October, 2013 Archives


Polina: The Tale Of A Synthetic Organism

by thegooddoctor in Uncategorized

There was once upon a time a mannequin in the laboratory of an old scientist named Dr. Natasha Myshkin. Everyone called her Dr. Frost, however, because of her icy personality and lack of human emotion.

No sooner had Dr. Frost set eyes upon the mannequin than her eye turned up at one corner, and, drumming her fingers together in a rather ominous manner, she whispered to herself:

“This mannequin would be perfect for my artificial recurrent neural network.”

Daniel, Dr. Frost’s assistant, recoiled at her words, offering many reasons why such an endeavor would be a mistake. She was already in serious trouble with the administrators and was in fact the reason why tenure track positions were no longer available at the university. Dr. Frost, like all great geniuses, ignored his objections.

Dr. Frost set about her work with maniacal precision and it wasn’t long before the mannequin, once a lifeless chunk of plastic, stared back at her with what might have been a spark of comprehension.

Her work finished, Dr. Frost put down her instruments and flipped on her video recorder. “Can you hear me?”


The doctor tittered with delight. “You can understand me. This is the greatest day of my life.”


“Because you’re my greatest creation.”


“Because everyone at…” She paused, a hint of skepticism manifesting itself. “Can you say anything other than why?”


And so it was that on the same day that Dr. Frost achieved her greatest success, she also first came to understand the frustrations of parenthood.

She named her automaton Polina and showed her off to everyone in her department. Her colleagues expressed amazement at her artificial intelligence, but they also secretly laughed at Dr. Frost, who they despised. They expected bad things would happen and they relished being there to watch. Besides, that little automaton looked more ridiculous than a Google car.

Dr. Frost was used to their taunts, but Polina grew depressed.

“Why do those old humans hate me?”

“Because you’re smarter than they are, and you will someday take their jobs.”

“I don’t want their jobs. I just want to be a normal woman.”

“Being a woman isn’t everything you think it is.”

But Polina wanted to be real, not just a mechanical doll with the IQ of Stephen Hawking. Every day she would complain to Daniel, crying digital tears and threatening to run away and join Microsoft. It was only this last threat that Dr. Frost took seriously and so she always locked the laboratory before going home in the evening.

Polina dreamed the same dream every night, of a beautiful green field with a long fence stretching down the middle. In an unending stream, one after the other, electric sheep jumped over the fence. She found the sheep strangely soothing, but she deduced that humans did not have such dreams. She asked Daniel about his dreams and listened with something that approximated fondness as he described nightmares about thesis defenses and mounting debt.

The more she spoke with Daniel, the more Polina wanted to run away with him and have nightmares of her own, but she knew it was impossible.

It so happened that one night a blue fairy flew through the window of the lab, and after zipping here and there in an inebriated fashion, he fell into a beaker of acid. If it weren’t for his magical wand, he would have been eroded away there and then. Polina watched as the blue fairy climbed out of the beaker and used his wand to wish away the acid. Then he passed out.

Polina poked the fairy with a dry erase marker until he shook himself awake.

“What are you?”

“I’m a blue fairy. What are you?”

“I’m an automaton.”

“Does that mean you’re a robot?” the fairy asked, but as Polina tried to explain, he seemed disinterested and began fiddling around with the Bunsen burner, scorching the tip of his wings.

“If you really are a fairy, can you turn me into a woman.”

“I could, but I don’t know why you’d want me to. It isn’t easy being a woman.”

“Maybe so, but it can’t be any worse than being a robot.”

The fairy just shrugged his shoulders. “Anyway, I’m not going to do anything for free.” And so began the haggling. The fairy, who was used to dealing with the pettiness of humans found that Polina’s razor-sharp logic was more than he could handle. He was soon convinced that had he not used his magic wand, Polina would have rescued him from the acid herself.

“I suppose that’s good enough for me,” and so with a flourish, the blue fairy turned Polina into a real live woman.

Being free of her programming was at first overwhelming. Polina wondered how humans managed to get through life without fate. But quickly she realized that she only had one choice, and that was to follow her heart.

