44 comments

Dec 16, 2020

Friendship Science Fiction

  He took her spot on the brink of the roof next to the warm iron pipes. With feet, dangling in the air aloft the city, he leaned on the wall behind him. Clyde rested on the cushions she brought him up here a week ago and soared across the sea of blinking lights of skyscrapers and seamless roads below.  Blue of the night and orange of streetlights tangled together, each trying to shine over the other. Rattle purred and turned on it’s back, stretching the paws towards his unmoving gaze.

  Zoey crept up behind him, scaling the wall like a deer, moving her feet on the right tiles, and avoiding the creaky ones. He heard her but didn’t move a muscle. She stretched her hands forward and wrapped them over his eyes.

  “What a though call this is, huh. Who could possibly find me here on the abandoned roof in the middle of nowhere? What a mystery,” he eagerly exclaimed. Even a person who heard him talk for the first time would sense the mocking undertone. Zoey rolled her nut-brown eyes and sat cross-legged next to him.

  “You’re early,” she uttered. The unsaid question rode the air between them, but only an echo of hollow silence returned.

Zoey sprang an elbow into his ribs and raised her eyebrow. “How’s your work going?”

  “Why do you even ask? You don’t believe the shit I say anyway,” he replied, harsher than he wanted.

  “Doesn’t mean I don’t find it interesting, besides, you never even tried to prove it.”

   Clyde chuckled and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. Rattle purred, louder this time.  moving from his lap into Zoey`s. He rested head where her hoodie wrinkled and piled up into an improvised cushion. A smile found a way on her lips as she brushed her fingers over Rattle`s scoured, but soft fur.

  “Well I’m feeling generous today, ask away,” he spat out, saw her glare and sighted. “Yeah, yeah. I also promise I won`t talk in riddles, you win girl.”

  “Now that is one good way of celebrating New years.”

  “Well, I don`t have all night, so go ahead,” he complained and gave her his dangerous side grin. If she blushed, she hid it near perfectly. Zoey bit her lip and reached up with her hand, letting her burning crimson hair fall in waves around her shoulders.

  “You always talked about AI. I know that the Tide system ranks us by our actions, but-”

  Clyde shifted in his seat and pulled another long, deep breath of smoke before opening his mouth. “But how does it really work. The question, right? It sees your actions, it tracks your messages, what you buy and sell, what you search and wonder about. Nothing about you is really hidden, not even the fact you tried searching my name and finding out who I am two twenty-eight times.”

  She gasped, tried to fumble for words, but nothing came.

The dark in his eyes glanced in her direction. “Don`t worry, I think the fact I know that makes me more of a stalker than you.”

  He laughed. She didn`t. Clyde tried to stop his fidgeting, tapping his leg or his trembling fingers while tightly clenching the smoke-filled roll. He failed.

  “I thought you said you knew more about it,” furrowed his brows at her. “No? Nevermind. The system has an algorithm that then gathers the information and predicts your future, especially the future about how valuable will you really be for this city. Well, not just the city...”

  Zoey's eyes shot wide. “Is that how traffic dilemma works?”

  “Traffic- what?”

With a wild roll of eyes, she tilted her head towards him. “Is that how the algorithm decides who gets to live and who dies when serious crashes happen. You know, solves the famous who-would-you-choose-to-save question.”

  “I always wondered how you people call our EIA.” Glancing at her blank expression, he hurried forward; “Ethical Interception Algorithm. That`s what you`re talking about. Great guess by the way.” He paused and leaned forward.

  “You`re right. That AI is the god that decides who gets to live or die. Exciting right?”

  “I would describe it more like sickening, but whatever floats your boat.”

  He sighed. “Yeah a while ago, I’d argue, but now I tend to agree.”

  Zoey's stomach trembled from laughter. “I wonder what could possibly make a smartass like you actually agree with me for once.”

  Might have been the wind, that tangled his thoughts with its sizzling slaps of air past his head for the last hours he’s been up here. Or maybe the sleepless night, or two, that followed him wherever he went.  Most likely, however, it had been his sister’s death, three days ago. He clenched his jaw, trying to speak but even his tongue stumbled and stopped.

  She stretched her tender hand and brushed it over his cheek. No way he could hide the blush that followed, even if he’d actually want to.

