Dysontopia | A Study in Bad Acronyms | 2.2

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Related: About Dysontopia | On Curse Words in Fiction


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She shrugs, of all things, and says, “As a matter of fact there is.” Then she smiles, and it’s all rather peculiar. I’m trying to comprehend why someone would be so happy-go-lucky about apprehending me, or whatever is going on.

“Go on,” I say, tilting my head, feeling more annoyed than anything.

“Are you hungry?” she changes the subject. I quickly shake my head no, furrowing my eyes behind the sunglasses. That was actually a lie. Millie was right about the sugar crash.

“Are you going to tell me what the hell you want?” I fire back.

“Hey, relax. I’ll tell you everything, but can we do it over lunch? Please? Something tells me one granola bar just isn’t enough.” She pulls out the empty wrapper I had dropped on the ground.

“How the –”

“I saw you drop it, okay. Look, relax. I promise you’re not in any trouble. I have…” she paused for a second. “I have a job offer for you to consider, that’s all.”

“A… job? Really?”

“Yeah, I’m here to interview you. What, you thought your qualifiers were the only test you’d be taking today?”

***

“Oh my dear dear Sydney, what have you gotten yourself into?” she said while we pull up a chair to a window-side table at The Crust, my favorite restaurant in The Shell, New Country’s version of Main Street.

“Who are you?” I ask, sitting down across from her.

I look around the reasonably crowded restaurant to hide my intrigue. How did this person know The Crust was my favorite restaurant, besides the obvious fact that pizza is universally loved by everybody ever? Well, my guess is that either she or one of her operatives saw me in here a few times brooding the evenings away over a pint. I’m starting to get the impression she knows a lot about me.

This whole areas is named The Shell because, if you looking at it from above, roads of businesses, boutiques, and restaurants spread out of a central point like a sea shell – a bay scallop specifically. Though, if you’re being honest, that’s debatable. I’ve seen the view from above online, and it looks less like a mosaic and more like a mess. City planners got the bright idea to assign each row a varying color of green, and tried to force the business owners to decorate the roofs of the buildings with it. This is a good idea in theory, but they failed to anticipate that simply handing out RGB values for people to decorate with just doesn’t work. Some tried painting their roofs, and some tried ordering tarps (emblazoned with that ugly-ass New U logo) to cover the top. Some wisely just said screw it, R85, G148, B116 doesn’t fit with our brand.

The Crust is one of those places, all decked out in reds and golds without a trace of turtle-related insignia or putrid green paraphernalia. That’s probably why I like it so much. Though it does unfortunately fit into the obnoxious moniker of naming the downtown businesses “The” followed by any random noun tangentially related to the purpose of the operation. I spot several of them out the window. The Compendium, a discount textbook store, has a built-in coffee shop that nobody ever goes to. The Olive Cardigan, a boutique clothing store where all the preps shop at, is right across from The New You, a tux rental place and a copyright trainwreck waiting to happen. Then there is by far the most awkward one the bunch, The Wheel, a guinea pig cafe which allows you to pet the big furry almost-bunnies while eating over-priced finger foods. These are the types of New Country offerings you just can’t make up.

“My name is Val Glendale, and I’m really just here to talk to you.”

The waiter came to take our drink orders. I shall name him “Dude” because he’s tall, sandy blonde, has a slight accent, and is kind of cute. Hmm… actually he’s really cute now that I think about it. Val orders cherry coke “with a lime, please.”

That’s my favorite “non-booze” related drink. This stalking thing needs to stop.

“Thought I’d give it a try,” she quips while shrugging her shoulders.

“Water please,” I say. That sends Dude, scribbling on his notepad, immediately walking towards the kitchen. “Hey Dude,” I recall him in mid-stride, “add a lemon.” He pauses for a second before nodding his head and continuing to The Great Soda Palace or whatever ethereal realm waiters go to prepare drinks. I don’t know, I’ve never worked in a restaurant before.

“Are you spying on me?” I ask.

She pauses.

“I’m a recruiter, not a spy.” Val pulls out the same pocketbook she flashed earlier. “It’s my job to know everything about you. Besides, I much prefer the term,” she air quotes, “secret agent.” She laughs and I just sit there, feigning stoicism. Was I amused? Sure, but I wasn’t about to show her that.

Dude’s back in a flash with our drinks, causing Val to very quickly flip closed the badge in a panic. That answers one thing: Dude is most definitely not working with Val.

“Same difference, huh?” I ask if I should be concerned about the volume of things she knows about me. She just shrugs, and I find myself trusting her probably more than I should. She’s got this aloof attitude which makes her kind of charming. Besides, I’m intrigued.

“Technically,” she says, “I’m a Public Relations Advisor for the U.S. Advisory Committee on Historical and Societal Research.”

“That’s quite a mouthful,” I mention, trying to keep her off-balance.

“Yeah, I thought so too,” she pauses for a second to count on her fingers, “and ACHSR doesn’t make for a particularly compelling acronym. We actually tried CHASR, as in ‘chaser’ for a while, but decided it was kind of ominous.”

She meandered around telling me all the different possible permutations of acronyms that wouldn’t work before finally picking back up again with something interesting.

“That’s why we tend to go by our unofficial name.”

“And what’s that?” I ask.

“Sector Zero,” she replies.


A new section is released every Monday! Next week we’ll be finishing Chapter 2: “A Study in Bad Acronyms.” As always I welcome your feedback in the comments. 🙂


<< A Study in Bad Acronyms 2.1 | Patch Log | A Study in Bad Acronyms 2.3 >>

Related: About Dysontopia | On Curse Words in Fiction

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Dysontopia | A Study in Bad Acronyms | 2.1

<< Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.4 | Patch Log | A Study in Bad Acronyms 2.2 >>

Related: About Dysontopia | The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero


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As I escape Elmore Hall like a prison break, I notice the same female professor from my earlier observations had stationed herself on the park bench at ground level to the left of the steps. She is using a fairly bulky laptop, and for a moment I get a glimpse of what appears to be some kind of computer code or programming language. Was I wrong, perhaps? It occurs to me that she might not be a professor at all. Upon further inspection, she does look rather young. Long red hair, tallish, slightly olive skin, green – no make that blue – eyes. At first I had her pegged for sociology, or maybe archeology, but neither of those fields use a level of computer complexity anywhere close to what I think I just saw. Suspicious.

Descending the steps, I’m contemplating what I should do now that I’ve flown the coop. This could have been planned better. I think I’ll go into town, stock up on some supplies, and just go wander for a little while. It’s not like I haven’t done it before.

Iowa is notorious for being sparsely populated outside of its major population centers. This tiny town is somehow the fourth largest “city” in the state. So once I get a good distance outside the city limits, I’m pretty much free to wander anywhere, private property or not, without worrying too much about people. Plus, the landscape up here in this part of the state is this wicked spiral of tall forest and grassy plains, giving me the perfect place to hide from people. I could go on this long existential journey, filled with self-discovery…

I’ve just never done it when it was this cold before.

… have I really been hurting Millie that much?

Ugh… this is no time to be thinking about Millie’s damn note.

Suddenly, behind me, I hear the snap of a laptop closing. The zipping of a briefcase. She rises from her seat. The clopping of her heels pounding the walkway. A sudden jolt of anxiety grips me. I quicken my pace.

Plans change. I think I need to get on that transit and back to the apartment. Now.

I make it to the quad with the bus stop in record time, but I hear the rhythmic tapping literally every step of the way. Taking a peak at the CSW confirms that, yes, she is still back there, keeping her distance.

There it is. Transit #17, Castle Street illuminated on the LED above the vehicle’s windshield.

Boarding, I freeze. Where the hell is everyone? The middle-aged driver is eating a to-go croissant sandwich from any one of the many campus cafeteria kiosks, but he is the only living soul on board. I know it’s the middle of the day, but there should at least be a few people on here. Maybe everyone really does have finals today, or they’re all done with the semester and are recovering at home. Nah, no way. Campus was just too crowded.

At first, I’m tempted to sit towards the back in the same seat I did this morning. But the need for a quick escape is a higher priority in case my suspicions are correct, so I choose the second seat from the front on the side closest to the door. I place my things on the adjacent seat just like before, automatically taking off my sunglasses. I peek out the window. Oh god, she’s getting on the transit.

She takes out of her case what appears to be a small leather-bound booklet, but when she flips it open and flashes it to the driver, I catch the golden glimpse of what appears to be a badge reflected in the windshield. I have no idea what it says, of course, but it clearly gets his attention. The woman whispers a very short sentence to him, but I can only make out the words “take us to the… somewhere.” He nods his head in acknowledgement, and closes the door without hesitation.

