15 Minute Ficlets is a weekly challenge based on the original 15 Minute Ficlets LiveJournal Community. Since this community has been defunct since 2013, I’ve decided to resurrect the challenge on my blog as a weekly Sunday writing challenge. If there’s interest, I’ll turn this into a meme (link up in the comments if you try it!). In the meanwhile, the rules:
Based on a single word, write a story in fifteen minutes. The word count is irrelevant. Just write your heart out for 15 minutes and be inspired by the word. You never know what you’ll end up with!
This week’s word: absently
You have 15 minutes. Go!
She looked at the digital clock on her desk and tapped her fingers absently. There was still another hour to go before the Fifteen Minute Refuel & Reflection break at noon. The numbers on the holoscreen in front of her jumped and fizzled, and her head had started to ache at least two hours ago.
To make matters worse, there was a small window on the far side of the room, and through it she could see the sunshine playfully dancing. It beckoned and called her to come outside and bask in its warmth, but she was not permitted to do so.
Words echoed in her head, the mantra that played during the two hour rest periods scattered over the second half of the day: You have a duty to the People. Your work is important. With your work, the People will be safe, happy, and free.
She did not care much for the mantra. It was spoken in a computerized woman’s voice, simulated to resemble a woman in her late thirties or early forties. The mantra and the maternal woman’s voice had followed her like a ghost since she was a little girl. Her own mother’s voice had been silky and kind. It was not the same.
The band on her wrist buzzed, sensing the lull in neurological activity. It had happened twice today – her mind was elsewhere because she was not adequately stimulated. She wanted to go outside and play, and she heard the other children in their seats squirming with similar levels of apathy and distraction. The adults in the room never appeared bored and distracted. Sometimes Agatha, her desk mate, leaned over the divider and warned her that if she didn’t remain focused, she would be sent to Section C for recategorization. She had heard of Section C before – there was a boy who was brought there earlier this year. When the Judge escorted him from the room, everyone paused their calculations to gawk at the unusual occurrence. His eyes twitched and he did not struggle; he seemed too weak to even compute properly. She remembered feeling badly for the boy, but that had more to do with his physical degradation than his supposed destination. Nobody really knew what Section C was; it was not in their briefings and she found it foolish to ruminate on rumors and speculation. At any rate, she was not afraid of it.
The green numbers blinked at her again, nudging her attention back from them. It was a chemical formula – she could tell by the frequency of integers and the footnotes, but she was not allowed to ask what the calculation was for. It was just as likely to be an exercise of mental acuity as it was to be for any important work. She tried not to think about it much; she knew a few things that were built in this factory, and she preferred to believe her work was not supporting the construction of nuclear missiles or stealth shields.
The rock in her gut told her she was being naive.
Why, oh why, could she not just go outside and play instead?
When I write short stories, I usually like to carve moments out from the novel ideas I have running around my head. This is the viewpoint of a character for The Network, a story I am currently plotting and dabbling in writing a little. The protagonist, at present, doesn’t have a name. Nothing has quite fit her yet; mostly I call her “Little Girl”. Before she enters my story, she was working in a think tank for military. This is a regular day at work for her.