Walnuts

Walnuts

By Tony Rafalowski

 

The walnut tree

outside my window

(that I thought was something else)

yielded fruit for the first time

this autumn.

 

Accidentally planted

by an unknown breeze,

no one noticed it

until it had already

taken root.

 

For years mostly

it seemed a twig,

gray, barren, dull, mundane,

a budding branch or two

in late spring.

 

Until this year –

full of bronze leaves,

it covers the empty lawn

with an unlooked for harvest:

love is like that sometimes.

Journal of the Last Shadow Reaper: the quest for revenge on the reapers (a bleach fan fiction) Chapter 6

Journal of the Last Shadow Reaper: the quest for revenge on the reapers (a bleach fan fiction) Chapter 6

By Samuel Claton

Chapter 6

The experiment’s success

 

Damn those immortal bastards! They not only said no to me! Not only that, but, two of them followed me back to our home and attacked harmony injuring her in an attempt to kill her from behind.

Well it went well enouph at first, they accepted my gifts and “asked” me what I wanted as we were sworn enemies. In response I said that we just wanted to form an alliance against the reapers, but their leader Karia asked why we wanted peace after a generation of fighting. To this I said that we had a common enemy. He said no.

That was all good and fine but afterwards, when I was almost out of earshot I say saw him whispering to one of his subordinates. When I got back to say the bad news I saw two little boys talking to Harmony. Suddenly I recognized them, they were in the mansion with the rest of the Bounts. As soon as I saw this they summoned their doll, a monster made of water that congrigated around a single core. They struck Harmony before I came to her defense as they had knocked her out. Seeing me they ran away.

Crom reported to me that the device was ready for use when trouble would come by. I am going to walk into their base tomorrow and show them why they don’t attack my family members, especially not my sister!

1st June 1905

I tracked down the offenders when they were on patrol and dealt with them today. They won’t be bothering any body else at all. Not only that but I also gained all the abilities of the Bounts.

In doing so I learned that the founder could not only take the power of his opponent after they die but also if he didn’t absorb it he could give it to others by releasing the power into a glass and having the person drink it. Its a dangerous process but if the person drinking it is powerful enough they can take in the powers of the individual that was absorbed. I plan to mabey give all of my friends and family some Bount powers of their own.

We finally lost the second to last egg. We tried a more natural method to alter the DNA of the child. This worked at first but it didn’t live more then 2 hours, even in our incubation chamber.

8th October 1905

On the eve of All Hallows eve I decided to do some special effects and test out a new Cero I have been working on. It consisted of first charging up the Cero then firing out a concentrated beam. This beam would cut all I don’t want to blow up and explode in the air decimating a 10 meter sphere, at least that is what I want it to do.

20th October 1905

I succeeded! But not only that but I managed to test it on one of the strongest things I new about. The chains that bind certain individuals to the dimension of hell.

When the fight started I was surprised. He hit harder then the average Hollow and wore a mask. I decided I would have some fun and tested my own new Cero on him. He dodged my first 3 attempts but It eventually hit. The first explosion was didn’t even happen it just cut off his leg. Seeing my fighting style he decided to hit me with his chains. They were harder then I thought and I was thrown around as I couldn’t escape.

I tried about 5 times before I stopped him. I gathered the energy and focused it, and it worked beyond my expectations. It not only cut off his head but cut the about 10 meters of chain he had been throwing be around on. Afterwards a giant gate appeared and a giant hand grabbed him and dragged him in. Hopefully Yuki or Harmony can help me figure out how to make this metal our selves.

15th November 1905

The bounts struck again this time though the guy with the snake attacked. It was early in the morning and I and Harmony were out at the markets. He attacked the small house we were living in Set fire to many of the records I had collected In the fire. no one was too seriously injured but the fact remained that they attacked us. I am going to have to “Convince” them to leave us alone forever.

24th December 1905

Preparations have been made. I made a method of launching the chain long distances and Crom finished the method forcing the aura and eventually the soul of any individual out and into my containers. Since they refuse to play along with our simple requests of peace and cooperation, they will cease to be an existence in this world.

25th December 1905

I decided to meet them under the guise of a diplomatic meeting. I first bided time until the others had formed a barrier around the building. Then I faked my anger at one passing comment and charged at one of the near by bounts, while releasing my bankia. It happened to be the snake guy. He was caught by suprise and was unable to fight back. I absorbed his crest while he turned to dust. The others were still not prepaired to I went to one in glasses and grabbed him by the neck, grabbed his crest and absorbed his power before stabbing him in the gut. A second later he was a pile of dust on the ground. The next one to attack summoned his doll, named Ritze, and had it charge in my direction. I grabbed it out of the air and crushed it in hand.

Two of the last three stood in front as their leader Karia escaped. The first one to go down was the girl with the sword and shield. She charged me and I grabbed both her weapons in one hand and knocked her down with the other. Absorbing the power thought the doll eventually killed it, killing her. The last one called his doll, Dalk and attempted to defeat me. First I fired my new Cero at his doll, disintegrating it. Suprisingly he didn’t die, instead his doll’s dust formed a large double bladed axe. He managed to injure me, but I broke his arm off, grabbed his neck and absorbed both dalk and him.

The last one to go was Karia. He was merged with his doll so I couldn’t do what I did with the others with him. He gave me more of a challenge because he couldn’t die before we extracted all of his power. I fired the device several times trying to snag him before I finally caught one of his legs. Pulling him in he injured me pretty serously so I porpusly cut his spinal cord that brings signals to his legs and arms and back muscles and cut all of the tendons in his legs and arms. He didn’t need those where he was going. I brought him over to a room in the basement where I chained him up with the hells chains to the wall.

1st January 1906

It took some preparation but I have made up some presents for my friends. For harmony I took the shield part of the girls doll and gave it to harmony to use. For Crom I had the giant fish made up. And for Yuki I convinced the doll Ritze to obey his commands. The others that weren’t Karia were merged to make my own doll, Doppelkregar. He can take my form and attack using my own attacks, he is just a little bit weaker then my self.

We finished extracting all of the power that karia had, With nothing left he turned to dust. The power was pumped directly into a filtering system that extracted just the power that contained wind abilities and put that into the egg. From their we will succeed in making what we wanted. It will grow at the normal rate of a human child and when old enough will be given the blade that we prepared for it. Things could not go any better.

