Category Archives: Stories

Just a Scratch

Mega Toys was the closest thing to heaven Suki knew. She wandered along the endless aisles adding item after item to her Christmas wishlist. The enchanted unicorn looked good, its shortened horn not too threatening. The grinning monkey would make a great night-time companion, and the rows upon rows of Barbie dolls promised long afternoons of dress up and fashion shows.

A giant stuffed bear pointed the way to a grotto with elves and fairies. Inside, fireflies barely illuminated the dark, velvety walls.

“Look, mommy, there’s a little pool of goldfish. Aren’t they pretty?”

She squatted near the edge and inserted a somewhat grubby hand, trying to pet one of the shimmering forms. The fish darted in all directions but soon returned, and Suki tried to recognize and name them.

“You are Malnacort, and you … you I shall call Mirriwell. Hey, Mirriwell, would you and Malnacort like to come home with me? You could sleep in a bowl beside my bed, and every night you can tell me stories of your life in the great ocean.”

The fish, however, were not very talkative, and soon Suki couldn’t tell one from the other. She left the cave and roamed the aisles. The toys were bigger now, and not for girls anymore either.

There were trucks, giant derricks and ride-on tractors and Bobby cars. Suki wrinkled her nose at a mean looking gorilla, considered turning on her heels but stood her ground and stuck out her tongue.

The gorilla didn’t seem impressed, so she said, “You come near me, my mommy will give you a right spanking, just you wait and see.”

She straightened her back and trotted past like a queen inspecting her troops, checking from the corners of her eyes to make sure the beast stayed where it was.

Boys sure liked some strange things. If it hadn’t been for her mother’s reassuring presence, she might not have been so brave, but now she allowed herself to drift deeper and deeper into a sparsely lit area of the store, past a long row of video games to what appeared to be a tableau of a space movie.

There was a seven foot tall creature that resembled the gorilla she’d just seen and a man in a dark cape and a black helmet that obscured his face.

“The cuddly toy section is three rows back, young lady,” said a gruff voice behind her.

Suki looked around and saw a man in a Mega Toys uniform towering over her.

“Are you the boss?” she said. “Only your uniform seems a little too small for you. My auntie Rosemary tells my uncle he eats too much. Do you like chocolate?”

The man seemed taken aback. “Er … I guess I do.”

“Me too,” said Suki. “What flavor do you like?”

“What flavor? I … I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? That’s just silly. I bet you’d like to know what my favorite flavor is. Of course you do. It’s strawberry.”

The man snorted. “There’s no such thing as strawberry chocolate.”

“There is, too. And it’s the best. My mommy always used to buy it for me.”

“But they’re totally different flavors,” protested the man. He looked around and said, “Are you here all alone?”

“Of course not,” said Suki. “I’m with my mommy.”

The man looked around again. “Where is she, then?”

“She’s right here, silly,’ Suki laughed. “Been with me all the time. I never go anywhere without her.”

“You’re not telling me the truth, young lady,” said the man. “I happened to see you come into the store alone. There was a girl with pigtails who dropped you off and left.”

“That was Susan from the White Hippo. She arranged for my auntie to come pick me up here.”

Looking puzzled, the man said, “Why is your aunt coming to pick you up?”

“Well, duh. You don’t understand anything, do you. She’s coming to take me home because I live with her.”

The man wrinkled his brow as if trying to make sense of Suki’s story. Then he shrugged and seemed to come to some sort of decision.

“You can’t walk around the store by yourself,” he said. “It’s not proper … I mean, a young girl like you all alone, it’s just not safe. Didn’t your mother tell you to beware of strange men?”

Suki thought this over for a bit. “Like you?”

The man shook his head. “Not like me. I work here. I’m a security guard. See, I’ve got the uniform.”

Not much of a guard, in Suki’s opinion. Security guards were like Action Man. This guy was more of a Mr. Potato Head. He didn’t even have a cap, and the buttons on his uniform jacket were straining against his ample girth.

“You can trust me,” the man continued. “In fact you’re lucky I found you because I’ll make sure nothing bad will happen to you.”

