Shishir - 2023 Stories - Russ Bickerstaff



By Russ Bickerstaff


There's a kind of a conversation going on with a sandwich. And I'm not sure what it saying to me. It is, of course, speaking in flavors. And textures and things like that. But it's also speaking to me digestive late. And I figure I'm probably going to figure out what it has to say to me later on.

Whatever it is it's saying is not entirely unwelcome. After all, I am in a position to be very perceptive to what it is that it is saying. And I feel as though I probably should be. I mean, under the circumstances. It's been a while. Since the last food.

I don't know why this got sent to me. But it did. And I'm grateful for it. However, you can't really thank a drone. I mean you could. But it wouldn't actually register with the gratitude at all. And by the time we got finished thanking it, it would be more or less out of view anyway.

So there really wouldn't be any sense in doing that. However, I do feel the need to say something to the drone. Because I really wanted to do this more often. I wanted to give me food. Because I can't seem to find any on my own.

When are used to be able to go to a place like this and go to the food court to get food. And I suppose I could probably go there. I could probably go there and get some kind of box full of whatever role materials that used to make food out of. But I'm pretty sure but that by this stage, they would all be more or less expired. And I don't really want to eat expired food.

More than that, I just don't want to know what that stuff looks like when it hasn't been prepared. And it's been sitting around a box for it however long it had been sitting around. Place is, of course, totally desolate. I'm hearing my own footsteps echo in certain sections of the place. And I know that I probably should have found a better location for this whole thing. But it was where I went to. It was where instinct told me to go. And so I came here.

It did take a little bit of work. It did take more than a little bit of ingenuity to drive into this place. And then find a way to break into the facility. But now that it's something that's open to me I feel perhaps a bit more at home.

Spent a lot of time growing up in places like this. Not this particular shopping mall. But I've been in these places a lot. The gleaming marble floors. The glass that's everywhere. Granted, it looked better. I remember when this particular mall looked better. But maybe it was just another place like it. I don't know. I've been on the move for a lot. That's the way it feels. But I don't know. I can't seem to remember why it was that I started moving around in the first place. It was something. Something that might've affected all of us.

I can still hear the distant motors of the drones. I don't know why it was that this particular one sent me anything at all. It used to be kind of a novelty. They had so much trouble delivering things by drone in the wild. Actually outside or whatever. But it was always so much easier in a controlled environment like this.
You had to be somewhere by kiosk and allow the thing to zone in on your signal or whatever. But you could order things sent to you that would follow you around. Or something like that. I don't remember real well. It was right towards the end. But they're always had to be an order of some sort. There had to be a communication between the person purchasing something in the person receiving it.

And I know I didn't order a sandwich. So I'm wondering if it's possible that there is some kind of a promotional thing. For slow periods. Where we just automatically sent something to someone. Just by wave illustrator people how it works. I'll let them know it's possible. And maybe that's what the communication was. But I like to think that it was something more. Some kind of sympathy.

My realization that that kind of an artificial intelligence. It's not capable of empathy or anything like that. Or sympathy or whatever. Some kind of an algorithm hip as it's on me walking around and I decided to go ahead and send me a sandwich. And actually it wasn't bad. I kind of wonder where it came from. If I can find where it came from but I'm but I have a nice store of food. But I don't know. I'm sure I'll work it out in time.

There's some kind of movement off in the distance. I don't know. I guess I can feel it. And I guess I can actually go into the south entrance. The south gate. It's a big window there. And I don't know why it should shock me or anything like that. But I'm actually seeing traffic on the highway. Elevated and such. And I just know that it's there. And I begin to wonder why it was that I'd come here in the first place.

I kind of thought everything was over. And in a sense it sort of is. At least for me. If I find that particular stash of sandwiches I might be able to survive here for a little while longer. But I'm going to need to go out enjoy the rest of them. All of them were driving around. I guess I might've panicked. That panic would have caused me to come where I am now. I don't know what the panic was over. But I'm sure it was probably something quite Realty me at the time.



Russ Bickerstaff from US is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters. His short fictions have appeared in Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Beyond Imagination, among other places.


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