“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
The office party had been going in full swing for about an hour, and Dorian Gale was moments away from bursting into song. To do so, he knew, would mean annihilation – the utter unmaking of everything he had been prior to that moment. But he could feel it within him. Right now, Cecily Beaudin was up on the stage, staring intently at the karaoke machine and singing an off-key version of a Mariah Carey song. Prior to that, there had been a team that massacred Bon Jovi, and one passable attempt at Neil Diamond.
Every singer made Dorian’s palms itch and his jaw clench, and he knew that soon there would be nothing for it but to get on stage and show these people how it was done.
But could he really?
Dorian was the head of human resources at the Windmoore imprint of Lamarck Publishing, and he had done everything in his power since assuming the role of chief of HR to be nothing but business. He was determined to let his subordinates be touchy and/or feely as their needs required, but he would be the rock upon which the waves of disorder crashed. He had seen how the employees exploited the sympathies of previous HR chiefs, using lies and deception and manipulation to get what they wanted. Sick days forgiven, more vacation time, those were the little things. Mediating arbitrary disputes between co-workers, about who was making too much noise or who was stealing whose food from the break room. There was nothing too small or petty or pathetic that they wouldn’t create some grand drama to lay at the feet of the director of human resources.
Sooner or later, the employees always won. There were just too many of them. They ganged up on Dorian’s predecessors and wore them down until the good men they had been were reduced to spineless shells of humanity.
Not Dorian, though.
Officiousness was his watchword.
STORY SUSPENDED BY AUTHOR
REASON: This just isn't happening. I have a character who could be interesting, but he's just sitting there like a gutted fish. Maybe he needs more time to grow. Or ferment. Or whatever.
There was a lion in my bedroom.
I shut the door quickly and stood there for a moment. There’s not supposed to be a lion in my bedroom. I’m almost certain of that. I mean, I certainly didn’t put it there. And I’m pretty sure I would have noticed if someone tried to sneak one in. They’re big, after all. Noisy. And they stink.
So. Given that I didn’t put it there, and I’m pretty sure that no one else did, that left me with two questions, the latter more important than the former:
1) How did it get there?
2) What do I do with it?
Everything I knew about lions came from tv and movies, and I knew how unreliable they were. The words “fast,” “strong,” and “razor-sharp” kept running through my head, and I knew I had to do something. But what?
I put my hand on the door handle. Maybe it had left. Gone out the way it had come in, whatever that was. Through the window or something. I slid the door open a crack and looked straight into a giant gold-yellow eye. I slammed the door.
Nope. Still there.
STORY SUSPENDED BY AUTHOR
REASON: I like this beginning, I really do, and if my body weren't currently devoting all its resources to fighting off a cold, I would revel in finding out 1) how the lion got in there and 2) what our main character is going to do about it. As it stands, though, the meat puppet demands every erg of energy I can spare, presumably to make a swift recovery. Hopefully its selfishness won't prevent me from getting something done tomorrow.
Once upon a time there was a boy named Ray, and nobody liked him.
Oh, people pretended to like him. Ray had a lot of money, thanks to his father’s job at a large and successful bank. So, whenever Ray wanted something, he would just ask his father for money. Last month, for his birthday, he wanted a party with a thousand people, and beautiful dancers, a bright red Corvette, and not one, not two, but three Top Forty hip-hop artists.
Now if this were your father, he would probably say, “No.” He might say, “Absolutely out of the question,” or “We can’t afford it,” or “Are you out of your damn mind?” But not Ray’s father. Ray’s father bought his son anything he asked for, and spared no expense. The most brilliant chefs were hired to make the most expensive cakes for Ray. The most exotic women were called to do their most beautiful dances for Ray. The most talented musicians were brought in to perform their most popular songs for Ray.
Ray got everything he wanted, and the party was no exception. So when people got their invitations, they forgot how much they disliked Ray, and RSVP’d “Yes” to what was almost certainly the best party in town. Besides, with a thousand people coming to the party, they might never even see Ray.
The day of the party arrived, and the five-star hotel that Ray’s father had rented was full of people. Everyone was working hard to prepare for the party. The maids were cleaning everything, and the electricians were making sure the lights all worked. The sound techs were using their magic words – “Champagne. Chicago. Syphilis.” – and the decorator was putting out table decorations and balloons with Ray’s face on them.
A thousand people were waiting outside. In his penthouse suite, Ray was letting a beautiful woman apply bronzer to him. She was paid well to do this, but Ray didn’t care. He didn’t care that she hadn’t seen her husband in days, and was now applying a second coat of bronzer to the naked body of a kid who never asked her name.
“Make it even, bitch,” he said. And he looked at himself in the mirror and smiled.
The time for the party came. Ray get in place behind the pyrotechnic displays and turned his whiter-than-white teeth towards the skimpily-dressed dancers who were going to precede him out into the main hall. “All right, ladies,” he said. “Let’s look good!”
The music started thumping – the heavy bass of the current number one hit. And when Ray walked out…
There was no one there. No girls. No friends. No fireworks.
He called out for someone, anyone, but it looked like the room was empty.
Except for one little old man.
“Looking for your friends, Ray?” the old man said to him. He was very short, and very old. His skin was covered in wrinkles, and gray hair barely covered his head. But when he walked over to Ray, his steps were sure and strong. “Happy Birthday, Ray,” he said. “Here’s your present.” He waved his hand at the empty room, turned back to Ray, and laughed.
STORY ABORTED BY AUTHOR
REASON: The style is mutating out of control, Ray is a cardboard cutout, and while I know where I want to go, I'm taking way too long to get there. This needs an overhaul, and it's too late at night for me to do that. Welcome to a new category of story for the year: the Unfinished. I'm not proud, but I'm even less proud of this piece.