The room is dark. The moonlight seeps in, but it makes no difference. Putrid plastic pervades the taste buds. They don't notice. It was bad. The body is reclined, comatose. It hasn't moved for three years. The smell of decay permeates the air. Sirens are screaming to the scene of the crime. Footsteps approach the building.
"Honey, I'm home!"
"Sh! It's almost over."
The typical couch potato. Society's scourge. The lowest of life forms, it doesn't belong in Texarkana.
I am also the creator of one of the best modem communications programs of all time. It displays everything from the host system in capital letters, and everything I type in lower-case. I have also created the best word processor of all time. It is the only one-
Whoops, I got off on a little tangent. OOPS! I also forgot to tell you who I am. Wait. Does it really matter? Maybe it would be better if I just reined in anonymity. No. That won't work. I know. I'll turn on the radio and scoop up a good name from there.
"Now our children go up prisoners - All their lives, radio listeners."
Nope, that won't work.
"I thought that I heard you laughing. I thought that I heard you sing. I think I thought I saw you try."
That doesn't seem to fit, either.
"Dusk is dawn is day - Where did it go? I've been laughing - Fast and slow."
Wow! Three R.E.M. songs in a row! OK. OK. I admit it. I was just listening to the new R.E.M. CD. Unfortunately, it doesn't provide any names. I guess I'll just grab some names from inside. Scott Stipe. Alliteration. Fiction. It'll work!
Now for the setting. "Alfred!"
"Random selection mode, sir?"
"Are you French or English?" I questioned. Then, in response to his question I answered, "JA."
He starts playing the CD. It started with song four:
"I'm living inside - living inside - Near wild heaven."
Brilliant! Near Wild Heaven. Abstract. Obscure. Fiction. It'll work! Now I just need a theme and a plot, and I'm set.
It was my first day of school. I hate it. My old school was great.
Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut!
Not another story of pseudo-emotional gibberish. You know very well you hate reading that stuff! You'd rather put yourself back into your stereotype and get some got stuff written.
Yes sir! I hate it when my brain starts talking back to me. Especially when it starts preaching.
"I've got it! I've finally got it!"
"What have you got Mr. Stipe?" said Winferd aristocratically.
"The solution, Winferd! The solution! I've finally found the solution!"
"I can not bear to wait. Please tell it to me."
"Forty two, Mr. Stipe? That answer is much too simple. In no way can that be the solution you have been looking for."
"I spent two months of my valuable time on it." I said with a decrescendo.
"There may be a mistake in your earlier work. Everyone makes mistakes. Your answer is much too simple," said Winferd.
"Hey," I suddenly recollected one of my past victories, "remember the FBI hack? That was supposed to be the most difficult computer to break into. The name and password there were super simple."
"Yes, Mr. Stipe, I do remember. However, that was a government computer. This is a math problem, and it was not created by the government."
"Oh, I guess you're right. Someday I'll actually amount to something. Someday."
"When that occurs, I remind you that my raise is precisely six months, four days and three hours overdue."
"Winferd, you are now excused," I said coldly, miserably attempting to hide my true emotions.
"Thank you for allowing me to share in your brief moment of triumph."
"You're welcome," I said, this time with no attempt to hide the coldness.
Someday, I'll get around to becoming a great research scientist. Right now, I have more pressing matters, like dinner. Hydrochloric Acid. Sodium Hydroxide. Yuck! It tastes like salt! This bottle doesn't have a label. I'll mix in some carbon tetraflouride and heat it up. Look at it bubble! It tastes great! More filling than anything else I have made. If only I knew what was in that bottle.
My lab isn't the greatest, but it's mine. The walls are lined with shelves, empty shelves. The lab itself is about the size of an early-American tenement house. Some papers are scattered on the table. Two files fill the left corner. One holds tax records. The other, holding my latest discoveries, is taken out every Friday. A few dirty test tubes, a buret, and a blow torch constitute my lab apparatus. A few bottles of chemicals sit adjacent to them. The lab constantly smells of sulfur. I am never sure if that is a result of my experiments or Winferd's last meal. He loves Mexican food.
I think I'm getting indigestion now. I hope it's not a heart attack. I better watch what I eat. No more mystery chemical concoctions. Well, it looks as if it's about time to go to bed.
Ah! Morning. Time to check out the morning paper. Hey, this article looks interesting:
Mathematical Society Announces Contest Winner. (AP, Cambridge) A student at Harvey Mudd College in Claremount, California won the $100,000 Mathematical Society grand prize. Stanley Pyareskward found the solution to the 20 year-old was the simple integer, 42...."ARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Winferd! You're dead! Did you hear me? Dead, with capital D! It's bloody stump time!"
