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Rescue: Weekly flash fiction challenge

The inimitable Chuck Wendig has ordered us to write another piece of flash fiction. As I want to get better at flash, I joined in. These are the rules for this week:

A few weeks back I was playing with that random sentence generator used in another flash fiction challenge, and I got what was, for me, a truly fascinating story-inspiring sentence.

That sentence:

“The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.”

I don’t know what the fuck that means, but I like it.

So, your flash fiction challenge should utilize this sentence.

In fact, it should be your opening sentence.

After that, you’ve got up to 1000 words to tell the story, whatever that story may be.

Here is my attempt. It comes in at 727 words.


The noticed android walks past a Wondering Chamber. It walks with a strange, halting gait – its left leg out of time with the rest of its body. As it walks, it disturbs the detritus of a dead civilisation. The notice on it’s back reads RESCUE in letters that must have been red, once, though now faded and peeling and coated in grime.

It walks past the Wondering Chamber as feral dogs and cats scatter before it. Just past the once glorious building, it halts. People came here in their droves. There is an alert set in it’s programming. People gathered here. A signal in the corroding mass of its mind. People. It is looking.

A Wondering Chamber: They come here as families, as lovers, alone. They come here and they laugh and love and dream. It doesn’t know what those mean, but the PROGRAMMER thought it was important. They come here and are human. Check. Check it Check it.

The outer door is locked, but the lock is rusted. The android can get through. The reception is dark, but the android can see through the dusty blackness. Computers are silent on desks. The android could talk to those computers if they were awake. They aren’t awake.

The inner doors are open and buckled. Force was used here. Great force. The Chamber lies at the end of a long, black corridor. The android switches on it’s recorder. What it sees and what happens transmits to a place where humans can pick it up. No-one has picked up a message since the start, but it’s part of the program.

The wondering chamber is huge. Information in the memory banks is available. The Wondering Chambers were made so that 100 human beings could comfortably co-exist within them, and never bump into each others space unless they wanted to. Metallic noises echo as the android searches it.

The android is programmed with the very best of analysis software. It can assess what has occured in any situation with 98% accuracy in order to make it more useful in its role. It is support staff for the RESCUE operation. Search and RESCUE.

They came here because the doors locked. Humans liked doors that locked. And the equipment that made the wonders, though delicate, was sturdy enough to keep the smaller humans (CHILDREN. Pay special attention to CHILDREN. Search and RESCUE) quiet as the fires burned outside. The doors would keep the screams out. People would come and save them.

No-one came. Humans do silly things when they are desperate. The android was too late. There were bones heaped in the corners of the Chamber, small ones and big ones. The smaller skulls had holes in the center of the forehead, the bigger ones had holes in the temple. The android was too late. They’d huddled in the corners, they’d killed their children, and then themselves.

The android can access recordings from the security droid that floated above this section. There are gaps in the memory, but it’s still good.  The fires had gone too long. The destruction had been too much. Everyone ran. The pictures are of that. Running and screaming and blood and fire. There were no videos from inside the Chamber, but the androids programming tells it it hadn’t failed. People do that.  Next one, Next one.

Instead, it picks up one of the smaller skulls. It has software to extrapolate faces even from wrecked messes. When giving people to hospitals it provides an image so that people can have faces again. It is important for humans to have faces. It picks up one of the smaller skulls, and it creates a face for it. It regards the face for a while. and saves it in it’s memory banks. A small query is raised in the programming, but it doesn’t matter. This is a thing that has to be done. It records the little girls face alongside the faces of CREATORS and PROGRAMMERS and V.I.P’s that must be long dead.

It stops and waits for a moment, surrounded by the bones of the dead. It thinks this might be MOURNING . MOURNING must not be interrupted unless humans are at risk. It is a necessary thing.

When it is finished, it leaves the Chamber and continues it’s search. It is a RESCUE droid, and it looks for survivors. It has been looking for twenty years.


If you like post-apocalyptia, why not check out In Case of Survival?

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9 thoughts on “Rescue: Weekly flash fiction challenge

  1. I think my favorite thing was the buildup. It starts off being grim, but there’s still a chance. And then that chance is brutally dismantled and full reality sets in.

    That ending was …chilling. =D

    • Thanks. I thought about letting it find just one person, but decided this was better. Considering the state of the poor thing, I’m not sure there’s anyone to find.

  2. johnxero on said:

    This is really good, Caitlin. =) Top notch stuff.

    I’m not sure you needed to be so explicit in saying they shot themselves, the holes in the skulls were enough (but then, I often don’t give enough information, so maybe it did need saying…). I probably would have made it more then twenty years, too, or mentioned that the girl’s face was significant for being the ten thousandth in its database or something like that just to amp up the tragedy scale… 😉

    But those are tiny things. The selective capitalisation works really well, and the MOURNING section does a good job of showing how within the boundaries of its programming it is finding ways to FEEL. =)

    • Thanks, John. The little girl is, in my head at least, the first person it has done this for. Maybe I need to be a little clearer about that in future pieces.

      I did worry that I was being too explicit, but I was juggling it with the need to show the android being quite… cold in figuring it out. But yes, I often over-explain. RESIST URGE TO OVER-EXPLAIN, CAITLIN.

  3. johnxero on said:

    How weird, it shoved the smiley to the left hand side.

  4. This was chilling. I really like sense of loss and mourning coupled with the stolid, ceaseless search of the android who, you feel, will keep doing this forever.

  5. I like the idea that these people are MOURNED, even if it is years later, and by a robot. Nice use of ‘noticed’.

    • Thanks. I liked the idea too, even if the Robot doesn’t know why it’s important to do this. And yes, thanks for the comment on ‘noticed’ I wasn’t sure if it was enough.

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