Total Time – The whole 5 hours
Total Cost – None
I have always enjoyed thinking of story ideas and have written the first few pages of a new story numerous times, but I always seem to quit writing fiction in the middle of the story. I’d either bog myself down in the minutia and quit because I felt as though the story never made enough sense or I’d convince myself that my story had a bad premise and nobody would ever want to read it in the first place.
This pattern of over-analysis and self-doubt may have saved me from a good deal of embarrassment over the years, but the only way to learn something is to do it. The theme for this fourth month of 5 and 50 is “things I’ve been too nervous to share with the world”, which I’m simultaneously excited about and quite scared to follow through with. I’ll be undertaking 4 challenges this month (such as recording and uploading an original song and video taping my first attempt at stand-up comedy at an open-mic night) which are things I’ve long told myself and other people that I’d be capable of “if I ever put my mind to it”. No more excuses.
Before we jump into the short story I want to provide you all with some quick background as to how this project fit into the 5 and 50 guidelines. Firstly, I came up with the idea to this short story about 9 months ago and wrote the first few paragraphs of it before giving up on the idea. I didn’t want to spend all my time over-analyzing a new and original story idea, so I focused my time this week on writing and editing an existing story idea into as complete a piece as I could in 5 hours (thought truth be told it might have been closer to 6 hours than 5). Its far from perfect in its current form and likely requires several more hours of editing before I’d feel truly comfortable submitting anywhere else, but I’m very happy with what I was able to make in the allotted time and especially proud of the fact that I actually completed a work of fiction.
Alistair had never before felt insecure about his height. He stood 194.3 centimeters tall, but as he scanned the waiting room he couldn’t help but notice that he was the shortest man amongst the dozen or so sitting all around him. “At least I’m the best dressed.” He thought.
The door to the interview room swung open and out came the sound of warm, bubbly laughter. She had a tremendous laugh, the kind that could make you forget about why you were even laughing in the first place. “You’ll be hearing from me soon!” she cried between giggles.
Out of the interview room came a towering, strikingly handsome man dressed in an absurdly expensive suit. He was taller and undoubtedly dressed better than Alistair was. He had long and curly blonde hair, one of the highest ranked hair genes. “Curly and Blonde” was not only a rare commodity these days, but it combined favorably with many other hair genes to produce desirable offspring.
Alistair was normally a confident interviewee but he couldn’t help but feel nervous about his measurables after sizing up his competition. Alistair had leaned a bit on his high genetic markers in his last few interviews but from the looks of the men sitting around him they wouldn’t stand out today. Alistair would have to sell himself from a new angle in this interview.
“Should I upsell my job? Education? Hobbies?” Alistair thought to himself. “No, I should hone in on key similarities. Reinforce them with charm and intelligence. Focus on your strengths.” He paused for a moment to ponder his strategy longer, he felt as if he was still missing something. “Ah, and no jokes! The last guy was funny and I don’t want her grouping us together.”
“Williams, Alistair?” called the receptionist. Alistair’s eyes widened. “She’ll see you now.”
Alistair stood up from his chair, cleared his throat, straightened his clothes, and took a deep breath. He walked across the room and placed two firm knocks on the interview room door.
Alistair opened the door and met eyes with his interviewer. She looked every bit as beautiful in real life as she did in her pictures, an uncommon sight sight these days. Her body was exceptionally toned but not overly muscular, and she was dressed in a modest but dapper suit that struggled to hide her meticulously maintained form. Her face was small and gentle, wrapped with shining black hair that ended just above her breast.
She stood up from her desk to greet Alistair at the door, politely grasping her forearms in her hands in front of her. She was nearly as tall as Alistair was, which still surprised Alistair even though he had read all her measurables a dozen times on her resume. They met in the middle of the room and bowed to each other in unison.
“Nice to meet you Alistair, I’m Rachel.”
“A pleasure to finally meet you Rachel.”
Rachel gestured towards a small circular platform on the other side of the interview room. “Please, stand here and take off your clothes.” Alistair politely nodded and made his way over to the podium. Rachel waited as Alistair got undressed and collected each article of clothing from him one by one until he was completely naked.
Rachel produced a handheld scanner from her pocket and politely gestured towards Alistair. He adjusted his posture to stand with his feet shoulder-length apart, his chin raised, and his arms stretched to form a T.
