Twice upon a time there was a soldier called Penny who lived in a disused oil tanker in an arid land.
The first time upon a time, jack all had happened to her really before a robo-crone got her.
It was a blustery day, a sand storm was cooking on the outside but Penny paid that no heed as she intended to spend that entire session of waking hours unwinding indoors. Not that her tanker had more than one door. Every single one of her two necklaces had got tangled up inside the small netted pocket of a massive rucksack, and they needed picking apart. She’d put the whole day aside. She sat back, still in her futuristically militaristic jim jams, in her lounging chair that she’d made out of a giant 1990s Sky dish, nestled into a bean bag which she’d made out of a some beans and a bag.
She scratched her smelly face and set about untangling her first necklace. She wasn’t even five tries into getting her nail edged under the heftiest silver-plated chain knot when there was a ring on her Skper Brick. She had her ring tone set to a recent cover by Susan Boyle of an ancient Chaka Demus and Pliers hit “She Don’t Let Nobody”.
‘How old must Susan be now?’ Penny mused ‘300?’. She preferred Sue’s version, the original had apparently been about sexual acts which Penny was above, so she preferred this modern version, which Susan insisted took its inspiration from a lady who refuses to rent any person or peoples out.
“Sergeant Penny’s Residence” she answered, formally. Up popped a grinning cartoon carton the tiny screen of her brick.
“Have you considered turning your bed into a kitchen and freeing up an extra room for even more milk?”
Crackle, snap, she cut it off.
She resolved then and there to refraggle her coding so that these spam calls couldn’t sniff her out. She set to it with some satisfyingly heavy keyboard tapping even though she could have just done it in her mind.
‘Agh’ she’d forgotten to put her necklace down. Now the twat was even more wound up in mega knots.
She patiently got stuck back into the task literally in hand (the necklace) but then out it rang again, those so beautifully cleansed lyrics
“All day I go on
I shuffle around the world…”
“Sergeant Penny’s Residence” she piped up, perhaps a touch brusque.
“Just responding to your twink babes”
It was a lonely man.
“I didn’t twink at you Rogan”
“I wish you had”
His real name was Josh but he asked everyone to call him Rogan. Said it all really.
“Why aren’t you at work today? We’ve got a barrier to secure at a riot and some magazines to load”
He was guessing at what she did everyday as a sergeant, he was only a weasel, the lowest rank of soldier. He mainly did actual soldering.
She just stared at him. He’d got about half of her goat. She kept her face expressionless, the injections helped, but inside she was an unheady casserole of hatred and pity.
“Come to work babes. You’ve got some files to shoot and some flood victims to wring out” he was witting off in such a shit way.
She just stared.
“Penny, I want a go on you”
Crackle, snap, she cut him off.
‘How many times?’ she thought ‘I hate sex as much as I hate specs’
Specs was a slang term for a group of cyber dissidents who filmed through their secret glasses and were always going round with illegally captured footage, telling on people, for stuff. That was her real job, most recently, wheedling out those turds, for the King. Or turning them into King’s slaves.
Where had the necklace gone? She must have flung it somewhere while she was passive aggressing lonely Rogan.
“Shithouse” she bleated. Crawling on the floor. That one had been her favourite necklace, her most precious. Not because of its monetary value but because her Mum had given it to her, just before she last got frozen, which was just after she was born.
“Oh shitty shit nuggets” she crowed to the no-one there. She felt a sob brewing. “I need that” she bubbled “it’s lucky” and her flabby brain started stressing through all the ways and times she believed that necklace to have saved her life. Eight times. Once a dart had pinged off it during a pub fight and another seven times that were way less plausible but she should have definitely died at least once in an air traffic accident by now. She was nearly 96.
Suddenly the brick blared up again, singing
“Other guys try
To hold her hand
Other guys want
A one night stand…”
“AGH! WHAT NOW?!” She screamed! Silence. Then it came, a glorious, heart-thawing chuckle.
“Oh my God” she turned and her worst fears came true. It couldn’t be! A direct call from the King of the Universe? To her? It was! The greatest leader of all time, so far. A man so wise and so authoritative that he’d kept himself extremely young and handsome so that everyone would want to be him, love him, envy him and want to eat him. There he was, on the screen! It had to be him! He wore the official rocking horse emblem of the Royal House and kept some breakfast on to prove he was the real King because only the real King could start the day with a yogurt no less.
Holy Moles. There he was.
“How dare I have been so rude? I’m so sorry your honour” she squeaked.
“Please” he chuckled “Call me Hdraayyyzzzhjs”
But she didn’t know how. So she leant forward and pecked the air, as if kissing his tiny virtual hand, like the confused loser she had become.
“Subject” he was terrible with names “Listen carefully”
“You have won!” his voice did sound a bit of robot, but she didn’t notice.
There was an awkward silence. Penny didn’t know what she had won. He said it again.
Weakly she responded “Yay.”
Even more feeble “Yipee.”
Nothing happened for what felt like ages (ages).
“You’re welcome” and he crackled and snapped himself off.
Penny looked down and there was her necklace, bundled up under her knee all along. ‘Finding that, is that what I’ve won? But how could he? He’s not magic, he’s just…’
Her thoughts trailed off like a real life ellipses, until eventually her mind was blank. Empty as a sausage. Cavernous. Devoid to the point that you can almost hear the nothing sitting there, waiting. Only in that utter darkness of calm, when she was essentially reset, did she realize what had just happened to her. It was so many lifetimes ago that she entered the competition she’d forget the sequence, the solution. She was going to be defrosted again.