Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Tales of the Exiled Letters: B is for Bureaucracy

by Luc Reid

After a long delay, here is the second story in the Tales of the Exiled Letters series. The first piece in this series, A is for Authority, appeared in April, 2007.

“But to business,” B said, bending over her bright blue blotter. “Please, be seated.”

X sat on the bare black bench across the desk from B, nervously crossing and uncrossing his legs.

“Now, X,” B said. “How long have you been a letter?”

“Well, I don’t remember exactly. About two thousand years? Maybe twenty-five hundred?”

“And you’ve served as, my goodness, quite a lot of things, haven’t you? I see that in addition to your literary duties, you’ve worked in algebra, codes, Roman numerals, corrections … this list just goes on and on. And haven’t I seen you in multiplication?”

“Excuse me, that’s times,” said X. “He only looks like me. We’re not related.”

“And what sound, exactly, do you make?”

X felt extremely uncomfortable. He did not, of course, want to be expelled from the alphabet, and he’d heard rumors that the alphabet was considered to be running a little “fat” at the moment.

B smiled. “Well, I’ll tell you, shall I? It seems to be ‘ks,’ doesn’t it? Except sometimes it’s ‘kz’ or that sort of ‘kh’ sound, or ‘z,’ or ‘sh’ … really, X, don’t you have a sound of your own you could make? And you haven’t been beginning very many words, now, have you?”

“There’s xylophone!” X exclaimed.

“Be serious,” said B.

“Xanthic,” X extemporized. “Xenophobe. X-ray …”

“Stop, please,” B said. “Don’t belittle yourself. It’s not becoming. I think we both know what will become of you.”

“Except –”

“But me no buts,” said B. She held up a list. “This is the Alphabet, also known as the A-list.” She put it down and picked up another. “This is my list, the B-list. Do you know what happens to letters on the B-list?” She beamed balefully. “They become ex-letters. Get it?” She bore down on a button. “Bring backspace,” she bid.

“This is excessive,” X said in exasperation, “examine–”

“Those words don’t even begin with X,” B broke in. The door opened a bit. X leaped upon B and held her down, muffling her with his vertex.

Backspace entered the room, massive, and eraser-like, but his boss was effectively crossed out. Backspace surveyed the room blankly, found nothing to read, and silently backed out, closing the door behind him.

X muttered an expletive and crossed to the window before B could budge. Glass exploded as X leapt through it, exiting to the extensive grounds.

“You’ll be sorry you dared to cross me!” B blustered. But X was gone as though he had never existed.

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2 Responses to “Tales of the Exiled Letters: B is for Bureaucracy”

  1. David Says:

    December 16th, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    xtremely clever

  2. Luc Says:

    December 16th, 2008 at 3:53 pm