanned the production floor. It was helped
into clothing by technicians in white suits and led to the storage
facility for end processing. It was self-aware upon activation. Its
first act of self-recognition was its name. It was Gammons.
The door to the storage area was closed. It
Anita always woke up at five AM. No matter
how late she had tumbled into bed she woke at five. And she never
fell asleep before midnight. Too early and she tossed and turned
until, like an engine sputtering out of gas, she finally slept. As
if an invisible cog inside her had become warped and oblong and
ceased its function at midnight and always hiccupped into motion at
five. Her internal clock was, if not broken, then certainly
This morning, like most, her eyes opened of
their own accord. She got out of bed and walked straight into the
shower. She was never one to linger. Showers were not for pleasure
unless she was joined by someone. Showers by themselves were
utilitarian. Five minutes later she stepped dripping from the
stall. Tendrils of steam curled from her form. Her legs muscular
from walking through the city. Her arms long and lank. Her breasts
small and upturned. Hers was the body of youth, the body before
middle age and gravity began to pull it towards earth.
She did not have a towel in the bathroom so
she walked soaking wet into the bedroom and picked one off the
floor. She sniffed it. Smelled of mildew, faint but not sharp. It
would do for this morning. She dried off. She scraped the last of
the sleep sand from the corners of her eyes with her towel. She
then got dressed in the hurry of the dark.
Once dressed, she walked to the kitchen and
started the coffeemaker. While it perked she opened her textbook
and began her assigned reading. She paused and went to the kitchen
and took a box of Fruit Loops down from an upper shelf that also
had a box of Triscuits, two bottles of opened squirt cheese, and
five packages of ramen instant noodles. She poured a bowl of Fruit
Loops and shoved the box back into the cabinet without looking
where it went. She took milk from the fridge and poured it into the
She returned to the textbook which she
placed on the beat-to-shit coffee table and flattened the page with
her palm so it stayed open and she could read while she ate. She
read for a minute, then rose and went to the kitchen and dropped
the bowl into the sink with the other unwashed dishes and then went
and got her backpack from the bedroom. She returned to the couch
and read some more while rummaging through the backpack. She pulled
out her laptop, opened it, turned it on, waited and read while she
waited. Once it had fully booted she opened up the latest revision
of her thesis and typed some notes before returning to her
textbook. The coffeemaker peeped its readiness and she rose
Watching Anita was like watching a tornado
touch down on the flat plains of Middle America. It could not be
guessed where she would move to next. She left a swath of chaos in
her wake no matter where she went.
This morning she was alone in her apartment.
Chaos went without witness. No one to see it. Was it there at all?
She poured herself a mug of coffee and then read some more before
checking her email and then writing some more of her thesis.
She rose and went to the kitchen, prepared a
bag lunch, returned to the couch but instead of the reading or
writing that she should have been doing, she turned on the TV only
to rise again to return to the coffeemaker. She poured another cup
and upended it into a travel mug. Some spilled over the sides.
Little drops of coffee splattered the dingy yellow floor mat like
polluted rain. She had not considered holding both mugs over the
kitchen sink where the spill would be contained. She looked for a
spoon among the wreckage of dishes and failed to find one so she
took the sugar bowl and tipped. Grains of sugar cascaded over her
hands. This time over the counter. A swipe of her hand plowed the
spilt sugar into the sink. She swirled the travel mug to mix it.
Milk from the fridge poured into the travel mug until it nearly
overflowed. She clamped down hard on the top with the lid.
Care of her apartment was no different than
how she cared for her coffee. Varied levels of carnage. A tiny mess
of a place she called home. The main living room was a small square
space filled with scattered papers and half empty paper coffee cups
and nearly empty pizza boxes. Off of this was the cramped kitchen.
There was a bedroom that barely fit a bed let alone furnishings.
Clothing lay in piles on the bed and nowhere else; her laundry
clean and dirty co-mingling. Off of the bedroom was the bathroom
with the stall shower.
To her it was home.
She loved all of the litter. She banged
around her apartment gathering the bits and pieces of her life that
went everywhere with her. Her bag was stuffed with pads of
dog-eared paper and pencil stubs. Once she thought she wanted to be
a journalist. That vision had faded by the end of the third course.
Without a true understanding of why, her thoughts had turned to
robotics. There they stayed. Yet the tools of the journalism trade
continued to travel with her.
Someone knocked on her door. Anita set her
travel mug on top of her TV. She opened the door and found Charley
on the other side. The building’s superintendent was a pot-bellied
man with a fat ring of jangling keys and a penchant for looking at
“Charley. What’s up?”
“Sorry to wake you, Anita.”
“I’ve been awake since five, Charley.”
His tone was disappointment. As if he’d
hoped to catch Anita just getting out of bed or perhaps the
“What’s up?” she asked again.
“A pipe broke upstairs in Mrs. Lighter’s
apartment. She’s got water all over the floor of her bathroom and
into the living room.”
“Sorry to hear that.” Her tone asked the
what does this have to do with me?
“I need to check the ceiling of your
“It was a pretty good flood. I need to see
whether you’ve got water coming in.”
“Oh. Come in, then.”
She wasn’t happy about letting Charley into
the apartment. As the super, there wasn’t much in the way of
, she kept telling herself. An
older man who lives alone with no wife and no kids.
Lonely. Of course.
His elevator eyes.
He’s a harmless old man.
Who likes to look at my chest.
I should be flattered.
But I’m not.
Some girls might use that to their
But I don’t.
I’ve thought about it before.
But fuck that.
“Yeah,” he called from the bathroom. “It’s
coming through the ceiling.”
Anita got over her aversion to the super
just enough to take a quick look at her bathroom ceiling. She saw
the water. It pooled in a funny way as gravity pulled it downward
while the water seemed to try to hold itself back.
“What does that mean?” she asked
“It means I have to come into your place
today and bring a cleaning crew to clean out the water. Then we’re
looking at assessing the damage, repairing the ceiling, maybe even
replacing part of it.”
“Jesus Christ, Charley.”
“Yeah, I know. Pain in the ass. But what are
you going to do.”
Anita was silent. She didn’t have an
“Will you be around today?”
“No, I’ve got to go out and meet someone for
“Okay. Then I’ll be letting myself into your
place later this morning.”
Charley walked out. He turned as if he were
going to say something else. Anita had already shut the door.
She grabbed her coffee from the top of the
TV and took a swallow.
Damn it, anyway
* * *
Anita thundered down the stairs of the
apartment building. She lived on the third floor. She passed the
doors of peeling paint and the muffled noises of lower class life
that came from behind them and passed the reeking bags of garbage
that lingered by the trash chute that had been jammed too full for
anything else for the last few days and passed the bronze colored
mailboxes that brought nothing but the misery of bills to the
tenants and through the door and into the sunshine.
The air was cold like a slap to the face.
She bounded down the steps to street level. She lifted the travel
mug and took a long swallow. Her eyes darted up and down the street
as if she was looking for something. She took a deep breath of city
air. Grimy, sooty, car-exhaust-filled. She took another drink,
longer than the last.
Fall had come late but strong to New York
City. She cast a bohemian figure in the early slanted light that
skittered between the tall buildings. Dressed in jeans with
sneakers poking out from below the cuffs and a graphic tee shirt
that read FREE AT LAST in an old seventies porno type stretching
across her braless chest and a zippered sweatshirt open over the
shirt. The old navy pea coat discovered in the local thrift store
was over all of it. Down the back of the pea coat her wet hair
draped so brown it was almost black, staining the pea coat with
wet. She pulled a pack of cigarettes out of the pocket of the pea
coat and lit one.
Deep inhale, then exhale.
She lifted the cigarette to her lips and
repeated. The third time she inhaled, then took a long slow swallow
of coffee, She exhaled and it made her head dizzy and she
staggered, her eyes swam. She loved the feeling of lightheadedness.
She was ready to begin her day. A navy-coated pilgrim on the busy
city streets. She weaved in and out of pedestrian traffic. He was
waiting for her. She smiled. Thoughts of him made her smile.
Thoughts of him warmed her insides. He was so brilliant and so good
looking. He was so much of what she wanted. He was older than she.
He was what she wanted. What she wanted to be.
Brian ran a pencil along the paper in front
of him then, stopped. The paper lay on his desk like it was waiting
for his touch, calling to him like a whore. His thoughts drifted.
His chin was sharp and his eyes behind his small round glasses were
like lazy and dangerous lions lying in the sun. The paper before
him whispered to him. It dared him to touch it. It whispered its
desire and its disappointment. It no longer sounded to him like a
whore but like his mother long dead. You could have done so much
more, been so much more. You could have been better.