A Letter From an Editor
by Bill McCormick
Brad Jacobs, a ruthless corporate manager, seizes an opportunity to exploit workers of below-average intelligence by employing them as miners on a distant planet. He persuades them that they are embarking on a kind of video-game adventure. However, he forgets the law of unintended consequences, which is summed up in many proverbs such as “Look before you leap” and “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.”
At the beginning, an unpardonably snarky letter from an editor begs the question: Who really are the “stunted” in all this?
1249 Oppenheimer Way / Suite 1126
Eastern Free Zone, Sec. 1, America
9720 Kensington Way
33 Building C, Flats 1 & 2
Northwestern Free Zone, Sec. 27, America
Re: Your Submission
Dear Mr. Oglethorpe:
Thank you very much for your recent submission, “The Incredibly Nice Mr. Captain Good Guy Versus The Evil Wart Covered Big Sister Aliens.” It has been a long time since a literary effort spawned such universal loathing around our office. My assistant, who has a penchant for beige and soft music, was in such convulsions that I feared we would have to call the medics on her behalf.
Of course when I got to the part, which she had just read, about the “Happy Happy Unicorns of Love marching onesies and twosies down the street blasting the Evil Wart Covered Big Sister Aliens with their wonderful rainbows of joy” it was all I could do to keep down my lunch.
In some ways your attempt at composition was so pathetic as to be worth sharing. In some, but not nearly enough to prompt me to foist such a thing upon the unsuspecting masses. Certainly not beyond these walls and with the proper authorities.
Quite honestly, sir, I believe if you were presented with a urine filled boot which held directions on its heel you would be unable to empty it. It is clear to me, and all who work here, that you slipped through the cracks.
Therefore, pursuant to Section 24 (A) (ii) (Z1) of the Americans Who Are Liabilities Act of 2189 (as amended from time to time), I have passed your information, along with a copy of your, for lack of a better term, story to the proper authorities.
I have been assured the government agrees with all of us here at American Sci/Fan/Zine that you are a drain on society and should be taken from your residence and placed in a camp for your safety and our sanity. Any further actions taken on your behalf, or upon your person, will be the sole responsibility of the camp administrator.
It may please you to know, in your last free minutes, that your submission, along with your crayon drawings of the battle scenes, has been framed and displayed in our president’s office. He claims that he will force any noncompliant employee to read it aloud.
You would be amazed at how much more attentive the staff here is to their work since he issued his edict.
I would wish you luck in the future, but you had none of the former when you wrote and now have none of the latter worth noting.
Albertus L. Markenson
Quentin was agog! He’d gotten a letter from a real editor and they’d framed his story. His mommy was going to be so proud. She’d been worried when he had said he was going to send out his story but he knew he could write good. He was so sure he could write good that he sent it out without her knowing even though she said he shouldn’t do that because of some stuff the govern was doing.
Quentin didn’t care about any govern. All he knew was that he could write as good a story as any he’d seen on any level of Epic Dungeon Quest, his favorite game, and he knew that lots of people played Epic Dungeon Quest. It said so right on the game site: “Over 5,000,000 online at any time!” That was a lot. He’d looked it up.
He wondered if they’d ever make an Incredibly Nice Mr. Captain Good Guy action figure. That would be so super cool. Of course they’d probably have to make the Evil Wart Covered Big Sister Alien action figures too, so fans could play along at home, but he was okay with that. They could use his sister as a model. She was always mean to him. She called him stupid.
Well, he’d show her. He’d show her the letter and show her that his writing was good enough to be framed. That was better than anything she did. He was sure of that. Sure, some of her stuff got put in books and made into vid shows, but none of it got framed. That meant he was better than her.
He was just getting ready to run upstairs and show his mommy the letter when she came down the stairs with two men dressed in all black. She kept saying “What have you done, what have you done?” and crying. Quentin tried to show her the letter but that only made her cry more.
He was confused. Were these happy tears? He knew about happy tears. His mommy had cried them when his daddy had gotten a job as a space pilot. His daddy was super cool. But these tears didn’t seem like those. And the men in all black just kept staring at him. They made him nervous so he told them to go away. But they didn’t. They just stood there talking quietly to his mommy.