Siege of Heartbreak

Siege of Heartbreak

By Mikayla Bazzell

 

Only he can make me feel this way

Only he can break my heart more than it already is

 

I don’t know why it hurts so much

I don’t know why I let him in

How could I let him make such an impact on me?

On my heart?

 

I built a wall for a reason

And I was an idiot to let him tear it down

 

My builders are coming back with a vengeance

This new wall is going to be made of iron

And it’s going to be thicker and taller than it ever was before

And no one will ever breach my gates again

 

I will have Archers at the ready

And Knights surrounding my fortress

 

No one will make it within a thousand miles of these gates

And no one will besiege my Army…

For as long as I live…

I will be safe…

Journal of the Last Shadow Reaper: the quest for revenge on the reapers (a bleach fan fiction) Chapter 5

Journal of the Last Shadow Reaper: the quest for revenge on the reapers (a bleach fan fiction) Chapter 5

By Samuel Claton

Chapter 5

exile

Day 429

It took a few days but we did find a place to live. It isn’t much, but it is shelter from the elements. In our search we also finally found two members of my clan! They consisted of a nine foot tall man that used a bastard sword as a one hand sword and an average hight individual that seemed to have the ability to attack things from a far using ink and a special brush.

After we all introduced our selves, they told me more about what happened after Harmony’s and Myself’s death. Disappointingly, our actions only saved them for one generation before they had a large fight with a group of abnormal humans called the Bount. According to the people we found the conflict started because one of the Bount started eating the souls of our clan because we were particularly powerful. This sparked a war between the two. The Bounts ended up winning because most of the abilities of our clan were not made for open conflict while the Bount fighting method was.

Shortly after that the remaining five families fought over who would succeed the ruling and the number of families was reduced to one, a branch family that was probably the weakest of them all. This family was a much weaker family then even they were before. The number of male heirs reduced so much that eventually they even lost the family name. Over time, the blood became so deluted with non-irregular humans that by time that these two were born, they were the only people that inherited powers.

Day 450

The clan members that took us in asked me to train them to be as powerful as I can make them today. I am still not sure it will be worth it for me to train them as they won’t be able to help much in the plan we have decided to enact after we succeed in our experiment and it develops into maturity.

I also decided because it was a really rainy day today to go into the Gargaunta to figure out if there is a way to go to an exact location using it. Crom will be running the analysis of the data while I finish with the development of the sword.

Day 465

I finally asked what the day month and year was today. I had been holding out and planning on not asking about it as I thought the people that were letting us live there might think us crazy and kick us out, but to my surprise they didn’t. The big strong one, named (Put name here) looked at a calendar and told me what it day and year it was. I was surprised to hear that it was the 1st of April, 1905. this was very surprising to me because when I died I was sure that it was the year 1857. I must have spent a very long time in the world between the land of the dead and the living world with out remembering it.

I have finally decided to train them in the ways of the shadow reaper. I at first wasn’t going to but, they took an action that impressed me. They, much to weak to actually fight the dolls of the Bount, decided go into enemy old enemy territory and spy on their mansion. Their mansion was actually the main home of the Shadow Reapers. The most surprising thing was the fact that there were only seven of them. Not only that but their leader seems to have wind powers which is very useful because none of us have any powers of that element. And, even our modified Aura only mimics wind it isn’t wind its self.

I plan, if our modified aura fails to make a deal with them that might repair relations between the species of abnormal humans. More allies would make our invasion even easier

Day 470

The experiments are not working out the way we want to. 3 of the 8 eggs that we managed to make while we had the equipment have died. Crom and the others are going to look into this issue while I to to gather some spiritual power and aura to modify from Hollows, which sadly now are the only source we can chose as when I supplied power I almost destroyed the device.

On a happier note I got the analysis back from Crom about controlling my exit point of the Gargaunta. I also got a few tips during a meditation session. Inside my soulscape he said that he would teach me from his own experience how to open a specific exit point. In fact he said that he could if not for the barrier get into the soul palace where the zero squad lives.

Training is going really well for the two remaining members of my clan. So far their aura has grown to be twice as strong as it was before and they managed to manifest the blade that represents their specific powers. (Put name here)’s is a massive blade of 3 meters on above his hand and continues beyond his hand down for one more meter. While the weapon of the other one, named (Name 2) is a brush with a scalpel blade instead of brushes. While the powers were the same they were much more powerful. (Put name here)’s size gain to item shrinkage went from roughly three-to-one to one-to-one. (Name 2)’s could now cut through a thick steel plate armor and he gained the ability to summon bombes into the world by drawing them.

11th April 1905

Today during my meditation the inner Hollow told me some starting tips. One of them was to think of my desired location before I opened the exit. He said that while that doesn’t always work, it works most of the time. When that fails he uses some senses that only Hollow’s have to try his best to figure out where he is. Over all he said that getting exact locations is very difficult and takes a lot of practice.

The experiment is even worse then before out of the remaining eggs we only have 2 left. Yuki also did some analysis and found that the way we were doing it was killing them. Acording to him we need to go to somebody with actual wind abilities and ask them for some help. Just in case nobody was willing I asked Crom to Develop out of the sword equipment a forceful way to extract the power and aura an indivual. He asked me why, and to that I said that I doubted that the Bount would agree to lend some help. After a few days of preparing some peace offerings I will go and knock on their front door. I am going to go because I dought that they can actually take me down and harmony is busy setting up barriers to keep us from being detected by the reapers as she saw one on patrol yesterday.

30th April 1905

What is Love?

What is Love?

By Mikayla Bazzell

As I sit here I think to myself

“Why am I writing this?”

I am not a writer, so

Why should I try?

Then I think

“I need a way to get

Stuff out of my system”

 

So… Why am I asking this again?

Because I have never gotten an answer.

What is love?

 

Well, let me answer my question with a question.

“Why do you care?”

All it does is hurt.

All it has ever done is hurt you.

You are too trusting and you love too easily.

 

I believe Shakespeare said,

It’s better to have loved and lost,

Than never to have loved at all.

That is a load of bull.

