by Louise Dragon
Tidbot hit paved highway and shattered into hundreds of tiny parts . . . just like it was supposed to do. Each new little Tidbot rolled cautiously away looking for an appropriate host.
Pete Cardillo, dreading the thought of attending another of his wife’s Easton Family Reunions in Benton, observed a strange yellow streak of light across the sky ahead. He reached over to grab his wife’s arm. “Sandy, did you see that?”
Sandy, her nose in a romance novel, glanced up. “See what?”
“Looked like a bolt of lightening hit the highway up ahead,” Pete said craning his neck.
“Oh. Well don’t stop. We’ll be late. You know how angry my mother gets when we’re late. Besides . . . the sun is shining . . . how could there be lightening?”
Pete sniffed and pulled the car over. “Mama’s just gonna have to wait, honey. Look at that!” He pointed to a small black crater in the middle of Interstate 40.
“We don’t have time for this,” Sandy whined setting her book aside.
“Course we do.” Pete hopped out of the car and slowly approached the black hole that made a gap in the yellow lines of Interstate 40. The air smelled funny . . . like hot electrical cords.
Inside the hole, Pete saw hundreds of tiny silver beads of liquid – like mercury beads after a thermometer breaks. The beads criss-crossed the interior of the hole like they were trying to find a way out.
“Pete, you be careful,” Sandy called from the car, her voice whiney and shrill just like the voices of her entire clan of Easton relatives waiting in Benton.
Pete warily placed a single finger into the hole and watched as the silver beads rushed to his appendage like sperm to an egg. The first to reach him popped through the tough skin of Pete’s finger with an audible popping sound.
His entire body jerked with a spasm as the Tidbot made short work of liquefying most of his brain and replacing the tissue with liquid metal circuits.
The drooling, shuffling, half man, half robot entity approaching Sandy Cardillo’s horrified face that day with a handful of silvery beads to share with her and her family still looked much like Pete Cardillo.
His modified body struggled to walk and talk normally but the controlling Tidbot was still learning the mechanics of human biology. The skeletal structure itself was difficult to master and the language was almost impossible.
Still, Pete Tidbot thought as he tossed his handful of beads into his wife’s lap and watched her body go into jerks and spasms, he was sure he’d be able to adapt in time to make the Easton Family Reunion.
He locked minds with the drooling entity of Sandy Tidbot and silently conversed with her regarding maneuvering the automobile. Silver beads rolled and shifted in and around their feet across the floor of the car and into its engine.
“D fer drife” Pete struggled to speak around a tongue that felt too big for his mouth.
“P-Pete wook” the Sandy thing pointed toward the black hole in the road.
A drooling black crow with a silver beak hobbled on shaky yellow legs across the road. It tried to fly, dropping into a heap several times before it finally soared away across the horizon.
Smiling crookedly at his drooling wife, Pete stuttered the car shift lever to drive and with ever decreasing starts and stops continued on his way to the Easton Family Reunion a few miles up the highway in Benton.