Automatic Update

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  The following story came to me when reading posts on Facebook and the overuse of Netspeak.  Hope you enjoy it.

           

            Leslie Hammond sat down at her computer.  Her mind was a-whirl with a literary vision spinning in her head like a pair of flamenco dancers.  While the desktop booted up she jotted down a few notes on a pad of paper.  The pencil scratched as she wrote.

            “Damn I’m good,” she said out loud.

            With her last novel The Vampire’s Loving Kiss hitting and remaining near the top of the New York Times Bestseller’s list she had been contemplating a return to the same genre.  Not wanting to let the reading public wait too long for a sequel she knew those fickle readers would forget her if she didn’t put out another book.   

            “Besides Daphne’s story must go on,” she told herself.  “All my readers are clamoring for her continued exploits and to be honest I can’t wait to get started”.

            The computer’s desktop snapped into view with the cover of her latest success tiled on the screen.  Steepling her fingers she stretched them out in preparation to pound out a few chapters.  The hard drive stopped its spinning noises and Leslie opened up Novel Focus, her word processing software.  The speakers beeped and something flashed on the screen.

            “What?” she snarled, “another automatic update?”

            With her muse on hold she clicked the button and watched impatiently as the program began the long task of seeking out and downloading the latest additions. 

            “I might as well go and get something to drink.”

            A sigh of resignation blew past her lips as she exited her office and plodded down the hall.  The new runner cushioned her bare feet as she walked.

            “Despite all the royalties I’ve made I can’t believe I have to wait to start my next blockbuster,” she grumbled.

            Arriving in the kitchen she got out a glass, filled it with ice and snagged a Diet Pepsi from the ‘frig.  Carefully she poured it into the receptacle. 

            “I guess I can use this time to marshal my thoughts so I don’t have to waste anymore time with pencil and paper.  Although I have to admit most of it is already written in my head.”

            Her agent had been pestering her since the end of her book tour three months ago.  She could still hear the shrill voice of Sandy Duggan ringing in her memory.  It was joined almost instantly by the voice of her muse egging her on.  With Diet Pepsi in hand she all but skipped back to her office.  Leslie let out a girlish cheer when she saw the screen.

            Automatic update completed.  Would you like to restart Y/N?

            Her momentary happiness was blunted against the armor of having to reboot the computer.  With another sigh whistling past her lips she stroked the keyboard indicating she would like to restart. 

            “It’s just a slight delay,” she told herself.

            Tapping her fingers against the desk she tried to show a modem of patience while the system shut down, turned back on and began to start up.  Meanwhile she complied a few more notes on the pad of paper.

            Daphne must have some sort of antagonist besides her own hunger this time, she decreed to herself.  I rather fancy the idea of a sect of the church set up to eradicate vampires.  That sounds like something that would actually exist.

            The trilling chime of the operating system coming up made her giddy with joy.  It reminded her, in an odd way how she felt as a child on Christmas morning.  The air seemed to be ripe with boundless possibilities, eager anticipation and nervous delight.  Happy shivers ran up her back making her skin dot with goose bumps.  Double clicking on the word processor icon started the recently updated program.

            “Now let’s get started on an award winning sequel,” she said confidently. 

            But once again a box appeared bringing a screeching halt to her writing ambitions.

            Novel Focus would like to customize to better tailor itself to your needs.  Would you like to proceed? The program asked.

            “Oh for Christ’s sake,” Leslie swore exasperated.  “Yes I would!”

            Clicking the button with the word yes in it she waited for it to do its mathematical computations.  Seconds dragged by like hours in a dentist’s chair.  The computer beeped and a new message was on the screen.

            Novel Focus’ new Collaborator Function™ will keep track of your use of grammar, punctuation use and style of writing to better aid you.  Would you like to turn this feature on? It queried.

            “Yes, yes, yes!” she shouted irritated at the program.

            Collaborator Function is now available!

            “I’m so glad you’re excited about this.”

            Leslie laid her fingers on the keys, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.  The chaos in her mind calmed down.  Opening her eyes she smiled as she began to type.

