Short Story – Red Tape
This week, I’ve written something that will most likely turn into a script for Big Fun Radio Funtime. I think we can all relate to a nearly endless pile of government forms so I decided to take that frustration to ridiculous extremes.
The story is mostly dialogue between two characters. A lot of my writing involves situations where nobody is really a villain. I mean, the government worker is clearly annoying but he is just trying to do his job as well as he possibly can. I find it more interesting when the situation is the villain and the characters must work in tandem to deal with the situation.
As always, please read, share, and comment. I enjoy getting feedback on my work. It does help me get better at this!
As an additional note, I’m going to be turning last week’s story into a one act play for production next year. I just need to figure out how to turn the ending into something that can be staged clearly. I’ll let readers know when I have that in the works!
Yephrat Frazinsrosk was having a bad day. That he was aware the bad day was by design made it no more enjoyable. His seventeen children were currently playing a lengthy game of hide and seek amongst the desks of officials who, he hoped, were far more miserable than he because they did this every day.
His wife had fallen asleep two hours ago. She told him to wake her when the forms were ready to be signed.
Bob Fleegman was his case worker. Bob had worked in sector twelve immigration for over seven years. In that time, he had successfully processed hundreds of requests for travel vouchers, residential visas, and work permits. The process was cumbersome and quite boring. But the coffee was pretty good.
“Now then Mister..um..Frackrinsock…” Bob began.
“It’s Frazinsrosk,” Yephrat corrected him, “at least that is the closest approximation of my name in your tongue.”
“Yes, good. It actually isn’t all that important.”
“My name isn’t important?”
“Not as such, no. As you know, sector twelve is the most beautiful and, therefore, most crowded sector in the galaxy. The sheer number of individuals passing through this sector means we can’t be bothered with names. You and your family are officially designated as life forms A7756894328190TZ5483 – 19 (19 being the number of beings in your party including your spouse and offspring). Please commit that number to memory.”
“Can you repeat it?”
“I’m afraid not. We have strict privacy concerns. However, I can have it installed via microchip into an appendage of your choice for an additional seventy five Sector Twelve Monetary Units (or S12MUs).”
“But the exchange rate is almost twelve to one!”
“Yes it is.”
“This is just a blatant attempt to take more money from tourists!”
“Yes. It is.”
Bob prided himself on his honesty. It wasn’t as if lying about the purposes for the fees was going to make them easier to pay. Might as well just tell folks the truth.
“Now then,” Bob continued, “will you be wanting the implant?”
“Well,” Yephrat sighed, “I haven’t much of a choice have I?”
“Oh there’s always a choice,” Bob told him in a reassuring tone, “should you fail to recall your official sector twelve designation number, we will simply eject your family through the Hadrin black hole where you will emerge quite safely in the Magradam cluster.”
“That’s over seventeen thousand light years from here!”
“Given the inconvenience, it is typically best if you simply make sure you can recall your designation number. Or purchase the implant.”
“Fine. I’ll take the implant.”
“Will that be just for you or for your entire family?”
“We each need one?”
“Well yes. Unless you think your children will be fine living out the rest of their lives alone in the Magradam cluster.”
“This is a rip off!”
“Yes sir, it is.”
“Fine. I’ll take them for the entire family.”
“Very good. Now, your final destination is the planet of Indescribable Beauty?”
“Yes. I’ve heard the beauty there is impossible to describe.”
“I have as well. That’s why I need you to sign this waiver.”
“It is a waiver that says you will not, under any circumstances, specifically describe the planet in any way other than to call it ‘indescribably beautiful.’”
“Well if people start describing the planet of Indescribable Beauty, they lose an important marketing hook, don’t they?”
“Well is it indescribably beautiful?”
“Everyone I’ve asked has said so.”
“But they have to say that!”
“Well then, the marketing strategy is working!”
“How long will you be staying?”
“Excellent. I can give you a travel visa for two days.”
“I just said we’ll be staying for a week.”
“Yes, I heard you.”
“So how are we supposed to stay for only two days?”
“Well, I can offer you an extension after two days. All you have to do is go to our office on the Planet of Indescribable Beauty. They should be able to process your request for an additional day in four to six hours.”
“But wouldn’t I have to go back to the office the next day?”
“If you wanted to remain there, yes.”
“So I only get two days to enjoy myself before I spend the rest of the trip doing paperwork?”
“Yes, that’s correct. I had a brochure on how to make the most of your two days on the Planent of Indescribable Beauty but I’m afraid I’ve given all of them away.”
“Well what if I just stay there for two days instead of a week?”
“You could definitely do that. Of course, that would mean you will need to complete all of the paperwork you already filled out with that correction.”
“It took me ten hours to complete the paperwork!”
“Really? That’s surprisingly fast.”
“I have seven arms.”
“So are there any alternatives to completing new paperwork or filing for a daily extension?”
“Of course, sir! You can pay for a extension of your stay visa with me today!”
“How much per day?”
“Oh, it’s a flat rate for up to a month! Just six thousand S12MU’s!”
“That’s more than I’m paying for my hotel!”
“I’m sure it is.”
“Now then, sir, are you planning on keeping your eyes open for the duration of your stay?”
“Are you planning to keep…”
“I heard you. I just don’t see how that’s relevant.”
“Well, if you want to actually look at the scenery on the planet of indescribably beauty, you will need to play an enjoyment tax.”
“Why would I go there if I didn’t want to look at it?”
“A good point, sir.”
“How much does it cost?”
“Just 6 S12MU’s per family member per day.”
“Can I do, like, half of my kids one day and half the next?”
“Oh yes, that’s a common plan!”
“Can they use their eyes to play video games in the hotel on the days I leave them behind?”
“Of course, sir! We wouldn’t want to ruin your children’s vacation!”
“I really want to shoot someone right now.”
“You’re in luck! We always have several residents from the planet of endless tractor pulls on hand. In their society, suicide is considered an honorable death.”
“How much does that cost?”
“Oh, that’s free! We have a charitable partnership with their government!”
“Give me a gun.”
“That will be an additional…”
“Fine, fine. Just add to the bill.”
Yephrat woke his wife and the two of them signed and initialed seventy different pages of complex legal agreements. On average, vacationers would break one of these agreements within ten minutes of signing the documents, resulting in a fine.
Bob processed the paperwork and then looked up from his desk at another tired looking alien just looking to have an enjoyable vacation with his family. He smiled warmly.
“I’ll be with you shortly, sir. I just need to refresh my coffee.”