Kent Rosenberger

The April Selected Writer is Kent Rosenberger

Please feel free to email Kent at: spacedragon7@comcast.net


by Kent Rosenberger

“I don’t get it,” confessed Blake, thumbing through another dozen or so pages in his oversized science fiction art book.

Frank put his friend on finger hold until he finished the paragraph he had been reading out of his own library selection. His silent lips stopped moving for a fraction of a second before he absently said, “What’s that?”

“This book. Look at this.” He gestured to some works of line art and full color matte paintings from approximately a hundred years ago. “See anything unusual?”

“You mean besides the lack of talent and poor use of shading?”

“I mean the subject matter.” He flipped the reeling pages back to the beginning of the chapter where a large white sheet bordered in black read Chapter V: Robots, Machines and Computers. “This whole section is flooded with people interacting with mechanical devices. Devices that were, at the time, not even able to be fathomed, much less built.”

“What’s your point?” Frank really wanted to finish reading his mystery novel. He had a good idea ‘whodunit,’ and Blake was the only obstacle keeping him from confirming his forgone conclusion. “Isn’t that what makes it ‘science fiction?’”

“Yeah, but I don’t mean that. Check this out.” He selected a two-page spread at random, describing his thoughts about the artwork to his disinterested friend. “In this one we have a human woman having a conversation with some sort of ultra-computer system the size of an air conditioning unit. Nothing too abnormal about that, except she’s got what looks like a pair of electric wires in her hand. You see this?”

Frank muttered, “Yeah, I see it.”

“It’s like she’s holding hands with it, like she’s having an intimate relationship with a freakin’ appliance. And then,” he traced his index fingers to the opposite page, “over here we have a guy with a jet pack on his back, either rescuing or flying off into the sunset with his android lover. But look at her. Long, red hair, painted lips and fingernails, a figure any human woman would die for. In fact, the only way you can tell she’s an android is her reflective silver skin and hollow, glowing green eyes.”

Frank fluctuated his attention between the pages, then noticed Blake was staring at him. “Like I said, bland colors, no real style or depth.”

Blake sighed like a defeated military instructor. “You missed the point.”

“I wish you’d get to the point. I’m a handful of pages from the end of a rather intense crime story here, and I’d really like to find out if the killer is who I think it is before I end up looking like a relic in one of your classic art books.”

“Alright, look.” Again he was pointing. “Would you consider this woman to be attractive? I mean, given the time period of the work, hairstyle, figure, makeup and so forth?”

“Yeah, I’d say so.”

“Okay. Would you consider this android to be good-looking, given the fact that she’s a heartless, soulless, mechanical being?”

“I wouldn’t kick her out of bed, if that’s what you mean. Of course, that all depends on ability limits and performance.”

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere, Blake smiled inwardly. “So tell me this: How come can, at least according to these artists, a woman have a perfectly good relationship with something that looks like it came off an assembly line, and for a man, his significant other has to have some sort of physically appealing attribute?”

“I think you know the answer to that one, my friend, but if you really need me to spell it out for you, I will. Women see others for everything they are; smart, emotional, strong, sensitive, whatever. Guys…well, guys are looking for a good time, and occasionally someone to cook for them and balance their credit books. That’s about it.”

Blake grimaces. Was it true? “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You mean to tell me that you and I, because we are men, are naturally womanizers?”

“I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s true. I’m as guilty of it as you are.”

“I don’t believe it.”

Closing his book over a finger so he did not lose his place, Frank used his other hand to gesture at the second painting. “Oh, come on. How perfect is this for a guy? He’s muscular, very heroic looking. She’s got the perfect body, one that won’t chunk up because she doesn’t eat, is most likely fully functional in the bedroom department, is as experimental, enthusiastic, and exhaust-proof as her programming allows, and can’t bear children. She will forever think he’s attractive, no matter what happens to him, isn’t subject to jealousy or the occasional headache, and is always satisfied, regardless of how little he contributes to the relationship. It’s a no risk playboy paradise.”

“You got all that from this reprint?”

“What can I say, I’m insightful.”

Still not convinced, Blake brought his friend’s focus back to the first image. “Okay, Mr. Insightful, then what about this one?”

“That’s easy. We are the computer, the big whojamawhatzits this girl’s ‘holding hands’ with. We want women to see our inner beauty, appreciate us for what we are, no matter how we look. It’s a double standard.”

“But why must the girl always be pretty?” Blake sounded deeply concerned and slightly dejected.

“Blake, I seriously think you’re reading too much into this. Now let me finish my book.”



“I said no.”

“No, you won’t let me finish my book?”

“No. I mean no, I don’t think I’m reading too much into this.” He probed through his oversized tome further, illustrating his point with its constantly changing contents. “Every one of these girls is pretty. Attractive. You know, appealing. Good-looking.” He lifted his eyes to meet Frank’s gaze. His friend’s confused expression spelled out a combination of lack of clarity as to what Blake was trying to tell him and anxiety to concluded his own reading material. “A babe,” he finished.

