The Universal Winnebago

Outside the window, the rain barreled into the ocean as Tetris tried on a kinship. To the rain. As if awaiting a cue, Madrone’s arm constricted around his waist and he put a hand on hers. Her skin felt soft, warm—like it could be steaming with their breath. But he didn’t want to look down, ever. Especially right now. He just wanted to watch the storm through the glass. “Why the fuck are we up here?” he asked.

She waited a couple of ticks before saying, “Just look at it. The rain meeting the ocean, like children running back to their parents.”

“Funny, I was just… are you trying to say something?”

He felt her head rub against his chest to look up at him. “I’m saying a lot of things, Tetris. But none involve a baby, if that’s your concern.”

“Concern is a strong word.”

“No it isn’t.”


“Not really.”

“—I thought that…” He felt the words like marbles fumbling from his hands. “Okay. Geebus, with Coder Derek as my witness. I would like to… ugh. I want to… holy shit.” He dug into his pocket, pulling it out, the tiny box.

“Is that what I think it is?” she asked, with more concern in her voice than he was hoping for.

“Will you—”


“—marry me? …Oh. Good.”

She burrowed into him and angled her head upward. She nestled tight enough for him to imagine a broken rib. “What are you looking at?” he asked.

“The future. I mean space—”

“Our honeymoon?”

“Don’t be silly. I meant the stars.”

“You can’t see any stars. Not with those clouds—”

“Not yet,” she whispered.

“—and the…” He tilted his head toward the clouds. “Fuckin’ space. Whoa.”

“I wish my dad could be at the wedding,” she said, and Tetris felt that this thought was making her smile for some reason.

Tetris looked at his watch and felt its ticks with a groan. Time was intercepting moments at the line of scrimmage. The longer it ran the faster it seemed to go—unlike almost anything he knew. He felt the weight of the blade in his pocket and wished it had a voice, as that was pretty much the best form of contact. Here came the mailwoman. Tetris had never learned her name, as their relationship consisted of head-nods, but she made the uniform look good and she never smiled, so Tetris held respect. He nodded but she didn’t see him because the sun was now higher up during her shift and Tetris had been awash in his porch’s shadow. So she just pulled out past, on down to Sharky’s.

“Oh yeah,” Tetris whispered. Sharky, and got up to handle it.

He grabbed the invite and put it in his pocket, then took his wallet before going back outside. Glancing inside the mailbox as he moved on down the road, he followed an eventual sunset. Passing by Sharky’s, he threw the invite in his mailbox, raising a hand of hello at the windows as he kept on.

He strolled down the road, noticing how fast he was shaking his legs. They felt like a speedboat on angry water. He counted the days in his head, added to the months until October 25, then swallowed medium-hard. Close to a mile later he turned into Cedar Super and pushed his way back to the meat counter. “Hiya, Fred.”

“Hey, Tetris. What it is? Fixin’ to BBQ?”

“BB? Probably. Hey, have you talked to Madrone lately? Today? I mean yesterday probably, I guess.”

“Oh sure, I saw her—oh, actually it was about a week ago by now. Man, time sure does—”

“Oh. All right.”

Fred waited a few beats before saying, “Everything’s cool, right?”

“Yeah,” Tetris said. “I just wonder. The future’s been feeling like a dude. A person. Like a tangible being. Just creeping up on me. Slithering through the muck.”

“Hmm, I think I know the feeling. Have you talked to Madrone about this?”


“The wedding?”


“The future?”

“Definitely,” Tetris said.

“’Kay.” Fred thought for a spell, staring at his alleged skirt steaks. Finally he said, “Could it be the Virus that’s been going round? Got you on edge maybe?”

“The Virus? Oh yeah. No. I’ve got protection for that.”

“Mm.” Fred looked down.

“No,” Tetris continued, “it’s something else. Ugh. That’s okay, Fred. I’ll just… keep my circuits lit, as the kids say. I’ll be seeing you. Thanks for the talk.”

“You didn’t want any meat?”

“Meat? Oh right. Hmm. No thanks. I’ll see you next time, Fred.”

He walked off, flowing through the aisles. These items were all like stage props anyway. Still, it felt good to feel something else, even if it was human. If something looked interesting, he put it in his hand. Luckily for him that didn’t amount to much.

As he stood in line, he heard a woman mumbling behind him. Tetris didn’t pay any mind until her words finally began to find purchase, but mostly in volume. He quickly felt like she was trying to talk to him.

He glanced back and was rippled with a tremor. “Oh shooters,” he said. “Hi Sofra. I didn’t see you—”

“Yeah well, I heard,” she injected. “Heard you talking with Fred. Seems you’ve grown some leg-shake about marrying my daughter.”

“Oh, no. It’s just…” He couldn’t find the sentence’s ending.