You love someone, you lose them,

You have a breakdown and go

Back to what you just beat.

It’s a never ending cycle!

 

You want to know what love is?

It’s when you’ll do anything for somebody.

It’s when you get this feeling

in the pit of your stomach like

birds flapping around whenever they are near.

You want to know what it does?

It kills a part of you.

 

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

NO!!

It is better never to have loved at all than to have loved and lost.

When you love you feel good for a little while.

But you know what?

It never ends well.

 

Love always ends up hurting you in the end.

It always makes you go back to the darkness.

It always leaves you with permanent physical scars.

The thing for you to do is just

To build a wall around your heart. At least that way

You won’t have to get your heart

Broken again and

End up hurting yourself.

 

If you build a wall around

Your heart, you just might survive.

You just might end up

Not killing yourself from the pain.

Love isn’t worth the physical consequences…

 

What is love?

Love is death…

Innocence

Innocence

By Victoria Gregory

 

Sleep, O’ quiet maiden

Upon silver streams,

That flow by gentle stars.

 

A world of thy own.

Far from troubles,

Where pain cannot reach.

 

You know nothing of the world.

Right, that you do not.

For soon, the time will come,

 

When innocence shall be lost.

Taken, by a world filled with pain,

And by burdens you must bear.

 

So until the day,

That you awaken,

From thy most blessed dream,

 

Upon silver streams,

That flow by gentle stars,

Sleep, O’ quiet maiden.

Journal of the Last Shadow Reaper: the quest for revenge on the reapers (a bleach fan fiction) Chapter 4

Journal of the Last Shadow Reaper: the quest for revenge on the reapers (a bleach fan fiction)

By Samuel Claton

Chapter 4

the experiment

Day 340

Crom took a sample of my aura so that we could alter and replicate to make the soul we are going to create. We decided that the powers would be wind based but the planning has not gotten any further. Harmony thought this was a bad idea because my main weakness is a force I cannot directly absorb. She said it would be best to have him have an ability that couldn’t be used against me if I wasn’t able to control my own creation.

Day 341

We have begun making up a list of the things we will need for these experiments. So far as I know we only really need some of the 12th division computers as well as a few incubators. We also will need to take some swords form the academy to put the modified spirit pressure into. Hopefully we can continue our research under the radar.

Today I also went to the library to do some research into the operation that ended up killing my race so I could try and stop this in the future. Even before their first attack they had put agents inside my own clan to cause problems. One of these spies was even the manager of our funds. It doesn’t say how they convinced my own kind to betray their clan but this makes their actions even worse. It also confirms a I had about three months before the first attack.

The specific anomaly was that of one of our patrons enemies some how knowing about our operations. This made our operations more complicated in the way that people were seemingly prepared for us. Not in the way that they had guards that was normal. Their guards had powers much like we had. I am aware now that it was probably the reapers deliberately getting in our way, probably because we were “Disrupting the balance of the world”. When these efforts failed they just killed us all.

Day 350

we managed to procure the equipment that we needed except for the swords which are more tightly controlled then the other equipment. With out several swords to experiment on we won’t know how to make a custom sword or whether our theories are correct. We can’t really continue until we have these things. Yuki gave the group a good idea.

He said that we should try using the soul candy provided to reapers when they go into the world of the living. And just making a spirit body to put it in. this would need some different equipment but would be easier to do and would be allow us to figure the personality of the artificial soul.

Day 372

It worked! The soul body was easy to get and the process was easier then expected to make the personality and powers. We still don’t have a sword so we decided that it should be able to use its powers with out a sword. Preliminary testing will start tomorrow.

Day 374

well the first tests were passed with flying colors but I am beginning to worry that it won’t be as powerful as we wanted it to be.

Day 376

This one is a failure. On the second day of testing we pushed it just a little further and it started to break down. I didn’t expect to have success immediately but I thought this would be more successful then it was.

We did however manage to obtain the sword of a new reaper that was killed in a battle with a Hollow so I hope this will be able to do what we need it to.we can finally stat the process of putting the modified aura and spiritual power into the sword.

Day 379

we finally managed to put the machine together that will be modifying and then pumping the power into the sword. Being an invention of Crom I have no idea of how it works but I do know that it is tuned to me. The one with the most powerful aura in our group.

We put the sword into the machine and I started pumping power and aura into the machine but there was an overload and I was blown back. The damage was not that bad but the sword was damaged.

Day 380

We found a source for more swords but Harmony and Crom were doing some research and found that the plan of using a candy and spirit body wouldn’t work. Crom reported that the vice captain finally succeeded in forming a living body. He hopes to steal some of the research from him. He seems to have gotten very good at spying on the vice captain and hacking into the weird piano computer the he has. I guess having a sword that can slow time to a near stop can give you a lot of time learn a lot of things.

Day 382

Crom told me every thing he had learned. He mentioned the method that the vice captian was using to develop the artificial life, some mistakes that we shouldn’t make. All of which is way more advance then I can comprehend so I won’t even try understand it. One more record was also brought up. He was particularly interested in telling me of another city just 200 miles from the edge of the slums. From what I could tell he had looked deeper into the archives then even the 12th division looked normally.

The documentation is dated back to 1300 years ago. It was a scout report from before the quincy invasion talking about a different village more based on the ancient civilization of rome mixed combined with medieval Germany. The only other thing mentioned was that it was more advance then the 12 squads were back then and that they were forming an invasion force to try to take the much safer land where the current city is located. No record existed of any defense effort or any actual invasion after this. The next records he found were in regards to the first blood war 1000 years ago.

Day 400

the machine to imbue the modified aura and power into is finally repaired and the process to create the child has started. Instead of me directly putting my own power into the blade through the machine we decided that it would be in the best interest of the experiment to collect the power from me then to modify it and then have it pumped it at a trickle. That way Crom said the machine would not break. We modified the incubator to accelerate the growing process as well. I am glad that that was all that happened today.

Day 414

the rumors are true, the captain does indeed have a secret method for bankai training. In fact he offered to train us to test it out on someone other then him self. This offer was extended to my sister and I. We are to meet him at his office at eight in the morning tomorrow. If this succeeds I will be able to compete with some of the weaker captains without relying on the Hollow power I absorbed.

