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Work in Progress – Feb. 9, 2023

Locations: Fiction Published

Long Story Short
By Sofie Koski

Clarissa‘s heart pounded. She scrolled with a certain propensity through the articles and blogs;  her eyes searching. Her hack program ran listlessly on the split screen. She tugged nervously on her camisole, her face the sole illuminated surface in the obscurely screen-lit room.

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The news articles displayed carefully worded headlines, proclaiming in almost an ecclesiastical way, “Edification for the Tasks! Rectitude in the Tasks!” The manipulation in their tone was almost unbearable, and Clarissa flicked past them with umbrage.

Tasks had only been implemented nationwide for nine months, but the effects had been all too evident. Clarissa spotted a link that looked promising. She moved her cursor toward it. Her hack “glitched” and a title bar suddenly appeared, blocking her view.

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“Hey there! Looks like you’re a little off track. Need a reminder for your next task?”

Clarissa decided the rumors about the new spying software were true, and kept her philippic curse to herself.

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“Oops! Totally forgot,” she muttered. She closed the pop-up, and it redirected her back to her feed. A new headline appeared: “Tasks CEO Cory Melli Issues New App Function Edict Prohibiting Users from Ever Closing their Browsers.”

Clarissa felt the dread creep into her stomach.

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That’s strange, we were just discussing that yesterday, she thought. She clicked the headline, the weak, carnal part of her hungry with intrigue. The clock on the far wall ticked, keeping pace with the speed in which she devoured the words.

“We aren’t sure what’s coming next, but the backlash is sure to be fierce, especially from some like —

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The screen went black. “No, no, no…”

All of Clarissa’s clacking would not bring the article back. She slumped in her chair, which responded with a creak. Clarissa felt disgusted that she let the story’s inflection get to her. It was just a stupid article.

She sat in the dark, the clock ticking much slower now. A phone ringing made her jump. She fumbled to pick it up and put the speaker to her ear.

“Hey Ellie.”

“Clarissa! What the heck was that? You were supposed to get back to me an hour ago!”

“I know I know,” Clarissa mumbled, fiddling with her computer as it restarted. Ellie used to speak in much more obscene language, but recently the Tasks were even less lenient about cursing. It still put Clarissa on edge, but she wasn’t being paid for nothing.

“We need that link by tomorrow night, you know?” Ellie rasped.

“Yeah, I know.”

There was a moment of silence and neither of them spoke. Until, “Hey, did you see that article… about the new rule?”

“No. What are you talking about?”

Clarissa stopped fiddling, and sat up straight.

“You didn’t see it? It’s the newest one.”

“Clare, I’ve been scouring the feed for hours, I think I would have seen it.”

The cogs in Clarissa’s mind began to turn. Ellie knew her well. “Hey Clare, what are you thinking?” she probed.

“Oh, nothing.” This seemed to appease Ellie and she moved on quickly.

“Hey, you want to hear something funny? Mark said his vocabulary recommendation for the day was ‘impedimenta.’ What kind of stupid word is that?”

“Uh-huh.” Clarissa was not listening. Her laptop was up and running again and she was searching in vain for the article. 

“I mean, who the heck do these people think —”

Ellie’s words were drowned out by a ringing in Clarissa’s ears. She could not find the article anywhere, but there was an even newer one, from just two minutes before.

“John Lebo Involved in Altercation with Tasks Employee Angered about Company Habiliments.”

She clicked on it, but the screen went black, followed by yet another pop-up.

“Hey, Ellie, I have to go.” She hung up without waiting for a response.

“Clarissa! Please refrain from using your computer the rest of the day. Drink some water and go on a walk. If you use your computer again, you will be suspended for a week,” the pop-up read.

By the sinister tone in the text, she could tell she had stumbled across something she was not supposed to see. She checked her phone, opening the Tracks app. In the span of five minutes, she had climbed from number 12,568,021 in suspicious activity to number 6,807 for the whole state of Illinois. She slammed her laptop shut, pocketed her phone and was out the door before the office chair hit the desk. She walked briskly down the hall of the office. 

Maybe I should take a walk, she thought.

Tags: #Art #Larry Day #literature #Sofie Koski
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