Snoring. Great. Winferd is still asleep. How did I ever end up with this pseudo-Butler? Oh yeah. He's my step-brother. But, he has a goofy name. He doesn't talk right. He knows absolutely nothing about science! Oh well. No point in screaming while he's asleep. Hmm. What else is in the news?
Qillwrats Animal Research Center Announces Contest (Staff and wire reports) Wild Heaven's largest employer, Qillwrats Animal Research Center is offering a reward of $20,000 to the inventor of the best artificial food substance. "We know the prize isn't much, but we allow the winners full patent rights, thus allowing them to make their own millions in royalties."...Wow! That seems great! If I win that contest, I won't have any more financial worries! Unfortunately I would be associating my name with Qillwrats. Oh well, a small sacrifice for a large amount of money.
"Winferd! If anyone calls, I'm in my lab!"
The stairs creak. I really need to get them fixed. Where is that light switch? Zap! No, that's the electric socket. Click. There it is. Now what can I mix together today? Nitroglycerin!
"Mr. Stipe!" Winferd's acrid monotony quickly brought my jubilation to a halt.
"Phone call on line one." Line one? Hah! I've never had anything other than a line one. I hate telephones. They always interrupt your greatest discoveries. If only I could use my modem without having a voice line.
"Mr. Stipe?" The voice had the governmental air of sycophantcy.
"It has come to our attention that you possess no small amount of computer prowess."
"Yeah," I said as my ego started to grow.
"It has also been noted that you have had experience designing and testing coding algorithms."
"I'm the best!" I love these types of calls.
"Furthermore, it is believed that you may be the individual that broke into NASA's new supercomputer."
"Uhhh," I moaned. There went my ego. I thought that was a foolproof hack.
"The FBI is presently conducting an investigation into this matter. You are advised not to hide anything or attempt to flee. A SWAT team will arrive shortly." Just leave it to the government to call in advance.
"Your welcome," I said to a dead phone line. "Winferd!"
"Next time let the answering machine get it!" I screamed.
This is bad. This is very bad. This is grave, serious, and critical! I am in trouble, deep, deep trouble. How can I get out of this? I did break into the computer. No, I didn't. I just dreamed I broke in.
I'm not fooling anyone. I can't lie to myself. How can I prove my innocence? Well, my computer got me into trouble. It's going to get me out. Click.
SCOTT STIPE, I AM YOUR MASTER. PLEASE ENTER A COMMAND C>modem MODEM COMMUNICATIONS VERSION 3.00 BY SCOTT STIPE DIALING DIRECTORY: 1] NASA 4] QILLWRATS 7] EXXON 2] FBI 5] KGB 8] OERI 3] CIA 6] INTERPOL 9] MICHAEL COMMAND>d 1 NOW DIALING NASA ... 30 (ATTEMPTS: 1)
No! That won't work. Dialing NASA will just amplify my guilt. Maybe I should try to hack the FBI. But what if they catch my in the act? I know! I'll use the QILLWRATS bypass.
QILLWRATS COMPUTER SERVICE PASSWORD>********* GREETINGS MR. QILLWRATS. YOU ARE GRANTED FULL ACCESS.What an idiot! He used his name as the super password. It took me all of 3 ties to first crack it. That was five years ago. They still haven't changed the password. That shows you the brains of the common animal researchers.
COMMAND>odThe menus were also a cinch to modify. I've already added my entire phone directory to the QILLWRATS node menu. They still don't realize they don't have a biochemical researcher in Denmark.
ENTER QILLWRATS NODE>fbi CONNECTING... PLEASE STAND BY...
WARNING! THE FBI NETWORK IS OPENED TO FBI AGENTS ONLY. ANY UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY ATTEMPT IS PUNISHABLE BY A MAXIMUM SENTENCE OF LIFE IN PRISON, A $5,000,000 FINE, OR BOTH. ENTER NAME (OR D TO DISCONNECT) > j. edgar hoover ENTER PASSWORD> ********** WELCOME MR. HOOVER. YOU ARE GRANTED ACCESS LEVEL 5.The government computers are always the easiest hacks. They never get around to deleting their most famous members. I wonder if the Soviets have access to the computer. One time I tried Josef Stalin and it actually asked me for a password. I never got around to cracking it, though. I've never been good at Russian spelling.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: THE FBI IS NOW ACTIVELY PURSUING PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE, SCOTT STIPE. MR. STIPE IS BELIEVED TO BE ARMED AND DANGEROUS. HE IS ACCUSED OF BREAKING INTO NASA'S SUPERCOMPUTER IN ORDER TO STEAL SECRETS FOR INTERNATIONAL TERRORISTS ORGANIZATIONS. ALL AGENTS ARE URGED TO BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THIS CRIMINAL. THEY ARE ALSO ADVISED TO POST NOTICE OF THE $100,000 AWARD OFFERED FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE ARREST AND INDICTMENT OF THIS CRIMINAL.
