***Dear readers the following has foul language and violence. It’s my attempt at horror a la Stephen King or Thomas Harris. If that’s something you like please read on, otherwise, don’t. Any names of people living or dead are strictly coincidence.***
This is my first attempt at a Chuck Wendig flash fiction prompt. I welcome all constructive feedback.
Word Count: 1,438
Sycophant was the best word to use to describe William – at first. Chuck Davidson might describe him as a “psycho-phant” – if only he could.
The extremely lucrative industry of online gaming created a fever pitch of competition among software companies to be first to market with the best of the best in uniquely creative gaming experiences.
Chuck Davidson’s Rabid Widgets, LLC single handedly created a proprietary software platform entitled “Tox-i-City” that trumped the standard role playing games like World of Warcraft and blew away the traditional console gaming model dominated by Sony Playstation and Microsoft X-Box. Ingeniously, “Tox-i-City” was an extremely fast loading and streaming game that allowed users to create 3-D avatars of themselves on their Mac, PC, and/or smart phone using personal panoramic photos and (with the help of Google maps) recreate their own virtual 3-D world which, if desired, could parallel their reality with one extraordinary difference…the user could create and manipulate their own storyline. Users were simply creating a new reality. So, for example, if you had a bad day at work and wanted to “bitch slap” your boss for his blistering commentary of your work during the quarterly meeting – now you could attack his virtual 3-D twin again and again. If you’ve always had the hots for the milf three houses down…you could have your way with her virtual twin again and again. Users could also participate in Armageddon-like self-scripted games that would assimilate all of the user’s photos on their hard drives to serve as the virtual settings and characters. The game’s website also boasted “Tox-i-Community” forums allowing users to share as well as create team narratives and, if desired, form factions to combat others (virtually speaking) across the globe.
The response from the gaming community was overwhelming and the ripple effect was evident in social media as buzz words like “Tox-i-Cality” took the place of virtual reality and catch phrases like “What’s your Tox-i-Cality?” both entered the lexicon. Some of Hollywood’s biggest names began licensing their images to maximize revenue during new television campaigns and movie launches, etc. Inevitably, however, there was also criticism from numerous special interest and religious groups with claims that youth and young adults (especially) were losing grip on exactly what reality was compared to the “Tox-i-Cality” world they preferred.
Regardless of the controversy, it was a brilliant concept. It was also completely 100% William’s.
In fact, all of Chuck Davidson’s ideas over the last 2.5 years that catapulted him from obscurity into the stratosphere of technological and financial success all came from the mind of William. Davidson may have been the genius to help create the first online role playing game series but, in spite of its critical acclaim, it was on the brink of bankruptcy. During this time a friend emailed him a link to William’s blog. He was impressed and soon coveted every word of every post from that day forward. Davidson immediately grasped William’s genius as well as his obvious business naiveté. Once he convinced his current venture partner to file Chapter 7 and dissolve the company, Davidson seized the opportunity to ensnare William by encouraging the cultivation of his fascinating ideas via email. He made numerous promises of wealth and fame if William would write code exclusively for his new upstart Rabid Widgets. In reality, Davidson couldn’t even afford a programmer at the time so he let the exuberant neophyte create, develop and execute all the code to realize this one of a kind virtual experience.
William was simply ecstatic to see an unprompted email from Davidson and having his work validated by an industry pro that he admired (i.e. a cult follower) bolstered his confidence.
William thought the first email was just spam sent from the then unknown Rabid Widgets website. He then realized it came from Davidson personally once he noticed it was signed off with “Sincerely, Chuck”. William read about Davidson in a trade magazine about the time he began making the connections between his love of computer programming code (J2ME, JAVA and HTML) and his first attempts breaking into the phone app and gaming industry. He was a quick learner and, due to the fact that he still lived at home in his mother’s basement near Schenectady, could’ve been the poster child of a clichéd introverted computer madman that lived on a steady diet of pizza and buffalo wings with horror movie poster images adorning his walls and digital wallpaper. “The Silence Of The Lambs” was his favorite. His virtual call center job afforded him the opportunity to work from home and forge professional relationships online via Twitter, Facebook and blogging. Every new contact responded positively to his cell phone apps, games and his compelling rants about blowing the roof off of the current consumer gaming model. William simply hated the current market stranglehold the big software companies had. From his perspective they seemed content with keeping consumers limited to their “buggy” releases and consoles that cost the end user a hefty sum. All this and the consumers still had to suffer through rigid, preconceived storylines that were boring and, to William, only visually stimulating. He simply wanted more out of the gaming experience.
He wanted more out of Davidson too.
Rabid Widgets achieved a $30.5 million valuation in its first year and is set to triple this amount. William never saw a dime of it and never once received a follow up email to his repeated demands for Davidson to stop aping his ideas or else he would sue and defame the entrepreneur into oblivion.
No matter how nasty he was able to be to Davidson in his virtual reality, it wasn’t enough. The rat bastard was going to have to pay. Davidson’s personal website showed that he would be appearing at the annual gaming conference held in New York City. A diabolical plan began to unfold. William’s mother was unwittingly complicit when she dropped him off carrying a backpack into the Hilton the morning of the conference. He hovered near the hotel conference rooms and lobby waiting for a glimpse of Davidson. He finally spotted him wearing a pressed business suit and tieless buttoned shirt. His heart sped as he looked at the man he simultaneously idolized and vehemently hated. Although he’d never met Davidson he still darted his eyes as Davidson scanned the room certain he would somehow be figured out.
William shadowed Davidson until he had time to settle into his penthouse suite. From a corridor, he overheard his personal secretary assure Davidson he would have two hours to himself until his speech and then there would be a podcast immediately following. She was attractive and William could smell her perfume as he passed her in the hall on his way to Davidson’s room.
“That will be all Karen!” Davidson said.
Lowering his voice William replied “Room service.”
No sooner than the door latch clicked William forced his way in and shoved a wash cloth dampened with chloroform over Davidson’s shocked face. There wasn’t much of a struggle as William’s forced entry completely took his victim by surprise.
William acted fast. Two hours seemed to pass like minutes. His frantic attempts to search Davidson’s laptop lead to no trace of the code samples he had previously submitted for review. Meanwhile, when Davidson groggily began to regain consciousness, another application of chloroform was administered. Once he set the laptop to automatically scan for specific keywords, William went through Davidson’s bags and inconspicuously hidden in his shaving kit was a thumb drive. William connected it to the laptop and was both satisfied and enraged when he saw the drive was full of not only William’s code but correspondence including numerous memos to board members and other investors outlining Davidson’s future plans regarding all of William’s untapped ideas.
William disconnected the thumb drive and slid it in his pocket. He went back to Davidson’s shaving kit and retrieved the straight razor he noticed earlier. In a fit of rage he slit Davidson’s throat and the blood spewed from his neck as the victim gurgled. This reminded him of that horrific scene in “The Silence of The Lambs” wherein Dr. Hannibal Lecter creates his “monster piece” by gutting and otherwise mutilating the security guards’ bodies as part of his escape plan.
When Davidson’s secretary returned to the suite she found the undressed, faceless corpse of her former employer. Her screams were muffled by the applause of the awaiting audience as the conference room lights dimmed and a well dressed, well deserving William ascended the steps to the podium.
After all this was his “Tox-i-Cality”.