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klahol's picture

Call Me Tim

By klahol in Teleport Us

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Description

A message to an old man almost destroys the world he shares with his grandson. A short, dark tale about the world we live in and the reality we choose. 

Comments

Paper_Junkie's picture
Paper_Junkie from MN is reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again February 7, 2013 - 5:02pm

I liked this idea, and the world(s) you built up.  The description of the "hospital" was great.  A few times I was confused as to the point of view, though.  Overall, good job.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 8, 2013 - 6:22am

Thanks for the feedback! I'll take a look at the point of view. Maybe I should try to flesh out the Tim character, seems he is a bit anonymous. 

toddbrabander's picture
toddbrabander from Portland, OR is reading and re-reading my own stories February 7, 2013 - 11:32pm

Bleak!

Good theme. Nice genre mixing. I was like "This isn't sci-fi" for the first bit. I liked that the story had an editorial message. Most good sci-fi does. The stream of conciousness POV is hard to follow sometimes (that's just my opinion, I tend to like much more structured lit), but it is poetic and definately creates a mood. Nice work.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 8, 2013 - 6:28am

Thanks - taking a chance opening with the fantasy setting, in case i lose some people aching for dystopian sci-fi. For that reason, i tried to downplay it (Not 'I rode my green-glowing griffin into the magical aeire of the skydwarves' but rather try to paint a fantasy world where you would actually spend your life, or what's left of it. 

Need to take a look at the POV in sequence, see that it comes across as clear as possible. 

 

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. February 8, 2013 - 10:16pm

Very smoothly written!  You did a good job describing the two worlds, the one inside and the one outside.  The one thing I noticed was an capitalizing and LED on page four: "... sickly-green low-energy led strips ..."

Good Job!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 10, 2013 - 4:50am

Thanks for the feedback! Glad you like it. Going to fix the LEDs in the next revision, coming today.  

Lisa Farr's picture
Lisa Farr from Northern California is reading Dan Silva February 10, 2013 - 1:44am

Great vehicle for exploring rough moral territory many of us will face. Wasn't the story I was expecting it to be and was pleasantly suprised.

I was a bit confused at the relationship between Tim and Katherine.

Housekeeping: Page 1, you use 'burning' twice in a sentence, would possibly have more punch if you changed one to 'smoldering' or some other synonym. Page 5, The horrible plastic shoes are called 'Crocs', not 'Crocks'.

Nicely done!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 10, 2013 - 5:57am

That the story surprised you is about the best feedback I've gotten yet. That was exactly what I was hoping for. I feel i took a chance opening with the fantasy setting before diving into deep dystopia.

Timmy is Katherines son, and the old man is her father. The possibility to spend time with his grandson is the most important part of the old man's life.  The meaning of his existence. But as Voltaire said, 'If God did not exist, it would have been neccesary to invent him.'

Will do a new revision today, and be sure to eradicate double-burning and name the putrid footwear correctly. Thank you so much!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 10, 2013 - 5:56am

Thanks for all the feedback! New revision coming today. 

MonicaOstlingHolmlund's picture
MonicaOstlingHo... February 16, 2013 - 2:32pm

Absolutely love it! Might be even more heartbreaking with the old man´s POV in the beginning. Interestening theme and great settings. Good work!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 16, 2013 - 5:14pm

So glad you liked it! I'm thinking of doing a full rewrite of the first part. I really need to up the feeling in the relationship between Tim and the old man. 

Vernillat's picture
Vernillat from Reykjavik. is reading Stephen Baxter. February 16, 2013 - 4:50pm

Good job there, excellent story.
As someone stated above the description of the “Retirement Home” was particularly chilling, and I had no problems whatsoever following the storyline.
As far as the downside of living in a cybernetic dream-world is concerned this is one of the better I’ve read. 

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 16, 2013 - 8:20pm

Very cool concept. And I loved the voice established at the beginning, drew me in immediately, loved the fantasy feeling, and the contrast to the bleaky sci-fi parts. Nice. 