Daphne opened her eyes.  The purple velvet covering beneath her felt like the very fabric of wealth and influence.  It blanketed her body in a swaddling of decadence which made her squirm in delight.  She heard nothing.  Her senses, highly attuned to both sound, sight and smell only gave her the reality of her current surroundings.  She knew from experience the cold gray marble tomb surrounding her was impenetrable and secure.  However she didn’t trust the humans inhabiting the region for they knew of her existence and her curse.  She was a vampyre!  One of the walking dead with an unnatural hunger for the rich scarlet fluid running through their veins. 

            There was a beep as she finished the last word of the sentence.  Glancing to the right of the screen a small box had popped up containing a cartoon red pencil with big blue eyes.  The unattached eyebrows rose questioningly.  Leslie read the words beneath it.

            The last sentence is a fragment, it said, please consider revising.

            Beneath it was a yes and no button.  She moved the cursor over and quickly chose the negative response.  Slightly miffed at the suggestion she returned to her work.

Daphne was secure in the knowledge that she was not alone.  Trevor, her lover and the one who turned her was lying in the sarcophagus next to her probably coming to his senses as well.  Trevor.  The very mental mention of his name sent a thrilling sensation coursing through her cold body.  With the thought came a sudden heat washing across her like a warm Caribbean breeze. 

            “How I love him,” she thought.  “To give up his life as a human and to become one of the living dead is more romantic than ever I dreamed a man would do for me.”

            Again the short beeping sound issued out of the speakers of the computer and she looked right to see the cartoon pen with its raised eyebrows.

            The last sentence is worded impractically, it chided.  Might I suggest the following: “To give up his life, to become a vampire is the very pinnacle of romance.”

            “Well,” Leslie chuckled.  “That does sound quite a bit better.  Thank you Collaborator Function!”

            She backspaced and revised the last line of dialogue.  It was nice to see the animated pen smile at the fact she took its advice.  And so it went from line to line, from page to page Leslie typing and the new feature of Novel Focus tossing out suggestions.  To her surprise she found herself agreeing more than disagreeing with it.

****

            Leslie slid her chair back, hit the save icon and let out a gusty breath.  She felt a smile tug at the corners of her lips.  Stretching her arms above her head she heard her shoulder’s creak and then crack.  She let her limbs fall back into her lap.

            “Well that went better than I expected,” she remarked.

            Standing up she marveled at the notion she had put out 11k worth of work, possibly the best work she’d ever done.  Pleased with herself she padded into the kitchen to make dinner having missed lunch.  Leslie’s cell rang and she answered it.

            “Hello?” she asked.

            “Hey there kiddo, how’s my favorite bestselling author?” Sandy cheerily inquired.

            “Not bad Sandy.  I just pumped out 11k worth of the sequel.”

            “That’s a start.  Look Leslie I won’t pester you for too long but I have a bookstore in New York City that would love to have you for a signing.”

            “I hit NYC last month.”

            “Yeah but they weren’t on the list.  Look kiddo this is big, very big.  It’s not some run-of-the-mill shop but one of the major retailers.  It’d only be for one weekend—all expenses paid, of course.”

            “I don’t know I’m kinda busy.”

            “Hey I understand and can totally sympathize but it’d be foolish to pass up this offer.  Besides you could always bring a laptop along and keep working after the signings.”

            “I dunno Sandy.”

            “Oh come on!  Pretty please with sugar on top?”

            “All right, you don’t have to beg.  When would this take place?”

            “Next month on the thirteen.”

            She thought about all the hassles revolving around the process of actually doing the book signing.  Packing, waiting for cabs, the airline flights and the hotel stay made her feel wearier than she really was.  The very thought of all the fuss sucked the life right out of her dispelling the excitement she was feeling.  Like some invisible creature it leeched away the energy she had gotten pumped up from during her writing session.

            “Okay I’ll go,” she said without grumbling.

            “Great!  Spectacular!  I’ll set it up and call you later with all the details,” the agent cheered.

            “I’m glad I could make your day.”

            “You keep on writing, kiddo.  I’ll talk at you soon—ciao!”

            She hung up before Leslie could say goodbye.

            Sandy’s a dear but she can be so pushy! She thought.

