I entered DL Hammons amazing contest on a whim. I had a snippet of a piece I’d done for Daily Science Fiction, which features pieces shorter than 1500 words in a daily email. They didn’t like my piece, but I did, so I edited it down and entered it in the 2019 installment of Write Club – the multi-round head-to-head competition that DL orchestrates alongside the DFW Writers Conference.
I figured if I made it through the slush pile I’d be happy. Make the top 30 out of 150-200 entries? That’d be cool. And then I did. On the very last day, so I guess I was literally the last one in, but that was still cool. Then I went to the next round and won there.
At this point, I start thinking this is getting serious. I begin checking to see how the votes are going. Keeping count. And, predictably, I get slaughtered in the third round. 3-to-1 for the winner.
Along the way you read the other competitors, critique them, and learn some great tricks and tips of how to write solid short prose. It’s a wonderful experience that comes with a large, economy-size application of humbling commentary on your work. To the guy who said he “found the writing to be annoying…” well, fine. Thanks for your time.
The winners were recognized at the DFWCon Luncheon and while the winner didn’t make the trip to DFW from Colorado, the runner-up did and was suitably thrilled. I was too, just to be in the company of some terrific writing.
Here’s my entry, under the anonymous pen name Terrance East.
“I can’t feel my fingers.” I blinked against the bright light as my arms disappeared.
“Perfectly normal. Didn’t you watch the induction hologram?”
“Of course, but I didn’t think that things would just disappear.” The room smelled of electricity and ozone. What had begun as a gentle hum now pulsed and throbbed.
“Your feet and lower legs should be going about now.”
They did. I blinked again. A holocam hovered a little too close, and I blew a quick breath to shoo it away. I didn’t appreciate that it was my last.
“Systems transference in three, two, one…”
The world went blindingly white. The transference room shimmered back into focus. The smell and sound were gone. Replaced by an overwhelming sense of the expanse of everything.
“Impressive isn’t it.”
“It’s… amazing. So much… nothing.”
“You’re no longer constrained by your physical body.”
“This is incredible.” I began to move and the room vanished as I went. I floated past the robotic operating table and the botnurse, then paused at the door.
“We don’t encourage that.”
“98.724 percent of all Transferals stop to look back at their Organic. 76.387 percent have an adverse reaction.”
“I’ll risk it.” I turned and looked back. The body on the table was pale, lifeless, and wrinkled. I knew it from a lifetime of mirrors. The head, my head, was encased inside the glowing circular opening of the transferal unit. The final vestige of humans as life forms.
Now, with transferal to The Cloud, I too would be immortal. Unlimited. At least my mind or my consciousness. Or my soul. I had wondered about that.
A yellow tint colored my world. The botnurse moved quickly to the glowing unit. It flickered..
“Level one. Adverse reaction.”
“What’s going on!? What’s happening!?” I’m not proud to say I panicked. Totally freaked out and then –
The yellow-tinted world twisted into charcoal gray.
“Mr. Templeton? Concentrate on the pinpoint of light in the center of your field of vision.”
“There’s nothing there!” The edges of the world were black and folding in.
“Find the light. Move towards it.”
“There’s no light!”
“…empleton? Mr. Templeton? Can you hear me? Mr. Templeton?”
“Do you have functionality?”
“What the hell was that?”
“0.047 percent of Transferals suffer an initial boot issue. Yours was a full boot rejection. We restored from your system backup and you should be just fine.”
“There’s a 99.994 percent acceptance rate.”
“So that’s 6 out of every –“
“It’s not relevant, Mr. Templeton. You are free to go.”
“That’s it? Just go?” My consciousness spun around slowly. It was a different room. No table, no body, just the big picture window from our kitchen back in Texas.
“We’ve programmed a familiar environment with reference cues and the sensation of physicality. It will help you adjust. You may go.”
With that, the walls dissolved and infinity stretched out beyond the vision of my backyard.