Microfiction Club has had something of a rough ride since the heyday of its success in week 2. Week 3 went well enough but was somehow not uploaded, and weeks 4 and 5 have struggled due to my imminent, then deeply occurring, holiday in Wales. Hopefully, the parties behind this unique experiment will pull themselves together over the coming weeks, but in the mean time, here are the long delayed stories from week 3.
Let’s Go Somewhere to Eat
The man at the till hands you your paper-wrapped sandwich. You didn’t want to pay the extra to eat in the café, so you head out. Hoxton Square is nearby – just round the corner, in fact. But when you get there, you find that the grass is scuffed to dry dust, half the square is fenced off with no explanation and every bench is occupied by one or more muttering, spitting drunks.
There are tables and chairs out in the streets, some in the shade, but they all belong to the food outlets. You know better than to approach the grounds of St. Leonard’s Church.
You try your office. The kitchen is full – six of your co-workers crowded round the one tiny table. There are seats at the meeting table but Jon is eating his lunch there. Jon is awkward to talk to – or rather, he’s awkward not to talk to. Most people who don’t talk, they’re easy to eat with, but the way Jon doesn’t talk, it’s like he’s expecting you to say something first. All the time. It makes you uncomfortable.
The newly refurbished East London Line boasts trains with modern air conditioning systems. The carriages are gloriously cool. But you don’t want to get too far from the office and besides, you left your card wallet at your desk.
The sun digs murderously at your crown and grates across the back of your neck. You sit down on the edge of the pavement, the passing cars nearly scraping your knees, and you start to tear into the paper.
It was a software fault, the technician said.
The Grand Overseers were not pleased with this, and waved their antennae in a manner severe enough to make the technician quiver slightly inside his carapace. What, they asked, did he mean by 'a software fault'?
It was the only explanation, said the technician. Physically the machine was fine, untouched, all its components in the right place, in working order and connected correctly. A short while ago, however, it had malfunctioned. Initially the speaker system had begun to make regular bursts of high-pitched, high-volume noise without reason. Then the machine had begun to leak fluid (presumed to be some type of coolant) from its sensor systems. Finally (and the technician hesitated a moment before continuing) the machine had propelled itself into the technician via its motor systems, causing some minor bruising to his main carapace and damage to one of his antennae.
The Grand Overseers chittered anxiously. How could a software fault lead to such a dangerous malfunction, they asked. Surely this had to be a physical defect in the machine?
With the greatest respect, the technician explained, he believed that the fault was caused during the recent rearrangement of the machine laboratories, though he had not as yet ascertained how. It seemed apparent that the machine had worked faultlessly for the last twenty solar cycles, while situated within the cluster it had originally been placed with. It was only when this cluster was closed down (the Grand Overseers, he hoped, would remember that two of the newer model machines of the cluster had been put into use elsewhere, while the other older model had been disposed of) that the problematic machine began to malfunction. He was confident that, with time and resources, he could track down the source of the problem and...
The Overseers clicked dismissively. What would such a task achieve? Machines were cheap. Why, they even had machines solely for the purpose of making more machines! Why spend more resources on a single broken one?
The chief of the Grand Overseers waved the technician away imperiously. Dispose of the faulty machine and replace it, he commanded. There was no point in attempting to diagnose its mysterious malfunction.
After all, it was only a machine.