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[Editor's Note: The following story was written as a lark by one of the members of the Writers Critique Group who would like to remain anonymous. It was not intended as a professional submission, but we enjoyed it enough to ask to post it under a psuedonym.]
It's happening again! It started, I guess, when I got the package. Things would have been OK if I hadn't opened it, I think. But then I HAD to open it. you know. I worked for CONGLO, you know what used to be the really big Conglomerate, until all the right-sizing began. Well, anyway, there were still a lot of us working for CONGLO. Except we didn't all have the, what do you call it, specialization sort of backgrounds that you used to see at CONGLO and the other big firms, when they were big, that is. So what you get is what is called the UNIVERSAL WORKER. Kind of like each worker was supposed to be able to do any sort of job that, you know, other workers in the company used to specialize in. Except we're not really specialists after all. We're well, UNIVERSAL, or we're supposed to be.
Anyway, about the package.
I got the package a couple of nights ago. Special messenger, well really another CONGLO UNIVERSAL WORKER bringing it to me just as I was finishing up my waved evening meal. "Sign here," he said, as he put the package down in front of me and handed me the clipboard with the RECEIVED BY part already pre-checked, just sort of waiting for me to sign. Silly me, I signed for it. Hot even thinking about what it could be. No even wondering, should I open the thing or let it sit until morning. After all, maybe I could have sent it back.
Oh well, I opened the thing. And there it was.
I knew right off that it was an ALL IN ONE. Of course it said so right on the viso-screen. It said CONGLO ALL IN ONE, but if I hadn't heard about it a couple of times or so at work, I wouldn't have known what an ALL IN ONE was supposed to be. It's the new communicator you could say, except it's more than a communicator really. You just THINK your, well, thoughts, or questions, or whatever ideas, answers too, I suppose, anything at all, at it. It well, does anything you want it to, well not anything really it just sort of, communicates I guess, with whoever you want it to. It's hard to explain.
Anyway, I mean. Well, let me start over.
What an ALL IN ONE is supposed to do is bring you everything all together. I mean all the entertainment and news channels you see on regular FAR-VISO SCREENS, plus you can order any sort of thing you want delivered you know, except of course the delivery is well, I'll get to that. You can well, communicate with anyone you can think of. I mean literally THINK of. You see it does not have any sort of manual or pedal or whatever kinds of controls on it. Just your mind, sort of tunes into it, then you're off. Communicating, really, by just THINKING, it gives you answers to your questions, when it is not questioning you, or your answers, or whatever. Just anybody or anything that comes to mind can literally just appear. Well, it is experimental, I think that is the word. Yes, experimental. CONGLO asks, tells, I guess you should say, some of its UNIVERSAL WORKERS, like me, to sort of test out all its new products and services and stuff.
So here it was, an ALL IN ONE, right in front of me, out of its package, already humming a sort of hello, or purring a sort of come over here or whatever it was doing and I was thinking right back at it. So you know I just started off with the usual stuff. Like the stuff showing those shapely beauties you imagine spending some RELAXO-TIME with when maybe you've had a few, or more than a few, Cocoa Fizzes for me to really understand that if I did have an ALL IN ONE to test, I mean, for CONGLO, well I should enjoy it, and myself, and everything just sort of made sense a whole lot more after about my 5th or 6th, or was it my 7th or 8th, or maybe 9th, Cocoa Fizz.
"Froleek," the comeliest one of the shapely ones was saying to me, my nickname I guess it was, for some reason, known only to her, "Froleek, you've got to stop this right now!"
All I had been doing was munching on a really tasty tree-fruit which the ALL IN ONE had delivered when I'd thought of it a moment before. Of course, the floor was covered with tree-fruit skins, and my chin, neck, and chest were covered with tree-fruit juices, but then, "who cares?" I thought, almost having the nerve to maybe think her away, but not quite. I mean this was a really beautiful, shapely one who just had this sort of way about her, sort of a presence. JUST the shapeliest one to appear so far anyway. And the way this one looked at me with that "Protect me I love you & you know you want me and need me" look all sort of wrapped together.
I just couldn't think her away.
"Yeah," I said. "Okay," and I thought the tree-fruit away, cleaning up my chin, and neck, and chest of tree-fruit juice, and swallowing the last bits of it at the same time. I even thought away the tree-fruit skins from the floor.
"Kiss me, and promise me no more tree-fruit except as a small snack after meals, Froleek," the shapely one went on, after the first few kisses, when we took time to breathe.
"You're right, darling, too much tree-fruit can be a problem, I guess."
"And get rid of the ALL IN ONE too!"
"Huh?" I said back. Really wondering now about what that would mean. I mean I was supposed to test the thing. After all, the shapely one had come out of it, or through it, or whatever. "But darling," I said when I had thought about it for a moment or so, "You came out of, or through, the ALL IN ONE yourself, and, I mean wouldn't you just sort of disappear if I thought the ALL IN ONE away?"
"I'll take my chances. I'll stay, I think, but it has to go. I mean look at you. You're about to burp from all that tree-fruit, you've had I don't know how many Cocoa Fizzes, the last floozy you were entwined with when you thought of me as an alternate was a really disgusting looking . . . . I know you love me, Froleek, I just know it, here, inside," touching herself sort of in the middle and bringing me closer to her at the same time, then kissing me again.
"But darling," I went on, "CONGLO sent me the ALL IN ONE to test and I am a CONGLO UNIVERSAL WORKER and all. I just can't send it away, or back to them, or whatever, I mean, I might lose my job you know . . . ."
"Oh, Froleek," looking really almost at the verge of tears, or however you would imagine the verge of tears to look like, not having had a lot of experience with the verge of tears myself but only having read about it a couple of times or so, "I understand what you mean, but there is an answer. You can just think us to some other place where you don't need to work for CONGLO anymore and we can just be happy, and then you can think the ALL IN ONE away, and everything will be all right."
Well it sounded like a good idea when put that way. So I did it. Or I tried to anyway. I thought about just sitting peacefully someplace, no ALL IN ONE staring and thinking at me from the middle of the room, no CONGLO to worry about, maybe just finishing off a waved meal. And everything looked alright except, when I looked around I was alone. I couldn't see her or smell her anywhere. I thought of her of course, expecting her to appear right away, but the ALL IN ONE wasn't there anymore as I said. I wasn't quite sure where I was anyway.
Yes. It sort of looked like my room. I was just finishing my waved meal. The waved meal tasted a little bit like waved meals all seem to taste. But things seemed so lonely without HER. I went to the door thinking I had better figure out where I was. I mean if this was someplace where I wouldn't have to work for CONGLO anymore I guessed I needed to find out just where it was and what I should do about it all, especially how I could find HER again.
Well I opened the door and there was this messenger there with a package. He looked kind of familiar but I just couldn't place him exactly. Then I saw it on his cap. It said CARTEL, you know CONGLO's really mean and awful competitor. He had this clipboard, with a RECEIVED BY space all filled out already. Of course you know he said, "Sign here, buddy," as he put the package down and handed me a clipboard.
What else could I do. So I signed.
I got the package inside. The door closed. I listened for a moment to make sure he was gone. I thought I'll open it and we'll see, we'll just see, what comes next. After all, I didn't work for CONGLO anymore. I really did want to find HER again, so there it was just sort of humming to itself. After a moment you know it just sort of seemed to be well, humming at me. It said CARTEL right on it of course, after all it had been delivered by a CARTEL worker. Right under where it said CARTEL it said DOES IT ALL.
I didn't think much of that for a name, but then I wasn't thinking much about anything except how to find HER again at that moment. So I just thought of her, and thought of her, and thought of her. After a bit of time had gone by and you know, still no her, I thought about how nice a Cocoa Fizz might be just then. But when one didn't appear it took me a moment to realize that Cocoa Fizz was a CONGLO product. This was a CARTEL machine, after all, so it couldn't possibly deliver me a Cocoa Fizz. I thought okay, I have seen them advertised, but of course when I had worked for CONGLO I couldn't think of trying them. So I thought of a Bana Shake (it appeared right away). I mean it was a CARTEL machine you know.
Well after a few Bana Shakes, you know the things were really good, kind of like Cocoa Fizzes, but different, you know. Well, after a few Bana Shakes, or maybe more than a few--I told you they were good--things started to just fall into place. I knew I would find HER someplace. I just had to get into the right frame of mind. The shapely one had to be in there or around there someplace. Well there was this shimmering just then, kind of like the shimmering you might expect to see in a CONGLO ALL IN ONE if you knew just where to look for it, but different somehow, just a little bit anyway, from it.
The SHE appeared.
She looked a little bit like HER you know, except, well different too, about the same height, but different just about six or seven other ways, but shapely of course, in a different, in fact a delightfully different sort of way.
"Kiss me," SHE said.
I did. and SHE did. And I did. You get the picture.
. . . . . .
Well, a bit later I got a bit hungry. I thought of some tree-fruit, but you know CONGLO has a monopoly on tree-fruit, so I thought, what was it CARTEL provided? Oh, yes, Vine-Munchos. So I thought of some nice Vine-Munchos. I'd had them as a child a few times before my folks started to work for CONGLO. Sure enough they appeared, and they were really good. Well I was just finishing off my fourth or fifth Vine-Muncho when SHE looked at me and said "Honey, you've got to cut down on those. In fact," SHE went on, "you really should get rid of the DOES IT ALL, since that's where they come from. I'm not really happy sharing you with all those blasted Vine-Munchos. I mean they are disgusting. Just look at you! You know you look like you are just about to burst from all the filthy Vine-Munchos you've been slobbering."
Well I knew what was about to come next. Sure enough SHE said it. "Why can't you just think us away to someplace where we won't need the DOES IT ALL anymore and we can just be together?" SHE said.
Well, you know I just did it. Of course SHE was gone when we got
there, and so was the DOES IT ALL. My waved meal smelled like all
waved meals smell. My room looked almost like my room looked. Of
course pretty soon I knew that I would answer the door. It was just
about to announce a messenger, of that I could be sure.
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