I wrote the following back in 2007, along with an outline of the rest of the story. My memory stick is full of stories in their infancy and I go back from time to time to see how they’re doing. This one doesn’t end well because it’s a tale of the destructive power of obsession.
Two months ago, I tried slipping into MidTech’s New Employee Orientaion conference unnoticed. I wanted to have made a better first impression but, already thirty minutes late, I interrupted proceedings by falling through the door, my briefcase, jacket, and coffee flying from my hands.
Heart racing, I recovered my things in the darkness and found an empty seat, conscious of the electronic eyes tracking every clumsy move I made. The android presenter was tastefully lit and stood to the left of an illuminated display. She had a singularly Asian face.
“Welcome to MidTech,” she cooed. “We’re glad you could join us.” There was no sarcasm in her sweet voice, being programmed to put people at ease.
“I’m so sorry I’m l-late,” I said. “I’m new to City Seven and I haven’t quite got the hang of the layout.”
“Please, no need to apologise,” she said and transmitted a navigation routine to my PDA.
The induction presentation passed quickly enough. MidTech had hand-picked and headhunted both myself and the five others in the room to work on an exciting new artificial intelligence project. We were each given data to review before our first full day of work tomorrow.
At the end of the session, I gathered my things and left the room. Despite polarised windows, the corridor outside the room was still bight enough for me to have to momentarily shield my eyes.
“Careful,” a man said, his voice smooth and confident.
I cried out in surprise, turned and caught the man’s arm with my briefcase. His cup spilled out of his hand and onto the floor. With feline speed, he jumped back so as not to get wet.
Lunging for the cup, I lost my footing and fell to my knees along with my belongings. “I’m so sorry!”
“Please, no need to apologise,” he said, crouching to help me. I noticed the same phrase the android had used earlier, delivered in the same reassuring tone.
Moments later, a cleaning droid had wiped the floor, leaving us to stand face to face. Not knowing what to say, I smiled at him and he smiled back. Neither of us spoke. I decided he was very handsome.
“I’m Dylan,” he said at last. “Dylan Modell. I’m so very pleased to meet you.” He held out his hand.
I looked down at it. It was a strong, tanned, beautifully manicured hand. My heart sank. I didn’t want to put my pale hand with it’s nail-bitten fingers into Dylan’s but felt compelled to do so. I introduced myself and rubbed my damp palm on my thigh before we shook hands.
Dylan beamed at me. “I was thinking that as we’re both new to the city we could go exploring?”
I smiled compulsively and nodded before trotting behind him as he strode down to the atrium and out through the doors into City Seven.
Oh, God, I thought. He’s gorgeous. Will this day get any worse?