Aphelion Issue 222, Volume 21
October 2017
 
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Apple of His Eye

by K.I. Borrowman




Do you believe in magic? I certainly didn't, until last Wednesday.

I'd just got this software job, and the guy sitting in the next cubicle was a total relic from the 80s. We're talking ponytail, plaid shirt, stonewash jeans, and soft-sided briefcase. He wasn't exactly chatty, but I wasn't feeling the love in the place, so when he invited me over for beer and to check out his vintage computers, I thought why not, what the heck. He seemed all right.

He was still wearing his nametag when we got out of the elevator in the parking lot--typical socially-inept programmer. I pointed at it. "Do you wear that everywhere you go, Paul?"

He looked at it and shrugged.

Whatever. "So," I said, glancing around to see if he was going to head for a vehicle of some sort, "should I just follow you then?" I jangled my keys in my hand.

Paul shrugged again, and walked over to the bike rack. He started fumbling around with a massive chain on a rusty old ten-speed.

"Hey, man," I called out, "you know, we could just put your bike in the back of my van and drive over to your place."

Paul was now wrapping the chain around the seat shaft. "Yeah, we could do that," he said.

We maneuvered his bicycle into my van and he directed me to his place. Paul lived in a bungalow near downtown, and judging from the state of hoarding taking place, had been living there for as long as he'd been wearing stonewash jeans. We grabbed a beer each from his fridge and I followed him into his living room.

He had the typical middle-aged-bachelor living room. Flat-screen TV the size of a swimming pool and full-on speaker array for gaming, a massive stack of pizza boxes obliterating the coffee table, a KFC bucket for a trash bin, and at least seven computers. The one that caught my eye was right next to the door as soon as you walked in.

It was an Apple IIc, sitting alone on a little desk like it was enshrined on an altar. An array of framed photos surrounded it, all of them of this one girl. There was a plastic flower necklace draped over the monitor, which yes, was an authentic Monitor II. The whole Apple IIc shrine thingy was kind of freaky, and for a few seconds an inner conflict raged in my brain over whether or not I should just get the hell out of that place, but curiosity won, and plus, I did have a fresh beer in my hand.

"Dude," I said with the appropriate intonation of awe as I gazed at his revered Apple. "Does it work?"

"Turn it on," he said.

I wasn't exceptionally enthused about sitting in the swivel chair in front of the little desk, but after a moment's reservation, I took a seat and flicked the Apple on. I was about to ask Paul for the boot disk when the words Hi, Babe floated in phosphorescent green, letter by letter, onto the screen.

"No way!" I said, looking back at Paul.

He had sort of a dorky half-grin, as if he had been caught taking credit for something he had not created. "Try typing something," he said.

I put my fingers over the decades-old keyboard, feeling as if I was being transported back to an antique time. The letters were worn completely off the smooth yellowed keys. I typed, with a barely audible clackity-clack, I'm not 'Babe,' but hi. At first, nothing happened; then the letters floated onto the screen, each a second after I typed it.

As I typed, I asked Paul, "Did you do this? There's no way you did this in Basic. What have you got in this thing?" I bent to look under the desk. More hoarding: dusty stacks of dog-eared books with titles like "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pascal", but no components, but then, the Apple IIc had not been made with modifications in mind.

Paul was standing just behind me, holding his beer at his chest. "She did it," Paul said, nodding at the girl in the framed photo on top of Monitor II.

The words on the screen typed, Paul's new friend! Welcome! The word welcome then blinked, as if the old computer was winking.

The girl's photo was dull and faded. It had obviously been taken right about the time I, and the Apple IIc, were born; the girl in it looked like Jennifer Beals from Flashdance: frizzy hair, floppy oversized sweatshirt, leggings, and a headband with feathers hanging from it.

So why did Paul have this old computer with the crazy AI thing going on? Maybe he and this girl were programming partners back in the day, and she had died, leaving nothing but this haunted Apple. Or maybe they'd been rivals, and he had stolen her souped-up Apple and spent the last thirty years trying to figure out what she'd done to it, but perhaps over the years, with this photo in front of him, his emotions had shifted from hatred to admiration to adoration. Or, maybe I had inadvertently read the back covers of too many of my mom's tattered old romance novels.

"What did she do?" I asked. "How did she do it?"

Just as I had anticipated, Paul answered, "Well, I don't really know, but she got herself in there and now that's all I have of her."

"Is she dead?" I asked.

"Yeah..." he paused. "More or less."

How could you be more or less dead? Meanwhile, the computer had been typing frantically. It's great that you came over. Paul hasn't had any visitors in eons. So, tell me, what do you do? How did you two meet? Do you like eating anything other than pizza? Paul's going to die if he keeps eating nothing but pizza!!

I wasn't sure what to do. It seemed like a prank, but even so, it was very cleverly executed. I got up and checked the back of the machine to see if he'd somehow linked it up to one of the other computers scattering the room. To do so, I knew, would have meant completely replacing the motherboard and all the components inside the Apple.

"All original," Paul said. "I haven't done anything to this machine since she got in there."

The geezer was on glue.

"Well," he said, "general maintenance. Dusting, you know. Go ahead and chat with her. She asked me to bring you over."

"How did she know about me?" I asked. Reality TV. It had to be. I looked around the room for potential locations for the hidden camera.

"She's been bugging me to bring friends over for ages. Maybe I'm starting to bore her." He chuckled despondently, gazing at the photo.

Like I said, this computer and desk were set up like a shrine. As well as the large photo on top of the monitor, and the flower necklace, there were photos all over the wall behind the computer: mainly, one of those multi-photo frames like the one my mom has for each of our summer holiday trips, only Paul's was filled with shots of him with the same girl, and one of an oversized fluffy grey cat laying belly-up, legs splayed, on a much younger Paul's lap.

There were a few more photos and some other mementos on the wall around it, too--a Eurail pass from 1983, filled with conductors' puncture holes, a birthday card, movie tickets from ET...

"ET, eh?" I said. I don't know exactly when that movie came out, but those tickets must have been around a while. Paul was obviously a sentimental guy.

"Our first date," he said. So the chick in the photos was once his significant other. Talk about your pining.

I answered the computer's questions, mainly to see if I could glitch it. I'm Randy, I typed. Just started working in the cubicle next to Paul's. Yeah, my mom's on her own and I spend a lot of time with her, so I'll eat whatever she cooks, you know.

Paul chuckled, looking at my answer. "She'll get a kick out of that," he said.

Mom's home cooking, the green letters read. That's one thing I do miss, is a good meal. Tell me about your mom's cooking. What's her specialty?

I got up from the chair. "Dude," I said to Paul, "You have to tell me what's up with this machine. This is too freaky. There is no way you programmed AI using Basic or whatever."

"Yeah, shut her down," Paul said. "She hates to be left on. Or, on second thought, better let Zoe tell you. She tells it better than I do." He pulled a milk crate over and sat next to me, looking at the screen with the anticipation of a kindergarten kid at story time.

I stood and stared at him for a moment.

"Go ahead, ask her," Paul said. "She loves to tell her story."


* * *

Once she got going, the green letters flickered and flashed across the soupy black screen like a freight train pulling a story through a dark night.

If I hadn't decided to go to the movie by myself, none of this would have happened. Everything started on that chilly August evening. You have to understand, before I met Paul, I was one of the lost souls. My parents were dead and I didn't have any brothers or sisters, and I had been pretty crazy all through my teen years. I mean, it's truly a wonder I lived through them.

Anyway, ET was the big blockbuster of the decade, and I had been planning to see it all that summer, but each time I made plans with someone, they fell through. So that night when Georgia bailed on me, I just went alone.

I met him standing in line to buy the ticket. He was behind me. I thought he looked enigmatic--long ponytail, dressed casual, like he wasn't out to impress anybody. I later found that he dressed that way all the time; he just didn't know any better.

I hadn't brought any paper money, and was paying for the ticket with change out of my rainy-day jar. He'd been sort of smirking next to me as I counted out seven dollars' worth of quarters, nickels, and dimes.

"Seven bucks for a movie is highway robbery," I remember saying. "I thought my pants were going to fall down, my pockets were so heavy."

I went in, leaving him behind buying his ticket, probably with dollar bills like a 'normal' person would. Then I ran into him again, in the popcorn line.

He wasn't exactly chatty, but I would always talk to anyone. "I hate going to the movies by myself, you know?" I said. "But my girlfriend bailed on me, for like the third time, so here I am."

He smiled at me, and I got my first look at his neat row of very pretty white teeth under soft lips. For a few microseconds, I imagined kissing that mouth. Love at first sight? I never believed in it, but we sat together through ET (at the end he cried and I didn't) and after that, without saying it, we were together.

Within a few months, we had a place together, a sexy little one-bedroom apartment downtown. At the beginning, we spent a lot of time together, did everything together. Inseparable, like Barbie and Ken, the perfect couple. Since I had been so lonely and so crazy for such a long time, Paul was like the antidote to it all. Paul filled the massive void that had always been in my middle.

Our first year, we made a big deal about everything, with fancy birthday gifts, hosting a big Christmas dinner for Paul's family, and camping through every long weekend, even the snowy ones. We would lie snuggled up in a double sleeping bag in a canvas tent in the snow, happy that it was too cold to get out of bed.

Paul knew that I had a dream of seeing the world, so he surprised me with tickets to Athens. It was the most amazing thing anyone had ever done for me, and I knew then that Paul was the only man I would ever love. He was the only person in this world who knew me and really understood me. We had an amazing time on the trip; we backpacked all over Europe and visited everything--the Acropolis, the Coliseum, the canals of Venice, the Eiffel Tower, and Buckingham Palace. All those cool sites were exactly as I had always imagined them. When I stepped between two sky-high white marble Doric columns at the Acropolis and saw its dazzling shininess laying before me, I literally had to remind myself to breathe for the first and only time in my life, and I twisted my fingers among Paul's and wanted to hold onto him forever.

We got married in a small, Hawaiian Beach-themed wedding, and afterwards, got the bungalow and a cat. I loved Paul more than Juliet had loved Romeo. He was my essence. He was every moment of my day, my dreams at night, my sun rising in the east every morning, my universe, my reason to live, and I was Paul's... I don't know.

I had a job at a flower shop, but work meant nothing to me but a day behind a counter and a paycheck so I could help pay for our adventures and outings. I wanted to show Paul I appreciated him by cooking fabulous meals for him, and in the evenings, I sat on the sofa with a book or my sketch pad while he tapped away on his computer at the little desk, his back to me.

Paul was a computer nut, and since elementary school he had wanted to be a programmer. Just before we met, he had been lucky to land his dream programming job. The pay was excellent and he was doing what he loved. At a time when most people didn't have a computer, Paul had two, but when he got his new one, the Apple IIc, it instantly became his favorite. Bit by bit, no pun intended, he spent more time with the computer and less time with me.

So I tried to get him back; I tried everything.

I bought cookbooks and cooked fancier, more delicious meals every day, but every day he ate faster and went directly to his computer afterwards instead of clearing the table and helping with the dishes like he'd used to.

I put pictures of us doing things together--camping, highlights of our trip in Europe, our anniversary dinner at Red Lobster--nice, framed photos all over the house, to remind him of the fun we could have together. For his birthday, I filled up a multi-photo frame with all his favorite pictures of us at various places we had once enjoyed, and hung it right over the Apple's desk, so every time he glanced up from working at the computer he would see me smiling at him.

But Paul was working on a big project, a new programming language that would make us rich, and him important. If he did glance up, it was never for long, and the sight of me in the photos wasn't enough to distract him from his work.

One Friday, I took my paycheck and went directly to the travel agent in the mall and bought tickets for Hawaii. We had been planning to go there for our second anniversary, but I couldn't wait. I was hoping Paul would remember everything that he had loved about me at the beginning, and that I would start to find my way back into his heart if we could spend a few days together on romantic sandy beaches, away from that damned Apple IIc.

The trip was fantastic, and I really felt like things were starting to change, but as soon as we got back to the house, he dropped his suitcases in the hall and went directly to the Apple and switched it on. He looked like he was about to hug it. He inserted the boot disk and actually caressed the side of the machine while he waited for it to boot.

That was it. I realized I couldn't compete against the computer for my husband's love. He didn't respond to dinners and beaches, just bits and bytes.

In desperation, I recalled a rather silly conversation I'd had with Claudia at the flower shop. If I couldn't compete with the computer, I would have to become the computer.

By this time, I had been spending a lot of time with my colleagues, sharing my pain and plying them for ideas. I had to talk to somebody. The owners were a bizarre hippie couple who lived on an acreage and smoked a lot of weed; they were both at the shop most of the day so I always had someone to talk to. Even though their topics of conversation tended to be a bit strange, they were always terribly concerned for my well-being and always had lots of plans and ideas for me, even though most of their ideas were completely nuts.

Anyway, I had become very comfortable in sharing my feelings of loneliness with them, Claudia and Reece; in fact, despite their eccentricities, a lot of the more imaginative suggestions had come from them--Claudia loved "ethnic cooking," for example, and loaned me some of her favorite cookbooks.

So when I had said I couldn't compete with the Apple IIc, Claudia's off-the-wall suggestion had sounded completely insane at first, but I was in the market for a last resort.

Claudia said, "If you can't beat it, join it."

Claudia often uttered idioms that were so out of context that they meant nothing.

"What?" I asked.

"The computer," said Claudia.

"Yeah, I've tried getting into computers. Problem is I just don't understand them and I don't see the fun in it. Paul can't tear himself away from his Apple, though. He loves it more than he loves me."

"That's just it," Claudia said. "You should join the computer. Become part of it. You know."

"No," I said. I was used to Claudia saying bizarre things, but this was nuts even for Claudia. Become one with nature, or with God, maybe, but one with a computer?

"Ok," Claudia said. "We know this guy, Roger. He's into Voodoo and White Magic. He can do a thing where he moves your consciousness, like your soul sort of, into another plane of existence. Maybe he can move you into the computer."

"Ghost in the machine," I said. It was ridiculous. First of all, I didn't believe in any of that Voodoo magic stuff. Secondly, I hated that computer. Why would I want to have my soul put into it? But Claudia was still talking.

"Yeah," she said, "and then, like, Paul, man, he won't have any choice but to pay attention to you. Every time he turns on his computer, there you'll be."

It was lunacy. Even if there was a chance it could work, there were too many unanswerable questions. What would happen to my body? What if Paul thought the computer was broken, and threw it out? Then where would I be? I just changed the topic, and that had been the end of it, but now in my desperation it was starting to sound like an idea worth investigating further.

I drove to the flower shop and peeked between the painted flowers obliterating the glass front door, but couldn't see any sign of Claudia or Reece. I pushed the door open and the little bells hanging from the top dingled and jangled, announcing my entrance.

"Peace and harmony, friend!" Claudia called from the direction of the front counter. I wove my way through the gaudily-scented store, being careful not to knock over any of the hand-blown vases or yank down any of the decorative macramé owls on my way.

Claudia was delighted to see me even though it wasn't my shift, but her countenance shifted to concern as she said, "Zoe! Do you need a flower?"

I couldn't help laughing. "Maybe. Well, actually, I was thinking about that thing we were talking about the other day--ghost in the machine."

Claudia didn't always remember all our conversations as vividly as I did. She shook her head slowly and peered at me with a slightly vacant look in her eyes. "Did you want to buy the new Police album?" Ghost in the Machine was the name of a record the band The Police had released a few years earlier. Claudia usually listened to The Beatles and Cream and The Doors, so in her rather cute attempt to be hip she was actually just being out of touch.

"No," I said, "the thing with the Voodoo, and white magic? And being one with the computer?"

Now Claudia's eyes cleared. "You want to transfer your consciousness into Paul's computer!"

I still wasn't so sure. Actually, now that I was standing there, surrounded by dangling paper lady-bugs, with an incense-cone display staring me in the face, I thought I might try another cookbook first and save the consciousness-transfer thingy for a last resort.

Just then Reece came out of the walk-in glass cooler, where he'd been arranging the flower display.

"Reece," Claudia said. "Call Roger. Zoe wants to talk to him."

"No, I don't," I said.

"Why, what's up?" asked Reece.

Claudia said, "Zoe wants to ask Roger about the logistics of putting her consciousness into Paul's Apple."

"Far out," Reece said, grinning through his shaggy facial hair and picking up the flower shop phone. Even though it was the 80s, Reece and Claudia were devoutly 70s. Claudia had long, wavy hair and wore peasant skirts and gauzy blouses, and Reece looked exactly like John Lennon with the hair, beard, glasses, bell-bottoms, and flower shirt. They drove a Volkswagen Beetle, turquoise with a peace sign on the hood, smoked grass, and surrounded themselves with strange and bizarre people.

Roger was one such person.

He showed up a few minutes later driving a black van with a naked woman riding a tiger airbrushed on the side. He explained the process very confusingly and then said, "All right?"

Basically, as I understood it at the time, I was to shed all earthly possessions (here read clothes), drink of the potion he prepared, and lie on an altar while he did a chant and some incantations and lit candles. We didn't even need the actual computer for the magic, just a few token items.

I was pretty convinced that the trick wouldn't work, but if it did, I figured I might as well move my soul into Paul's Apple. Then he could have me and his computer, too; I would be his computer; the love he had once lavished on me would return. He would be happy and I would be fulfilled. I would be his and he would be mine once again.

I guess I was a true romantic and the kind of person who would do anything for love. I had grown up knowing positively that there was one single person in the world created just for me, and that once I found him, I would devote my whole self to him. Paul was that person, and this was the only way I could devote myself to him fully--by becoming what mattered most to him in the world.

Besides, it wouldn't work.

The ceremony took place that very evening, in a completely black room in Roger's basement, which was specially set up for such events. A black shelf ran all around the walls and held, you guessed it, candles, in various shapes, sizes, and candleholders. The centre of the room was dominated by a massive wooden table.

A few other magical persons were already there when I arrived with Claudia and Reece, and Roger got down to business straight away.

He asked me to remove my clothing, even my jewelry, and lie down on a long wooden table. He placed the three token items in a row on the table above my head: a Polaroid snapshot of the Apple IIc, a small cardboard model I had made of the computer, and a grey plastic key which I had pried out of the computer's keyboard and which very symbolically depicted a bitten apple.

He handed me a silver goblet in which swirled an odorless, muddy concoction, and bade me drink. It tasted salty and thick, but since the room was dark I had no way to guess at what the potion contained. Then the others gathered close and fell silent, and Roger began speaking.

It was all very ominous, and certainly magical. It was also kind of funny so I spent the whole time trying not to laugh out loud and get everyone mad at me, and I was completely positive it would not do anything.

In a mystical deep voice, Roger said, "All powers exist in us. The black and the white; the infinite and the omnipresent. All is spirit and soul, ever evolving."

The others seemed to concur, because they murmured in agreement.

Roger went on, with gently rising passion, "The basis of every being in the universe is the One Spirit, the One Life, the One Consciousness, and inherent in every being is the law, moving from the Spirit outward, which impels to their unfoldment--the law of evolution."

There was a pause as the others muttered and murmured under their breaths and Roger did something like deep breathing exercises.

"Pass me the model," Roger said. One of the magic assistants standing next to him took the little cardboard computer from the table and handed it to Roger. I watched from my upside-down vantage as he dipped it in something gooey and then again in something powdery, and then the assistant put it back, now wilting and slightly pungent.

Next Roger produced a small cloth sack and passed it to me. "All turn," he said, and the others turned their backs to me. "You must place the three items into the bag, place it next to the candle, and repeat my words."

I was lying on my back with the three items behind my head.

He had turned away from me, too. I sat up and put the three items into the magic bag, and then put it down beside the magic candle. "Ready," I said to Roger's back.

"Repeat after me," he repeated, "And you have to really focus on what you want to happen. Really focus."

He said this little rhyme, and I repeated:

I love Paul,
And he loves me
But more he loves
Apple IIc.
Make me one
With Apple IIc
Make me one
With Apple IIc.

Bind us together
So Paul will see
He can't have both
But only me
Make me one
With Apple IIc
Make me one
With Apple IIc.

It sounded like a nursery rhyme. Also, it didn't work. I had hoped a puff of smoke swoosh me into the Apple by the end of the song, but I was still sitting on the table, the little bag and candle in front of me. I suspected that Roger had gotten his black and white magic mixed up with his Voodoo.

Roger said, "That is all. Now, go home, put the gris-gris bag under your pillow, focus on your wish, and go to sleep. When you awaken, you will be in the computer."

So I wasn't supposed to just disappear in a wisp of smoke. Still, even though I didn't know much about magic, I had been around Claudia and Reece for long enough now to know my occults from my Voodoos, and this whole thing was very suspect.

Still thinking it couldn't possibly work, I thanked Roger and all his magical friends, put on my clothes, and got a lift back to the bungalow with Claudia and Reece. Claudia got out of the Beetle and gave me a big hug.

"I guess I won't see you again," said Claudia, through stifled tears.

Reece got out, too. "So, like, any requests for your funeral?"

"My funeral?" I asked.

"Yeah," Reece said. He looked at me as if I was missing something obvious, his grey-blue eyes drooping behind the sheen of the John-Lennon glasses. "If your soul goes into the computer, what do you think will happen to your body, man?"

I didn't really want to discuss funeral arrangements. "Do whatever you think is best," I said.

"We'll provide flowers free of charge," Reece said, and Claudia nodded.

For a moment, I felt a bit woozy. I hadn't really thought about the whole dying side of the arrangement, but most days, when all I wanted was a hug or kiss or a few words from Paul, and I wasn't getting even that, the thought of dying wasn't far from my mind. So if dying would bring me closer to life for Paul, so be it.

I smiled. "Thanks, guys. If this works, come over and chat any time!"

After a great deal more hugging and endless tears from Claudia, I went inside and found Paul. It wasn't very difficult. He was sitting in front of the Apple IIc.

I asked him if he thought we could do something special for dinner.

Paul said he was working on a really important breakthrough on his programming language, but we would go out on the weekend, he promised.

My heart felt as heavy as a refrigerator. I told him I wasn't feeling well and went to bed. I put the gris-gris bag under my pillow, and then showered, cleaned under my nails, and brushed my teeth and hair. If there was going to be a funeral, I wanted to look my best. While I was doing it, I kept thinking it was silly and the magic wasn't going to work anyway, but it couldn't hurt to be prepared.

Then I went to bed and imagined being one with the computer. I pictured Paul going into the living room and sitting down at the desk, with a cup of coffee in his hand, and turning me on, and being surprised when instead of the Apple IIc asking for a boot disk, I said, Hi, babe!

Roger had said to focus on my wish. I concentrated as hard as I could on this image until I fell asleep.

When I woke up, I forgot at first that I was expecting to be one with the Apple IIc. I felt a bit light-headed and like I was in the bottom of a swimming pool, and I suddenly remembered the events in Roger's basement, and thought, "Darn, it didn't work." But I couldn't open my eyes. I also couldn't hear anything. I couldn't open my mouth, either.

Then I realized it had worked. I thought, "Oh, crap, what do I do?"

"Think, Zoe, you're a computer. What do computers do? They... yes, they type." I wasn't sure how to type from the inside, but I found that if I squeezed the letters, one by one, from my mind, they appeared reversed in front of me, swimming like bright green stars in the blackness.

Paul? I typed.

Nothing happened.

Paul? Are you there? It's me, Zoe?

After a long time, letters appeared below mine, also reversed, but which I was easily able to read: What the?


