Waiting inside, she knew, were everything she wanted. A roaring, open fire in the nearly castle-sized fireplace. A table set with hand-carved silver plates, exotic gem-set silverware, and crystal from one of the oldest treasure troves in France. Beautiful tapestries, napkins and tablecloth, all woven and sewn by hand by the wife of a long-dead British king. A chandelier worth more than the home she grew up in. Hand-carved furniture, made from trees whose species had not been seen on Earth in over four centuries.
And of course, Burt. Wonderful, deliciously handsome, sweet, darling Burt. The epitome of her dreams. Waiting for her and her alone, with love unbounded, love unmatched, she was sure, by any other mortal being in the universe. Burt, whose tender eyes told her in countless ways of his love. Burt, tall, lean, perfectly built, able and willing to protect her from anything. Burt, hers forever.
As she entered the hall, easily making the translation from the soft, gray half-light of the earliest part of a perfect january eve to the harsh, but welcome glow of the myriad candles and lights, all dwarfed by the fire at the other end, her eyes fell immediately on Burt. She spoke his name, but before he could respond, a hand fell upon her arm.
Daryl. Always around, unwanted, unneeded. A successful computer architect and published science fiction writer, to many women he was an Adonis. To Trish, he was merely a nuisance. Why wouldn't he just go away?
Despite her hatred for his very existence, she took the proffered mug of steaming hot cocoa and sipped it, handing it back only when her mouth began to feel thawed.
"Where have you been?", he demanded.
"What do you care?" she shot back venomously.
"The food's gotten cold, the guests have left..."
Startled, she dropped her hat. "What guests? Oh, NO! I forgot what night it was!" The M'Surens had been invited over as part of the Alien Integration Program.
"Yeah, they went AIP, all right."
"Dar! This is no time for bad jokes. What... what can we do?"
Daryl's eyes lit up, and Trish had a sinking feeling that something had already happened that she REALLY wan't going to like. She knocked Daryl aside and sprinted and slid (having never taken off her wet, cold mocs) over to Burt, and flung herself against him.
"Burt, oh, Burt. I'm so sorry I forgot! What can we do? Have they done anything already? Burt? Burt! BUUURRRTTTT!!!"
Burt had yet to move a muscle. Burt, in fact, was a bit cold to the touch. His eyes were glazed over, and she realized he was stiff. A real stiff, in fact.
Whirling furiously back to Daryl, now standing only inches away, she screamed her agony, her fury, her sudden emptiness at him. "What have those damned aliens done to my Burt???"
Daryl's twisted smile grew into a huge grin. "They corpsed him, of course. But then, it's what you've had coming a long time, dear. Darling Trish, my sweet," the words flew off his lips like mutant flies, ready for a nasty kill, "you've always treated that stupid cocker spaniel like he was some kind of Greek god - well, just like all the others, he's a statue now. And as of right now, you are not only dogless, you are alone!"
He handed the stunned girl a sheaf of legal papers, picked up from behind an overstuffed chair some suitcases she hadn't noticed, and smiled at her happier than she had seen him in years.
"But...but... you can't leave me here," she stuttered, gazing frantically around at the walls, mentally trying to estimate the upkeep, nevermind the taxes. "Not with all this?"
"Oh, no, no, no, dear", Daryl purred. "You are leaving. The limo's outside, you can go anywhere you want, but if I ever see you again, Mr. M'Suren has assured me the process works as well on humans as it does on dogs! Oh, and Burt stays. Over the fireplace, I think."
The room did a slow fade to gray, and begin to revolve slowly, moving faster as time went on. Most of his words went unheeded; only his accented "dear"s and "darling"s made it through. Throughout the years to come this last scene with Daryl would dominate her life, affecting every move she made, every word she spoke, every little interaction she had with the rest of the universe.
She slid into unconsciousness, and fell with an ugly splat to the floor. When she awoke, she was laying on the back seat of the limo. The chauffeur was waiting patiently for her to give a destination.
She never suspected the AI virus that Daryl had dropped into her cocoa, but which had just as much affect on her as that moment in the hall, slowly spreading throughout her, until one day she was just a massive, wandering, blithering mass of AI strep, no sweeteners added.
Last updated: 2 Apr 1994
Copyright 1989, 1994 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.
This article may be freely distributed via computer network or other electronic media, or printed out from such media, for personal use only. Any non-personal (ie, commercial) use of this article voids the warranty which prevents my wasting hundreds, if not thousands, of yours and my dollars in lawsuits. Commercial copy permission may be granted if, in the author's sole opinion, other usage of this article is for purposes the author holds near and dear to his heart and/or wallet. For such permission, contact the author via email at roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] or via mail at the address below. Appearing in person at the author's residence during daylight hours for a personal audience is also permitted, provided no weapons are brought along. This notice contains no MSG, sugar, artificial sweeteners, sunlight, air, or other known carcinogenic substances or energy forms.1705 Oak Forest / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514 / USA
This copyright may be freely used, distributed and modified subject to the conditions noted above in the preceeding paragraph. Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514