"Bespoke" is in Short Circuit #04, Short Édition's quarterly review. For more on the author, Shawn Bailey, patreon.com/shawnbailey is where you can get insider access to more stories. shawndotbailey.com is where you can see how warped he is.

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In the movies, it's always an invasion. Us against them. And they've got tech that far surpasses ours. We fight in the streets and a ragtag group finds a weak spot that the advanced beings have somehow overlooked. Here, it wasn't like that at all. But they did bring the tech – as a gift.

Around twenty years or so ago, people started waking up all over the globe to piles of little, white cubes. Piles in the woods, in parking lots, in the middle of the road. Everywhere.

Of course, it hit social media like wildfire. Everyone thought it was a hoax until they realized that every single country in the world had these heaping piles of white cubes. The first woman to figure out what they were got over 60,000,000 views on YouTube in two hours. She held up a smooth, white box, about a third the size of a Rubik's Cube, and somehow pushed the plug right into it. One minute it was porcelain solid, and the next the plug was sliding into it like magic. Her lamp lit up. In a couple of days, people were powering their houses with these mystery cubes. Unlimited power, just like that. For everyone.

Some governments tried to contain the piles, but in a week, there were new piles in different locations. It was obvious they were meant for everyone.

The world lit up. It was beautiful.

Next were rings of all sizes. Piles of rings, but this time mainly around coastal areas. Again, it was YouTube where someone showed off their discovery first. They poured a lot of salt and a little ink into a glass and stirred it around. Then they held the ring horizontal and poured it through the opening and into another glass. It was crystal clear. No idea where the particulate matter disappeared to, and nobody seemed to care, save a few scientists. But no one was ever able to break the skin on the toys they left for us. In a matter of weeks, they had the big rings installed in pipes with millions of gallons of water flowing like manna to the driest parts of our planet. All that disease borne of dirty water, gone. Some began worshiping our shy benefactors, and of course, some prepared for the end. Always those people.

Then came piles of what looked like three-foot poles with a slit running down the length of it. When you pushed a button, it rolled out the thinnest, black sheet of stuff I've ever seen. You could roll it out for miles without stopping. In the same way we didn't know where the ink and salt went, we had no idea where miles of this stuff were coming from. This one came with an accessory tool that would mesh the sheets together into whatever shape you wanted. How strong was it? Well, in the space of a couple months, they built a bridge from Alaska to Russia, one sheet thick, then drove tanks over it for fun.

The next piles were of these rice-sized things that looked like transparent silver. It's hard to explain, but it was like you stretched out a drop of water or something. Again, indestructible. They came with an injector that shot it into your body. We called the translucent beads biodes. You could literally inject it anywhere and would never feel it. More energy. No more sickness. No cancer. It was like Heaven.

The world came together. It was a true miracle.

Roads that never had to be maintained. Tornadoes did nothing to our razor-thin houses. Earthquakes shook nothing loose. Fires raged against houses in vain out West. We constructed magnificent architecture, stretching for miles into the sky and miles underwater. Light-weight aircraft that, with unlimited energy, could transport entire buildings between cities.

About fifteen years after the initial event came the gateways. These weren't in piles but were instead stationary. Teleportation was the coolest. You could stand in front of the opening and think hard about where you wanted to be. There was a slight tingling in the frontal lobe as you stepped forward and you were there, or close to it. You could walk through a gateway in Idaho and come out in the center of Paris. In a few months, you could drive no more than fifteen minutes to a gateway and be anywhere in the world in seconds. Highways were desolate, yielding to convenience. That's what got us first.

Everyone was so used to them that no one noticed people weren't coming out after going in. Millions disappeared before we caught on. Where they went, we'll never know. That was step one. Step two was the biodes. Almost everyone had one somewhere in their body. Billions died in seconds.

Then they came and moved into their ready-made world.

They ignore us. You can walk right by one on the street if you have the nerve, and they don't give two shits. Fighting back is pointless. Their teleportation technology is wearable, so if you shoot at them, your bullets disappear into nothingness. Or maybe it's not nothingness. I always picture one of those people who disappeared in the gateways, standing there on the other side, trying to figure out how to get back, when a stray bullet smacks them square in the forehead.

At least they didn't make us their slaves or anything, at least the ones of us here. It's just that our world no longer belongs to us.

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