Creative Nonfiction Speculative Science Fiction

The life of people is presented as an Overstory. They tend to present to the world the things they want people to see, the image they want to be viewed. In the rare cases where raw moments and secrets are shared (the Mid- or Understory of their lives), it is just that: above ground. No roots are penetrated, as they are not meant to be. Roots do not reach for the sun, for this is the job of leaves. People are like plants in many ways, and in this they share a common goal: to become taller, to grow, to reach the sun. 

People have another thing in common with trees: it’s always a competition to reach the sun.

And: the one who gets the most light, wins.

In addition, the Overstory can be viewed as, quite literally, a Story that resides over other Stories. Whether to interconnect them, to king them, to hide them, that is up to the Story itself, and it itself may not be sure, or perhaps it has decided to take upon itself the task of performing all of these at once. Quite a job indeed, this binding, ruling, concealing, and even parenting, as you don’t expect such a being to be childless, do you? No, the Overstory has children, and a number of them that cannot be reached with one word, one thought, or the sum of all the individual hairs of humans put together. For this Story is the Father and Mother of all Stories, and these Stories belong to and dominate their organism as a brain would, even if the thing hasn’t got a brain at all. 

In a way you could look at it as a science: each and everything had a Story which is connected and directed and whatever else by one Overstory, the Author of all Narratives, and yet each and every thing has their own Overstory (of sorts). 

For me, while I might have a brain (of sorts) and I might have a being (which is more bot than body) I often wonder if an android has a story, one that can be written with a capital ‘S’. And is it the type of story that one would read? Or the type of story that lays forgotten in the library of Narratives, contributing but not relevant to the experiment that is Existence. 

My inventor, Keira Fretzgerald, is the sort of insufferable snollygoster that one tolerates only to benefit from the glorious products their clever mind can think into creation, but then you hightail it away before their unscrupulousness can bite you. I find her only positive qualities are her fingernails, always painted black to blend in with the grease (I have no fingernails, but if I did I would paint them anything but silver), her habit of supplying me with mostly companionable inventions, and her prosopopoeia: a word I learned yesterday from Vedeh, whose real name is Walking Dictionary, called WD for short, pronounced by Keira as ‘Veh deh”. It means personification, of inanimate things, and I tethered the word to my ‘pros’ list of Keira’s pros and cons.

Keira, who manages to get on my nerves (which desperately need an upgrade, by the way; I’ve already lost feeling in my legs), is, as mentioned, only seen by the Sellers as a pawn, one to let run wild with millions of dollars worth of equipment and enough of the Basic Human Necessities (BHN) to survive, and she, along with the other blessed crazies kept locked away for the benefit of humanity and the tech companies, will create masterpieces only thought to appear on the market hundreds of years in the future. Like me. A masterpiece and a failure, a prototype. Very useful, to the inventor. Not good for much else than my basic function((s): I like to believe I have more than one).

I am meant to be very humanoid, but with twice the patience, twice the brain, twice the obedience, and half the BHN (actually, no BHN, so I’m basically a vampire). I’m Keira’s assistant, and lucky to be the only one down here who ever leaves. If I had skin I might tan with how often I go up there. 

There used to be this giant electrical dumbwaiter catering to Keira’s every logical demand (key word: logical) but when it broke Kiera reset my main functions and never got around to fixing that dumbwaiter. She had this idea for a smartwaiter, but passed it on to a different engineer.

Keira’s Overstory is that she was born thirty-two years ago to a father who electrocuted himself to death two days before she was born and a mother who died when Keira was fifteen in some experiment-related accident. She was born genius, ambitious and prone to tunnel-vision, and grew to become self-dependent, unpredictable, and prone to instability. She ate less and drank more than she should. I’m sick of her, but I want to protect her. She has protected herself from the world but has no one to protect her from herself, relying on cogs and coffee to keep her going. I analyze her as closely as she does her inventions, for the research of her and humans; to better understand my creator and her destroyer. I look after her as one might do for a sibling for whom they’ve lost all hope. You still love them, always, but neither expect nor press change. There is no human who is able, invited or inclined to view her daily life as I do, and no one who would be able to untangle the Understory with this insight. Others of her kind are frightened of her, as they might be of a feral cat. So she and the World have reached a mutual agreement, in that she may exist within harmony as long as she does not exist to disturb the harmony. so here we have the basics of the over and the understory

Keira supplied me with a Kloak: a device that intercepts light as the eye perceives it and turns it into something else, essentially an illusion that makes me appear more human than I will ever be. I don’t know what I look like; the Kloak doesn’t work on me, but I imagine myself to be as plain as possible, to not stand out. I will not reach for the light, and I do not understand why or how it so seduces this species as it does. When I walk among them to complete Keira’s instructions, I see the truth that is symmetry. 