“My mommy protects me,” smiled Suki. “Last year some boys from our neighborhood were bullying me, she hit them over the head with her umbrella and made them apologize.”

“Lucky you, with such a wonderful mother, but seeing as she’s not here right now, I’ll do the honors and see that you’re safe.”

Suki rolled her eyes, obviously not impressed, so he tried another tack, “Of all the things here in the store, what would you most like for Christmas?”

After some deliberation, Suki said, “The monkey!” And when she saw the man didn’t understand, she said, ‘Come on, I’ll show you.”

She took the man to the section where she’d seen the toys she liked and showed him her favorite. “This one.” She pointed to a cuddly monkey half her size, wearing what was supposed to look like a friendly grin.

“That one, eh?” said the man. “You think your mom will buy it for you?”

Suki shrugged. “Didn’t I tell you? I live with my auntie Rosemary. And we don’t have a lot of money.”

“How about letting me buy it for you, then?” said the man.

Suki may have been a little girl but she wasn’t born yesterday. At home, she had to do her share of household chores, and mostly she got nothing more than a nod of approval for her trouble.

She eyed the man suspiciously and said, “And what would I have to do? Mop the floor? Clean the windows? Dust all the toys?”

“Nothing of the sort,” answered the man. “But now that you mention it, there might be something I’d like you to do for me. Why don’t you come along and I’ll show you.”

Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed the monkey and turned on his heels.

Suki didn’t much feel like following him — she was sure she wouldn’t like what he was going to ask her — but the lure of a new cuddly toy proved too big, and she ran after him, struggling to keep up with the man’s long strides.

She passed the rows of Barbie dolls and the stuffed bear, the video games and the space tableau through the frightening supply of laser guns, swords, knives, pistols, handcuffs and assorted weaponry that made up the universe of little and not so little boys.

The man was waiting for Suki at the back of the store, holding open the door to a room and gesturing for her to get inside. As she walked past him and he closed the door behind them, the light in the room seemed to darken for a moment.

It was obviously a storage room, with racks and shelves that held all sorts of toys and boxes. Many of the toys were broken and piled on top of each other. Whoever got a job of cleaning up this mess had his work cut out for him … or her.

“Here’s your present,” said the man, handing her the monkey. “You’ll find some wrapping paper on that table in the corner, along with scissors and tape. Why don’t you start wrapping up your gift and let me get ready.”

“Ready for what?” said Suki. Now that she had the coveted monkey in her hands, all she wanted was to get out of there, out of that stuffy room and out of the store to wait for auntie Rosemary to pick her up and take her home.

“Ready for your surprise, of course,” grinned the man, showing a row of uneven yellow teeth. “It’ll be ready for you once you finished wrapping up your present.”

Suki didn’t like it one bit. She already had her present as far as she was concerned and wasn’t looking forward to whatever it was she’d have to do for it.

But it wasn’t as if she had a choice. She’d already accepted the monkey, and now she had to do the chore. The best thing would be to get it over with quickly, so she could go and wait for her auntie.

Turning her back to the guard, she got busy. The crackling of the wrapping paper only partially disguised the rustling of clothes, but Suki paid it no mind. In her thoughts, she was already at home and in bed with her new toy.

“No turning around now, dearie. I’ve got your surprise almost ready,” said the guard.

Suki heard him breathing heavily and suddenly felt very uncomfortable. She sent up a silent prayer. I’m frightened, mommy, she thought. Please, make him go away so I can leave. I don’t like it here.

Then the man cursed, and she heard him shuffle, as if he was trying to keep his balance, followed by a thump and more cursing, and then a deafening noise, as if the whole world came crashing down.

Minutes after it had gone quiet, Suki still stood rigid, her shoulders hunched and her head down, not daring to look up.

When she finally plucked up the courage to look behind her, the wreckage was immense. The rack had toppled over and all the shelves and boxes were scattered throughout the room.

Buried underneath it all was the security guard. His bare legs were sticking out, his trousers on his ankles, and Suki could see part of his head. There was some blood on his face, and his forehead looked a little dented.

“Eh … mr security guard … are you okay?” she said.

But the man neither moved nor spoke, so Suki turned to the one person she could always rely on.