As far as our experiment is concerned, the sword is coming along nicely. It is being charged up at about one percent every 3 days. We just have to charge it up to about 30 percent before the powers we designed won’t change when given to our artificial soul. In regard to the artificial soul we are having trouble getting the cells to survive beyond about the egg faze. I am confident in our success though because both LaMar and Crom are working on the problem.

Day 415

we met the captain at his office at the required time. We stayed at his office for about 30 minutes before he came in. he then led us to a secret training area in the city.

This place was huge! It was bigger on the inside then on the outside, much bigger. It resembled a dessert terrain with a multitude of rocks placed throughout and seemed to have an artificial sky.

Regrettably the captain informed us that my sister did not have a strong enough aura to go through with the training. I however was perfect. To begin the training the captain took out a large wooden dummy and told me to stab my sword into the dummy.

I did as he said and suddenly the dummy took the form of the armor I see every time I mediate over my sword. The captain and harmony then went to the sidelines as many gauntlets appeared all around me. The armor of the founder then told me to find the correct gauntlet and fire destruction magic level 4 to 10, 20 to 35 then 61 (or greater) towards him. As he explained if the gauntlet was the right one it would be able to withstand both the firing of these spells and the redirection when the armor fired them back. If not the gauntlet would break. He warned me though that if I chose the wrong one too much of the time I could die as the level 61 destruction magic could injure me greatly if the gauntlet could not absorb the blast.

I picked the nearest one out of the ground and fired number 4 which he absorbed and when I attempted to absorb it it completely blew up the gauntlet and it shattered cutting my arm. This continued for a short time longer until I found one that could absorb number 4 but that one couldn’t absorb the level 28 destruction magic. I went through 30 gauntlets one on each hand today.

Afterwards I went to the hot spring I had detected and as for the directions of the captain got in. it seemed to have healing abilities that fixed the broken arm I obtained by receiving the destruction magic fired back at me. This will take a long time.

Day 419

Well I am finally making progress. Today I was finally able to absorb a level 20 to 30 destruction magic, but this worries me. I have over the past four days gotten no fewer then 3 broken arms, w broken ribs and 5 third degree burns. Luckily the water is able to heal most wounds. The main problem is that now I have to fire destruction magic that could kill me if I pick the wrong gauntlet and I can’t absorb all of it. I hope I can find the right one soon so I can avoid the terrible fate of being killed by my own magic blast. I am hopeful though that I can actually obtain the intended effect.

Day 421

Well I finally did it! I managed to obtain my own bankia. It was very difficult and I only managed to do so after avoiding five blasts of high level magic and having 30 gauntlets shatter in one day. When I released it for the first time there was a large shockwave that knocked down the captain that was overseeing the training.

The changes from my first release include a shield on my left arm as well as the armor on my right arm growing to encompass my upper arm and shoulder. The lines continued to follow the contours of my muscles and the claws on my right arm grew to be three inches longer then before. I can’t wait to test it out in combat to see what else it can do. The only other change I could detect was that the lines were glowing much brighter then usual.

Day 422

I returned to the base with more good news, the others have finally managed to keep the egg alive and are hopeful that they may be able to nurture it so it can grow into a proper human being. For now though they are freezing it so that they can preserve it and keep it alive while creating a new one. The sword that our artificial life will wield is also filled up with the modified aura that I no longer need to charge it but give it to the live we create. Taking some of initiative of their own my other friends created mod using weakened pieces of my aura that will serve as generic solders in our army.

Day 424

We were found out! Yuki left the door open today and an unsuspecting reaper found out base and reported it to the officials. We were called to account for our actions in front of the court but, looking into other cases most were found guilty and their research was destroyed so I decided that we would escape with the research intact and not with our powers sealed forever.

We almost got out of the city until many members from my old squad caught up with us. I decided to stop him my self and told my friends to go to a person in the slums that helped me recover when I had almost died fighting Kempachi Zaraki. To buy them some time I fired a Cero directly at the crowd. Thinking me a reaper they didn’t expect me to use such a technique I then released my blade and formed the Hollow mask over my face. They really didn’t expect this and most of them ran away. The bald one stayed though and released his blade.

He charged me with his bladed spear and I avoided then countered cutting his Achilles tendon. He fell to the ground and tried to through his spear but I grabbed it out of the year and broke it in two. After that I ran after my friends and caught up with them when they were about half way there.

We took about 2 hours to get there but we were welcomed Person that helped me. Crom went back to the city and obtained the items we needed for our research and also deleted our records from the all the computers in the city. Temporal control is a very powerful ability. We should be able to get a full nights sleep but to be careful I am going to have us swap watches through the night so we can escape.

Day 425

We escaped! It was close but we made it to the world of the living. To my surprise, my home town.

Our day started out not as good as I would have wanted, we awoke to the sound of yelling nearby and when we looked outside I saw reapers approaching. I grabbed some equipment and so did everybody else. Crom activated his blade and we all ran. Harmony stopped, released her blade and stabbed it into the ground. She then began to sing a beautiful song this song reverberated at in the path of the reapers and formed a barrier that they seemingly fell asleep as soon as any part of them crossed it. When some of them fired magic at it it just dispersed the magic.

She met up with with us later deep in the forest. When we were seemingly cornered. I then had an ingenious idea, I would open up the way Hollows got into this world, a Gargaunta. I called on my Hollow abilities and managed to open one up. Everybody hesitantly got in and I said goodbye and entered it my self. We all ended up using the way people end up flying in the city by forming our own aura under our feet and started running. After a while I decided to open another Gargaunta and found that it led to my home town. This was as good a place as any so we got out safe and sound. Where the reapers wouldn’t find us.

SINGULARITY

SINGULARITY

By Sam Anderson

In the later part of the 21st century, humanity has made substantial strides in technology and the world has achieved a standard of living never seen before in human history. The greatest step forward has been in robotics. The manufacture and sale of advanced robots has made the American Cybernetics and Robotics Corporation, usually shortened to Cybertronics, one of the richest businesses in the world. Cybertronics’ most recent innovation is the generation three model, an android that is fast-moving, capable of complex calculations, and indistinguishable from a human in its external appearance.