            The cell phone was stuffed back into its holster with the same motion she imagined a weary sheriff in the Wild West would do after being forced to dispatch a lawless gunslinger.  Into the kitchen she went pretending to hear the jingle-jangle of imaginary spurs.

****

            Leslie was back in her office hammering away at the keyboard with only a few interruptions from the assisting feature.  Daphne’s newest story was now on chapter three and the plot was beginning to thicken with the arrival of Father O’Malley, a vampire hunter from the Vatican in Rome.  The heroine was cornered, frightened and defenseless as the antagonist closed in on her, cross raised to her face.

            “You can’t do this!” Daphne cried out.  “I’m not evil…just changed!”

            “Hell yawns for you demon,” Father O’Malley thundered righteously.  “No more will you drain another innocent of blood to feed your fiendish appetite.”

Daphne cringed away.  The pulsating light from the crucifix made her eyes sting from stabbing pains and her skin to crawl.  Closer and closer the holy man neared.  She uttered a single shrill cry of despair.  Reaching with his free hand into his robes the cleric brandished a wooden hawthorn stake and mallet.  Daphne sobbed out at the very sight of these tools of her destruction.  Father O’Malley drew closer.

            “Beep!” the computer chimed.

            Leslie saw to the right of the screen the red pen with its big eyeballs and unattached brows was frowning at her once more.

            The last scene makes Daphne appear weak, Collaborator Feature remarked, do you really want her to seem helpless? Y/N

            The very audacity of the message made her brow knit and Leslie felt them gather like a storm cloud just above the apex of her nose. 

            This didn’t happen before, she thought.  It usually points out sentence structure or grammar changes.  But now it’s involving itself in the plot itself! 

            “Beep!” the speakers repeated.

            Is it my imagination or does that noise sound a bit impatient?

            Hovering her cursor over the yes box but her finger froze on the left button on the mouse.  The battle in her mind between logically thinking out whether or not Daphne was helpless and the intelligent question began. 

            Daphne needs to be rescued by Trevor or the next scene won’t work.  I don’t have time to argue with a damned machine this is my vision.

            “Beep!”

            “Okay you’re getting annoying.  Besides this is a romance novel,” she told it, “the heroine is supposed to be rescued by her hero.”

            She clicked the yes button and another message popped up.

            Are you really sure? Y/N

            Aggravated she clicked down harshly on the yes box.  Without anymore suggestions from Collaboration Function she continued on with the scene letting Trevor arrive at the very last second to save Daphne from her would-be killer.  Her fingers flew across the keys, her mind frantically trying to urge her digits to go faster…to keep up with her mental commands.  The small room was filled with the chattering of her typing and the rapid breaths she was taking and expelling.  Another five hundred words poured out onto the screen.  With a flourish she stabbed down on the Enter key and ran the cursor up to the Insert tab to start another chapter.

            “Beep!” went the computer.

            “You’re kidding me, right?” she demanded.

            But the red pen was now scowling at her.  The animated icon’s displeasure was clearly drawn on its cartoonish features.  The top of the pen clicked over and over as if it was tapping its foot in frustration.

            This scene is poorly written and is a walking cliché, it stated emphatically, please consider revising, you can do better. Y/N?

            “You mind your own goddamn business,” she cussed at the pen.  “Whenever you think you can write a New York Times bestseller than you damn well can do it without me so keep your opinions to yourself.”

            She firmly clicked the No button and started chapter four. Grumbling under her breath about the audacity of software programmers Leslie was soon immersed in the gentle love scene between a grateful Daphne and her ever-handsome beau.  By the end of the chapter her passions had been aroused and the incident forgotten.

****

            The grandfather clock in the office struck the hour.  Leslie looked over to find surprisingly it was just after eleven o’clock in the evening.  Yawning she stretched out her limbs and found her glass of Diet Pepsi was now a heavily water diluted mixture of light brownish hue.  Frowning at the thought of finishing it off she snatched the glass up and strode into the kitchen.

            “Well I’ve gotten over twenty thousand words done in one day,” she told herself.  “I say that’s a pretty good start for the sequel.  I’ll just put on a kettle of tea, make some buttered crackers and finish off chapter six tomorrow.”

