This was the Blog Battle Entry for June 2021 and the prompt was Abstract.
Brian was a man on nearly the wrong side of 40. He wasn’t anyone particularly special, he wasn’t rich, powerful or famous and neither had he wanted to be. His life consisted of a bacon sandwich for breakfast, cycling the 2.64 miles to work (which he tried to do without having to stop for the traffic lights) in a computer factory called Snell computers. He would spend the day testing computers made there, he would check the operating system, the hard drive and memory and made sure everything worked. On a really exciting day a bad batch of memory modules would be either too slow or were 1.62 megabytes under the stated storage capacity and Brian would close the line for checks so that an engineer could find the problem. This never made him popular, but it was his job.
Brian’s life was a whole series of knowns and defined actions, nothing he did was out of character or deviated from his daily plan. Even down to making sure that his hair h left was combed over his head in (what is to everyone else) a typically unattractive and somewhat old fashioned way. It was a few days before his 39th birthday though that the story of this ordinary man changed and changed the course of human history.
He woke up as he usually did and rather than seeing a poster of his life’s crush Racket Roxxy in her now famous tennis outfit looking severely like she was going the thrash the stuffing out of a ball there was a colourful wibbly wobbly thing. Brian didn’t have a name for it, so that’s what he called it. There in front of it was a young boy, maybe ten years old.
He stared at the young boy and rubbed his eyes. Nope, still there.
“Hello.” Said the boy.
“Hello.” Brian answered. “Who are you?”
“You mean you don’t remember?” The boy scoffed. “It’s not been that long, I mean it’s not like you’re an old man yet!”
“Wait a minute…” Brian blinked. “Are you me?” The boy nodded.
“I’m you in the past, but I’ve come from the future.”
Brian struggled with this. Time travel was such an abstract idea and something of science fiction, but the paradox of his past self from the future was too much to take in. Brian opened his mouth, about to answer the boy.
“Look, just shut up and listen ok? I don’t have much time, the colourful wibbly wobbly thing will close soon and I don’t want to get stuck here.”
Brian was struggling with this and tried to talk again.
“I said just shut and listen.” The boy attacked before he even got a sound out. “Today you’re going to be asked to do something that you know is wrong, you mustn’t do it!”
“Wh-what am I going to be asked to do? Why mustn’t I?” Brian mumbled.
“I can’t tell you or I will further upset the timeline, just trust me and do this. Or rather, don’t do it.”
With that the young version of himself disappeared into the colourful wibbly wobbly thing and a few seconds later it too vanished, replaced by Racket Roxxy again. Brian searched his soul, what did this mean? What could I do that would be so wrong and why would it even matter? Moving it from his mind he started to get ready for work, he thought that that should be ok. Or maybe he should just stay in bed and then the problem wouldn’t happen?
Brian didn’t know what to do, so he did what he always did and went to work. On the way to work the hedge cutters (or as they should be know the hedge destroyers) had been out and after 5 minutes Brian had a puncture. Pulling the thorn from his tyre that was more like a small sharp stick, when he looked up 2 men in dark suits were looking down at Brian.
“Y-yes?” Brian asked nervously. “What can I do for you?”
“Funny you should ask that, I have something for you to do.” One of them replied in a strange and distant accent. “At 2pm today I want you to go home, say you’re sick or something. Just go home.”
Brian was trying to work this out, it didn’t seem so bad that he should go home. What was in it for him though? “Wh-why would I go home?”
“Because if you don’t…” The man started.
“Yes?” Brian gulped.
“You won’t won’t get your massive prize!” The man tried smile, but ended up looking sinister. “What’s wrong? don’t you like prizes?” The man slapped him on the shoulder and asked him.
“Y-yes I do.”
“Well then! Do as I say and you’ll have a great prize!” The man tried to beam again.
“What if I choose to stay at work?” Brian replied nervously.
The man stood silent for a moment, just staring. He burst into laughter and slapped him on the shoulder. “Who said you had a choice?” he replied menacingly. “My man here will be watching!”