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading Illusion, Daemon, and Heart-Shaped Box February 17, 2013 - 2:52pm

Nicely done. This is a really great and satisfying story. I'll echo all the positive comments above and just leave you with my suggestions for improvement:

The following paragraph is confusing since it uses "your." Since we had just shifted viewpoints, the immediate assumption is we're shifting yet again--and to 2nd person. I'd recommend rewriting this to make sure it's clear you're talking about Kathy.

"Everything about this place seems to whisper about neglect,abandonment and a cold, hard lump of conscience in the pit of your stomach. The parking lot itself is a mute testament to failure. Failure of society. Failure to be a good child. Your failure."

You're correct that the strong relationship between the old man/grandson needs punched up a little. I'll give you props for the courage to not gowith a simple husband/wife tale here, but your readers will understand the level of grief when the relationship is closer (husband/wife, parent/spouse). The old man is making an extreme decision, so the grief needs to be extreme.

I get the reference in your title, and unfortunately given the subject matter you're dealing with, i think it undermines the impact. I'm sure there's a more appropriate title out there--one that doesn't imply the level of humor this one does. Now, I'm sure there are people who won't get the reference, but even then it's probably a little weak. Something more along the lines of "Call Me Tim" might work better. Just my opinion. Feel free to ignore. :)

Great stuff. So glad I read it!

 

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 17, 2013 - 5:45pm

Thank you so much for the feedback. 

Followed your feedback on the paragraph with Kathy and also changed the title. You are absolutely right, a monte python reference just didnt do it in this context. 

Also, built a bit on the character interaction between Tim and the old man in the third act of the story. Hopefully giving them both a bit more soul and substance. 

On the topic of title, I toyed with calling it Autumnlands or World of Autumn (As in autumn years)

Call Me Tim is really good, though, as it has double meaning. 

 

Thanks again! 

 

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading Bred of Heaven February 18, 2013 - 1:18pm

Ooh, this is good.  Reminds me a little of the Otherland books by Tad Williams, in a good way.  Often the stories I’ve read in this competition have read like vignettes of a wider universe, but I love how self-contained this one is.  I wasn’t too sure about Tim though – is he alive like his grandfather?  The last paragraph hints that he is, but I thought he might be your non-human character.  Also, how does he know what the client (I presume Katherine?) has or hasn’t told Grandad?  Minor points though as this really is one of the better ones I’ve read.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 18, 2013 - 3:09pm

I've been thinking about trying to read those again. I've tried, and failed, because they were just too dark. But this was like 20 years ago. I might have matured. 

[SPOILER] Tim is a bot. He is a construct created by the game to keep the old man invested in the game. The real grandson quit playing long, long ago. 

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading Bred of Heaven February 18, 2013 - 3:32pm

Excellent - thought that might be the case, nicely twisted ending in that case!

IrishMak's picture
IrishMak from NH February 18, 2013 - 3:01pm

Very nice story. I liked the start that looked like fantasy, but moved nicely into SF. I enjoyed it.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 18, 2013 - 3:06pm

Thanks so much! Been a bit worried people would discard it as fantasy and stop reading. 

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden February 18, 2013 - 3:33pm

I'm going to be lazy here, but you have my thoughts from the workshop. Lovely story.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 18, 2013 - 3:51pm

Tack ska du ha! 

La Emme Nikita's picture
Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Minneapolis is reading The Adjacent February 18, 2013 - 3:59pm

Hi, Klas!

So happy to see you submitted here, and it was a fantastic read, as I've come to expect. Love how you do a bit of a mash up here, and the theme of escapism is a favourite of mine. Only bit I found lacking was the sense of society here: I felt it could honestly be either dys- or utopian, since you don't show us the outside world. I'll give you some constructive feedback via the workshop, but here it's getting my thumb of approval (as awkward as that looks now that I've written it).

Cheers!

-Emma

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 18, 2013 - 4:13pm

Thanks, Emma! Looking forward to reading your story in a big way. 

I kind of felt, I guess, that a world where you spend your autumn years locked into World of Warcraft 24/7 as surly estonian workers change your stoma bag is pretty dystopian. Sadly, I also think it's kind of credible. Even more sadly, I think I'd personally prefer it to the alternative.  

I would dearly love your feedback on the workshop, am going to tweak this story for all its worth until lockdown. 

Thank you so much! 

