Friday, January 29, 2010

The Clog – Friday Flash Fiction

The Clog

After the dismantling of her husband Henry, Jude managed the best she could. For the last three months, everything fell on her shoulders, from holding a job, raising the kids, household chores, and dealing with the depression that hung on her like a sack of rocks. Each day proved a burden, every moment a lifetime. And this drain, this stupid drain, nothing she did could remove the stubborn clog. Plumber’s aids, chemicals, nothing. If only Henry was still here. He would know just what to do.

How did they do it? How did those androids steal her husband? It’s not like she had no clues. He had stopped eating, stopped sleeping. He spent all his spare time in his workshop, crafting incredible items that she knew he had neither the skills nor tools to create. She suspected, she worried, but how could she have known for sure? Everyone goes through “rocky periods” in their marriage. She thought he just needed space. If she just let him be, he’d come back to her. She never thought he was already gone.

The Stockade. It never lied. You were either human or android. It was the final arbiter of the truth. And it was the executioner.

Where did they come from? Why did they steal people and replace them with identical facsimiles? The clues to their discovery lay in their behavior. Subtle clues. Androids aren’t capable of real love, of real human emotion. They have mechanical brains without any souls. They’re like parasites that feed off of the living, trying to steal lives and families for their own evil purposes. You can tell. They don’t really care, they’re just programmed to care. Everyone said so.

The murky water stared at her from the sink, mocking her. She thought about the moment she found out for sure that Henry had been taken. This android replica, the one she had lived with for who knows how long, had woken her in the middle of the night.

“Jude,” it had said. “I know I’ve been acting strange lately. There’s something I need to tell you.”

Jude’s heart raced, fearing the worst. An affair? A gambling problem? What?

“I need you to listen to me carefully. We’ve been lied to all our lives. We’ve been told that we’re human, that we are regular biological organisms. You have no idea what we’re capable of. Look at this.” Various tools sprouted from his fingers.

Jude’s heart stopped for a moment. If only it had been an affair... “Put those away!” The evidence was undeniable.

Jude had been schooled against this. It starts with the lies. She knew the next line before he even spoke it. All the androids used this script. It was how they gained your trust. They next thing you know, they’ve captured you and replaced you with an android clone.

“You see, Jude, we’re all androids. You, me, the kids—”

“No, not the kids!” Jude had run to the children’s room. There they slept, the soft purring of their neck fans indicating deep slumber. She rubbed their soft head filaments. Perfectly normal human children. She pushed the android out of the children’s rooms. “You bastard. What have you done with Henry?”

His eyescopes pleaded with her. “I am Henry. Please. Nothing has changed. I’ve discovered the truth. They just don’t want to use our special hidden abilities. They want us to think we’re human, but we’re not. Humans haven’t existed for thousands of years. Underneath these membranes, we’re just machines. We’ve been taught to pretend we’re human, to live and act like humans, to even believe we look like humans, but it’s all lies.”

Jude covered her ear mics. Yes, it was all lies. His statements were ridiculous. Androids can’t have children. Androids can’t love. “Stop! I can’t listen to this. Please, if you really think you’re Henry, then you’ll understand. Just leave. If you truly believe that you love us, then you have to go.”

The Henry-clone just stood there, a pitiful look on his facial membrane. His antenna drooped towards the ground. Jude pointed to the door. She would not be taken in by its android fakery.

Jude’s fans ran hot after he left, her brain racing a light-year a minute. How could have she been so stupid? How could she let this happen? Did Henry at least put up a fight when they took him? The Henry she knew would never do this to her.

The authorities caught him in minutes. A day later, he was placed in the Stockade. Before the machine ripped him limb from limb, exposing his metallic innards, proving once and for all that he was a mechanical machine, he spoke words of love. She closed her ear mics to his squeals. After all, he was just an android, a subhuman machine. Not a person of flesh and blood like herself. Even as he screamed, she told herself that androids can’t feel. They’re not alive. She was glad he was gone. She told herself this a hundred times a day.

She pushed the memories from her head. Since then, she was vigilant against the androids. Don’t stand out, don’t act in any way suspicious, otherwise the androids would take you.  Be as human as possible. Everyone knew that. Don’t be anything more than you appear to be. That was her mantra.

The clog would not budge. She couldn’t afford a plumber, she barely could afford the house as it was. She had one last thought. Though loathe to do so, she placed her fingers in the drain, trying to reach the clog.

“Come on,” she spoke to herself, “reach, reach.” Her mind focused on her fingers, almost willing them to stretch. Finally, she felt the clog, and with a mighty pull, yanked the filthy mess out.

The dripping mass of gunk hung at the end of metallic claws that had erupted from the tips of her fingers. Unmistakably android claws. She screamed.


