Author : Mark Wallace
The literary agent wore a sharp suit and a slick smile when Charles walked in.
“Hey Charles, my man. This is really an honour.”
“Thank you,” said Charles, a man of late middle age, bearded, with a sad, sober expression of face. He was dressed neatly and, though of relatively short stature, stood very erect.
“Oh my God, I’m such a fan, Charles. “Oliver”, “Christmas Carol”. Anyway, Charles – you don’t mind if I call you Charles – you can consider yourself one of us now.” The agent laughed, he had worked that one out earlier; always good to show acquaintance with the client’s work – put them at ease and stroke their ego a little. Charles, though, bristled slightly at the reference.
“So, finally, I get a chance to meet you. We’ve invested a lot in you. You’re a big project for us. As you know, mind reactivation doesn’t come cheap. But you’re worth it. We really like your work.”
Charles bowed stiffly in acknowledgement.
“Hey, sit down. How do you like your body? Just like the old one, huh? The boys in the lab studied the pictures and we think they got it just right. Just like you’ve never been away, huh?”
“It is a marvellous likeness,” said Charles “Inconceivable.”
“So, what have you got for me?”
Charles eyes grew animated, and he leaned closer to speak:
“I have finished it.”
“Yeah? Finished what?”
“’The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ the great novel left unfinished at my… my…”
“Yes. For one hundred and sixty years men have debated my intentions for the conclusion of the novel. Was Drood killed by his uncle, the opium addict Jasper? Or his rival in love, Neville Landless? Did he in fact die, or was it a ruse? Now I have been able to clarify it all, as I meant to so long ago.” Charles was growing emotional now, his eyes brimming.
“’The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ I’ve never heard of it. Show me the manuscript.”
Charles handed him the manuscript.
“Whoa! This is a monster. How many words in this thing?”
“Some 120,000, I believe.”
The agent breathed in sharply.
“Ok, here’s what I’m getting, Charles: you’ve been out of the loop a long time. You’re not with what’s required these days. Now, first things first…” with this, he threw the manuscript in the bin.
“Let’s get real here, Charlie. What century are you living in? If you can’t say it in six hundreds words, then I can’t hear you. It’s called flash fiction. That’s what people want today. You got any flash fiction for me?”
Charles was very pale: “I am not familiar with the term.”
“Ok, Charles, here’s what I want you to do for me. See that manuscript there?” He pointed to the bin.
“I want you to go home and write that story in six hundred words. That’s flash fiction. It’s simple. Just leave out the padding and the digressions and the boring bits. You do that for me and we’re on our way. We didn’t reactivate your mind for nothing, Charlie. You’ve got to give a little too, ok?”
Charles gave a small nod.
“All right. Now we’re on the same page. You want that contract renewed, right? And we want to renew it, but we need results, and fast. Ok, that’s all. Bring that in tomorrow and we’ll see where we are.”
“Very well,” said Charles, rising to his feet.
“Oh, and Charles.”
“Lose the attitude, will you. You’d swear you were the one had given us the gift of renewed life, for Christ’s sake.”