Got back the writing critiques of my ghost town story this afternoon. I haven’t had a chance to go through the detailed marks, but the general consensus seems to be that everyone liked it up to the end, which they didn’t really get. There are some other things to fix, little sloppy mistakes and contradictions that I made, but I definitely need to rework the ending to make it more clear or perhaps change it to something more like the original. I’m starting to wonder if maybe the main character and setting are solid, but this particular story doesn’t work.
Writing exercise: Use as the first line: Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong.
It felt weird to use my own name there at the end, but it fit the story well. I also appear to switch tenses in that middle section. Hrm.
Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong. See, I grew up with this guy, name’s Domino. Pizza jokes his whole life. I’m supposed to take him seriously?
“Ten grand,” Domino said. He leans back in his faux leather chair. The desk was clean but for a small briefcase and a closed notebook computer. The rest of the room was a ghetto, the walls full of holes and the carpet covered in stains of who-knows-what.
“Ten grand…pianos?” I popped open the briefcase. Another notebook computer, but much smaller, and no thicker than a few pieces of paper.
Domino glared. “Ten thousand dollars.” I snapped the briefcase closed.
“Whatever. Look, if this went retail, it would be no more than one thousand, tops.”
“It is not retail,” Domino said. He laid a hand on the briefcase. “It will never be retail. This is the finest computer the military-industrial complex has ever created. You could slip onto Fujikawa Station and run the whole freakin’ world with this computer.”
“I’m really just looking to download music. It can do that, right?”
Domino slid the briefcase to his side of the desk. “Ten thousand. I do this because we were in school together. I could sell it out there,” he jerked his head toward the door, “for at least twice that.”
I pretended to be insulted as I paid his price, exerting all of my considerable willpower to not laugh. I walked in prepared to pay at least thirty thousand.
At home, I toss the briefcase in the trash and lay the new computer open on the coffee table. I didn’t need Pizza to tell me it was a marvelous piece of technology. The computer looking like nothing more than two sheets of blank white paper, connecting by a thin, nearly invisible hinge at the center. There is no keyboard, no screen, no apparent buttons. My roommate, Liliana, chatters at me from her bedroom. She’s a hacker in the traditional sense, screwing around with big business websites and raiding secret Scientology vaults. Kid stuff.
“So, the whole movie is premised on the idea that this serial killer guy has a website that’s completely untraceable. It’s totally ridiculous!” She strolls from her room and glances at the new computer. “That what you got from Pizza boy?”
Carefully, I brush my fingers across the computer. My index fingers find a pair of invisible raised studs, what surely must be the home keys. I leave my index fingers there and sprawl my hands out across the rest of the computer. I’m rewarded with a barely audible beep, and dim lights appear across the surface of the computer.
I feel a jolt, and my arms involuntarily stiffen. The tips of my fingers feel sticky, as though it would take great effort to pull free. I don’t try. I let the computer in, its consciousness flooding my own. A heads-up-display lights up along the inside of my eyes, data flashing past at incredible speeds.
“Wow,” Liliana breathes. She’s staring into my eyes.
“You can see that?” I don’t blink.
“Yeah, well, a little. It’s moving way to fast to read.”
I feel the computer stretch and snag our wireless network and suddenly I’m on a roller coaster. With no direction from me, the computer begins to download. It begins to download everything. Every bit of data on the planet.
“Shit,” I mutter. My vision is almost completely obscured by streams of green-tinted numbers and letters, photos and equations. Liliana’s spiked black hair is somewhere in the background. I focus on her face and try to bend the computer’s will to my own.
“Dude, are you okay?” Liliana asks.
“I…one moment!” Every network system in the world opens up to me, schematics laid bare. Access codes, lists of spies and special forces, top secret plans, and conspiracies all shine as brightly as any network news site or bad fan fiction collective. I can’t blink.
Gradually, grudgingly, the computer gives way to my commands, and the overwhelming flood of information slows to a trickle. I sag, realizing that my whole body had gone rigid during the ordeal.
“Thirsty thing,” I say. I shut the computer down and collapse back into the cushions of the couch.
“You’re sweating.” Liliana tosses me a towel. I let it fall on my chest. I stare at the computer. I still haven’t blinked.
“Pack your bags, Lilly. We’re taking a trip.”
Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong. Take a look at Liliana, for example. Derived from the Latin, lilium, meaning lily, like the flower. Don’t get me wrong, I love the girl like a sister, but colorful she’s not. She’s pasty, keeps her hair pitch black, and sticks with the darkest clothes she can. She’s floating by the window, looking down at Earth with a wonder I’ve never seen on her generally jaded and cynical face.
I’m another great example. Alexander, from the Greek, Alexandros, defender of man. I float to the shuttle’s forward observation deck, my new computer tucked securely under my arm. Fujikawa Station looms heavy a few miles above us, spinning silently through the night. Defender of man? Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong.