I began writing this story October 27, 2011, using the following exercise From Brian Kitely’s The 4 A.M. Breakthrough, modified for 365 days instead of 52 weeks:
WeeklyDaily Exercise. Write a piece of fiction over a year. Make it fifty-twothree hundred and sixty-five sentences long. Write one sentence a weekday. Work on this sentence carefully. Don’t plan the next sentence when you’re working on this one sentence. You can and should certainly look back at your previous sentences. The subject of the story should be in part the passage of one year and whatever changes this year has wrought on a handful of fictional characters. There is no word limit for this exercise, but stick to fifty-twothree hundred and sixty-five sentences.
You may have noticed it hasn’t been finished yet. :p I had only the bare concept of what I wanted to do with, and I think that contributed to it stalling after only a short while. But I’d like to finish it eventually and will likely tinker with it here and there, so if you like what’s so far, check back occasionally for more! :)
1In the city of New Chance the heat of the fading day sizzled unrelenting in the darkening streets, but in a tiny modular apartment near the edge of town, just on the bad side of the metro-slum boundary, a man lay supine on an old bead-filled futon, eyes shifting blindly in a REM-like flurry, fingers twitching spiderlike between moments of stillness, oblivious to both the heat outside and the ice-cold air conditioning for which he paid several hundred rubals a month. 2On the output side of his projected-image eyecaps, the world neural net rapid-fired data at him from several sources at once: an awful old-world porno a friend had sent for laughs ran mostly forgotten in the background, overlaid with incoming mail, forum messages, and IM’s, and a connection to a server box in a corporate building on the other side of the planet through which he currently paged in search of half a dozen items listed in a sidebar in his visual workspace.
3A priority message appeared suddenly, blinking garish red across the center of the active window, and he spat a short string of annoyed invective at his current (and only) client, who was asking for the fourth time in three hours if he had the docs yet. 4“Priority Reply:” he said through clenched teeth into the silence of the room, “Still working, and four interruptions is roughly twelve extra minutes worth of your money at the contract rate, Banks.” 5He awaited a reply for a count of ten, and when none came, returned to the search, fingers flying again as he dug through the unfamiliar system.
6For what this corporate no-name was paying him, he had expected the job to be considerably more…exciting than it had turned out to be, but so far he’d come up against no resistance from either the corpsys or any counter hackers. 7All seemed quiet on the home front. 8Of course, even a novice should know that’s the first sign that something’s not right — should being the operative word.
9It may sound odd to suggest one can be blindsided by something as simple as cigarette smoke, but when you’re in the digital middle-of-nowhere, minding your own business (or someone else’s, as the case may be) and not expecting the hyper-real olfactory stimulation of virtual smoke in your face, it’s likely to do just that when it hits. 10And suddenly, without even the opportunity to activate a single security mechanism on his personal headspace, he’s completely locked down with only sensory input to keep him company, effectively frozen and forced to watch while the new entity interposed itself between him and his workspace, thumbing lazily through the active items, and tossing them away, the data fizzling into corrupted bits as it leaves dextrous black, clawed fingers.
11He had seen some fancy avatar work before, but most people didn’t bother with more than off the shelf uncanny valley-triggering humanoids or anime characters (mundanes), or annoying cartoons, porn screenshots, or suspiciously innocuous looking adorable baby animals (hackers and other underbelly ilk). 12This branch-horned, snake-bodied creature that sat up on its haunches with its back to him? — that was detailed enough that his brain tripped a little over the impossibility of it; the minutely rendered scales; the individual hairs on its lion-maned head; the heavy, grooved claws it used as extensions of its already long digits. 13He couldn’t be sure he’d seen anything that looked so terrifyingly real and alive even in reality before.
14The entity flipped one long ear back in his direction, giving the distinct impression, as it replied to his fears in an eerie, synthesized polyphonic voice, that with just the attention of that small appendage, the thoughts had been plucked from behind his internal firewall as easily as one might pick up an apple. 15“It has taken many years to perfect it to this degree. 16You should have seen it when I was just a wee newb, using static pictures of cheesy long statues and old paintings.” 17The sinuous black figure went silent again, and unnervingly still as it paused over the list of files he’d been attempting to retrieve. 18It spawned a safe window suddenly, bordered in swirling, eye-bleeding orange, and in moments had retrieved the files for which he’d been scouring the unfamiliar system and digging through security and permissions for the last three hours. 19The moment the icon for the final file hit the sandbox, its border flashed in warning, red and orange alternating rapidly.
20“So..any idea who your contractor is working for?” it continued finally, still in a conversational tone, though its heavy brow was creased when it turned its head to look over its shoulder at him with one huge, wild-looking black eye.
21“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snarled, finally able to speak, though in truth, he didn’t know anything about the contractor aside from his name, and that he was apparently very well funded. 22And since all communication thus far had taken place via text, even the short, balding, rotund corpse with the high-pitched, nasal voice was purely a construct of his imagination and his irritation at being pestered while he was working. 23He’d known it was a risk, taking a job from an ident-redacted entity, but any corpse wanting to maintain (their illusion of) anonymity on the WNN would be willing to offer a sweet payoff, and this one had been no different.
24“Hmm,” it rumbled, twisting its body to look at him fully, eyes narrowing in shrewd consideration of him over its long, bewhiskered, wide-nostriled snout. 25“No…you don’t, do you?” it said finally, brow rising in unconcern as it seemingly ascertained the measure of him. 26“How long have you been playing the game, New Guy?” it asked, turning completely then and leaving the safe window hanging forgotten in the air, as it leaned on empty space and propped its chin in a palm. 27“I could gather all your personal information myself, but really, you’re right here, so why not talk like two civilized people?”
28He found his motor functions returned to him, and immediately tried to activate up his security protocols. 29The entity picked its teeth with a claw, a tendril of smoke curling lazily from one nostril, as it waited for him to realize nothing was going to happen when he went through manual and then voice commands, then attempted to disconnect completely from the corporate system.
This page was last updated December 29, 2011.