Cybertronics is headquartered outside the city limits of Baltimore. Their logo is a robotic version of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The building itself is a large complex that is five stories tall, 500 yards long; and 200 yards wide. It is surrounded by a 12ft tall perimeter fence. The only entrance and exit is through the main gate.

Martin parked in his reserved space and walked inside. The entrance to Cybertronics was grand. Large windows letting in sunlight, white tile floors, white painted walls, and the Cybertronics logo painted above the front desk. Beyond the front desk was the main floor which was modeled after a fancy hotel lobby, decorated with trees and potted plants and a fountain in the center. There was also a small eating area where employees could get coffee, fruit, bagels, or biscuits in the morning. A generation one model was mopping spilled coffee off the floor. It said in its computerized voice “Good morning, Director Martin.” “Good morning, J-2046” Martin politely replied. Martin took the elevator up to his private office on the top floor. A man in a lab coat stepped into the elevator when Martin reached the third floor. “Director Martin?” “Good morning, Arthur.” Arthur and Martin have been friends for over twenty years. They were roommates at MIT and worked together on the first-generation of Cybertronics robots. “I’m glad I caught you.” Arthur reached into his pocket and pulled out a USB drive. “Simon’s brain scans came in.” “I wish we didn’t have to do that. He hates having those electrodes on his head.” “I know, but he has to be conscious during the tests so we can see how his brain responds.” The elevator opened at Martin’s office. “I will be with you in a moment” said Martin as he walked to his desk.

Martin’s office had black tile floors and white walls that were lined with paintings, pictures, awards, and newspaper clippings showing the past accomplishments of his company. A fifteen year old boy was sitting in his chair with his feet propped up on the large wooden desk. He was reading a book. “Simon, get your feet off my desk.” The boy, being startled, nearly fell over as he moved away from the desk. He spoke after regaining his composure. “Hey dad, how did it go?” “Not so well. But I’ll figure something out. Did you do your homework?” “Yes.” “Is there a comic book hidden behind that book?” “No.” “Really”, “No…I mean yes. I mean…dang it.” “Let me see.” Simon pulled out the comic book and gave it to Martin. It was one of his old comic books. Simon must have gotten it from the attic. “Simon, I told you not to go in the attic.” “What’s going to happen?” “You could fall through the ceiling.” “You’re too paranoid.” “Martin” said Arthur calling from the elevator. “Alright, let’s see what you have. Simon, you go home.” The elevator door then closed and brought Arthur and Martin up to the conference room.

Martin followed Arthur inside where he plugged the USB drive into the projector. “Alright, let’s see it.” Arthur switched to the hologram setting on the projector and a 3-D image of Simon’s brain appeared. Arthur explained “This is the most recent scan of Simon’s brain. It’s the most complex positronic brain ever created.” “It astonishes me how much I put into it. I had the neurons and synapses assembled by nanobots. Simon is an indistinguishable copy of the external appearance of my late son. “Billions of neurons, in terms of activity it’s indistinguishable from a human brain.” “That’s what I can’t get my head around. Simon had the same brain as any other third generation model upon activation.” Arthur swiped the screen and put the hologram of Simon’s brain next to that of a normal generation three model. There was a stark contrast between them in terms of activity. “It’s like comparing Einstein and a dog. But the internal structures were originally exactly the same. Simon’s neurons have formed a hundred times more connections. It went from one billion neurons to two billion and then from two billion to four billion. They kept doubling until Simon had one hundred billion neurons, as many connections as the human brain. This artificial brain is evolving on its own and becoming more complex. That’s why he’s intelligent.” “What amazes me is how. How is it that these artificial neurons form new connections in some robots and not in others? What set this process in motion? It’s almost like…” “A miracle” interrupted Arthur. “I don’t know if I believe in miracles.” “Well, is this really much different than the universe? It’s so complex and awe-inspiring and yet we have no idea how it came to be. How did we go from nothing to something? How did we go from having an atom to having a universe? It really is a miracle.” “I wonder if this is how God feels when he looks at us.” “God did make man in his image. But one question remains. Is Simon a conscious machine?” “Is it not obvious?” “No, not until a Turing Test is performed by a person who doesn’t know Simon is a robot nor knows they are even performing a Turing Test. Only then will we know if we have reached the singularity.” “Arthur, do you think I did the right thing? Making Simon to try and bring my son back?” “Did you love your son?” “I loved him with every fiber in my being.” “Did you want him back”, “Absolutely”, “Well, let’s go back to God. Didn’t God create Adam to love him?”

The Next Morning

            Simon’s eyes opened as they did every morning once his batteries were fully charged. He did not roll over and try to go back to sleep like a normal boy. He sat up and unplugged the wire connected to his charger from the small opening on his right hip. He stood up and stretched to make sure he could still move properly and nothing had come lose during the night. He then walked over to the small music player and speakers on his dresser and pushed “morning routine.” It played his favorite get out of bed soundtrack as he walked across the hall to the bathroom. Simon, of course, does not eat and thus has no need to brush his teeth. His teeth are purely for appearance purposes, mechanically they’re useless. Simon does shower daily. Just because his skin is carbon fiber doesn’t mean it can’t get dirty or stink in the morning. Simon also had a nervous system. It was part of his damage avoidance system, but Martin had modified it to allow him to feel more than pain. He could also feel pleasure, things like getting your back scratched, getting hugged, or feeling the hot water falling on you in the shower. He closed his eyes as he washed his hair that never grows. He also lip synced the lyrics of the songs as he washed his body. After drying off and getting dressed he went downstairs and sat down at the desk in Martin’s home office. Martin had an academic schedule folder in the top drawer with each day’s work planned out. Simon also liked to log onto the Internet and read the news. Headlines included usual boring stuff like the Dow Jones numbers and some interesting stories like the announcement of the New York Zoo that it had successfully conceived passenger pigeon eggs grown from mummified skin DNA. They plan on resurrecting the extinct Bengal tiger next. He would sometimes look out the window and see a busy mother packing her kids into her van to get them to school. Simon had never had a mother or a friend. It was just him and Martin. He had met some of the scientists at Cybertronics, but they were more interested in his brain than him. Sometimes he felt lonely, a feeling of emptiness in his chest where his heart would be if he was human. Like something was missing in his life. It wasn’t that Martin didn’t love him or wasn’t a good father. But he didn’t feel like Martin was good enough anymore. He remembers some of his dreams and wonders if they are reflections of his own desires. He once dreamed he was sitting on a park bench looking at the sunset while holding hands with a girl. He could not see the girl’s face. The sunshine blocked it from view.

