12 October 2012

"By Any Other Name"

By Curtis C. Chen

They met, accidentally, in the elevator. It was a three-minute ride down from the board room level to the forty-seventh floor, and Julia and Mary were the only people who entered the car—first Julia, studying her tablet and oblivious to her surroundings, then Mary a few seconds later, doing the same.

Neither one noticed the other until it would have been too awkward for either to leave. The doors timed out and closed, and Julia sighed and touched the panel to start their descent.

They stared at their warped reflections in the closed doors until Mary couldn't stand the silence any more.

"Good board meeting?" she asked.

"Good enough," Julia said. "What were you doing up there?"

"Design group confab. Needed to use the holodeck."

"Could you please not call it that."

Mary turned to look at Julia. "Why don't you like my work?"

Julia frowned and glanced at Mary without moving her head. "I don't have a problem with your work, Mary. But we named it the Holographic Visualization Chamber for good reasons, not the least of which is avoiding a Hollywood lawsuit."

"And everybody calls it 'the holodeck' anyway." Mary edged between Julia and the doors, practically daring the other woman to meet her gaze. "Because that's what it is. And come on, 'HOVIC' doesn't exactly roll off the tongue."

"We need a unique name to copyright," Julia said, still not moving. "A descriptive name that tells people all over the world what it does, and doesn't sound offensive or ridiculous in any known language. Do you have any idea how much research goes into this?"

"Last time I checked, this company was sitting on ten billion dollars in cash," Mary said. "Why don't we just buy the 'holodeck' name from Paramount?"

Julia turned ever so slightly to face Mary. "First of all, they would never sell. It's like a patent. Once you get it, you never let it go; the most you ever do is license it for a short but renewable period.

"And second, if we went to them with that kind of proposal, they would—if you'll pardon my language—bend us over the conference table and screw us like a cheap whore." Julia narrowed her eyes. "Asking for something is a show of weakness. Asking means you want. And want can be used as leverage.

"That's why neither of us walked out of this elevator, even though we didn't want to be trapped in here with each other. Leaving would have told the other person we didn't want to bear the uncomfortable silence. And that knowledge could be used against us later—an annoyance, a threat, even an outright attack. Do you understand?"

"Yeah, yeah, I understand," Mary said, stepping back.

"Good." Julia nodded authoritatively. "That's all."

Mary folded her arms. "Geez, Mom, the uncomfortable silence would have been preferable."

The corner of Julia's mouth twitched. "You started it."

Mary smiled in spite of herself. "Nuh-uh."


By the time the doors opened on forty-seven, both women were laughing uproariously.


Image: lock screen by bobbyhywd, April, 2010

08 October 2012

If the Zombie Apocalypse Comes, Tweet Me

(With apologies to Joss Whedon.)

Last Friday's flash fiction story, "Welcome to PDX," was part of the Zombie Apocalypse 2012, a weekend-long online fiction event organized by Erin Underwood. You can see other writers' contributions tagged #zombieapoc2012 on Twitter, and linked from the info page at Underwords.

Zombie Apocalypse 2012

You can read the rest of my story in the form of blog posts from our cats, Tye and Jasper, over at CKL's HotSheet. Here's a handy chronological index (each link should open in a new window):
  1. 512 Words or Fewer: "Welcome to PDX"
  2. Jasper blog: "There goes the neighborhood!"
  3. Tye blog: "why are there so many STRANGERS here today"
  4. Jasper blog: "I am very hungry!"
  5. Tye blog: "departure means SNACK and that's GOOD"
  6. Jasper blog: "Humans are weird!"
  7. Tye blog: "so BORED"
  8. Jasper blog: "This bathroom is too small for three cats!"
  9. Tye blog: "the FOOD is coming"
  10. Jasper blog: "Some cats are too excitable!"
  11. Tye blog: "some cats are LAME"
  12. Jasper blog: "Why are humans so noisy!"
  13. Tye blog: "it's NOT NICE to cry wolf"
Finally, don't worry: this was an entirely fictional zombie apocalypse. No humans, cats, or food robots were injured over the weekend, and Jasper and Tye continue to co-exist mostly in peace with Lady Grey (shown below)--who is, by the way, still up for adoption. Contact us if you know someone who'd like to give her a good home!