Determined to put his friend’s mind at ease once and for all, Frank spewed all the knowledge and truth he had on the picayune subject in one fell swoop. “Most of this stuff was drawn or painted either to inspire works of fiction or to illustrate elements of them. Would you read the material behind the cover of one of these pictures, or even look at it, if the girl looked like, say, your mother? Or your grandmother? Most people who read, wrote and illustrated science fiction in that day and age were men. Even the few women who were in the business were forced to gear their characters and subject matter toward a male populace. That’s just the way it was. In some ways, it’s the way it still is.”

“That I really don’t believe. This is the twenty-first century. Racism, sexism, and all that stuff have gone the way of the dinosaur.”

Blake sounded sincere in his belief. Or disbelief. Frank was unsure which it was. He chuckled softly. “You really think that?”

“Yes.” Blake closed his book with a slam. “Yes, I do.”

“Okay, fine. Then ask yourself this. Why did you marry Misty?” Head games in real life were much more fun than in theory, Frank mused silently. He had more interest now in seeing his friend try to unravel the mysteries of women, men and life in general than a fictionally bred sleuth resolve an imaginary crime on paper.

For a moment Blake was silent, trying to take in exactly what Frank meant by his accusing question. Did he indeed subscribe to the shallowness his friend describes so completely that he felt physical beauty and carnal pleasure was the sole basis for his marriage? After weighing the arguments at the speed of thought, he asked, “You think I can’t see beyond my wife’s drop-dead gorgeous figure and polished appearance?”

“I didn’t say that, but something is obviously bothering you. Something that goes deeper than this book and what’s in it.”

“Well,” he began, almost sheepishly, “she is highly intelligent.”

“Good, good,” Frank urged.

“She’s almost never complains about anything. She’s friendly and polite, she’s always thinking of others first.”

“Very good. Is that what you want out of the relationship?”

“Well of course it is I mean yeah, she’s great to look at, nice to touch, always smells terrific…”

Franks hands were in front of his face, waving away the images Blake was tossing in his direction. “No. No. More information than I need to know,” he sputtered. “All that matters is that you’re happy and she’s happy.”

“Yeah,” he said absently, perhaps even a little bit relieved. “Yeah, I’m happy. And I think she is too. I just want to make sure we’re happy for the right reasons.”

“Okay, let me ask you this. Let’s say something happened to Misty. Scarred for life. Missing limbs. Brain damage.” Blake stared cringing at the awful pictures Frank drummed up in his imagination. “Would you still love her? Would you still care for her? Would you stand by that, ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ scenario?”

A lump gulped down Blake’s bulging throat as though he were physically trying to swallow his friend’s hypothetical tough pill. “Well…”

Frank picked up his book and flipped it back open to six pages from the end. “That’s what I thought,’ he said, confident he would be able to finish his book in peace.


The conversation continued after Blake arrived home, this time held by himself and his object of affection and concern.

“So, how’s Frank? Misty squeaked charmingly as she cleared away the dinner dishes from the table. Her husband ogled her rear end until it disappeared around the corner of the refrigerator, listening as carefully as he could through the clanking of silverware and glasses in the sink, but detecting nothing out of the ordinary.

“He’s…fine,” he said at last, his thoughts zeroing in on the present once again.

She returned to him, sitting across from him, his eyes unable to veer from the pink outfit and matching lace apron she had selected for her attire. “Get wrapped up in another mystery again?”

“Yeah.” His voice was small and distant. “Yeah, he loves those stories.” The distraction in his voice was unmistakable.


“Yeah,” he replied, still not paying much attention. She dropped to a squat position, pushing forward and up to met the gaze of his downwardly focused eyes. He saw and recognized her face, but the image set to his brain that was of the android girl from the print in his library book. “That’s the third time tonight you’ve drifted, sweetie. Anything wrong?”

Even without holding her against him he could feel her body heat. Between her wide, bedroom eyes, perfect little pouty mouth, the rising temperature and the dream of a figure he knew was there without feeling or seeing it, his anxiety had no choice but to increase. Still, he tried to play dumb, a game at which he fell far short at mastering. “No. No, why do you ask?” it would have sounded almost convincing had he not cleared his throat nervously and tugged at his collar, which was not constricting in the least, yet somehow felt as though it was tightening around his neck.

“Come on,” she cooed, almost in a whisper, her power pink lips puckering into an O shape, “it’s me, Misty. You can tell me anything.”

He could feel his heart begin to pump faster, the blood race through his ears as hints of perfume tingled his nose and began to stimulate his libido. Cowering back against his chair he decided he had better confront his problem head-on before its meaning got lost in a pool of passionate frenzy. “Okay. Um…you’re right, there’s something on my mind.”

