I know, it’s been a while and not a lot of that time has been spent writing creatively. The books is currently in various bits and pieces having been carved up, chopped out and messed about with. It’s a task and a half putting it all back together. I had to keep something ticking over and I’m now pretty safe in the knowledge that I’m far more comfortable writing strange science fiction than I am doing more ‘domestic’ stuff. With that in mind I decided to just writing something short and stupid to stretch the cells again. It’s rough around the edges but I won’t be spending time going back to it to sharpen it up because it’s supposed to be fun. Here then is ‘Computers Can’t Make Coffee’. Enjoy and leave any comments down below.
The sound of birdsong filled the streets before the sample ended and it looped round again for another minute long duration.
Desmond was the last person the sun would shine on. The sleep of the last few hours had been interrupted not by any noise from the street outside or the late-night TV his neighbours always watched but more the absence of any human activity. His was the only street left illuminated, two lamps standing until the end. The traffic signals were turned off a few days ago. The shops had left only the moonlight to cast shadow on the empty shelves.
Desmond’s notification had been slow in arriving. Once the idea of leaving Earth had left a touch screen somewhere and the pictures of the settlements had circulated, he had sat waiting. Looking out of his window each morning he saw more and more floors on the housing grids becoming vacant. Every time another light out and wind turbine still. The eldest residents had been first, forming a queue to get into the monorail terminals leading to the ports. Herbert down the corridor had refused to go whilst spending each evening shouting up at the night sky from his balcony. Desmond had ran into him one night outside the local shop. “I was born on Earth and I’ll bloody die on Earth” he growled whilst stabbing his walking stick forwards as if he were fencing. A few weeks ago his wish was granted. They didn’t fill his house afterwards.
Each evening the bright blue jet trails of the rockets had bled through the black. Desmond had grown to be familiar with looking out for the final scattering of colour as the ships left Earth’s atmosphere. The final distant thump of another one entering space above was a comfort to him as one day he’d be up there too. This morning the skies were empty as even the clouds had given up flying overhead. The blazing heat from the sun rays has already melting the tarmac across the road. Desmond could see the bubbles from his window.
“Looks like another warm one”.
The familiar voice chimed in from the screen across the room with the usual tones of cheer.
“Morning Theia” said Desmond still slightly unsure if he should be giving such wishes to a computer programme.
“Do you want a full weather report for the day?” the software enquired.
“Is it going to be you asking me to put lots of sunscreen on and avoid going out in the sun until this evening?”.
A silent few seconds followed as this questions was hurled through processors and memory.
“That would be where I was going”.
“Well in that case I think we can save it”.
The window began to darken automatically, shielding Desmond from the harsh light. A protective protocol in action.
“Your flight leaves in a few hours, your last few bags are waiting at the space port having been checked in at 3:08am this morning”
“Thanks” came the only mutter from Desmond’s mouth as he peered back to the tinted window at the sunlight bouncing off the electronic advertising boards on the building opposite. His own personal adverts had been scrolling on these screens for so long now he could follow along with them word for word. He had cut himself shaving around three weeks ago, the bathroom mirror had recognised the blood and played him an advert for instant Cut Sealer. A whole minute had passed by showing the miraculous properties of a sprayed layer of plastic across any size of wound. After Desond had answered the following survey the mirror had deemed it suitable to dispense a sticking plaster. A free sample had turned up unannounced through his door not long afterwards but it remained unused. Life away from Earth would surely not need Cut Sealer.
“Is this the end of the world?” asked Desmond of the computer.
“Far from it, it’s a new start for you”.
“But what happens to all of this here?”. Desmond gestured to the outside world in what looked like a half hearted attempt at Semaphore.
“Do you want the answer?”
“Very well then Desmond, the coastal areas that aren’t flooded already soon will be and the heat from the sun rays will take care of most of the rest”.
Desmond considered this information for a few seconds. If he had stayed around on Earth for any longer he would probably try to see if he could convince the computer to stop asking his permission in order to give him plain facts. It had originally started with it suggesting he took an umbrella outside rather than just saying it was raining. Before long it was telling him about the benefits he could have by taking a long walk before actually telling him the trains had been cancelled. Over time the software had learned that Desmond liked the plain facts. It had also learned to not make him coffee in the mornings. When the kitchen appliances had all been registered in the network the software had taken the liberty of ordering in the best selling coffee flavour in the city, taking in a general method of preparation honed through the data received from over one thousand hours of consumer focus groups and only then splotting forth something that Desmond could only describe as tar. The easiest solution would have been to disconnect the network card from the back of the coffee maker but, like all appliances, it refused to work without one.
“I shall heat the water for you” came the robotic chirp.
“Just that, nothing more”.
The water sizzled inside the machine and the jet of black. Desmond slowly added the dark oily gloop and mixed it together. He took a sip of the bitter concoction then smacked his lips together.
“Are they growing real coffee beans in the orbit?” he asked?
“I’m afraid I don’t know for sure Desmond, my network doesn’t stretch that far”.
Desmond took another sip and thought about the stations in orbit and how, if they truly were meant to be the next step in mankind’s journey, they would surely be a space on each of them for growing some proper coffee. The videos that had been sent back down showed whole forests being grown in large sections of the stations. Spotlights reflected off the water of streams and lakes as animated figures danced and ate picnics on the riverbanks. All was perfectly possible when you were off the surface of the now crumbling Earth. He put down his coffee cup and was about to clean it in the sink until he remembered he wouldn’t need it tomorrow morning.
“The taxi is waiting outside” said the computer.
Desmond was about to jolt himself across the housing pod in his rush to get changed. Upon processing it further he came to the conclusion that the taxi wasn’t exactly going to pick up anybody else afterwards. He allowed himself the time to put on the last clothes he had that weren’t in space by now.
A few minutes later he found himself adjusting his belt in the mirror.
The computer chimed in for what seemed like the final time.
“I hope you enjoy your flight, it’s been a pleasure being with you these last few years”.
“Do I get something like you when I arrive up there?”.
“I don’t believe they have the structure yet for such systems. Perhaps in time but you’ll have to make your own coffee in the meantime”.
“I think I might be able to manage that”.
Desmond stepped out into the hallway, thought initially about locking the door behind him but instead left the keys hanging in the lock before walking down the corridor.