“Save it,” Sofra said. “It’s true. You’re being attached—”

Tetris turned as the clerk was ready to ring him up for his minimal bullshit. He didn’t hear the rest of what Sofra said. She got like this sometimes, and as Madrone had explained, Sofra was at the age where the messages could run askew in their travels between mouth and “mind.” Especially when she was worked up about something.

Tetris paid for his goods, said “I’ll see you soon, Sofra. Have a great day,” and slipped out on her wind’s fading breath.

He walked home, the whole way hearing her behind him, just far enough back. He wondered how far out she had parked her car. Finally, he made it home and threw his groceries onto the front porch before ducking into his own car. He couldn’t open the door fast enough as she swooped upon him like a dog with a stick. “Your feelings about a future with my daughter cannot be discredited,” she said. “Reflect and pray when you get home that my daughter won’t run away with her scientists.”

He knew not to encourage her, but he couldn’t help it: “Scientists?”

She had moved on. “Reflect and pray. Now. Get out of your car and go pray to Coder Derek. He’ll show you. Plug in your circuits—”

“Wow. Shit. I mean, okay, Sofra. I better—”

“No. Know. You better know. Madrone is your wrong attachment. She’ll soon get the Virus anyway. Even if not, her link will wile you astray. You were actually meant to attach to her homepage: me. Realize this, and you’ll save us all a lot of gut-rot. Your worries for the future are sound. Your butt-ass is sound. But do it before you crash and send Madrone running off with those… people. Watching you tumble and falter into a fiery demise. Just like humans did.”

“It was great catching up with you, Sofra. I better get going though.” He started his car.

“Sure. Go off and ignore it. Become like The Spark. Who stopped caring and fizzled. Forgot what mattered. One who was tricked—”


“—into thinking that bullmoose was important beyond what was really happening until they dissolved into the gray matter. Only to be clouded over by us, their offspring.”


“And look at us now. We’ve inherited the earth. And the earth’s only plaguing Virus, Man, is no longer here to forget that they’re smothering their mother.”

“Thanks, Sofra. Good chat. Let’s all download dinner soon.” He put his car in Go as Sopra leaned down into his window.

“Go to church, Tetris. Speak in sleeping mode to Coder Derek. His messages still reside. Find your circuit’s network.” And with that she was off, standing up and walking back to the road.

Tetris pulled out and went the opposite way, feeling like he was tumbling into a world of water, unable to grasp any sort of recognition. All he knew was that he felt himself dragging, albeit subtly; this was still a new outfit for him to try on. He roamed the streets of his hometown, no real charm to his relaxation. It almost felt to him like a town he’d never been to before, which might as well have been fine. He felt sick, after feeling what he had just felt while talking to Sofra. Being told he was almost artificial. He was more sick at feeling sick though, as he knew that she was somehow judging through the eyes of a human.

He turned a corner and saw it, their town’s only church, towering above them as if with arms crossed and brow furrowed. If a building had an actual mouth, it would have something to turn upside down. Tetris stepped before it and waited. Then he decided to start the alleged conversation that would bring gusts of the past into focus on his visions of the future.

He pushed through the front doors and their lamenting hinges. The darkness swarmed over him once inside, feeling like a cloud had just paused overhead. He walked down and sat in a pew, staring forward at Coder Derek, their god who glowered down at Tetris and six others, sprinkled throughout the floor. Tetris grabbed the Codatheter in front of him, just by reflex, and opened it. Like a bet with himself, he decided to read it until it stopped boring him.

of the last days of Man. Yet Derek would remain, as the last of his breed of intellect, to perfect his creation. A society of the most beautiful beings on the planet, made to mirror Derek’s image. A community who would go on to—

“Such fuckin gobbledygook,” rushed on a whisper from behind him. He turned to see Madrone coming down the aisle, crouched. She dipped into his pew and slid up to him. He felt her hip against his.

As quietly as he possibly could, he whispered, “Imagine… if… we… fucked in here.” To which she convulsed against her own inner guffaw. “Hi darling,” he said with a smile, less consequence to his silence.

“Hi cutie. Practicing for the big day I see.”

He looked ahead. The rest of the worshippers were still bowed as they awaited their answers. Tetris looked over at Madrone and nodded his head toward the door. Her chin issued a bounce and he followed on her kite string out the door.

When the chamber doors reacquainted, Tetris spun her around. “Holy shit,” he said. “Did you come here to—”

“Oh hell no. I saw you scuttle in and thought I’d follow you.”

They both noticed the garden next door and started walking toward it. They sat down on a bench; there were enough roses to make Tetris feel invisible. It seemed more peaceful and full of answers than the church could ever be.

“So what’s up?” she said. “Are you praying for a way out?”

“Are you trying to be clichéd or is it just natural?” She reddened and looked away, while her poker face ignored its sheen. He continued. “No. I was just thinking about us. You and me. The wedding and all that, and it made me think of the future.” He stopped, trying to re-wire his thoughts.