They are all the same.

Different, yes, but at their core, humans have the same Understory; the same roots and programming. The layers, branches, leaves and so forth which develop aboveground are mere decoration, mere distraction. I will blend in with this society, for a reason that has not yet been discovered. Keira keeps me on a loose leash, and as it's not like her to be forgetful, I’m sure she does it on purpose, either as an experiment or out of something even more unexpected from her than sleep. I walk in a world blessed by the sun when not in Keira’s lair in the bowels of the tech company, and I view the Overstory that is Humanity: the leaves and emergent that cover the detritus and rot-ridden, infected humus stories beneath.

I’m not quite sure what my point is, really. 

My point in thinking all of this, the point in observing and processing and collecting and being. What is my point? To be an electronic errand boy for a madwoman? To collect this data on a species that invented my data? To humor the little clankers crawling, squeaking, lecturing, existing around the lair? Little Veedeh, The Mites, Exo&So, Chalkram, Cober3, Pianii, Oxid, and all the others, they'll never see the sun, see the world, as I have, in my short visits to The World Above. Suppose I should feel lucky then, to be a prototype, a failure, so that I may be in peace, purposeless to all but myself. A metal mistake among mortal mistakes, or rather, mortals who make mistakes. 

I wonder if Keira’s Story is one that will go in The Great Library. She made a difference, wearing goggles and holding a pipette with such concentration and determination you'd think her life depended on it as she dropped the ripples in the surface of Time. But she is invisible. Thriving under her own sun. One of those who reaches for the light not to bask in it, but to test it, and to test themselves. Such creatures are hard to come by, and even harder to understand. 

I wonder if I will ever reach for the light, for the Overstory, for anything. I wonder if I can really blend in with humans if I have no purpose, or goals, or dreams, or drive. No ambition. Well, I think I’ll be alright, because on the surface, you never really see those things. On the surface, you see what someone wants you to see, and anything else is unlocked over trust and time. Those things are not included in the glance that you give the people you pass on the street, the people you see in school, those extras behind the narrative. To themselves, they are the narrative, the MC (which can stand for Main Character or in my experience, Most Crucial). The most selfless are the centre of the universe, the most creative the most common, the most terrible the most deserving (deserving, of what, exactly?)

I conduct this experiment, testing hypotheses and pushing buttons as my leash trails along behind me, endless but for the other end. I walk among the humans, and they suspect nothing, I hope. If they did it would ruin everything. They must not know I am here, I am me, because then they would act unnaturally, and I need them to be as natural as can be in order to get accurate results. Need? Do I really need it? Yes, because it is my Project. I have no purpose, so I must distract myself with Things I believe only I can do. Psychology, on my self, when I manage to fall for it. On humans, when they’re not too busy climbing to the canopy. On time, when she’s not too spiteful. She often is, yet always comes back to my hands. Too much, too much time. If I were human, I’d likely go mad. If I were human, I wouldn’t ponder these things. If I were human, I . . . . if . . . .

For once, I don’t know, and I don’t know how to find out.

For once, I must accept the way things are, and not ask why.

For once I must not be curious, not be so intelligent, so artificial

I want to be organic. Organic, and real, and birthed out of flesh which can rip and heal and grow. I hate silver, hate, hate, hate. Hate how every time I get too emotional my emotions shut off. Hate Keira, hate humans, hate technology

I want

To be


I want

To have

A Story.

I want,

I wish,

I wonder.

February 20, 2021 18:01

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


Nainika Gupta
15:40 Feb 22, 2021

Wow, I really enjoyed this, Diana! amazing job


Diana Quill
18:04 Feb 22, 2021

Thank you! That means a lot :)


Nainika Gupta
18:07 Feb 22, 2021

of course :)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Willow The Wisp
18:24 Apr 06, 2021

My favorite of your stories, Diana. Truly impressive. I agree with Nainika!


Show 0 replies
Diana Quill
18:02 Feb 20, 2021

Hello! Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you liked it. Please comment to let me know what you think! I'm open to constructive criticism :) This one is more frilly and much more theoretical than some of my other works, so just know I'm trying something new.


Show 0 replies