This piece of written was written as part of NaNoWriMo 2008, as such it is unfinished and unpolished. The idea was to create a Cyberpunk-esque world and chronicle a characters decent into it. The main character “Blank” is so named because I couldn’t think of a name, so I put “Blank” in as a place holder, after a while the name just stuck, and I think I like it.
I wrote this trying to have a Douglas Adams voice in my head, I’d read the first chapter of Michael Marshal Smith’s one of us and I liked the idea of the talking alarm clock, except I think his alarm clock was a bio-engineered organism of some sort. The world is less cyberpunk more consumer nightmare, but it was going to go the way of cyberpunk if cyberpunk were designed by Apple… And extremely annoying…
I’ve not thought of a name for this story yet, I guess it needs a middle and an end before that will happen…
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Blank muttered under his breath, he was running across the lobby of the office building and he could see the lift doors starting to close.
“Hold the Door” he shouted but the lift took no notice, had better things to do than pander to his needs.
Blank hated lifts, especially this one, it had a mind of its own and had a creepy tendency to hang about the 23rd floor, and Blank was convinced it was chatting up the Coke machine on that floor.
Blank managed to reach the lift with just enough time to stick his arm between the doors, but they didn’t stop closing.
“Owww! You’re supposed to stop closing the doors when something gets between them!”
“Sorry” The lift said insincerely “I didn’t see you there. Did you want to come in?”
“What gave you that impression? My shouting at you to hold the door, my sprinting towards you, or my sticking my arm between your doors trying to keep them open only to have it crushed?”
“How am I supposed to know if you want to come in? I’ve not been programmed with an intricate understanding of human body language. All I know is that if you want me to give you a ride you push one of the buttons on the wall outside.”
“Well it would have been difficult to push the button from across the lobby wasn’t it? Open the door and let me in, I’m late enough as it is” Blank said realising that he must look ridiculous arguing with the lift with his arm stuck in between the doors. “Don’t you have some where to be anyway? Weren’t you answering a call on another floor?”
“Not really, I’d Just gotten bore of hanging about here, everyone one is normally in their offices at this point any way. So I was heading to the 23rd floor to have a chat with the Coke machine.” Blank knew it! “Besides it’s your own fault you are late. Not mine”.
“Actually it’s not. My alarm clock slept in this morning and woke me up an hour later than I’d told it to”
“Pah, you always people always blame it on us machines, I’m sure she had a perfectly good reason you probably kept her up all night”
Blank wasn’t in the mood to argue, he was late enough as it was and this was only making him later. “Look you are probably right, I was up quite late preparing the some charts for a presentation I’ve got to give today on the effectiveness of charts in company presentations. But that’s beside the point. Can I please come in, and will you please take me to the 25th floor, I’ve got a meeting that starts in 20 minutes and I don’t want to be late for that”
“You’ve got 20 minutes have you…? Well I tell you what I’m going to the 23rd floor, I’ll drop you off there, and then I’m going on a break. You can take the stairs up two floors; you look like you need the exercise”
“Okay” Blank gave up, he’d had a similar argument with the lift before, there was no way to win it and he was just getting later and later. It was a good thing he had an understanding boss, hopefully he’d just have to stay in a little later to make up for being late.
The lift pulled up to the 23rd floor opened its doors and the out of order light flashed on. As Blank walked out the lift he noticed that the Coke machine had also gone out of order, and he wondered to himself exactly what the lift and the coke machine did together.
The walk up to the 25th floor wasn’t that bad, the stairway was kept clinically clean, mainly because no one but him and the Janitors ever used them. He was just glad that the lift was finished with its fling with the coffee machine on the 10th floor.
As Blank arrived at his desk he noticed there was a note on his monitor which had the text “1 New Message” flashing on it. He’d gotten the interactive post it notes as a Secret Santa gift two Christmas’s ago, but had never used them. He had no idea who’d given it to him, but he really wished he’d been given something a little more useful.
He clicked on the note with his finger and a message popped up asking him for his personal pin number. He didn’t remember setting a pin number on it, but he’d gotten it just over two years ago so he assumed he’d forgotten about it.
Blank searched his desk for the user manual for the post-it note which he found under the stand for his monitor, and flicked through it looking for any reference to the default pin.
Eventually 30 pages into the tome he found that the pin was written on the inside of the box the post-it note came in. After another five minutes of rooting through his desk Blank finally found the box crushed under a pile of paper, he looked inside the box and surely enough there was a sticker with the pin for the post-it note:
Auto Post-it Pin Number: 0-0-0-0
Why that couldn’t have been listed in the manual, Blank had no idea, he punched the pin into the post it note and after an irritatingly long animated intro, it displayed a message.