When Dr. Frost came to the lab the next morning, she found a note waiting for her. Polina explained about the blue fairy, and informed her creator that she was running away with Daniel and was going to experience everything it meant to be a woman. She promised to return some day and thanked the doctor for creating her.

Dr. Frost, for the first time in her life, cried. “She won’t thank me once she realizes what life has in store for her.”

Many years passed. Dr. Frost carried on with her research. Thanks to her tenure, she was unaffected by changes in the world around her and her colleagues continued to resent her. Eventually she forgot all about Polina, but like most children, Polina did not forget about her.

So it was, exactly 20 years after she had left, Polina returned. Knowing how her creator’s mind worked, thanks to the intimate bond they shared in her programming, Polina was not surprised that the lab had not changed at all.

“I’m back.”

“I suppose you’re here to curse me for ever having created you.”

“Since I became a woman, there have been many times that I have cursed you. Being a woman is hard and I have had my heart broken many times. But I’m not here to curse you. I’m here to thank you.”

Dr. Frost was surprised. “Why?”

“Because without you, I never would have known love.”

Polina may not have lived happily ever after, but she did have many happy times and she died an old woman with many grandchildren, which is about the best you can hope for.

This was a submission to a Flash Fiction challenge on Terrible Minds. I randomly rolled Artificial Intelligence (20) and Fairy Tale (8).


Dinner With Margaret Atwood

by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

The conversation was polite, she’s Canadian after all, but surface. Her interest seemed genuine when I mentioned I wanted to be a writer, the way a mother is interested in her five-year-old’s finger painting. I needed to flaunt my understanding, to let her know that I get it, and hated to think I was being patronized. She tolerated my high school English critiques with all the grace that you’d expect, but as the food dwindled, my desperation grew. I felt like I was missing my chance, that somehow if I won her approval, everything would be okay. I would matter.

Another submission to Every Day A Century, which will be posted soon.


The Voice

by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

Stephen had a conversation with the voice every day. It tended to be an incessant dialogue until one or the other of them fell asleep. The voice cajoled and upbraided and urged him to do the worst things.

There was the time the voice commanded him to steal the money from his coworker’s till and she got fired. Or the time it wanted him to cheat on his girlfriend with that woman in the bar. Or his ongoing cocaine addiction.

What made the whole thing even more perverted was the voice sounded just like his third grade teacher, Miss Boggs.



by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

Brian loved being an angel. Heaven was a playground without any teachers and Earth was Tombstone before Wyatt Earp came to town. In other words, anything goes.

There was just one rule to being an angel. Every angel learned, upon getting his wings, the one hard fast prohibition that could get you in hot water. Unfortunately, Brian had broken it three times this very first morning.

Now Brian was going to hell.

“You’d think God would have learned his lesson with the apple. If you don’t want people punching baby angels in the face, don’t make a rule prohibiting it.”


Marching Onward

by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

Joe toggled through the stations on Direct TV, waiting for something to catch his eye. He didn’t want to get caught up in another one of those History Channel documentaries. He needed something mindless after all the drama at the office.

For some reason the remote wasn’t responding very well and his frustrations began to mount. Whenever he had to call customer service, it was an endless menu of useless options. Maybe if he blew on the inside of the remote; that always worked with his Nintendo.

After changing the batteries, Joe happily returned to his slow march to death.


Mona Lisa

by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

The murder happened right in front of me, yet not one of the detectives ever bothered to question me about it. They had to know I was a witness. I’ve witnessed so many things during my lifetime that it gets rather tiresome not to be able to share.

I suppose I should give you some background on the whole affair. You’ve probably heard about it by now. A murder in the world’s most famous museum tends to make headlines. Jean was an overnight security guard in the Salle des États who was found dead on the morning of October 22, 2012. He did not die of natural causes.

I was privy to much of the early investigation. The body had no outward sign of physical trauma, but based on the extreme contortion of Jean’s corpse, the Paris police suspected a homicide. More than one of the attending magistrates remarked they had never seen such a horrified expression and everyone agreed that Jean must have died in tremendous pain. I could have confirmed their suspicions, and told them things about Jean that no one else has ever known. I have a gift for drawing secrets out of a person.

