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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

“End Program” • by Eric Fomley


Ayix is standing at the front of the railcar, giving his best CitiTrain branded holo-tour to the passengers.

“And if you look to the left, you’ll see Maritime Park,” he says. “Built in…” it takes longer than usual for him to retrieve the data, “2037. The park is dedicated to the city’s maritime heroes throughout history.”

Ayix glitches, staring at the withered grass outside the window longer than he should before turning back to his audience.

“It’s typically very busy this time of day, before recent events.”

He can feel his program starting to fail. The train’s lack of sufficient power is deteriorating his subroutines.

“That con-concludes the tour. Do do do you have any qu-questions?”

Ayix listens for a response, but only detects the occasional bump of the railcar on the tracks. He misses when people actually asked questions, and he got the opportunity to scroll through his catalogue of factoids to delight and impress them.

The holo generator blares a power failure warning through the ceiling speakers. Ayix takes one last look at his tourists, their pearl skulls bobbing to the motion of the train, and sighs.

“Thank you for taking the tour,” he says, just before his holo winks out. Maybe he’ll do another tour for the stagnant crowd tomorrow, or maybe his holo generator will finally fail. He’s not sure which he wants more.



Eric Fomley’s work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, Flame Tree Press, and The Black Library. You can read more of his work on his website at or buy him a coffee in exchange for a story at

This month’s Pete Wood Challenge was to write a 200- to 300-word flash fiction SF/F story that takes place on Earth and involves a train, and specifically a mechanical train of some sort, not a wagon or mule train. To quote Pete: “Amtrak, boxcar, steam locomotive, post-Apocalyptic Snowpiercer type, I don’t care,” but the story must take place on a train.

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