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HOPper shut off the light as his mistress left the kitchen, scrubbing at her eyes while she made her way down the hallway to the bedrooms. Just as Vanessa reached the girls’ door, he dimmed the hall light from the standard eight hundred lumens to three hundred so it wouldn’t wake the children. Once again, six-year-old Sadie’s book of fairy tales had fallen to the floor. HOPper kindled the desk lamp and waited until Vanessa had put the well-loved book and four-year-old Rosy’s herd of toy horses away before letting it fade out again. He timed full dark to coincide with the soft thud of the door.
“All outer doors and windows are locked, Vanessa,” HOPper said as she drew eight-year-old Caleb’s door closed. He was mindful to reduce the hallway speaker to thirty decibels before speaking. “The children’s room temperatures are set to nineteen point five degrees Centigrade, humidity forty-five percent. You have an early meeting tomorrow at the office; would you like me to set the rise time for fifteen minutes earlier?”
“Thank you, HOPper. Update the rise time for one day only.” Vanessa pressed the back of her hand to her mouth, covering a yawn, and paused on the threshold of her own bedroom. The primary camera in the room showed the family feline getting to her feet from where she had lain at the center of the bed. As she stretched herself out, he calculated a ninety-three point seven probability that the creature would attempt to create a tripping hazard.
“Be advised that Cinderella is about to jump down from your bed. Would you like me to bring up the lights before I turn off the room cameras?”
Vanessa puffed a laugh, and nodded. Saying goodnight to him while flashing a tired smile at his hallway camera, she slipped through the door, leaving HOPper to begin his usual night routine cycles.
Eighteen minutes after midnight, HOPper was woken from sleep mode by one of the kitchen’s motion sensors. A review of the ceiling cameras revealed nothing, so he moved on to the floor cameras. He couldn’t identify either Cinderella or Duke as the source of the motion. A rapid check on all household cameras showed Duke stretched out on his bed in the living room, and Cinderella stalking shadows in the hallway. Further motion in the kitchen drew HOPper’s attention back and he cycled through the cameras again to still find nothing.
HOPper – Charlotte H. Lee
The Circe Test – Nora Mulligan
BetaU – T. B. McKenzie
The Abjection Engine: Fragments From the Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich – Y. X. Acs
Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cat. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, baking, watching anime, and hiking.
Jamie Lackey’s story “Shadows on Glass” will be published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 4 August 2017. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.
Q: Is there a specific environment you find most conducive to writing, and is it different for different kinds of scenes?
A: I wish I were the kind of person that could write well anywhere. I’ve tried writing in a coffee shop or other public place, but I’m far too easily distracted and I end up watching people most of the time instead of working. The same goes for having a television or radio on. When my kids were younger I could write while keeping an ear out for them, but now I can’t work with them around at all because I’d much rather just hang out and chat with them. These days I write best in a quiet room painted in cool colours with the temperature kept just a shade below where I’m most comfortable so I stay alert. I try to keep my desk neat, but usually it’s a little cluttered with items that have memories attached, evoking specific emotions that I can use to shape a character’s voice or the tone of a scene. It’s a little crazy what a little bottle of wood glue can bring to mind.
Charlotte H. Lee’s story “HOPper” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 21 July 2017. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.
Karl Dandenell is a first-generation Swedish American, survivor of Viable Paradise XVI, and active member of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He lives on an island near San Francisco with his family and 2 cat overlords. He is fond of strong tea and single-malt scotch.
When not sitting in project meetings, he reads a lot of speculative fiction, and ponders the 42 forms of tai chi.
Karl Dandenell’s story “Papa Pedro’s Children” will be published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 28 July 2017. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.