I am so happy to welcome guest writers Ralph Walker and Grinia Bradwell to reecedaniel.com for this week's Fresh Stories. That's right - stories! We've got (2) pieces here for you, hot off the press.
The first piece is by Ralph and it's a flash/science-fiction piece. I really enjoy this one because, true to the author's forte, this story deals with the intersection of technology and the human condition. That's all I'm going to say about it; I'll let the story do the rest of the talking.
Next we have a piece by blogger/mother/scientist Grinia Bradwell. Grinia and I have been friends for awhile and, while she typically writes non-fiction pieces for her blog, I asked her to put something special together for my site and she did. The result is this beautiful poem about her late grandfather.
That's all for now. Once again, I would like to thank my guest writers and I would also like to thank you, the readers, for stopping by website. Of all the places in the whole world-wide-web you could be and you're here. I'm, well, I'm blushing...
By: Ralph Walker
Becca pushed a breath through gritted teeth.
We have to go faster. “Accelerate”
Swift’s voice was even. “We are currently on the fastest route.”
“I didn’t say talk back. I said accelerate!” I watched the number projected on the windshield rise.
“Accelerating to maximum allowable speed.”
She loosened her grip on my wrist. I felt the tingle of blood return to my fingers.
There wasn’t anyone on the road at this hour. “Go Faster!”
Swift spoke. “We are currently traveling at twenty nine point nine miles per hour. You will arrive at your destination in nineteen minutes.”
Her whole body was sweating. Back to the windshield, she stretched out as far as she could. Her eyes locked shut trying to keep her body in check.
“How are you doing?”
“It’s coming.” She squeezed the words between short breaths. “We have to get there.”
I tried again. “Accelerate.”
“We are currently traveling at maximum allowable speed.”
Maybe there was another way. “Reroute.”
“Routing options.” Four potential routes were illustrated in light on the windshield. This was definitely the most direct way. I stabbed the windshield with my finger.
“Route confirmed. Proceeding to destination.”
Becca let out a long grown.
“Do you require assistance?” Swift asked, still even toned.
“Yes!” Becca’s eyes opened. “I need to get to my goddamn doctor! Robert why did you buy this cheap car anyway. I am not having our baby inside Siri’s stupid brother.”
“Assistance requested. Medical, Civil or Criminal?”
Maybe this would help. “Medical.”
The car slowed. “Rerouting to safe rendezvous to await assistance.”
“NO!” We both yelled together. The car jumped as if startled.
“Rerouting to closest hospital.” The car made a turn.
“NO!” We both yelled again.
“Maintain route to the Birthing Center, to Dr. Amanda Nevin! Accelerate! Go Faster! Stay on the route!” I tried every version of the command that I could think of.
Swift returned to the original route, same speed.
Becca pulled her knees up. Her hands balled into fists. Her face tightened. All of her strength was locked in the birth canal.
“Time to destination?”
There had to be another way to get there faster. Emergency services would take us to the wrong hospital. Highway patrol protocols wouldn’t let autonomous vehicles speed. Maybe I could reason with it?
“Override requested. Provide authorization.”
“My wife is having a baby.”
“Congratulations. Provide override authorization.”
“My wife is having a baby now! Technical support.”
“Congratulations. Technical support wiki uploaded.” The windshield filled with pull down menus; mechanics, steering, map options, entertainment, audio controls, night vision, satellite service providers, parental controls, manual supports. I stabbed the manual supports button and scrolled to the bottom of the screen. Three screens deep I found the number.
“Direct call 011-82- 98-663572.”
The ringtone repeated four times before a voice engaged.
“Thank you for calling Fi-Tech. Your call is very important to us. How can I be of
“Please provide the following information so we can ensure you are receiving the best
possible attention. May I have the make, model and year of the vehicle you are calling about?”
“Voltrack Swift. 2025.” The car was so damn old.
“Are you calling from the vehicle now?”
“Have you upgraded your system?”
“Not in a long time.” Wrong answer.
“I’d like to upgrade your system at this time. Our latest upgrades include new modules for direct lift parking, immersion entertainments and privacy improvements as well as new patches to suspension and braking systems.”
Becca peeled open her eyes a sliver between contractions. “What are you doing?”
“Just concentrate on you. I’m getting us there.” I squeezed her hand. I am not sure she even felt it.
“No. Do not upgrade. I just need to go faster. My wife is having a baby, right now! And we need to get to the hospital as fast as possible.”
There was a pause at the other end. “Your vehicle is currently moving at the fastest allowable speed.”
“I know. I need it to go FASTER!”
“I’m sorry, but I…”
I had an epiphany. “Supervisor. Get me a supervisor. NOW!”
The line went quiet for a heartbeat.
“Thank you for calling Fi-Tech, where we aim to please…”
“I need a supervisor, now!”
“Please hold for the next available supervisor.”
A human voice came on, at least the inflection sounded like a human voice. “Who am I speaking to?”
“Robert Simellete. My wife is having a baby right next to me in our vehicle. I need to get to the hospital, but this damn car won’t go over twenty nine miles an hour.”
“Sir. Is she really having a baby?”
“You can see her through the ignition camera can’t you?”
He paused. “How far away are you?”
“Ok. Have you ever driven before?”
“Only for the test.”
“Follow these instructions exactly.”
“Disengage mapping system. Engage drive by sight.”
“Now here is the hard part. You’ll have to disengage the satellite link.”
“That’s not so hard.”
“But you’ll have to steer.”
“Ok. I can direct.”
“No, you’ll have to steer, by hand. The car will be driving blind. You can control the speed, but it won’t know where to go.”
I felt a hand lock on my calf. “No Robert. No. Call the doctor and have her override.”
I blushed at my own stupidity and poked the windshield ending the call.
Dr. Amanda’s head nurse picked up on the second ring.
“Becca’s having the baby now!”
Rebecca’s wrist monitor lit up as the nurse downloaded vitals. “Where are you?”
“On the road, in my Swift. Fifteen minutes away.”
“Ok. Hang on. I’ll drive.”
Swift spoke. “Remote override engaged. Automated control disengaged. Passengers please remain in your seats.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Through My Eyes
By: Grinia Bradwell
Through my eyes you were a hero
Going through the dark, fighting dragons
Through my eyes you were the light
Shining hope, defeating fear
Through my eyes you were love
Warming hearts, calming spirits
Through your eyes I was in danger
Helpless, abandoned child
Through your eyes I was an angel
Innocent, fighting to survive
Through your eyes I was the future
Open book, blank page
Through your love I found safety
Through your care I found peace
Though your eyes I found myself
Through my life I found hope
As your eyes close, my heart breaks
The darkness, the dragons, the fear
As you go, I lose my soul
The safety, the peace, the hope
Through the memories I find strength
The love that never dimmed
The smile that never fainted
The trust that never left
Through my eyes you are now a memory
In my life you are the inspirer
In my future you are the hope
In my heart you are love
- The End
About the Authors:
Ralph Walker is a writer, architect and father. His nonfiction writing has appeared in a number of environmental websites, and he recently received an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. This is his first published piece of flash fiction.
Ralph spends his time building worlds; Legos and blocks with his kids, buildings in the landscape, whole planets on the page. His work explores the challenging relationship between nature and technology, and what it means to be human in tomorrow’s world. Ralph lives in New Jersey with his wife and two kids. You can find out more about Ralph by following him on twitter or exploring his website.
Grinia Bradwell is a chemical engineer and materials scientist currently staying at home with her two daughters. Grinia is originally from Brazil but doesn't like soccer or carnival. She loves hiking and enjoys a nice glass of red wine. She started a blog as a hobby and found writing to be both therapeutic and addictive. Her blog is about sharing life stories and the everyday challenges and joys of motherhood. She is not a professional writer, but would love to invest more time in learning and practicing these skills.