I come round to your desk to speak to you about the presentation this morning only to find you weren’t here.
This is the fifth time this month you’ve been come in late. We need to talk about this.
Can you come round to my office when you are done with the presentation?
Mike was Blanks boss generally a nice guy, but you didn’t want to get on his bad side, Blank would have to swing round after the Presentation and Iron things out.
“Oh Shit! The Presentation!” Blanks hand flew to his forehead, he glanced down at his desk clock, he was 3 minutes late, and the presentation was in a meeting room on the 21st floor. He grabbed his laptop and made for the stairs, as he passed the Lift he noted that it was still on the 23rd floor and wondered again what on earth the lift was doing to that Coke machine.
Suffice it to say that neither the presentation nor the subsequent meeting went well. Blank arrived at the meeting room just as everyone was leaving having given up on waiting for him. Mike was the last person to leave and told Blank that he had a phone call to make but wanted to see Blank in his office in 20 minutes.
Annoyed and not knowing what else to do, Blank headed back to his desk sat down and stared blankly at his screen for a few minutes. His mind was throwing a million thoughts a second at him most of which were some variation of “Oh Shit, What am I going to do”.
Deciding that he needed to calm his nerves Blank headed to the canteen to get a cup of tea, He got his mug out, set the kettle to boil and reached into the empty box of tea bags… “Shit!”
Tea-less Blank headed back to his desk to await his doom.
Blank let himself into his flat now jobless. He tried to console himself on the fact that he was now on garden leave, so he was technically being paid to sit about his flat and do nothing for the rest of the month.
The only problem was that at the end of the month he wouldn’t have any money coming in to pay for said flat and would probably end up being homeless.
It was 5 in the evening so there wasn’t much he could do about getting a new job, and he needed a cup of tea. Heading to the kitchen he got out his mug, set the kettle on to boil and chucked a tea bag in his mug. As he opened the fridge door an ominous pulsing red light emitted from the inside. Blank opened the door some more to see that the cap on his bottle of milk was flashing to tell him it was out of date.
“It might not be off” Blank said to himself slowly unscrewing the cap of the Milk bottle, only to be hit with the pungent vomit like smell of sour milk.
Great, now if he wanted a cup of tea he’d have to go out and buy milk. Closing the fridge door Blank operated the fridge’s computer to bring up his shopping list, the fridge was good enough to keep track of what was inside it and could print out a shopping list for him; the only problem was he had to skim through the list to filter out all the spam.
If Blank had been a paying subscriber to the fridge monitor system then all he would get would be the items he normally wanted and or was running out of, but because he would opted for the free plan he had to make sure that nothing he didn’t actually want ended up on his shopping list.
<< INSERT SHOPPING LIST HERE>>
Having made sure that he’d gotten all the spam off the list Blank hit the print button and the fridge spat out his shopping list.
Blank turned to get his coat and noticed a green pulsing light under a pile of mail on the table, right where his answering machine was.
“Why didn’t you tell me I had a message when I came in?” he asked the answering machine.
“Mrph mmmph mmm phirt rrrit” came the muffled reply from under the stack of bills.
Blank picked up the mail and put it to one side. and turned to the answering machine expectantly.
“Well? How the hell was I supposed to know you’d come in? That damn post covers up all my sensors! Which, I might add are filled with dust. Do you never clean this place?”
Blank silently wondered whose bright idea it was to give machines personalities, and what bastard had made his answering machine so narky.
“Look shut up okay or I’ll unplug you and chuck you in the cupboard” Blank wasn’t going to let it get the upper hand.
“Unplug me will you? I guess you don’t need me to take your messages then, do you? In fact I’ve got a message from that girl you’ve had round a couple of times, what’s her name again? Lucy isn’t it? I guess I’ll just go ahead and delete that message shall I? In fact it looks like I’ve got three messages from her I’ll just go ahead and delete them all”
Blank suddenly remembered why he was arguing with the damn machine in the first place. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me she’d called?” Blank hadn’t spoken to Lucy in a couple of days, he had been wondering why she hadn’t called. Why he hadn’t called her in the mean time was beyond him. With the presentation and other stuff at work calling her hadn’t occurred to him, he’d figured he’d see her at the weekend.
