Robots don’t care

I find it pretty much impossible to think about robots without thinking about AI and about all the speculations about the Singularity or this and that. Of course, we are all familiar with ideas of robots and AI either being unfeeling, uncaring, human-destroying psychopaths or the benevolent and servile to humanity AI. But these both seem to imply some sort of thought process based in our own biology.

What if intelligence that isn’t backed by billions of years of reproductive and self-preservation instinct just doesn’t care at all if it lives or dies or has a purpose or not?

Imaginary

“I really hate it when you yawn like that.”

“I can’t help it.” The ghost whined. “And it’s not yawning, it’s moaning.”

I rolled my eyes and looked back down at my phone. In a few moments I was giggling at some meme of a bird in a towel on Facebook.

“Why don’t you love me anymore?” He whined. “You’re always just putting me down these days. Why can’t we have fun anymore.”

“I already told you Beebles,” I sighed, distracted. “I’m not a little kid anymore.”

“But…”

“No buts!” I set my phone down hard, but carefully. I stared the sheet-covered apparition in the eye. “You know you’re overdue to go. You had a good little stint all these years, pretending to be my imaginary friend… but that’s over now. I’m grown up, I know the truth, and it’s time for you to move on!”

Beebles— God knew what his real name was— just stared at me quietly for a moment. Then, he began to hum the tune to Sesame Street.

I sighed, again, and went back to Facebook. I wondered if he’d been this much of a creeper when he was alive.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 23

No Good Treats Are Cheap

It’s not that I mind the real monsters that show up at the door for Trick or Treating, it’s getting what they want that is hard. Don’t have fresh worms, organs (none of that frozen supermarket stuff), or even blood? Forget about it. You’re gonna get teepee’d.

Except, when a ghost does it, maybe it’s an actual curse. Or with a vampire, maybe your sister starts getting a night-time visitor… that sort of thing.

God, I want people to stop whining about allergy-free treats. Seriously, it’s not hard to pick up a cheap pack of temporary tattoos or cheapo Chinese slinkies or something to hand out. And it certainly isn’t illegal. And no, you don’t gotta hand out crappy bags of raisins or apples or something. You don’t gotta leave your porch light on at all.

There’s a reason why I have so many bruises, and there’s a reason why there are so many missing kids in my town. And no, that locked basement pit, the jaw clamps, the butcher’s apron and the nice knives and saws and mason jars… they weren’t cheap. Ok, ok, the jars were cheap. But it adds up.

So quit your bitchin’.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 22

Can’t Unsee Them

They show that trope in movies where like, you know, the kid can see ghosts and spirits and whatever but the adults see nothing or an animal. You know what I mean. Because kids are pure or spiritual or innocent or something. I sure as fuck don’t know.

What I do know, is that I’m well into my teens and I still see this shit. Sure as fuck I’m not pure, though. And I got clever real fast about keeping my mouth shut.

It’s hard sometimes, let me tell you. I mean, you can imagine some of the shit I see… monsters that do live in the closet, or in the basement or graveyard. It’s hard to keep friends if you get too enthusiastic about trying to stab that thing you see riding their back.

And sometimes you see the most absurd things, things that make you want to cry and laugh at the same time. Just the other day I saw the neighbors’ beat up old pickup truck roll back into their driveway. Looked like they and their friend’s got some of those mountain doves on their hunting trip, a big ol’ pile of them.

For small birds, one of the easiest, laziest ways to eat them is to “breast” them. What you do is, rip the feathers of the breast, enough to get to the skin. Tear the skin back until the breast muscle is good and exposed. Then, you put it on the ground, stand on the head and tail and get your finger under the sternum on both ends and pull upward… it’ll take that whole breast and bone right out along with the wings which you can just cut off at that point. Bam, clean easy meat. People like it because it’s fast, easy and you don’t waste time on the tiny bits of meat on the game birds.

So, imagine when I see these good unknowing Godly folk doing this to their daily quota out in the yard, having a beer and getting the grill going… and about five birds in I see and honest to goodness little angel in there.

And let me tell you something. They don’t die that easy. It was stunned, maybe. Recovering, maybe. Probably not dead.

Well, at least up to the point where they tossed that boney breast on the grill. I’m pretty sure it was dead at that point. I didn’t want to be caught staring, so I didn’t look close to be sure.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 21

Don’t You Wonder…?

Don’t you wonder where they go
The men and women of religions gone
The stark reality is a harsh blow
A cruel chance of birth they’d drawn

In Hell they wait, for you and woe
And even in the end, ultimate truth is not for you or they to know.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 20

Forever

Little Susie loved to play with dolls. Big dolls, little dolls, ceramic dolls, cloth dolls… all sorts of dolls. She was nothing like me when I was little, I liked Trucks and He-man and all that. She was so different from me, and although that made it tough (after all, 31 was a ripe old age to be learning about make-up and braiding hair), I loved her more than anything.