  “Well, I`m not that convinced our little EIA system works anymore.”

  “But you always said it`s 100% perfect.”

  “It was. And maybe that was the issue,” he sighed. He rubbed his eyes with tired, rough hands which made of a decent cover for wiping the few tears that slipped through before she could notice. Clyde turned away from the red silky strands of her hair and fixed his eyes on the burning horizon. The sky full of dying light, made of the sun giving in to the moon. They sat in hollow silence for minutes, that dragged like an hour, dreadful and dry, before he spoke.

  “So an owner of second-largest company wakes up one day and sees one of his partners backstabbed him. He`s furious, but helpless, at least at the time. One cup pours down his stomach after another before one or two becomes one or two cups too many. He sits in the car, blasts a sad, humming melody, and decides to take a stroll around the city.”

  Her gaze burned on the side of his face intently, but he couldn`t turn to her, not with the swelling knot in his stomach and strained eyes, burned from tears.

  “Of course, he crashes. He`s drunk as shit and swaying from side to side from the melody. His car should have veered directly over the bridge, plunging into the water, and take him to the depths of the ocean.”

Clyde paused and smirked, even if the lifted corner of his mouth was more bitter than sweet. “Instead, EIA takes over the wheel and crashes the car into the pavement onto a strong point of the bridge fence. The fence that, by calculations, would damage the car but save his life. It just so happens my sister walked across the bridge, and leaned over the fence, watching the endless blue. The car rammed her against the fence, maybe even folded her in half, who knows. The only thing it cared about was the that owner  would, a few days later, give his company into the hands of our company, that just so happens to own a system that predicted that.”

  Normally she would gasp. She couldn`t. Zoey covered her mouth with both hands with eyebrows pulled together in agony. “I’m so sorry,” she managed to blur out before they fell quiet together.

She sighed, he took a deep breath.

  Clyde ruptured the silence. “The problem here is, I’m the guy to blame.”

  “Don’t try to explain some stupid reason you should have been there for her. You told me a million times she wanders off to the city.”

  “...Because I’m the one who made EIA, and considering you told me you hated it, I couldn’t- I didn’t want to tell you that. Anyways,” he finished with a faint sigh.

  He knew she would flinch away, curl up lips or bolt up, too mad to not show anger, too disappointed about him to say anything. And unlike usual, he was wrong. She scooted closer and put an arm around his shoulders. The red in his cheeks returned. After he hunched forward and dropped his head into his palms, she leaned onto him. Shivers ran down his spine and the knot in his stomach burst out, no amount of strain could stop it. Another set of tears followed, along with her hand, gently caressing across his back and her whispers of the usual it’s okay.

  “I knew. I heard the talk about the wonder boy of the corporation. You’re quite famous in the underground meetings I used to go to, so wasn’t hard to put two and two together” she laughed uneasily and hesitated for a second before wiping away a tear from his cheek.

  “They also said you were a monster, programming a robot that eats children and trips grandma’s as they cross the street,” she continued with a whisper in his ear.

  Tears turned to a grin shining as Clyde caught her eyes. “Oh yeah, that one is in progress, too. Field testing begins in a week.”

  “Yeah, if only they knew you like I do. You’re much, much worse than that,” she mocked and showed her elbow into his ribs again.

He grunted and curled up into a ball, dramatically rolling to the side.

  “That one hit a wrong spot, damn that hurts” he blurred out between the grunts.

  “Or was it the right spot? You might have deserved it, at least a little.”

She laughed and he returned the smile, matching her intensity.

  Shoulder to shoulder, heart by heart they sat on the rooftop and listened to the city. The city obliged and offered them it’s nights melody. A car, veering sharply with a drunk driver inside. Scattered music of nightclubs opening. Lonely humms of birds going to sleep.

  Clyde smiled to himself. The night's wind rustled past them, sending cold shivers down his bones. The sounds of the city interrupted one another, trying to prevail. Rattle moved his ass between him and Zoey so she had to let go and now sat just out of his reach. The melody of the night was tinged in bitter, not at all perfect.

  Maybe that is what made it special. 

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

44 comments

17:38 Dec 16, 2020

At first, I thought this was romance, but then I saw that you put friendship.... Like you said, the event wasn't the primary focus, but your writing was amazing! I like the way you describe scenes, or actions! Great job for this story! Keep writing!

