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The Person Who Puts Down the Keys by DeAnna Knippling

The Person Who Puts Down the Keys

by DeAnna Knippling
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Page 2

There was a plastic-covered menu at his plate, he skimmed down the list for a second, picked out the spicy smoked sausage po-boy and a big pile of hush puppies, and put down the menu. He’d chosen the place; Mary hadn’t approved, but he’d insisted. His last night on earth, he was eating at goddamned Tasso’s. It probably wouldn’t be here when he got back.

Jaina put her menu aside the same time he did, and Chuck came over to take their orders. “You would show up on a night like this,” he said. “If you two hadn’t come in, I could have closed up and gone home.”

“What are you going to do at home, feed the fish?” Tom said.

Chuck thumped him on the back with one gnarled-up hand. “Yeah, it’s a life. What do you want, love-a-dove? You finally make up your mind?” He looked over at Jaina.

She said, “You still make hush puppies the right way?”

Chuck tipped his head a little, looking at her. “You been here before?”

“A long time ago.” She took a breath that sounded more than a little shaky. “Just moved back to town. Trying to get my bearings.”

“Oh,” Chuck said. “Welcome back. Yeah, me and the wife are still making the same ol’ hush puppies as ever.”

“I’ll have the spicy smoked sausage po-boy with a big pile of hush puppies,” she said. “And a beer.”

“What kind of beer?” Chuck said.

She hesitated, flipping the menu back and forth, looking for a listing of types.

“Give her a Fat Tire,” Tom said. “And I’ll have the same.”

Chuck nodded and pulled the menu out of Jaina’s hand. Tom handed his over. “So you’ve been here before?”

She nodded, putting her hands in her lap. Then she reached up, unrolled the napkin from around the silverware, and put the napkin on her lap as though it were a fancy cloth one. Then she put her hands in her lap again. “A long time ago,” she repeated.

“When was that?”

“A very long time ago.”

Okay, she didn’t want to talk about it. Tom let it go. “So how do you know Mary?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I’ve known her forever. Since—well. A very long time.”

He was almost tempted to call Mary and find out what the dirt was later. Almost.

“So what do you do?” he asked.

“I’m a writer,” she said. “I write romances.”

“Romances. And you’re single?” He was teasing her, but she nodded like it was a serious question.

“I’m much better at making things up than I am at real life.” She leaned forward, then leaned back and smoothed out her napkin. “Mary said you were just my type.”

Tom grinned. “And what’s your type?”

“Charming and handsome and…” Jaina looked toward the windows, big and black. The snow was really coming down then, just pelting against the window. “Look, I have a question for you.”

“What’s that?”

She didn’t look at him, just watched the snow for a minute. Half a minute, maybe.

“Hello, McFly,” he said. “You still in there?”

She twitched, smiled, looked over at him. She looked sad. “I know where you’re headed tomorrow. You just got hired by InterTech.”

Tom cursed. Mary must have found out; his life was going to be hell. He was probably lucky that he’d left his phone behind, otherwise it’d be ringing off the hook. “There goes my chance at escaping without Mary knowing.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Jaina said. “I have… other sources.”

“Who?”

She ignored him. “What do you think is going to happen to you?”

“I’m going to be an FTL pilot.”

“What about the change?”


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About the Author

DeAnna Knippling

DeAnna Knippling is a freelance writer and editor in Colorado Springs. Her first book, Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse was released in November 2010 by Doom Press. She has recently published in Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Silverthought Online, Crossed Genres and Nil Desperandum. She was also honorable mention in Best Horror of the Year, Volume 3.

Story Discussion

Stories by DeAnna Knippling

The Person Who Puts Down the Keys by DeAnna Knippling

The Person Who Puts Down the Keys

FTL pilots were a rare breed. They traveled the galaxy faster than light. Faster than it was possible to go. Strange things happened to them. They changed.

People who signed up were people with a death wish, or people with long-term ambitions. The desire to see one era disappear and be replaced by something else. At first, he’d thought he was one of the second kind.

What will Tom actually find when he returns? Find out in this new story by DeAnna Knippling.

Read More
Last Hope of the Roadkill by DeAnna Knippling

Last Hope of the Roadkill

Two co-workers, an isolated Colorado highway, and something from out of this world.

I just could not believe it at first, that she could have slept through a car crash, let alone walking into a patch of pine brush. I took her by the shoulders and kind of steered her out of the brush. I had to push her a little bit to get her to head back to the car and get her sitting down again. I tried to belt her up, but she was swinging her arms around still, and after a couple of tries I have to admit I got so tired of getting hit in the face that I gave up on it.

Then I sat down, crossed my fingers, and tried to start the car.

The engine turned over once, then stopped.

Let me tell you, my heart just about stopped, too. After almost being hit by that semi, I wasn’t looking forward to flagging one down. I could have dug Marge’s cell phone out of her purse, but I wasn’t looking forward to doing that, either, seeing as it was down between her feet on the floor.

I felt myself tear up and start to cry.

Read More

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The robot Robot

This sparked an activation in Robot’s GuardDog protocols, and it seized Mr. Rekubak, pinning his arm behind his back. When the conflict had dissolved and Mr. Rekubak’s heart rate had dropped, Robot let go. Mr. Rekubak took this as his cue to spin around and punch Robot in the face. Normally, a human being would find it nigh on impossible to damage a robot barehanded, due to their inferior strength and general ignorance of robotic functions, so Robot allowed the blow to his him square on. There was a loud noise, which Robot assumed was the bones in Mr. Rekubak’s hand.

From the corner of its vision, Robot saw an analog signal creeping inwards. Images of Mr. Rekubak nursing his fist and of Michelle crying disappeared behind a veil of zeros and ones.

What happens to Robot? Find out in this new story from Rhys Griffiths!

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“The Launch Site is five miles downrange,” explained the officer. “You can follow the liftoff in more detail in the monitor booth to the right, but most people just prefer to look through the observation window. The glass absorbs both the launch laser and the alignment laser wavelengths, so you don’t have to worry about stray reflections. Is this your first visit to Kantrowitz, Mr. Gold?”

“Yes,” said the older man, abstractedly, as he craned his neck to look around. “I’ve been to the complexes in Colorado and Nepal several times, but I haven’t had a chance to come down here until now.”

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Last Hope of the Roadkill by DeAnna Knippling

Last Hope of the Roadkill

Two co-workers, an isolated Colorado highway, and something from out of this world.

I just could not believe it at first, that she could have slept through a car crash, let alone walking into a patch of pine brush. I took her by the shoulders and kind of steered her out of the brush. I had to push her a little bit to get her to head back to the car and get her sitting down again. I tried to belt her up, but she was swinging her arms around still, and after a couple of tries I have to admit I got so tired of getting hit in the face that I gave up on it.

Then I sat down, crossed my fingers, and tried to start the car.

The engine turned over once, then stopped.

Let me tell you, my heart just about stopped, too. After almost being hit by that semi, I wasn’t looking forward to flagging one down. I could have dug Marge’s cell phone out of her purse, but I wasn’t looking forward to doing that, either, seeing as it was down between her feet on the floor.

I felt myself tear up and start to cry.

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This day, September 28th, 2402, would go down in history as one of the best for humanity, thought NanoLabs engineer Jacob Preston as he prepared for the press conference. After 23 years of hard work, NanoLabs had finally created an artificial intelligence that could surpass humans in terms of mind power.

Before Jacob took the stand, NL’s president, a sixty-something Canadian by the name of Matthew Harrison gave a short introduction.

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