I GOT A STAR!!! oh man i totally didn't see that one coming. i'm super duper duper happy about it haha!! :D :D.
to celebrate, i'll share a bit of creative writing that i had to do for a class. The rule was as follows: I receive a random Protagonist, Setting, and Conflict and i have to write the first 2-3 pages of a story using those 3 things (i MUST use these three).
Setting: Film Studio
kind of fucking weird, but oh well, this is what i whipped up on monday evening:
Professor De Meo
Person, Place, Conflict:
A Spy, A Film Studio, A Funeral
I slip the VHS tape into the VCR and press play. Mumbles faintly bleed through the static. No image yet. Run some noise filters to drop the buzz. Crank up the volume hard. What the hell is he saying? I squint at the monitor and press my headphones tight against my ears. The screen flickers and I think I can make something out.
“…over… …. … … to the … … … … both of… … …”
Arab accent. Saudi Arabia maybe?
“almost… … … ready… …. ….begin…. … …”
I guess something is going to happen really…
“GOOD EVENING. WE MEET AGAIN.” The tape’s greeting explodes into my ear like a jackhammer and twenty stacked megaphones. Like my brain decided to empty a magnum clip while I was sleeping. Like the god damn Big Bang went off in my ear. Perfect. I’ve clawed my $1,000 headphones off my head and onto the floor and knocked over the stack of videos on my desk. Fucking terrorists never fix the audio levels on their tapes.
I pause the video to make sure my heart wasn’t ejected into my spleen. I instinctively reach for my coffee mug. Nothing calms down pure adrenaline like some good ol’ fashioned caffeine. I drop the volume from max to something reasonable and press play. Sippin’ my Joe, I see a fairly ugly Arab terrorist on screen. He has an obnoxiously large, crooked nose and furry eyebrows. I decide his name must be Trongky. Definitely the nose that makes me feel like he’s a Trongky. He’s wielding a 2-foot machete and glaring into the camera. “Agent Curtis Harding,” Trongky snarls. I sit up straight and wave to the monitor. It’s polite to be a good listener, you know. “Do you think you can just run back home like a coward? Do you think we’ve forgotten what you’ve done? Allow me to show you just how your form of justice feels.”
The camera turns to show two struggling women chained to chairs with bags over their heads. One looks like a young girl, twelve maybe. The other must be older, probably late thirties. Trongky approaches the elder woman and places the machete tightly to her neck.
The camera zooms in and Tronkgy proclaims, “If you do not meet our demands Agent Curtis Harding, your wife and daughter will die tonight.”
“Wow,” I thought, “that would really suck if I were Curtis Harding.”
I bust out the CIA internal registry and dial up Harding’s number. He picks up and I say in my best faux-stern voice, “Hello… Agent Curtis Harding?”
“I haven’t used that code name in six years!” John laughs. “Where’d you hear that one, Frank?”
“From some dickhead who has your non-existent wife and kid tied up in a cave. He says he’s going to kill them. Tough break, right?”
“Jesus, again? That’s three times in one month!”
“Think you can break Antonio’s record?”
“Nah, I don’t think I’d ever be able to piss off as many people as that guy does. Listen, it’s been nice talking to you Frank, and I would love to keep chatting, but I gotta run. I’m going to lunch with Jessie from accounting.”
“No problem, John. I love being your silver medal. Just remember, make good decisions.”
“Wise words Frank. Catch you later.”
“Oh and John, you want me to Fedex you this tape?”
“Um… nah just send it by standard ground. As long as it arrives eventually. Ciao.”
John hangs up, bringing reality back to my cluttered, basement office. John’s a top agent with the CIA. He’s been all over the Middle East and Eastern Europe, providing the US with some of the most critical intel for the last decade, and for the last seven years I’ve had the privilege of sitting in a dark lab and sorting through his hate mail.
I used to be like John. I used to break into top-secret military complexes and trade information that could cripple entire empires. There I’d be, creeping down a darkened hall towards a computer mainframe with broken necks behind me. I was so ninja, the bionic woman wouldn’t have heard me, Sauron’s eye wouldn’t have seen me, and no Jedi would have felt a single god damn disturbance in the force.
I’d finally reach the main console and spend an hour hacking in. But when I’d finally crack that file and see that ultra hidden gem of information, my first thought was always “yeah… well no shit.”
I mean, honestly, the “top secret” information is the most obvious crap imaginable. Any semi-literate sorority girl with basic cable has exactly as much information as our esteemed government. Dear CIA director, according to its most clandestine databases, Russia is indeed a bunch of assholes. Mr. President, according to its secret diary, Germany has a crush on France. I came home every time with my palms in the air wondering why on earth I risked my life for unsurprising gossip. The spy business is a dry business.
So, I quit field work and now I run the media lab at the CIA so I can laugh at the miserable production quality of terrorist videos. Despite owning half a billion dollars worth of equipment and software, the media lab is basically a glorified post office. All audio and video terrorist threats pass through me first, whereby I screen and “analyze” them and mail them off to the appropriate department. Death threats, hostage threats, nuclear annihilation threats, I get about 50 of ‘em every day. Today, I still have 36 left to go. God bless coffee.
Well, off to it. I still haven’t cleaned up the mess of tapes caused by Trongky’s poor audio mixing. I take my sweet time picking them up since one hand is still gently cradling my precious mug. At the corner of the pile of tapes, I see a thin jewel case, enclosing a high quality DVD. After dealing with grainy crap all morning, high quality jumps directly to the front of the queue. I sit back, relax, and press play.
“Hello Franklin Catalino.”
Now there’s a first. No one uses their real name in the field. I’ve never heard a real name on a tape, let alone my own name. Either way, I can’t quite put a location on his accent. Somewhere in Northern Europe. He sounds educated. He sounds like a Clive.
“Welcome to five years ago.”
An image pops onto the screen. It’s from my father’s funeral five years ago. Sobbing friends and families, black suits, white lilies at the altar, closed casket. I briefly see myself. I was thinner back then. Funny thing is that no one brought a camera to the funeral, no one that I saw apparently. It seems to be a mini-optic camera hidden in a coat pocket. Fantastic quality.
The man with the camera makes a bumpy ride up to the altar where he joins the other men from the funeral home to lift the casket from the church. I see him pass by me on the right side. I sip my coffee too strongly. The burn trickles down my esophagus and pools at the bottom of my stomach.
“Up ahead, fifty more paces.”
Clive instructs the casket carriers as they approach the hearse. As the camera turns, I see my family and myself loading into a string of cars to journey to the burial.
“Say hello to your father, Franklin.”
The camera pans back and four gentlemen are arced around the now open casket. Inside is a young dead boy, maybe seventeen. A fifth man steps into the frame. The fifth man is my father.
Dad gives a heavy sigh and says, “I have no clue when you’ll see this, but hi anyways Frank.”
Clive pleasantly adds, “See you very soon, Franklin.”
The video ends.
I finish my mug of coffee and set it on the desk next to me. Boredom subsides for the first time in fifteen years. “Cute,” I mutter. “There’s something you don’t see every day.”