Revenge of the Spammers

Revenge of the Spammers

Berkeley Livingston, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Mary Ann Evans, Samuel Clemens…

Where do they get these names from? Are they borrowed from literature or the movies. Perhaps B-grade movies. Or some name generator off the internet. That makes sense, a name generator, Tess decides.

She waits as 36 email messages download. At first she is excited they are all from noreply@spoiledink.com, saying readers have commented on her story. But the short lived excitement deflates as she sees the badly spelt subject lines.

“This is a flagrant abuse of my dial up email account,” Tess expounds to no one but her computer monitor. “I pay for this.”

Tess starts deleting the ten mortgage ads (no credit check required), the seven rolex emails (the beautiful crystal face will change your life), the five viagra ads (there are so many asterisks the message cannot be understood), and more requesting Tess to sign in to her bank account with her password. What is she, stoopid! Sheesh, these spammers have got to get their act together. Their names for a start, Tess decides. Surely they can find some good pseudonyms.

The next day, tired and bleary eyed from a restless sleep, Tess sits at her computer, coffee in hand, and logs into her email account. Forty-nine messages this time, only one from noreply@spoiledink.com, notifiying of a comment on another’s story awaiting her. Tess’ story, her grand masterpiece, all preened and ready and waiting for the big competition, is sitting there unread, while everyone is cavorting on the forums or reading and commenting on other stories. Tess mumbles incoherently to the computer monitor and goes back to the story in waiting, the epic three world tale of how Lotykis fights the Dark Enemy, Foioqei, and wins back Xuwonel for his princess.

After three hours of heart exposing, gut-renching, sweat on the brow, hard work typing at the keyboard, Tess stops for a break. She has reached her word limit for the day, no mean feat given she upped the ante on finishing her maiden novel so she can enter the Publishers Annual competition. $25,000 for the winning, as yet unpublished, novel! Printing out the 250 page tome, Tess realises she is near the end. She just needs to tidy up how Foioqei had phished Lotykis’ family out of their home planet, Xuwonel, leading to the current troubles in the second universe, Haagcua. And maybe she should get rid of that messy battlescene between the zombie pcs and the splogs as it seems a tad gratuitous. After a bit of editing, the manuscript will be ready to be submitted. She straightens the 250 pages, all warm and smelling of freshly printed $100 bills, and puts them down ready to check for the short story competition results. Spoiled Ink said they would contact the winner by email.

As she checks her email she spots more names. Eric Arthur Blair, David Cornwell, Barbara Mertz, James Alfred Wight. “These guys are on borrowed time,” she threatens, hitting the delete key again and again.

Tess accidently hits delete for a Spoiled Ink email hidden amongst the Livingstons and the Dodgsons. From the brief moment Tess’ eye had caught sight of it, she could swear it wasn’t a noreply email. Maybe, Oh, Maybe, I’ve Won! A quick check in the trash folder shows the @spoiledink email cannot be found. Oh no! Tess remembers she has set the email program to delete immediately, part of her tactics against the spammers. Tess pounds the keyboard. It jumps and knocks the coffee cup, and spills the now cold coffee all over her newly printed manuscript. Tess rushes to rescue the pages and hits the keyboard again. The computer monitor blinks a few times, then dies.

Tess holds her breath and chews at her cuticles as she boots up and waits for scandisk to complete its run. The print out of the manuscript has been ruined by the coffee spill and Tess realises she hasn’t run a back up for ages. Not since she completed the outline for the story, some 70,000 words ago. Please, oh, please, for Qxo’s sake, let the novel be there.

Hard disk error
Hard disk error
Hard disk error
______________________________________
_____
.

Two weeks and $650 later, the computer technician tells Tess that nothing can be saved. But, this must be her lucky day, as he can provide her with a brand new demonstrator model that includes voice recognition software, all for a special price. Harold, as he calls the computer, was a special project for the boffins at the university but they bought only nine of the ten special built tower pcs. Sceptical, but desperate as she has only ten days to submit her novel, Tess leaves the technician’s workshop with Harold and a new keyboard (adapted to work with the voice recognition software) and mouse.

Back home, with the monitor plugged in, Tess presses the only button on the front of the tower and waits. And waits. Oops, Tess forgot what the technician had told her to do.

“Good morning, Harold,” Tess says, erroneously to the monitor.

“Good morning, Tess. How are you?” Harold speaks back from the tower. “And what would you like to do today?”

After giving instructions for Harold to check her email (all 2,827 messages; only six from names Tess would have recognised), and to check for a back up of her novel, Tess goes and makes coffee. On her return, she hears Harold conversing with no one in particular. “What is it, Harold? Do you have good news for me?”

“Ahh, now Tess. Not all news can be good news.” Harold had attained an all knowing, all seeing type of voice, one that calms a congregation in times of mayhem.

“Hmm. Best spill it, Harold.”

“Well, it appears that Berkeley Livingston, Mary Ann Evans and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson have something they want to say to you. But before I hand over to them, I must point out that they are all dead.”

“Harold, I think there is a short circuit somewhere. Who are they and why do they want to talk to me?”

“And, why are they dead?” Tess adds, as an after thought.

“Ahh, the inexplicabilities of existence. I would need a good 132,428 hours to explain just that one latterly question of yours, Tess. However, I can explain who they are. I feel it best, though, to hand over to their appointed speaker to tell you their message.”

“No time Harold. I want to read you my novel, so you can put it in manuscript form ready to submit. I managed to save the first 200 pages. Ready now?”

After two days of Tess reading the Xuwonel troubles to Harold, she hears strange gurgling noises coming from the tower. “Harold, are you well?”

“I’m in fine working order, Tess. I just have Livingston, Evans and Dodgson wanting to get through to speak with you. I understand they have been trying a number of ways to get their message across.”

“Well, they can wait a moment more. We don’t have much more to go. Now, where was I? That’s right … ‘Lotykis brandished his sword, flaying all the dragons of Xuwonel, while the princess watched on, breathing heavily….'”

Just then the gurgling intensifies to a full blown spit throwing contest. The monitor hums and flickers. The keyboard click clacks the keys. The mouse glides across the mat, shifting the cursor on the now blank canvas. ‘You have been chosen,’ types up on the screen.

‘Hmm, Harold?’ Tess’ voice is strained. ‘What is going on? Are you playing tricks? I didn’t like that spoof email from Spoiled Ink telling me my entry was not a winner.’  Tess’ voice rises 10 decibels. ‘This is not funny. I say, stop it! Right now!’

‘Harold?’ Quieter now, she reads the screen. The keys click and clack, the mouse glides, the monitor spews forth letters, one by one.

‘You have been chosen. You are the winner. See Terms and Conditions below.*

‘Please take a minute and confirm your intention to accept this pr*ze, at the following website: Cl*ck on this link to collect your pr*ze. Congratulations from B. Livingston, M.A. Evans and C. Dodgson.’�

Tess clicks on the link and ticks yes. Harold smiles his all knowing smile. Livingston, Evans and Dodgson settle in their graves. Until, that is, the next competition, and the next writer with galaxies in their eyes.

________________
* Terms and Conditions

All acceptees of prizes agree heretofor they will desist from writing faustian bavardage. Any breakage of this contract will result in severe penalties.

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