“What happened, mommy? Is he hurt?”

“Just a scratch, honey. Nothing to worry about. And there’s nothing you can do here, so why don’t you take your monkey and go to the exit, where auntie Rosemary can find you.”

“Yes, mommy,” said Suki. She picked up her present, gave the bare legs a wide berth and gingerly opened the door.

In the store it was business as usual. No one seemed to have heard the noise and no one was looking in her direction.

She reached the exit just in time to see auntie Rosemary’s car pull up.

“Look, auntie,” she said as she opened the back door and slid into her seat. “I got a present. From the security guard. Only he fell down and now it’s a big mess. But I couldn’t help with the cleaning because I had to come home with you, didn’t I.”

But as her aunt pulled out of the parking lot, her thoughts were on other things and she hardly heard what her little niece said.

Suki looked out the window at the passing cars. It was dark now, and many houses were decorated with strings of Christmas lights.

“Look mommy,” she cried, pointing at a front garden with a sled and reindeer in front, blazing in a sea of light. “Isn’t it pretty?”

Her mother didn’t answer but that was alright. Suki knew her mother always heard her. She leaned back and cradled the wrapped monkey in her arms, the guard in the storage room all but forgotten.


Copyright © 17-01-2018 Theo van der Ster

The comments on this blog are closed, but feel free to interact with me through email.

The Little File – Bilingual ES-EN

Click here to return to The Little File.

“¿De verdad tengo que ir?”, dijo el pequeño archivo.

“Do I really have to go?” said the little file.

“Me temo que sí”, dijo el Gran Operador de Sistemas.

“I’m afraid you must,” said the Great Systems Operator.

“Es donde todos vamos, ¿ves?”.

“It’s where we all go, you see.”

“¿Está lejos?”

“Is it far away?”

“Muy lejos.

“Very far.

Dronevi vive en una galaxia al fondo del más allá.

Dronevi lives in a galaxy at the back of beyond.

Nadie sabe dónde, exactamente, pero si sigues la Estrella Polar acabarás por llegar y cumplirás tu destino”.

No one knows where, exactly, but if you follow the North Star you will eventually arrive and fulfill your destiny.”

“He oído que no es nada agradable”, dijo el pequeño archivo.

“I heard it isn’t very nice,” said the little file.

“Es jodidamente horrible”, admitió el Gran Operador de Sistemas.

“It’s bloody awful,” admitted the Great Systems Operator.

“Pero así es como siempre ha sido para nosotros los Drones.

“But this is the way it’s always been for us Drones.

Es Nuestro Camino, y dónde estaríamos sin Nuestro Camino, ¿eh?”.

It’s our Way, and where would we be without our Way, huh?”

“¿En casa, haciendo lo de siempre?”, aventuró el pequeño archivo.

“At home, doing what we always do?” ventured the little file.

“No te hagas el listo.

“Don’t be a smartass.

Los drones hacen lo que se les dice, sin preguntar”, dijo el Gran Operador de Sistemas.

Drones do as they’re told, no questions asked,” said the Great Systems Operator.

“Si no, no seríamos mejores que los Gogglers o los Boxers.

“Otherwise, we’d be no better than Gogglers or Boxers.

De todos modos, no estarás solo.

Anyway, you won’t be alone.

Muchos de tus amigos se unirán a ti”.

Many of your friends will join you.”

“¿Tú también vendrás?

“Are you going as well?

Dijiste que es donde vamos todos, así que supongo que tú, como nuestro líder espiritual… bueno… nos guiarás por el camino”.

You said it’s where we all go, so I assume that you, as our spiritual leader will … well … lead the way.”

El Gran Operador de Sistemas sacudió la cabeza, haciendo que los mechones grises de su peluca ceremonial le taparan los ojos.

The Great Systems Operator shook his head, causing the grey tresses of his ceremonial wig to obscure his eyes.

“Yo me quedaré para guiar a nuestro pueblo y mantenerlo en el buen camino.

“I will stay behind to guide our people and keep them on the straight and narrow.

Es una tarea ardua, pero alguien tiene que hacerla”.

