Fantasy Fiction posted November 25, 2014


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
a wide-eyed fool finds virtual fame on line

Wizard of OzStory

by mfowler

FanStory Movie Parody Contest Winner 

Some stories are true, yet in hindsight feel like dreams, the sort that that envelop your consciousness and never leave. This tale is true enough, if you dare to suspend all thought of the ordinary, and envision a world within a world, discreetly connected by threads of imagination and hope.

All my life I'd struggled as a writer. In Ausland Shire, no-one, not even the teachers and librarians valued home grown writing talent. When my poem 'Ephemeral  Moments in Literature' was published in the Ausland Gazette, I sensed a change on the wind of culture in my place.

'Sign ya up for a great publishin' contract.' said an email from a company I'd never heard of, 'We can have your whole oeuvre of writin' published on line for a mere $5,000.'

'What do you say, Otto?' I asked my faithful avatar, 'Do you think he sounds legit?' Otto was a small Jack Russell image that had been my on-line avatar ever since I started submitting my scribblings on my blog. He appeared with me on everything I wrote.

Otto didn't say a lot, but a quiet voice in my head felt him prompting, so I clicked on the link www.whichwitchpublishers.com and attached a copy of my published poem.

A sudden electrical surge sent the computer crazy; the screen frizzling and frazzling in wild loops before my very eyes. I felt myself drawn from my computer chair head-first; my consciousness crashing through the screen and floating beyond the green hills of the screen saver to an unknown world beyond blue skies and soft, fluffy clouds.

Just as quickly as this whole shemozzle began, I landed abruptly on a page of purple and yellow. I was clutching my poem and I could feel Otto at my heels urging me to run.

An arrow-shaped pointer landed on my poem and I heard a distinct click, as if a giant computer-mouse had struck.  'Ephemeral  Moments in Literature' was literarily whisked from my grip and disappeared. Otto barked in vicious silence as the robbery ensued.

I looked around hoping to find a portal, a drop down menu, or file maybe, that might allow my return to Ausland, but to no avail. The purple band on which I sat lit up with Messages. The whole episode had discombobulated my sense of proportion and I opened them without even turning to Otto. I don't know how I knew to simply jump on the white writing, but after a lifetime on a computer, it just seemed the natural reaction in the situation.

There were literally dozens of messages invitingly laid out in a table with small envelope shaped icons to guide my scanning. I happily jumped on a friendly sounding title: Congratulations on your prize, from someone with the moniker WWofN. The writer was enthusiastic in every possible way: Well done on your great win in the contest. Terrific poem. Held my attention from beginning to end. And you beat WWofS in the process. No-one could stand the bitch on OzStory. Always going on about Spelling and recipes for writing success. She spat the dummy and has flown off to some other website in disgust.

What had I let myself in for? I'd been on the website for a few minutes and I'd rid the place of one of its established writers. I hadn't even entered the competition, but I sensed that this place ran by its own set of cyber-rules.

The other writers confirmed the initial impression. Munchwhistle, No 2 writer on the site said: Yeh, the old witch is dead. LOL. Welcome to OzStory, Otto. I wasn't sure how to reply to that one without a keyboard to use. Captain Munchkin thought the whole episode was fantastic; even gave me a six, whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.

Then, the hate mail came in. WWofW sent an acerbic note: So you won a competition that WWofS deserved, did you Otto. Well I thought your poem was pathetic, an amateur playing in the world of real writers. I'm going to make it my business to get that win back on my behalf of my departed site-sister. My mission is to see you disqualified in every competition until you're dead to OzStory. I quaked in my virtual boots at that. I couldn't wait to leave.

But, a kind message from Munchdev51 encouraged me to look at the bigger picture, to consider the promise my poem had shown, and to contemplate following the purple and yellow road to the No 1 position on OzStory.

Soon, Otto and I found our way around the site. It was the journey of my literary life. I even managed to establish Otto's profile page, but I was deliberately obscure, so that my true identify kept me from getting too close to these strangers. For example, I simply wrote 'somewhere over the rainbow' next to Location. Catchy, huh.

I used the automated microphone provided by the site for blow-ins like me, whose keyboard had somehow disappeared. It was like an I-Pad, but without the crazy word substitutions that used to get me in trouble on my blog.

I posted a message on my Profile page: Thanks for the encouragement everybody. I'm not sure I have the mental capacity to cross pens with these seasoned writers. Within seconds, a lovely writer, ArsceCrow101, wrote back saying she loved my work, wanted to be a fan, and hoped I might help her develop her writing brain. Flattering. Yes, but who was I to mentor a newbie on this site? She seemed happy to tag along and so we became mutual Fans.