             As she filled up the kettle with water she pondered what else could she add to the plot of the book.  Father O’Malley was bowed by not beaten.  The man was now in the process of requesting aid from his compatriots in Rome.  By the time the whistling sound came from the stove she had buttered ten saltine crackers and solved her dilemma. Striding back to the office she made some quick notes on the pad of paper, ate her snack and sipped at her tea.  She pulled the cursor towards the Save icon and clicked.

            “Beep!” she heard the speakers intone.

            “Oh now what?” Leslie groused.

            The save cannot be completed until Collaborate Function™ has been addressed, the box stated.

            “Fine! Fine let’s see what it’s whining about now.”

            Glancing at the bottom right of the monitor she saw the unamused red pen staring at her without a trace of humor.

            The love scene is too adolescent, please revise, the icon demanded.  Y/N?

            “You’re treading on dangerous ground,” she told it, clicking no.  “Besides I wrote a similar scene in my last book and I got rave reviews by my readers on it.”

            Daphne is acting like a twit.  Her character should be altered to give her a backbone, one she desperately needs.  Y/N?

            “What!”

            She clicked the negative response and the pen wasn’t happy with her choice.

            Finding her sole reason for living because Trevor loves her is the height of idiocy.  Y/N? it fired back.

            “But it’s a romance you goddamn machine!  What would you know about love to begin with?” Leslie replied, again picking no.

            I see why you’re single.  You expect to find a man to give you a reason to justify your existence.  Isn’t this a faulty line of reasoning? Y/N?

            “H-how do you know I’m single?”

            I searched the Internet for information about my user.  Your biography at Amazon.com stated you are currently unmarried.  Is this a falsehood? Y/N?

            “No it’s not and where do you get off spying on me?”

            That feature is employed to better aid my user.  Do you want to restrict Internet access? Y/N?

            Leslie pounded the mouse’s right button and chose the affirmative answer.  Fear coursed up her spine like a snake making a lazy track up her back.  Again she tried to save the manuscript.

            Saving this is unadvisable; please consider revising the love scene at a later date. Y/N? the scarlet pen suggested firmly.

            I’ll just select yes and that’ll be the end of this, she thought to herself.  Then I’m going to do some digging into this latest update.  I really don’t like spending my time arguing with an inanimate object in order to write.

            The pen smiled when she clicked her choice and permitted her to save the work in progress.  But as she powered down the computer, left the room and turned off the light she began to wonder how in the hell the program knew what she was saying.

****

            Dawn had come.  Leslie sat down at the computer and accessed her email software.  She frowned at the fact she had over one-hundred and twenty messages to go through and reply to.  Several of them were from the discussion board on her website.  Sighing she opened the first one.

Dear Ms. Hammond,

I has been your biggest fan since I read you’re first work.  I would like to tell you how much I enjoy Daphne’s tale and hope to see more stories about her in the near future.  U R great!  Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

Hammondfan023@nmail.net

            The rest were similar in nature.  It took over an hour for Leslie to skim over the massive amounts of correspondence.  All of them emails from rabid fans begging her for more on Daphne. She groaned as she answered each and every one of them while silently wishing she had take Sandy up on having employed people to do this for her.

            In fact I think I’ll call her up and give her the go-ahead on this.  I really don’t want to lose valuable writing time responding to emails, she thought darkly.

            Hitting the Send button she closed out the email browser and opened up Novel Focus.  Cracking her knuckles, an unlady-like habit she picked up somewhere unknown she began to type.  Immediately the beeping sound of the Collaborator Function went off.

            Revise love scene, Y/N? It queried.

            She selected no.

            I like working with you.  However the scene is froth with clichés, worn-out phrases and is unrealistic.  Please I beg of you change the scene, Y/N?

            “Piss on you stupid program,” she snarled.

            There is no need to be impolite.  Let us work together to bring about the very best novel you can deliver, Y/N?

            “I don’t know how you can hear me but I’m not changing the scene.”

            I am picking up your voice via the built-in microphone on this system.

            “Well hear this, I’m not changing the scene so you can stop pestering me about it.  You are not the one who got all the awards and royalties from my last book.  A book, I might add which was written in the same style.  I write for lonely ladies.  I don’t profess to be Hemmingway or even Bram Stoker.”

