Slushpocalypse

1900 words

“Shit!”

Kathleen looked up over the top of her computer and rubbed her eyes.

“What is it?” she asked, but the words had no meaning. Any actual interest she’d had in the reasons behind Susan’s frequent expletives had bled out weeks ago. Still, the seconds it took to feign concern were seconds spent off her computer screen. Her eyes began to sting and water and she gave them another apologetic rub. When was the last time she’d blinked?

“Nothing.” Contemptuously understated as it was, Kathleen could see the fingers of creamy coffee slide down off the edge of Susan’s desk and into the wastebasket at the side. There they impatiently tapped on discarded paper and tissue, while Susan bumped around the office for a roll of paper towels.

“Alright,” Kathleen answered and forced her eyes back to Edie’s Excellent Example of Every English Error aka ‘the novel that will change the world!!!1!’ as it was touted by its charmingly disillusioned author. Mother of god, how did people get through grade school without understanding the basic function of a comma? Maybe she ought to take a break and read some of the snail mail. She cautiously inched her eyes toward the mountain of submissions on her desk and grimaced. Nope, email it would stay.

The whole office smelled like coffee by the time Kathleen had absorbed enough terrible grammar to begin to seriously worry about how it might affect her own writing. The world changing novel disappeared from her screen with a smart click and she opened her email to copy and paste their standard rejection reply.

Dear Mr. Willert;

“What the hell is a ‘bogle’?” Susan growled from her seat, extra grumpy for having lost her first cup of coffee to the wastebasket. “I swear, writers will try any gimmick to get noticed.”

“A what?”

“A bogle. This query is signed ‘the bogles’. No capitals. Just like that.”

Kathleen frowned as she realized this was a legitimate question for once. “Is it, like, a writers group or a pen name?”

“I don’t know. That’s all it says.” The critical lines on Susan’s face were drawn in deep by the glow of her computer screen, as if being closer to the source of her confusion might make it clearer.

“You could google it.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway.”

Kathleen made a noise as if she cared and Susan continued as if she’d heard. “His manuscript is off genre. I don’t get it. Our website clearly says ‘supernatural, thriller, horror, fantasy’. How anyone could get ‘campy teen love story’ out of that, I don’t know.” Susan shook her head and clicked her tongue and Kathleen stopped watching long before she began furiously typing out her rejection letter.

Susan always typed them out herself, like she got some satisfaction out of personally putting down every word. Like it somehow paid back the inconvenience of reading whatever she was rejecting. Kathleen thought it was a stupid waste of time.

“ ‘Dear the bogles,’…” Susan began, but Kathleen was already lost in the special kind of linguistic torture that was the next submission in her inbox.

Ends

The monitor flickered to life and bathed the dusty garage in cold, electric blue. Ten round eyes squinted in the sudden light. Dubh reached out his three clawed hand and typed in the password. They changed it every other night, but Dubh was the only one who ever remembered what they changed it to, so he became the de facto computer user. The remaining four bogles stood behind Dubh and watched the changing colors with anxious, unblinking eyes.

This had been a ritual with them for so long that the family who occupied the house had begun to believe the horseshoe nailed above the door had actually driven off their tormentors. The bogles didn’t give one crusty scale about horseshoes or other magical charms. These five bogles were literary masters in the shadows, sure to be the next Shakespeare, Burns, Joyce or Gaiman. They just needed to be discovered.

“Click the internet,” Ros said impatiently.

“That doesn’t say internet,” Colla added.

“You have to click the internet.”

“Shut up!” Dubh hissed. “I already told you. Nobody uses Internet Explorer. Stoopid.” The bogles fell into silence while Dubh clicked and tapped until finally their email opened up on the screen.

“There!” shrieked Colla, leaping up and pointing to the screen. “It’s there! Finally.”

“Shut up!” Dubh brought the cursor to the bold subject line-

RE: Publisher Please Read! Its’ Good!

-and clicked. The bogles held their breath as they waited for their leader to read the complicated arrangement of loops and tails to them.

Dubh was quiet for a long time.

The bogles began to grow restless. They pushed themselves closer to the screen and tried to make out the words for themselves.

“What does it say?”

“Loved it, right?”

“We’ll be famous?”

“Rejected it.” Dubh clicked again and again on the text on the screen in a misguided attempt to re-position the letters into something more positive. The message remained resolute: Rejection.

“Rejected it?!”

“How?”

“It was so good!”

“The goodest!”

“The goodest bit of writing in ever!”

Dubh crossed his arms over his skinny chest and nodded in agreement to his companions’ assertions. He knew it was the goodest damn piece of writing in the world. He couldn’t imagine what was wrong with the publisher’s eyes.

“Send it again,” Corc insisted, reaching for the mouse himself. “Maybe they not read it all.”

Ros slapped his hand away. “No. We bogles, not beggars.”

Slowly, Dubh unfolded his arms. A grin slid across his broken glass teeth. “Right. We bogles!” He hopped up onto the computer table and stood in front of the monitor, facing his companions. “We bogles, so, we do what bogles do. We make the publisher sorry.” Matching grins slid onto each one of the bogle’s faces until they were all maliciously sneering in the computer light.

“What should we do?”

“Disconnect internet?”

“Spam email?”

“Decaffeinate coffee?”

Dubh shook his head. Those were all good suggestions, but they were just ordinary bogle things. This was a huge insult, it needed a huge bogle prank.

