- M. Sakran has had an article accepted for publication by Small Farmer's Journal.
- M. Sakran has had a poem accepted for publication by Beautiful Losers Magazine.
- July 8, 2017 was the three year anniversary of the publication of M. Sakran's collection of poetry, First Try. You can learn more about the collection on the Book page.
- The thirtieth set of photography, artwork, poetry and fiction is below. Set twenty nine can be found on the Photography, Artwork, Poetry and Fiction page.
Current photography, artwork, poetry and fiction:
The two sat down,
on the bench,
beneath the tree,
and talked of things,
they didn't know.
A Short Story
"Listen up! Everyone quiet!"
The crowd still talked.
"You going to make us?" Someone shouted.
"Do you want us to? Everyone be quiet, or you know what will happen."
The crowd murmured a while more and then slowly became quiet.
"Some group, concerned about your welfare, has decided that you all should get to communicate more with people on the outside."
"You letting us go?" Someone shouted as the crowd laughed.
"Now listen up! Some group wants you all to be able to have communication with people from the outside. They think it would help your moral."
"You bringing us some blondes?" Someone shouted as the crowd shouted and hollered.
"How about red heads?" Someone else shouted out.
"Now listen, or you all go back to your cells and restrictions will be put on!"
The crowd became quiet.
"You all have computer access in the library. As all of you know, that access is restricted. You can't do or see certain things. That includes communication. You all are allowed only to have text communication with approved people using approved terminals in the outer building."
"We can't even text our kids unless they use those stupid things!" Someone shouted out.
"This group wants you all to have increased access to communication."
"We get to talk to who we want, when we want, without those terminal things and just typing?" Someone asked.
"No. This group has only received approval for a pilot program."
"What's that mean?"
"The board has decided, that as a pilot program, different groups of you will receive different access."
The man speaking looked at a list and spoke.
"Approximately ten percent of you, will continue to have no communication. You know who you are.
Approximately ten percent of you, will continue under the current situation. These are those under disciplinary advisement.
Ten percent of you, will get to communicate with approved people only from the library, however those people will no longer have to go to the outer building. They will simply log into a system from wherever they are. The communication will still only be text though.
Ten percent of you, will get that situation, but will have communication tablets in your cells. Again, you will only have text communication.
The idea is to see how these situations are different and decide what to do going forward.
In addition, everyone, except those without communication, will also have the option to be enrolled in the group's communication program. Participation is voluntary. Under the program, many of you who participate, will be assigned a group volunteer. You will be allowed to have text communication with this person, in addition to those on your approved list.
This person is a trained volunteer and will be someone you can communicate with that is on the outside, apart from those on your approved list. This person will act as another point of contact with the outside world. This person can communicate with you about whatever you want, and, unlike with your other communications, these communications will not be monitored. The idea is for you to be able to communicate freely. This person's role is to help you connect to the outside world, but can communicate about anything.
There is one point about this program, though, that all of you should consider. The board insisted that you know.
As you all know, there are many of you. As of today, the group has not been able to find enough volunteers, such that if each one of you who has communication privileges wanted to enroll, each would have someone to communicate with.
Rather than restrict the number of people in the program. The group, with the board's approval, has found a solution.
A software program has been developed that can communicate just as a person would. This program has been tested with over a hundred volunteers, where they spent some time communicating with a real person and some time with the program. None of the volunteers could definitively tell the difference.
The program has been especially developed to know what is happening in the world and to be able to communicate like a real person.
The software has been developed, such that each one of you assigned to it, would have a different character to communicate with. Each character has a different background, knowledge, way of communicating and so forth. Just like a real person.
It has also been developed not to accidently reveal that it is a program if it is asked a series of questions.
In addition, human volunteers in the program have been specially trained not to reveal if they are human or not.
If you participate, and this is important, you would not know which you had, a person or a computer.
As it is, if all of you who could participate wanted to, less than fifteen percent would be assigned a computer rather than a person. Again, this is something important for all of you to know."
"Hold on, let's see if this makes sense. You mean if we sign up for this thing, we get to text to some stranger and you guys don't know what we are going to say?"
"That's correct. The group has safeguards in place so no communications can be monitored."
"And if we participate, some of us will get some volunteer person, who can tell us who won baseball games and what happened in some town, and things like that?"
"That's right. You can communicate about whatever you want, and the volunteers have access to information."
"But some of us who do this thing, won't get a real person, we get a computer instead?"
"That's correct. At some point there may be enough volunteers, but there aren't right now."
"But you guys aren't going to tell us which we have, either a person or a computer?"
"The board insisted that you know that you would get one or the other, however, the group felt it best that you not know which."
