A True Friend Makes You Better
By Void Munashii
Friends are a valuable thing. A real friend will stand beside you even when you are doing something stupid (they may not support your choice, but they won’t abandon you). A real friend wants you to be the best you that you can be.
Aoife Allen is both a true friend, and your best friend.
You and Aoife have been friends since childhood. You’ve always been close; you have even always lived within a few blocks of each other except for the eighteen months when she moved away from work.
When she moved back, she brought work with her in the form of a new branch of Soar On Security Technologies. She even got you a job there, which is a much better use of your intelligence than the retail job you had before. If she hadn’t pulled you out of there, you probably would have stayed there for life.
So when you showed her the article about building and mounting your own WiFi antenna on your house she both told you it was a bad idea, and agreed to come and make fun of you while you did it.
Because that is what a true friend does.
So here you are on the roof of your house attaching a monstrosity of poles, baling wire, and duct tape to your chimney with metal banding while Aoife watches you from the shade of your neighbor’s Japanese Maple.
“What do you think?” You ask as finish tightening the last band.
“I think you have just increased the property values in this neighborhood by at least ten percent; it’s not hideous at all,” she shouts up.
“It’s going to fall down the first time there’s a stiff breeze!”
You wave at her dismissively, and set about attaching the cable to your creation. If this works right, your WiFi signal will be accessible from up to five blocks away.
You decide you should probably change your password to something a little more complex than “P@55w0rd”.
You get up and your foot snags on the unsecured cable, yanking it violently. You stagger, pinwheeling your arms until you are able to regain your balance.
You let out a nervous laugh, “Oh my God, Aoife, did you see that, I almost-” you stop talking as you turn to see that your antenna is gone, as is the banding that was holding it in place. You approach the chimney and look down. Aoife is laying in the grass with the antenna sticking out of her chest.
You curse and hurry down the ladder. You kneel down next to where Aoife is laying. She isn’t breathing at all, and is staring blankly into the sky.
Well, her left eye is staring blankly into the sky. Her right eye is gone along with much of her right cheek. The tip of the antenna appears to have torn through her face on its way to impaling her.
You are so horrified at what you are seeing that it takes you a moment to realize there is no blood. The inside of the wound is a dark grey with glittery bits in it.
Aoife gasps suddenly, her eye focusing. She sees you looking down on her, “Shit,” she exclaims and pushes you away from her hard enough to knock you on your back. She rolls away from you, and rips the antenna from her chest, tossing it aside, “don’t look!”
You clamber to your hands and knees, in time to see her turn to look at you. The gash on her face looks to be getting smaller, like it is healing right before your eyes. She turns away again, and gets to her feet.
“What’s-?” you manage, standing up as well.
She turns to face you. Her face is perfect again, and the ragged tear in her shirt reveals only her pale pink flesh; there is no hole where the antenna harpooned her, “Well that was lucky,” she says, laughing.
“What the fuck is going on?” you ask, “You were dead!”
She looks at you like you are being ridiculous, “What? No I wasn’t. I think I may have just have passed out or something.
“There was piece of metal in your chest and you weren’t breathing!”
“No,” she cries, “It just tore my shirt. I guess I was lucky, right?.”
You gawp at her. She smiles back awkwardly.
After a dozen seconds of silence, she speaks again, shaking her head slowly as she does, “You’re not buying this, are you?”
“What are you?”
She sighs, “Shit, I didn’t want to do it like this.”
Aoife raises her hand to you, palm out. You recoil from the movement, tripping over an exposed tree root and falling flat on your ass, which is lucky since it means the blue bolt of energy that comes out of her hand passes safely over your head and into the side of your house where it leaves a slight black smudge in the siding.
You don’t wait around to see what your best friend does next. You get to your feet and run.
“Oh come on, don’t make me chase you,” you hear Aoife whine as you run around the front of your house.
Remembering that your car keys are on the table next to the door, you pass your car and continue down the street.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Aoife yells,running after you, but not with any particular sense of urgency, “I promise.”
You don’t beleive her.
You see one of your co-workers, Ash Holguin, mowing his lawn up ahead.
“Ash,” You shout as you run up to him, “You’ve got to help me!”
“What’s up, bud?” he asks, looking puzzled.
“It’s Aoife, she’s a….” you struggle and pant, trying to catch your breath and the right words.
“A soulless ginger? Yeah, I know.”
“No, a… a robot or something.”
Ash looks at you like you just grew a second nose.
“No, really. She, like, shoots lasers out of her hands!”
Aoife catches up to you then.She stops at the edge of Ash’s lawn, not trying to get to close to you, perhaps fearing you’ll start running again. Ash looks to her questioningly.
“Aoife is a lot of things, bud, but she’s not a robot. No robot is that hot… well, except maybe that one in ‘Terminator 3’....”
“Stop him, Ash,” Aoife shouts.
Ash shrugs, “Sorry.”
You don’t wait to see if Ash also has palm lasers; you run.
“You’re gonna tire out before I do,” Aoife calls, resuming her pursuit.
You don’t have anywhere specific to run to in mind as you leave your neighborhood and start down High Street, you need to come up with a plan. In the back of your mind you are a little proud of how long you have been able to keep up this pace; you are in better shape than you thought.
Electric cars be damned; you don’t hear the car that comes out of the alley next to The Dark Roast Tower coffee shop. The first you know of it is when you are flying up onto its hood.
The impact knocks the wind out of you and sparks jump before your eyes as your head bounces off of concrete
You feel pain in your right side, something is broken. The driver’s side door of the car opens and you can see the door has the red eye logo of Soar On Security Technologies on it along with the words “We Keep An Unblinking Eye On Your Data”.
“Dammit, Daniel,” you hear Aoife’s voice say as she walks up, “I said ‘stop’ not ‘kill’”
“No one dead here,” the driver replies.
You never really liked Daniel. Why does he even have a company car on a Saturday?
You pass out.
You come to in a white room, but it doesn’t look like a hospital room; too many computers. You don’t feel any pain anymore, but you also can’t move.
Aoife looks down over you, “You’re going to be okay,” she says reassuringly, “This would have happened soon anyway; you’re one of the last people here not to be upgraded, I would have preferred to not scare you so much though.”
You try to speak, but you can’t move your mouth either.
“Don’t be afraid, it doesn’t hurt. I was scared when it was my turn too, but I didn’t need to be. You’re going to be a better you; the best you.”
Aoife walks out of your field of view, “We’re going to make the world a better place together. You, me, all of us at Soar On will make this the best world. Just close your eyes and relax now.
You fight it, but as your eyes close, you wonder if this better you will be you at all.
This is another Clever Fiction story prompt, although this time it is only on Facebook, as the site appears to be gone (which I guess means that I will need to go dig out all of those old stories and repost them here so that they can still be read). The prompt was: “You discover you closest, dearest friend is a highly sophisticated robot.”
I had a few ideas for this:
The first idea was a story in which the protagonist tries to help hide their newly exposed robo-friend from the world. This seems like it would need more than 1500 words.
The second was about their friend being obviously a robot, but no one noticing because it wore a hat. This is an idea that would work better in a visual medium, and I cannot draw for xcrete (also, it is a writing challenge).
Finally there was what became this story… and even then I had to cut about 500 words off of the first draft.
The title this story had when I started it was “Deceitful Circuitry”, and was changed to “The Artisan Antenna” upon completion of the first draft before getting the title it has now.