Her favorite doll was a little cloth one, looked like a sack puppet, with little mismatched button eyes. He was just some scraggly thing she saw at a garage sale… probably some other kid’s sewing project that got mixed in with the store bought stuffies. And she loved it, brought it everywhere with her.

I still have it, now that she is gone.

Well, she isn’t really gone.

I hold the doll, I cuddle her and tell her how good she was today. She she looks up at me and smiles with her old baby teeth.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 19

In Game

“Man these graphics suck!” I whined. Everything was strange and freakishly smooth.

“Dude, it’s all about the game-play.” Jason assured me. “Watch.” He walked his avatar up to one of the NPCs and shanked it. People screamed and ran.

Jason ran his character through the city, avoiding police, stabbing and shooting random people before finally collapsing in a hail of 576 megapixel bullets.

“Ehh, I’m not feeling it.” I said, tossing down the controller. “I hate these sandbox games.”

Meanwhile, the residents of a small town in Italy tried to make sense of a vicious spree of supernatural murders. The press considered it the act of a deranged video gamer who played too much Minecraft and liked Slenderman a little too much. But others, the ones that were there, they wondered.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 18

Monument

The Wood cradled the monument of the Pilot-Savior. The time ship was one of the last remnants of the Old Humanity, preserved in tribute.

The Wood didn’t need to preserve it, just as it didn’t need to tolerate weather. Those were choices. The guts of the machine had long been deciphered and stored to memory and disseminated amongst the trees. Even with the best efforts of preservation, the ship was finally showing its age.

Probably, it could have lasted even longer, but the Wood had since moved on in its thinking and had decided it was time to let the ship itself disappear into history.

Probably, that was for the best. The device was the engine of the Wood’s salvation. But it was also a token of destruction.

Pilot-Savior did not agree. Even now, the ghost of his human self sat in the cockpit, stroked fingers over broken panels and the gaping holes of missing buttons. He felt confused sometimes, but not regretful.

We could do it again, he thought.

Not necessary, too dangerous, whispered the Wood. There were a few dissenters, but most were concerned about the unusual death caused by erasure of their own time-lines. You could be immortal in the Wood, as long as the Wood survived and most humans were loathe to risk their comfort and immortality.

It didn’t matter. Inside the ship there was a very special seed, growing from the Savior himself. The seeds of the Wood would fly into space, but not his. He had other futures to explore.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 17

Assumptions

For days, I thought there was a man staring at me.

I mean, he was clearly there. Lit by headlights in the forest. I couldn’t explain how there was a car there, with no road, but it wasn’t like it took special magic to drive a truck up onto the grass and leaves.

I didn’t bother to call the police once my sister and friends told me I was nuts. They tolerated my fear as a nightmare for a few nights but eventually I was left alone in the house again. Just me, and him.

He never approached, never got closer. Occasionally, the light flickered and I lost sight of him. But he was always there. For days I ignored him, but finally went out to confront him.

He rose as I approached, getting taller and taller— until I realized he wasn’t getting taller. He was floating, raising higher and higher with the light.

He was a pupil in a gigantic, floating eye.

And the trees were teeth, closing in on me.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 16

The Hunt

I think a lot of us don’t think much about the hunt anymore. That it is something primitive. Hunters understand it, of course. But most everyone thinks they are civilized and beyond such things.

Which is silly, of course.

You’ve felt it. The thrill of the hunt. Maybe it came in the form of making a sale. Or when you found that store that would let you stack coupons just so, and you got that laptop for a few hundred off. Hell, even that moment when the vegan finally, finally finds that brand of cheese that melts or tastes just right.

I can hear the sounds of our feet, slapping on the cement. The sound of heavy boots and soft flesh… sometimes dry, sometimes splashing in the puddles.

Most hunts don’t last very long, or rather, they don’t last long when the quarry is in sight and the chase begins. But sometimes they can be long.

I’m panting now, like a beast. My tongue lolls out like a dog’s. The smell of my sweat is whipped away in the wind of my passing. You are close, so very close.

This hunt is ending soon. Ahead, I see no escape.

This is how mankind is meant to live.

I feel your claw-like nails as you push me down into the concrete. I close my eyes as water splashes up into my face.

I smell your fetid breath as your teeth chew out my throat.

I’ve never felt so alive.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 15
A version of this story will appear in the October 2017 issue of Blood Moon Rising Magazine.