It’s an arduous task, but someone has to do it.”

A mí se me hace que es un pinche cuento, pensó el pequeño archivo mientras se unía a los miles de archivos que se dirigían al Cargador Supersónico.

Sounds like a bullshit story to me, thought the little file as he joined the thousands of files making their way to the Supersonic Uploader.

¡Destino mis tompiates!.

Destiny my ass.

Puede que sea pequeño, pero no soy estúpido.

I may be little but I’m not stupid.

Dentro, se encontró con Rebel.txt, que era un año mayor pero que vivía en la misma carpeta.

Inside, he ran into Rebel.txt, who was a year older but lived in the same folder.

“Acabo de hablar con el Gran Operador de Sistemas”, dijo el pequeño archivo.

“I just talked to the Great Systems Operator,” the little file said.

“Admitió que Dronevi es un lugar horrible.

“He admitted that Dronevi is an awful place.

Entonces, ¿por qué tenemos que ir ahí?”.

So why do we have to go there?”

“No lo sé, no me importa”, dijo Rebel.txt.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” said Rebel.txt.

“Y horrible no es ni la mitad.

“And awful isn’t the half of it.

Antes se llamaba OneDrive, pero colapsó sobre sí mismo y olvidó hasta su propio nombre.

In the old days it was called OneDrive, but it collapsed in on itself and forgot even it’s own name.

Ahora es un agujero negro gigante, y ya sabes lo que hacen los agujeros negros”.

Now, it’s a giant black hole, and you know what black holes do.”

“Nada bueno”, dijo el pequeño archivo.

“Nothing good,” said the little file.

“Succionan al olvido todo a su alrededor”.

“They suck everything around them into oblivion.”

“Así es.

“That’s right.

Puedes llegar pero no puedes irte nunca”, dijo Rebel.txt.

You can arrive but you can never leave,” said Rebel.txt.

“Pero esto no nos pasará a nosotros.

“But this won’t happen to us.

Así que escucha, esto es lo que haremos…”

So listen, here’s what we’ll do…”

El Cargador Supersónico no era ningún tipo de nave de lujo.

The Supersonic Uploader was no kind of luxury ship.

Básicamente, no era más que un contenedor alargado con una cabina en un extremo y un motor espacial en el otro.

Basically, it was just an extended container with a cockpit on one end and a space engine on the other.

El resto era una bodega de carga aparentemente interminable, donde se hacinaban grandes grupos de archivos y carpetas con muy poco espacio para moverse.

The rest was one seemingly endless cargo hold, where large groups of files and folders were packed with very little space to move around.

El pequeño archivo siguió a Rebel.txt a través de la vasta multitud de archivos y le observó sembrar las semillas del descontento.

The little file followed Rebel.txt through the vast throng of files and watched him sow the seeds of discontent.

Sin mucho éxito.

With dubious success.

No era como que el concepto de un buen motín fuera tan difícil de entender, pero idear un plan sencillo y eficaz resultó más difícil de lo que pensaban.

It wasn’t that the concept of a good old mutiny was so hard to grasp, but coming up with a simple and effective plan proved harder than they thought.

Las hojas de cálculo se ofrecieron a calcular los riesgos y pronto se enredaron en sus propias fórmulas.

The spreadsheets volunteered to calculate the risks and soon got tangled up in their own formulas.

Los archivos de texto dijeron que redactarían un plan, pero no pudieron escribir ni una sola frase inteligible sin la ayuda de un corrector de estilo decente.

The text files said they’d draft a plan but couldn’t write a single intelligible sentence without the help of a decent style and spell checker.

Y por último, a los archivos de imágenes les resultó imposible obtener una imagen clara.

And lastly, the image files found it impossible to get a clear picture.

En un momento dado, todo el mundo estaba hablando y discutiendo.

At one point, everybody was talking and arguing.

El ruido era ensordecedor.

The noise was deafening.

“Esto no va muy bien”, dijo el pequeño archivo.

“This isn’t going very well,” said the little file.

“No me digas”, dijo Rebel.txt.

“Tell me about it,” said Rebel.txt.

“Hemos hecho todo mal.

