Davis, Jerry – Strong Metallic Arm

Strong Metallic Arm Š 1990 by Jerry J. Davis Previously Published in Boundaries of Sanity Magazine Two red lights blinked on in the bedroom. There was a tiny but audible “beep” and a countdown began deep in the basement of the stone mansion. In the bedroom a white­haired white­skinned woman stirred in her sleep.

She was having a nightmare.

The countdown in the basement arrived at zero. The two red lights winked green. A signal was sent to the interface in woman’s head and an electro­chemical switch was shut off. The nightmare disappeared and the woman’s body went limp.

Another signal was sent, another microscopic switch thrown.

The implanted interface began a systematic stimulation of her brain. Information poured out, sharp and clear images, memories, attitudes, transmitted from the interface to the basement. A copy of everything that made this woman “Erin Lind” was stripped away and put into a box for safe­keeping.

The process finished, and Erin resumed normal sleep.

The nightmare, which had been a reoccurring one for the last few weeks, began again.

Hours later her bedroom curtains pulled themselves aside to let in sharp morning sunlight, and light Poonjaz music began drifting out of the walls. TIM, Erin’s executive AI, sent a signal through her interface and she woke up. Erin opened her eyes and looked around the white room. The dream was still lingering in her mind, vivid, and she shuddered and sat up in the web. It lowered her so that her feet touched the ground, and after a moment she stepped out of it.

When she was out in the hall, heading toward the bathroom, her husband’s voice drifted up to her from downstairs. “Oh, you’re up!”

“Yes,” she said.

“How are you feeling this morning?”



“Yes.” She rushed into the bathroom and closed and locked the door behind her. She sat heavily on the commode, holding her hands to her face.

She deliberated for a long while, trying to become rational.

She just couldn’t do it, she needed help. She needed the guidence of the Oricle. TIM, she thought, connect me.

TIM asked, a thought-voice in her head.

Yes, she told him. Cut us off when we reach four thousand.

Erin closed her eyes and found herself in a white marble chapel full of misty air. A window high above the altar let in a brilliant light, which shined down upon the steps where she stood.

She faced the light, and said, “I am still having that dream.”

A deep, powerful voice replied. “Is this the dream where your husband kills you during a fishing trip?”


“How many times have you had this dream now?”

“A lot. I don’t know how many exactly.”

“May I review your memories?”


The Oracle paused, and the light streaming through the window became blinding. Erin felt warm, relaxed. She had completely forgotten that she was sitting on the commode in one of her upstairs bathrooms. When The Oracle spoke again the voice was not as loud, it was more personal and fatherly. “Are you going on this fishing trip with him today?”

“I don’t want to.”

“The fear you have is irrational, and stems from the guilt you feel for cutting your husband off from your company.”

“I do feel guilty.”

“It was a wise choice, Erin, and my advice is for you to stand firm on your decision. It is possible he married you for personal gain, we have talked about that before. But beside that, he has cost you money on his ventures. You’re company has lost some credibility directly because of his actions. He is prone to scandals. Your actions have been more than fair, you should feel no guilt.”

“Thank you.”

“I see no implied threat, however, from your husband.”

“Are you sure?”

“Nothing is absolutely ‘sure.’ However, the probability is small and I see no implied threat from your memories. This fishing trip is a perfect opportunity to overcome this nightmare.”

“I don’t know if I can go through with it.”

“I urge you to go. Go, have a pleasant time. Chances are you will never have that nightmare again.”

“Well, isn’t there another way? I mean, can’t you …” She stopped talking as the light was cut off and the chapel around her faded to black. She opened her eyes and found herself in the bathroom.

Four­thousand already? she thought.

TIM told her.

There was a knock at the door. Her husband’s voice drifted in. “You’re sick?” he said.

Erin hesitated. “I feel a little sick, yes.”

“Does that mean you don’t want to go out on the boat?”

“I’ll, I’ll … I’ll go out on the boat.”

“Are you sure, sugar? You don’t have to. You shouldn’t go if you’re not feeling well.”

Erin didn’t say anything.

“You want me to get the automed ready?”

“No, I’m not that sick. I just feel a little queasy.”

“Maybe you’ll feel better after you’ve eaten something.”

“Yes, I think that’ll do it.” Her hands to her face, she bit her right index finger. She shivered, the room was cold. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Want anything special for breakfast?”

“No. I don’t care.”

“How about some mild chibique, a bit of lime and some strip steaks?”

“I don’t care. Sounds good.”

“Okay.” His footsteps told her he was heading away.

“Duane?” she called.

His footsteps came back. “Yes, sugar?”

“Why are you being so nice to me?”

“Because I love you.”

It didn’t sound sincere. Erin thought that it had never sounded sincere. But, maybe it was. Maybe I’m putting the insincerity into it? she thought. God knows I loved him. Do I still?

She said, “Thank you, sweetheart.”

“No problem.”

His footsteps receded down the hall, down the steps, and away into the lower portions of the mansion. His withdrawal made her feel very alone. I’m just a small freak of a woman, she thought. He has been the only one who’s cared for me. She stood up and looked at her white face in the mirror, her bulging blue eyes surrounded by wrinkles, her thin white hair. She looked hideous to herself. A pale freak in a world where everyone was tan, dark­haired and healthy.

Erin fixed herself up and dressed, then glided down the stairs and into the dining area. The servant remotes were putting out the silver plates of the fresh, aromatic chibique, a pile of soy­bacon strips, and large glasses of malted villomead. Duane was squeezing a lemon wedge over the chibique. “Good morning, honey, you look wonderful.”

“Thank you Duane. This smells good.”

“Pushed the buttons myself.”

“Thank you.” Erin stared at the breakfast with no desire to eat. “It looks like you’re starting to adjust to not working.”

“Hell, honey, when have I ever worked? I can do without business deals. You were right all along. If I want to work the nets, I can use my own money.”

“You don’t hate me?”

“No! I don’t hate you. It’s a silly little matter, anyway, I don’t see why we got all worked up about it.”

It’s just me, she told herself. I feel so guilty about cutting him off from what he loves. He ought to hate me. He really should. That’s why his voice sounds so insincere to me, it’s because my subconscious hates me for doing it to him. That’s why I’ve been having all those terrible nightmares. Right, TIM? That’s what The Oracle said.

TIM told her.

What she really wanted to do is have another session with The Oracle. It was the ultimate AI, the ultimate psychologist, the ultimate confessional. It was just that it was so damn expensive.

No, she thought. Not now. I can’t go off into a trance at the breakfast table. She made a valiant attempt at smiling at Duane.

“Do you think …”

“What?” he said.

“Do you think we could do something besides fish while we’re out on the boat?”

“Something besides fish?” He said it like it was inconceivable.

“It’s been over two months.”

“Two months since … oh, yeah. I guess it has, hasn’t it?

Well.” He smiled. The smile seemed genuine enough. “Well,” was all he said.

It was a sunny, cloudless day in the islands. Duane had the boat’s top retracted and a breeze blew warm and fresh across Erin’s skin. She was reclined across a cushion at the back, feeling lazy and at ease. Her fear was gone. The Oracle had been absolutely right.

They had kissed and petted while the boat drifted up the Dime river from their dock. The love is still there, she thought.

He was up front talking to the Nav AI about the best fishing spots this season, and she was just lying in the sun, relaxed, waiting for him to come back. Nobody else seemed to be on the water today; she didn’t feel modest, no one would see.

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Categories: Davis, Jerry