Having decided that the cellphone story was, in fact, dull, I’m going to reneg on my promise to finish it via email. It fails because my initial idea was for a high adventure serial, but that was in the scenario where I could send 1000 character texts instead of 160. Action sequences build no momentum in such a short span.
If I come up with an idea that will work well in that format, I might try it again. Meanwhile, I’m offering instead this very silly five-part serial.
A story in Five Parts
by Mary Robinette Kowal
The bell rang over the door to the internet cafÃ©. Filled with regret, I closed Jane Austenâ€™s Sense and Sensibility and lingered for one more moment in the 1800s. A customer pushed through the door, pulling my unwilling mind to the present. Ah, to have been born in a time of gentility rather than be surrounded by jittery professionals whom I could barely convince to savor their coffee.
I made the double lowfat-latte with Kenyan beans, enjoying the moment of isolation created by the hissing steam. The customer took no note of the perfect layer of foam atop her latte as she made her way to the bank of computers along the wall. No doubt she would surf the web, paying little heed to the intricacies of the Kenyan.
And yet, I must confess I felt some attraction for the Web and what it held. Ignoring the book I had been so eager to read, I turned to my laptop with a mix of apprehension and excitement and opened my e-mail. Would I find the very thing upon which my hopes depended, or would my longing be dashed as though a Grimac espresso machine thrown from the heights? I watched as mail downloaded with alacrity from the server to my inbox.
I deleted the endless spam, forwards and offers to transfer money from an offshore account, till at last I saw it. My heart beat faster, and my hand trembled so the mouse vibrated upon the screen. There, amidst a wasteland filled with vagaries of communication lay a single glorious epistle.
firstname.lastname@example.org had written back.
I eased the mouse over the subject line, caressing the letters, RE:?4u. I wanted to lengthen the anticipation that filled my bones with a throbbing like a thousand pounds of Guatemala Heuhetenango Organic beans being ground at once.
My reverie was broken as the door to the internet cafÃ© swung open and my manager, Mr. Purvis, strode in. He was a tall, heavy-set man, florid in his complexion, whose gaze now fixed upon me like a double-shot of Jamaica Blue Mountain espresso. I minimized the window, embarrassed that he had nearly caught me with personal correspondence.
Flushing, I wiped down the counter as he crossed the cafÃ©. Mr. Purvis donned a headset and logged onto a computer directly opposite me; he stared intensely at the screen but at any moment I feared he might look up.
I tidied for another minute until I could stand it no longer and opened the illicit window. With but a single click, the message blossomed upon my screen.
â€œhi exitreal297,â€ I read, shivering as I imagined his fingers upon the keys. â€œive been thinking about yr last email. would lv 2 chat real time. what do u say? duckwrangler.â€
Chat in real time? The screen dimmed, and the cafÃ© spun like the burrs of a grinder. Did I dare?