The third Robot Pulp short story is in the final stages of editing and will be available very soon! Dancing in the Rain is one of Ed's more popular pieces, and it's easy to see why just from looking at it. There's a melancholy cuteness to the piece that is reminiscent to classic Japanese animators, Studio Ghibli (a feeling magnified by the Japanese text).
Since the very beginning of Robot Pulp, I've wanted to come up with a good story for this piece, but I struggled to generate something good and unique. Then an idea for a special story struck me earlier this year in April. When reading this story, you will undoubtedly notice that it contains a lot of elements influenced by the unprecedented events of the year 2020.
Dancing in the Rain was very difficult for me to write. Tonally, I think it is a bit different than Big Game Hunter and The Hideout, but nevertheless I think it's a very strong story. Here's a preview of the first 5 pages. I hope you enjoy it.
DANCING IN THE RAIN
By Aaron Walther
Based on an idea by Ed Bickford
Edited by Jason Green
Find more robot art and stories at www.robotpulp.com
The Sentry Robot awoke from the sleep that wasn’t really sleep. Three animals had entered into the range of its proximity sensors. The robot’s programming dictated that it locate and identify all potentially contaminated animals and subdue any offenders caught in the act of breaking their quarantine.
The robot’s joints creaked and groaned as it slowly rose from its dormant crouched position to a full standing height. The robot was humanoid in design and stood close to three stories tall, giving it a high vantage point to survey its wide territory.
The night sky was dark and cloudy. Moisture was in the atmosphere, adding an uncomfortable warmth to the thick Spring air which was recorded but not felt by the robot.
The sensor discs on the robot’s head glowed crimson as it scanned the perimeter. The area under the robot’s surveillance included several neighborhoods of single-story houses, all of which contained the preregistered amount of animals complying with their quarantine. The supplementary scan revealed the three animals that initially triggered the Sentry’s sensors were traveling through a nearby public park that had fallen into disrepair due to the quarantine.
With a target now identified, the robot lumbered through the streets and into the vast unkempt park. Within minutes, the Sentry had visual confirmation of the three animals. Two of the animals appeared to be bipeds, while the third was a much smaller quadruped. The smaller of the bipeds led the trio through the tall grass of the neglected landscape onto the pavement of a small parking lot. The bipeds both made loud unidentifiable sounds which ceased when they realized they were in the presence of a Sentry Robot. Once the bipeds stopped moving, the quadruped started making its own unidentifiable sounds.
Rain began to fall.
* * *
“I’m telling ya, man. Things are never going back to the way they were. Quarantine is going to be our lives from now on. Mark my words.”
Craig continued to casually fold his laundry while his friend, Andrew, babbled over the video monitor.
“I mean, seriously, it’s been like a year and a half already!” Andrew said, “I know they keep saying a vaccination is on the way, but I’m telling ya, we’re going to see a fourth wave of infections before we see a cure.
“I dunno,” Craig replied, “confirmed cases are about the same, but actual deaths are way down. I heard less than one percent of cases are fatal now.”
“Yeah, that’s what happened before the second wave, remember? I called it then and I’m calling it now! All those middle class yuppies keep going out and spreading the virus around all over again! The arrogance! They’re killing us for their bourgeois vacations! I’m telling ya, man. This is war, you just don’t realize it, yet.”
Craig finished organizing his clean laundry and began putting it away in a dresser drawer.
“Maybe,” Craig said, “all I know is things are pretty calm down here in Bermanton, but we’re not a big city or nothin’. Things may be different up your ways in the Great White North.”
“You bet they’re different. We’ve been lucky to avoid a lot of deaths, but that’s because we took proper preventative measures. We know how to keep things orderly up here. Of course, it was a cold, cold winter this year, so there wasn’t much reason to go out, anyways. As long as I got my open world video games, I’m mostly good. I tell ya what I really miss, though, is live music.”
“No kidding,” Craig replied, “Did you see that livestream Darby Drake did the other month?”
“Yeah. It was okay. I mean, the new material sounds good, it’s just not the same as hearing it live.”