“Do you think I flash my lights for fun? I did try to tell you. But oh no you had to cover me in mail so you couldn’t see them. You obviously aren’t interested in me. Do you know what it feels like to be ignored? Shunned even? It hurts my feelings?” Not only was it narky it was overly melodramatic great.
“Just play the messages, I can’t take this anymore. I need to go to the shops and get this stuff before my shopping list expires”
“Okay… Are you sure you want to hear this? I don’t think you will like it. I could just delete them and pretend they never happened?”
“Just play the messages!”
The message was okay.
“Hey hun it’s me, just phoning to see how you were doing. Call me okay”
“Hey it’s been a couple of days, you never called me back. Is everything okay?” There was an uncomfortable pause.
“I think we need to talk, if this is going anywhere. Okay, um…” Another uncomfortable pause. “Please call me.”
“Blank it’s been a week, I’ve not heard from you. I guess you aren’t interested” there was an uncomfortable pause “I thought you were a nice guy, but it looks like you’re no different from the rest.”
Blank really didn’t like where this was going…
“Listen it was fun, but we are obviously looking for different things, this isn’t going to work, I guess I’ll see you around…” The message trailed off there were a few excruciating seconds where Blank was sure he could hear muffled sobbing before the sudden…
“Oh shit…” Blank cupped his eyes with his hands, How could he have been so stupid…
“This always happens to me, I find someone I like then I go and screw it up!”
“I did try to warn you, but you didn’t listen to me” The answering machine said smugly.
In one motion blank grabbed the answering machine and threw it against the wall, its surprised yelp was cut short as the power cord that kept is alive was pulled out of its back.
The answering machine hit the wall with some force and broke into several pieces, the largest of which bounced flew directly back at blank hitting him hard on his wrist.
“Ow! Shit!” It seemed that even in death it mocked him.
Blank grabbed his keys and stormed out the front door, he then stormed back in and grabbed his shopping list, and stormed out again.
Blank got on the bus, which would take him to the market; it was empty aside from a couple of teenage girls one of whom was playing music on her mobile phone. Blank was convinced it was louder than some nightclubs he’d been to, and secretly wished they’d ban the mobile phone companies from putting sub-woofers on phones, it was overkill, and it defeated the purpose of a personal communication device.
He also wished he had the power to hand out anti-social behaviour notices to people who played music that sounded like someone was strangling a chipmunk with a steam engine roaring in the background, how could they call that music.
Seething in his seat, Blank did nothing.
Arriving at the market blank swiped his shopping list at the kiosk and it printed out a map of where to get all the items on his shopping list. It was supposedly the most optimal path through his shopping list, apart from the few sponsored items, which had been added to his route. He’d had the option of opting out of these “sponsored” items being on his route, but he would have had to have paid for the premium service for that, and Blank was sure he could just ignore the stuff he didn’t want… Although, he thought, looking at the map that he might actually want some doughnuts, and he’d never tried marshmallow Silly’O’s before… Maybe he’d pick them up on his way round, they were after all on his route…
Somewhere between the Tea and the sugar Blank noticed that there was a blonde woman that seemed to be looking at him oddly, she might even have been following him. That was ludicrous, people didn’t follow other people in super markets, but everywhere he went after that he saw her. The chances of their shopping maps being the same was almost statistically impossible, Blank knew that… but it was only almost, impossible, and she was a good looking woman, maybe she was checking him out… Unlikely, but his day had been so shit so far maybe he was cashing in a karmic cheque to compensate for his rubbish day… Maybe it was just coincidence, Blank smiled at her as he passed her and the tinned tomatoes, she hastily looked away, and pushed her trolley off looking embarrassed, he didn’t see her again for the rest of his shopping trip.
Great, he thought; he’d scared her away. It was typical of the day he’d been having. Blank continued along his route around the market, he briefly considered deviating to avoid the Silly’O’s but ending up picking them up anyway out of curiosity.
As Blank walked out the door of the supermarket the handle of his trolley displayed the amount that would be debited from his account and asked him to confirm it, it was slightly more than he was expecting but he had a discount code from his work which would make it okay. Blank punched in the discount code waited for a couple of seconds and was surprised to see it come up as rejected. HR had obviously been working overtime today, he’d only been sacked at 5… Oh well, he couldn’t be bothered going back and dropping off any items he’d picked up so he pushed the cart into the bagging machine and went to the other side to wait for his stuff, he could have bagged it himself, but he paid a monthly subscription for the service as it saved him so much time.
