Dreams for Sale

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Alex has been working on his dream project that is about to become the next big idea in the TECH STARTUP circuit. Failing a few times, he finds the perfect product. Success comes too fast or that's what he thought when he sells his first product, bringing all sorts of friendly enemies in your circle of trust, only to be shown the real side of the Business and Relationships. What happens when your dreams become reality too quickly and you might still be snoozing. Let's find out.

Submitted: May 09, 2017

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Submitted: May 09, 2017

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1

 

My name is Alex. For a very long time, well, since I was little, I’ve loved technology. Even more so, growing up here in a small city in the wondrous land of the USA, I loved business. My friends and I each had computers, one a Dell Dimension from the golden years of home PCs and and a small, clunky laptop I used to scour the web with. Around 2011 I started noticing this trend toward startup companies. I stayed inside a lot doing homework and reading, along with some basic programming, so I figured I would do something with my environment. I’m not horribly fat; I’m six foot even and about 200lbs. Average with a hint of extra love, as my friend’s sister had said.

There were all these places to fund your startup. For a couple years, maybe less, Kickstarter was the place to grow your product. You can’t just have a startup company, you need a product, something to offer as well, otherwise, you’re not going anywhere. I studied more and more, school approaching its end quickly. I kept learning, listening to other CEOs, researching and reading in-depth interviews. Aside from the normal teenage boy things most kids my age did, digital production and distribution were all I cared about. I loved the concept of creating something, selling it and expanding a company.

So I waited, patiently, to turn 18 and finish high school. I stayed out of trouble for the most part. I smoked decent marijuana sometimes, but nothing in the high levels like my buddies did. I had to keep a clear head if I wanted this to work. My accomplishments were only going to be met if I did things right. My parents weren’t rich, nowhere near. I didn’t want to be like that when I got older. I wanted to make something of myself and I wanted to do it completely independent of the system.

I wanted to be an entrepreneur. That’s what they were called, I had learned. It wasn’t easy and sometimes really unpleasant, but it was me, it was my calling.

No other profession or any kind of lifestyle would come close to satiating my desires. This what I had to be and I was going to do it whether it meant staying up for days on end finishing a product or leaving my social life. Whatever the price, I was going to make a product and company that would rise to the top. Once I was done with school, with my life as I knew it then and there, I went on to do just that. I went to college, nothing fancy, just something to put the experience on my resume.

Eventually, a job came, something I was using as a means to an end. The idea was to fund a workstation I was going to use to set up my product and company. An apartment came next after moving out of my parent’s house, eventually my own car because after walking all over the damn city, I needed a better mode of transportation. I had one roommate at the time, one of my friends. Right now I’m sitting in the living room with my laptop and a bunch of things, mostly just notes on what I want to do.

Outside it’s not too bad, just a tiny bit hot. Nothing I can’t handle.

For this project, my first startup, I’m working on some code for software that aggregates and compares trending data on popular items, then rates them specific to the person. It’s like how Google does its thing, but with products instead. Moore, my friend, comes out from his room and stands there, staring at me. I glance over, shrugging. “Yeah man?” I say.

“Well, it just seems you’re working on this really hard.”

“That’s because I am.”

He scratches his chin, then head, and sighs. “Just worried. You don’t seem to sleep very much.”

I nod. “Yeah. That’s how it works, though. At least for me.”

“What are you working on again?”

“Core Tech,” I say, “the new product that will take marketing and product sales to a new level.”

He falls back into the couch, sitting and stretching. “Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot about that.”

“I don’t talk about it much.”

“Why not?” he asks.

I test some Javascript I have set up, which seems to be working. “Been so busy, man.”

“Yeah,” he says, “fair. I get it.”

“We can test it out later if you want. It’s meant for people who sell stuff or companies. Big companies, etcetera.”

“How would you do that though, with me I mean?” he yawns.

“Well, I just need to see once it’s up if it personalizes the best results for the things you like. Just go to the site and login and it will do the rest. Afterward, you should be able to go to any store and it will personalize the data so there’s less junk to go through. On the opposite, the company side, it should tell me what you’re most likely to buy based on your personal settings.”

“So it’s customized shopping for me, which means the guys who use it, the companies, will have a better insight on what I will buy?”

