Anthony swore under his breath as he glanced at his Timex watch. The lanky engineer couldn’t believe how slow the afternoon was going. It felt like four hours and had passed and yet his watch said he still had two more hours on this flight across the armpit of America.
With a sigh, he rubbed his eyes and returned his attention to portable 3D printer beside him on the fold-down tray table. The last iteration of the prototype didn’t look right. The shape of the piece wasn’t contoured sufficiently to meet the client’s specifications.
He had to get this right before landing. If he tweaked the digital model he might have enough time to print another vegetable peeler.
It wasn’t earth shattering, he thought. The new design did prevent people from peeling their fingers when in a hurry. That had to count for something didn’t it? If the midwest client liked his new design, it might get picked up by the leading kitchen store chain and be in homes in time for Christmas.
Anthony finished his updates to the design and started the printer yet again. He checked to ensure the printer was spinning up properly, then stood and headed to the forward water closet.
He stepped inside the tiny room and slid the lock handle to the locked position. As it clicked home, the lighting in the bathroom brightened considerably.
Involuntarily he reached out to steady himself against the bathroom wall only to find nothing behind him but empty space. Anthony blinked twice. He was standing in the middle of cavernous warehouse.
The entire space was filled with grey fabric cubicles people busily typing on the kind of keyboards he remembered in the 1980s. The large clunky interfaces clacked and echoed loudly as each person hammered away, seemingly oblivious to his presence.
Overhead, illuminated by oversized humming mercury vapor lights, hung three bus-size banners. Each bore the words, “Reformed Online Forum.”
Anthony’s wrist watched began beeping. This startled him even more. He hadn’t set the alarm. He raised his wrist up to better read the watch face. The digital readout was completely black. With each beep, the numbers 9, 3 and 1 flashed in a small box in the center of the screen.
Something was terribly wrong.
This short story is part of a daily 36-minute freewriting exercise I’m committing to. I used the following prompts:
- Character: A traveler
- Action: printing
- Setting: Online forum
- Prop: a broken watch