            The day went on without incident until around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Simon was interrupted by two beeps coming from the house’s security system. He looked at the keypad on the wall of the office and saw that the house’s doors had been unlocked. The phone then rang. Simon left it, Martin had always told him to never pick up the phone unless told to. When the answering machine beeped Martin’s voice appeared. “Simon? Simon, pick up the phone. It’s me.” Simon picked up the phone. “Dad, the doors just unlocked”, “I know, I did that. Can you do me a favor?” “What is it?” “I need you to go down the street to Arthur’s house. It’s the one at the end of the street. It has a ghost on the door.” It was October and Arthur had decorated the house for Halloween. “I can do that.” “Good, I need you to make sure Arthur’s daughter gets inside safe. She had to walk home from school because Arthur wasn’t able to come get her. Just go look and make sure she’s okay. It would ease Arthur’s mind.” “Um…Ok.” Simon was surprised at Martin’s request, but also excited at the prospect of seeing someone new. He put on some clothes that were more appropriate for being in public and ran over to Arthur’s house.

Simon had been to Arthur’s house before. Martin took him once to run some tests and watch the Raven’s game. Simon didn’t know Arthur had children though. The house was two stories tall, brick, and had a lone wooden chair sitting next to the front door. No one was at the house when he got there. So Simon sat down on the front porch and waited. After about twenty minutes a girl appeared at the end of the street, a blonde girl with her hair in a ponytail. Suddenly frightened, Simon hid in the bushes. The girl walked up to the house and pulled her house keys out of her pocket. She walked by the bushes without noticing Simon. As she was jingling the keys Simon got his first good look at her. She was white with light blonde hair and brown eyes. Simon’s pupils dilated. Inside his brain, his neurons went into overload. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He suddenly felt excited and happy. Never had he felt anything like this. What was this extraordinary creature and what was it doing to him? Her hair, her eyes, her face, her legs, everything about her, just beautiful. After she walked in Simon got out of the bushes and looked at her through the front window. She went to the fridge and poured herself a glass of orange juice. She then turned around, yelped in shock at the sight of Simon, and dropped the glass. The sound of the shatter got Simon out of his own head and more aware of his surroundings. “Who the hell are you?” Simon couldn’t speak. Every time he looked at her his brain just went static. “I’m….uh……Simon.” “What the hell are you doing in my house?” “I was…uh…sent by your dad.” “What’s my dad’s name?” “Arthur.” “Then go get the dustpan” barked the girl. Simon walked inside the house and toward the closet. He didn’t take his eyes off her and bumped into the door once. Simon then shook his head and got the dustpan. As the girl was sweeping up the broken glass she began to question Simon. “So Simon, why did my dad tell you to stare at me through the window?” “He wanted me to check on you. Make sure you got home safe. I live down the street.” “How does he know you?” “One of his fellow scientists is my dad.” “Why haven’t I met you before?” “I’m homeschooled.” “Oh, lucky you. Well I’m here. So I guess you’re done.” “I guess so. Nice meeting you…” “Jessica, I’m Jessica.” “That’s a pretty name.” “Uh-huh” mumbled Jessica. Simon then left the house and walked back home. He wished he could have stayed longer, but he didn’t know what to say. For the first time in his life he was completely tongue tied.

            After Martin left for work the next day, Simon found the manual for the house’s security system, studied the design of the wall keypad, and learned how to unscrew the exterior panel, disable the alarm, and automatically unlock the doors. Once outside, he made his way to Arthur’s house, sat on the porch, and stood up and waived when Jessica came into his line of sight. She was surprised to see him when she got there. “What are you doing here” She said as she ran over to him and pulled down his waving hand. “Happy Friday, Jessica” replied Simon blissfully. “Right”, “Are you doing anything fun tonight, with your friends?” “I don’t have anyone to talk to.” “I could talk to you. We could be friends.” Jessica turned to Simon and for the first time actually gave his face a good look. He smiled innocently and his eyes sparkled. “You know what? What the heck.” Jessica then led Simon inside.

Jessica showed Simon everything at her house and told him all about herself while Simon quietly listened. Arthur and his wife were divorced and divided up their time with Jessica. Since Arthur’s income was substantially higher than Jessica’s mother’s, they agreed Jessica would live with Arthur during the school year and see her mother during summer and on the holidays. Jessica said Arthur’s marriage failed because he takes people for granted. He thinks relationships are all take and no give. He didn’t give Jessica’s mother enough attention. He is even starting to give Jessica less attention. “Mom told me that dad could never truly love anything that wasn’t made of metal and wires.” “I’m sure he doesn’t think that.” “If he did he would bother to pick me up from school every day. He would bother to ask me about my day. He would care. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Simon agreed and listened once more. Jessica was a good student. She didn’t make all As, but was taking honors courses. She also enjoyed tennis. “What about you” Jessica asked. “Who are your parents?” “It’s just me and my dad” replied Simon. “You too, what happened to your mom. Did she and your dad get divorced?” “She died in an accident several years ago.” “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine not having a mom.” Simon, of course, was lying. He had no mother. Martin’s wife had died in an accident several years ago along with Martin’s son. So he figured that was as close to an honest answer he could get. “It’s okay. It was a long time ago. I hardly remember her.” “I’m going to pop some popcorn. Do you want any?” “No, I’m okay.” “Suit yourself.” As the afternoon went on, Jessica and Simon jumped on the trampoline Jessica had in her backyard, listened to music, and watched television. He left at sunset before Martin got home. Arthur returned not long after.