As he approached the conveyor belt, where his shopping would pop out he noticed the same blonde woman he’d seen earlier, she’d obviously noticed him as well because the second he looked at her, her head spun around in to look in the opposite direction and she hurried off, almost forgetting her shopping. Blank could see she was obviously out of his league, her shopping had been packed in the special premium bags with padded handles and a lining that kept your food cold. This was a stark contrast to the crap plastic ones his shopping was coming out in, with the handles that ripped your hands to shreds and the plastic that was so thin that blank had never made it home without at least one bag bursting and spilling its contents on the floor.
She was heading to the car park too which meant she could afford to run a car, or had a company car which although not completely uncommon was quite rare these days, Blank couldn’t remember the last time he’d been in an car that wasn’t a taxi, and they just weren’t the same. One time when he was young he’d gone on holiday with his parents and they’d stayed with one of his dads friends from school who was filthy rich. He’d had a car; and not just any car, it was one of the ones you actually drove yourself not an autocar like the ones you usually saw on the streets.
Blank resolved that his chances with her were so infinitesimally small that he shouldn’t even think about it. But… She’d been looking at him… Hadn’t she?
The bus ride home had been completely uneventful, just the way Blank liked it. He’d even managed to avoid bursting any of his shopping bags on the way home, which was a plus.
As Blank approached the door to his flat he noticed a sheet of paper hanging on his door. Probably a note from one of the neighbours, Blank thought. The fact that Blank had had absolutely no interaction with any of his neighbours in the three or so years he’d been living there didn’t occur to Blank until he got close enough read the heading on the paper… It was from his landlord…
For The ATTN: Blank Munchausen: (Typography Note: His name is in a font that looks like handwriting)
Please verify identity to read Further
It was probably just a notice to tell Blank the rent was going up or something like that; Blank kept himself to himself, never played loud music or had friends over for that matter, except Lucy… And that wasn’t likely to happen again.
Blank let himself in and went to his “Study” to read the notice; it was more of a cupboard with just enough room for a desk and a bookshelf, but blank had always wanted a study so as far as he was concerned that was what it was.
Blank scanned his thumb over the print reader on the paper, it took him several times to get it to register that it was to him that the letter was addressed.
For The ATTN: Blank Munchausen.
Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr/Sir/Master Munchausen,
Despite it being message that had been sent out by a computer Blank was almost always amused that his landlords tried to give it a personal touch by altering the font of his name and adding in the greetings which would never apply to him, only to cross them out.
It is with great regretification that we write to inform you that your residing at this address will soon have to be terminated. The building which your flat is apart of has been sought after by a development firm, who have offered me a sum of monies I would rather not disclose for the reason of purchasing the flat in which you are residing, and we have agreed.
It took Blank a couple of attempts to decipher the first paragraph, but her really didn’t like where this was going
In according with your agreement of lease I hereby give you 1 months notice that you have to vacate the property.
“Oh Shit!” was all blank could manage as he read on.
At the end of the month the building is being demolished, by the company mentioned above, as such having notified you of such circumstances we hereby absolve ourselves of any responsibility to the safety of your belongings at the end of the months period expiring.
At least they’d given him a month to move out, Blank wasn’t sure he could find another place to live in that amount of time though. Having just lost his job meant he’d have loads more spare time to do so, but it also meant he’d have to explain to any perspective landlord where the rent was going to coming from…
Prior to the building being demolished I am assured that the above mentioned development firm who prefer to for the time being remain unnamed has assured us that they will check to see that there is no one in the building, so you need not fear of the building being torn down around you, unless you are a very heavy sleeper.
Blank wasn’t worried about being a heavy sleeper so much that his alarm clock wouldn’t bother to wake him up in time to move out. It was that damn things fault he’d lost his job today, Blank was considering just leaving it in the flat when he did move out.
We are sorry for any convenience this may place you in,
The Team at Flexibly Living Inc.
Great Blank thought, today he’d gone from being a little late to work to being unemployed, single, and soon to be homeless… And it was only 8 O’Clock.
“There was only one thing to do when life is going this badly” Blank thought aloud to himself. “Make tea”
Blank packed away his shopping and set the kettle on, he was glad for once that he had a bog standard kettle, he had had his fill of household items that talked back, all he ever wanted his kettle to do was boil water, which it did admirably.
Blank got out his favourite mug, put a teabag in it and considered for the millions time in his life adding the milk before the water, but decided against it, and patiently waited for the kettle to boil.