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 18, 2013 - 4:51pm

Hello, good sir. I applaud you for experimenting with your opening delivery, etc., but personally, I found it discombobulating. Maybe you could've simply opened with Tim 'delivering his message' then going into how brave and steadfast the king had been up until that moment (ie, follow a more standard narrative)...? Just a thought. Maybe it's just a case of me not 'getting it' personally. Regardless, best of luck!

Cheers,

Shane Berryhill

Read Shane's Teleport Us entry, BURN, here:

http://litreactor.com/events/teleport-us/burn 

 

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 19, 2013 - 11:34am

Dis·com·bob·u·late. To throw into a state of confusion. My sincere thanks for arming me with this delightful noun! Yeah, the narrative is a bit on the ....experimental side in the beginning. Trying to balance a lot of different aspects of the story at once. Introducing the old man and Tim, while keeping the user guessing as to why this is a fantasy setting when the reader is expecting a dystopian science fiction yarn. Get them discombobulated just enough, while still keeping them in the narrative long enough for a nice jolt when they're dystopic'd. 

Thanks for reading! 

 

 

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 18, 2013 - 5:53pm

I loved this. It really did surprise me and was not what I was expecting. I LOVE the ending and the only thing (and I see this in a few other comments) is the switching POV tends to throw me out of the story just a little bit. Not enough to ruin it for me but just enough that I had to go back and re-read a couple parts so I knew who was talking. Overall though, great story. Nice job!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 19, 2013 - 11:37am

THanks so much! 

I wish there was a way to unread your own story, to see it with fresh eyes. Having read, and reread, and rereread it it's getting hard to see where your story has problems. 

 

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 19, 2013 - 3:40pm

I completely understand that feeling. After awhile you just know the story so well you cannot see it with fresh eyes and in a contest format like this you cant just put it aside for a long while to give it space. I wish you lots of luck and it really is a great story!

Nathalie's picture
Nathalie from France February 19, 2013 - 5:55pm

Nice ride! I was a bit disorientated at first with the fantasy opening, but I knew something else was coming after and when it did it was great. I do have one "regret", I would have liked to have closure with Katherine's story. I felt I spent some time with her and her guilt, in the bleak real world, I could have watched her looking at her [**SPOILER ALERT**] dad getting his legs cut and discovering how she felt about that. (maybe it's a bit intense, but that's the idea :D) Really enjoyed the world and its dark consequences (would love to discover more about that too!)

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 24, 2013 - 6:24pm

Glad you liked the ride! 

I kind of wish i could expand on it without diluting it. But so far, I havent been able to. I wanted the parts of the story to be just so, which is why I didnt dwell on the aftermath of Kathys fathers desicion. But I also had wanted to have more of a punch in the reveal. 

Harlem Snape's picture
Harlem Snape February 20, 2013 - 2:22pm

My only complaint is the use of Courier for the font, it is not the easiest to read, maybe try Times New Roman, or Cambria.  Other than that it was pretty good.  Thumbs up from me!

 

Harlem Snape's picture
Harlem Snape February 20, 2013 - 2:23pm

oops. just realized I gave you a thumbs down!  Changing that now!  sorry!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 20, 2013 - 2:39pm

Thanks for turning the thumb! 

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 20, 2013 - 2:41pm

Be thankful I didn't set the text in Comic Sans. The formatting is meant to follow the submission guidelines I've found on diverse forums &c., et cetera. 

However, you're right. Think I'll set the next edit in a serif font. Thanks!

Harlem Snape's picture
Harlem Snape February 20, 2013 - 5:12pm

Comic Sans...If I see it, I will autothumbs down :)

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 20, 2013 - 6:31pm

As well you should. Comic Sans is not to be trifled with. :-)

C Patrick Neagle's picture
C Patrick Neagle from Hood River, Oregon is reading words, words, words February 22, 2013 - 2:25pm