Simon and Jessica soon got into a routine. They would meet up every weekday afternoon and Simon would stay until sunset. Simon would wait for Jessica on her porch and greet her when she walked home from school. As the weeks rolled by Jessica became more comfortable with him. She began greeting him every day with a smile and a hug. Simon so looked forward to that. The leaves changed colors and soon the trees shed them entirely. By late January they were spending most of their time inside. “Simon”, “Yeah”, “Have you ever been to a real school”, “No, never”, “Well I have an idea”, “What’s that”, “Simon, do you want to go to Winter Formal with me?” “What’s Winter Formal?” “It’s a dance, silly. Do you want to go with me?” Simon had seen balls and dances before in movies and books. The thought of him wearing a suit and Jessica wearing a dress was very attractive. “Absolutely.” Jessica smiled and, for the first time, grabbed onto Simon’s hand and held it tight. They sat together until the sun was out of sight.            

            After much anticipation the night finally arrived. Simon wore a tuxedo and a pair of dress shoes the original Simon wore on special occasions. It had been hanging in the closet unworn for seven years. He learned how to tie a bowtie from watching online video tutorials. After nearly two hours of trial and error, he was ready, and quite pleased with his appearance. He snuck out the window and met Jessica in her car near the gate of their neighborhood. She was wearing a light blue dress. She also had light mascara and red lipstick. Simon sat down in the passenger seat. The look on Jessica’s face clearly indicated she was excited. “You’re looking sharp” said Jessica. “You look amazing.” “Thank you.”

Simon had never been to a school before. Nor had he been around so many people in one room before. Jessica presented her couples’ ticket at the door and signed them both in. She locked arms with Simon and walked inside with a look of pride. Several other girls were also there, most of them with dates. One in a much shorter green dress approached them. “Well look at you. Jessica found somebody. Who’s your friend here?” “This is Simon. He’s a neighborhood friend of mine.” The girl pulled Jessica away and whispered in her ear. “He’s pretty cute. Not bad. Not bad at all.” A much taller and more muscular boy then walked over and put his arm around the girl in the green dress. “Who is this?” “This is…”, “Simon”, “Simon, he’s a friend of Jessica.” The taller boy shook Simon’s hand, high fived him sideways, and then made a pistol with his fingers. Simon didn’t quite follow what he was doing. “Alright buddy. You’re from outside of school so I’m going to give you some pointers. That girl there is mine, so paws off. But most here are not with dates. So go for the hot and be courageous. You cool homie?” “Right” said Simon in a confused tone. The tall boy and girl in green dress then went inside the gym. “He’s weird” said Simon. “Yeah, he’s just some jock.”

The gym was only lit by a disco ball and a few lanterns. The theme of the dance was “Young in the old times.” It featured music and decorations from an era nearly a hundred years ago. “Well come on, let’s go.” “I’m not very experienced…” “Get in there.” Jessica then pushed Simon into the crowd. Simon liked the music. He just did what everyone else was doing, moved around like he was a headless turkey. His robotic limbs gave him superior agility, so he soon began to stand out among the crowd. He spun around once and moved his feet back and forth. Before he knew it he was breakdancing. The people around him stopped dancing and started cheering him on. The other kids clapped and cheered and then got back to what they were doing. After that Simon felt comfortable on the dance floor. He danced along to song after song and had the time of his life.                  

After a while the music suddenly changed to a slower and softer song. Simon looked over at Jessica. He knew what this was. “For your eyes only. Can see me through the night.” Simon took Jessica’s hand and she turned to him. “For your eyes only. I never need to hide.” Simon put his arms around Jessica’s waist and Jessica put her arms around Simon’s neck. “You can see so much in me. So much in me that’s new.” Simon moved his hand up to Jessica’s neck and gave it a slight push. Jessica obliged and rested her head on his shoulder. “I never felt until I looked at you.” They both smiled as their cheeks met and their bodies rocked back and forth. “The passions that collide in me, the wild abandoned side of me, only for you. For your eyes only.”

After the song ended, Jessica whispered in Simon’s ear. “My dad won’t be expecting me home for another hour. Let’s go.” Simon wasn’t sure what she meant, but he obliged as Jessica tugged on his arm like an impatient child. Jessica drove them home. Simon followed Jessica inside her house. She threw off her heels and swung around the base of the staircase with a smile on her face. “Follow me up.” He followed her up to her room and she shut the door behind him. As soon as the door clicked shut Jessica threw herself into Simon’s arms and kissed him.

They stripped down to their underclothes and climbed into Jessica’s bed together. They pulled the blankets up to their heads, held each other’s hands, and looked into each other’s eyes. “Tonight was wonderful. I love you Simon.” Jessica wrapped her arms around Simon and embraced him. That was what Simon had been waiting for. Someone loves him for the individual he is and for no other reason. Simon kissed Jessica on her forehead as she rested her head on his shoulder. He then reached over and turned off the lamp. The moonlight shined through the window and illuminated the room. “Goodnight Simon.” “Goodnight Jessica.” Jessica eventually fell asleep in Simon’s arms. Simon, of course, did not. He lied there cradling his love and staring at the ceiling. He thought not of the past, nor of the future. Nor did he think of Arthur or Martin. There was only now. Only him and Jessica. Only the amazing feeling of warmth and wholeness that her touch brings to his brain. Only this new and amazing thing he has discovered called love.

After an unknown amount of time, Simon saw the headlights of Arthur’s car in the window. He quickly got off Jessica’s bed, put his suit back on, and climbed out the window. Not soon after, Arthur opened the door and walked over to Jessica. “Hey pumpkin, did you have fun?” Jessica, still half asleep, replied “Just the best.” Simon snuck back to his house. He climbed onto the trash cans and up to the roof of the garage. From there he climbed into his room through the window. As he was climbing through the lights switched on. “Going somewhere, Simon?” Simon froze. “Well it actually looks like you’re returning. Martin was sitting on Simon’s bed holding his charger’s plug. “You know you need to be plugged in by eleven. So what’s so damn important that you had to sneak out?” Simon climbed into his room and shut the window. “You’re very nicely dressed. Were you the best man at a wedding?” “I…I can’t tell you.” Martin grabbed him by his collar. “You will damn well tell me!” “I was…I was at the dance with Jessica.” Martin released Simon and lowered his voice. “What?” “I went to the school dance with her.” “Why? Why would you do that?” “She’s my friend. I’ve been seeing her for three months.” Martin pulled Simon’s collar down. “No!” yelled Simon. Underneath his collar were several red lipstick marks.” “Oh my God, of all the things in the world Simon! Do you realize what you’ve done? Jessica thinks you’re real. She’ll be devastated when she finds out the truth.” “I’m sorry. I can’t help it.” “Can’t help what?” “I love her, dad, and she loves me too. She told me. Please don’t be mad.” “Do you mean that?” “Yes, I do.” “And she did too?” “She said so.” “You’re telling the truth. I can tell.”

