English Extension 1 story
What, Charles, am I going to do with you?
I smirk mischievously. I know the answer already – the question was merely asked for some theatrical suspense. The answer is: whatever I want.
Yes, Charles, your floppy ginger hair, round face and unostentatious business casual outfit will prove easily malleable. Charles, my friend, I hate to say it. You will be the vehicle through which I viciously satirise every problem with our limp, cowardly society. Charles, you bumbling, shy fool. Charles, the decision is made. You will be placed into middling suburbia, some inconsequential Croydon or Earlwood, although you commute for an hour to your job as a software designer. Charles, you–
Maybe, it’s a facade. Hiding in the plain sight of averageness so he’ll be the last person they suspect when they are investigating the leak of the document that exposes the corruption of that LNP minister – a smoking gun $10,000 transaction from a coal mogul which initiates an incisive inquiry into the party’s climate policy as a whole. Yes, Charles, by day, you perform above average, not arousing suspicion or esteem so that by night you can become hacker extraordinaire Charles. Or should I say Chuck?
Or is it Charlie? Who quits his software design job, unsatisfied with devoting his days in service of a company. Who takes a job teaching technology at a public school, shyly navigating each day, making limited impression on the revolving door of mandatory Year 7 and 8 tech students, but some small intangible influence on those Year 12s who frantically send an email at 3 in the morning, and are shocked and touched to receive a thoughtful reply minutes later. Or perhaps, Charlie and Chuck, depressing as it is, are mere fantasies of Charles, Chuck the protagonist of the novel Charles works on, sitting alone a night, mediocre, but it’s not like he’ll ever have the confidence to show anyone. That’s sad. Too sad, I think. Maybe, if not Chuck, maybe Charlie is within reach for Charles. Yes, that will be the optimistic final act of the story.
The bearded writer ruminates delightedly like this. Then, the train suddenly, joltingly stops. It’s an aggressive, uncomfortable stop, feels like the universe exerting its malice.
Charles jumps, but remains asleep, although his wallet slips out of his back and the bearded writer sees the driver’s license on the ground.
First name: James.
In a moment, the world of Charles shatters in its entirety.
By Ben Harmer