Monday, 15 July, 2024, Reg No- 06
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A pin drops

Published : Saturday, 6 July, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 580

A pin drops

A pin drops

I stand apart from my new family. They hate me. Im here to replace someone they loved. When the green light comes on and its time to stand in our lane, theyll push me to the front so I can be hit first, again. So I can be broken. As if that would bring back their friend.

Cybernetics changed bowling forever. It started with the advent of smart-pins. We set ourselves up and report scores and statistics automatically, and we e more resilient than the old hard rock maples. They programmed us to form tight bonds, to march out into the lane as a cohesive whole, to look out for each other and protect each other. And when we e old and broken, well be escorted to the recyclers with honor, surrounded by the soft chanting of our loving families.
But then came the arm attachments for bowlers, and thats when the slaughter began. Oh, sure, they e illegal in the pro leagues, but out here in the casual alleys, cyber is king. Bowlers get drunk and try to destroy us. Literal cheers as we e killed for sport. Its how I lost my first family. Some asshole murdered seven of us in one throw, and the survivors were split up to fill out other sets.

The ball goes by and your brothers and sisters fall, never to rise again, but you e still standing. You e being targeted now. Will the second ball hit? Or will you have to hastily exit the lane and count the dead? You tense up, but if you get hit, the worst thing you can do is dig your feet in to stay standing. The ball goes by. You e still here. For now. So you count the dead before the next frame…

Saturday. Dollar beer night. They keep shoving me out to the front. We e supposed to rotate. Theres a point system. You get more for being farther up, and if you don have enough, you automatically go to 1. But apparently its possible for everyone to have enough points-barely-without ever being in the 1 position. They did the fucking math on it, and they e using it to punish me. Punish me for having the bad luck of seeing too many of my family murdered at once.

The only one who feels bad about this is a Brunswick who arrived shortly before me. Shes so young. Still shell-shocked from the never-ending bloodbath. She never shoves me. But she won talk to me between frames for fear of being shunned by the others.

And shes low on points. If I get a break from being in the front, it will be because shes too afraid to leave the back row. And she knows it.

I hear a deafening crack from the next lane over, then the soft chants of a family escorting the fallen to the recycler. Im not going to survive the night, am I? Oh god…
Brunswick whimpers.

"Stay to the right," I whisper to her.
"When we go out, stay to the right. The next bowler is the guy with glasses, and he always hooks wide. He hardly ever hits 2 or 4."

"Thank you," she mouths.
The green light goes on. We run out to the lane, and Im shoved to the front once again, with Brunswick behind me in the 2 position. The ball whiffs by on the left side slamming into the 3. The back row is pummeled, but 1, 2, and 4 are safe. The next throw hits the gutter. We exit the lane and report the scores.

The others are muttering curses at me. How dare I stay up when they got hit. But not Brunswick. She gives me a nod of gratitude. She made her points with that.

Only a few more frames until we get a break between games.
The green light goes on. I hear a horrifying sound. Some drunk jackoff with a cyber arm shouting "Let me show you how its done!"

"But you can ! Itll invalidate the game."
"Ah, fuck it. Ill buy you another game."
An arm goes back. Oh, god… And then I notice Brunswick in the 2 position again. Shes lost in her own head. Shes facing the wrong way-looking at the next lane over where our comrade just died! We e not plated on all sides; shes going to get killed!
The others shout at her to fix her footing, but its too late. The ball is coming. And its coming fast. So fast.
I tense up. If you get hit, the worst thing you can do is try to stay standing. But the games invalidated anyway, and Brunswick…

I dig my feet into the lane.
Theres a deafening noise and the world cracks apart in my vision. I look down at what used to be my legs. I did it. I stopped the ball. I protected Brunswick.

Howls of laughter from the bowlers that their drunk friend got punked by a bowling pin.
I collapse. As my joints give out, I realize Ill never stand again.
Im dragged off the lane.

"Why did you do that?" shouts Brunswick. "Why?"
"Families… protect…" My voice modulator goes out.

She begins to hum.
Others join in.
I can hear it… The sound I thought Id never actually get to hear. The soft chants of my fellow smart-pins as Im escorted to the recycler.

"We e so sorry," they say.
"We should never have treated you so badly," they say.
What is this? Are they accepting me? Finally?
I look up and see their tearful faces. Goodbyes mixed with apologies and pleas for forgiveness.
And I forgive them. I forgive them all. The joy. The bliss. I have a family again.

The green light goes on. And as Im lowered into the recycler, I find myself floating towards it, towards a lane that extends into infinity…

I have a new family. They accepted me.
And now Im going to join my old one…


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