Simon A Forward
Gyorg sat back from his keyboard. He wished his back hadn’t creaked quite as audibly as his old office chair. Still, he was done. Another project under his belt. That was a tonic for the soul, if not the bones.
He studied those last two words on the page. And wondered if they needed a full stop.
He tapped the period key. Read the revised version.
There. Proper closure. Definitely done.
With – he glanced at the clock at the bottom of his screen – goodness, a full eight hours left in the day. Fantastic. He could take in a stroll down along the canal, order in a meal and a movie for later and perhaps make a start on that short story for Twin Worlds Magazine this evening. He could easily spend an hour picking out just the right music and wine to accompany that plan.
A delicious plan it was too. As much as he had enjoyed slaving away on the novel, that short had been calling to him ever since the idea had snuck up on him in the sono-shower.
He hit save – because he couldn’t remember whether he had done so already. Closed the file, then pushed back from his desk and rose to stretch.
His knee locked.
“Aagh.” He grimaced and sat back down, rubbing the complaining joint. Clearly, as swiftly as the writing had proceeded this morning he had been sitting still for far too long.
Perhaps a bath was in order before the canal walk. It would throw his schedule out, but it wasn’t as though he had a packed day ahead. And it would not be the worst thing in the world if he didn’t start that story today. He could treat himself to a movie double bill.
The deadline loomed but was not imminent.
He could start it tomorrow.
“Seriously. Cracking novel, Gyorg. Best in the series, if you ask me. How you keep doing it is beyond me.”
“Hmm. Some days I wonder if I can.”
Another book launch, another chance to mingle and be a social animal. Somehow he always ended up on one side of the room conversing with Lang and avoiding other company. A wave thrown here, a smile tossed there, and everyone seemed happy to keep on circulating and leaving him alone with his friend.
“What’s that?” asked Lang.
“Keep doing it. I’m not a spring chicken anymore.”
“Oh, what? Your old knee playing up again? You don’t need knees to write, Gyorg.”
“Haha. Well, I’d like to stay active if it’s all the same to you. If I’d wanted to chain myself to a desk all day, I would’ve gone into accountancy – like you.”
Lang clasped a hand to his chest, mock-wounded. He raised his glass in a salutary toast. “Cruel, but deserved.”
Gyorg sighed and sipped his wine. “Still, none of us is getting any younger. Wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the knee. There’s my back too. And the brain’s not always going to be what it used to be. Some days… I don’t know. I mean, take the day I finished this baby – this best book in the series, according to you.”
“It is. Trust me.”
“Against my better judgment, I shall. All the same, that novel took me six months. Six months. But it felt like I sat down to start it a young man and got up from it at the end as an old man. And that was one of my good days. What does that tell you?”
“That you overthink things?”
“That I cannot contest. But even when I switch off, my brain doesn’t stop. The blasted ideas keep coming, no matter what. But it just – well, it’s harder work converting those ideas into something more. That afternoon, you know, I took a bath and I lay there doing everything in my power not to mull over a short story for TWM. Succeeded, for the most part. But then – ” Gyorg opened his hand, miming an explosion. “Blam! Another idea hits me. The things just won’t leave me alone. So I jot down some notes the moment I’ve dried off. Add it to a growing list.”
“Well, good. The world always needs more from Writerman Gyorg. Always.”
“It’s nice to be in demand. But the fact is, I’m never going to get it all done. And I don’t say that to be maudlin. It’s just – realistic. On the one side, I have a million different projects I want to write and, on the other, only so much time left on the clock. With the greatest of respect, even you couldn’t tally those columns.”
“Dear me. All of this because of your knee.”
“And my back.”
“Granted. Well, you know what you need, my friend.”
“Not entirely, no. But I feel confident you’re going to tell me.”
“A what now?”
“Come on, Gyorg. You can’t have been locked up in your fiction factory that much. They have all this new technology now, new procedures. Technically, most of it’s reserved for those with conditions, chronic health issues, all that sort of thing. But with your money, I daresay you could wangle special dispensation. Fast-track to a new you. Sort your knee out – both knees, I suppose, for the sake of balance. Your back problem gone. At the very least you’ll get another decade or two of mileage on the old Gyorg writing machine.”
“Seriously?” Gyorg swilled a mouthful of wine around, washing down the thought. “Aren’t those complicated procedures? Do I really want to put myself through that?”
Lang shrugged. “Up to you.” He smiled slyly. “Had my lungs done last month. They tell me I’ve probably added another thirty years to my life. I get all tingly just thinking about how much more I can earn in an extra thirty years. Think how much more you could write.”
Lang nodded heartily. And raised his glass in another toast. “You’ll feel like a new man. Trust me.”
Gyorg tapped in the perfect sentence, closing another chapter.
Deleted back two words and immediately typed in a one-word substitute. Much better.
That, right there, was the perfect sentence.
He glanced at the clock. Gosh, time had flown.
