Category Archives: Anne Cargile

Software Update by Anne Cargile

Chris Hamilton:  I got nothing.  Actually I got less than nothing.

…Ginny thought. The computer update was not going according to plan. It had taken what felt like hours waiting for the all of the updates to just to download, and then another interminable length of time watching the little hourglass spin and rotate, spin and rotate. She hated that hourglass.

When the monitor finally whirred and she heard the signature reboot sounds, Ginny looked at her screen, then over to the replicator. The replicator was making some strange flashes. Ginny tapped the escape key, but of course nothing happened. The replicator shouldn’t have been doing anything; she’d just been doing a software update for crying out loud. The replicator was making more noise and she started to get worried.

Just then Joe walked in to the lab, bumping into the tables as usual because he couldn’t get his head out of his VR glasses long enough to look where he was going. Ginny wrinkled her nose as him, knowing he wouldn’t see her expression anyway.

“Hey Joe?” she said, loudly.

“Whah,” he responded.

That was the thing, Ginny thought; he couldn’t even be bothered to pronounce the letter “T” on the end of words. She wondered what would happen if such a sound ever erupted out of his mouth. She had a feeling that would be a sign the world was about to end. As a lab boss, he left a lot to be desired and Ginny was frequently left on her own. She could  have been watching Oprah and eating bonbons and he probably wouldn’t even notice.

“Something’s wrong with this update and I can’t tell what it’s doing. Could you take a look?” she asked, politely. She was after all, only an intern.

“Sure. One sec.”

Joe came over and lifted his VR glasses off his face. He blinked rapidly, and Ginny almost giggled. The glasses had left a deep impression around his eyes, kind of like a snorkel mask. He looked rather silly. Joe leaned over so he could read the text scrolling on her computer screen. His face paled, which was a feat, given how pale he was already.

“What the fuck did you do?” he asked, each syllable pronounced emphatically. “You asked the replicator to make 10 million daffodils?” he screamed.

“No I didn’t, I swear,” Ginny cried out in horror. “I just ran the updates you asked for!”

Joe wasn’t listening as he frantically typed away on the keyboard, with little apparent result. The replicator in the corner started puffing and shaking a little. Since the machine was the size of a walk-in freezer, this was more than a little alarming. Ginny ran over, thinking maybe she could unplug something to make it all stop when the door to the replicator popped open and a flood of yellow daffodils came pouring out.

Ginny never knew daffodils by the thousands could be so heavy as she clawed her way to the top of the pile. Taking a deep breath as she broke through, she looked around for Joe and saw him a few feet away, no longer white, but a pasty yellow from all the pollen.

“Maybe we can donate the flowers to the local hospital,” Ginny said softly.

Joe just glared at her.

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Take Me Away by Anne Cargile

Alin Irmif:  It was a hot summer day at the book fair.  All the authors were working on the same story

…or at least it appeared that way. The fair hall was hot and stuffy and had too many writers scribbling away. I doubted there’d be more than a couple of stories even worth working on, but my will was the publishing houses’ command and they had sent me to India to run a workshop on storytelling. The scratching of pens and pencils on paper was giving me a headache and I needed fresh air.

I stepped outside into the blazing sun. The day was as hot and bright as you could want in New Delhi and I had probably lost 10 pounds in water weight since arriving. Which wasn’t such a bad thing, I mused. At least I’d been allowed to bring Edward with me. I grinned thinking of my boyfriend. He was always up for some kind of adventure and did a great job of keeping me out of my head. I checked my watch and saw that it was close to the time he was supposed to meet me for lunch, so I went to the bottom of the hotel steps and leaned against a lamppost to wait for him.

Standing there in the sun, I must have started to daydream, because out of nowhere an elephant was walking down the street straight toward me.

I couldn’t help but laugh. The poor beast was decked out in sparkles, looking like an entire trailer park of women had bedazzled the hell out of it. I started laughing and stopped abruptly when I realized the thing was real. I held my hand up to block the sun, and lo and behold, there was Edward grinning down at me.

A guffaw almost escaped, but I stuffed it back down my throat when I saw his hurt expression.

“I’m sorry. I just, really, um I wasn’t expecting you to pick me up in, on? an elephant,” I said, trying to go for apologetic.

It must have worked because his smile became almost as bright as the spangles on the damn elephant. He was holding on tight to a rope that I guess was used to guide the poor beast. Personally, I thought it looked more like a noose.

“Do you like my surprise?” he asked, his voice just a little high. The elephant shifted and he hauled back on the rope while I jumped back to avoid getting squished.

“Are you my knight in shining armor, here to whisk me away to freedom?” I asked, playing along.

“My lady fair!” he said, bowing precariously atop his perch. “I, Sir Edward, atop my loyal steed, am here to take thee to a banquet of delights. Come, ride away with me!”

I couldn’t help it and I started giggling. This was why I loved him so, that he could play and be just as crazy as I was, but was too afraid to show. My laughter came to an abrupt end when I looked around and noticed a rather important detail.

“Oh Knight, how do I get up?” I asked.

Edward sat up straight, a slightly confused expression as he looked around. I saw his brow wrinkle as he realized the problem.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”

 

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Bad Decisions by Anne Cargile

For Lynn Wyddell, who gave us a story starter at the Book Fair.

I wish I had ordered a chicken sandwich instead of the Hulahula Chili.

I could tell it was going to be a problem by the time we were halfway through the 4th Annual Orangutan Fair.  I’d also like to tell you that it was my only bad decision that day, but that wouldn’t be true.

The afternoon had started fine – get together with a few friends, have a few beers, then someone pulls out the tequila shots and a doobie, and the next thing you know you’re stumbling around an Orangutan Fair with the munchies.

The food truck we went to had a good line, so it seemed like a safer bet then some of the other, sketchier, offerings. I mean, you don’t really expect high class at a fair dedicated to orangutans, but some of the trucks looked like they’d just come from a third world country and brought the roaches.

Anyway, something about chili, hula girls, and little umbrellas appealed to my drunken stomach and that’s what I ordered. I don’t really remember much about what was in it, but boy do I remember it coming out.

Blacking out and going unconscious was a blessing. When I woke up, it was very dark, very cold, and I could feel movement. It was a steady rhythmic motion, and there was a rumbling sound. I felt in my pocket for my cell phone, but it wasn’t there. Groaning, my head fighting against my stomach, I sat up and felt around me. Imagine my surprise when I felt fur. Not dead fur either. This fur was attached to something warm and breathing.

With a growing suspicion, I felt the fur some more. It appeared to be an arm, a very, very long arm. My suspicions grew as I followed the arm up to a broad shoulder and then reached a face. With horror, I realized I was sitting next to an orangutan. I had no idea how I got there, or how long I had been there and my panic grew. Then the arm moved. My stomach did another flip and I tried not to puke as the arm curled around me and pulled me close.

I tried to remember everything, anything, about what to do when one finds oneself in a cage with a wild animal, but all I could think was that I was sitting in the dark, hungover, the awful taste of that chili lingering in my mouth, no cell phone, with a freaking orangutan.

The arm pulled me in closer and I felt the warmth of the massive body. It was actually rather pleasant to snuggle up to and I felt my chills start to ease. The train would have to stop sometime, and the handlers would check on their charges, right? I thought. Might as well stay warm and maybe get some sleep. I leaned my head into the shoulder of my travel companion, wiggled a little to get comfy, and drifted off to the gentle rocking of the train.

 

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I Love My Job by Anne Cargile

The psychobabble was getting out of hand… it was time to really kick this group meeting into gear, and he knew exactly how to get that done.

Rick stood up. The force of his movement threw his chair back hard enough that it slammed into the wall behind him.

“Enough! Are we all done with debating whether green candies are better than red? They are both apple for crying out loud!” Rick practically shouted. “We have much bigger issues to discuss, and I for one would like to get to them before the day is completely blown.”

The room fell silent at his outburst and every head turned to stare. Rick looked at the faces in front of him and pinched his nose in frustration. He loved his job he told himself while he counted to ten.