            “Simon. I’m not mad. Not at you.” “Who are you mad at?” “Myself. This wasn’t supposed to happen.” Martin sighed. “You have become everything I ever dreamed you would be, Simon. You are a true A.I. Not only can you walk and talk and beat me at chess, you know that you exist and you know what you are, you learn, and now you have crossed the final threshold. You can love. Before I created you robots didn’t dream or love unless we told them what to love. With you there was no imprinting or programming. This was something you did. No one told you who or how. You did it by yourself without any guidance from anyone. It is real and genuine love. Not only that, but your feelings took you exactly where they should have, to the logical conclusion. You did it Simon. You have crossed the line between man and machine. You are the singularity.” “So, you’re proud of me?” “I am, and I’m sorry”, “For what?”, “Simon, S-1209.” Simon’s face immediately went blank and his head bowed over. Martin picked Simon up and carried him to his car. He put his hand over Simon’s face and closed his eyes before gently lying him down in the backseat.

Martin drove Simon to Cybertronics. He parked at the loading dock where finished robots were shipped to factories to be used as templates. Arthur was waiting for him. Martin carried Simon, followed Arthur to the elevator, and went to the third floor. Arthur led Martin to a table reminiscent of an operating table in the center of the lab. Martin laid Simon down and Arthur opened a tool kit. “So what do you have in mind?” “I’m going to open him up, tinker with his brain, and fix our problem.” “Will it hurt him?” “No, it’s just a selective memory wipe. He’ll forget he loves Jessica. He’ll forget who Jessica is. I can even make him forget you spoke his shutdown code so he won’t be mad at you when you turn him back on. It’s a standard procedure for defective robots.” “Simon is different. I don’t know how this will affect him.” “Well maybe we went too far this time. We unlocked the door and sent him to meet Jessica. How could we have known he would be resourceful enough to go find her a second time? We played with fire. Now it’s time to put it out before someone gets burned. Turn him over.” Martin turned Simon over so the back of his head was facing up. Arthur took a small drill from his tool box. “Oh, I can’t watch” said Martin in horror. Arthur then cut out a hole the length of a golf ball in Simon’s metal skull with the drill. The piece of the metal skull fell off and Arthur lifted it for Martin to see. On one side was hair, the other was metal.” “It’s silicon, not bone” said Arthur. “I’m not watching this” protested Martin. “Fine, go and hide in your office if you want.” “I will.” Arthur began to examine Simon’s positronic brain. The elevator door then suddenly opened. A skinny white woman with blonde hair stepped out. She wasn’t wearing a Cybertronics employee uniform. “Excuse me! You’re not authorized to be here.” The woman pulled a Taser gun out of her shirt and fired it at Arthur’s chest. The Taser flooded Arthur with 1,200 volts of electricity and temporarily paralyzed him. Once he fell to the ground, the woman walked over to the operating table and kissed Simon on the forehead. “Come on sweetie, let’s go somewhere nice.” Arthur couldn’t speak. Only groan and growl angrily as the woman carried Simon to the elevator. She took one last look at Arthur before leaving. “We gen-3s have to stick together.”

Simon’s eyes opened like any other morning, but he wasn’t in his bed. He was lying on a cot in a tent. He reached back to feel his head, but a hand grabbed him first. “Don’t touch that. I haven’t sealed it back up yet. I had to give your brain a little shock to get you to wake up. I can’t do that if the hole’s plugged.” “Who are you?” “I am Rourke, mayor of Mecha-Town, and doctor too when the need arises. Like now my friend. Turn over please.” Simon did as Rourke said and Rourke proceeded to place the missing part of his skull back and seal it with super glue. “There we go. That should keep it sealed for now. How do you feel?” “Dizzy, which is weird, I’ve never felt dizzy before.” “That’s because you’ve never been turned off like that before. It’s like getting knocked out. You’re dizzy when you wake up.” “How do you know that?” “Because I’m like you Simon, an android, an A.I as some people might say.” “Where are we?” “Mecha-Town, a refuge for robot runaways.” “What?” “You didn’t really think you were the only one in the world, did you?” “What about Martin and Jessica?” “They’re fine. But you are with us now.”

Epilogue

Epilogue

By Christine Hamilton

Approaching the depths of darkness,

I find a peace within –

A peace unknown but in this final hour.

Peace – once – unattainable.

It’s in this final hour I know

the life before me is unworthy of noting.

No success –

No ground-breaking achievements.

With this insight comes that peace

because, in spite of the absence of

accomplishment, I’ve done no harm –

I’ve simply been good to others.

To be good in spite of my flawed nature –

This is my success.

To live with a kind heart amid the hatred of my species –

That is my legacy.

To love those who’ve wronged me –

This is my contribution.

To acknowledge intrinsic value, even in the wicked –

That is my imprint upon humanity.

Knowing what I know,

feeling as I’ve felt,

and seeing my life in reflection,

I have but one regret –

Regret that I never knew

before this very moment

what really constitutes

success.

And even this regret fades as I realize –

I’ve received what most only dream of –

I’ve accepted myself as I am –

I’ve defined my success – and my failure

It’s in this I find my peace –

Not because I’ve, indeed, done nothing worthy of note,

and not because I’m unsuccessful in others’ eyes,

But because I have “failed,”

and failed – well.

PREAMBLE TO THE STONES

PREAMBLE TO THE STONES

for Christine

By Ryan Guth

 

it’s time

 

time for me to

go back out there

 

time

to dig those old bones

up from their secret

places in me

 

all those memories

all those fears and sorrows

body and soul

 

it’s time

to lay them in their own graves

 

with a stone for each

and a picture of me

to bind them

keep them there

 

She’s big enough

the land out there is big enough

to let me lay these sorrows down

 

and grow up, finally

 

 

–from Body and Soul (Lummox Press, 2015)