The narrative really kicked in for me when Katherine is walking down the corridor. For some reason, the early part threw me off--I quickly picked up on the VR part of it (due, I suspect, to knowing that it had to be utopian/dystopian), but the change of perspective from the present tense now to a present tense just-a-bit-ago in the Tim/King interaction made me have to re-read for clarity. What I'm getting at here is that I would dearly love this story to start with Katherine walking down that corridor, maybe then interspersing some bits from those first three pages, maybe not. Once we hit that spot, the narrative rolled along very smoothly for me and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I also enjoyed the twist ending. It was unexpected and added another level to the question of "What is reality?" and the question (as posed by Arnold's Total Recall and, to a lesser extent, the Matrix): "If you're living in a virtual world and it's scads and scads better than the 'real' world, why the heck would you want to return to the real world?" That said, the apparent joy the 'king' took in the VR world belies the tragedy that the story might have conveyed had he been in the VR world more reluctantly. But that may just be me mis-reading some cues.

Heh, I'm also glad that I liked this one, because you gave me good comments on mine.

PS (post reading the comments above): I believe I've read the most current version. That said, the POV threw me, too. If you keep the first three pages, I'd definitely go to past tense for everything the flashback bit leading up to Tim delivering the message. I like the double meaning of the new title. Oh, and I was going to make an Otherworld reference, too. Heh. GREAT books. For a long time, I answered the question of "Favorite Author?" with "Tad Williams." He's still in the Top Five.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 24, 2013 - 6:28pm

Damn, I'm gonna have to get me some Tad Williams books.

Thanks so much for the feedback. Interesting idea to have the old man enjoy the VR world less after having his legs cut. Maybe that could add more spice to that concoction. As it stands now, I'm kind of feeling it is a bit too bland. 

Thanks again! 

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 22, 2013 - 7:26pm

The opening line works really well!  It's a subtle and effective preparation for the shift away from the fantasy setting.  For me, it didn't seem at all likely that we were staying in a medieval world if the author is worth their salt.  Well done!  I wasn't sure, especially with the original title, that this was going to be a serious piece with that opening line, but in its current version, there wasn't much of a conflict.

The descriptions of the ward as Kathy walks through were intense and emotional. I liked that, especially.  The confrontation with the Polish/Russian/? woman was well done, although her anger [to me!] felt unexpected, maybe unwarranted.  It seemed too harsh for the circumstances, but of course these things happen in the real world, too.  I was just expecting the meaning to come through somewhere in this story.

You change the tense and POV and the narrator a few times in a very short space! This was very brave, and you mostly pull it off.  Bravo.  The only place it really hitched for me was the last bit.  It feels at first like you've gone back to the first narrator [which I believe, in fact, you do].  But [******SPOILER*******] when the final reveal comes, and we learn that the person the grandfather thinks of as Tim *isn't* Tim, it feels like a third person has stepped from behind the curtain.  I had to read it a few times before I could conclude that probably this was the same Tim as in the first scene ... although I'm still not completely sure of that. :)  It's a lot of fancy footwork to manage in this little piece, but you do a surprisingly good job not losing me more often along the way.

There are a few apostrophes missing and some misspellings, but they were minor bumps along the way.  Overall, it's a clever idea told with compassion.  The ending leaves thorny questions about the decisions that the old man made, and that his daughter made.  It's always a good story that leaves you still working things over in your mind when you're done.

Good job, and thanks for posting this. 

 

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 24, 2013 - 6:36pm

Thank you for reading, and thanks for the excellent feedback. I'm really glad the piece affected you somehow. I have been juggling the POV:s and could, according to the feedback, be clearer. Going to look through the story again to see what I can do. 

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading I am a Cat February 23, 2013 - 5:20pm

For some reason I thought this might have some elements of comedy in it when I started, I think that the title just reminded me of that old Monty Python line ("Some call me . . . Tim?") But wow was I wrong! Quite a little heart-puncher you have here!
Was a little thrown at the fantasy-esque opening and then the sudden transition to the Real world. Ultimately , however, I think it worked very well and is necessary; just made the dark ending that much more shaded as you have already have a sight on this other "life."
Great job!
- LVK

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 24, 2013 - 6:33pm

Thanks! 

The first title of the story was a really bad idea. I had none, and the only one that came to me was the Holy Grail reference, which I kind of thought might give me a few reads just on general principle. But that was a bad idea and I am gglad I changed the title, based on a suggestion in these very comments. 

