Saturday, August 1, 2009

Daily Story 108: Desperate Measures

Steven stared at the blank computer screen, listening to the breathing of his editor over his right shoulder.
"Do you have to loom over me like that?" he asked, trying to shrug away the pointy-nosed menace. The Editor finally straightened, looking around as if searching for a hidden camera.
"Yes. You're up to something, I can feel it. The screen is blank, but something is going on."
Rolling his eyes, Steven stood and walked to the refrigerator. "You're crazy, it's just writer's block." He took a slice of leftover pizza from the bottom shelf, sniffing it experimentally. Seemingly satisfied, he took a bite and walked to the other end of the kitchen without closing the refrigerator door.

"Steven, shut that door - you'll refrigerate the whole neighborhood. And stop lying to me... you're doing something. You've written something somewhere that you don't want me to see. It's almost as if..." slowly, the editor turned to face the fourth wall and squinted. "Aha! You're writing about this right now! I knew it!"
Steven gave a halfhearted shrug and tossed the crust of pizza into the trash can. "Maybe. So what?"
"So delete it, that's what. This is totally unacceptable. Writing a story about someone having writer's block? Are you serious? Do you have any idea - any idea at all - how often that's been done? And it's never worth reading. Delete it."

Shifting perspective quickly, I came at him from another angle. "What if it's first-person?" I asked.
He just sneered and pointed at the computer again. "Autobiographical isn't any more clever than self-referential if the underlying plot is worthless. Delete it."
I sat down at the computer and began to type, gradually shifting towards present tense as I caught up with myself. My editor looks over my shoulder as I continue, his breath smelling of decaying anchovies.
"It does not!" he yells, then catches a whiff of himself and recoils. "Well, it didn't until you wrote that, anyway."
I try for an angle he'll approve of, altering the view outside the window from my yard to an endless field of stars.
"Badly hiding an autobiographical story in science fiction only helps is the story is compelling. And this isn't."

I'm running out of ideas and I'm several days behind. I can't just sit here and goof off any longer. "Well," I say, "What about something simple then? Something where I don't need much of a plot? Something action-oriented?" My editor seems to be thinking it over, and finally nods. He looks as if he's about to add some sort of clause to his agreement when he's distracted by a knocking at the door.
"This had better be something clever," he snaps at me, "or so help me I'll have to OH LORD, GET THEM OFF!" he tries to force the door shut while simultaneously prying at the cold, decaying hands that are digging into his flesh - but he's simply not strong enough.
"Zombies? Zombies is the best you could come up with? You're a hack, do you know that? LET GO YOU CLICHÉD BASTARDS!"
Just as he begins to make some progress with the door, another hand bursts through the flimsy material and pulls his arm through.
"You - AAGH! - used 'through' too close to itself there - NONONO! NO BITING!"
His words are cut off as the undead fiends begin to tear into him, biting and chewing on the still-living editor.

Before he can even complain about the appearance of zombies in what had just been established as a space setting it is over, and the dripping corpse is pulled out into the hallway. Thinking quickly, I hit the conveniently-located emergency button and send a metal blast door slamming into place. The zombies still beat against it, but it is futile - their fists will wear down long before the door does. Muffled through the layers of some sort of space-age alloy that I'll make up a name for later, I can just barely make out one of the beasts saying something;
"Okay, fine, you can get away with one stupid thing like this. One during the entire course of the project, do you understand? Now let me back in so I can devour your brains."

Readying my space-machete, I open the doors.