Reply

The Rookie
09:04 Dec 17, 2020

I thought about it for some time - as they are both going through a rough patch in their life I don't think they see each other that way, at least not at the time and I think they could have a very strong platonic relationship!

Reply

16:35 Dec 17, 2020

Yes that is a very good idea! I agree with you, adding in romance when they're going through a rough patch wouldn't feel right. Great job!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
The Rookie
17:03 Dec 16, 2020

The event that confused the system wasn't the primary focus, but I hope this suits the theme of prompt nonetheless:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Ray Dyer
01:54 Dec 17, 2020

Hey, rookie! I like the way you identify the age-old question of "who lives, who dies?" and then place it in a computer program--which is where a lot of folks who keep their story, and analyze that argument. But you went one step farther and asked, "What kind of person would design that program, and what would the knowledge of what they did do to them over the years." That's a really great angle for a story! Thank you for sharing it!

Reply

The Rookie
09:10 Dec 17, 2020

Thank you for reading it :) If I'm going to write the rest of the story, you captured the idea of it perfectly hahah! I think there are a ton of moral questions to be discussed in the world where a system like that exists and monitors everything.

Reply

Ray Dyer
16:00 Dec 17, 2020

Yes! I really enjoyed that you asked them! It would be fun to see where it could go if you kept writing!

Reply

The Rookie
16:52 Dec 17, 2020

I got a draft for a continuation of this, so who knows, maybe :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Beth Connor
18:35 Dec 16, 2020

This was a great story! I loved your world building and it had a great flow. There were a few nitpicky grammar things that I didn't notice until a second readthrough- in the second sentence you don't need the comma after feet, and there are a couple commas to add in the quotes throughout the story. I look forward to reading more of your writing!

Reply

The Rookie
09:01 Dec 17, 2020

Thank youu! Oh yeah I should definitely put more time into checking for grammar mistakes I struggle with "" and comas all the time, will look into it Thank you for the comment:)

Reply

Beth Connor
17:14 Dec 17, 2020

No problem! Commas are the bane of my existence. That and randomly capitalizing words... Grammarly is my best friend.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Kate
17:13 Dec 23, 2020

An interesting story and a unique setting (on a rooftop). I was surprised that he was the one who created the algorithm (I didn't predict that). A good characterisation of Clyde (e.g. the smoking, relaxed attitude). I am looking forward to reading more of your stories :-)

Reply

The Rookie
18:00 Dec 23, 2020

That rooftop is their favorite place to meet:) It's kind of a restricted area on top of some old train station hahh. Thank you for the comment! this week's prompts aren't really for me, but a week after, who knows :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
S Houette
17:16 Dec 22, 2020

I loved it! And I am grateful your story was about a friendship because I think writers tend to be a bit heavy handed with romance in general. I thought your take on the prompts was refreshing :) Would you be willing to check out my submission for this contest and provide some feedback? It's titled " Sherlock Home; The Case of the Mysterious Trespasser." Thanks!

Reply

The Rookie
20:05 Dec 22, 2020

Lovely to hear it! Yeah I enjoy a good old romance tension a lot but find myself writing friendships more often than anything else. Thanks for commenting! Aaaaaannndd I read your story hope the comment helps you at least a bit:)))

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Chris Buono
00:30 Dec 22, 2020

Interesting take on the prompt. I enjoyed it immensely. I think you captured the true essence of friendship here added to the “who to save, who to let die” dilemma. I very much had a good time reading this.

Reply

The Rookie
10:25 Dec 22, 2020

I'd like to explore that dilemma further I think it can be a really interesting driving force of some scenes/stories:) Thank you so much for reading!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kevin Broccoli
19:50 Dec 21, 2020

I think there's some really great world-building going on here, and I would love to see you explore this world even more.

Reply

The Rookie
20:23 Dec 21, 2020

Glad you found it interesting! I'm trying not to sabotage myself by trying to write 20 stories at once so right now I'm focusing on a book and a couple short stories lol but a continuation of this is on the list...soon... :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mou Sukoshi
10:15 Dec 21, 2020

Nice take.

Reply

The Rookie
14:17 Dec 21, 2020

Thanks :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Echo Sundar
17:53 Dec 20, 2020

Wow!! This story is amazing!! So fun to read!!