* * *

"That's some story," I said to Paul.

"Turn her off, she don't like to be left on," he said, his voice low and cracked. I did so. Then I sat and stared at that screen for a long time. After a while, I asked Paul for his version. His was a lot shorter.

She went to bed early one night, saying she wasn't feeling so good, and when he went to turn in a few hours later, she was dead.

Days later, after the funeral and all the mourning and whatnot, Paul went to get back to work on the Apple IIc, but when he turned it on, it didn't seem to work properly. Then it started talking to him, same way it was talking to me. He was incredulous, same way I was, obviously, but imagine how bad poor Paul felt when the computer told him it was actually the soul of his dead wife, who killed herself and used some magic spells to put her soul inside his computer so he'd spend more time with her!

I guess after that Paul sort of failed as a programmer, but kept his day job and maintained his relationship with the Apple.

"Doesn't she go crazy when you're not here? Lack of sensory input or whatever?" I asked him.

"No; when she's off, time stands still for her. All told, she's only been aware for a few years in there," he said.

"What about the internet? Can you find some way to hook her up?"

Paul shook his head, kinda slow and thoughtful. "I don't really know what the situation is, so, don't want to go messing around with her insides. I'm afraid if I try to change anything, I might lose her completely, but, look..." He showed me one of the more 'modern' computers, a 486, "This one's linked up to this one," an actual laptop that was made this decade, "and I can download stuff here, save it to floppy here, and she can read it. Have to convert everything to plain text, but she likes to keep up with the news and stuff, you know."

I nodded and sipped my beer.

"Oh, and check this out," Paul said. He turned on the Apple again, and typed, Babe, show us one of your pictures. "She's an excellent artist," he said, bristling his moustache with pride.

The computer answered, Sure thing! And then, below that, character by character, line by line, green text danced across the screen until it was filled with a beautiful, glowing neon rose.

I was actually quite amazed.

"Did she do that herself?" I asked.

Paul said, "Yep. She started out with these little ones, just a few characters, and now look what she can do. She has to do them one line at a time, starting at the top of the picture, and if she makes a mistake, she has to delete everything back to where it is to change it."

I whistled low and typed to Zoe, That is really amazing!

The picture blinked a couple of times and then glowed brighter than it had been before. Thanks! ran across the bottom of the screen.

My pocket buzzed. I pulled out my phone and of course, it was my mom. She was expecting me for dinner and, as usual, I'd forgotten to text and tell her I'd be late. Usually, when she called to check up on me, I felt irritated. I'm a grown man, for God's sake. This time, though, I felt like a dick. I'm a grown man who should at least have the decency to tell the woman who gave him everything what time he's going to arrive for dinner.

"Hi, mom," I said, wincing at Paul. He gave me a sheepish grin.

Her voice, older and more vulnerable than usual, said, "Hi, Randy. Are you going to be here soon?"

"Yeah, Mom. I'm on my way. Sorry, I should have called."

She said, "That's ok, just be quick. Dinner's almost ready."

"I will."

"Drive safely!"

"I will. Hey, Mom?"

"Yes, Randy?"

"Let's go out for dinner tomorrow. My treat." My mom had been there for me all my life and I suddenly realized that she would probably appreciate it if I paid her a bit more attention. "Love you, Mom," I said, disconnecting, and put the phone back in my pocket.

"Thanks for showing me this," I said to Paul. He was a weird geezer. I headed off to Mom's.


THE END


© 2015 K.I. Borrowman

Bio: K.I. Borrowman is a nomad who specializes in taking things home. She is currently sipping tea in China with her husband, who wants to believe in aliens, and two Arabic cats. She has previously had stories published in speculative fiction markets including Blood Moon Rising, Isotropic Fiction, and Spectacular Speculations, and was a runner up in the 2012 Zharmae Publishing Press short-fiction contest leading to publication in their annual anthology. She is responsible for the cat blog for www.spotthekitty.com and popular blog for English students, www.thenardvark.com.

E-mail: K.I. Borrowman

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