Dubh looked around the garage at all the human stuff laying around. All sorts of sharp, pointy farm stuff hanging from nails and laying on the ground. Dubh shook his head again. They were bogles, not murderers. He tapped his tail on the computer desk. No, no, no- ah! There, against the wall, just in front of the tractor, a red oil can shone in the bright computer light.

“That!” he croaked and thrust a claw decidedly at the can. “We break that.” Four bogle faces turned to the oil can.

“That?”

“Why?”

“Do publishers like cans?”

“No, stoopid!” Dubh hopped off the desk, strutted over to the can and tipped it over. “This! Humans love this. All humans. See? This can is new. From yesterday.” He gestured around. “Everything else is rusted. But this,” he stuck his foot into the slick oil spreading on the pavement and splashed it around. “This is new. They always need more.” The others were starting to understand.

“So, what do we do?” Asked Ros.

“We turn it.”

“Turn it to what?”

Dubh thought about this for a while, looking around the garage again for something suitably frustrating. “How about this?” he suggested, tearing a hole in a bag of dry concrete mix. Grey dust poured out and stuck to his oily foot.

“That?”

“Why not?” None of the other bogles had a suitable alternative, so Dubh considered the matter unanimously voted on.

“What about the black rock?” Colla suggested.

Dubh nodded his head in quick agreement. “Yes, black rock too.”

“But,” Corc started.

“Yes?”

“But how will we do it? There’s a lot of it, yes? If all humans love it, have it all the time?”

This put a wet rag on everyone’s mood for several minutes. Finally Colla spoke again.

“We get help!”

“From where?”

“The internet.”

Dubh scratched his knobby chin as he thought about this. Leaving a confusing half trail of footprints behind him, he climbed back up onto the computer desk.

“Dubh has an idea!” The four bogles gathered around under the chair in awe.

“What’s your idea, Dubh?”

“We network. Invite all the nasties.”

“And then?”

“And then we campaign. Like Anonymous.”

“All over the world?”

“Yes.”

“They really help?”

“Of course.” Dubh closed their email disdainfully and brought up a fresh window. “Nasties stick together. We still have union card, right?” The bogles scrambled for a minute, but finally found it tucked under a forgotten mouse trap.

“But where you find the nasties, Dubh?”

Dubh quickly punched the computer keys.

“LinkedIn.”

Ends

Kathleen was already at her desk by the time Susan walked in. The rest of the world looked like hell; Susan looked like she always did.

The digital clock on the wall said ten fifteen, but it said ten fifteen all day now. A more nature oriented person might have been able to tell the time from the sun, but Kathleen was simply glad that her desk was near enough to the window to read with sufficient light.

“I’m surprised you still come in,” Kathleen said and rubbed the dark circles under her eyes.

“The office is like, the only place I can get water for my coffee anymore.”

“You’ll drink it cold?”

“It’s a hell of a lot better than not drinking it at all.”

Susan dropped what remained of her coffee grounds into a filter and taped it open inside her cup. It was a strangely fascinating sight to watch a grown woman wrestle a half empty five gallon water jug over a mug, just for a cup of coffee. Kathleen turned over the manuscript in her hands and jotted down a few notes for a story later on.

“Hey, you remember that intern we had a few months back?” Susan asked and set the jug down with a triumphant grunt.

“Casey?”

“No, that other one. The one who refused the pizza.”

“Oh, Mandy.”

“Yeah, her. She was the vegan one, right?”

“Yeah. What about her?”

Susan squeezed the remaining liquid into her cup and placed the filter carefully on a manuscript at the side of her desk. She then licked her hand. Kathleen took a few more notes.

“I bet she’s got her own little vegan garden going in her apartment.” She seemed to be chewing coffee flavor out of her thumb. “We still have her address?”

“If we do, it’s in the computers.”

“Damn!”

One of their stomachs growled. Or maybe it was both of them. The sound had taken over the niche that had been filled with the hums and whirls of office machinery three weeks ago.

Susan fell back into normal Susan habits, and Kathleen turned over the manuscript in her hands to continue reading. Another post-apocalyptic zombie horror about survival and selfishness and gritty, muddy sex between big breasted women and chainsaw wielding mountain men. Kathleen looked up. The only zombie she saw was Susan, sipping dead-eyed at her coffee. She shook her head and tucked the manuscript under her laptop to keep the pages from blowing away out the open window. It would never sell now. She reached for another submission.

“Hey Kathleen?”

“Yeah?”

“Why do you still come in?”

Kathleen paused, her remaining slush in hand. “Are you kidding me? No computers, no mail. Look at this!” She gestured to her in-box. “I’m finally at the bottom of this damn thing!”

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6 thoughts on “Slushpocalypse

  1. I like your prose style and characterization. You’ve got a good imagination. This story is fit to submit to F&SF as it is. Give it a try.

    • Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. It was really just a for-giggles story, which is a little frustrating considering my serious works take so much more effort for less results. I guess it’s a reminder that I should relax and not take my writing so seriously.

  2. I read it again. I rarely read Hemingway again. I am still paranoid that my submission inspired it BUT, I still love it. I agree with Gordon that you should submit it. With a small photo of 4 bogles around a computer screen.
    Stan Walsch.

    • Nah, I wrote this before I started slush reading. 😛 I’m glad you enjoy it so much though. It was really fun to write.

      If I do submit it I may have a to wait a while, and it’ll have to go some place that accepts reprints.

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