I called him Sigfried. He just flew down and landed on that fence post one day when I was plowing. He came every day after that. He just sat there and watched me. When I left, he left.
One day, I decided to go over and see how close I could get before he flew away. But he didn’t fly away.
I walked right up and touched him. That’s when I realized he wasn’t a real bird, but a very realistic robot. I could see the cameras for eyes; hear the tiny servos whirring as he twitched and moved. They had found me. After all this time they had found me again.
In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and/or the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.
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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Sigfried Watches”
by Sara Stark
— 250 words
I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide forever, not after what I’d done.
You see, I used to work for CA, Corporate America, managed one of those industrial farms, produced of all kinds of unhealthy, profit heavy crops and livestock. You know the ones. Or maybe you don’t. We had a way of hiding the problems with our merchandise.
I did so well they promoted me to the research division, corporate nirvana for my line of work, where I got to “contribute” instead of just pushing product. What I didn’t know was that contributing meant leaving my scruples at the door, well, what little scruples I had left after working on a CA farm.
Sigfried was my idea. I envisioned a robot owl used to keep birds away from precious crops like cherries. The hawk design worked better, more streamlined. No, I wasn’t being altruistic or a “green” bean. CA’s about the bottom line. I knew we could make a mint, could destroy the competition just by using the Sigfried model to drive birds to non-CA farms.
What I didn’t envision was how Sigfried would be used like a drone to drop hazardous chemicals into the water supply of competing farms, not just hurting their business, but putting them out of commission completely. Salting the earth, no less.
I ran with what little scruples I still had intact. But not before I leaked damaging information to the press. Then I hid, in plain sight. On a farm.
So, using their little hawk-robot, they had finally found me again. I smiled, picked up the bot, and smashed it into a gazillion whirring, complaining, then still pieces. This next time I would try the deserted island. I headed for the house and grabbed a surfboard. I hope they don’t send a parakeet next time. I love parakeets.
Eyes Of A Hawk
by Sylvia Heike
“They’ve found us,” I gasped, staring into the glassy eyes of the lifelike hawk, Sigfried, sitting on the rustic cabin table. Behind his gaze were cameras–I was being watched. I turned away. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep you safe.”
“Without you I’d still be in the sheik’s cage,” Sigfried said, the synthesised voice emanating from within. His beak never moved.
“Wherever we hide, they’ll find us. You can’t be hooded all the time.” The sheik’s men had been spotted in the nearby village. We had to move.
“You know what you have to do. It’s the only way. Aida, please.” Sigfried blinked. His large silvery eyes shimmered like moonstones. If he was real, they’d be yellow.
I pulled a knife out of my pocket. How could I mutilate this beautiful creature? All I’d wanted was to free him. I leaned over him, the blade quivering in my hand. My ashen face reflected in his eyes.
There had to be another way.
I dropped the knife and searched my bag. Yes! A marker. The all-seeing moonstone eyes disappeared under black layers.
“That’s not what I asked you to do.” Sigfried tilted his head from side to side as if trying to see. “But it worked. Thank you.”
I grabbed my things. The hawk followed me outside to the pickup truck. He circled in the sky and landed on a fence post. “I miss the sun. Especially when it sets.”
“You’ll see it again. I promise.”
For seven days the Sigfried watched. It didn’t quite recognize me in this rendering of flesh, which gave me time to prepare.
I squeezed a clump of dark soil. My hands read the twining passages of earthworms, the pinched fonts of ants, the compendium of vulcanism and pressure and erosion in each fleck of dirt. The churning core of a star echoed in the creases of my palm.
When ready, I approached their avian vehicle. Under those artificially molting feathers was an immaculate device. Like our universe: cold, sterile, mechanical perfection.
“Come home, Nammu,” the plural voice purred.
“I’m not done,” I told them. I shaped the dirt. Organic, malleable.
The beak clacked. The plurality struggled for expression through the singular machine. “Stellar slaughter. Unacceptable medium. Your work’s been censored.”
“Art is dynamic,” I countered. “Didn’t you see the supernovae?” A tremor ran through me as it had the first time I’d triggered one.
“An abomination,” they snapped in unison.
My mud fully infused, I snatched the hawk off the fence, shaping with swift hands as the hawk keened and flapped. I had to make them understand.
“What have you done?” they wailed.
It hobbled in the furrows. “We’re dying!”
“Isn’t it wonderful?”
Static in their immortality, my kind couldn’t grasp real art. Created life was a narrative, with a beginning and an end. They would have to wait until death to begin to comprehend my opus.
They flew away shrieking. I hoped someday they would appreciate my story.
One hard hit with a shovel was enough to reduce Sigfried to a pile of smoking junk. Truthfully, the android bird was junk before I hit it. The Project must really be struggling, I thought. With its primitive servos humming like an old refrigerator and barely functioning artificial intelligence, Sigfried was a crude machine at best. It was nowhere near the beautiful android prototype I had built, and later stole, from the Project.
Crude or not, they had found me once again. I felt more sorrow than fear. I had hoped I was finally free. I’d learned over the years of running to be ready. Everything I needed to leave behind one life and start another was already packed in the trunk of my car.