Soon, ArsceCrow101 and I were swapping messages, handing out sixes to each other as if we had an unlimited budget, and generally improving at the rate of knots.

I received a touching request from a writer with the rather squeaky name, NitNam17. She wrote: I absolutely adore your romantic 5-7-5's, and your love acrostics steam me up both ends. I can only manage non-fiction essays. Will you take me on a journey with you to find my writer's true heart? And so began a friendship that I hold dear till this day.

Niolmunch211234 requested help to just get started. He said he wanted to write, but simply didn't have the courage to put digit to keyboard. He was a real pussycat to tell you the truth, but he seemed worth the effort. And you could always do with virtual friends on the purple and yellow highway to success. Even if it was to just remind you that your meter was running well or that your Shakespearean sonnet should rhyme.

In time all of us progressed up the rankings, sacrificing our glittering stars to each other via a swathe of sycophantic back-scratching, as we reviewed each others' works, and voted each other up the competition ladders whenever we could. Our All Time Bests and  Recognised ribbons adorned our virtual worlds and our Portfolios overflowed with hubris.

And then it happened, we reached the city of WizardTom, that metaphoric crest of poetic success. Our poems were all shortlisted for 'Poem of the Month'. ArsceCrow101 felt as if he'd grown his brain to fit the standard; NitNam17 couldn't believe that his free-verse romantic sonnet had felt the love; and Niolmunch211234 roared with satisfaction and new found confidence.

But, we all failed to gain one measly vote. Otto tried to console me, but I just couldn't post for days. The other three sulked on-line, dropping pathetic notes to potential voters from the list of regular reviewers, thanking them for not voting.

And then came the message we least expected. The WizardTom himself wrote to the three of us with a challenge: As recent unsuccessful finalists in 'Poem of the Month', I have a challenge for you mutts. We've had enough of that sheila WWWofW. She's been stirrin' up trouble for ages. We want her out, but she's a stubborn old witch. We're settin' up a challenge. Five entrants only. $100 OzStory dollars to enter(with $25 fee extra the cost of judging). A credit card prize of $500. The best part's the condition where the last place getter has to leave the site and forfeit his/her contract. What d'ya say? We'll pay ya fees and guarantee votes.

Dodgy as the WizardTom sounded, we were ready to do anything to get that disgruntled old  witch off the site. One too many one star reviews, had us gagging to kill off the old girl, even if it meant joining up with a dodgy leader.

She fell for the bait. When she saw Otto's name up there, she jumped in and signed up for the challenge. The prompt was: Write a poem about a dream.
ArsceCrow101 submitted a lovely nonet, 'No more freakin' birds, haha'. NitNam17 penned a lovely futuristic acrostic called 'In The Land of Robot Snoring'. Niolmunch211234 outdid us all with a great little tanka, 'Serengetti Dreamin'. My verse was OK, but I knew we would sweep WWWofW off the pages of Ozstory. Her Gothic 'Ode to Black Night' garnered votes from the horror set, but our numbers kept rising in the face of  all challenges.

Finally, the old hag conceded and flew off to peddle her poison on a site called snowhitestory.com.

Our profile pages lit up with song messages, links to 'Happy Sites', congratulatory notes saying how wonderfully brilliant and accomplished we all were, and offers of free pumps to boost our egos. They were so pleased to see the wicked pen of OzStory take flight.

I was pleased for my new pals, but the constant flow of gush and hyperbolic overload made me miss the literary backblocks of Ausland Shire. Otto tugged at my heartstrings, imploring me to make him an unappreciated logo on a blog once more.

So, I messaged WizardTom, who had kindly granted extra Pots of Gold to my friends, but he was reluctant to let me out of OzStory. Such was the popularity of my win in the challenge, that he wanted to use me for promotional purposes. I wrote: As much as I love the talented little munchkins on OzStory, I must return to the Shire. Remember, I know that the Challenge was dodgy. Would you please let me out?

Blackmail had replaced email, but it worked. I received a private notice explaining that all it took to get out was a triple click of the cursor.

After a quick round of thankyous and sharing out my spare Member's Pumps to my fellow travellers, Otto and I clicked out of OzStory for good.

I awoke, slumped in my writing chair, hand still gripping the mouse. 'Ephemeral  Moments in Literature' was up on the screen. Otto's reliable outline was clearly stamped onto the top left hand corner of the page. I can distinctly remember hearing him whisper, 'mfowler, you spend way too much time at the computer. Maybe you should take a break for a while.'

With that, I stretched, walked out the front door and set out on the dusty yellow road that ran through Ausland. Neighbours smiled and waved from the fields as I strolled along. Their faces were comfortingly familiar, although I hadn't spent much time with them for a long time. It was a peculiar feeling, this. Communicating with real people.

 


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