“You mean,” she said, “a future with me in particular? Or just—”

“No. Yeah. I mean, yeah, but more what the future means for us.”

She looked at him the way she looked at metal detectors. “I didn’t realize it meant much of anything, Tetris.”

Exactly. We never do much. Us, I mean, shit. The People of Derek—”

“In other words, everyone?”

“Right. Everyone. I had been thinking of how we started. When we were made by Derek, back when the world was populated by things like him. Humans.”

“You mean before—”


“Tribes? Right. Clubs called—”


“’Countries.’ I hear you. Go on.”

He took a breath. “Which, I don’t know. Just made me trip the fuck out. Imagining the future, I guess.”

“Why now?”

“It had started with the wedding. Our wedding. How much we’ve had to plan it. And I just kept going. It all seems—”

“People made us,” she interrupted. “This”—holding out an arm, palm up—”whatever this is… I’ve thought about this.”

“So I see.”

“They made it because dorks like Coder Derek wanted to prove how powerful their minds were. It made them feel like a god.”

“A… god?”

“Remember? We learned about it in history. It’s people’s word for the inventor of themselves. They had a bunch of them somehow. Different people believe in different ‘gods.’”

“Oh yeah.”

She continued. “But whatever. They made all these people-ish computers, and here we are. Long after they’ve gone extinct. I mean, humans haven’t existed for thousands of years.”

“Right. That’s exactly my point. Humans seemed to always be ‘evolving.’ Always growing as an animal. But they created us for the sake of nothing. And so they forgot to give us properties that would make us do the same. Self-grow. I mean, it’s fine. We’re all good. We don’t kill each other; we don’t kill the planet like they kept trying to. We just hang tough and do the same shit over and over.”

He could see the thoughts weighing on her and he waited for her to speak. Finally, she said, “I was going to wait for our honeymoon to show you. But at this rate you’ll skip town on me.”


“Come here,” she said, tipping her head as she stood.

They went back to the church and got in her car. “Where are we going?” he asked. To which she only held a finger to her lips.

They drove and drove—beyond anything he recognized—before she finally said, “Okay. We’re past the microphones.”

“I’m taking you to our limo. What we’ll be leaving the chapel in. In secret.” She turned down a road that never seemed to end until she finally pulled over beside what looked like a tiny house on wheels.

“What’s this?” he asked, confused. “Our new house? That also dr—”

“Drives. Yes. It’s the prototype of what human scientists used to call Winnebago’s.”

“Huh. A house that drives instead of flies. Where are we gonna go on our honeymoon?” She pointed to the sky. “Oh, it flies too,” he said. “That’s cool.”

“Further, Tetris.”

“How far is—”

“Not ‘far.’ High. You see, humans do still exist. In the days of old there was a colony of scientists who had little faith that an orange-haired tyrant wouldn’t destroy the planet. So they created a ship in which they could comfortably remain far from him. In space.”

“Oh right. Humans had that obsession with pointlessly finding things out, huh?”

“Exactly. Only this was a time when it helped them. They first went to Mars and lived in peace on their space station. After several years, they voyaged over to a planet that had been kept a secret from everyone outside of NASA just for this purpose. It is exactly what Earth used to be, so their meager minds called it Earthish. In fact, they say that whenever there’s a solar eclipse, that’s Earthish trying to catch a glimpse of our planet so she can mimic the make-up. They told the public that there was some planet just like Earth, which they called Ross 128 b. Must have been running out of names by then. Anyway, they created that planet so the rich folks could harbor some delusion that one day they could live there, after they’d trashed this one. It was all bullshit though, to keep the richies hopeful and quiet. Also to keep them distracted from Earthish, where the scientists were really living. Anyway, they’re up there now, just chillin’. And every ten years, they ask a very special troop from Earth to migrate up if we wanna.”



“Your dad?”

“Exactly. That’s where he’s been. And he’s called for us. Good thing he likes you.”

“No shit.” Tetris looked into the sky.

“Yep. We just have to hold our horses until the wedding day, when we can get it on. Wait till you see what humans have become.”

“I’ll get to see.” He squinted his eyes into the clouds, trying to grasp his new home in the distance. “I’m gonna go see something else.” He looked down at Madrone. “I’ll get to learn about a whole planet full of goofy humans. On our wedding day too.”

“Yep.” She smiled. “Just don’t spill the beans before the wedding day and fuck it all up getting too emotional.”

“Spill… the… b—?”

“Never mind. It’s some dorky-ass shit humans say.”

“I can’t wait to hear all their dorky-ass shit. Thank you, my love. Now I’ll have to not act as excited as I feel.”

“Just don’t smirk,” Madrone advised. “Everyone can tell you’re full of cloud dust when you do.”