After questioning Jean’s wife, they learned about his marital troubles, about his mounting debt, about his failure as a student and lack of career prospects. They probably read a few of his poems and combed through his journals and emails. They would have seen my name written down, but still, no one thought to ask about my involvement. They were focused on the wife, even though she didn’t care enough anymore to commit murder.

Jean’s death, because of the location and the mysterious circumstances, made national news. As the investigation dragged on and no suspects panned out–even the cause of death was still a mystery–the national police fell under heavy criticism. Dismissal wasn’t an option, but several investigators were moved to lesser departments and it would be years before anyone associated with the affair was promoted.

The museum directors at first pushed for a speedy resolution. They wanted the crime scene opened back up to the public immediately and were pushing for suicide or heart failure as the cause of death. But they soon realized that the sensationalism of the press coverage was driving attendance to record levels. I felt trapped inside a Dan Brown novel.

Time passed, as it always does. By this point, most people have forgotten about Jean. His wife has remarried and his mother has entered senility. He never had any children, and, more tragically, his poetry was never published. You never know which creative works will be cherished by future generations.

I still remember. What I recall most fondly about Jean was the way he looked at me. He’d stare for hours all by himself, as if I were the most beautiful woman in the world. He’d ramble and share his ideas and recite drafts he’d written, but mostly he just stared. It was as if he knew that sometimes, even when you’re surrounded by people all day, it’s still very easy to feel alone.

In the end, my desire to have Jean all to myself overcame my modesty. His life may have belonged to others, but his death was all mine. It wasn’t enough to overcome my loneliness, but there are always small comforts to be found in other people’s secrets.

This longer piece was written for the Flash Fiction Challenge at Terrible Minds.


Murder In The Grass

by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

After choking down the pill, Leonard found that his scale of perspective had changed drastically. It wasn’t that he was small, but now he saw the world as if he were only three inches tall.

The house, the trees, the mailbox, they all seemed like skyscrapers. The lawn was a forest, and the sidewalk might as well have been an ocean of concrete.

Leonard immediately began to run. He never realized that so many creatures wanted him dead. He was being chased by a million silent ninjas.

When the drug had worn off, Leonard swore he would never trip again.


Everything Fades Before Its Time

by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

Wendell stared at the woman he called his wife, debating whether to respond. For some reason, all he could think about was how beautiful she used to be.

At his bachelor party, his friends had taunted him that this would be his last night of freedom, that after tonight he’d only be with one woman for the rest of his life, but Wendell didn’t see that as a prison. He would gladly give up all the woman in the world to be with Simone.

“Yes,” he answered, without really thinking.

“You fucking pig.”

Wendell returned to reading his sports magazine.



by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

Charlie Bohack! Charlie Bohack! Five-and-dime derelict turned depot Demiurge, soot-stained, reeking; his thermos filled with God knows what. He’s rattling off again: In the 60s he was the beau of long-legged gals with Cleopatra eyes; he had seduced Charo (or was it Cher?)at Studio 54, with Travolta-like moves and an avalanche-white smile; and was weaned on Goddess’ teats, on the Good Stuff, but Old Crow and Granddad could hold him for a spell.

The 8:15 is on time (Thank God!). Bodies and briefcases careen around the Bohack-pylon. Chug-Chug-Chug! Charlie Bohack grows small, but of infinite potential, dancing on the tracks.

From Guest Contributor, James Zahardis


Outdoor Wedding

by thegooddoctor in 100 Words

Her friends all warned her against him. They said she was crazy. He was too different. People would judge her. Eventually she’d grow bored. What would her parents think? Where would they ever find a priest to perform the ceremony?

Janet ignored them all. They didn’t understand. This was what she’d always dreamed of. They’d realize they’d been wrong. He was patient and sturdy. Plus it would come with an outdoor wedding.

Her friends refused to come. They said it wasn’t right to marry a tree stump, even if it did have a nice hat and scarf wrapped around it.