ATMN-1985, a Stranded story for Patreon

Okay, I guess the theme is really talking to me this month. 

Here’s another bonus, spurred on but not really related to a line from a Popular Mechanics article I read last night: (paraphrase) “AI is going to make the Industrial Revolution look small.”


Autumn knew better than to grab the strands of the world too much around HAllowe’en.

Everything was thinner at that time, more responsive, more willing to bend and twist and open.

But the Strand looked so tempting.  It was this line of connection, this connection that went — nowhere?  It trailed off into a space in mid-air, looking as if it turned into wires at the end.

So she followed it, drawing the look of the wires on to her arm in watercolor, little circuit-board designs that appeared to  her mind’s’ eye.

She stepped through a thin space in the air and found herself on a silvery road, the buildings rising up around her on left and right, stretching above her, making it a tunnel of mirrors and glass.

Oops.  She tied off a marker so she could find her way home and followed the wires of the Strand, trailing along through wires upon wires upon wires.

She turned a corner into another tunnel and found herself face to face with someone doing the same thing as she was.

Someone?  Not quite.  But not quite something, either, a metallic-and-plastic figure wearing a knit hat of red-orange-and-green and a swirling dress that matched.

The Strand from Autumn went straight to this figure.  She stopped.  She stared.  The figure stopped and stared.

There were a few other people on the road — mostly human-seeming, some only humanoid-seeming.  From the corner of her eye, Autumn could see all of them connected by tenuous strands.

“You are—”  The figure frowned.  The expression was cartoony, plastic eyebrows moving and lips turning downward.

“You’re…”  Autumn shook her head and bowed.  “I’m Autumn Roundtree.”

“I am ATMN-1985.  I am called Autumn.”  The figure raised an eyebrow at AUtumn.   “You do not belong here.  Your only connection here is me.”

Autumn took a moment to study ATMN.  “You’re —”

She was connected all over the place, as much as Autumn was, back home, as much as her mother was.

“An autonomous Intelligence designed to understand connections between beings.”  The smile was broad and surprisingly genuine-seeming.  “Your counterpart.”


Autumn felt a tug on her, and ATMN made a noise of concern.

“Your connection is thinning.  You cannot stay, you need to go where you came from.  Or—”

“Or,” Autumn agrees solemnly.  “It was nice to meet you, ATMN.  Perhaps I will see you again.”

ATMN curtseyed.  “I would like that.  I would like this new connection to last.”

Autumn hurried back as her connection to her own world tugged and throbbed by turns.  She followed the thinning line back to where she’d started and pushed through the thin space in the world.  Her ears popped, her head rushed, and, for a moment, she lost consciousness.

She came to leaning against the old maple tree in her mother’s back yard, leaves crunching as they fell down upon her.

Nothing but a pack of cards,” she muttered.  She knew better than to reach for Strands around Hallowe’en.  It always left you with too many questions.

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