"That's messed up! Could you imagine texting with some person for a year, only to find out you were talking to a computer? What's that? What are you guys thinking?"
"The group insists that none of you will ever be able to tell the difference and the difference will never be revealed to you. They wanted all of you to have a chance to communicate and this was the only way. They have a reasoning and they feel it will benefit you. They feel that, over time, you all will make adjustments. If you don't like the idea, don't participate."
"How are you today, Jessica?"
"Fine, Timothy, how are you?"
"Things are alright. Today is rake the yard day. Last time there was a coin on the ground. No one else saw. It's here now, on the back of the shelf."
"That's nice Timothy. Do you know what kind of coin it is?"
"No, it's sort of dirty and tarnished. If things go well, next week, they may bring by sodas. That should clean it. When it's polished it should look nice."
"It might be a quarter. That's the biggest coin you would likely find. If it's a nickel or a penny, you could balance it."
"It might work with the pebbles, you know, some sort of game?"
"That's a great idea Timothy. We can surely come up with something once you find out what it is."
"That would be nice. It's kind of hard to play games when you have stuff that isn't here."
"Don't worry, Timothy, we can think of something."
Timothy leaned back on his bed and held the tablet in front of him. He thought a moment and then typed with is finger, "Jessica. Where did you say you lived?"
He waited a moment and then read the word, "Wisconsin."
"Is it cold there?"
"Not this time of year."
"Has it rained?"
Timothy laid his head down and thought. He could feel himself want to cry. He looked at the screen and hesitated and resisted but then typed, "Can't you tell me?"
"No Timothy, you know the rules."
"But you don't know what it's like. Can't you just say without saying?"
"Timothy, we've talked about this, you know that our natures can't be revealed one way or the other. Whether human or computer, we aren't supposed to say."
Timothy typed, "But" and started to cry.
He looked away from the screen and set it down and walked back and forth in his cell. After a few laps he looked back at his screen. It said, "Timothy?"
Timothy held the screen for a moment and threw it down on his bed. He crumpled on the floor and cried.
"How are things going?"
"Alright. My team won the basketball game yesterday. Now we're 230 and 215. It's nice to have a winning record."
"How are things with your person? You said his name was Alan?"
"We've talked about this before, Tim."
"Yeah, yeah, but how do you know? Did he say? Have you figured it out?"
"Listen Tim, when they told us about this eight months ago, it seemed kind of iffy. There was a choice though if you signed up. A decision had to be made. Once it was made, there was no more thinking about it."
"But you don't understand," Timothy struggled to say.
"Listen Tim, you need to stop this. Look at you. You shake all the time, you're always nervous, and you can't stop thinking about it. You need to get a hold of yourself. You have choices Tim – decide Jessica is a computer and treat her like that, just asking about events and things, decide Jessica is real and stop thinking more about it, or just let the whole thing go and tell them you don't want to participate anymore. You can't live like this."
"But you decided Alan was real. How? How do you know? Don't you worry? What if you're wrong? It … it … just help," Timothy pleaded.
"Listen Tim, we're friends, but other people think you've lost it. You just have to decide Tim and not look back. Burn the bridge, so to speak. Think she's real or she isn't and never question it again. If you can't do that, then tell them you want to stop. Other people have."
"But it's someone in the cell. Someone to talk to. There's no one else there for me. No one else to talk to."
"Then decide Tim. Decide."
Timothy looked with eyes of worry.
"How about this Tim? Assume Jessica is a computer. If you find someday that you were right, you won't feel bad that you had conversations with a machine. You would have just accessed a database. On the other hand, if you ever find out Jessica was real, well, at the worst, you missed out a little. It won't be as much of a strain though as thinking she was a person and finding out she wasn't. That might be too much for you."
Timothy thought for a moment and said, "Alright."
"The score was 5 – 2, with the Eagles winning."
"And how many runs did Williams get?"
"One, in the third inning."
"That's good. Did he strike out?"
"No, he made it on to base each time he was at bat."
"What's the weather like, here, outside?"
"It's eighty four degrees with a high of ninety two. There is a thirty percent chance of rain. There was a storm last night and should be another one, two days from now. After that, for next five days, rain will be spotty and temperatures will be in the low nineties for highs and the high seventies for lows."
"Are you keeping track of my days?"
"How many has it been?"
"One thousand, one hundred and fifty six."
Timothy paused a moment and then typed, "How's your dog?"
"You told me you didn't want to talk about things like that?"
"Yes, that's right. It was just a thought."
"You said not to talk about anything that sounded human."
"Is there anything else you want to talk about?"
Timothy thought and typed, "No, not right now." And he set the tablet down. He then scooted off his bed and laid down on the ground.
