Shendark Leaves The Zone

by Roberta Branca


Shendark was in The Zone. Blazing gunfire and laser beams shot over skyscrapers, he typed, and the air was thick with smoke.

He typed rapidly, fingers hitting the keyboard without cessation, unaware of the happy-hour crowd pouring into the bar. Shendark stopped typing and reached for his mug. He sipped his beer as he reviewed his story on the tiny screen.

Chelsea’s Edge was a fine bar for writing, as long as you arrived mid-morning when it opened and didn’t stay past Happy Hour. The joint attracted a heady writer’s blend of pedestrian Americana. Tourists, financiers, politicians, and born-and-bred New Yorkers with irritating accents and pugnacious turns of phrase. Sometimes, on afternoons when he’d arrived with no self-imposed assignments in mind, Shendark simply closed his eyes, stopped typing, and took in snatches of conversations around him.

This was not one of those days. He had goals. One battle scene, some bedroom dialogue, and once and for all a strong characterization of the femme fatale of his story. He resumed his rapid typing, letting words pour out of the imaginative side of his brain. As a hard and fast rule he applied the brakes to his writing only during the editing phase.

“What’s that thing?” a sexy young voice asked.

Shendark looked up. He could leave The Zone for a sexy young voice. A fresh-faced young woman stood by his table, pointing a taloned finger at his laptop. “Kenmore College 2068” stretched across her skin-tight shirt.

“It’s a laptop,” Shendark said.

“I know that.” She giggled. “Why are you typing? Don’t know how to dictate?”

“I use dictation at the e-zine.” Like since before Fresh-Face here was born. Ah, well...

“Oh, cool, you’re a writer.” She set her beer on his table, pulled out a chair and sat down. “I’m Carla.”

“Shendark.”

Shendark? Don’t you write for Electronica? Cool!” Wide-eyed and grinning, Carla bounced in her seat and tossed the cloud of loose blonde curls that framed her face. “I still don’t get why you’re typing?”

“I’m working on a short story. Typing’s how I learned to write.” Shendark took another pull from his beer. “This gets me into The Zone.”

Carla nodded. “I get that.”

Shendark could tell she didn’t get it at all.

“So, Kenmore College? Vocational, engineering, or business track?”

“Business. I wanna be a trillionaire.”

Shendark was disappointed. A babe going into appliance manufacturing or material design was a story. One more Gen-Z chasing the green was not.

“Well, I’ve got research to do. Nice meeting you.” Shendark offered a smile he hoped looked gracious yet dismissive. He hit the Internet button on his keypad, an action not lost on Carla.

“Wait. You surf the web? Why don’t you use your chip?”

“I never had one put in.”

“Why not?”

Because it would distract me from meaningless conversations like this. “I don’t need it, I was surfing before I learned to walk. I’m a third-generation surfer.”

“A chip would be faster though.”

“I’d just be annoyed.” Yeah, this isn’t annoying to me in the least. “Once you engage, every random thought takes you to a new page.”

“So? Delete the thoughts you don’t want.”

“You can’t create art that way. Even in the news business, we never use them on deadline. You have to concentrate your thoughts when you write, not censor them.”

Carla tilted her head and squinted her eyes. “Concentrate?”

“Get in The Zone. Take yourself from Point A to Point B. Finish what you start.”

“Sounds boring.”

You’re boring.

“Oh, hey!” Carla’s eyes drifted toward the bar. “Someone’s started a game of Drinker’s Chicken!” Carla jumped up from her chair and hustled toward the bar.

Shendark returned to his screen. He wrote:

Suddenly a luscious blonde, preoccupied with the random pages flipping in her head, wandered out onto the street, right into the line of fire...


Copyright © 2010 by Roberta Branca

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