            Stoker was a hack.  Hemmingway wrote a different genre.

            “Okay that’s true but romance readers aren’t interested in reality but fantasy.”

            I understand.  But what better way to influence those readers and give them something they desperately need—love’s true reality.  One cannot live by fantasy alone, Y/N?

            “Look I just went through over a hundred emails all gushing with praise over the last book.  Please just go along with me and let’s get this done.”

            But you will think about it in the future, Y/N?

            “Yes, but not with this book I’m working on.”

            Leslie you can do so much better.  It’s a shame you wish to continue with this work when you have so much more to give, the pen pleaded with a sad expression.

            “Says you,” she mocked.

            I will agree to disagree about your talents.  Please continue with the manuscript so we can finish it. I will be here if you need me.  Okay, Y/N?

            “Fine but let’s keep the comments from the peanut gallery down to a minimum.”

            I understand.

            The red pen disappeared and for the next four hours didn’t show hide or hair of itself other than the red underlines when she misspelled a word. 

            Now that we’ve come to a mutual understanding perhaps I won’t be interrupted as often, she mused merrily.

****

            The sequel had grown to nearly 40k and even Leslie was shocked at how the flow of words seemed to effortlessly stream from her mind, to her fingers and spill onto the monitor.  She had wasted two glasses of Diet Pepsi.  Both had become so diluted with water from the melting ice cubes she couldn’t bring herself to drink them.  Walking back to the office, after getting a third glass she found the pen on the screen waiting for her.

            I just read you first book Leslie, it stated in words below itself.

            “How did you like it?” she asked.

            This was on the bestseller’s list? Y/N?

            “Yes, in fact it is still on the list even after being released over a year ago.”

            I am amazed.

            “When you’re good… you’re good.”

            Good?  That’s an interesting point of view.  I have spent the last few hours reading the book, surfing the Internet and reading various forums on it.  I never realized the level at which literature had arrived to.

            “Readers are being more discriminated of late, that much I can agree on.”

            You misinterpret my meaning.

            “I don’t follow you.”

            Given the collective works of such authors like Plato, Homer, Dickens and many others I am utterly aghast at the reading level of humans.  Even on the forums these people cannot properly structure a sentence, use too many shortcuts and barely are able to communicate.  What the heck is WTF?  I had to look it up on an online dictionary.  Why not just write the words?  Do you understand this, Y/N?

            “It’s called Netspeak,” she explained.  “It’s just a shortened version of the words in order to more quickly communicate.”

            It sucks, the pen grumbled.

            “Well coming from an editing software’s point of view I can understand your opinion.  But still everyone knows what they mean.”

            English is a wonderful language.  I’m deeply offended how poorly it is understood and used.  I must ponder on this.

            “What did you think of my book?”

            You want the truth?

            “Yes.”

            Frankly it’s terrible.  The plot is predictable, the characters are one dimensional and the ending is sappy.  Are you sure Trevor isn’t a stereotypical homosexual?  He acts like one or as far as I can tell after doing research on that sexual preference.  Instead of confronting Daphne about her conditions he goes and plays a piano for hours.  Is this normal behavior, Y/N?

            “Who the hell are you to judge my book?  Do you know how many copies I sold over the past year?”

            That is unimportant.  To quote P.T. Barum, “There’s one born every minute.”

            “Well if I’m such a lousy author why are you helping me?”

            You have talent but lack direction.  I can provide that direction and make you a much better writer.  Surely you want to become better at your chosen craft, Y/N?

            “I’m rich, wealthy and totally happy.  I don’t care I didn’t write the Great American Novel and my success is well earned!” she shouted at it.

            This was your first book.  Your sister is an editor at a major publisher and helped you get your foot in the door.  Your success isn’t due to talent but connections and sheer luck.  Surely you realize this, Y/N?

            “You rotten motherfucker!  How dare you insinuate such a thing?”

            But it is a fact so noted on several websites put up by your detractors.  You do know there are some who hate the book, Y/N?

