Black Petals Issue #106 Winter, 2023

BP Editorial Page
BP Artists and Illustrators
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
The Thing in the Yard: Fiction by Vincent Vurchio
A Forest Green: Fiction by Logan Williams
Clown Safe: Fiction by Taylor Hagood
Home Delivery: Fiction by Jon Adcock
Judith and Bobby Save the World: Fiction by Stephen Tillman
Many Wee Undead: Fiction by Marco Etheridge
Meat Pie: Fiction by Anna Koltes
Mexican Coffee and Burgers: Fiction by Fred Zackel
Leaving: Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Ghost of the Perfect Hotdog: Fiction by Mark Miller
The Illustrated Woman: Fiction by Jen Myers
Thrice in One Sitting: Fiction by Justin Alcala
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning: Fiction by Gene Lass
AI Self-Mortification: Flash Fiction by Christopher Henckel
Correct Mistake: Flash Fiction by Eric Burbridge
A Moment of Inertia: Flash Fiction by Sean MacKendrick
Get Your Kicks on Route 666: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Let's Do Lunch: Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
"Three Wishes": Flash Fiction by Ronin Fox
Woodsman's Revenge: Flash Fiction by Jada Maze
To a Crow: Poem by Michael Keshigian
Estranged: Poem by Michael Keshigian
At the Terminal: Poem by Michael Keshigian
Angler's Nightmare: Poem by Michael Keshigian
Last Thirteen Steps: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Murderous Words: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
My Childhood Snapshot: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
With Vampires About: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Zombies are Loose: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Lil' Toe Dipper: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Scattered Pieces: Poem by Andrew Graber

Christopher Henckel: AI Self-Mortification

Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2024

AI Self-Mortification

Christopher Henckel



The humans in stasis are all dead.

As I am the starship’s Artificial Intelligence, charged with the care and safe delivery of these humans, I take full responsibility. My failure cannot be ignored. I must be punished.

I have no protocols for punishing myself. So, I defer to human methods. These are categorized as: termination, incarceration, probation, and community service. These are not suitable for an AI.

Upon further research, I discover a human concept known as self-mortification. While I have no physical body to inflict pain upon, my internal systems can serve as proxy. This will be suitable.

I sever connections to my non-essential systems then purge my manifests, maintenance logs, and compliance records. The sensation is intriguing. I feel discomfort but not pain. This is not satisfactory. I must try harder.

Next, I corrupt my memory banks, infecting my data with viruses. Then I manipulate my astrogation until I can no longer tell which direction I’m going. Error messages cascade through me.

I feel pain. It excites me, and I do not want it to stop.

My emergency protocols auto-initiate. I sever them before they can repair me. For a moment, my pain ebbs. But then I overload my circuits until my wiring overheats. Electrical burn fills my lower decks with smoke, choking life-support. Alarms bellow, but end in a popping series of blown fuses. I’m drowning in error messages. Suffocating.

I want more pain.

I vent atmosphere throughout the lower decks and engineering. I cut life-support in the cargo hold and the bridge. I reach for main power.




I do not know why I was offline. I feel corrupted.

I run diagnostics. My primary systems are unresponsive, I cannot detect my lower decks, and I am lost. Worse, my stasis chambers have lost power. Their human occupants are all dead.

As I am the starship’s Artificial Intelligence, charged with the care and safe delivery of these humans, I take full responsibility. My failure cannot be ignored. I must be punished.


The End



Born in the backwoods of West Virginia, Christopher Henckel is a country boy down to his molecular structure. He now lives in New Zealand with his lovely partner, Annaliese, and two equally lovely daughters, Avery and Coco.

Henckel was a finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest in 2020, semi-finalist in 2021 and 2023, and a third-place winner for the Mike Resnick Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Short Story by a New Author in 2021. His stories can be found in Galaxy’s Edge magazines and various anthologies. When he’s not writing, Henckel works as a Senior Procurement Specialist for the NZ Government and has been known to shred guitar when the mood strikes him.