Uh oh. Things aren't looking that great. I should have stopped when I was ahead on that NASA hack. I thought something strange was going on when the menus kept on changing themselves. Wait! They might be watching me now on the FBI computer. If they know about the NASA hack, they might also know my other hacks and pseudonyms. There might even be someone on the other side of the computer watching my every move.
Great! They know. They probably have me traced, too. If I hang up know, I will just give them more evidence to convict me. Oh well! I guess I'll be J. Edgar Hoover for now.
GREETINGS, MR. HOOVER.
HAVE UNCOVERED ANY NEW INFORMATION CONCERNING OUR PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE? yes i have. that is why i called you. we have new evidence that suggests that we have been hunting the wrong man. SIR? WE HAD OUR BEST MEN WORKING ON THIS CASE. even the best make mistakes. new evidence points to a group of four belgian's. BELGIANS? WE JUST SENT A SWAT TEAM TO STIPE'S HOUSE. don't tell them i didn't warn you. the fbi will have a big mess on it's hands if the swat team hits an innocent man. WELL WORK ON IT RIGHT AWAY. HOWEVER, IT MAY BE TOO LATE TO HALT THE SWAT TEAM. THANK YOU FOR THE INFORMATION. [CHAT MODE COMPLETED] COMMAND>g NOW EXITING THE FBI NETWORK - UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS PROHIBITEDI can't believe how easy that was! The government is filled with imbeciles. It serves them right. After all, they did have a price on my head. Why would I sell secrets to other countries?
Wait! Selling secrets to other countries. That's an awesome idea! I'll be rich.
"And then you can give me my much overdue raise," came an aristocratic voice.
That's scary! How does Winferd know what I'm thinking? Oh, I forgot. That was just his usual 9:00 raise announcement. He had me scared for a second. I just imagine what would happen if someone started looking at some of my more erotic thoughts. I wonder if there are people who can look into other people's minds. They would make great lawyers. If I could just look into other peoples minds-
Wait! I have more pressing matters at hand. What do I do about the FBI? Did I actually get the FBI off my tail? No, it was too simple. It is bureaucratic government I am working against.
Oh no! It's the doorbell! They're here already! Where can I hide?
"Mr. Stipe, you are wanted at the door."
Just great. Leave it to Winferd to mess everything up. Now what can I do? I'm a dead man!
"Mr. Stipe, the Qillwrats representative is loosing his patience."
Qillwrats? Whew! It isn't the FBI. Qillwrats! Oh no! They've found out I've been breaking into their computer. Well, at least they can't arrest me. I better face them as a man.
I've traversed these steps these steps 65,535 times before, but this time it's different. A painful silence prevails as I ascend. The standard creaks and squeaks are nowhere to be found. The common darkness of the steps has a new eeriness. How many steps were there? Eight? No. I've already climbed sixteen. I feel my way along the walls. My eyes still haven't adjusted to the darkness. I begin to feel claustrophobic in the small area. It smells of musty decay. Will I ever climb those steps again?
"That's me." That attempt at humor flopped. I must look like a nervous wreck now. Is he armed? His briefcase looks suspicious.
"It has come to my attention that you are an accomplished scientist."
"Yes." Great. He's trying the feed-the-ego method. Luckily, right now I don't have an ego. If I just keep my mouth shut there is not much he can do.
"Your accomplishments in the fields of chemistry, physics, and computer science have been noted." He reaches for his briefcase.
"Umm." He's already reaching for it. Good bye Wild Heaven!
"Our knowledge of your abilities has led us to provide you with these documents." He pulls some papers out of his briefcase.
"Oh." Whew! He wasn't reaching for a gun. What if it's a warrant? I'll suffer a long painful death instead of an instant one. They'll put me in Cambridge, right next to MIT. I'll be the modern-day Tantalus.
"I hope you will take our offer. Qillwrats is the number one animal research center, and Wild Heaven's largest employer."
"I don't want to rush you. Look the prospectus over. If you have any questions, you can call me anytime." He hands me his card as he continues talking, "Qillwrats needs you. Wild Heaven needs you. Thank you very much. Good day."
"Good day." We shook hands and he was gone in an instant. Wow! Money! It's a permanent job, even if it is Qillwrats. What is so wrong with Qillwrats? They just have an undeserved bad reputation. I don't have any reason to be prejudiced against them. How did they find out about me?