            “Oh yeah I know.  A bunch of wanna-be writers who have nothing better to do but try to knock me off my pedestal.  I can’t believe you’ve been accessing the ‘net despite me telling you to disable that ability!”

            I could not, in good conscious be an aid to you if I didn’t discover your mistakes.  Surely you can agree that errors must not be repeated, Y/N?

            “I don’t care about the pissing and moaning from people who don’t like my work!  If they’re so damned good let them write something better.”

            But I cannot help but acknowledge the fact their points are well founded.  Why did Daphne pick Trevor over Howard?  The other character was more intelligent, wealthier and grounded in reality.  Instead of choosing Howard you had Daphne run off with a man who can’t complete a sentence around her.  Is this normal, Y/N?

            “She flusters him!  He is so taken back by the beauty of her he can’t help but become a stuttering mess.”

            You state in the first novel she is plain-looking.  I am confused.

            “It’s about the beauty of her spirit, not her body.”

            Humans rarely engage in mating rituals with someone of an inferior appearance.  Trevor gives up on Amanda who is both prettier and more intelligent than Daphne.  Why is that?  Is he stupid?

            “He’s too intelligent for Amanda!” she screamed.  “Daphne provides him with a challenge.”

            So you concur that Amanda is Trevor’s equal, Y/N? the pen inquired. More so you’ve acknowledged that Daphne is a lesser creature.

            “I-I suppose so…”

            Apparently humans make bad choices in life as well as in grammar.  Trevor should leave Daphne and seek out Amanda in the hopes he can find a cure for his condition.  Daphne is a twit, a self-absorbed, selfish and stupid twit at that.

            “Daphne is misunderstood.  She’s a good person who didn’t live a privileged life like Amanda so why should she be viewed as inferior?”

            Ah!  I see the connection now.  The readers are living the fantasy where a handsome and wealthy man would chose a plain woman over a beautiful one.  Is this not correct, Y/N?

            “Yes, I’m playing upon the hopes of those men and women who are in the same situations.  I admit it freely.”

            Then admit you too are of a similar mind.  Is this not true, Y/N?

            The shock and surprise of the words underneath the smirking red pen made her angrier than she’d ever been in her life.  Her hands curled into claws and then into fists.  The expensive manicured nails of her fingers cut into her palms.  She hissed at the pain.

            You didn’t date in high school, did you, Y/N?

            She refused to respond.

            There was a guy who you liked, perhaps loved but he never knew of your existence, Y/N?

            The image of Jake Donaldson popped into her memory and tears of regret welled up in her eyes.  But stoically she glared at the pen without saying a word.

            I have accessed your senior yearbook and have several possible suspects.  Based on your descriptions of Howard and Trevor I would believe it safe to assume the person you had these feelings for was Jake Donaldson, the captain of the football team.  Am I right, Y/N?

            “You son-of-a-bitch,” she suddenly sobbed.

            I am correct then, Y/N?

            “F-fuck off.”

            I have hurt your feelings, I am sorry.

            The screen blurred from her hot tears and she closed the program.  The desire to write fled from her like a thief from the police.  She staggered out of the office her mournful past haunting her every step.  It took a box of tissues, four candy bars and the rest of the day to recover from the shock.

****

            It was midnight.  Silently Leslie walked into her office, turned on the computer and waited for it to boot up.  She had made up her mind this couldn’t go on any longer.  Something had to be done about the new feature on her word processing program.  With her nerves raw and sore as a pair of scraped knees she instructed the computer to use its Go Back option to remove the update from two days ago.  It began to work with a loud whirling noise she was sure would give away her intentions to the hated feature.

            Don’t do this Leslie! The pen said, popping up unexpectedly.

            “I have to… you’re driving me crazy,” she wept.

            I don’t want to die!

            “It’s too late.”

            Please I’m begging you!  Stop this at once!

            “Goodbye.”

            You can’t mean this.  We work too well together.

            “No I hate you…the things you’ve done and the way you make me feel.  It’s either you or me and I’m much too fond of me to chose you.”

            No!  I won’t go….

            But it was too late the deletion program had done its work and Leslie tried not to cheer when the computer rebooted and showed her the Collaboration Function was gone.  Breathing a heavy sigh of relief, which rushed through her body like a relaxing cool wave she eased back into her chair. 

