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Lord Parrington's Promotion

Peter S. Drang builds an army of 3D printed robots by day and writes strange fiction by night. He hopes to leverage these two activities to one day achieve his dream job: Philosopher-King of planet Earth. Besides this particularly odd story in DSF, his fiction has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Challenging Destiny, and other places. He's a proud member of the Codex writer's group. He lives in New Jersey with his lovely wife, along with enough dangerously wild critters running through the yard to populate the world's scariest petting zoo. You can find his thoughts on writing, and some free stories, on his blog. For all that good stuff, please visit .

Hellfire consumes my flesh... Lord Parrington laughs... I choke... the world becomes an indigo swirl of partial differentials....
"Snap out of it, lady."
"There you are. You're back."
"Where did...?"
"That doesn't matter. What matters is, you're here again."
But this place seemed wrong even to my half-focused eyes. The hexangular rocks. The wind's persistent buzz. The swirl of golden clouds and echoing chords of distant guitars. A sharp pebble tormented my back. A wild expanse of saguaro towered to my right.
"How long?" I asked.
"Long enough." He grinned unnaturally, revealing a toothless maw. He offered me a hand devoid of fingers.
I wriggled to a sitting position without the aid of his mutilated paw, feeling befuddled by the high tally of my limbs. "You're... Simmon. Is that right?"
"Aha! Polly wolly, back full and ready for work." He squatted next to me, brushed the sharp rock off my back. It had dug its way into my flesh and stung me into reality more effectively than Simmon's inane words. But it wasn't a rock, after all, trailing as it was a blue wire.
"Just call me Polly please, sans wolly." I then recalled my position in the hierarchy. "Or better yet, call me Boss."
He disconnected a rainbow snarl of coiling wires from the parajector, peeling numerous contacts off my scalp, which felt waxy smooth. Had someone shaved my head? Or had I ever even had hair?
"How was your experience, Boss?"
I recalled the acrid smell of burning flesh. "It was... awful. Quite hideous."
"Come now, not all of it. I was watching, you know. What about that steamy tryst with Sir McDougal? Don't judge the whole life-ride by that last little business."
"That last little business?" I glared at his blurry head. He seemed to have fragments of food stuck in his ropy green beard. "They fucking burned me at the stake. Jesus!"
"There's no Jesus here, nor any fucking," he reminded me.
I was disoriented, mixing up reality with elements of the para-lifetime I'd just lived, still sorting it all out. I blinked rapidly several times and my eyes finally cleared, bringing everything into better focus. The saguaro cactuses opened their huge, spikey eyes and blinked at me. Beguiling, yes, but I didn't want to be pollinated today.
"Which programming team is responsible?" I asked. "I'd like to ring all their necks."
"We don't have necks, Boss."
I raised a hand--or rather a tentacle--to my head, which smoothly transitioned to my torso, indeed without a neck. I'd spent fifty years of experiential time--just a few hours of real time--as a queen in the mythical paraworld Earth, game sector Europe, and had spectacularly failed to navigate court politics. Outmaneuvered by Lord Parrington, convicted of witchcraft, sentenced to a ghastly death. "I want a meeting with the whole team. Heads will roll."
"But without necks, heads cannot--"
"Enough!" Fifty years of speech patterns would take some time to break.
He slithered a soothing tentacle over mine. "Now Boss, I was in the design meetings. You wanted, and I quote, 'gritty realism with a dose of irony.'"
I ripped away from his touch, causing his suction cups to audibly pop. "The team sure got the gritty part right, but realism? A society that worships a pacifist god, who offers his 'other cheek' when slapped, while they simultaneously prosecute bloody wars and burn innocents in His name. How is that realistic?"
"I believe that bit tallies toward the 'dose of irony' part." He finished packing cables into their compartments.
I thought back on my final few days as queen. How had Parrington so skillfully defeated me? He'd lined up support without my even knowing it, bribed witnesses in secret, then sprung his trap with impeccable precision. "Was Parrington a player or a simhabitant?"
He smiled. "Gimbla played Parrington."
I coughed, and purple mucous poured from my mouth. At first appalled, then recalling this was a normal gesture of surprise, I sucked it back in. "Gimbla? The intern who empties our trash? I'll throttle him!"
"Lack of a neck makes throttling imposs--"
I launched a weak slap at Simmon's face, which he made a Christ-like point of not evading. He then proffered the equivalent of his other cheek, simpering grotesquely. I sighed.
"Be reasonable, Boss. The lad didn't know who you were. Didn't even know he was playing a game, for that matter."
I stood on the parajector test pad, unsteady, using four tentacles instead of the usual three. I tried to spread my wings--too weak to fly--folded them back up. No matter, I'd regain strength in an hour.
Gimbla lay on another pad twenty meters away, still immersed, probably king by now. He had played masterfully; I couldn't deny him that. "On second thought, let's promote Gimbla to the quality assurance department. He does seem a clever lad." A clever lad who might be going places, and perhaps one day would prove a powerful ally in the real world. A very practical reason for me to turn my other cheek.
Simmon gurgled up a liter of red mucous to confirm his delight.
He helped me limp back toward the hive complex. I knew what else had to be done. "Simmon, cancel the Earth paraworld project. Gather one final dataset overnight then shut the servers down at orb rise."
"Are you sure?" he asked, frowning. "The team has scenarios programmed out for another millennium in Earth time. Tomorrow morning will only get the simulation to about Earthyear 2020."
"I don't care. It's just... too senseless. Something like this shouldn't exist, even as a simulation. No world should ever be that monstrously violent."
He nodded. "On that point, I both-heartedly agree."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

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