Just Press Send – Flash Fiction Piece
Welcome to flash fiction… Monday? Well, I’m a little off-schedule at the moment. Spent all weekend replacing one of the atmospheric engines on the ol’ spacecraft, and then the cloaking device started glitching, so I had to go pick up a spare from Tau Ceti IV. Dull trip. Very dull.
Anyway. Normally I do storying on a Friday, but this week I couldn’t make my abduction story fit in with Chuck Wendig’s prompts (*shakes fist at Mr. W*) so I’ll see how it goes next Friday, and if it still won’t fit I will WRITE IT ANYWAY! Because I am 12% rebel.
In the meantime, here’s a small flash-fic I wrote for another challenge, the topic of which was ‘escape.’ This piece was inspired by something that happened in the office today, so if we were still inventing something-punk, this might be officepunk.
But it’s not.
Just Press Send
Gilbert straightened the tie of his suit and stepped into the offices of M.K. Insurance Services. It was his second week on the job, and he was still trying to make a good impression with his boss, Mr. Potts. It wasn’t an interesting job, or an exciting job; twice a day he did a coffee run to the Starbucks on the corner (but always the east corner, never the west corner, because Miss Sandringham didn’t like the way the west corner Starbucks frothed up their cappuccinos), and when he wasn’t fetching coffee he was filing away documents (alphabetically, which suited him fine, because numerical systems confused him) and sending the occasional fax to the Finance team downstairs, or Head Office, or sometimes even The Police.
No, it wasn’t the best job in the world, nor the most glamourous, nor the best-paying job either. But it was a job, and so far he was coping with it. Ever since he’d left school, it was difficult for him to keep a job. He’d never been the brightest student, achieving below-average grades even though his attendance record was perfect. He didn’t really like Maths, computers confused him, and though he enjoyed English, he’d struggled to understand what was going on in some of the books that had been set as school exam pieces.
Inside the office, he took the elevator to the fourth floor, to the Customer Service department where he worked. It was a small team; just Mr. Potts, Miss Sandringham and Gilbert himself, and Gilbert enjoyed the quietness of the office, except when Mr. Potts was shouting at a customer. He did that a lot. Customers, he said, were like plagues of rats; the moment you got rid of one, another came along.
Gilbert was first in the office. He was always first. He made a point of being here before the rest of the team to show that he was Eager and Dedicated. He’d put those things on his CV, so it seemed only right that he do the things that it said on paper. If something was written down, you had to obey it. That’s why laws were written down, and safety instructions. Because if you didn’t do what it said on paper, you could get into trouble. His mam had told him that, when he’d been just six years old.
“Morning, Gil,” said Mr. Potts. He came striding into the office, grey hair slicked back, navy suit all freshly ironed and smelling of expensive cologne.
“Morning Mr. Potts,” Gilbert. He didn’t particularly like being called Gil, but Mr. Potts was The Boss, and you did not argue with The Boss.
“I have to attend a meeting with the head of Marketing,” said Mr. Potts, and he handed a piece of paper with numbers all over it to Gilbert, who tried not to flinch at the sight of all those digits. “Fax this down to Finance then fetch the coffees. I’ll be back in half an hour.”
Mr. Potts disappeared with his shiny briefcase, and Gilbert turned to the fax machine. He didn’t like computers, but the fax machine was okay. You just dialled the number and pressed send.
0–2-0–8–2–5–5–2–3–5–6 — SEND
Gilbert jumped out of his skin at the sound of the voice coming from the fax machine. It was bleeping ominously. It didn’t usually bleep like that.
“Hello? Is anybody out there? Can anyone hear me?”
“Miss Sandringham?” he asked.
“Hello? Hello? If there’s somebody there, please pick up!”
With no better idea, he picked up the receiver on the side of the fax machine and held it to his ear.
“Hello? Miss Sandringham? It’s me, Gilbert.”
“Oh, thank God! Listen, Gil, you have to help me!”
“Where are you?”
“I’m inside the fax machine.”
Gilbert’s eyes widened, and he took a step back, almost dropping the receiver in the process.
“How did you get inside there, Miss Sandringham?”
“I was using the fax before I left the office last night, when I got sucked inside. I’ve been in here for hours! My roommate must be so worried about me not coming home… God, I hope she hasn’t called the police. Listen, Gil, you’ve got to get me out of here.”
Gilbert, recognising the difficulty of getting someone out of a fax machine after they’d been sucked inside, began shifting from foot to foot, trying to decide what he should do. What if he made the problem worse, and got Miss Sandringham stuck in there forever? He’d definitely lose his job over that.
“Um, Mr. Potts will be back in half an hour. We should wait until he comes back.”
“But I’m so cold and alone, and it’s so dark in here. Please, Gil, I want to be free. If I have to wait another minute, I swear I’ll go insane.”
“But Mr. Potts said I have to go for coffee!” he wailed. Why did these things always happen to him?
“No, don’t leave!! Please! Yours is the only voice I’ve heard since last night. Please don’t leave me alone in here.”
“Okay, Miss Sandringham. I don’t know how to get you out, but I won’t leave you alone.”
“Thank you. Will you… sing me a song? To cheer me up?”
“What should I sing?”
“Do you know ‘I’m a little teapot’?” Miss Sandringham asked. “It was my favourite when I was a child.”
He did know it, and as he broke out into the first verse, he heard Miss Sandringham crying. The poor woman. Her sobs sounded almost like choked-back laughter, but of course, nobody would be laughing if they got trapped inside a fax machine.
When he reached the end of the song he sat down beside the fax machine and started again. He would sing for as long as Miss Sandringham was stuck in there. He just hoped Mr. Potts wouldn’t be angry when he got back from his meeting and found no coffee waiting.
In case you were wondering, the incident in the office involved someone sending a fax, and a girl on the other end picking up the receiver and saying “Hello? Hello? Hello???” each time sounding more and more desperate, to the point where I thought, ‘My god, she’s actually stuck inside the thing.’
…you had to be there.
Things humans said