He stretched and his back offered no protest. He rose from his chair and both knees cooperated wonderfully. He had to rub some life back into his eyes and massage a faint touch of cramp from his fingers, but that was to be expected after so long at his workstation.
It was funny. When his doctorman had estimated his enhancements had added ten to fifteen years to his life he had been elated, of course. But part of him had worried that the gift of more time would translate into laziness. The temptation to procrastinate, he feared, would be high.
Instead, he had found himself excited, spurred by the possibility of completing so many more projects, he was getting so much more done. These past six months since the operation had seen a sharp increase in his productivity. Lang was right. He was a writing * machine *. And all with no pain for his longer hours at the desk. Fantastic.
Gyorg laughed and wandered into the kitchen, thinking to fix himself a bite to eat. Fuel for the workers!
With a snack inside him, he might even be able to crack on with another chapter tonight. Haha! Take that, deadline. Your days are numbered!
As he opened a can of vitamorsels, he heard a faint scratching at the door.
He leaned to peer past the end of the kitchen counter. Sure enough, there was the next door neighbour’s mat, come looking for a free handout. Aww, bless. Well, writers weren’t the only ones who needed fuel. He pulled a saucer from the cupboard and scraped a handful of vitamorsels onto it for the poor starved animal. He opened the back door to admit his guest.
“Hello there, little guy.”
Crouching, he presented the mat with its treat. He smiled, thanking his back for giving him precisely zero trouble. Crouching, bending, it was all a breeze these days. The mat tucked into its successfully begged meal, purring with delight.
Gyorg reached out to pet its plush coat.
Ow. His fingers were stiff, preferring a sort of claw mode. He straightened them slowly, but only with a resistant crack of a knuckle or several.
Gyorg sighed. His eyes were definitely feeling strained too. Maybe he should slow it down a bit.
They took some getting used to. These fingers.
His first day back after the operation, he had busted his keyboard.
Three weeks on, he had mastered the use of his new hands, acclimating to their strength and managing to no longer hear the microscopic whine of servos as they danced across the keys, rattling off the climactic chapter of his latest technothriller trilogy. They could work faster than thought, he was certain. So now the pace of his productivity was only governed by the speed of Gyorg’s brain. And the need for snacks and bathroom breaks, naturally.
Gyorg laughed. Imagine being able to cut those out…
Gyorg wrote the concluding chapter of his latest work in record time.
He was pleased with this one. A fantasy novel, perhaps the beginning of a series, it concerned a time when magic and dragons were on the verge of extinction in the world, but preserved themselves by embracing machinery and technology. A small enclave held out against the change and battled to hold onto the old ways, even though that meant their almost certain end.
He opened another window on his screen and searched out reviews while he attended to the edits. He eliminated a host of extraneous adjectives as he read.
“Gyorg Writerman continues to crank out competent thriller after competent thriller. If anything his plotting has improved over the years, with fewer logical inconsistencies, although that comes at the expense of character depth and colourful prose. And this reviewer will surely not be alone in pointing out that nobody read Gyorg Writerman’s books for their plots.”
Gyorg harrumphed. He stood up in a huff. Critics. What did they know? What did they ever know?
He heard scratching emanating from the kitchen.
The neighbour’s mat was at the door again. It slinked into the kitchen as soon as the door opened. Gyorg gave it some food. He didn’t pet it: its fur was banded with metallic plates that didn’t invite tactile affections. In any case, the touch of Gyorg’s silver hands would only produce an awkward clang or scrape at best. The animal ate but it didn’t purr.
Gyorg returned to his desk.
Halfway through the fantasy, another idea had struck. A work of speculative fiction, but written in the style of a reference book, documenting how life might have developed along an alternative path on the missing sister planet of Earth.
He would write that tonight.
“Gyorg Writerman continues to crank out a variety of projects and he remains the most prolific writer in an impressively wide range of genres, an undoubted achievement in the face of a declining in readership. Blame cannot be entirely levelled at the author, however, as interest in books has fallen sharply across the board over the past decade or more.”
Gyorg erased the review from his screen and wiped it from memory. It was of no importance.
His hands rested on the desktop, limbs idling, while he transmitted his novel in rapid data bursts direct to his publisher. The server responded, flashing potential cover images for his approval. He selected an abstract pattern of coloured geometric shapes and intersecting lines. The book was completed and flagged for imminent publication.
A faint scratching emanated from the kitchen. The mat did not need feeding but it continued to visit, its old habit having embedded itself as a recurring subroutine. The neighbours really should have had it reprogrammed. Gyorg disregarded it and filtered out the sound.
He initiated a new file and proceeded to the next title.
Sales were down on last quarter. Productivity must increase.
LEADER + THIS + UNIT’S + PROCESSOR + IS + TRAPPED + IN + A + LOOP, DEDICATED + TO + THE + GENERATION + OF + FICTIONAL + SITUATIONS. SHOULD + IT + BE + DESTROYED?
NEGATIVE. RE-PURPOSE + THE + UNIT + AS + A + BATTLE + COMPUTER.
Generate Tactical Scenario