Monthly Archives: May 2014
Welcome back, friends. It’s time for another long, long overdue edition of my Short Story on the Spot Challenge (SSTS). Yeah, my intention was to do one of these a month and, if you’ve been following along, you know that I blew that pretty goal quickly. But that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to do them. The first one was a ton of fun for me, and any writing I can do is totally worth it.
I’ve been tossing this idea around in my head for a couple weeks. It’s still half-baked, but what fun would it be to have a story come to you complete and ready to dictate to the page? If it progresses they way I think it should, it will address certain moral questions concerning the role technology will play in our society in the future. At the same time, there is great potential for this thing to go waaaay longer than short story length. The only way to know is to get down to business…
“I need to speak with Walter O’leary, please,” the man said.
The security guard couldn’t help but look the man over from head to toe. At first glance he looked ordinary enough. You could miss him in crowd if you weren’t paying attention, except that you couldn’t help but pay attention when you saw him. His suit; grey jacket, grey slacks, white buttondown shirt, black tie, were absolutely perfect. Not just cleaned and pressed, but prestine to the point where it wouldn’t be a stretch to for one to believe the suit was almost a part of him. The man’s short, salt and pepper hair was styled with a side part that was precisely just so. His chin appeared to be perfectly shaved blue. Not a single bit of stubble to be found, even though is was getting close to five in the afternoon. It was as if the man had been unwrapped from climate controlled storage five minutes earlier and send out into the world. The notion was ludicrous, of course, but it still gave the guard pause.
There were probably a dozen or more people a day that came by the guard’s desk, asking to see someone on staff for one reason or another. The U.S. Department of Resource Management and Administration was magnet for all the wackos that had ideas for doing things better, and a dozen times a day he was turning those people away and tossing out the message card he had them fill out for whomever it was they wanted to see.
No visitors – that was the standing order.
But of all of those that tried to get in, no one ever asked for Walter O’Leary. Ever.
“I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have anyone here by that name.”
The man smiled. “Yes, you do.”
The guard wanted to avoid a ‘No, I don’t. Yes, you do’ second grade pissing contest with the man. He pulled out a datapad from his desk drawer and handed it to him. “Here. Please look through the directory. Maybe you have the wrong name.”
The man took the datapad, in hand, raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know how to use this.”
“This device,” he said, setting the pad back on the desk. “I’ve never used one. We don’t have them were I come from.”
The guard couldn’t help but ask the logical question. “Well, what do you read with?”
“Nothing. Anything that we need to know, we know.”
That made the guard laugh. But he was just trying to keep the situation light-hearted. Perfect appearance or not, the guard was starting to think he had a nut-case standing at his desk, and they generally have something else they really came to do. He had to be careful.
“One moment please, sir” He reached up and tapped the communicator he was wearing in his right ear. After a moment, he said, “I have a gentlemen at post two looking for someone named O’Leary…yes…code fifteen.”
In just a few seconds, a half-dozen more security guards decended on post two, surrounding the man in a loose circle, almost casually, as to not spoke the man into some action he would regret.
The man was still unphased, unruffled, and as pleasant as he’d always been. He looked around at the guards and the stunners on their belts. “I assure you, there is no need for force. I only require to speak with Walter O’Leary.”
One of the guards that had just arrived produced a small hand scanner from a pouch in his belt. “Sir, there is no O’Leary here. Would you turn around please?”
The man did so, without a word.
The guard held the scanner, moving it back and forth across the man’s back. The scanner made no noise whatsoever. He clicked it off.
“He’s not chipped.”
As if on queue, the new guards drew their stunners. The first guard stepped forward.
“Sir, we need you to come this way immediately.”
“I see. Are we going to see O’Leary?” The question almost had a child-like tone to it.
“For the last time,” he said, “There is no O’Leary here.”
The group walked across the main concourse, toward an unmarked door on the far wall behind the guard post.
“But there is.”
“How do you know, sir?” The first guard said, not really caring.
“I told you. I know what I need to know.”
One of the other guards said to the first, “What the hell is he talking about?”
He ignored the question and said to the man, “Fine then. What does Walter O’Leary do here? Maybe we can find him that way.”
“Walter O’Leary is in charge of the machine.“
The words had barely crossed his lips when the man saw a blue-white flash, heard a woman scream, and then…nothing.
Not a bad start, I think. Not perfect. Remember, there is virtually no editing of any kind in these SSTS stories. Writing this little piece answered some of the questions I had about it on the fly, which is what discovery writing is all about. Hopefully, I can get back at this tomorrow, before I lose the rythym I’ve started here. Day 1 stats are below.
Word count: 808
Writing Time: Approximately 90 minutes
Please read and comment, if you feel so compelled.
Thanks for stopping by!
Any input for making MS Word work better for me and my ebooks is always welcomed. Word users, take heed.
A Quick Primer for Fiction Writers in using Microsoft Word in the Digital Age
It always saddens me a little when a writer sends me an overly formatted Word doc to turn into an ebook or print-on-demand. It’s not that I have to clean it up–I can strip and flip the messiest files in less than an hour. What bugs me is how much thought and effort the writer wasted on utterly useless manuscript styling.
The majority of writers I work with use Word. The vast majority have no idea how to use Word for their own benefit. I understand. I was a fiction writer for over two decades and even though I have been using computers and a variety of word processing programs since the late ’80s, it wasn’t until I started learning book production that I figured out how…
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