I nod. “That’s pretty much how it works, yeah.”

“Huh,” he says, “yeah we can test it. Try it.”

“Sounds good,” I say.

Moore does some design for a couple places. I’m guessing it will probably aggregate whatever he uses, like software or tablets, whatever, into some sort of feed. If this works right, the test brand and corporation I have set up should show me what he’s most likely to buy as well as the ratings on these items. Forecasts, charts, and all the graphs you could think of will display here for me and on his end, he’ll see only the stuff he cares about. This to me seems like it’d sell well and could become something great.

I just need to finish programming it and pitch it to someone, that or crowdfund it.

There are places to do that too, plenty of them. I just need to find the time to follow through with it.

2

 

The first test goes well. Moore is on his phone, which has been connected to my alpha software. He seems to be enjoying the results of his searches and I can keep an eye on what he’s looking at based on data. This is great; the end result is good and I think my software is ready to move into beta. This time I’ll need some more participants, but that’s all that matters. For celebration, I take the night off, crack open a cold one and watch some movies with Moore. A friend comes over, mostly his, and we’re off to enjoying the horror films of an era gone by. The 80s, I think, were probably the best time for horror.

“It was crazy,” he tells Tricia, “when I was going through things, I just had the products I wanted or was interested in, that was it.”

“That’s all it does?” she sips on another beer.

I shake my head, drinking. “No, no, it’s more for brands and companies. See, when he’s doing that, everything gets handled by the software and given to the real user in a bunch of data, that way you know just exactly what they’re interested in, but it accounts for reviews and trending items and things not bought yet.”

She nods. “So it’s pretty much setting things in a way where the odds are the best for your product to be bought.”

“Right,” I say, “and the test companies I’ve tried all have above a certain success rate, which just proves my software does the trick, honestly,” I tilt my drink at her, then grin.

Moore looks at me, curious. “I didn’t know that. What’s the rate?”

“Around 80%,” I empty my drink and set it on the coffee table.

“Wow. That’s… pretty big actually,” Tricia says, “interesting. Why not like, more than 80% though?”

“Humans are well, people. You can’t nail it all the time,” I say.

Moore pats me on the back. “Still a damn good number.”

“What if someone does this too, but gets something higher?” Tricia asks.

“What do you mean?” I stare at her.

“Say they get an 83% rate of success,” she guzzles more of her cold beverage.

I shrug. “Well, they won’t have the way and programs to access data like Core Tech does. That’s something unique and it’s customizable.”

“Well, sounds like a good software setup.”

I nod. “Yeah, now I just need to find investors to get it going and distribute it. I need some cash to finish things off, anyway. Mainly making it past it’s current state and into a final form.”

“Final release,” Moore adds, “sometimes the stuff I do, the design, has to get reworked because the product was a prototype thing or, yeah, whatever,” he lights a cigarette.

“Exactly,” I stare across at my laptop, smiling, the thing in sleep or hibernation mode, waiting to be opened again, waiting to be used for development.

“What kind of funding do you need to get it done?” Tricia takes off her hoodie, lighting her own smoke after Moore.

“Not much. About $20,000 or around there.”

“Not much?” Moore laughs.

I nod. “For a new company that’s not much. I would get a bank loan but well, I didn’t handle my credit card well last year.”

“Credit cards, man,” Moore says, “stay away from those.”

“Just max out the credit card, withdraw the money you need from it,” Tricia laughs.

“I’m okay, I don’t want to be on the streets,” I smirk, leaning back.

She giggles. “Fair point.”

The night goes on like that for a while and soon she’s heading home, Moore’s going to bed and I’m right back at my laptop, working on more code. I want this thing to be amazing. It will be the new pinnacle of software for big companies and other stores, like online retail and stuff. I can see warehouses making good use of this, too. I pour myself a cup of coffee, keep the lamp on and get back to work. Tomorrow I’ll have most of this done and I’ll start sending it off to different places, hoping for the best. I already have a couple investors in mind. There’s this one that sort of specializes in my kind of product, so I’ll talk to them first. If that fails, I have a few others.

And if that fails, I can always show it off and just finish the work myself next year. If I want it out now, I’ll need investors. If not, I can work on it myself and have it in good shape.