Briefly, I try to look for an escape plan without looking too suspicious, but these campus transits look pretty escape proof. The rear exit appeared to open only if someone triggered the emergency button near the driver, and there’s no way I’m quick or fit enough to escape through the roof. Besides, people would react rather alarmed seeing a college-aged girl in shades balancing on the roof of a moving bus. It’d film well in an action movie though. Anyway, let’s not jump to conclusions. This may still have nothing to do with me at all.

“Sydney Winters,” the woman said.

Well shit, never mind, looks like I’m today’s lucky winner.

“That was a remarkably short-sighted thing you did,” she continues, taking a seat directly across the aisle from me. “But then, something tells me you knew this would happen.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I fire back. The bus begins to move. She crosses her legs and interlocks her fingers together, but for some reason all I can think of is how her bright red lipstick doesn’t quite perfectly compliment her already red hair. She should consider pink, or maybe even a bright purple matte lipstick. I would totally be able to pull that off myself if my skin tone was just a touch darker. I guess that didn’t stop me from trying it at that sorority ball they threw the fall of my senior year. But everyone kept looking at me all weird, and I started to get nervous…

She remains silent, just looking at me probingly.

I put back on my sunglasses, making the woman’s entire face varying shades of brown, black, and primary colors. It helps a bit with the lipstick, but more importantly it hides my eyes. She seems like type of person who likes to gauge emotional responses in people, but I’m not going to let her have mine if I can help it.

So she knows my name, and she knows I did something abnormal. My goal should be to get as much information from her as possible while giving away as little as I can. I look in her general direction, scowling, attempting to make her feel unwelcome.

“Is there something I can do for you?” I ask.


A new section is released every Monday! Next week we’ll be continuing Chapter 2: “A Study in Bad Acronyms.” As always I welcome your feedback in the comments. 🙂


<< Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.4 | Patch Log | A Study in Bad Acronyms 2.2 >>

Related: About Dysontopia | The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero

Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.4

<< Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.3 | Patch Log | A Study in Bad Acronyms 2.1 >>

Related: About Dysontopia | The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero


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He glares for a second before giving me the third degree, telling me that I’m lucky he even lets me take the exam at all. That would be fine by me. I don’t even care anymore.

The computers were set up in hexagonal groups, six to a table. He told me to take a seat at one of the open iMacs, so I park myself across from Amy. Amy Summers. Somehow I think the only reason she got in this school is because some admission dean somewhere thought it would be hilarious to have a person with the name Summers and someone named Winters in the same classroom. She’s my only sort-of ally in the program. I say ally because she’s not even close to being my friend. However, she’s also the only person who doesn’t hate me, so she’s got that going for her.

Suddenly Ryker comes scampering in, his hair a mess and the bottom button of his jacket undone. Papers are flying, and he practically crashes into the computer directly behind me. Nobody says a word. Such is life. You think people are beyond middle school social cliques, organizing into groups and singling out people to pick on, but that maturity is too much to be expected of people of any age. The social dynamics of 14-year-olds are not much different from those of 24-year-olds, they just take on a different, more “professional” setting as people age. And academic types, for all their “knowledge” of why people behave the way they do, are the absolute worst. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.4”

Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.3

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I take a moment to notice the outfits of the people walking by. Call it a pastime for someone who’s really good at noticing things. On rare occasions you find someone who truly looks good, but today it’s the usual spill.

Dude in a navy sweater vest.

Girl in black leggings and a long sleeve t-shirt three times her size.

Fraternity bro in a New U mascot sweater.

Being honest, I would go to blows with anyone who says we don’t have the strangest mascot of all the colleges. Technically, we’ve always been known as the NCU Fighting Turtles, and there was a biped tortoise as the mascot. The issue came up a few years ago, though, that a certain large university over on the east coast also has an anthropomorphized turtle as a mascot. And if we ever wanted to get our football program off the ground, we might want to go with something a little more, well, menacing. So, New U’s crack team of marketers, graphic artists, and PR professionals came up with… a glowing sea turtle. Apparently it was a big deal that scientists, including one from New U’s biology department, discovered this fluorescent neon red and green turtle off the coast of the Solomon Islands. Now we have this super-cartoony bioluminescent amphibian that looks like it was designed by an eight-year-old on our logo. It gets worse. They let the dude who discovered him name him. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.3”

The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero | 0.3

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I want to talk a bit about Millie in Dysontopia because we will not be seeing her again for a little while. She’s an important character for sure, and I very much needed to introduce her early in order to add a stabilizing element to Sydney’s life. Yet, we also need to see Sydney’s chronic predicament of being alone begin development fairly quickly into the piece.

