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art by Void lon iXaarii

Fall Forever

Brian Yamauchi is a science fiction writer and a roboticist. He attended the Clarion Writers' Workshop in 1995. Since 1999, he has been inventing new robotics technology at iRobot, the company that makes the floor-vacuuming Roomba and the bomb-disarming PackBot. He specializes in robot autonomy and turning science fiction into reality.
"What are you thinking?" she asks.
I wrap my arms around her shoulders as the waves roll onto the beach. The California sun falls toward the horizon, and the autumn breeze cools our wet bodies.
"I wish this day would last forever." I brush her hair from her eyes, and I kiss her. The world goes black, and I hear the voices again. A woman and a man.
"What's happening?" asks the woman.
"Just a reset," says the man.
"Something's upsetting him."
"It'll just take a second to reload."
I'm driving west on the 405. The Porsche is in manual, but I can't remember where I'm going. I turn on the autopilot. Why can't I remember?
"It's searching for a loop point," says the man.
"Can he hear us?"
"No. Absolutely not."
I'm walking down the Santa Monica Pier. I have somewhere important to be. My company has a major demo for the VCs. We need to show that the new fibers are strong enough for the skyhook. The deadline is... next week? Next month?
"There we go. Found it," says the man. "The process will be smoother next time."
I walk into the coffee shop, my mind filled with specs the prototype can't meet and milestones that keep slipping to the right. I say, "Venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream and an extra shot of espresso."
"You've got quite the sweet tooth. Me too."
The barista is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. She has short blond hair, blue eyes, and a mischievous grin. She wears a Confused Kitten video pin on her green Starbucks apron. The video shows a white kitten chasing a hologram mouse into the wall, bumping its head, lifting its paws, and looking mystified. The video loops over and over again.
I forget what I was thinking about. "Yeah, the mochas are good." Suave, very suave.
"The white mochas are the best."
"Especially with the whipped cream."
"Gotta have the whipped cream. That'll be $16.49."
I wave my fingers through the scanner. She hands me my mocha. Her badge says her name is Krista.
"Is that your grandmother?" asks the man. "She's hot."
"No."
I sit in the Porsche for five minutes, sipping my mocha and trying to convince myself to get back to work. Then I head back into the coffee shop. I find her by the condiments stand. "Hey, Krista."
She looks up and smiles. "You're back."
"When do you get off work?"
"Wow. That's direct."
"I'm really bad at subtlety."
"I don't usually date the customers."
I feel like an idiot. "I'm sorry to bother you." I walk quickly toward the exit.
She grabs my arm. "But I'll make an exception for a fellow mocha lover. I get off at five."
I look into her eyes, and I think anything is possible.
"Who is she?" asks the man.
"Just some girl. They dated for like two weeks."
"Then why this memory?"
"He told me once that it was the happiest day of his life."
"Faster!" she says, laughing.
"You're going to get me arrested." I hit the accelerator, and the speedo swings past 150. The wind roars around us.
I weave through traffic, between cargo convoys and commuters driving home on autopilot. I slip past a lounger van with windows on all sides. A teenage boy stares and grins, his hands pressed against the glass. His father flips open a window and yells, "Slow down!"
Krista gives him the finger. She lifts her shirt and flashes her breasts. The boy laughs and gives us two thumbs up. His father shakes his fist, then blackens all the windows.
She puts her hand on my leg. I push the pedal to the floor and race toward the sun.
"So, not his wife," says the man.
"He met grandma a year later. They stayed married for twenty years, but it didn't end well. Grandma said grandpa cared more about his job than his family. Grandpa said grandma was a humorless bitch."
"Ouch."
"He wasn't a great husband, but he was a good father, and he was a great grandpa. When my own parents were fighting all the time, he used to take me to the beach and tell me stories about mysterious lands just over the horizon and exotic worlds on the other side of the sky. He gave me hope, when everything seemed hopeless."
We walk on the beach, and she tries to pull me into the water. "I thought you said you liked the beach!" she said.
"I like walking on the beach. I'm not into swimming. I don't want to get my clothes wet."
"Then take them off."
"There are people watching." I point to a family on a hill in the distance. She waves at the family, then runs into the surf and takes off her clothes.
How would this look on the evening gossip feeds? Anyone with glasses could be reccing me for a bounty. The Valley loves its microscandals almost as much as Hollywood.
Fuck it. I throw off my Ecco shoes, take off my Ralph Lauren suit, and pile the rest of my clothes onto the sand like a sundae, with my Rolex the cherry on top.
"When was he diagnosed with Alzheimer's?"
"Ten years ago. It's been hard. Then he had the stroke that left him like this."
"Locked-in."
"I couldn't abandon him, but I couldn't deal with his condition. I had no idea what to do. And then I found your company. You're a lifesaver."
"Just doing what we can to help."
I run across the sand, naked and unashamed, as Krista gestures for me to join her. I see her hair shining in the sun, her blue eyes welcoming me. I feel her perfectly curved breasts touching my chest.
I fall onto her. We make love on the sand, the waves crashing over our bodies. I thrust and she moans, again and again and again.
"That's it. Locked and loaded."
Afterwards, she looks into my eyes and asks, "What are you thinking?"
I wrap my arms around her shoulders, and we turn to watch the sunset. "I wish this day would last forever."
"Sweet dreams, grandpa. I love you."
I walk into the coffee shop, my head filled with budgets, schedules, and deadlines. And then I see her.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 19th, 2014

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