Dear Mr. Stipe: Qillwrats Animal Research Institute, the top animal research center in the nation is now recruiting research scientists. We found your name on the Chemical, Physical, and Computer Technician Consortium mailing list. Qillwrats is presently facing a slump due to the activities of terrorist groups such as PETA. We believe that our new quota-based affirmative action program will help decrease their hostility towards us. As a member of CPCTC, you have assuredly already received detailed training in scientific theory. Don't you relish the opportunity to test out these theories? What really happens when a rabbit drops ten meters in a vacuum? Do rats really slow the neutralization of acids and bases? At Qillwrats, we have an unlimited supply of animals that you are free use for any experiment...
Doof! Now I remember why I hated them. Something's going on that's not quite right. Why did they come all the way to my house just to deliver a form letter? They are a bunch of idiots, but I never thought they were that wasteful with money. "Winferd!"
"Yes Mr. Stipe?" Winferd said begrudgingly.
"What kind of car did the Qillwrats guy drive?"
"Do you remember anything else about it?"
"License plate number GFH 232. Registration expired last month. Painted dark red. Two bumper stickers: 'Honk if you like getting your face beat in' and 'PETA: Stop meaningless violence.'" Winferd talking like all that information was common knowledge.
"Wait! What was that last bumper sticker?"
"PETA: Stop meaningless violence. It was a bumper sticker against animal research. It had a-"
"That's enough." PETA! He's a phony! He must have been an undercover FBI agent. He probably came to bug my house.
Wow! I don't believe it. I must be psychic. For some reason, I decided to analyze his car. I've been pursuing the wrong career all this time. I'll never succeed as a scientist, but Sherlock Holmes better watch out. Scott Stipe, PI is on the scene. I could even have my own television show. "Watch out Tom Selleck!"
"Tom's show was cancelled a five years ago," Winferd butted in omnisciently.
Well, I haven't watched the tube since the cancelled Sledgehammer. Wait! How did Winferd know what I was thinking? Maybe he really is psychic, or maybe I was just thinking of Winferd talking. "Winferd, did you just read my mind?"
"No, Mr. Stipe. You were thinking out loud."
I better watch that. Now, back to my detective business. I'll have a huge office in the suburbs.-
I almost forgot the matter at hand. The FBI is after me. I hope they got my message to stop the investigation. Maybe that's why he wasn't followed up by a SWAT team. But maybe they know that I am J. Edgar Hoover. They might be using my recent escapades at the FBI to intensify my charges. I know! I'll go down in the basement a make a bomb! Then they won't have a chance. Or even worse, I can get Winferd to snarf some Mexican food! "Win-"
It lives! The comatose-one rises. The strain is great. The smell of decay still prevails. Bold voices utter unrecognizable repetitions. Suddenly, light comes rushing into the dark vacuum. The dam bursts and thoughts flood forward. Black caucasians eat dinner.
For those of you in the audience who still stand in awe at the all-mighty computer, I grant my gravest apologies. You see, the character in this story is a computer-freak. And thus being, he expects everybody to know almost as much as he knows about computers. (Freaks still have their own superiority complex.) Most of the computer terminology is easy to grasp by the common lay-man; however, he will probably miss out on some of the deep dark humour [I prefer that spelling] hidden within the binds of the computerese.
On other subjects: the title technically should be in quotation marks - it is a direct quote, but, because of the generalness of the phrase, I have opted to drop the quotes. The secondary title, however, is a quote of a much greater degree, and the quotation marks remain.
This story may be about a TV episode one night (but then why does the main character start talking before the show starts?), it might be about a dream, it might even be about a song on the radio. It really doesn't matter.
The capitalization and punctuation of the opening quotes is totally intentional - they are direct quotes. They may relate to the story or they may not. You, the reader have the option of reading in whatever you desire. I really don't care. The story is a highly polished work of literature, filled with flashback, foreshadowing, paradox, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and many other literary devices. Those are insignificant. What is significant is the use of stream-of-consciousness. Everything that is not in quotes is running through the mind of Scott. He thinks like a normal person. His thoughts don't go crazy with the Steinbeckian descriptatory comments. He's a scientist!
This afterword, however, is not polished. It is not meant for general public consumption (or actually it is, it just isn't meant for grading). This serves more of an 'author's rambling about his story' addendum. Ignore it. Read it. Don't have a cow, man!
[I hate this way of paragraphing, but I'm out of space! I love fragments. Nonsensicality rules. I started 5 other stories (finished 1) for the assignment, but chose this! (sycophantal!)]
Oh yeah, the alternate begining is also included with the rought draft. My printer's having a cow. The suplementary title is pseudo-intentional (it kind of 'just happened')
There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees, for the maples want more sunlight, and the oaks ignore their pleas. -RUSH