In Hindsight, At Least The Test Was Successful

So Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week was all about profanity.  The story had to be about, contain, or just generally roll around in profanity like a pig in shit.

See? I’ve started already.


In Hindsight At Least The Test Was Successful

Statistically speaking, the most commonly uttered phrase before someone’s death is “Oh shit!” This can be heard throughout history on recordings of bus crashes, train wrecks and most notably, airline black boxes.

It should come as no surprise then, that a variation of expletives would be recorded by John Dingle PhD, AaF, SCr, Chief of Nanoreproductive Robotic Artificial Intelligence at AMES research in Mountain View, California on a foggy Monday morning.

The day had started off all wrong to begin with: spilled coffee, broken fountain pen resulting in a blue ink stain, glasses dropped and broken then repaired with tape. All in all, it was one of those Mondays that told John Dingle he should have stayed in bed. Like most people, John Dingle was never very good at listening to that voice in his head.

“Cats,” he said. “There’s a cat. I hate cats.”

Pamela scurried to try and chase the stray feline into a corner where it might allow her to pick it up. In the meantime, John used an air hose to try and clean any stray hairs off the massive construct in the far corner of the room.

“It’s just a cat,” said Pam. “It isn’t the end of the world.”

“Pam,” he said, trying to retain some composure. “You know I’m allergic. You know that cats are filthy and stray cats are disgusting even by cat standards. For all we know, it could have tracked in a million particles. We’ll have to close the lab for a week.”

“You’re being dramatic.”

The cat, now even more frightened than before, disappeared under a cabinet. Yellow eyes peered from beneath the metal container.

“He’s not coming out,” said Pam.

“Get a broom or something.” Jesus Christ, thought John. This is all I fucking need today. One goddamn thing after another.

John wasn’t normally one to swear, especially in the office and certainly not in front of Pam, who he had been trying to impress ever since she started six months prior. Needless to say, it wasn’t going well. This cat was just frosting. Fat fucking cat frosting. Asshole.

The construct was a six foot mobile armature, composed of a bicameral head, speech recognition receptors, a wiry torso, capable of free movement throughout the lab and a single knobby arm. The arm ended in an eerily human looking hand, capable of lightning fast movements with enough sensitivity and dexterity to cradle an egg.

Pam came back with the broom and began fishing under the cabinet with it, trying to see if she could convince the feral cat to seek refuge elsewhere, preferably in one of the other labs.

“I think he’s scared,” she said.

“Of course he is,” said John. I’d be scared too if someone was prodding my ass with a goddamn broomstick.

“He’s not moving.”

In response, the cat hissed, but remained wedged beneath the cabinet. John glanced over his shoulder at Pam, on all fours, her most attractive angle from across the room. Even under the lab coat, the curves of her figure were hard to miss. Who cared if she was fifteen years younger than him. John considered himself quite a catch for a man in his fifties.

He put the air hose down and nearly knocked over his coffee again. A long hiss of “Fffffffuuuu” almost escaped his lips. Pam gave him a reproachful look and he finished with “Fudge.”

“Potty mouth,” she said with a flirting glint in her eye.

John flushed and turned back to the construct. “I’m going to test the speech receptors again,” he said and touched the button just below the twin cameras. They glowed and came to life. The construct gave him an attentive look, shutter-fly irises constricting. The arm moved and then shuddered to a halt.

Motherfucker, thought John. Pam forgot to tighten the actuators again. Son of a bitch.

“Pam did you tighten the actuators before we left on Friday?”

She looked back at him, still on her hands and knees, a pose that he found less attractive now that she was costing them time. “I thought I did. Is it not working properly?”

“No,” he said, grabbing the socket attachment and slamming it onto the air hose. “It’s not working properly at all. In fact, I remember you were the first one out of the building Friday.”

She was scowling at him now, the broom motionless. “What are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying,” he jammed the socket wrench onto the actuator for emphasis. “That you may have fucked us, Pam. You may have fucked my whole day.”

The shock on her face was worth it. Her mouth made a charming pouty “O”.

“And now we have a voice recognition test today and we are behind four fucking hours.”

“John,” she said. “The construct is on–”

“I don’t fucking care if it’s on,” said John, placing the pneumatic tool on the counter. “The construct can go fuck itself. In fact the construct can go fuck me and you and this entire goddamn lab with a goddamn fat fucking air hose chainsaw for all I fucking care!”

As the cat sprang from the cabinet, Pam screamed, which seemed odd to John. It wasn’t until he turned to see the construct swing the tool at his crotch that he realized what had happened.

“Oh, fuck me,” he uttered as the pneumatic wrench skewered him through the pelvis, pumping a ragged line up to his sternum.

In a way, John Dingle, PhD, AaF, SCr, was rather proud of his creation in those last few moments of consciousness. The speech recognition test was successful. The construct had understood exactly what he had said, executing it to precise detail, (even if its interpretation was somewhat sketchy). As the machine left him and began to move through the lab amidst a chorus of screams, John lay in a scarlet pool of blood, a bemused smile on his face.

© 2011 Marlan Smith

3 responses to “In Hindsight, At Least The Test Was Successful

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