The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room.
Thurdo wadded up the piece of paper and tossed it out the open window, into the head-heaps below. A stupid first sentence, for a stupid gent with a stupid name. Thurdo. What kind of name was that? His grandfather had been Murdo MacNelson, his father Murdo MacNelson, Jr. What on Earth was wrong with Murdo MacNelson the Third? Thurdo. Suppose his mother thought that was funny, and his father couldn’t argue with a woman who’d just undergone childbirth. Turdo, that’s what the schoolchildren called him back when schools happened. Set him up for a life of embarrassment, is all it did, and if things continued to go as they were going, it’d set Thurdo MacNelson up for an objectively embarrassing death as well.
“I can give you an extra 48 hours, Thurdo, but my hands are tied,” said Voca when she popped by. “You need to show them something.” At least she understood: her parents had named her Avocado.
“How many submissions do they have left to judge?” It didn’t matter, Thurdo knew, but Voca distracted him from the impending deadline.
“It doesn’t matter,” Voca confirmed. “Dammit, Thurdo, you should’ve joined when you had the chance–”
“I didn’t know about–”
“And now you have 48 hours, Thurdo. It’s not sustainable. You’re going to end up out in the heaps with the others, and there’s nothing I’ll be able to do about it.” With quick eyes, Voca scanned the page Thurdo had been struggling to fill for the past hour and a half. “No ideas?”
“Not one. There’s no way in Hell–”
“Come on, there’s got to be something. Be topical! Pop culture, right? You know pop culture?”
“Everyone’s doing pop culture. I can’t do pop culture, I’ll be lost in the noise. But I can’t be unique with it, either– You remember that thing about babies I wrote?”
“Babies Aren’t Real,” said Voca. “Vividly.” Her tone was not vivid.
“Thought it was a whole new Modest Proposal, a new cornerstone to satire, but it was just–”
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“Sorry,” said Voca. “I need to go call the others. I’ll be seeing you.”
That was 46 hours ago. Thurdo glanced at the big red digital clock out the window—glowing ominous red, plastered on the side of the Headquarters—at the queue of names listed below it in big scarlet block letters. Normal names, then Thurdo’s. Words sounded from loudspeakers: Haikus, listicles, hot takes and cold takes, voices growing frantic as surely the readers were met with the stony cold faces of the Reviewers. And then, after an unwell-met conclusion; words in deep, dark voices saying things like, “Your story has been approved” or, more often than not, and not unoften, “Your story has NOT been approved.” A scream over the speakers, and then another head tumbling down the head-chute into the head-heap below the dormitories. The queue would move on, and new names would bathe the dormitory windows with haunting scarlet light.
I chose this life for myself, thought Thurdo as the hours turned to minutes, as he scrawled unhappy words onto another piece of paper, but like the life he chose for himself, it went nowhere, and Thurdo threw another crumpled-up word-meander out the window, into the head-heaps, finding it a home between a former financial blogger who gave up the hashtag-grind and a demotivated bookworm whose attempt to review every single Discworld book in chronological order fell to the wayside. I chose this life, I chose to play this game.
Two days after the last time he saw Voca, Thurdo was led by faceless people into a colorless room wherein some honored faceless things sat in a half-circle around a lectern. It was almost a more honored position than where the faceless things sat, had the chrome lectern not had a nice head-sized hole in it for, uh, reasons.
How do you look a faceless man in the eye as you say your last words? thought Thurdo as he locked his gaze where he thought the center-one’s eyes could be. And loudly he said, less to the faceless men and more to the denizens of the dormitories stuck above the head-heaps: “I choose not to play your game for the right to be alive.”
The honored faceless things leaned forward in unison, said together, “Your story has NOT been approved,” and as Thurdo felt the sting of cold metal through his neck, he heard them add, “Your word count was too low. Feel free to revise and submit again later!”
About the Creator
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Compelling and original writing
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Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
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