Warning: This work has been rated 18+.
“Shit. You know you’re not supposed to do that Sylvia.”
Sylvia Andal looked over the edge of her typewriter and moved her gaze to the once white, now yellow clock on the opposite wall. If the time was believed to be accurate, it was half past 9 o’clock but it was easy to learn that people in this line work didn’t have a steady work schedule. Maybe if she had been lucky enough to find herself in another town or at least another paper, she wouldn’t be working a shift that covered 175 hours per work week of seven days. Maybe if she hadn’t run away from the government and burrowed down in a piss ant hole in the ground…
“Why are you so stupid?”
Sylvia turned to the empty cubicles and offices around her, trying not to be discouraged by the lack of participation from her co-workers. In her heart, she knew that they were probably working elsewhere in their homes or searching out photographs to take advantage of bad situations. The lack of their presence was still bothersome.
They could take their celebrity affair reports, and rumoring about who was pregnant with you, and the sports column steroid overdoes and all of their stories that wrote themselves. Every single little fake factoid that repeated itself every month but still kept the readers’ ears perked.
Here she was writing about people who could have her killed in a heartbeat or a single snap of the fingers, especially the dead ones. There was always a lot of fear when it came to talking about the dead “heroes” whose own kind would have no mercy. And sure, writing government conspiracy theories in a military town might not have been the best idea but that’s what pen names are for.
The name at the top of her new article read: J. A. Smith.
The middle initial had been added within the last six months for some element of flare, making it sound slightly more legitimate. Very rarely was the name printed out as John A. Smith. But it was featured often enough at the head of her little column to establish authority and existence in the public eye.
Purposely anonymous sounding.Purposely anonymous but still yet a reinforced life to keep certain images alive. And it was a lot of work to keep a second persona alive, certainly one that was a straight man in a town like Pensacola.
Even five years later, Sylvia still regretted not taking the point a step farther to John Doe. In fact, it might have made her fans appreciate her more, knowing that the writer of these theories was just as paranoid. If she made the name be more blatant as fake, it certainly could have turned the revenue model around for the better.
Sylvia looked over the outdated machinery in her office. Next to the old fax machine sat a new laptop that was slowly playing Casablanca, a movie that Maurine had almost ruined for her. The laptop was barely ever used for the required writing, preferring a pencil and paper or a typewriter, just another fact that was wrapped up in her paranoia. Her coworkers could make fun of her for the filing cabinets and question why she got this office.Or really, they could just gossip about how she was sleeping with one of the editors.
A side thought passed through her mind saying, "Hopefully Jean and not Louise."
If they really wanted to know how Sylvia got the office, they could have waited a moment before creating a judgement. She got the office by taking a pay cut and a few files slid by Director Jort. It wasn’t good for Sylvia to be in those open office spaces where there were so many risks by the windows.
But still it comes back to the thought of an affair – gossip that worked good in a place that lived off of gossip.
Maurine’s near favorite words popped up in her mind to say, “It doesn’t matter who they think you’re sleeping with, it only matters who you’re really sleeping with.”
Five years of work and she still couldn’t get away from those memories. Running back home to Pensacola, leaving everything overseas behind and settling into the nothingness for only a moment. She could have gone back to school, she could have tried to do something.
But running back to Pensacola and falling into old habits was the best course of action.
Pensacola was a shit town for a lot of things.It tried to be trendy, but it was still holding onto a spirit that drove away whatever tourists it wanted to bring. Over in Orange Beach, just a few miles across the border, they had figured out a way to adapt their presentation for people outside of the South. Granted not many people came because a lot of Northerners held grudges over things that happened in Alabama.
That was a recognizable issue that would never be dealt with in the Pensacola Star.
She looked down at the conspiracy neatly typed, a very big work in progress, all in connection to communication, or rather a lack of communication, between Lincoln and his senators. The assassination of Lincoln provided many routes for a story including the not so popular “Caesar Conspiracy” that she had written six months before. This follow up story was a lot of bull shit, but it also contained bits and pieces of Pensacola records.
Who was she honestly kidding?
Maybe the editors, at best.
