Once again we’re doing a “Writing Prompt” short-short from Writer’s Digest. The prompt goes as follows:
One morning you are sitting in front of your computer working on your novel when, suddenly, the computer starts talking to you. What does it say? Does it deliver an important message or just want to chat?
Well? What does it say?
Let’s find out in this short-short entitled: Computer Talk.
The deadline loomed on the horizon. No more empty promises would forestall me being dropped by my publishers. No new opportunities could be seen in future, and the bills piled high. All of it hung over my head like the sword of Damocles
For here I wrote, block free. Black words streamed across the white, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. Not as quick as before the accident, granted. Still, hope returned. After two weeks of nothing, hope returned.
My wife, blocked with her own art, paused in her own grief filled vigil, to peck my check. Before her pretty face might have squinched in envy, but we were too close to destruction. Too close by far.
I hardly noticed her leaving. So wonderful to write again. So wonderful to forget, for even a moment, our lives’ sorrows.
Then it happened. Here I was, setting the stage for the climax, when, out of the blue, words broke the silence.
My computer talked to me.
In the most inhuman voice imaginable.
It said, “Wibble mackintosh.”
Startled, I paused. Waited.
Again. Such a horrible sound. “Quality stegosauri branch?”
Maybe a media player was on. No, no, everything was off. We had the internet cut, so it couldn’t be that.
In fact, just my novel’s file was up.
“Elephant nuns the coping eye,” it told me, almost wisely.
Muted the sound.
“Banjo cavernous happy pants.”
Unplugged the speakers.
“Bingo dangle fritter.”
Checked inside the tower for a hidden speaker.
Restarting it did nothing. First thing it did on rebooting was say “Lemon gastric commander cobra.”
Didn’t make sense.
“Bubble the water fro.”
Well. Problem for another time. Power on through. Finish the novel.
Except I couldn’t. Four words done and it would speak.
That terrible voice would speak.
Focus gone in an instant.
In desperation, I called to my wife. “Hey, babe, got a problem in here.”
As she came, worries grew. Would she hear it? Or was it all in my head?
When she stepped in the room the computer asked, “Meta tingle Wallace tanj grapefruit?”
She blinked then said, “The hell was that?”
Relief didn’t describe it.
In short order I went through everything I’d done to figure things out. She watched me as I did, an intent look on her face. I didn’t need to tell her that if this wasn’t changed how it would affect my work. She knew. Instead she just listened, and thought for a moment or two.
Then she said, “Funny how it started just when your block went.”
“Turn it off.”
I did as she bade. The computer went silent.
“Get out a pad and some pencils. Write a story.”
Again, order received, order completed. Nothing fancy. The words came like nothing.
Through it all, the computer was silent. So was my pen, save for scratches across the paper. Which was fortunate, really. Nattering from them would have been… disquieting.
My wife thought some more. “Hmm.”
“Maybe it’s not connected,” I shrugged. “Does it matter? Can’t turn in a manuscript written in ink.”
“Honey,” she said to me. “You know your my rock, right? The one thing that’s kept me sane since…”
She didn’t finish the sentence. Didn’t need to.
Instead, she said, “So don’t take this the wrong way.” She sighed. “In some ways you can be really dumb.”
She left me blinking, shocked.
When she came back, she brought with her MP3 player and headsets.
My wife is a very practical woman.
Needless to say, I had little problems finishing after that. However the computer managed to talk, it could only do so so loud, and the MP3 player covered it nicely. The words flowed smooth so far.
The last three pages of the novel I found I could take them off and work without any problems. Nonsense still rattled around the room at a blue streak, but I finished. Then, as I started printing it up, I started another.
At that moment the computer made the only understandable sound it would ever make. It sighed, deeply vexed.
Nearest thing we can figure, it had grown accustomed to the lack of use I’d been putting it through during the block. When the check from my publishers gets in, we plan to buy a new PC.
One hopefully not so quarrelsome.