Friday, July 20, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: Noticed Android, Wondering Chamber

Using Chuck Wendig's own advice:
If something works for you, adopt it.
If something does not work, discard it.

I have opted to bend the rules for this week's Flash Fiction Challenge . Using a random sentence generator, CW came up with: “The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.” Present tense didn't work for me, so instead of using this as the first sentence, per the challenge, I am instead using the sentence as the main premise to get the story going.

Here we go:

word count: 773

The door to the Wondering Chamber stood at the end of a cold and sterile hallway. Six security cameras scanned every inch, though hardly anyone ever had cause to explore there. No one ever went into or came out of the room via this door; it was more of a formality of design than of function. Inside, bundles of circuit boards traveled into the room on a conveyor belt, passed through several nondescript machines, and then exited the room on the opposite side.

Once a week, a young girl - she appeared no more than nine or ten years of age - came to the window in the door of the Wondering Chamber to watch what happened inside. Sometimes she watched for just a few minutes, and sometimes for a few hours. When she was satisfied or had been entertained enough, she left the hallway, waving to each camera without looking at it. This girl was Alice, and her father owned the room and the hallway and the cameras and the building that contained them all.

When Alice named the room "the Wondering Chamber", there had been no objections. It was impossible to argue with the child and so no one did. In fact, most everyone did their very best not to speak to Alice at all. It wasn't that she was a bad child - on the contrary, she was a very well behaved child. She was also a very smart child, and when she took a stance, she had a way of becoming immovable on the subject. In addition to this, Alice was given everything she wanted by her father. All employees in the building were instructed that the girl was the highest authority on any matter aside from the running of the business, and that all topics related to business be avoided entirely when speaking with the child.

This caused several uncomfortable situations when Alice insisted on attending board meetings, or decided the view from a particular office window was her favorite during a round of conference calls.

It came as no surprise when Alice returned from her latest visit to the Wondering Chamber, sat in the tallest chair in her father's office, and asked, "Why do the cameras follow me in the hallway outside the Wondering Chamber?"

"For your protection, of course, my dear."  Her father answered this question every week. He did not look up from his paperwork anymore.

"You say that every week, father." Alice hopped down from the tall chair. "No one goes into that hallway but me, and no one can go into that part of the building except the people who work for you. Why wouldn't I be safe?"

"The world is an unexpected place, daughter. Don't you have lessons to do?"

"I finished them." Her father's office overlooked a network of cubicles. She watched the people in them. "Why is Mr. Robertson retiring?"

This question was new. "What?"

"He said he has worked here for 20 years and is retiring tomorrow."

Her father put his pen down on the polished wood surface of his desk. "He told you that?"

"I remember when you hired him it was just after my birthday. He can't have been here 20 years in less than just one."

Her father's chair creaked and she heard him stand up. Each step echoed in the room and he stood behind her, one fatherly hand on her shoulder. "That would be impossible, wouldn't it? Perhaps Mr. Robertson was trying out a new joke with you."

"No, father." The girl turned and looked up at her father. He smiled down at her, but it was not the way he usually smiled at her. "Mr. Robertson looks different than he did when you hired him, but you don't look different and I don't look different. I have not had another birthday party which happens every year, but he says he has had 20. Almost everyone in your meetings looks different, like they have had 20 birthdays. Why?"

Her father squatted down in front of Alice, both hands resting on her shoulders. His knees clicked, no one else's knees clicked.  "You are a very special girl, Alice." This was his answer whenever she asked why she could not see where the things went after they left the Wondering Chamber, whenever she asked why she could not go outside of the building except into the inside courtyard, whenever she asked why she never saw other children.

Alice made no response to her father, except to frown. He smiled in return, brushing her hair back and tucking it behind her ear. Alice heard a different click.
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