“What is it, snookem?” she was beginning to paw him, rubbing her colored fingertips against the insides of his thighs. Blonde locks waved this way and that as she created pleasurable body motions against him. There was nothing artificial about any of this that he could detect.

Searching for his voice, he luckily found it between stifling gasps before things proceeded any further. “Mmmm….maybe you ought to sit down,” he finally said.

“Well, sure,” she replied flatly, tuning off her emotion as easily as switching out a light. Raising her well-proportioned figure to a standing position, she eased herself onto her husband’s lap, encircling his shoulders with a supporting hand and crossing her legs on top of his. “What is it?” Her tone turned serious.

“Well…” How do I put this? he wondered. Where do I begin? He recalled Frank’s final question in the library that afternoon and figured that was as good a place as any to start. After all, it embodied the heart of the matter. “Do you love me?”

Her eyes lit with sudden elation. “Of course I do, silly.” She gave him a quick, playful kiss on the stubbly cheek. “What kind of question is that?” she was not mad, just curious.

“Okay, say I was in a car accident, or was hurt really bad at work. You know…irreparable physical disfigurement. Would you still love me, then? Before you answer, I want to make it clear that I want an honest response. Not what you think I want to hear, but what you really feel.”

Softly she took his open hand in hers, held on to it tightly like people who are afraid to fly clutch their seat arm rests during takeoffs, looked directly into the black center of his pupils and told him, “Blake, I love you with everything inside me. No matter what happens to you or what type of conditions we are living in, I will always love you at least as much, if not more, than the day I married you. For better or for worse, right?” she kissed him again, this time on the lips and with more fervent drive than that last one.

He kissed her back mechanically, with all the passion of a cold fish. Frank’s words came back to haunt him, echoing in his wife’s feminine vernacular. So that was that. He truly was a heel. He was a heel and a hypocrite and he had to fix the situation. After her hungry lips unlocked from and abandoned his, he took a deep breath, drank in a long, deep eyeful of his beautiful bride as if he would never see her again, and did what he had to do.

He heard himself talking to her again, his words sounding in his ears as if he were speaking through a pool of water, “Right. For better or worse. That was the deal. Misty?”

“Yes.” She had that childlike spryness in her eyes again.

“I…I want to live an honest life with you. I don’t want you to pretend anymore for me. I…I want to love you the way you are. The true you. Know what I mean? I want to love you. The real you.”

She hesitated, analyzing exactly what her beau was trying to say to her. “You mean it?” she asked at long last, after undergoing several expression changes. She watched Blake dip his head slightly in an affirmative manner. “Really?”

“Yes. Yes, really.” He cleared his throat again, a twinge of uncertainty showing through.

“Oh, thank you, honey. Thank you so much.” Her excitement radiated and jiggled from every inch of her perfect body.

Blake looked on in a mixture of surprise and horror as he both watched and felt the instantaneous changes. Intricately shined nails pulled backwards, along with artificial skin, peeling from each finger like a handful of tiny bananas, until they shriveled and dissolved into nothingness, revealing the silver endoskeleton beneath, that he always knew was there but never really thought about. Touchable blonde curls shrank in fast forward as though being sucked back into her scalp, which was even now beaming a metallic reflection of the kitchen lights. Her twin baby-blues, which Blake adored the most about her, sank into nonexistence, replaced by a pair of lifeless, hollow screens about the size of a dime, glistening with a muted emerald glow.

“Thank you, thank you so much,” an unfamiliar, tinny speaker continued to spout in appreciation from somewhere in her double-reinforced welded throat. She kissed him again, her lipless titanium teeth nuzzling gratuitously against his pale blue mouth. The cold of her alloy body shot through him, surrounded him, embraced and clutched and grabbed him until he felt the entirety of her being on top of him, pushing him down off his chair and against the linoleum kitchen floor. He shut his eyes tightly and resisted the urge to throw up as he recalled his complaint from earlier that day. “An intimate relationship with a freakin’ appliance.” Weren’t those his exact words? Frank was completely right.

Suddenly he was soberly aware of his complete nakedness and the touching and teasing of what felt like a million armored spider legs against his crawling skin. Just before his uncontrollable screaming started, he deciphered that annoying buzzing in his ear to be Misty’s synthetic transmitter murmuring, “I love you so much. Let’s celebrate.”

Kent Rosenberger is the author of over thirty e-books including novels, poetry and short story collections. His work has previously been published in such magazines as 365 Tomorrows, Big Pulp, Weird Year, The Absent Willow Review, Orion’s Child, Title Goes Here, Flash Shot, Resident Aliens, Death Throes, Schlock!, The Digital Dragon, Danse Macabre, Aphelion and Bumples. He was the winner of the 2011 “Title Goes Here” short story contest.