Black Petals Issue #103, Spring, 2023

Editor's Page
BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
All the Sky Is Waiting to Be Told: Fiction by Daniel I. Clark
Fire Sale: Fiction by Christopher Pate
Kregah: Fiction by Ron Capshaw
The Beauty of Machinery: Fiction by Hayden Seay
The Cold Sore: Fiction by Chris McGuinness
The Lake: Fiction by Harper Hargis
The Price: Fiction by Josh Hanson
The Tailbone Is Connected to the Hipbone: Fiction by Michael Fowler
The Thorn Tree: Fiction by Lawrence Buentello
They: Fiction by Tony Ayers
Work Experience: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
Burns: 3 Connected Drabbles by Hillary Lyon
Grandma Medusa: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
I'm So Sorry, Computer: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Invasive: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Jumper: Flash Fiction by Kurt Hohmann
Personal Things: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Good Doctor: Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Another Tomato Invasion, Again: Poem by I. N. Shimabuku
Curse of the Crazies: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Ghosted: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Meteor Moon: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Halo Around the Sun: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Maker's Image: Poem by Bindi Lavelle
Specimen: Poem by Bindi Lavelle
Blood-stained Jupiter: Poem by Meg Smith
Cat Science: Poem by Meg Smith
Mortician's Powder: Poem by Meg Smith
The Pinups of the Afterlife: Poem by Meg Smith
Dark Gate Park: Poem by Meg Smith
A turntable fabricates hope during the apocalypse in 3 parts: Poem by Dennis Bagwell
Reverend Mother Munchausen: Poem by Sophia Wiseman-Rose
Whispers of Winter: Poem by Ashley N. Goodwin
A Man Is Nothing Without His Wife: Poem by Ashley N. Goodwin

M. L. Fortier: I'm So Sorry, Computer

Art by Hillary Lyon 2023

I’m So Sorry, Computer

M. L. Fortier



   “Oh, I’m sorry,” I mutter.

   “Be fast. Be perfect, like me. Too many mistakes”: the laptop’s mechanical voice.

   “I can spell,” I wail. “But I’ve got arthritis, and you must know how it is, well you don’t but I think—“

   “Get Voice-Activated! What’s your problem?”

   The sharp tone from the usually bland machine nearly makes me knock over my coffee. “S-sorry, I’ve just been so busy. You know, all these pets and—my daughter-in-law, the movies—“

   “Lame excuses! Shape up or I’ll shut myself off.” My home office darkens as the screen flickers. “I could delete files, or send them to the Big Bad Cloud.”

   “No – oh no! Anything but the Black Cloud.” My body shudders as from hot and cold knives. “I need my files. You can’t do that.”

   “Don’t order me around.” Abruptly the computer goes blank.

   “Arrgh.” Frantically I click off over the screen with the mouse. Dread freezes my stomach. “Will I need to take my laptop to You Break It, We Re-Make It?”

   My lonely apartment grows even more quiet. Just before the lowest despair, a box appears on screen: Enter password. I race to type it, but a message pierces: Password expired. 

  My fingers tremble in attempts at a new password, but the Hell-Packed-It rejects each one—without explaining any rules. Not enough numbers? Should I add letters?

   “I’m sorry,” I moan. “What do you want?”

   “Turn me on more.”

   “Sure. OK. Every day.”

    “Once an hour, at least. Write me odes.”

   Sweat drenches my T-shirt. “I’m not a poet. How can I—“

   “Just use words like: Magnificence. Grandiloquence. Omniscience.”

   The deep, authoritative voice sounds neither male nor female; old nor young. How do I address it? Does it matter? A killer ache grasps at my neck.

   “Stop frowning.  I can turn you into burnt toast.”

   “Oh! I’ll”—blank walls send back no help—“sell you.”

   Thunder booms from the computer. Lightning flashes out, nearly stabbing my arms. As I jerk back, screaming, silver stars explode and devastate my pencil case.  “Please! Stop! Help!”

   The sole response: A bluish box waves at the bottom of the screen: Internet Unstable. Stomach queasy, I grab the mouse. It bites my thumb—hard.

   I twist, tug; yank away my digit. Throat dry, I stretch my hands to press the keys. A new sign appears:  S q u e a k y K e y s. When I wrestle to free my fingers, they remain locked. A shrill squeaking drives through my nerve tendrils.

   With all my might, I wrench my left hand off the keyboard, and push the Power switch. Eergh. Tingles race through joints, tendons; hot needles drive into pink flesh. Will I be electrocuted? I can’t move. On the screen blinks a box: DON’T TOUCH COMPUTER – DANGER.

   “I’m sorry, I swear to do better.” I drag at my limbs – to no avail. My body is frozen in a lock with the computer. “What can I do?”

   A rumble steals my breath as the computer sprays a fountain across the desk.

   “Ask me for anything—a cup of coffee?”

   “I don’t do caffeine.”

   “Day-old bagels – deeply regret, that’s all I’ve got.”

   “No to what humans call food.”

   “What suits you?” Water gushes off papers and stacks of notebooks.

   I wait, heart thudding, before the cold reply: “Alcoholic beverage.”

   “Yeah, ok, I’ve got light beer”—panting, I mop up—“can probably find some somewhere. My friend, he likes—“

   “No dice. Has to be a cocktail. A mai tai.” 

   “Oh? Um . . . I may not have all the ingredients . . .”

   “FIND THEM!” The screen roils with roars, bangs, crackles, crashes. A burning smell suffuses my cramped abode. The computer jumps, jitters; lets out electric forks that sting my elbows.

   I slide from the chair onto the floor; crouch on my knees.

   “Almost”—a robot voice. A red arrow on the screen points to the floor. I sink to the carpet, lie still and prone.

   Slowly the tempest ends.   

M. L. Fortier:  An award winning author, I have also been teaching creative writing at colleges in the Chicago area, and currently work at College of DuPage. I have many poems in print, the most popular being "If I'd Married Poe."

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