Javascript isn’t hard and neither is PHP. It’s stuff you learn early on in programming and I’m glad I did. Just a few more lines of code and I can go take a nap. My notes are in the wastebasket and I’ve set up written some new things, too. I’ll need to talk to Moore about making a logo or something. I’m not sure how much he’ll charge, but I’ll figure it out.

I figure everything out.

Core Tech will be successful and tomorrow, I’ll have people begging to get a piece of this. I even took the time to avoid using older types of libraries. I have this thing running on all operating systems. That means you can use it on an old computer or something brand new, or a server. It depends on who you are, but the performance side will benefit the most from big data servers and workstations. I can see the nodes in my head, in this mental image, just collecting every bit of customer information and these guys high up in office smirking wide, pulling down profit all because of my work.

My product.

Just one more line of code, I tell myself.

Just one more build analysis, I repeat.

Tomorrow marks the start of a new day and new life.

3

 

I’m trying to sell my software, Core Tech. I’ve spent the last few days on the phone with a bunch of different investors, companies and startup agents. Some of them were pleasant, others not so much. The first guy I got on the phone with, Ted Theodore, owns a company that keeps an eye on startups. They pretty much buy whatever the product or company is and split the income between them. Looking at in a couple ways, I can determine I’m interested in them the most. Their company name suits me, too: Contemporary Collaborations, or something like that. It sounds goofy but it’s also fitting.

“So tell me about the product you have,” Ted says.

I’m sitting at my little desk, going over the pitch. “Core Tech is a premier aggregation software designed to give stores and retailers an edge over their sales by fine tuning trends with data of returning or new customers,” I say explain carefully, “it stacks the odds in favor of them, making it much more likely to sell, essentially - Core Tech does this in many different ways, on top of different platforms. It can be put on anything: deployed on a node, on a server, on business of office computers, mobile technology and more. It has no real limits.”

“This sounds interesting. Let me talk to some of my people, Alex. I think you’ve got something good here,” he says, his voice near enthusiastic.

“Great!” I say. “I’ll wait for a reply.”

“Sure. Thank you for your interest Alex. We’ll give you a call,” and then he hangs up.

Things are looking good. Later I called a few more people, sent some emails and waited. I got more questions on what the product was or did, things like that, and answered them with as much of my fervor as I could. Moore is congratulating me, telling me I’ve done a good job and he’s excited to see where it goes. Something else about how he’s happy to know me and be my friend.

“I can’t wait to one day tell stories of you, man,” he says, “about how for a while, I thought that you’d gone crazy or something. Insomnia over here,” he laughs.

I turn, my chair creaking a little bit. “Maybe I am, who knows, but hey, at least I’ll see a return out of my insanity, right?”

“True,” he shrugs and walks off to his room.

I don’t smoke, but sometimes I do have a cigarette. This makes probably the first time in 8 or 9 months since I’ve had one. I got it from Moore. It’s a gold or “light”, so hopefully, I won’t regret it too much. But hey, victory is a victory. I light it, smoke, and lean back.

Core Tech is going to make it and so am I. People will recognize my brand and I’ll be able to start new things after that, taking it even further. I can’t wait.

I even sent a beta Core Tech to them just to see how they like it. My fingers are beyond crossed.

And then I got the call. It hadn’t worked out exactly as I’d liked. The news was not good. I don’t even know how this could have happened. The phone rings, and at first, I’m really excited because hey, this is my big shot. This is the start of whatever I’m trying to do, the thing I’m looking forward to. I pick it up, pressing the receiver against my almost hard enough that it is painful. I’m almost shaking from the anticipation. I take a breath, situate myself and stare out the window. I’m not sure what to say at first, so I end up picking the simplest thing I can say. “Hello?”

“Yes, is this Alex?” a man with a deep voice asks me.

I nod on my end. “Yes, this is Alex.”

“Good, we’re calling about your software Core Tech,” the man says.

“Wonderful! How did you like it?” I say.

“Unfortunately, Alex, we’ve decided not to buy your product,” he plainly says.

I’m shocked. Why not, I wonder, why not buy my product? It’s wonderful and will only help your company and we can split the profits! “Oh, that’s a shame. Why not?” I ask.