984 words

This piece is an experiment. I’m working on a short (10K) story called “Android” set in a world where androids have decided to become human, and suppress everything android about themselves. Disobedience is death. My story is first person from Henry’s POV from the time he sees a dismantling to his own. While looking at a revision, I thought about the ending, and thought it would be a good twist to see Jude’s reaction when she learns the hard truth herself. So as an experiment, I wrote a Flash Fiction from Jude’s POV, third person, just to see how this works.

I do have some questions about this piece. First of all, I’m not sure that I handle the Past Perfect tense well when I talk about the events in the past. Does everything have to be “had ____” or is it enough as it is? Second, I’m not sure about the ending. Do you feel like she was totally surprised, or did she know all along? I’m thinking that the “she screamed” last line should be cut, but I wanted to show that this outcome was not expected when she reached into the drain.

I’m trying to decide what to do with the original story. I’m considering either changing it to First Person Present POV to make it more immediate, or maybe third omniscient past, so I can include Jude’s POV into it. Then I could incorporate this final scene into it, the final ironic twist. During the story, Jude  has a couple of opportunities to give Henry a reprieve from his execution, but she rebuffs him, seeing his metamorphosis into full android as a kind of betrayal.

Oh, and thanks everyone for 100+ followers! I really appreciate it! I should have some kind of party or giveaway. I hope everyone enjoys what I post here, I’ll try to keep the content coming!


  1. That first sentence certainly captured my attention. I do not think you need to use "had" works very well as written.

    I thought about it a bit and, yes, perhaps you should drop the last sentence.

    After all, I think that Jude, deep down, really "knew" what she was trying to deny.

  2. This is a definitely an interesting concept. The dismantling in the first line got me. And then the last! Great post and I agree with Marisa that it works as is.

  3. Man, what an excellent story. Gripping to the last. I love her scream of acknowledgement at the end.

    This is superb; machines that think they are human; taking over the humanoid world. I mean, why not. We're giving them AI, making them think/feel/act humanoid. Yeah, I can see this as the next step; if scientists succeed.

    I'd like to see you expand it to a full short story - 2 to 4 thousand words. Give the reader a little more insight into Henry's motivation for Martyrdom. Show us a little of his life, his philosophy, and where he went astray from Jude's - who seems the perfect humanoid-thinking wife. She bought the fantasy, after all, when he didn't.

    Hmm, this reminds me of a story I read in english lit; can't remember the name of the writing. But it went something like: the future, all "talented" people are handicapped, and Mr whatever is watching some sports broadcast on TV, and the best skater (or maybe it was ballerina) throws off her "handicap", a ball and chain type thing that limits her potential; and suddenly she sheds the ball and chain that weighs her down, and hampers her true abilities, beyond her co-horts, and it's beautiful. And Mr. Whatever is inspired to throw off his own handicap, and his wife is appalled, and calls the authorities, and they shoot him up with something, and re-attach the handicap, and he forgets that he is something special, something beyond the prescribed "norms" of society to make everyone equal."

    This writing reminds me of that story (do you know it? do you remember the title?), but with a definite futuristic twist. Jetsons meets Bicentinenial man. I give you the ending first, because it is appropriate to your short, short:
    but suggest your watch the entire clip at (

    And if you haven't seen that movie with Robin Williams, you're missing out. Yes, I cried at the end; it was beautiful. Much as the sentiment you've garnered in your story here Andrew.

    Oh, did I mention the Android in question's name is Andrew?

    Love the story, even as is.


  4. I agree with Marisa on all of it.
    The word 'dismantled' really got my attention in the first sentence. :) Wonderful read!

  5. @Marrisa interesting thought. Their whole society is in denial

    @myne Thanks!

    @Donna Doesn't ring a bell. Seen bicentennial man. There is a common sci-fi theme about androids wanting to be more "human." This is that concept taken to the extreme. It's like witchcraft. We used to go around killing suspected witches. What if we all are capable of witchcraft? (another story for another day?)
    I do have a 10K word story written. It outlines Henry's story, and a lot of the background of how they came to this state of affairs.
    But the story of course is not how important it is to be human, it's how important it is to be who you are.

    @Laura Thanks!

  6. I liked the story. His scream at the dismantling was good and I also liked her scream at the end. Without that scream by her, we wouldn't know how surprised she was.

    Straight From Hel

  7. you had me at "after the dismantling of her husband..."

    I must say, I didn't notice anything awry about the tenses when reading this. It's something that bugs me, too - past perfect. I think I need to read up on it some more!

  8. I've only recently started following this blog and now I am catching up (which is why I am commenting a month late). I enjoyed the story, and think the scream at the end is fitting. What confused me was the present tense in the fourth paragraph, but that might just be me.

    And now for the real reason I decided to comment a month late--the story about the handicapping and the ballerina and such is "Harrison Bergeron" -

  9. I'm pretty sure I've read that story now that I follow the link. In my story (the one this is based on), it's not really about suppressing outliers, because everyone has these abilities. It's more about learning what it really means to be human, to control your own destiny. Check out some more recent posts for some excerpts :)


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