She finally stopped crying a little and told Quentin he had to go with the men in all black. She said they were from the govern thing. She said he’d been a borderline at 86 but he would have been fine if he didn’t talk to strangers but he had talked to strangers when he sent out his story without her permission and now he had to go away with the men in all black.
They weren’t as mean as Quentin thought they would be. One of them was even kind of nice and let him pack some of his stuff so he wouldn’t be lonely while he slept, but soon enough he was walking up the stairs with one man in all black in front of him and one man in all black behind him and his mommy left by the bottom of the stairs crying again.
He tried asking questions about the 86 thing and what it meant but the men in all black ignored him. Quentin didn’t like being ignored and thought about throwing a tantrum, but his mommy and his daddy said tantrums were bad things so he just marched along.
Whatever was happening wouldn’t be made any better by a bad thing. His mommy and daddy had taught him that.
Three super-scared hours later he was in a room by himself. He’d been so excited about the letter that he’d forgotten that today was his 20th birthday. He was going to have had cake tonight and mommy would sing the happy birthday song and then he’d blow out the candles, he always blew them out first try, and then he’d get his present.
He wondered if he’d ever hear her sing the happy birthday song again. He didn’t know what he’d done, but the men in all black had said he’d broken some law. He didn’t remember even seeing a law let alone breaking one but they seemed pretty sure that was what he’d done. Come to think of it he didn’t even know what a law looked like, but he hadn’t broken anything in a long time. Not since mommy got the soft stuff for his room.
He was getting hungry when he heard a voice outside his door say that dinner was being served. He carefully opened his door and followed a bunch of people who looked scared too. He wondered if they’d all broken this law. Did every home have one and he just didn’t remember breaking it? He’d ask someone later.
They came to a big room and it had a line for people to stand in with trays and get food. It was just like at school when he used to go. Mommy said he had learned all he could learn and didn’t have to go to school any more. That was years ago. He wasn’t sure how many.
Just like school: they had meatloaf and mashed up potatoes and peas and carrots, he didn’t like peas, and they had bread with butter and milk and water. He was glad he wouldn’t go hungry. He was even gladder when he realized the meatloaf was good. Covered in gravy, just the way he liked it. He poured some gravy on the peas and then they looked okay too.
There were more than many people in the room and they all seemed scared except for the men in all black. Then he noticed that some of the men were actually girls. But they were in all black too and looked just as scary. He stayed away from them.
He sat at the table they’d led him to and tried to enjoy his food. He finally got up the courage to ask if he was going to get birthday cake and the girl in all black just smiled at him and shook her head no. That made him sad.
There were some other people at his table but they seemed all scared and sad too. No one talked. They just ate their food in silence.
He finally noticed a girl at his table wearing her Epic Dungeon Quest 3rd Level Wizard badge. He’d never gotten more than a second-level certificate. Not knowing what else to do he mentioned it to her. Soon the whole table was talking about Epic Dungeon Quest. The men and girls in all black seemed interested in what they were saying but none of them joined the conversation. That was good. Even if they did play Epic Dungeon Quest, they were scary.
That night he slept better than he thought he would. They’d given him a glass of warm milk and a cookie before lights out and, even if the milk tasted a little funny, it was good.
When he woke up he was given clean clothes, a neat uniform of gray and blue. He decided he liked it. When he walked into the hall he saw that all the other scared people had the same gray and blue uniforms. They looked like a cool army from Epic Dungeon Quest.
Everyone seemed to think the same way and they marched down the hall to breakfast. After they had eaten eggs and sausage, the sausage was real good, and had milk and bread and pancakes, with syrup and butter, they were lined up by height against the far wall.
Quentin was near the middle but didn’t mind. Since everyone was just as scared as he was he didn’t feel crowded like he normally would with lots of people around. They marched out of the eating area and headed down a new hall. This one had yellow walls.
After a short march they were led into a room that had lots of tables with papers on them. One of the girls in all black said they were going to take a test and that she was sure that they were all going to do very well.
They were all nervous but took their seats and waited for the people in all black to give them pencils. Once they had their pencils one of the men in all black told them they could begin their tests.
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Copyright © 2013 by Bill McCormick