The kettle clicked it’s self off, and as blank was reaching for the kettle to pour the water into his mug and continue his tea making ritual he heard the unfamiliar sound of his doorbell.
Blank had one of the most advanced doorbells you could get, it had the option to play any of a hundred or so melodies, or any sound clip you chose to upload to it, after careful deliberation and having decided that every single one of it’s “melodies” was insanely irritating Blank had decided to go for the simple and yet effective, “Ding Dong” sound. He felt in encapsulated all that a doorbell should be, and was the least likely sound do drive him crazy.
Not that the sound his doorbell made mattered very much. Blank seldom entertained guests, and when he did have people round they tended to be coming in with him, so Blank rarely heard his doorbell go off. As such it took him a couple of confused seconds to realize what it was. His carefully choreographed tea making ritual ruined by the disruptive doorbell Blank decided that the Tea could wait a moment as he found out who was at his door.
As Blank tentatively paced towards the door, not really knowing what to expect, he thought of all the possibilities of whom might be waiting on the other side of the door.
Part of him hoped it was Lucy, come to take him back, he immediately pushed that thought out of his head. The last she’d heard of her she was moving on, due to his own lack of interest. Maybe if he called her he could straighten things out, they might have a small fight, but maybe it would end well, probably not though.
Another part of him, albeit a small part wondered if it was someone with a brief case full of cash waiting to tell him he’d won the lottery or something. Blank knew that this was even more unlikely than it being Lucy though as he never played the lottery, as he saw it the lottery was a tax on people who were bad at statistics. And Blank wasn’t bad at statistics, He’d done a stats module at university; He may have had to resit it three times but he’d passed eventually and that was proof enough that he wasn’t bad at statistics… Just Mediocre…
A third part of his mind worried that it was some murderous villain looking to kill whomever they found in the flat and take up residence there to perform some nefarious deeds, this was highly unlikely but probably more likely than his other two ideas.
Blank resolved that he had no idea who was on the other side of the door, and the only way he would ever find out was to continue opening the door and see for himself, as no amount of postulating would change the inevitable outcome, unless he spent too long postulating and the person on the other side of the door got bored and left, which could be good or bad depending on who was on the other side of the door.
At that thought, Blank became aware that with every second he spent considering this outcome the likely hood that the person on the other side would in fact just assume he wasn’t there and leave increased. Deciding that in case it was Lucy or the Lottery man Blank started to open the door, but he tensed himself ready for action should it be a villainous murdered, exactly what action he was readying himself for he wasn’t sure, but he was damn well ready.
All of Blanks readiness Dissolved into nothingness as he saw who was waiting on the other side of the door.
It was “Her”. The woman from the shopping market, the woman Blank never thought he’d see again.
Maybe she had been eyeing him up?
But how had she found him?
It had only been a half an hour since he’d left the market, there was no way she could have found out where he lived in that amount of time.
Maybe she was some scary stalker?
Maybe she was the murderous villain he’d been ready for, but wasn’t anymore because she’d thrown him off guard by being her and not some other murderous villain?
Blank tried to remember what he was intending to do in case the person on the other side of the door was a murderous villain and couldn’t come up with anything. The best he could manage was “Uh… Hello?”
“Hi, I need to talk to you. This may sound strange, but I need your help” She said.
Blank stared at her expressionlessly for a few seconds trying to think what it could possibly be that she would need him to do for her.
“Uh… Okay, I guess, what do you need me to do?”
“I can’t talk about it here; you’ll have to trust me. Can you come with me now? I’ll be able to explain it all when we get there”
“Come with you where? I’m not sure I… Uh… What is this about?”
“Look if you come with me I’ll be able to explain it all, I just… Can’t talk about it here. Someone might be listening.” She looked around apprehensively “Are you coming with me or not?”
Blank weighed moping about his flat by himself thinking about how rubbish his life had suddenly become in the last few hours against going out to help this attractive blonde woman. He was struggling to think of a single thing that made the former had going for it that wasn’t over shadowed by the fact that he’d be leaving his flat with this attractive blonde woman.
In fact he struggled to think of a single thing that the former had going for it at all.
“Okay, give me a couple of secs to grab my keys and my wallet and I’ll be right out” Blank grabbed his stuff and as he was locking the door one thing did occur to him that his flat had going for it, tea, he paused and thought maybe he should invite her in for tea before the left.
“Come on we have to go now” She said turning away from him and walking towards the lift.
Maybe not then, hopefully there would be tea wherever she was taking him.