Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Merely HumanIt's heading towards us. The large, unidentifiable object we don't recognise until it's too late. A shadow of darkness: it's most likely our last memories on Earth, before we're captured. I have no idea what the object is, but with the new government in charge, it's undoubtedly something designed to kill.
"It's real," says Archer, his breathing ragged. His face pales, looking ready to faint. "It actually exists."
"What exists?" I ask, although I'm certain the answer wouldn't be appreciated. It's kind of impressive he knows what it is. But by the soulless gaze clouding his eyes, it's obvious he'd rather not know. It's better to remain ignorant than fear the future.
Without his vision leaving the object, he says, "It's a robot magnet. There's a piece of metal, a unique kind of code that's in every robot. We had built inside us. This robot magnet... my mother warned me about it. I just didn't think it was real."
"So what? It's going to just grab you?"
"I knew you wouldn't understand. You're only human, after all."
"Only human?" That's when I snap. "What's wrong with being human? In fact, I'd take controlling my own actions. It doesn't matter if you guys are exceptionally 'talented' or whatever. You have no personality: you're all the same, easily manipulated things."
Archer's fists clench, but he doesn't say a word. His hands rise. I gasp, because it's not intentional. The magnet has hold of his body, slowly hauling him up like another rag-doll.
It's petrifying, seeing him so helpless. Archer, who boasted about how robots would win every battle between humans, and whom turned every breakfast, lunch and dinner into a competition. When I'm with him, the entire world seems out-of-reach. Arrogant, snobby and plain rude: he's my shield.
His other hand slowly drifts up. My lungs collapse. I forget how to breathe, as I'm staring at him. Just staring, dumbfounded. What's happening? What's going to happen to him? My arms tense up. There's a dizzying sort of energy.
"It was nice meeting you, Toria," he says. No emotion, no wave. A flat, logical tone. "According to legends, it's going to haul me up faster than you can blink. Right after my left arm has reached the sky."
"So I'm going to stand here and watch you get captured?" I try to sound uncaring, but my breaking voice betrays me. "There's nothing I can do?"
"No. The robot-magnet destroys everything in its path. Don't even try."
Only when I see him finally from a distance, do I realise why the first two arms are put up in slow-motion. I now understand why it's entertaining to see a robot tugged like a puppet, the arms raised up in surrender. The person has full control of his soul.
From another human's perspective, they'd never assume Archer is anything but human. No difference in appearance whatsoever. But there's a piece of metal inside him that betrays all actions. It reminds him he's not human; he's capable of being captured, tortured, killed.
Without thinking, I grab his leg. It's two metres off the ground. But I tighten my grasp and with a ferocious tug, I bring him down to the ground. Only when both his feet are on the ground do I recognise how easy that was.
Unfortunately, the fact he's resisting the magnetic pull comes to attention. Whoever's controlling the robot-magnet has a newfound determination, and magnifies their grasp on Archer. My heart skips beats. But I manage to match the tightness of their grip.
That's when it really begins. A series of tugging, pulling and a battle of strength. I won't let Archer be captured; he's all I have left. He might be a complete loser at times, and killing him is a frequently considerable option: but goodbye is only appropriate when I say so. He doesn't have the right. Neither do the people trying to take him away from him.
Adrenaline kicks in. I'm suddenly stronger than I've ever been. With one final jerk, the force-field is gone. The invisible ray dragging Archer upwards vanishes, and so does the magnet. But not without an explosion in the sky.
Instinctively, I pin Archer's shoulders to the ground, covering his head. The miniature bombs are planted. I know the message they're sending: you may have escaped the magnet, but you won't get out of his field alive. Not on our watch.
I grab his hand, ignoring the sweat and make a run for it. He drags behind me, dumbfounded and absent-minded. He still hasn't escaped the shock of almost being captured.
The bombs explode behind me. My eyes shut. One more second, and all that'd be left of us were lifeless corpses.
Archer seems to have woken up from his dazed state. He stares at me, in both amazement and fear. "Who are you?"
"I'm a nobody," I say, picking up a stick and poking the dinner on the campfire stove. "You just under-estimate my adrenaline rushes."
I poke our stove-pot, avoiding his gaze. "I'm won't gloat about saving your life, if that's what you're wondering. Not everybody's you."
"You hate me."
It's not a question. "Sometimes, yeah."
"Then why'd you save me? Wasn't this your big-break? You could've finally escaped."
"It isn't that easy."
"Archer, the entire time you were getting hauled up, all I could think was I needed to protect you. I don't care if you say you need it or if you feel guilty your mum died trying to save you as well. Even if you're just too proud. I'm gonna do it anyway."
"Wow." He pauses, and his next words are grudging, as if not wanting to believe them. "You have a remarkable personality, then."
"No," I say with a sad smile. "I'm just human."
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