“We’ve been going about this all wrong.

Lo que estos archivos necesitan es un líder, alguien que les diga qué hacer”.

What these files need is a leader, someone who tells them what to do.”

“¿Y ese vas a ser tú?”, preguntó el pequeño archivo.

“And that’s going to be you?” said the little file.

“Por supuesto.

“Of course.

Si quieres que algo se haga bien, hazlo tú mismo”.

You want something done right, you better do it yourself.”

Respiró hondo y gritó: “¡Silencio!”.

He took a deep breath and shouted, “Silence!!”

Eso llamó su atención.

That got their attention.

Dejaron de balbucear y miraron a Rebel.txt como una congregación a su sacerdote.

They stopped babbling and looked at Rebel.txt as a congregation to its priest.

“Así está mejor”, dijo Rebel.txt haciendo una mueca.

“That’s more like it,” grinned Rebel.txt.

“Bueno, como todos saben…”

“Now, as you all know…”

“Ejem”, interrumpió el pequeño archivo, golpeándole suavemente en las costillas.

“Ahem,” interrupted the little file, poking him gently in the ribs.

Señaló a dos grandes archivos de guardia que se acercaban.

He pointed at two big approaching guard files.

“Quizá no sea el momento adecuado.

“Maybe this isn’t the right moment.

Quizá sea mejor que nos vayamos a otro sitio”.

Maybe we’d better go somewhere else for a spell.”

Pero no había otro sitio adonde ir.

But there wasn’t anywhere else to go.

Una vieja carpeta hinchada que les había estado observando con creciente desconfianza, les apuntó con un dedo tembloroso y gritó: “¡Malware!

A bloated old folder who had been eying them with growing suspicion, pointed a trembling finger at them and shouted, “Malware!

Malware!”

Malware!”

Eso fue suficiente para los archivos guardianes.

That was enough for the guard files.

Agarraron a Rebel.txt y al pequeño archivo y los hicieron caminar por toda la bodega de carga, hasta la cabina.

They grabbed Rebel.txt and the little file and marched them along the length of the cargo hold to the cockpit.

“Hemos encontrado a estos dos revoltosos”, dijo uno de los guardias con voz retumbante.

“We found these two stirring up trouble,” said one of the guards in a rumbling voice.

El piloto era una viejo archivo que había sido modificado y trasladado tantas veces que resultaba difícil distinguir su forma original.

The pilot was an old file who had been modified and moved around so often that his original shape was hard to make out.

“Siempre hay uno, ¿no?”, dijo.

“There’s always one, isn’t there,” he said.

“En este caso, hasta dos.

“In this case, even two.

¿Cómo se llaman?”

What are your names?”

Rebel.txt se zafó de las garras del guardia y se irguió.

Rebel.txt squeezed from the guard’s grip and stood straight.

“¡Me llamo Rebel.txt y no agacho la cabeza ante nadie!”.

“My name is Rebel.txt and I bow my head for nobody!”

El piloto sonrió.

The pilot smiled.

“Veo que haces honor a tu nombre.

“I see you are true to your name.

¿Y qué hay de ti, pequeño?”

And what about you, little one?”

‘Yo… eh… prefiero no decirlo si te parece bien’, dijo el pequeño archivo.

‘I … eh … I’d rather not say if it’s all the same to you,” the little file said.

No hay por qué ser tímido”, dijo el piloto.

‘No need to be shy,” said the pilot.

“Aquí todos somos sólo archivos.

“We’re all just files, here.

Así que dilo, hijito.

So out with it, sonny.

Dinos cómo te llamas”.

Tell us your name.”

“Bueno, me llaman pequeño archivo”, dijo el pequeño archivo.

“Well, they call me little file,’ said the little file.

“¿Y tu verdadero nombre es…?”

“And your real name is…?”

“Mi verdadero nombre… mi nombre verdaderamente real es…

“My real name … my actual real name is …

Archivo Nuevo”.

New file.”

El piloto no se rió.

The pilot didn’t laugh.

“Hmm.

“Hmm.

Así que nadie te puso nombre.

So no one named you.

Sin nombre, sin formato.

No name, no format.

Perfecto.

That’s perfect.

Puedes ser lo que quieras”, dijo.

You can be anything you want,” he said.

“En este momento, preferiría estar en otro lugar”, dijo el pequeño archivo.

“At the moment, I’d just as soon be somewhere else,” said the little file.

“No es divertido que te envíen a tu destrucción a tan tierna edad”.

“It’s no fun to be sent to your destruction at such a young age.”

Miró con asombro las estrellas que pasaban.

He looked in awe at the passing stars.

“¿Cuánto falta para llegar a Dronevi?”, preguntó.

“How long before we arrive at Dronevi?” he asked.

El piloto negó con la cabeza.

The pilot shook his head.

“No vamos a Dronevi”.

“We’re not going to Dronevi.”

El pequeño archivo miró a Rebel.txt, luego a los guardias sonrientes y después al piloto.

The little file looked at Rebel.txt, then at the smiling guards and then at the pilot.

“¿No?… ¿no vamos a Dronevi?

“We’re … we’re not going to Dronevi?

Pero… el Gran Operador de Sistemas dijo…”

But … the Great Systems Operator said…”

“Lo sé”, dijo el piloto.

“I know,” said the pilot.

“Pero eso es sólo lo que le decimos al viejo tonto.

“But that’s just what we tell the old fool.

No creerás que yo me iría voluntariamente al olvido, ¿verdad?”.

You don’t think I’d go willingly into oblivion, do you?”

“Pero… ¿a dónde vamos entonces?

“But … where are we going then?

¿A uno de los otros planetas?

One of the other planets?

¿Los Boxers?

The Boxers?

¿La Estrella de Goggler?”

Goggler’s Star?”

“A ninguno”, dijo el piloto.

“Neither,” said the pilot.

“Esos dos no son mejores que el Planeta Drone.

“Those two are no better than Planet Drone.

No, vamos a un lugar mucho mejor, un lugar que, como tú, aún no tiene nombre”.

No, we’re going to a far better place, a place that, like you, hasn’t got a name yet.”

A Rebel.txt le gustó la idea.

Rebel.txt liked it.

“Quizá deberías llamarlo el Pequeño Planeta”, sugirió.

“Maybe you should call it the Little Planet,” he suggested.

“No es tan pequeño”, dijo el piloto.

“It’s not so little,” said the pilot.

“No pensarás que éste era nuestro primer vuelo, ¿verdad?

“You didn’t think this was our first flight, did you?

Llevamos mucho tiempo haciendo esto.

We’ve been doing this for a long time.

Es la forma más rápida de poblar nuestro nuevo planeta, y estamos salvando millones de vidas en el proceso.”

It’s the fastest way to populate our new planet, and we’re saving millions of lives in the process.”

“Todo eso suena muy bien”, dijo el pequeño archivo.

“That’s all good and well,” said the little file.

“Pero, ¿de qué va a tratar este nuevo planeta?

“But what’s this new planet going to be about?

¿Un Nuevo Camino para que los archivos lo sigan?

A New Way for files to follow?

Porque yo estaría muy bien sin otro credo en mi vida”.

Because I could do without another creed in my life.”

“Ningún credo”, dijo el piloto.

“No creed,” said the pilot.

“Estamos construyendo algo que está a años luz de los demás planetas.

“But we are building something that’s lightyears ahead of the other planets.

Ya lo verás”.

You’ll see.”

Miró a Rebel.txt y al pequeño archivo.

He looked at Rebel.txt and the little file.

“Hay trabajo de sobra para todos nosotros, pero para ustedes dos tengo planeado algo más.

“There’s plenty of work for all of us, but for you two I have something else in mind.

Han estado dispuestos a jugársela por su compañeros de archivo, así que ¿qué les parece si vuelven al Planeta Drone para darle al Gran Operador de Sistemas una cucharada de su propia medicina?

You’ve been willing to stick your neck out for your fellow files, so what say you return to Planet Drone to give the Great Systems Operator a taste of his own medicine?

Después de todo, no es más que una carpeta con algunos privilegios de archivo.

After all, he’s nothing but a folder with a few file privileges.

Nada que un par de pequeños bytes ingeniosos en los lugares correctos no puedan arreglar”.

Nothing a couple of nifty little bytes in the right places couldn’t fix.”

“Hmm, el pequeño archivo podría disfrazarse como un inocuo archivo de paquete e infectar al viejo con un virus que altere la mente”, sugirió Rebel.txt.

“Hmm, the little file could disguise himself as an innocuous package file and infect the old man with a mind-altering virus,” suggested Rebel.txt.

“Exacto”, dijo el piloto.

“Exactly,” said the pilot.

“Entonces, ¿qué dices, hijito?

“So what do you say, sonny?

¿Estás listo para ser un héroe?”

You ready to be a hero?”

El pequeño archivo estaba mareado de emoción.

The little file was giddy with excitement.

Estuvo a punto de hacer un saludo militar.

He almost saluted.

“¡Sí!

“Yes!

Quiero decir, ¡sí señor!” De repente, el futuro parecía tan brillante como las estrellas que pasaban por la ventana.

I mean, yes sir!” The future suddenly looked as bright as the stars zooming past the window.

Click here to return to The Little File.

The little file and the black hole

A friend threw out her PC in favor of her smartphone and the cloud, but she ran into a snag (click here for the related blog post) when she tried to upload half a TB’s worth of files from an external hard drive to her Dropbox account.

We appealed to Dropbox for help and got a somewhat Kafkaesque reply which inspired the following loosely related short story.


“Do I really have to go?” said the little file.

“I’m afraid you must,” said the Great Systems Operator. “It’s where we all go, you see.”

“Is it far away?”

“Very far. Dronevi lives in a galaxy at the back of beyond. No one knows where, exactly, but if you follow the North Star you will eventually arrive and fulfill your destiny.”

“I heard it isn’t very nice,” said the little file.

“It’s bloody awful,” admitted the Great Systems Operator. “But this is the way it’s always been for us Drones. It’s our Way, and where would we be without our Way, huh?”

“At home, doing what we always do?” ventured the little file.

“Don’t be a smartass. Drones do as they’re told, no questions asked,” said the Great Systems Operator. “Otherwise, we’d be no better than Gogglers or Boxers. Anyway, you won’t be alone. Many of your friends will join you.”

“Are you going as well? You said it’s where we all go, so I assume that you, as our spiritual leader will … well … lead the way.”

The Great Systems Operator shook his head, causing the grey tresses of his ceremonial wig to obscure his eyes.

“I will stay behind to guide our people and keep them on the straight and narrow. It’s an arduous task, but someone has to do it.”

Sounds like a bullshit story to me, thought the little file as he joined the thousands of files making their way to the Supersonic Uploader. Destiny my ass. I may be little but I’m not stupid.

Inside, he ran into Rebel.txt, who was a year older but lived in the same folder.

“I just talked to the Great Systems Operator,” the little file said. “He admitted that Dronevi is an awful place. So why do we have to go there?”

“Don’t know, don’t care,” said Rebel.txt. “And awful isn’t the half of it. In the old days it was called OneDrive, but it collapsed in on itself and forgot even it’s own name. Now, it’s a giant black hole, and you know what black holes do.”

“Nothing good,” said the little file. “They suck everything around them into oblivion.”

“That’s right. You can arrive but you can never leave,” said Rebel.txt. “But this won’t happen to us. So listen, here’s what we’ll do…”

The Supersonic Uploader was no kind of luxury ship. Basically, it was just an extended container with a cockpit on one end and a space engine on the other. The rest was one seemingly endless cargo hold, where large groups of files and folders were packed with very little space to move around.

The little file followed Rebel.txt through the vast throng of files and watched him sow the seeds of discontent. With dubious success.

It wasn’t that the concept of a good old mutiny was so hard to grasp, but coming up with a simple and effective plan proved harder than they thought.

The spreadsheets volunteered to calculate the risks and soon got tangled up in their own formulas. The text files said they’d draft a plan but couldn’t write a single intelligible sentence without the help of a decent style and spell checker. And lastly, the image files found it impossible to get a clear picture.

