Ten days till NaNo. Limbering fingers continues with First Line, Non-Sequitur, and Last Line from the Writer’s Toolbox kit by Jamie Cat Callan. No editing, just writing until the timer goes out.
My only defense was to write down every word they said. I was after all, the only person who could heard them. Sure, they thought the others could hear them, and that’s why they were talking so loudly in a room full of strangers. But no matter how loud they spoke, and how many people I surrounded myself with, the voices remained in my head. Bossing. Talking. Yelling. Arguing.
And I sat down in the middle of the hallway and wrote down every single word they uttered. They were demanding. Some had complaints they had never filed while they were in charge, some had people they had never said goodbye to, some even had buried treasure. Or so they tried to make me believe. I fell for that trick once. Bought a ticket to Spain and everything. There was nothing buried at the end of that map except a domestic cat. Bones picked clean over the years by whatever organisms lived in the dirt.
“Tom lost twenty-five bucks at the race,” a woman said. Voice so crystal clear I had to look up and around the room first to ensure she wasn’t actually standing there. “He’s still alive. He lives in a trailer off fourth and Trulaine. Thinks I’m mad at him still about that twenty-five bucks. I’m not. He had good intentions. The kids were mad. It was a tough Christmas already, and that twenty-five bucks would have stretched far down at the dime store. Go tell him I don’t care. Please.”
I was writing furiously, not paying attention to much that was happening around me. Coworkers stepping over me. Voices tsking as they stomped by. But a pair of wing tipped shoes stopped, pointed at me and asked, “What the hell are you doing Margarette?”
I followed the shoes up a pair of just as expensive trousers, an impressive beer belly for a Bot, and a tie that proclaimed “Just get funky” and found the face of the shift supervisor.
I pulled myself to my feet and stuffed the little pad of paper into my jacket pocket. “Sorry, sir. The voices. Sometimes they’re louder than others.”
He stared at me and I recognized that look. The one I’d gotten my whole life. Those two words, ‘the voices’ ruined most conversations at the speed I wished they ruined the conversations in my head.
I smiled sheepishly and tapped the side of my neck. “Implant never worked.”
He leaned in close to look at the exposed wiring on my neck. “Huh… I never noticed.”
“It’s a small spot, sir. Not many do.”
“They can’t fix it?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Not without disabling the body, and then we lose all the consciousnesses inside. Won’t have the collective anymore. This Bot’s holding over three thousand, most of them were child care workers, but they hold some kind of favor with the guy upstairs.”
He nodded, slowly, still looking at my neck. I was used to it. Sure, the spot was tiny, but as soon as people noticed, they could rarely look away. Sometimes I wore scarves. But it seemed an extra effort, and once a loose thread had tangled in one of the wires, had to see a real electrician with real nimble human fingers to get it sorted out.
“Okay, then. But, in the future, sit in the lounge, not the middle of the hallway.” With that he turns and marches off towards the East Wing.
“Yes, sir!” I call after him, but my voice already lost over another woman inside who wants to be heard.
“You know, just always ruined hundreds of dollars worth of groceries, with the way Herb defrosted the refrigerator.”