My Etch a Sketch Kvetch

Terraformer 2000 came with a microphone, but no manual. It was the latest software from Landforms, LLC., a virtual replicator for the hologram television entertainment platform. Landforms specialized in virtual landscapes for Massive Arco Multiplayer Universes (MAMUs.) I put away my Cheerios, sat back and flicked on the mic.

The mic searched for and found my television. After a brief and private conversation about transfer speeds, I suppose, the television lit up and displayed a single word in garish yellow Gothic letters:


Because I was stupid, I spoke into the mic, “Pig Latin.”

Terraformer happily obliged: ELECTSAY EMETHAY

I laughed delightedly. “Martian Lowland.


Oops. Okay, I had to get out of this foolishness. I uttered, “Ebootray.” The television dramatically emitted some fake smoke from the fan vents. The ugly letters returned to the screen:


I meekly said, “English.”

Now, Terraformer asked: SELECT THEME.

I was on my way.

After several hours, during which the software alternated between misapplying my commands and berating me for my unrealistic designs, I managed to turn a dull red rock into an ice-skating rink. It was a frozen lagoon off the frozen coast of a polar cap, which I had melting slowly due to heat from an inverted lava dome. The dome itself was suspended from a natural arch of metamorphic rock.

Well, that is what I saw. My wife came home, snickered at the screen and congratulated me on designing a caveman’s discothèque.

“Love the fiery globe on that granite overhang, babe.” She set her briefcase down and snuggled up behind my chair.

“That’s supposed to be marble. Stupid mic kept confirming that I was saying ‘metaphoric rock’.”

“Now, now. Don’t hate. We spent a lot of time on the etymology module. It isn’t perfect. The mic has to be given some latitude for the differences in speech patterns, dialects and accents.”

I craned my neck back to glance lovingly at my wife. Then I hissed, “Bullshit!”

She laughed and shrugged in surrender. “Hey, they don’t pay me enough to parse every single word. I fudged the Bayesian module a bit. You should have seen what the Riparian Team did with the lakebed function. If you say ‘meander‘, the landscape shifts until it resembles Mother Nature’s nether region. Nobody ever sees it, though, because the water comes in too quickly.”

I playfully grabbed her and sat her on my lap. “I have another landscape I wish to to explore.”

The mic was smarter than I thought: it saved my work, dimmed the television and commanded it to play some jazz.

Copyright © 2016 by Mitchell Allen

Originally appeared on CreativeCopyChallenge #453.