The other man nodded, motioning for him to move on he followed Brian as he now walked to the computer factory. He wasn’t used to this, what happened to routine, order? maybe he should tell someone about this? Brian was on a right two and eight. Still he made his way to work, the other man followed him, making sure Brian knew he was being watched. All that day Brian nervously did his job, his palms were sweaty and his forehead furrowed. He couldn’t handle lunch, and after everyone returned to their workplaces, each minute that went by was like torture. He couldn’t stand it, what was he to do? Colourful wibbly wobbly things and now strange men? Would he be shot by a ray gun next? 2pm finally came around, Brian took off his white coat and hung it on the wall hooks. Mavis asked him if he was ok as he looked unwell, Brian grunted a reply and left the factory and went straight home.
The next morning Brian woke cautiously. Opening one eye he could see Racket Roxxy on his wall and the day seemed very ordinary. Without getting up he looked around for children and wibbly wobbly things and they seemed to be absent. Relishing the thought of a normal day after the drama of the day before he got ready for work. While brushing his teeth, Brain saww a small face looking back at him in the mirror.
“You did it again didn’t you?”
“I told you to not do what felt wrong, now I have to go back in time and try again, just know that what’s coming is all your fault! I did try and warn you.” The boy exclaimed with a face of total disapproval. Then the boy vanished again.
Brian went to work, but was then sent home immediately with a P45 for his troubles. The order of computers that he didn’t test was for an important order and Mr Snell thought this dereliction of duty was not acceptable, firing poor Brian the minute he stepped in the door. Brian went home, pushing his key into the door he walked into his house forlornly only to find an envelope stuffed with something caught under the door. Pulling the envelope it tore a little and he could see it was stuffed with ten pound notes. He didn’t know how much was there, he didn’t care. Brian has lost his job and for the most part his reason for living.
Over a week passed and Brian had still not found a job, browsing through the news channels on his TV there seemed to be something going on about state secrets which he didn’t pay a lot of attention to so he ignored it and watched whatever was on Dave again. Days went past as Brian started taking more notice of these secrets being leaked all over the world, it wasn’t just about the British Prime Minister’s Moris Bonson’s supposedly secret cabinet files on all the ministers. Now President Plump’s activities were being leaked, fench, German it din’t matter all forms of government secrets were being splashed across the media and of course it stood to reason that some of these secrets were about other world leaders and some of them were none too flattering. It was when Italian Prime Ministers memo about Moris Bonsons’s bad hair and unbearable flatulence (referring more to what he said than the smelly type) came to light that things got out of hand.
Angry words were now being exchanged, diplomatic conventions were making things worse and the country after country was now so angered that they were preparing for war. Then Brian got a call. It was the boss of Snell Computers, begging him to go back to work becasue things were going wrong the computers made at Snell computers were somehow breaking into everyone else’s computers and sharing everyone’s secrets, the world was going to end and it was his fault (he was also losing money but Mr Snell didn’t mention that bit). Next week wasn’t good enough Mr Snell demanded. Brian was needed now. Getting on his bike Brian made his way to the factory, a journey he had made so many times yet it seemed so unfamiliar now. Traffic jams and chaos seemed to reign even over his small journey to the factory, people shouting and yelling at each other with raised fists and of course bloodied noses and the odd broken bone or three. It was like the world had gone mad.
When Brian walked into the factory he was greeted by Mr Snell who rushed him to the test area where rack after rack of shelves was stacked full with computer returns. The area had been extended to cope with the increased piles of bad computers. Mr Snell stayed closed to Brian, offering to bring him tea and biscuits whenever he wanted them, he just needed these units fixed. Brian had a team of ten people to help but for a while Brian puzzled, frowned, hummed to himself with the ten people and Mr Snell craning over to see the issue.
“Ah ha!” Brian eventually exclaimed, holding up a tiny module the size of his finger nail. “There’s a little thing in here that shouldn’t be! This must be the problem!” Brian put the unit through test and it passed, Brian had found the problem.
For weeks Brian and his new team worked night and day to fix the computers and re-test them, each of them had a little thing in it that wasn’t meant to be there. It wasn’t clear what this thing did but it wasn’t good. Eventually it seemed all the computers had been fixed, but the damage had been done.
This is not a story with a happy ending, tanks and planes and soldiers were all moving to confront each other and there was a terrible fracas that no one was really sure what it was about. The western world was suddenly a shadow of its former self and a certain other country in the east seemed to do quite well out of it. All becasue of one man not doing his job (and getting fired for it).
So if there’s anything you the reader can take away from this, it’s to never underestimate your importance to the world and also that we rely too much on computers, but don’t let that put you off using them.