Reply

The Rookie
21:50 Dec 20, 2020

Glad you enjoyed the read)))

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
17:17 Dec 18, 2020

I think this was the hardest prompt of the group, and you nailed it! There were some sentences that seemed confusing or out of place, but overall the story was very good. I liked that the error of the AI was indicated to be caused by humans. The story might have benefited form introducing the sister's death sooner.

Reply

The Rookie
17:29 Dec 18, 2020

I always seem to like the least popular prompt I swear :D If you ever have time I would love to hear about which sentences you felt about that way! Oh yeah that might be true it would increase the impact but I kind of wanted to capture Zoey's reaction to the news in the story so that's why Thank you for the critique, will try to be careful about that in next story!

Reply

04:21 Dec 19, 2020

Ahh, Zoey's shock is an important thing to capture. That might have come across better if the story were oriented more towards her perspective, I got more of the impression that the perspective was leaning towards the brother.

Reply

Show 0 replies
04:21 Dec 19, 2020

Ahh, Zoey's shock is an important thing to capture. That might have come across better if the story were oriented more towards her perspective, I got more of the impression that the perspective was leaning towards the brother.

Reply

The Rookie
14:34 Dec 19, 2020

First of all, interesting that you got the feeling they are related, since if they were, Zoey would know her sister died, too (assuming they are in touch) i was thinking more strong platonic relationship. Second, you are totally right, the perspective is from Clyde and that would make more sense. Thank you SO much for elaborating your point! really helps me improve!

Reply

17:20 Dec 19, 2020

Oh, I didn't think they Zoey and Clyde were related, I just forgot Clyde's name (but I knew his sister died), and I was really tired last night so I didn't check.

Reply

Show 0 replies
17:20 Dec 19, 2020

Oh, I didn't think they Zoey and Clyde were related, I just forgot Clyde's name (but I knew his sister died), and I was really tired last night so I didn't check.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
The Rookie
14:34 Dec 19, 2020

First of all, interesting that you got the feeling they are related, since if they were, Zoey would know her sister died, too (assuming they are in touch) i was thinking more strong platonic relationship. Second, you are totally right, the perspective is from Clyde and that would make more sense. Thank you SO much for elaborating your point! really helps me improve!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
Show 2 replies
Show 1 reply
Radhika Diksha
17:14 Dec 17, 2020

Loved the actions and scenes. I enjoyed the story and was searching for a story on this prompt. You gave proper justice to the prompt. I would love your feedback on my stories as well.

Reply

The Rookie
19:37 Dec 19, 2020

Thank youu, and sure I'll head over to your stories rn))

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jeni Conrad
12:20 Dec 17, 2020

Interesting and scenic. I liked it. :)

Reply

The Rookie
15:15 Dec 17, 2020

Glad you did!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Writers Block
21:24 Dec 16, 2020

Good description

Reply

The Rookie
09:01 Dec 17, 2020

Thank you)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
22:03 Mar 25, 2021

This story has such a complex, detailed world. I want to read more stories that take place in it XD! Such a cool story, can’t wait to read more!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Salma Jarir
18:48 Jan 28, 2021

It was so good !!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Izzie Chan
16:31 Dec 19, 2020

Hi, rookie! I love your creative take on the prompt. I thought this was romance, too, but then I looked at the categories lol I like how the story was a simple heart-warming conversation rather than a whole series of events, I enjoyed reading it! There were a few issues with grammar and punctuation, but it didn’t disturb the flow of your writing. Great job! :D

Reply

The Rookie
19:17 Dec 19, 2020

Yeah I realized that in short stories I write (1000-2000) I got to be real careful what to include and just pick specific scenes otherwise I just automatically start writing an intro to a book :))) As 2nd language, English grammar is annoying hahahh but I have a class to fix that soon! Thank youuuu)

Reply

Izzie Chan
19:27 Dec 19, 2020

Haha, I get that. Oh, English is your second language? That explains it, lol. It doesn’t affect your writing that much, though. What’s your native language, if you don’t mind me asking?

Reply

The Rookie
19:35 Dec 19, 2020

Yeah but I've been working every day on it past few months so hopefully, I'll fix the most basic mistakes soon! It's Russian:)

Reply

Izzie Chan
21:47 Dec 19, 2020

That’s really cool! :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply