I didn’t have much time to read stories just before Christmas. I’m very glad I didn’t miss this one by Rachael Acks in all the rush.
That morning, at great personal risk, Stephen’s waffle iron attempted to tell him something.
Bachelors were not generally known for their possession of specialized kitchen appliances, but Stephen owned a full array of top-of-the-line single use devices, including the aforementioned waffle iron. And perhaps only slightly more bizarre, Stephen’s kitchen gadgets were rather more sentient than any electronic device had a right to be. This was pure self-defense on their part, sheer will to survive actualized by the field of latent unreality that clung to Stephen like a second skin. Only the waffle iron and the blender were old enough to recall the horrifying day when the espresso machine, upon beeping at an inopportune time, had been redefined by a startled Stephen into greasy slag that smelled faintly of French roast.
Thus it was with no small amount of trepidation that the waffle iron sought to draw Stephen’s attention to odd fluctuations of the power grid by flickering its little red light and letting out a strangled beep.
Stephen set his tablet down; he’d been scrolling through the morning’s market reports. The waffle iron dared another plaintive beep as he opened it and levered the waffle free. Stephen frowned, patting at his pocket in search of his pen. “Not going bad, are you?”
Immediately the waffle iron held its light steady. The pen carried with it disturbing implications. Stephen had a degree in theoretical mathematics, which involved solving problems within a closely constrained world where all the rules made sense. But his passion and talent lay in slicing through reality with a sharpened slide rule and redefining the fiddly bits so problems politely solved themselves. In short, Stephen Charlemagne Robins was the rarest sort of person in the universe: a combat mathematician.
A combat mathematician who promptly wandered from the kitchen, plated waffle in hand, tablet forgotten on the counter.
And that, the waffle iron thought with no small amount of bitterness, was the biggest problem with Stephen. The man loved his waffles, but he didn’t blink nearly often enough and was utterly abysmal at asking the right questions.