“Hold still, please.”
Rachel moved the scanner up and down from Alistair’s head to his toes as she slowly circled him. Alistair did his best to stay relaxed and breathe slowly as to not interfere with the scan.
“Excellent. You can put your arms down now. Ready for the inspection?”
Alistair smiled and nodded. Rachel put the scanner back into her pocket and put on a pair of thin rubber gloves. She picked up a tablet from her desk with Alistair’s resume and spec sheet still visible on the screen then got to work on the inspection. She began by opening Alistair’s mouth to get a good look at his teeth and gums. Satisfied, she briefly looked into each of his ears and nostrils. She checked off a few boxes on her tablet’s survey screen and set it back down on the desk. Without warning she reached her hands out to grab Alistair’s head and gently brought it forward to meet her own. She looked deeply into each of Alistair’s eyes with an intense gaze. Alistair tried his best not to stare or blink while still maintaining a humble smile on his face. After thirty-odd seconds of looking into his eyes she released his head and began to run her gloved, rubbery fingers through his hair. Before she was finished she took a deep smell of the area around his neck.
“Good.” said Rachel as she smiled to Alistair. He internally let out a sigh of relief, no questions after this point of the physical inspection was generally a good sign. The physical inspection wasn’t a time to stand out of from the crowd. Even though Alistair worked out six days a week and was very happy with his body, every other man in the waiting room likely looked just a good as he did in the nude to qualify for this kind of interview.
Rachel jotted a few notes down on her tablet then circled around to Alistair’s backside. She squeezed at his shoulders, biceps, and forearms, then paused to get a good look at his hands and fingers. She worked her way down his back and stopped to give each of his buttocks a firm squeeze. She ran her hands down each leg then stepped back from him to take one last look at his naked backside.
Next, she stepped around to face Alistair and gestured with her eyes towards his privates. “May I?” She asked. “Of course” said Alistair, his lips not daring to break from his well-rehearsed smile.
She knelt down onto one knee and started to inspect his manhood from a variety of angles. She lifted his penis with her gloved hand to take a look at its underside, cupped his balls to test their elasticity, and took a few sniffs of the whole package just to be thorough. As she recorded a few notes on her tablet Alistair noticed that the look on her face was as though she’d just been served a salad after ordering a steak.
“Moderate discoloration of the upper shaft and a slight left lean.” She said while noting it on her tablet. “You can put your clothes back on and have a seat over here.”
Alistair was a bit taken back by Rachel’s disappointed reaction. He was pleased the fact that he measured in the top 3% of all men for genital volume. He thought back to the guy before him, Mr. Curly Blonde. He must have had a beautiful package.
Alistair stepped off the podium and put his clothes back on. Rachel waited for him at the interview desk with her hands folded in front of her. Her posture communicated a warm and professional demeanor but her face looked as though this interview was nothing but business as usual. Alistair felt like he was heading into the verbal assessment at a disadvantage, likely caused by Mr. Curly Blonde’s great penis. “Remember, highlight similarities, charm, and intelligence. Don’t be funny, you don’t want to draw any more unwelcome comparisons.” He thought to himself as he buttoned up his shirt.
“Alright Alistair, let’s see what we’ve got here.” Rachel picked up his resume and scanned its first few pages, “Ah yes, I remember you. You have an excellent resume and your references were quite strong. Your ex-girlfriend Amanda had some very nice things to say about your listening skills and sexual performance, and your ex-wife’s letter of recommendation was very touching. I’m so sorry about her disease, how long ago did she pass?”
“Thanks Rachel.” Alistair was careful to keep his smile. “Georgia passed away six weeks ago.”
“Oh.” Rachel looked a bit surprised, “Isn’t assigned grieving time for widowers between 3 and 6 months?”
“Great question. Actually since Georgia’s disease was quite slow I was given exemption to undergo grieving time while she was still alive. I wanted to get a head start on things and Georgia was very supportive of me, I’m sure you understand how quickly the market can move these days.”
Rachel looked quietly impressed. “That’s very smart Alistair, I completely understand. To be frank I’m actually a little jealous. Having a premature death looks so much better on a resume than an incompatibility break-up. And you must have had so much time to prepare for interviews like this one.” She said.
