Friday, 12 March 2010

The Temp - A short story by Andrew Hyde

Before getting right on into the story, as a way to giving a brief intro, I'd like to go back to a 'Once upon a time' moment. So, once upon a time, there used to be this, free to enter, monthly short story competition run by the BBC. You were given the first sentence and the writers task was to complete the story within 750 words (short, short story). Well, this one month, liking the idea of the competition, thinking it a good writing exercise, I thought I'd have a go. This is the story I entered and, what'cha know, that month, mine was the winning entry. At the time, I'd not long lost my Mum to cancer so, this is for you Mum.

It was only after clicking 'send' that Rebecca realised what she had done...

She watched the blue bar progress along the screen.

Five percent complete.

Hitting the escape key the first time didn't do anything, so she had no idea why hitting it again, and again, and again would make any difference at all. She had a go anyway!

Maybe hitting it harder would help?

No, hitting it harder didn't help!

Not one bit!

She hit it again, one last time, for the sheer hell of it. It made her feel better.

The blue bar continued its relentless march across the screen.

Ten percent complete.

Control, Alt and Delete - the saviour of the tortured soul, and she was a tortured soul. She stabbed at these keys, broke a nail, hit the Insert key by mistake, swore, moved her hair from her eyes and then hit the Delete key square on. Something happened... the blue bar jumped forwards another notch. She swore again and this time heads turned.

'What?' she shouted and the heads turned away.

'Shit!' she exclaimed as the blue bar grew in length.

In an exaggerated random pattern she stroked, hit, punched and swiped at the keyboard until her desk shook and the monitor trembled with fear on its plastic stand.

The blue bar progressed on its merry way.

Thirty percent complete.

What now? She had no idea!

She grabbed the mouse, and clicked its buttons. Nothing happened! She thumped it against the mat and pulled its tail with spite. She turned it upside down and looked at its belly, poked the grey lump of a ball that lurked inside and thumped it down for a second time.

Nothing! Absolutely, nothing!

What else could she do? She spied the glass of water! Sure, why not. She smiled, but it was with a manic grin that she lifted the mouse, by its tail, and plopped it in the glass. Drowning that stupid thing made her feel really good.

The blue bar lurched forward.

Sixty percent complete.

The mouse belched a bubble of air and the cursor jumped, jerked and arched across the screen. Why couldn't it have done that when she wanted it to? Why now, in the middle of its death throes?

Drown mousy drown!

It was time for some serious action. Rebecca reached under her desk and jabbed at the power button.

Not a flicker.

The monitor glowed in full thirty-two-bit colour and the bright blue line taunted her as it jostled for the finish line.

Seventy five percent complete.

She jabbed at the power button again. Punched it with her knuckle. Pushed at it with her finger and tried to squash that squishy blue button with all the power she could muster. The computer toppled backwards.

Again nothing, nada, zilch, zip, diddlysquat, sweet Fanny Adams, bugger all.

'Oh, Bugger off!' now she was shouting at inanimate objects. She heard giggling. They were laughing at her. Who cared anyway? She was passed caring. Well, no she wasn't, actually she cared too much, but she would worry about that later. Now... well now... she had a computer to kill!

Ninety percent complete.

The power socket was somewhere behind her desk, but the power cable was another story. Rebecca slid off her chair and disappeared under her desk. Anyone passing would have a great view of her bum but there were more important things at risk than her pride.

Ninety five percent complete.

Without ceremony she tugged the power cable out of the computer. It died! Something clattered on her desk and water poured through her hair. With a sigh, she slotted the cable back where it belonged. Climbed out from under her desk, slouched in her chair and brushed her wet matted hair from her face. The glass was lying on its side and the mouse floundered in a puddle of water.

The computer booted. Rebecca typed in her password. Boxes flashed on the screen.

There it was, like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, reincarnated before her very eyes.

Ninety nine percent complete.

Message sent.

She sighed, it was all she could do. Computer after computer sounded a small ding - You've got mail. People started to laugh, point and turn, mouths agog. Rebecca stood and walked her longest walk. They could clear her desk.

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