I hurried back to the small farm house that I had called home for the past year. While getting into the car I gave three quick honks of the horn, our prearranged signal. My beautiful little girl burst from the house, as usual, carrying her favorite doll.
“I’m sorry Eve. We gotta run again”, I said.
“That’s OK Daddy”, She replied.
She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and buckled herself in. I couldn’t help but smile with pride. Her servos never made any sound.
Siegfried Watches: The most accurate of all watches in the universe! So accurate that when rises the Sun, God checks his Siegfried Watch to make sure it rose on time. That’s what the Wasiçius advertisement told the world.
“Grandfather, what is a cigfreewach?”
“Something Wasiçius use to measure Sun’s passage across the sky.”
“Can they not see Sun chases away Stars and Moon; then leaves so they can return?”
“Apparently not. They call it time. It rules with a precision cadence. At sunrise Wasiçius look at cigfreewach saying, ‘Yup, right on time.’ They misunderstand. Sun rises above the mesa when it’s ready. Not when cigfreewach says.”
“Once a Cosmos River moved freely, unseen like Wind crossing galaxies linking each to another, all to its waters. Time didn’t exist. Wasiçius made dams and dikes. Time was born. Time holds contained River’s freedom. So powerful is time we can achieve but small dips into Cosmos’ multi-dimensional ebb and flow.”
“Are we lost, grandfather?
“When Pandora lifted her box’s lid she found that which she birthed couldn’t be undone. Time’s the illusion the Wasiçius released. We are not lost. We can learn to suspend time, manipulate it within its rigid parameters. Then can we find this powerful River. Then can we once again experience it.”
Grandfather is one of many who successfully suspend and manipulate time’s metronomic cadence. One who can touch the Cosmic River as it slips between those cadence beats. For Grandfather it’s his path, the Path of a Warrior.
Title: Never Enough
A chill ran down my spine despite the ninety degrees. The Pork Conglomerate had found me. The swine. Anger pushed past the fear and I stabbed the feathered robot with a pitchfork. The contraption made a sickening sound as it fell to the dirt. I needed to get to a safe phone and call my contact.
I am a whistle blower and a former employee of the Pork Conglomerate. As a scientist tasked with enhancing the shelf life of bacon I came across an interdepartmental memo regarding the increasing instance of ‘suicide by consumption.’ People were stuffing themselves full of bacon to the point that they were overdosing, the memo read. Bacon had become an obsession.
This mania was no accident. The Chops, as we called the board of directors, were secretly adding an aphrodisiac to the processed bacon. Fights broke out in the local Piggly Wiggly over the last pound of maple cured thick sliced.
I had to do something, and I finally called Stephen Colbert. Only a celebrity of this magnitude could help me. Or so I thought.
Colbert and I broke the story on his show. Little did we know that he and I would become the target of smear campaign and would eventually need to disappear.
I ran to the barn and found the cellphone. The number was preprogrammed, and I heard it ring.
“Oink, oink,” the voice said. “How about a nice BLT before you die?”
I felt the bullet pierce my body.
I didn’t need them spying on me. Spying? Maybe I was making more of it than I should. At least someone was concerned. But how paradoxical that their attempt at caring should be made of electronics and feathers. If the feathers were even real.
They were intricate, those feathers, like tiny fiber optic strands, gleaming in the sun. Almost like a real raptor – but without the grace.
For a moment I drifted – back years ago to the Grand Canyon. That day an infinite number of hawks had soared on the thermals. Around and around they went – soothing to watch – making me feel oddly comfortable with the decision to end my life.
I remembered looking down to the bottom of the canyon which was so far below it was a blur of reds and greens. One more step, and I would become a part of that. Forever. It was then I realized this was a drastic, permanent end to temporary problems. I dialed the suicide hotline.
I snapped back to the present. Looking at Sigfried, I wondered how long they were going to keep checking in on me. It was odd how, after the mass suicide of February 1, 2121, there was now a shortage of humans on Earth. It had taken that wretched day to get someone to finally pay attention to mental illness.
I smiled. “Come on Sigfried. Time for lunch.” He hopped onto my extended arm. At least I wasn’t going to have to eat alone.
The hawk of all things, they watched me with a cliché. That’s the government for ya, can’t even think of something new when they spy on you.
I couldn’t let them know I was on to them. I had to stick to the script, pretend I was oblivious. Sudden moves and a team would be here faster than a senator in a lurid hotel room with a hooker.
I strolled back to the plow and hooked it up again. Ol’ Bessy, my mare was getting restless anyway. We still had a couple more rows to finish before we went back up to the house.
I came out here to get away from all that other nonsense. I retired dammit. Didn’t matter, the field wouldn’t plow itself.
Halfway through the second row, Sigfried took to the air. I threw myself into the work so might not have noticed if the thing hadn’t taken a turn to buzz past me on its way to the sky. Seriously, it buzzed me, their way of telling me that they knew I guess.
A black sedan in the driveway, I could run, but what would be the point? Only thing left now was to go to the front door and invite them in.
But I expected this. The missile launcher I installed in the roof of the house made short work of their car. I never leave home without my IPod. Did you know there’s an app for that?
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