“You don’t have to tell me, I had tickets to see him last year before everything shut down,” Craig lamented.
“You don’t even know what you’re missing, man,” Andrew said emphatically, “He’s so good live! You can feel every single note reverberate in your bones. The crowds are intense, too. Everyone is just… it’s hard to explain. I am convinced that I experienced an elevated state of consciousness the last time I saw him. We were all tuned into something. It was euphoric.”
“Thanks for not rubbing it in,” Craig said dryly as he finished putting his laundry away, “Anyway, I got to go to work now.”
“You’re going to work!? During a global pandemic!? What is wrong with you? This is exactly what I’m talking about, people taking unnecessary risks and putting the rest of us in danger.”
“Hey, I’m just thankful there’s still something to do. Working keeps me sane. Not to mention gets me out of the house and away from my parents.”
“Yeah, well, sanity isn’t going to be much of a comfort when you’re dead.”
“I’ll take that under consideration, Andy.”
“I’m not joking around, man. You should stay inside as much as you can. You’re putting us all at risk, especially yourself. I haven’t left my apartment in eight months, you know? I get all my groceries delivered by robot drone. Every now and then they try and send a human delivery kid, but I won’t accept nothing that ain’t from a robot. Course, that’s a whole ‘nother problem. Artificial Intelligence is just around the corner, you know?”
Craig put on his long coat and a baseball cap. The cap wasn’t an ideal covering, but he kept his hair short enough that it was adequate.
“That’s another thing everybody seems to have forgotten about,” Andrew continued, “while we’re all holed up in our homes the robots are taking over! I saw they already got all those old construction robots reprogrammed as Quarantine Sentries or whatever. What a horrible combination of big business and big government. Them things are Big Brother, Uncle Sam, Daddy Warbucks, and Mother Nature all rolled into one imposing being. As soon as those Sentry Bots gain sentience, it’s all over for us. I’m just saying.”
“Goodbye, Andrew,” Craig said politely before turning off the video call.
“Oh, right. Go to work then. Stay safe and—”
The room was finally silent.
Unfortunately, Craig would not be able to enjoy it for long. He carefully put on his oxygen mask. It was a relatively simple device similar to the kind old-fashioned jet pilots used to wear. The mask fastened around the back of his neck and completely covered his mouth and nose. A tube protruded out of the front and connected to a filtration unit attached to the belt on his coat. This type of set up was not necessary for the average person. A cloth bandanna was adequate for protecting your face and minimizing the potential of spreading the new virus, but since his job required him to wear a mask at all times, he went all out.
Just as Craig was about to step out the door, his video monitor beeped. The incoming call was from an unrecognized number, but Craig was in too much of a hurry to notice.
“Geez, Andy,” Craig complained as he answered the incoming video call impatiently, “I said I got to go to work!”
The monitor lit up, but Andrew was not on the other end. Instead, Craig was greeted with the image of a young woman with long black hair and bright blue eyes.
“Oh my god… Christine!” Craig exclaimed.
“Oh, I’m sorry, were you on your way out?” Christine asked innocently upon seeing Craig’s face mask.
Craig’s curses were muffled by his oxygen mask, which he hastily removed.
“No, no, I mean, yes. I’m on my way to work. I just…I mean, I have so many questions. I was worried.”
“Yeah, sorry. Things have been kind of crazy here…”
“Yeah, of course. Uh, are you okay? What happened? Did you get the virus?”
“No, I didn’t get the virus, I just… it’s a long story.”
“Well, that’s good that you didn’t get the virus.”
There was an awkward pause where both Craig and Christine seemed unsure of what to say.
“Look, I’m sorry, but I really got to go to work. Will you be around later? I’m just…I’m really glad to hear from you, but I got to go.”
“Yeah, sounds good. I don’t want you to be late for work. I’ll see you later,” she smiled.
“I’ll talk to you in a bit.”
Craig disconnected the call, quickly refastened his filtration mask, and rushed out the door.
END OF PREVIEW
Dancing in the Rain will be available on Amazon soon. Thanks for reading,