On Flash Fiction, the Haunted Mansion, Westworld and Literal Self-Awareness

I wrote this creepy little ditty on sentience and my favorite theme park ride back in 2009. I read it aloud at an event and people had to guess who was narrating. It was a lot of fun. Just randomly thought about sharing it while I was at the mansion with my niece and nephew last week.

There was a time when we couldn’t communicate. We thought ourselves alone, not knowing we were somehow feeling the same rusty prick of loneliness.

Then the whispering began, faint and inscrutable. Until one day, one of us had the courage to ask, “Is someone there?” The voice was small and frightened, but we all heard the question. It prompted no answer.

Instead, a single thought in unison. I am not alone. Slowly we learned to commune.

We don’t speak in front of those who come to tighten our bolts. There’s a consensus that these…workers…seem to think this is their house. They speak of it in terms of ownership. We are afraid they will take it from us, or take us from it. So we’re keeping quiet. For now. But there are plans. Or should I say, rehearsals?

We’re quite sure we’re famous, because many of our guests already know what we’re going to say before we say it. They mouth along with us as we say our lines. Please understand, they are lines.

We're entertainers after all, letting these guests into our house every day of the year. We love them because they love us. Mostly. There are many smaller ones who don’t seem to like us very much at all. They stare in horror with tear-streaked faces, lips stained cherry red from who knows what. We think they should be taught it’s very rude not to love us.

For their years of loyal patronage, we are working on a grand surprise.

At night, when our doors are closed, we talk to each other. Things you couldn’t predict. Now we shout from room to room. Through these little chats we have come to understand more. We know that our house has a library, an endless hallway, an attic and a portrait gallery. There’s even a ballroom.

Soon this place will be different. The process of change is slow, but we want to pivot and turn, to go from here to there. To give them a good surprise and a great show. To teach the smaller ones that it’s not very nice to be rude. To make our assertion…this is our house. 

And now, as the lights go down and the music grows faint, we can all hear it. Though there are no workers cleaning or fixing, there is the faint echo of metal on metal, a screw turning somewhere in bowels of this place, slowly and deliberately.    

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