I am gratified my feeble punch was even in the neighborhood of your heart. I had wanted it more to be like a sledgehammer blow. I'll see what I can do about that in a final revision. 

 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the Beautiful Sinners by Stephen Graham Jones February 25, 2013 - 12:03pm

Great story ~ I enjoyed the trickery of a rich medieval beginning going straight to a crappy rundown carpark, and particularly the vivid detailing of the care-home. Virtual reality instead of old-people homes, you know that doesn't sound too unlikely ~ better get in and trademark your idea :P

Of course I loved the ending, the oh-beautiful-sorrow of realization, but then I always love a good suckerpunch to the heart, it makes everything more poignant. 

Teeny-tiny nit-pick ~ in the third person narrative of the second portion of the story you occasionally switch from using Katherine to Kathy, I'm guessing you do this to cut the repetition of Katherine down in either longer sentences or shorter sentences that come closer together. This doesn't work for me ( I think maybe it would if this was in first person narrative, but not in third) however this is just my opinion and may not hold any weight at all :)

With regard to Tim, I feel the bond between him and his grandfather through the sacrifices and choices that the old man makes. So that is not an issue for me. Out of pure curiosity I would like to know more about Tim ~ is he immersed permanently and if so why (addiction or disability or terminal illness) and if he is not immersed permanently then what became of him?

Good job.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 25, 2013 - 12:39pm

Thanks a lot for reading and commenting! 

Yeah, I'm switching around Kathy, Kat, Timmy, Tim, Timothy, and have been afraid I'm not doing it in a consistent and logical manner. 

I'm kind of thinking Katherine thinks of herself as Katherine, while her dad calls her Kathy. 

As for Tim, I kind of envisioned him as playing the game with his grandfather when he was younger. But as he grew up, and lost interest, the game engine simply replaced him with a facsimile built on his recorded personality, to trick the old man to keep playing the game, now alone. Kathy knows this, of course. She almost tells the old man when he sacrifices his legs to keep playing with Timmy, thinking the kid still needs him. I toyed with having Timmy be dead, but it just seemed like too much. It's even more tragic, I hope, that he simply lost interest. 

C Patrick Neagle's picture
C Patrick Neagle from Hood River, Oregon is reading words, words, words February 26, 2013 - 1:02am

Interesting. My interpretation on finishing the read was that Timmy had indeed died and the computer had replaced him with a simulation. But I like the lost interest part better. You're right. Far more tragic.

courtshipofthemonsters's picture
courtshipofthem... from Seattle, Washington is reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen February 26, 2013 - 6:28pm

Whoa. I loved this! Such a surprising twist. Your voice is great and this was so readable, compared to some of the submissions I've read. I was completely thrown into the world you created and couldn't wait to see how it ended. I guess that's the best compliment I can give- I didn't want to stop reading! 

That being said, I was a little confused about the relationships, as well. Where is Tim now? I know he lost interest but it almost seems as if he's estranged from his grandfather, especially since his mother was the only one to visit. I would like to know more about Tim, since he's such an important character to the grandfather. Katherine would be interesting to develop more as well, since we just get the little snippet about her right before she visits her father.

I loved (so much so that I really wanted to all-caps it) the relationship between the alien/programmed Tim and the grandfather, especially in how they both fed off each other. A great metaphor for MMORPGs and all the addictive fantasy worlds out there.

Just, wow. This was a great read.

Tim Needles's picture
Tim Needles from Port Jefferson, New York is reading Stories edited by Neil Gaiman March 1, 2013 - 4:04pm

Really enjoyed the story, clever approach!  I loved how you maintain the balance between characters and plot, it emotes and moves at a great pace- well done! 

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon March 1, 2013 - 4:52pm

Thanks so much! Glad you liked it. Pace, characters, plot - i kind of tried to build a house of cards here, sometimes at the expense of passionately felt characters. I would have liked to imbue a more visceral impact of the feelings involved. But in the end I guess I have to contend with a nice enough build. 

Tim Needles's picture
Tim Needles from Port Jefferson, New York is reading Stories edited by Neil Gaiman March 1, 2013 - 4:08pm

I read through you comments, it seem like taking a lit reactor workshop is pretty helpful!