“It is very important to understand the psychology of color versus taste Mr. Shuman,” said Manix. Rick stared at the blue Denebian and let out a long-suffering sigh.

“I know, Manix. Different species do have different perceptions of color versus taste, and I really do understand the importance. I’ve read all the psychology studies on humans, Denebians, Arcturians and so on. But we have been stuck on this one issue for over an hour. I’d like to make a suggestion to get this meeting moving in the right direction. If I may?” Rick asked, his tone as modulated as he could manage.

Various heads, and other appendages, nodded in agreement.

Once Rick had the room in agreement, he brought up the first point on the agenda that had caused the argument, red or green for the new apple flavored candy their client wanted to put out on the interstellar market. The working title for the candy was Gapple Gobs, which Rick personally thought was ridiculous, but had proved incredibly popular in surveys on Deneb and Capella.

“We’re going to settle this right now,” Rick began. “Please raise your hand, or appendage, or whatever it is you have if you think this candy should be red.” Arms of various types went up around the room and Rick did a quick count. “Then it’s settled. The majority of the room prefers red. Next item on the agenda, where are we on the test candy surveys?” He looked around the room and pointed to Manix.

Manix cleared his throat and Rick groaned internally. That sound indicated a lecture and Rick knew from experience Manix’s lectures were always long and boring.

“You have 3 minutes to summarize, Manix, please. Starting now,” Rick said and clicked the stop watch function on the table.

Two hours later, Rick thanked everyone and went back to his office. Once inside, he closed the door behind him and went straight to his desk, where he pulled out a bottle from deep in his bottom drawer. A beautiful Scotch, imported from Earth–Rick knew he needed a good pull to calm his nerves. I love my job, he told himself again as he uncorked the bottle and took a swig. I love my job.

His desk chimed and he saw the latest report on another client’s product flash up. A three hundred page study on the psychological appeal of putting twirls onto candy strips. Rick sighed, knowing he was going to have to slog through yet more psychobabble before he could go home that night. He took another pull on the bottle, recorked it, and sat down to start reading.

I love my job, he kept saying to himself as he pulled up the first page.

His desk chimed again, a video message. Looking for any excuse not to read the report, he clicked play. A holograph came up of a rather beautiful human female. Rick sat up straighter in his chair.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Shuman. My name is Carla Henries and I represent Hershel Candy. We’ve been extremely impressed with your work and would like to know if you’d be interested in a meeting to discuss a possible change in employment. We are expanding into new product lines and think you would be a perfect fit for our Director of Production. If you are interested, please accept the invitation attached to this message. I hope to hear from you soon.”

Rick sat back and let out a little whistle. What a woman, he thought. What a promotion, too. Before he could think himself out of it, he accepted the invitation. He was getting tired of Mars anyway and he was pretty sure Hershel Candy had their headquarters on Neptune.

Two months later…

The psychobabble was getting out of hand. Rick looked around the conference room and felt a sense of déjà vu. The faces were different, hell, the planet was different, but the arguing and the stupidity were exactly the same. He sighed deeply. He’d accepted the job at Hershel Candy, and things had started off smoothly enough. He no longer had to read three hundred page reports on the psychology and sociology of food choices, which was a bonus. He had a nice little thing going with Carla, which was a real bonus, but Rick learned quickly enough that production was just as bad as marketing. Under discussion currently, and getting contentious, was whether to tint the wrappers of the new candy, working title Silver Butter Bombs, or leave them clear.

“Enough!” Rick shouted. The feeling of déjà vu was even stronger when the room fell silent at his outburst and every head turned to stare. Rick looked at the faces in front of him and pinched his nose in frustration. He loved his job he told himself. He loved his job.

 

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Mittens by Anne Cargile

For Donna McGurk

It was certainly a worthwhile endeavor but, truly, all those mittens!

Mica stepped through the entryway into the living room and could only gawk. The number of mittens hanging, lying and piled throughout the room was nothing short of intimidating. Every color, every pattern, from polka dot to striped to fingered, the room was near to bursting with the things.

