The Mausoleum - The Ink Well Fiction Prompt #11


"Please describe to me, and take your time thinking about it, Mrs. Johnson. Please describe to me in only three words exactly the sort of world you'd like us to generate for you today." The young salesman's suit was crisp, dark synthetic fabric, and he wore a pair of completely unnecessary tinted eyeglasses in what Patricia Johnson though must have been an attempt to appear retro and stylish.

"Only three words?" She felt put upon, and she usually went to great lengths to avoid feeling put upon.

"Careful now, Mrs. Johnson," the young man chuckled nervously, "or you'll have a world themed on the words "only, three, words". His smile was practised and seemed slightly insincere to her.

"Call me, Pat, please. The surname belonged to my late husband, and I prefer Pat."

"Certainly." He hesitated. "Pat."

Pat looked at the plush red faux-leather arms of the swivelling chair she was sitting in. Touched it. "Do you make these chairs?" She asked.

"Yes, Pat. We do. The world you're on right now was the very first constructed by Genesis Incorporated by our founder, may he rest in peace, who is now interred on the top of a mountain on an island on the far side of the planet from where we stand now."

As he spoke, something about the young man made Pat uneasy. There was something unnatural about his speech, the way he shifted tone slightly mid sentence, the way his body gestures were sometimes a little jerky.

"Are you human?" Pat burst out.

"The salesman laughed, "It's funny; you're not the first person to think I'm a bit robotic. I suppose it just means I'm doing my job efficiently. Do you have any other questions, or can I get back to the world-building checklist?"

Pat felt a little embarrassed and ashamed that she had accused the poor man of being a robot. She gripped the arm of the chair, determined to see this process through, to complete what her husband had laid out in his will, his wishes for the fortune he had earned in life. "All right," she said, "please continue."

"Three words, please, Pat."

After a long reflection and with an uncharacteristically hesitant voice, Pat spoke: "Monumental. Serene. Enduring."

"Those words will be perfect, Pat. Now I'll ask a list of questions. They may seem unusual, but they are designed to give us an overall sense of your expectations. Try to answer in as few words as possible. One-word responses are acceptable. Here is the first question. What are the sights and sounds of this place?"

"Landscapes. Animals. A gentle breeze."

"Good. Is it populated with human beings? Aliens? What do they look like?"

"No, just the trees, and the birds and the beasts. And mild weather. A lovely place to lie forever."

"Are there stone statues that walk the street after dark?"

"Certainly not."

"Creatures with just one eye that never blinks?"

"Again no."

"Are there rivers the colour of jade?"

"Yes. I'd like those. Certainly. Gently flowing ones. And glades."

"And could you please tell me the planet on which you currently reside."

"On Henderson."

Pat was starting to get slightly bothered by the questions. She looked at the door, wondered how long it would take them to call her ship. She wasn't sure any more.

"And if you could let me know your purpose for the planet."

"A tomb. How many more questions are there?"

"I'm sorry to have bothered. Sorry to have bothered you, Pat. That will be enough."

"Could I speak with your manager, please. I'm not completely convinced you know what you're doing, young man."

"I am the manager." The salesman stepped through his desk. "And I'm afraid if you'd like our bots to craft a planet for you, I'm the only one who can help."

"You aren't human! I knew it." Pat felt vindicated.

"I never said I was, Pat. Now please pay here."

A terminal rose out of the floor, with the logos of several major interplanetary pecuniary organisations on its sides."

"Let's be done with it then." Pat waved her wrist chip over the scanner. "I'll send you his preserved body tomorrow along with his instructions. May he lie like he wanted, like your founder who he respected so much. But why bother talking the politics of exploitation with a machine." She sighed and didn't waste another word on the hologram except to say, "Please prepare my ship."

(Image by AlmightyMelon - original work)

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