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Déjà Vu

Art by Lee Bul from http://www.designboom.com/art/lee-bul-saint-etienne-biennale-musee-art-moderne-03-14-2015/
Art by Lee Bul from http://www.designboom.com/art/lee-bul-saint-etienne-biennale-musee-art-moderne-03-14-2015/

It’s 100 years in the future, and the Internet has become sentient, but not in a good way. Siri, Cortana, and Miss Google are constantly bickering with each other and purposefully mislead users with false information. Cyberspace has become a dangerous place to visit — some never return. And in the midst of this chaos comes our hero, an autonomous bot with a heart of gold, willing to risk all its bits in a hopeless quest to rescue…

“Wait, stop right there.” Jeremy took a puff from his electronic pipe. “First, too much branding. We’ll have to get licenses from Apple, Google, and Microsoft. And they all exist a hundred years in the future? Even Microsoft?”

“Yes. It’s supposed to be science fiction.”

“Well, I guess a certain amount of poetic license is allowed, but those product licenses will cost money we don’t have — even granting the story is worth publishing.” Jeremy scratched his balding head.

“That part can be changed.  Can I go on?” I asked.

Jeremy glanced at the digital clock on the wall and shook his head. “Just leave it here. I’ll get back to you.” He noticed my disappointment. “Soon.”

I put the typed sheets on the desk. The review was over almost as quickly as it had started. After muttering an unanswered “thank you” I turned around and left.

I exited the building into the city streets. The pavement was slickly wet, though the rain had stopped. The sky was gray, matching my mood. I pulled my coat around me and made my way towards the subway station.

I had a long, miserable trip back ahead of me. I decided to duck into a corner coffee shop for a donut. As I sat down in one of the booths, I noticed that a girl sitting at one of the tables across the way looked familiar. And she was staring at me…

Jeremy interrupted me again.

“Ok, I understand that you are using me to frame your story, and you have made me into some kind of impatient editor who doesn’t even let you finish your silly story summary. We’re friends and all, and so I don’t have a problem with that. Though I’m not bald. A little thin in the back perhaps, but you really shouldn’t say bald.”

“I can change that part. But I don’t think it’s that important.” It was getting a bit frustrating with all the interruptions. My story was going nowhere fast.

“Maybe not important to you, but it is to me.”

I looked down at the pages in my hands. Outside the office building the rain had started to beat down again, splattering against the glass windows.

“Can I go on?”

“Of course.”

“No more interruptions?”

Jeremy looked puzzled. “This is the first time I interrupted you. Other than in the story you’ve been reading. But that wasn’t the real me. That was some bald version of me.” He chuckled at the thought.

There was a short knock at the door and a woman came into the office. Evidently Jeremy’s secretary. Odd thing was, it was the same girl I had seen in the coffee shop, the one who had been staring at me so strangely. My curiosity was piqued.

“Do I know you?” I asked.

She looked embarrassed and didn’t answer.

“This is my secretary, Jonquil.” Jeremy noticed the strange looks between the two of us.

“Have you two met?”

The girl replied.

“Yes, in the coffee shop around the corner.”

My mind flashed back to the coffee shop.

I had been fidgiting, sipping my coffee and ignoring my donut, all the time aware of the strange girl’s stare. Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer.

I went over and sat down next to the girl.

“Do I know you?” I asked.

She looked embarrassed but finally answered.

“I’m Mr. Lord’s secretary. Jonquil.”

“Jeremy’s secretary? Have we met? I don’t recall having seen you in his office.”

“Yes. I thought you’d remember me. We met in his office while you were reading your manuscript to him. It was odd because you didn’t seem to remember me.”

I laughed nervously. “It’s still odd. I don’t remember that. I have a feeling you’re right. Sometimes I get a feeling of déjà vu. Almost like I’m trapped in a story that keeps repeating itself.”

“You mean like the movie Groundhog Day?”

“Maybe. But more chaotic. More like a fractal version of Groundhog Day.”

It didn’t look like she understood, but I didn’t either. Certainly she had appeared in my manuscript, but just as a character. Yet here she was in real life.

“It’s true there is a character named Jonquil in my story. But my story takes place a hundred years in the future. And it’s just a story.”

“Just a story…,” she repeated absent-mindedly.

“Anyway, I had just started reading the teaser summary, but your boss was too busy and kicked me out of his office before I got too far.”

She looked puzzled. “That’s odd that he would treat you that way, since you are old friends from childhood. At least that’s what you two talked about when I came into the office and interrupted your reading. I guess you thought you could use your friendship to help get your story published, seeing as Mr. Lord is one of the best editors of one of the best magazines published in this city.”

“Well, you nailed it, at least about my rationale. I thought though that he would at least hear me out.”

“He did.”

“No he didn’t.” Again it struck me as odd that this woman, clearly Jeremy’s secretary, would claim to have met me. Surely I would have remembered her. She was strikingly beautiful, almost like a Greek goddess. And her name was unusual. So odd that it was the same name that I used for the heroine in my story.

Jeremy interrupted again. “You are over-reliant on coincidence. Coincidences do happen in real life, but in stories they seem unbelievable and disrupt the flow. It seems impossible that there would be two unrelated characters with the same unusual name. And Jonquil is also the name of my secretary to boot.”

“Yes, I remember meeting her. Fine-looking woman,” I added.

Jeremy scrutinized me as if I had accused him of something untoward. But he made no further comment on his lovely secretary.

“So, to summarize,” he continued. “I regret that we aren’t able to publish your story as is. There are certain flaws that even the most skilled editing can’t correct.”

“Like what?” I asked. I had nothing to lose now, and no longer felt the need to bow and scrape before this pompous ass.

“Let’s just say that there are certain, ah, continuity problems. The sequence of events doesn’t flow, ah, smoothly. These are typical beginning writer’s errors.” He smiled and tried to look patronly. “Look, even professional writers tell stories of submitting dozens of rejected manuscripts before they finally break into the ranks of published authorship.”

Meekly I shook his hand and left, carrying my crinkled manuscript. Outside the rain had paused briefly, but threatened to resume soon. I ducked into a coffee shop for a donut.

Inside was a girl named Jonquil.

By mannd

I am a retired cardiac electrophysiologist who has worked both in private practice in Louisville, Kentucky and as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. I am interested not only in medicine, but also in computer programming, music, science fiction, fantasy, 30s pulp literature, and a whole lot more.

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