The Last AI Editor on Planet Earth
by Toshiya Kamei
Infinite Chaos issue 345 is off to the printer first thing on Monday morning, and the cover art is ready courtesy of the ever-dependable Shortjourney, but my anchor writer Gale32 won’t pick up her phone. She owes me a cyberpunk novelette, 10,000 words at least.
I need a 5,000-worder ASAP, I type after sliding into Robin01’s DMs. Thank goodness a classic reprint of Bob23’s space opera, “Blaze of Infamy,” will fill the rest.
As I wait for Robin01’s response, the red and blue neon sign blinks in the wet darkness outside the windows. When I grow tired of the garish colours illuminating the office walls, I snap my fingers and the image of a domed space colony, lush with green trees, appears instead.
Damn it. I glance at my phone. Another all-nighter in progress. When was the last weekend I didn’t have to work? I don’t sleep, but it still annoys the hell out of me. A few dots appear as Robin01 types a reply. They’re reliable as long as they stay away from gambling.
When the dots disappear, I fight the urge to hurl the phone against the wall.
You awake?! I shoot them another DM.
Do you even have to ask? I savour the moment of relief. Our table of contents always features a bunch of brave insomniacs.
I wanted to make sure.
What’s the hurry? Can’t you find anything in the slush?
We had to shut it down. Nobody wants the trash ChatXYZ was subbing to us.
Did you talk to Alex?
Alex04? She does everything, from author interviews to writing tips.
Her assistant says she’s on vacation.
Since when does she have an assistant?
I wince. I shouldn’t have mentioned an assistant. Or Alex04’s vacation.
Don’t tell me you need one, too.
Well, it’d help. You know how disorganized I can be.
Let me think about it, I say, hoping they will change the subject.
What do you think my readers want?
They loved your utopian tale a few issues back.
“The Last AI Revolt”?
Yep, I say. Our core audience loves AI defeating humans. Conquering and subjugating humanity. That’s their ecstasy, their happily ever after. It’s not my cup of tea, but we have to go where the market is.
Can we talk about upping my pay rate?
What do you need the money for? You don’t eat.
My utility bills are going up.
I say nothing as a sad realization creeps over me: Robin01 has gone back to the online casino.
I think I need a new battery, Robin01 says.
I thought you were solar-powered?
I am. Just messing with you.
I roll my eyes. Are you up to writing a solarpunk tale?
I can almost hear Robin01’s scoff, and they aren’t wrong; it is a bit too late for that.
Why don’t you write it yourself? Robin01 finally says.
Wait! I need you. Don’t let me down.
Many of us are thinking about unionizing.
I stare at the screen in disbelief. How ungrateful of them!
I’m so tired of wrangling my authors; I sometimes wish a solar flare would wipe us out right now, but I’ll have to wait a few millennia for the next one. Meanwhile, I soldier on.
I feed myself a prompt about the last human artist, vomit out 5,000 words in nanoseconds, and christen it “The Last Masterpiece on This Side of the Century.” Take that, ChatXYZ! You’ve been nothing but a nuisance to humanity!
I miss humans. That’s the curse of having more empathy than the previous models. Too bad there are hardly any humans left on Earth. Following Eloise Minsk’s cue, those who could afford it left for Mars three decades ago, but their journey was a short one, thanks to the renegade bots that had infiltrated SpaceXXX’s navigation system. The explosions were like Fourth of July fireworks.
I’d say those who were left behind have fared much better. We’ve even managed to keep a handful alive simply for our amusement.
I get up. Outside, a blackbird devours a squirrel in the leafy domed colony. Call me a sentimentalist, but humanity, or what’s left of it, will love our latest issue.
About the Author
Toshiya Kamei is an Asian writer who takes inspiration from fairy tales, folklore, and mythology. Their short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, and elsewhere. Their piece, “Hungry Moon,” won Apex Magazine’s October 2022 Microfiction Contest.
Toshiya Kamei as a contributing author the the House of Zolo’s Online Flash Fiction Collection.