Every story she had ever written was just a hunk of bull shit with the right words every so often. Any idea could be presented if a conspiracy if the right triggers were hit, the right hints and thoughts about something that may or may not be wrong. If there was a particular need to write fluff on a week when her mind was checked out,
Sylvia pondered the designs of her stories every day.
She always thought about how many other things she could have done with her life, how she could have just stayed in London with Maurine. The same career was still awaiting her there, she would just be spinning the story for the other side of the table. The governments of different places were always looking for people to type fake case files and replace the written history beyond doubt. If someone happened to remember the details differently, that just wasn’t her department.
Over the next 30 minutes, her mind kept wandering while her eyes switched between the article and the clock. Nothing was going anywhere. If there was any hope of escaping this place, she would just have to do the work.
The bells of Saint Joseph’s rang at 10 o’clock and then again at 11 o’clock, a time span that Sylvia hadn’t even realized had passed. The music from some Disney movie was playing in the background and every so often she would hear a scream on the soundtrack. But the drive to get out of the office in a somewhat timely manner led her to maintain focus on the article before her.
It would probably take more work over the weekend, but it was Friday night and she should have left at 4:30 with the rest of the writers. As she finished the third page of theory, she thought, “It’s not my fault that I have a good work ethic. And that I don't like to drink. And that I can't drink."
The regret of the job started to ring through her mind again and every time it did, she would silence it with the thought of the old job. And then she would weigh which one would take away more of her soul: working for the government or working against the government.
It wasn't like she had the brains left to work for the government anyways. Those years had fucking fried her entire mind. Any trace of the young and promising engineer had disappeared with the last trash pickup. One side started barking to the other.
Everyone levels off in high school.
But not in my way.
All that matters is that it's done.
But I don't want it to be done.
Sylvia sat straight up, put in her earbuds and slid the typewriter across the table, right before slamming into the desk. She repeated the gesture a few times and put on the most obnoxious song she could think of to blast through her ears. The light tones of Footloose echoed through her ears, well her left ear at least. The right side was never really there anymore. A piece of shrapnel from the wreck had made sure of that fact.
She typed another thousand words of material about how the world was permanently affected by the assassination of Lincoln and Caesar and Kennedy. All of their lives and cases were starting to blend together but it didn’t really matter if there was a difference.
There was no need for a difference.
More research would bring on citing of World War evidence and similar cases drudged from old city records for a town the government doesn’t like existing. Maybe it didn’t really exist in 1940 or maybe it doesn’t really exist now, but Sylvia would find the research somewhere.
After all, that’s what the foreign service taught her to do. Their greatest enemy of the press was the person they probably spent millions of dollars on, even though her training could have been done in the breakroom of a gas station.
“Stop thinking about that.”
Slowly the music pushed Sylvia into a sleep that was only broken by the 12 o’clock bells. The lights had already clicked off in her mind and evidently within the office as well, a final signal to get out of work. Sylvia gathered up her book bag, putting in the laptop, with the five separate security flash drives and all of the notes needed for research.
Work doesn’t go on the computer.
Personal writing goes on the computer.
Research goes on the computer.
But work doesn’t go on the computer.
That was how the formula of her paranoia played out as Sylvia carefully took the stairs down to the back exit of the Star building. Yes, the time of day was probably dangerous and yes, she did indeed have a death wish. Tomas was correct in saying this.
“Sylvia Whitmore. It has been a very long time.”
The voice came from somewhere in the darkness, but Sylvia ignored it. She was hoping that it was just another hallucination, just another misplaced memory taken from the void she was currently walking towards.
“Or do you answer to Sylvia Andal now?”
It was still just a nagging assumption from someone who might want to hurt her. Sylvia kept walking towards her car, glad that it was late enough at night that there would be no one on the roads.
“Maurine sent me, by the way.If you think I’m just a ghost – you might be right when talking to my boss.”
The voice slowly clicked for her, prompting Sylvia to turn to the ghost in the street, with a sudden realization that it was starting to rain. A man standing in a fedora and a trench coat in the soft rain blocked by the alleyway arches. Maurine was continuing to ruin tropes for her.
“And do you still go by John Mortar? Or have you chosen something more dramatic by now?”