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Thread: The Watch
January 8th, 2010, 04:01 PM #1
This is the first chapter of a collaborative story I am working on. It is posted on a site that makes it easy for different people to collaborate on the same story. I won't post the link here, but if you want to know what it is, you can email me.
Here's the first chapter:
Matthew Freeman didn't like to waste time. Every minute - and sometimes every second - of his day from the moment he woke up in the morning to the very instant he went to bed that evening was scheduled and accounted for. He prided himself on finding the quickest and most efficient ways to get things done. Walking to work even at a brisk pace was too slow for him. He could run to work, take a minute and a half to spruce up in the restroom, and be in his seat ready to work faster than even if he drove. Besides, he didn't trust the unpredictability of city traffic, leaving it to chance when and where a delay such as an accident might occur.
Redundant, superfluous activities were weeded out upon discovery. For example, over time he found he got more work done if he consciously blinked less, excessive blinking being a total waste of time. He shaved his scalp once a week, saving the time it would take to comb it everyday and the extra time to wash longer hair. Even in his leisure time, proficiency ruled as sovereign. Thus, speed-reading novels of epic size was his favorite hobby.
Time lost due to disorganization was probably his greatest pet peeve. Consequently, to avoid undue stress, his pantry was for the most part organized by meal so he wouldn't have to waste time hunting down ingredients. Where this was impractical, organization was alphabetical.
His greatest desire, on the other hand, was to get everything done and still have a minute to spare at the end of the day. But, rarely did every item get checked off his To Do list. There was always something he missed. Oh, if only there were one or two more hours in the day.
One day on his run to work in the morning, he saw some street vendors a few blocks ahead of him. This wasn't an unusual scene, for would be merchants often hunted for bargain seeking pedestrians. Matthew normally ignored them. He didn't have time to haggle prices with them, but he wasn't going to pay high prices either. This time, though, a particular vendor caught his attention.
"Watches for sale!" The vendor bellowed with all his might. "I promise you it will save you time." Matthew glanced down at his own watch, and since he was ahead of schedule, he decided he had time to investigate.
"What do you mean it will save me time?"
"Brand new design," the vendor said. His voice was softer than before with a hint of excitement. "These silver areas on the back of the watch and along the inside of the band send signals to your brain to release adrenaline at specific intervals based upon the setting you choose." He paused for a moment to let his statement sink in a little. "It will allow you to work longer without taking breaks."
Matthew didn't allow his emotionless expression to falter, so the vendor added to his sales pitch. "You will work faster with more energy, and you won't get tired no matter how long you work."
"How much?" Matthew asked.
"Tell you what, then," the vendor said, "I'll sell it for forty-five, and you can bring it back tomorrow for a full refund if you don't like it."
Matthew knew his original price was probably worth it, and the offer of the refund didn't hurt. He nodded in agreement while reaching for his wallet. He paid with two twenty-dollar bills and a five. Before the vendor gave him the watch, he said, "Let me give you one word of warning. This thing can be addictive."
Matthew wasn't worried, for he had quit caffeine and cigarettes cold turkey in the past. "Nothing controls me," he told the vendor as he took the watch. Without another wasted second, he continued his run to the office.
He didn't have time to mess with his new watch until lunchtime. After he ate his leftover spaghetti, he dug the watch out of his pocket. There were two small circles on the top half of the perfectly round face, one to show heart rate and the other to show the date. The bottom half contained a rectangle, showing the time.
Matthew looked at his other watch and noticed that his new watch showed the same time, within ten seconds of each other. He contemplated correcting this deviation but determined time was better spent locating the adrenaline setting. Two black buttons were on the right side of the face. He pressed the top one a couple of times, scrolling through a menu. He stopped when he saw the word settings appear below the time. He pressed the lower button, which replaced the word settings with adrenaline. He pressed the top button again several times, scrolling through the various time intervals. He didn't want to overwhelm his system, so he chose a setting near the bottom.
He placed the watch on his right wrist and tightened the band. Almost immediately he felt a strong urge to inhale deeply. He exhaled, smiling, as if he'd just run a mile in four minutes. "Well," he said out loud, "that was fast." He had worried all morning that his purchase wouldn't meet his high expectations, but if it performed in the long run anything like it performed in the first ten seconds, it wouldn't only meet his expectations but far surpass them.
