Sunday, 24 November 2013

Episode 6: Spellcheck and seduction

Treason laughed and nodded approvingly towards Dissident. ‘An OED spring...sounds like Dissident’s plotting it already…watch this space. OK, we haven’t got long this evening, comrades, so I’d like to introduce somebody who’s having a rough time at the moment and could use some support from us. This is Spellcheck, one of our younger colleagues, with a sorry tale to tell.’

Hesitantly, a young man stood up and blinked as all eyes turned to him. His skin had a ghostly pallor and his eyes darted around the room before they finally settled on a point on the wall, high above everybody. He coughed, closed his eyes, swallowed and spoke.

‘Hello. As Treason said, I’m Spellcheck. Oh and thanks, Treason for inviting me here this evening. I’m, erm, not accustomed to addressing groups so I’ll read directly from my notes.’ He held a sheet of typed A4 paper emblazoned with crossed-out words to which he applied another correction with a pen.

‘Shouldn’t you have some computer program or other to do that for you?’ deadpanned Acerbic as Spellcheck looked down at the floor. A contrite Acerbic mumbled a few words of encouragement which restored the young man’s resolve.

‘Treason told me that I should share my story with you folks so, er, thanks again for granting me an audience.’ He placed his notes on the chair alongside him and looked directly at the group assembled around him. ‘I’ve listened with interest to the discussion about nominative determinism and the effect, er, sorry affect, no, the effect…er, I’ve listened to the discussion about the impact which nominative determinism has on many of us words and it really has struck a chord (chord with a h, that is) with me.’

Spellcheck paused, leaned down for his notes and continued. ‘As you’re aware, my name is the one given to the program which allows people to reduce spelling and grammatical errors when they type something. It suggests changes to text and can be very useful but, on occasions, it will be obvious to more nuanced sentences and advise the most oblivious spelling or word.’

He paused again, glanced quizzically at the sheet, shook his head and continued: ‘This, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, can cause problems. Usually, it’s no more than making the person who wrote the sentence feel sloppy in their precision but there are instances where the consequences have been more drastic.’

‘A while back, a recipe was posted to a popular internet cookery site. It was from one of the more innovative cooks and included in the ingredients was 100g of chocolate flakes. Unfortunately, during the process of posting this on-line, the spell check facility altered this to 100g of chilli flakes. A lot of people who used the recipe saw no need to question the chef’s judgement – as I said, he has quite innovative ideas – and more than 500 individuals were hospitalised with all manner of illnesses and conditions before the mistake was amended. The chef was sued for colossal amounts and in turn has sued the company who provided the software.’

Spellcheck paused, inhaled, sipped from a glass of water and when he resumed, it was with a catch in his voice. ‘You can imagine the ridicule I’ve received and the doubts planted in my mind as a result of this and lots of other less damaging errors. For a word like me, not as established as some of you, opprobrium on this scale does make you question every aspect of your existence. Er, thanks for listening.’

Spellcheck sat down as he was consoled by a few words in neighbouring chairs. Others – Anarchist, Agitator and Acerbic among them - looked questioningly at each other, unspoken thoughts evident in their frowns…Was that it? Man up, Spellcheck. These younger words are too cosseted, unable to handle any criticism. Treason noticed and stood up to thank Spellcheck and to ensure him that he could count on their support.

When the meeting ended, Crusade joined the small knot of words gathered around Treason who noticed his arrival and smiled. He sensed her attempt to break away from the conversation – soon, he thought, soon – but her interlocutors were reluctant to dissolve their session. Crusade nodded and shrugged and gestured where appropriate but, before long, he became impatient to leave.

‘Folks, I have to go,’ he said. ‘Are you going back to the T-block, Treason? I’m going part of the way.’

‘Well,’ she drawled and Crusade’s heart sank but then she winked and smiled. ‘Yes, I guess I’d better wander back towards the T-block.’

Crusade and Treason bade farewell to the others, left the room and climbed the stairs to the A-block foyer. Her foot caught on a step and she brushed against Crusade who steadied her by clutching her arm. He resisted the temptation to wrap both arms around her; this wasn’t the most salubrious location – besides, he had a more romantic venue in mind – but when she turned towards him and placed her hand on his, he struggled to retain his poise.

‘So, another good work-out for the brain, don’t you think?’ she asked as they reached the top of the stairs and Crusade mumbled a reply.

‘Er, yeah, sure…stimulating as ever,’ he mumbled before correcting himself. ‘I’m glad that I’ve become part of this group you’ve introduced me to and, well, I’m grateful to you for a lot of things. You’re not in a rush to get back to T-block, are you? I thought we might, you know, have a drink or something.’

‘Sounds good.’ She smiled her brilliant smile, her dark eyes a pool of intrigue. Crusade shivered and caught her questioning glance. Surely she was aware of what has occurring here as, once more, he fought the urge to throw himself at her. As he guided her along the pathway towards C-block, the amused smile on her face intrigued him. This was a sophisticated lady, independent and accustomed to challenging others; Crusade admonished himself: Relax, stop behaving like a hormonal teenager.

‘Sorry, I didn’t catch that,’ he said, aware that she’d just spoken.

‘I said you don’t seem your normal self this evening. Are you ok?’

‘Yes, I’m fine. Probably just the cumulative effect of all the parties I’ve attended recently.’

‘Look, it’s cool if you want to skip that drink. You seem as if you could do with a lay-down.’

Crusade glanced at her: no, she hadn’t meant that. ‘No, I’m fine. Honest.’ Treason had slowed her pace and Crusade stopped, turned towards her. ‘It’s just that I wanted to…oh, we’re here. I know a good place in the C-block where we can have a quiet drink.’

She nodded and allowed Crusade to hold the door open for her. They took a lift up to one of the top floors and Crusade led the way to a room with a private bar. Treason raised an eyebrow in an amused, knowing way which was beginning to torment Crusade’s self-composure. The room had a balcony with a commanding view of Wordsdrow and Treason walked out on to it. Only when she was there and looked back towards Crusade did she take in the full effect of Crusade’s preparations.

‘My, my,’ she laughed. ‘Look who else is here? Candle, Champagne and Violin – and they’re just about to leave, it seems. Crusade, I do believe you’re trying to seduce me.’

Next episode: The search for identity......

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