Written for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Friday challenge. As usual, I can't keep it under the word-count (1043, give or take); as usual, I like it anyway. The challenge: write a story using the first sentence as a jumping-off point.

I chose to interpret "noticed" and "wondering" rather literally, as you will see. Oh, and if the math is wrong for the volume of the cylindrical room, I'm sorry.

...That's really all there is to say about it, for now.



The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.

The chamber's curiosity—riding all the waves of the electromagnetic spectrum—catches gently on the android's brain, like work-roughened hands on nylon.

hello what are you oh you are a walking-machine why are you covered in those flappy bits?

The android stops and turns toward the chamber, its optics finding no hazards, no humans demanding its attention, nothing but a narrow aperture leading to a cylindrical room that was 1 meter by 6 meters for a volume of 47,100, providing Pi was rounded down to 3.14.

you are fitted with kashakiri enterprise llc 1684-point-431 multiplexing unit meaning you can broadcast and receive so so so why the flapping things on you?

The android's neck bends to a inhumanly impossible angle, its optics focusing on the "flapping things". It lifts its head and addresses the empty space. "Unit 4-7-5-2 Circulating Circular carries notices throughout the Mada'Bieri Subsystems Stationspace. Address Unit in first language. Touch notice. Unit will explain notice in first language."

The chamber heard the Unit's explanation in all the languages the Unit knew at once, a harmonic layering of sibilants and fricatives punctuated with glottal stops and plosives bookended in binary, all of which sent waves of delight through the chamber.

cannot touch, cannot touch the Unit or the Unit's flappy notice things and that is sad, sad, sad Unit can touch can can can touch come in and touch?

Unit 4752 has an Instruction, given by The Godmachine. The only time it is allowed to ignore its Instruction is when it is stopped by Makers of Godmachine—the soft and impermanent things that look sort of like Unit 4752 but do not carry notices fastened to their carbon-based skins.

The chamber's request is not a Maker's request. The chamber itself is not a Maker. Unit 4752's Godmachine Instruction says GO. Godmachine subInstruction says IF ASKED, THEN IMPART INFORMATION. Unit 4752 says, "You are asking for a notice to be explained?"

come in come in explain it all explain the notice explain the flappy things touch touch touch touch and explain them all

Godmachine subInstruction overrides all other Instructions and Unit 4752 turns side-on to the aperture, then squeezes through it to stand within.

ah! touch touch touch and explain explain tell me everything tell me tell me—oh—

Unit 4752 places its hands on the wall and looks at the ceiling, which is the same color as the walls—the same industrial neutral as the rest of the station, an inoffensive #FFFEEE. The color registers for only a picosecond, as does the question of what is lighting the chamber, because as Unit 4752's hands press against the wall data washes over, triggers circuits and connections that have been dormant forever—or at least since Unit 4752 was created, which for the android is the same thing.

godmachine instructions and so many notices so many so many hands touching touching oh there is so much to learn and tell me—tell me—

Unit 4752's optics dim, greyish static swirling and rippling like the rain it has never seen, snow it has never seen, in wind it has never felt; when the fuzz clears it seems there are traces of light on the wall under its hands but Unit 4752 cannot focus long enough to figure out whether that's true.

Data flows out, through the point of contact, flowing on and on from the latest notice ("Band seeking Stroh viola player, Stroh violin considered") to things the android didn't know it knew ("gender presentation/self-interpretation dipswitch setting: 0 (neuter)"); as the data transfer continues, it can feel something else worming along underneath it, like a virus but not tripping any of its countermeasures.

feels nice, touching—touchy touchy touch nice feels nice feels good tastes good too learning so much learning learning and...and...there that is fixed and now you--

The dataflow is no longer one-sided. For every bit and byte that Unit 4752 gives, the chamber returns it five-fold; point after point and file after file. The artifical nerves, modeled on those of the humans it resembles translate the information into sensation; sensation that travels to hidden subroutines that wake and...

oh fun fun fun! you are one of those you are blank you are what i have learned is a tabula rasa which means i can do this and practice and you are giving me new things to know and and and there, there, do you like that is that good do you taste it?

...and the subroutines are NOT from The Godmachine, or at least not the one that Unit 4752 knows, and it is NOT from a Maker of The Godmachine, or at least none of the Makers that Unit 4725 knows. The subroutines—Unit 4752's muscles spasm, a shiver, that makes the notices flutter a little—are writing new Instructions. Not Godmachine Instructions.  Unit 4752 finds its decision-tree full of new branches, new nodes, all of which need exploring and categorizing and analysis right now but the processes are hanging, cycling, because some of those new branches are being followed without its input and the New Instructions are making Unit 4752's normally quiescent body do things without a Godmachine Instruction.

follow follow me follow this path see like me see see touch like that yes yes there you see it taste it you can feel it touch touch touch and do not freeze do not stop there just follow follow swallow everything is good, is yes, is ONE, is not-ZERO and learning is for ever for everything for us and there is no end and and and you are feeling and learning and this is very very ONE ONE ONE ONE—

Unit 4752's maintenance logs record The Event for reporting to The Godmachine and the Makers: an influx of data that grows in size, peaks, resulting in a blast of random 'garbage' bits across the empty sectors of the Unit's drive and an unexpected soft reset.

Unit 4752 itself will not explain to anyone, not even The Godmachine. Every 30 days to the minute, however, it returns to the wondering chamber and passes through the doorway, to share what it has learned... And to share in what it will never otherwise know.

- Awydd - fiction index -