More Tales from the Blue Gonk Café is a collection of 170 flash fiction stories–the result of a story telling day at the Blue Gonk Café where 34 authors committed to telling one story each during each of the Blue Gonk’s five menus–Breakfast, Mid Morning, Lunch, Afternoon, and Tea time. The stories range from science fiction through gentle humor to outright horror. It was an honor to participate.
This is an ideal collection of stories for those craving a good read but lacking a great deal of time to feed that hunger. To whet your appetite, here is a sample from the Tea Time menu, one of my five contributions to the collection.
By the Glow of Inner Light
Ernest tightened the final nut on the casing of his prototype and brushed a sweat bead from his eye with the back of his hand. “That should do it.”
Addison twisted her lip. “Explain to me again. Zombies are philosophically unconscious, so we’re going to… what?”
Ernest straightened, holding his lower back. “Not zombie zombies. A ‘philosophical zombie’ is a person without true consciousness—a biological, stimulus-response automata. It’s never been possible for one person to determine whether another is truly conscious, or a philosophical zombie.”
“So zombies look like people.”
“They are people; just not true persons.”
“Because they’re asleep?”
“Not un-conscious—I mean ‘consciousness’ in terms of self-awareness. People can talk, think, and speak, based on the brain and body alone, all without self-awareness.”
Addison contemplated the notion. “Exactly the same outside.”
“So what’s the difference?”
“True humans have something more. A self-aware mind. Call it spirit, or soul. We’re aware in ways a biological machine cannot be, transcending what we know of bodily physics and chemistry.”
She nodded slowly. “Except we can’t tell the difference.”
Ernest tapped his bulky device. “Until now.”
She shrugged. “Whatever you say, boss.”
He checked the couplings. “Activate the monitor array. We’ll want to see this.”
She complied with quick precision. Ernest appreciated his assistant. She was no metaphysical engineer. But she was smart, pretty where it counts, and capable.
The displays filled with bustling pedestrians navigating downtown streets. “And…” With dramatic flair, Ernest touched the console. His device vibrated. He and Addison scrutinized the screens. As the noise settled into a smooth hum, the Cartesian field grew and certain members of the population took on an opalescent aura.
“What’s that?” Addison asked.
“It’s the hidden essence of true, self-aware humanity.” Tears of pride welled. They were beautiful.
“Is that all of them?” he heard.
He inched closer to the monitors. “That’s a lot of zombies…”
He glanced at himself. He glowed in white-blue hues, as expected. He turned to Addison. She had no aura at all.
Ernest’s cheeks flushed. “Um… nothing personal… no offense,” he stammered, but then caught himself. He really needn’t apologize to an automata.
“None taken.” She stepped between him and the controls. A smirk appeared.
“What are you doing?”
Her eyes flicked to the screens. His followed. The self-aware individuals were now surrounded by large, menacing groups of philosophical zombies. Resistance wasn’t possible. “Quick, turn it off!” he commanded.
But Addison stood firm, her glare darkly satisfied. “This will remain on for now. We’ve long awaited an expedient way to eradicate this world’s infestation of souls.”
Ernest stood dumbfounded. Two men—neither true humans—entered, joining Addison’s defense of the device. More followed, seizing him.
“Let go!” he protested.
“We want to thank you,” she said.
“I don’t understand.”
She placed a cold hand on his shoulder. “Nothing personal. It’s just a long overdue philosophical zombie apocalypse.”
Copyright (c) 2016, J. C. Conway