She poked a finger at a pile spilling off an end table. The mittens looked to be made of rather nice angora wool, she noted, not a cheap acrylic yarn. She picked one up and studied the stitching. Not bad, Mica thought, pleased that her spell, even if it had been screwed up, had produced such a fine quality product. She wondered, in a vaguely shell-shocked kind of way, if the mittens were crocheted or knitted.

She wasn’t sure what had gone wrong with the spell she’d given Len, but it was obvious something had.

Shaking her head, she sighed. Len was an adorable sort, but really too anxious a personality to be a good magic user. Mica had done her best to simplify the creation spell for him; she thought she’d made it easier than Magic for Dummies, but this. This was something entirely new to her experience.

She threw the mitten down on the already teetering pile and took a deep breath. “Len?” she called out.

Mica wandered the first floor and called for her friend a few more times. There was no response, just more mittens. Thousands littered the hallway, the half bath, the kitchen. They were even piled up the stairwell.

The house offered only silence in response to her calls.

She stood in the living room, hands on her hips and decided that first things first, she needed to reduce the amount of assembled woolen garments clogging things up. With those gone, maybe Mica could find a clue as to what happened to Len. Mica guessed, based on the plethora of woolen hand wear, that the living room was where he had attempted the spell.

Chanting, “Three little kittens lost their mittens, and they began to cry,” Mica pointed at a pile and said, “Meow” and the pile of mittens vanished. “Meow, meow.” With each meow, another pile cleared away. Soon enough she had the room cleared and flopped down on the couch to take a break. It was always exhausting using reincorporation spells, but the mittens had to go back in to the universe somehow.

That’s when she heard muffled sounds coming from above her. It sounded like thumping, but Mica couldn’t make it out clearly. Hefting herself off the couch, she navigated the drifts of mittens on the stairs and made her way carefully up to the second floor.

The noises seemed to be coming from one of the back bedrooms, so Mica went to investigate. Sure enough, the noises came from the closet in what she knew was Len’s bedroom. She opened the door and had to quickly jump back as a pile of knitted angora tumbled out. Sitting in the middle of the closet was a big fat rabbit, an Angora rabbit to be exact.

Fluffy, cute and impossibly large it stared at Mica with a rather sad, floppy look and then hopped out of the closet. Mica stared at it as the rabbit stopped to scratch itself. As she continued to watch, the rabbit started heaving in what looked like a fit. Its fur fluffed out even bigger as it obviously struggled. A few seconds later, a mitten came popping out of its mouth and flew across the room. The rabbit settled back down and turned its soulful gaze back to Mica, as if pleading.

Mica snapped her mouth shut with a pronounced click when she realized it had been hanging open and looked more closely at the rabbit.

“Len? Is that you?” she asked.

The rabbit twitched its ears, hopped over to her and rested its little head on her shoe.

“Oh my god, Len. What did you do?” Mica said as she knelt down to stroke his back. “Seriously, I have no idea how to fix this!”

She looked around and decided this was a magic far beyond her skill to evaluate and resolve. She only knew one person who could possibly return Len to his normal state. The decision made, Mica reached down and picked him up.

“Stop squirming. I have to take you to Gaia. She’s the only one who can fix you,” Mica said, chastising the rabbit. “Good grief you’re heavy. You had better not puke a mitten on me, buster.”

Mica made her way carefully back down the stairs, Len now calmly lying across her shoulder. His fur kept tickling her nose and getting in her face, but she navigated the piles of mittens successfully and gave a sigh of relief when she got back to the front door. She felt Len start heaving again and quickly put him down, where he proceeded to spit out another mitten.

“Well if nothing else, if Gaia can’t fix you we can start a nice little business selling mittens. Do you happen to know if you can make matching ones?” Mica asked.

It was hard to tell, but Mica thought Len’s little rabbit face looked a bit mad.

“OK, OK. Just kidding. I’m sure Gaia will fix you up in a jiffy.” Mica picked Len up again and gave him a hug as she walked out the front door. “You’re such a silly dear, but at least you’re soft.”

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