When I started writing Sydney, I had every intention of making her complete chaos, with intentions and motivations that are all over the map. Is she good? Is she bad? Even I don’t know, and I’m the one with relatively detailed plan for her character arc. That’s often what it’s like to struggle with mental illness – it creeps up inside you and tears you apart from the inside out. One thing’s for sure: she is a human being with all the instability pertaining within such a classification. Continue reading “The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero | 0.3”

Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.2

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It’s not that I am violently angry about it or anything. I’m pretty well insulated from my emotions at this point, I’m just so used to this kind of stuff happening that I expected it sooner or later. Probably should have been sooner, honestly.

A couple shreds of paper, just enough to make the words all blurry, were too buoyant to go down on the first flush. I decide to leave them there. It will confirm to Millie that, yes, I did read your stupid letter, and no, I really don’t care.

I peek out the bedroom door after changing into a black tank top, maroon cardigan, the same pair of jeans from the day before, and my trusty old pair of black Converse. Then I put on the Cheap Stupid Watch (CSW) my dad gave me for Christmas right before that happened. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.2”

On Curse Words in Fiction | 0.2

<< About the Project 0.1Patch Log | Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.1 >>


If there’s one thing that has inevitably made people nervous about my fiction, it’s the fact that it uses curse words. From the perspective of someone who knows me in real life, I absolutely see how this could come across as contradictory.

The fact that I’m a devoted Christ-follower isn’t exactly a secret, as I’ve referenced faith many times on this blog. Christians are not exactly known for being tolerant of profanity, even though to me personally it’s no indicator of someone else’s spirituality. It is, however, one of mine, and my friends have probably noticed I avoid cursing to the point of possible prudishness in real life. It’s safe to say I’m uncomfortable speaking profanity… I’m just not uncomfortable writing it in fiction, apparently.  Continue reading “On Curse Words in Fiction | 0.2”

About Dysontopia | Why I’m Publishing a Novel as a Blog Serial | 0.1

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Related: On Curse Words in Fiction | The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero


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Welcome to Dysontopia, an ambitious novel project/serial I am hard at work on. Every Monday I will be releasing a new section of the work. Don’t worry, I’ll be releasing traditional blog posts throughout the week. This is simply a passion project I’m attempting to release in an innovative form. I’ve got some cool ideas, with a number of themes I want to explore, and a fiction narrative is the best way to succeed in this endeavor.

Dysontopia is, in it’s simplest context, an “advanced YA” science fiction novel. I don’t want to spoil too much at the moment – you can gather clues in the title and logo – but it explores concepts like dealing with mental illness, living in high-concept situations, and futurism. But it is, most of all, a human story. If I do it right, you’ll know Sydney, our main character, more than you know yourself when all is said and done. I’m very excited for you to get to know her, as I’ve grown rather attached to the character during the writing process. Continue reading “About Dysontopia | Why I’m Publishing a Novel as a Blog Serial | 0.1”

Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.1

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Related: About Dysontopia | On Curse Words in Fiction


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Welcome to Dysontopia, a novel project/serial I am developing. Every Monday I will make every effort release a new section of the work. Why? First, it holds me accountable – each week I must write and edit about a thousand words, minimizing writer’s block. Second, I get constant feedback from my amazing followers! Third, you get to read a compelling story in small portions so you don’t get burnt out. I welcome your feedback, positive, negative, or neutral.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but, do not steal. In this age, it’s very easy for me to find out. For more info, please see the copyright notice in the footer of this site.


Chapter 1 – Part 1

“Cold Outside, Cold Inside”

I’ve been looking forward to this party for months, I mention to my cat. She’s following me around while I’m getting ready, and I’m trying to recall the day I got my constant companion. I can’t remember, but it’s probably because Avocado, a beautiful black and white Tabby, has been my beloved pet since childhood. As far as I’m concerned, she’s the only cat I’ve ever had, and will be until she dies. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.1”