10 January 2013

#fridayflash: always the quiet ones

One thing that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone: the news coverage was a joke. The first person they interviewed was Tony Showalter. Tony said Richard Grimley had always been quiet, studious, never one to get into trouble. A geek. Kept to himself, spent all his after-school time doing homework, working his part-time job at the local library, or working in the shed behind his parents' house.

What Showalter left out was that he himself was the leader of five boys who bullied Grimley from elementary school right through to halfway through high school. "You know why he goes by 'Richard'?" they'd bray. "Because you can't call someone 'Dick' if they don't have one." They'd sweep by Grimley's locker, howling and trumpeting, and the crap they dished out was so repetitive even the teachers stopped paying attention to it.

Grimley would just smile. Sometimes he'd say, "It's okay. I know where you live." The boys never bothered physically beating him up, although he got shoved into his locker regularly, so in the end neither the school administration nor the parents did anything about it.

Things cooled off during his years at Northwestern, although one can hardly say he found friends. Dr. Ian Amberwell, Grimley's thesis advisor, called a press conference after the initial events, before network television and radio went dark. Before anyone knew network television and radio were going to go dark.

The footage tells you everything you need to know about the mass media, and nothing you need to know about Grimley. Reporters keep asking things like, "Did his thesis indicate he was planning anything like this?" and "Did he ever steal anything from the labs?", with Dr. Amberwell looking more and more frustrated, until finally he explodes. "I'm a goddamned math professor," he shouts. "Grimley wasn't studying engineering or chemistry, he was a goddamned math major. Anyone who doesn't have a basic idea of what applied math is, go fucking Google it and come back in half an hour with some relevant goddamned questions. No, I mean it. Half an hour." Everyone files out except for a woman wearing a press badge with a Boing Boing logo on it.

Grimley's parents put a notice on their Facebook page which was very vague, but more or less stated that, under the circumstances, they felt it wasn't right for them to comment either way. Facebook went down about half an hour after everything started, so few people saw it. The rest of the internet followed soon afterwards.

After graduating from Northwestern, Richard Grimley worked full-time at the library he'd stacked books at for an after-school job. Mary-Lou Schaefer, his co-worker throughout all the time he spent there, said he was wonderful to work with, quiet but friendly, and always brought in doughnuts on Fridays. If anyone had a question about science or math, Mary-Lou would recommend they talk to Richard. She said he had the whole collection memorised.

Schaefer also said that whenever there was a mass shooting in the news and the library staff discussed it during break-time, Grimley would get so upset he would have tears in his eyes. "He was always a softy," said Schaefer. "He hated hearing about innocent people getting killed."

There's a two-year gap between Grimley's last day working at the library and the events of last Wednesday. One rumour has it that he was living off an inheritance he received, although since both his parents are alive it's not certain who he would have inherited the money from. Another rumour is that he won the Powerball lottery, but the people who used to staff the lottery offices say no-one by the name has ever won.

The international press tried to pick up the slack. Both the CBC and the BBC arranged to fly helicopters from Detroit to Washington DC, trying to get some aerial footage and report on what was happening.

The helicopters never made it back, but they did report during the flyover that the giant robots are still circling the Pentagon and the White House.

No-one is quite sure where Richard Grimley is, or how he is controlling them.


11 comments:

  1. I was wondering how this was going to pay off, but it did!

    Too bad Grimley didn't give his old tormenters the Robot Stomp, but maybe that's coming?

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  2. I wondered at how conspiratorial the narrative grew. That was fun, at least until doom befell. Even then, though - giant robots!

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  3. This was one of those where I was wondering where it was going from the first line. Never saw the robots coming though!

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  4. Oh, giant robots - I heartily approve!

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  5. he's a Maths whizz, of course he's got more chance of winning the lottery than you or me! This was good fun. Of course could never happen in the Uk as they're closing all our libraries as an economic measure

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  6. Didn't see that coming - thought you were headed in a different direction. I like the unanswered questions too. Did he empty bank accounts? Where is he?

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  7. I really enjoyed this, serious narrative and then the robots at the end. Not that robots aren't serious. I wouldn't want one stomping on me!

    And I like how you caught the current mood of the situation and brought it to life in an engaging piece of fiction.

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  8. Wow! That's payback in a big way, no-one seems to read the developing signs in these situations until it's too late.

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  9. Not enough giant robots in fiction these days!

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  10. I love this! I hope those robots are also programmed to give a wedgie to some deserving bullies.

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