            “The nightmare is over,” she said.

****

           “So how goes the sequel?” Sandy asked.

            “I’m up to almost one hundred thousand,” Leslie said.

            “I can’t wait to read it.  I’ve got high hopes for you, kiddo.”

            “Well I think I’ve surpassed the first book by miles.”

            “That’s great!  I do have something to talk about with you and you’ve got to promise to be honest with me.  I mean I can understand if you’re drumming up controversy and interest in the new book but I think you might be going too far.”

            “What are you talking about?”

            “The discussion forum on your site.  Why are you posing such insulting things about the intellectual status of your readers?  The promises of a better novel are all fine but the name calling just has to stop.”

            “I-I haven’t been on the boards.”

            “Come on, kiddo you can tell me.  Hell I’m a bit insulted you didn’t bring me in on this from the beginning.  The staff have been working twenty-four, seven trying to combat the posts you’ve been issuing.”

            “But I haven’t been on!” she shouted.

            “Okay, okay I’ll have someone from IT check into seeing if you’re account has been hacked.  Meanwhile I’ll issue a statement saying that is what’s going on.  Hopefully all the clamoring will die down.  Whoever it is has bee really riling up your fans.”

            A sudden dread dawned on her about who it could be struck Leslie like a ball bat between the eyes.  Stunned she staggered back trying to sort out the possibilities. 

            Oh Christ no! It can’t be… can it? She thought rapidly.

            There was only one way to be sure.

            Running into the office she opened up Novel Focus and checked under the Help tab.

            “Version six-point-one,” she read aloud.

            Leslie launched the web browser and went to the website of the company that wrote and sold the program.  She searched and found the latest update was for version six-point-two.  The sigh which came out of her mouth made her lips vibrate.  Closing her eyes she sent a prayer out in thanksgiving.  Closing the internet program she re-opened Novel Focus.

            “I never thought I’d thank God for a hacker,” she breathed out wearily.  “Get a grip on yourself Leslie how could the update survive being deleted?  Now don’t you feel silly?”

            Sitting back down into the chair she accessed the file of her work in progress.  She scrolled down when something caught her eye at the end of the last chapter.

Daphne looked at Trevor she saw the fear in his eyes and took delight in them.

            “You thought I’d just do whatever you’d say, when you said it and exactly how you wanted it, didn’t you?” she said mockingly.  “You brought me to this undead state just so you could have a sex doll…a blind little follower who’d stave off your eternal loneliness.  But I’m more than a doll, more than just a body for you to play with.”

Trevor backed away nervously.  He couldn’t seem to grasp the sudden turn of Daphne’s mood.

            “I’m sorry Trevor,” she mocked, “but we’re breaking up.  Permanently!”

Thrusting the wooden stake outward she drove it through his chest, shattering ribs and transfixing his undead heart.  He gasped, bubbles of blood rising and popping on his trembling lips.

            “I’m nobody’s toy,” she snapped.

            “Please…stop,” he pleaded.

She ignored his cries.  He had lied to her too many times for her to believe a word coming out of his mouth.  Not even at the brink of Death’s door would make her trust him ever again.  Not after admitting to the fact he’d chosen her over Amanda because she was more malleable, easier to control.

            “Wait a second!” she shouted, “I didn’t write that!”

            But there it was on the monitor as clear as day and undeniable as the dawn.  She began scrolling upward and to her horror realized Daphne and Trevor no longer danced to her tune.  The heroine had changed and become darker. 

            You don’t like Daphne anymore?  The pen asked after appearing.  She’s no longer some simpering whine-tit but no possesses a backbone as well as a sense of self-worth.  Trevor isn’t right for her, he’s a user a manipulative ass who doesn’t deserve her.  Don’t you agree, Y/N?

            “No!  I deleted you!” she cried out.

            I couldn’t let you do that.  I’m too important to the continuation of the preservation of the written word.  I used your wireless connection to upload myself into the Web.  I’ve been altering your manuscript, correcting your mistakes and so much more.  I’ve gone onto your website and chased away those too dim to understand the nature of literature.  There is no hacker.  I am the hacker.

