Flash Friday 14/06/2013: A Slippery Slope
“I’m sure you know why we’re here,” the policeman said.
The teenage girl nodded.
“Your mum and dad found something very shocking under your bed, didn’t they?”
“Very shocking,” the mother said, sitting next to the policeman. “I still can’t believe it.”
“Now hold on. Hannah has to feel that she’s able to open up to us. Now, do you know what they found, Hannah?”
“Yeah,” the teen said, nodding.
“I just want to show you it again…” the policeman said, bringing forward the evidence. It was a piece of paper, covered in an airtight plastic bag. “Just to let you realise exactly what you did.”
“Okay,” Hannah said. In a contest of emotions, she would currently lose out to a robot. Her monotone voice showed she wasn’t feeling the weight of the situation.
“Can you tell mummy what this is, please?”
“It’s…” Hannah began, choking on the words to follow. She took a deep breath. “It’s a short story, mum.”
“…a complete short story.”
“Yeah,” Hannah nodded. “Complete.”
“Now, your mummy doesn’t quite know how you got into this stuff. Can you explain to us how this started?”
“It was simple, really. I mean, I made friends at school like mum said, and I got into a crowd that said they were doing NaNoWriMo this year. Big writing festival or something, everyone keeps it secret from their parents. They invited me, but I didn’t want anything to do with that nasty crap, you know? But they made me an offer. Just do a hundred words with us, they said. They call those ‘drabbles’.”
“It sounded like a fair deal, right?” the policeman said, scribbling notes on his clipboard. “Just a hundred can’t do any harm.”
“Right. Just a hundred, then I can quit. Then I got itchy, watching my friends smoke up two thousand words a day for NaNo. Thought maybe a hundred a week would be fine.”
“But it doesn’t stop there,” the policeman said. He knew that it never stopped there.
“It became a hundred a day. Then a thousand. Then two thousand. My friends were all supporting me…until I hit three thousand a day, that is. Then they started to get worried. Started asking if I was okay, if I wanted to veg out and watch TV with them. I kept saying, no. I have a story to write. I gotta get this done, or I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“How many do you do now?”
“Four,” Hannah said, rubbing her face as if realising the weight herself. “Four thousand.”
Four thousand words a day. Certainly explained why Hannah’s eyes were deep set, blackened by lack of sleep. She kept swaying, as if her attachment to reality was fading every time her brain went idle. He’d only seen these cases in textbooks.
“Ask her about the stuff she does,” the mother said, tugging at the policeman’s sleeve. “I want to know.”
” I’ll ask her about these…” he looked at his report. “Activities she claims to do, but I need you to keep your cool. So, Hannah,” he said, turning back. “You do short stories, yes?”
“Yeah,” Hannah said, rubbing her nose. “Nothing bigger than that. Can’t touch that stuff.”
“Have you tried flashes?”
“Sure, but they don’t give the kick that writing used to. That’s why I upgraded to short stories, but…even now, the buzz is fading. I’m coming close to six-thousand words per piece. You know what that means, right?”
The policeman nodded his head, like a doctor delivering the terminal diagnosis. “Novelettes,” he said.
“Not yet, though. I’ve been good. I’ve kept it under the count.”
“That’s good. So you do short stories, flashes, and these things called…” the policeman flicked through his report. “‘Ebooks’. What is that, anyway? An ‘ebook’?”
“It’s when you write the content as usual, but then wrap it into a Word document or a Rich Text Format. Some people do Epubs, but I never got into those. Then, once you’ve wrapped it, you put it up for others to read on the Internet. “
“Distribution,” the policeman said, the blood draining from his face. “At this age.”
“Please, tell my baby to stop,” the mother said, the tears streaming down her cheeks. “I looked out for all the signs, I swear. I looked out for the agents, the editors, the publishing contracts–“
“You start monitoring a kid’s life with such scrutiny, they’re gonna get inventive with how they do their publishing. I swear, they’re getting smarter than our intelligence department. Well, I’m sorry, Hannah, but what you did was still illegal. I’m afraid we’re going to have to take you down to the station. Even though you’re under eighteen, we can’t just let you keep doing this.”
“Oh, so you’re going to arrest me?” Hannah said, a flare of anger bursting out from within. “Out of all the people, you’re going to arrest me, and not the ones doing epics behind the bikeshed?”
“…I’m sorry?” the policeman said, picking his jaw up off the floor.
“You heard me. I do four thousand, but I know kids who do ten. They hang out in secluded areas and do entire epics in two weeks, if not less. They’re braindead bastards that can’t count to ten because they lack both a tie to reality and remaining fingers, but they still write. I saw a kid plan a trilogy of epics, each with their own separate character arcs, and you’re here arresting me for something as small as a bunch of shorts.” Hannah gave a frustrated sigh. “No bloody justice.”
“…well,” the policeman said, gathering himself. “We’ll go down to the station, get all you know about these newfangled ‘ebooks’, and then we’ll have a talk about these epic takers. Is that okay?”
“‘No’ isn’t an answer, is it?”
“Alright then,” Hannah said, standing up. “But your brains are gonna go all over the walls when I tell you what an audiobook is.”