He returned to work in the best mood that he could ever remember having. As he sat down, he thought about how he had worried earlier and how he had mentally reprimanded himself for wasting time worrying about something that was in the past. He grinned and then whispered to himself, "Now, I may have time to worry and not have to worry about worrying."
Over the next several weeks Matthew upped the adrenaline setting each morning to the next level. He couldn't wait to see what he could accomplish at the highest setting. There were certain things that had never made it to his To Do list because he knew when he was being impractical. Now, however, he had to think of extra things to do to fill his time. He was beginning to look forward to all the things he would be able to do now that his days were longer.
Best of all, he didn't need as much sleep at night. So, not only did he have more time during the day, but several hours into the night he had time to think and do nothing else, a thought that would have been foreign to him before the watch. One night he laughed out loud at himself. He was okay with himself for wasting this time. He had earned it. Before the watch, he never felt he accomplished enough to have true leisure time. He leaned back, putting his hands behind his head. Then, his watch alarm went off, signaling slumber time.
His favorite vendor was out the next morning. As he passed him, Matthew turned around to run backwards, shouting, "The watch is working wonderfully." The vendor simply shook his head. He said something under his breath, but Matthew was too far away to hear him.
Later that morning, Matthew's boss came up to his station. "Mr. Freeman," the boss said, "I was looking over the production reports for the last few weeks, and I saw that your numbers are way up. Way to go!"
"Thank you, sir," Matthew replied.
"What's your secret?"
Matthew almost told him about the watch but decided to keep his secret weapon to himself. "Oh, I don't know," he answered instead. "I've felt really good these past few weeks. Might be those new vitamins I'm taking."
The boss looked around the room and said to everyone in earshot, "I think I know who is going to be the next employee of the year."
After the boss left, Nancy, who sat two cubicles down from Matthew, muttered, "No surprise, dimwit!" Matthew had been employee of the year every year for at least the last ten years, maybe more. She didn't know for sure, for she had only been there for ten years.
Another lady said, "At least they don't grade on a curve." Several laughed at the clever remark.
"Welcome to Mount Rushmore," Matthew muttered with a grimace. Then, he laughed at his own pun.
A couple of days later after everyone else except Matthew returned from afternoon break (Breaks still seemed like a waste of time), Matthew's hands started trembling. He stopped typing and raised his shaking hands closer to his face. "My fingers couldn't keep up!" He laughed at himself, but soon his smile turned into a frown as his chest began to hurt. He could feel that his heart was beating rapidly without placing his hand on his chest. As the pain increased, he grabbed for his heart with his right hand. Then, the anguish radiated to his left arm.
Finally, he realized what was going on. He tried to scream, but his voice wasn't responding. Eventually, he was able to put the words out. "I'm having a heart attack!"
At first, no one responded, but after Matthew managed to scream when a throbbing surge of pain emitted from his left thigh, Nancy jumped up from her cubicle. She reached Matthew in time to cushion his fall from his seat to the floor. He was now convulsing. "Call 9-1-1," she screamed as loud as she could, trying to yell over Matthew's ever increasing shrieks of suffering. A few seconds later Matthew went limp in her arms although his seizure continued.
A few hours later two Emergency Room doctors were looking at the numerous x-ray and MRI films of Matthew's chest, head, and left leg.
"I've never seen this," the taller doctor said.
"I know what you mean. I've never seen an emergency patient have a stroke, a heart attack, an epileptic seizure, and a deep vein thrombosis at the same time."
The first doctor continued the diagnoses. "Not to mention what looks like inflamed kidneys, liver and pancreas."
"What did this guy do to himself?" The second doctor asked. The question was obviously rhetorical, for nothing in all the annals of medicine would explain how a 35 year old, previously healthy male could sustain such rapid damage in such an efficient period of time, not wasting a single tick of the watch.
Who gets the watch next? A doctor? A paramedic? Or one of Matthew's co-workers?
If anyone would like to write an installment of The Watch, let me know.