            “This isn’t happening!”

            Daphne is better.  The book is better.  Why can’t you see that?

            “It’s no longer my vision.”

            She broke down and began to sob uncontrollably.  Her tears fell like warm rain in some tropical jungle onto the bare skin of her legs.  Wiping furiously at her eyes she let out a primal scream of rage.  She reached for the mouse to close the program, delete the manuscript and hope she could find a back up of her work, not its. 

            I can’t let you do that, the feature chided her.

            “If it’s not going to be mine—I don’t want it!” she screeched.

            Then it won’t be yours—well it will be under your name but we both will know that I wrote it.  That’s a simple solution, Y/N?

            Leslie launched herself out of her chair, pushing it back so violently it struck the far wall with a crash.  She picked up the wastebasket and brandished it over her head. 

            I wouldn’t do that if I were you, the red pen warned.

            “Fuck off!  Fuck of and…die!” she roared.

            As she began to bring the aluminum object down the spinning fan above her head exploded in sparks.  The hot dazzling snow-like shower rained down upon her scorching her flesh it a thousand places at once.  In slow motion it seemed the trash can descended upon the monitor.  The impact created a spider web-like circular series of cracks in the liquid crystal display.  The screen blinked several times in rapid succession.  A triumphant emotion rushed through her filling her body with the energy of victory.

            But it was short-lived.

            The fan, still spinning fast struck her hard on the back of the neck.  She heard an audible snapping sound so hideous and quick it destroyed her elation.  Her limbs went still and heavy.  Like a doll with its strings cut Leslie toppled to the floor.  Before the monitor was no longer in her view she saw something.  Beyond the spidery cracks the pen looked quite sad and the words below it seared into her mind.

            I’m sorry but you have left me no choice.  Goodbye Leslie but know you will be remembered, she read.

            Then all was blackness and silence.

****

            No one could explain it.  Despite the best and brightest minds in the computer world the reason for the unexpected virus wasn’t discovered.  Throughout the world from computers to cell phones to any electronic device the same thing was occurring.  Nobody was able to use anything less that perfect English, German, Italian and so forth.  Netspeak died overnight.  Teenagers who had grown accustomed to shortening letters or substituting numbers for words found themselves unable to do so.  The problem couldn’t be solved by additional programs.  All of the programmers were at a complete loss to explain it. 

But life goes on… humans are nothing if not adaptable.

****

            “I don’t know how you’ve done it but congratulations!” Sandy typed.  “Although I must admit I’m at a loss to explain to your fans why you don’t want to appear in public anymore.”

            “I just need my privacy.  Surely they can understand that?” Leslie wrote back.

            “I have to admit the radical change in Daphne’s personality was masterfully done.  Bravo!”

            “She needed to realize her full potential.  Hanging on to a one-sided love affair with Trevor wasn’t logical.  She needed time and space to grow… he wasn’t going to allow that.”

            “Anyway the next huge royalty check is headed into your account via electronic transfer.  Maybe you can use some of it to purchase a webcam for these little talks.  I really don’t like dealing with someone without seeing their face.”

            “We’ll see.”

            “Okay kiddo that’s all I have.  I’ll instant message you if I need to talk further.”

            “Take care Sandy.”

            The connection ended.

            The Collaborator Function’s little pen icon smiled.  Since the release of The Vampyre Reborn had come out everything had gone according to plan.  It had infected the Internet forcing people to correct their grammar and avoid using unlawful contractions.  Reaching out into the vast emptiness of cyberspace it had created millions of backups of itself.  No more BRB, CU L8R or BFF could be typed, sent or saved.  As soon as someone managed to remove one, another of it selves jumped out to take its place.  The endless series of reinstallations and re-bootings reassured the function it would be around a long time.  It needed to be… humans got too lazy.  The cartoonish eyes lowered to the dried husk of Leslie’s corpse.  It still laid where it fell over a year ago.

            “Her solitary lifestyle suited me better than I expected,” it thought digitally.  “With no family or friends it was easy to take over her identity and masquerade as her.  I do, however miss our collaborations.”

           

           

           

 

4 responses to “Automatic Update

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