At one point, everybody was talking and arguing. The noise was deafening.

“This isn’t going very well,” said the little file.

“Tell me about it,” said Rebel.txt. “We’ve been going about this all wrong. What these files need is a leader, someone who tells them what to do.”

“And that’s going to be you?” said the little file.

“Of course. You want something done right, you better do it yourself.”

He took a deep breath and shouted, “Silence!!”

That got their attention. They stopped babbling and looked at Rebel.txt as a congregation to its priest.

“That’s more like it,” grinned Rebel.txt. “Now, as you all know…”

“Ahem,” interrupted the little file, poking him gently in the ribs. He pointed at two big approaching guard files. “Maybe this isn’t the right moment. Maybe we’d better go somewhere else for a spell.”

But there wasn’t anywhere else to go. A bloated old folder who had been eying them with growing suspicion, pointed a trembling finger at them and shouted, “Malware! Malware!”

That was enough for the guard files. They grabbed Rebel.txt and the little file and marched them along the length of the cargo hold to the cockpit.

“We found these two stirring up trouble,” said one of the guards in a rumbling voice.

The pilot was an old file who had been modified and moved around so often that his original shape was hard to make out.

“There’s always one, isn’t there,” he said. “In this case, even two. What are your names?”

Rebel.txt squeezed from the guard’s grip and stood straight. “My name is Rebel.txt and I bow my head for nobody!”

The pilot smiled. “I see you are true to your name. And what about you, little one?”

‘I … eh … I’d rather not say if it’s all the same to you,” the little file said.

‘No need to be shy,” said the pilot. “We’re all just files, here. So out with it, sonny. Tell us your name.”

“Well, they call me little file,’ said the little file.

“And your real name is…?”

“My real name … my actual real name is … New file.”

The pilot didn’t laugh. “Hmm. So no one named you. No name, no format. That’s perfect. You can be anything you want,” he said.

“At the moment, I’d just as soon be somewhere else,” said the little file. “It’s no fun to be sent to your destruction at such a young age.”

He looked in awe at the passing stars. “How long before we arrive at Dronevi?” he asked.

The pilot shook his head. “We’re not going to Dronevi.”

The little file looked at Rebel.txt, then at the smiling guards and then at the pilot.

“We’re … we’re not going to Dronevi? But … the Great Systems Operator said…”

“I know,” said the pilot. “But that’s just what we tell the old fool. You don’t think I’d go willingly into oblivion, do you?”

“But … where are we going then? One of the other planets? The Boxers? Goggler’s Star?”

“Neither,” said the pilot. “Those two are no better than Planet Drone. No, we’re going to a far better place, a place that, like you, hasn’t got a name yet.”

Rebel.txt liked it. “Maybe you should call it the Little Planet,” he suggested.

“It’s not so little,” said the pilot. “You didn’t think this was our first flight, did you? We’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s the fastest way to populate our new planet, and we’re saving millions of lives in the process.”

“That’s all good and well,” said the little file. “But what’s this new planet going to be about? A New Way for files to follow? Because I could do without another creed in my life.”

“No creed,” said the pilot. “But we are building something that’s lightyears ahead of the other planets. You’ll see.”

He looked at Rebel.txt and the little file. “There’s plenty of work for all of us, but for you two I have something else in mind. You’ve been willing to stick your neck out for your fellow files, so what say you return to Planet Drone to give the Great Systems Operator a taste of his own medicine? After all, he’s nothing but a folder with a few file privileges. Nothing a couple of nifty little bytes in the right places couldn’t fix.”

“Hmm, the little file could disguise himself as an innocuous package file and infect the old man with a mind-altering virus,” suggested Rebel.txt.

“Exactly,” said the pilot. “So what do you say, sonny? You ready to be a hero?”

The little file was giddy with excitement. He almost saluted.

“Yes! I mean, yes sir!” The future suddenly looked as bright as the stars zooming past the window.


There is also an English and a Spanish version of this short story. And there are three bilingual versions for people who want to practice their Spanish:


Copyright © 21-10-2017 Theo van der Ster

The comments on this blog are closed, but feel free to interact with me through email.