Brynn Lietuvnikas, “SteamPunk Revolution”

It was a feeling almost unknown in 2134. This thing couldn’t
see her, but she could see it. Mindy was physically the next best
thing to being inside of that tome. She sat with her back arched as
she curved over the book, a bundle of papers tied together. The book
wasn’t peering into her thoughts; it didn’t know how to document
the time she spent on one page and compare it to another. It created
this butterfly buzz inside of her stomach, which was ruined when
Plier opened the steel door to their concrete apartment. Mindy’s
heart rate escalated. The bright white ceiling lights seemed to dance.
Plier was supposed to have been out all night. He had taken the
12:00 P.M.-7:00 A.M. shift at the robotic hospital. She whirled to
the clock and found that it was already 7:45. She turned back to
Plier, whose eyes had never left her. He stared, and Mindy could
hear herself breathe. She hadn’t done anything wrong; what she was
doing wasn’t technically illegal.
When a minute passed without him speaking, Mindy had
to break the silence. It was a mounting weight she had to throw
off. “It’s just…smut,” she blurted. Plier smiled, covered his face, and
laughed bitterly.
“For you, it probably is. It is romanticized, I’m sure.”
Mindy’s face flushed with anger. When Plier called something
“romantic,” he meant “stupid.” Plier came forward, gently tugged
the book from her hands. If he had done it more forcefully, Mindy
would have fought back, but in this case, she just let the volume slip
away. Plier silently read over the page she was on.
Then he smiled. It was an expression full of venom. “So I
tell you, younger generation: they forged you in the smiths like
their machines and sent you out. Stop taking the updates to your
figurative programming. Stop plugging yourself in at night. Rise
with me and we will reclaim what they have taken–” He broke off in
laughter. “Is this man a preacher or a revolutionist? His tone is all off.”
Mindy’s nose scrunched up as her face tightened in on itself.
She began to shout something, but Plier’s soft voice cut her off.
“Well, he certainly isn’t an editor. Look at all these grammatical
errors.” He moved to show her the page again. He was inviting her
to see the book with his eyes; She refused.
“He had to get it out in a hurry.”
“Had to spread the Good Word?” Plier grinned, making a
reference to a long-lost religion. His smile quickly faded, replaced
by concern. “These words may be pretty, but they’ll get you killed.”
“I haven’t done anything wrong!”
“Not yet…” He read over the page one last time. His eyes
half-closed, too tired to fight anymore. Mindy wanted to take that
as a victory, but he looked too sad. He passed her the book back
with a sigh. In the morning, he’d say “You can’t fight them. They
have tanks; you have poetry.” But right now, he could only sigh.
Mindy got up. She went over to Plier’s bed on the other side
of the sporadically lit room. She pulled back the covers for him. He
nodded and crawled in. Mindy went back to her spot. She opened
her book again and started to read. She kept her posture better this
time. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the light come on
from Plier’s tablet. His thumb scrolled across the screen, leaving a
data trail he couldn’t see, sculpting him in ways he didn’t know. After
an hour, he turned off the device and closed his eyes. Mindy put her
book down and went to sleep. She had a meeting in a few hours.

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