Alistair chuckled sensibly. “I suppose I did, Rachel. Georgia was very helpful in getting me ready for my next partner and she insisted I get in contact with a good agent early. And I’m glad I listened to her because it afforded me the pleasure of attending this interview with you.” Rachel smiled warmly to acknowledge his polite comment. “Plus, I suppose a death gives you much more time to prepare for interviews than a contractual break-up like yours.”
Rachel’s face perked up. “Ugh, right? I’m so glad that I put the five year financial escalator clause in our prenup, but there was just no way I could have known that he didn’t earn enough in year two to not break contract until the financial reports came out in September.”
Alistair was very pleased with how he navigated the last exchange about his dead ex-wife. In his last interview they spent a bit too long on the topic and it colored the whole conversation with a morbid atmosphere. Today he had managed to get off the topic and shift the conversation to the topic of the interviewer in one fell swoop. His agent put a strong emphasis on shifting the focus of the interview to the woman and on not giving any more detail than necessary to answer questions. The goal was to build trust while remaining mysterious.
“So Alistair, as I’m sure you know from all your preparation the purpose of this first interview is to check our major compatibility vectors for red flags. I’m seeing 52 gentlemen today and another 47 tomorrow so we only have a few more minutes to cover, well… everything. Let’s get started, shall we?”
Rachel swiped her tablet’s screen to a page with compatibility statistics. A service had compared all of their past online interactions with the world at large and generated a romantic compatibility report based on their findings. To land this interview required Alistair to have a Romantic Compatibility Score of 97% or higher for all three major matchmaking services, and the RCS for Alistair and Rachel was a very respectable 98.2%.
She held up the report to Alistair and asked “Does anything stand out to you here?”.
Alistair had fully expected a question like this. “What stood out to me most was our simulated interactions tab. Our predictive AI’s liked or upvoted 77% of each other’s shareable submissions, which was recently shown to be one of the strongest indicators of long-term relationship success. Our generated conversations also contained a much higher concentration ‘haha’ and ‘lol’ than 91% of other potential couples, which I see as a great sign of us being happy together.”
“Very fascinating. I’ll be sure to look into what you said about shareable submissions later.” Rachel flicked the screen to the next page. It contained a short list of questions that the major matchmaking services had deemed likely to generate conflict in their relationship. As much as Alistair would have loved to prepare for these questions, they were generated on Rachel’s tablet at the start of the interview to ensure authenticity of answers.
“Alright, please answer these as quickly as possible. Question one, assign the following scents to morning, afternoon, and evening: lemon zest, fish, and cedar.”
“Umm… Fish in the morning, lemon zest in the afternoon, and evening cedar.”
“Good. Question two, rank my physical features from weakest to strongest. My hands, my eyebrows, and my chin.” Alistair scanned Rachel’s hands and face then briefly paused. “Your strongest feature is your hands. No… your chin. Your hands are a close second and your eyebrows are third.”
“I see.” Said Rachel, adjusting her eyebrows slightly. “Finally, on a scale from one to ten with ten being the strongest, how much does the sound of my voice remind you of your deceased wife?”
Alistair was taken aback. He paused to try and remember the sound of Georgia’s voice but nothing came to him. What did she sound like? He closed his eyes and remembered back to his wedding day. He pictured Georgia’s lips as she mouthed the words “I do”.
“I guess a four?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Four sounds about right.”
“Okay then,” Rachel set down the tablet and stood up to usher Alistair to do the door. “That’s all the questions for today. The program graded this interview as a ‘B’ but I had a lovely time, if I end up selecting you for the next round of interviews my agent will call you about setting up our dinner date and inform you of all my dietary restrictions.”
“It was lovely meeting you Rachel, I hope you enjoy the rest of your interviews today and tomorrow.”
“Thanks Alistair.” Alistair and Rachel bowed to each other from across the desk and started to make their way towards the door.
“Actually Alistair, I have one last question if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, what is it?”
“I don’t really like the name ‘Alistair’, it’s very similar to my second grade English teacher’s name who I was never very fond of. Would you mind emailing my agent a list with five to ten new names so I can start calling you something else? I’d rather not associate you in my mind with Mr. Sullivan, I hope you understand.”
A jolt of excitement raced up Alistair’s back. “A list of new names for her to choose from? I must have passed the first interview!” Alistair thought.
“It’d be my pleasure,” he said with an eager grin on his face. “I was never very attached to Alistair anyways.”