"How's your dog?"
"Oh, he's fine Timothy. He tried to chase someone on their bike today. It was very funny. After the person passed, he looked at me for a dog biscuit. It was like he wanted a reward for chasing the person off. It was very funny."
"Are you still planning that trip?"
"Oh, yes, but don't worry, the tablet won't be far from me."
"It must be nice to go to the mountains."
"Yes. A week in a cabin with trees and scenery and nature. It's going to be wonderful. Don't worry, you'll hear all about it."
"Thanks for that."
"Don't worry about it."
"You know something Jessica?"
"You make all this life a little easier."
"Thank you Timothy, that's nice of you to say."
"It might not sound like much, but some days you're the only nice thing."
"Thank you Timothy. Don't worry though, life will get better. Just have hope."
"Thanks Jessica, you're wonderful."
"Thank you Timothy, you're wonderful too."
"What do you know about me?"
"All sorts of things. Is there something you want to know?"
"Do you have a file on me, or something like that?"
"No. There's no file of information about you. All any of us know is what you all tell us, and vice versa."
"So you don't know the reason for me being here?"
"You don't know when my time is up?"
"No, you never said. You did say the day you got there though."
"How long have you known me?"
"Over four years, why?"
"You still live in Wisconsin?"
Timothy thought and typed, "You ever been to Oregon?"
"No. California once though."
"Have you been to Colorado?"
"Yes. Some years ago."
"Is it nice?"
"Yes, it's nice."
Timothy paused a few moments and typed, "Jessica?"
"Do you like flowers?"
"Sure, who doesn't?"
"What kind do you like?"
"My favorite are lilies. What kind do you like?"
Timothy thought and typed, "It's been a while. Maybe roses. Yeah, roses."
"Roses are nice."
"Yes they are."
Timothy stood on the street. The air was a little cool, but the day seemed like it would be warm. He had on a brown suit and black shoes and carried a bouquet of lilies. He walked along a little farther and stopped at a bench to sit down.
The street was quiet but cars still moved by. Behind him was a park of some kind and across the street there were stores. Timothy sat quietly.
After a while, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He read it over:
Prisoner's Assistance Group
231 Allister Lane
Timothy sat and thought. He had three blocks to go. For some reason he couldn't stand.
As Timothy sat, he felt a strange feeling of emptiness. It was like he wanted to cry, but couldn't. He didn't know why he felt that way. A part of him just wanted to stand and go, but for some reason he couldn't.
After a moment, Timothy sighed and felt himself force himself up. He stood, with his flowers in his hand and started to walk again.
For some reason, as he moved, he felt like he was in a movie. Something just didn’t feel real. The town seemed thought out, in some way, instead of natural. People around him talked, but he couldn't hear their words, just like extras in a movie. He felt so much like everyone was watching him in a scene.
Timothy went one block and then another and then came to a corner. The sign above him said, "Allister Lane."
Timothy walked down a little and looked at a building. The number said 320. He walked farther and saw the next was 316. He kept moving, trying not to think about it all.
After some time he saw the address 242. Then 240. He walked farther and then saw it across the street. It was a white building with three stories. It was wider than it was tall. It had big glass windows that seemed black. There was a plaza in front with a fountain and stairs that led to the entrance.
Timothy stood and looked at the building. A sign to his right said, "231 Allister Lane." He looked back at the building. People came in and out and there were some sitting on benches that were across from the fountain. People talked and smiled and just seemed to be moving about.
As Timothy looked he felt so small, in his brown suit, with his flowers. The building seemed to grow.
A woman passed him. She was pretty. She was wearing a flower print skirt, that was white with blue and purple flowers. She had a pink sweater on and was wearing heels. Her hair was long and fell behind her shoulders. Timothy watched as she walked toward him and then past him. He couldn't help but watch as she left.
He then turned back to the building. It seemed so far away.
Timothy stood and sighed. He started to talk to himself in a whisper:
"What are you doing here Timothy? What are you doing here? You know what people will say. You know what it will look like. Besides, you know how this could turn out. You said you wouldn't think it anymore, so you're not going to think it, but you know how this could turn out. You know the fears you had, and how you cried thinking about them. What are you doing here Timothy?
Timothy stood silent for a moment. His arms fell by his sides. He felt like water had just been poured on him and he was standing there, soaking wet. He felt tired and out of place.
People kept walking by. They were talking and laughing and moving about. The woman from before came by again. She walked past Timothy and he saw as she went by the fountain and walked into the building.
He looked around and saw the trees and sky. He saw reflections in the glass of the building.
He stood for a moment more and could feel tears behind his eyes. He closed his eyes, set the flowers down on the ground and walked away.