Winner of 2016 Flash Fiction Contest

© Indra Adrian Jonklass 2016

The wax dripping on the raw flesh of my forearm as I sterilized the blade of my hunting knife made me wince. It would be nothing compared to the pain to come.
As I lay on the table in the middle of our ramshackle hut, I looked over at my unconscious daughter on the cot next to me. A shadow passed over her face. The bulb hanging from the thatched roof dimmed before flickering back to life.
I need to hurry. The battery will last a half hour at best.
“I will not lose her,” I resolved. We have already lost so much during this damned war.
For the first time since The Rising, I am truly despondent that we cannot win.
The robots have learned deception.
It was a mine shaped as a starfruit that had done this to my darling, Bettina. The shrapnel had destroyed her arm and shredded her right kidney. We had gone foraging for our food in the morning. It was just lying there under a tree. Bettina had picked it up before I could shout a warning: starfruit were out of season.
As a prominent agrobiologist, I had been hidden away on the tiny Micronesian island of Yap. If we won the war against the AI, the blighted earth would need to be nurtured for a generation. Developing hardy plants that could grow in the contaminated soils would be the only way we would survive.
The tip of the blackened blade glowed red. It was ready.
I put the rag in my mouth. I mustn’t scream. I couldn’t be sure if it had been an air bombardment or whether a robot party had been sent looking for me. I was an expert on angiosperms, and the mine was shaped like a fruit. Machines did not do coincidence.
I looked at Bettina again. She was so curious, just like her mother. She had lost a lot of blood but with a new kidney, she might survive. I had to take the chance.
Our children are the future.
I steeled myself.
There was still a chance. If the robots had learned deception from us maybe their machine minds had absorbed the worst of our human nature: pride and envy. If so, they would inevitably turn on themselves, and we had to be ready.
I bit down on the rag and plunged the knife into my side.






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