‘In here,’ he said, grabbing my hand, and leading me up a dark flight of stairs, then another, and another, until we’d climbed so high I could feel the building sway. He unlocked a big metal door and pulled me into the room and said, ‘This is Ernie.’ It was an ugly thing, squat and grey, and it hummed and clattered, and wires spewed from its centre into various consoles around the edges of the room. ‘You mean all the beautiful books I’ve been reading were written by this?’ I said. ‘Not only can she create,’ he said, ‘but she can read and improve any book you’d care to write, so it’s not even worth trying to compete.’ We both looked at the hideous machine in awe-like silence. And then he began to laugh, lightly at first, but once he’d started he couldn’t stop himself. I tried to draw away but he was still holding onto my hand. He was as mad as a box of frogs. I realised with horror that Ernie would probably express it much more lyrically. I shot down the stairs, not once looking back. Manic cackles echoed from the room at the top, and when I was out in the street, I ran, on and on, leaving behind those things I didn’t understand, and I knew that no one would believe a word of what I’d just seen.

© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.

7 thoughts on “Ernie

  1. Love this Barry. You’ve probably changed it a bit from an earlier version I read, but I don ‘t remember the detail. It’s the idea of Ernie that’s an absolute winner!


    1. Thanks Jenny. I got your last comment too. I changed the gender of Ernie in the head of the technician. I had a comment that this jarred a bit. But Ernie could be Ernestine. I thought it’d be an interesting twist to feminise the tech’s perceptions.


      1. I don’t think people would read ‘Ernie’ as ‘Ernestine’. Ernie is a good blob of a name for a mechanical writer. Unless you want to be clever and use something like the ‘HAL’ in Space Odyssey — but I don’t think it’s necessary . . .


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