He sighs. “Well, someone else made similar software but it has a higher success rate and it’s cheaper. Someone beat you to it, basically.”

Someone else made something similar? I can’t believe this. “Ah, okay, well, are you sure? You’re not going to get the level of customization that Core Tech provides.”

“Possibly,” he says, “but they were offering a better price and differences are small. I’m sorry, son, but I figured it would be better to call you myself and explain things. You can find other investors though, surely.”

He doesn’t know it but they were my main hope. No one else has returned any mail or calls. “Yeah, you’re right, I can find someone else. I appreciate you looking into it and if you change your mind, I’ll be here with the software ready to go. Well, thank you for your time and good luck.”

“Yes, thanks and take care. We wish you the best of luck out there. Goodbye, Alex,” there’s a dial tone and he’s gone, silent.

Great. Now, what do I do? I’ve spent so long working on this and nothing. What else can I do instead? I turn and throw the cell onto the couch. “Fuck,” I groan.

Core Tech just went bust and now I need to figure something else out. Fantastic.

Wonderful. Brilliant. I shut my laptop and move the swivel chair, sitting back down in it. My heart is heavy, but way deep down, right in the pit of my stomach and bowels, I know I can’t just stop. I can’t give up, even if with all this dirt on my face. Forward is the only direction I should go.

4

 

I needed to new software or hardware. A product or something. I spent the next few nights at my desk, working on documents and ideas for something to get out there into the world. I couldn’t really put much together because I was so disappointed. I spent a few hours of a Thursday night just going over some things people may want. The software aggregation of products and other things had been done apparently.  I need something big, something important. I raise my head, glare at the stuff in front of me, then stare at the papers.

That’s it, that’s what I need: something to compare the success rate of companies. The startup ones in specific. I’ll take the code and just repurpose it for that reason specifically. It’s perfect. Wonderfully perfect. I lean back, the chair adjusting as Moore comes from his room. “Hey man, you holding up okay?”

I just smile. “Absolutely. Better than ever.”

He looks confused, the tilts his head. “Really? I mean, I thought you’d be more upset or something.”

“Pfft,” I do a little chuckle, giggle and nod, “well, no, I mean, yes then no. Or no.”

“What are you trying to say?” Moore sighs.

I direct my finger to the open notebook. “I think I have a new idea, a good one. Something else that will work really well and get a lot done. It’s great, wonderful and perfect.”

He stands almost as if stunned. “So… yeah?”

“Sit down,” I tell him.

He sits down. “Okay, sure, yeah.”

“I will eventually require your design. But listen, I have this wonderful idea,” I say, “and won’t require much work on either of our parts.”

“Well,” he just sits there and the crosses his arms, “what is this perfect idea or project?”

“Okay, so,” I show him the papers, “it’s similar in a way, but not. I’m going to use my old stuff, the script, and code for something new. So here’s my idea: software that gathers and predicts success rates of new things, like startups and companies.”

For a moment he stays quiet, then raises his finger. “That’s actually pretty smart.”

“And it would not be critically hard to do, either,” I say.

“Maybe… critically hard?”

“Yeah.”

He shrugs. “Just new to hearing it said that way. Whatever. Okay, well, would you be able to finish it sometime soon-ish?”

“Yeah, in no time, and logos can be designed by you,” I walk to the fridge for a bottle of clear, cold water, then back to my chair.

“Well, this… could be big. Interesting. I mean this could empower tons of new businesses. I like this.”

“That’s why I am inviting you into it, man,” I drink, water down my throat and into my belly, “because I think that it will blow up. It will be huge, really. Think about it.”

He grins wide. “Yeah, yeah man,” Moore leaves the couch, “send me stuff. I’m using my laptop too, so send me names and other cool ideas. I’ll put together a logo.”

“Good. Sending,” I go back to my computer workspace and do just that in the flash of a few seconds: send the files. “Sent!”

He’s still in his room and he shouts back to me. “Got it! I’ll work on something, then check your email inbox, okay?”

“Done!” I reply in a shout as well.

And that’s how PrePress RC started.

Which didn’t do all that well either, start to finish. That’s when it went wrong. I put a lot of effort forward, too, changing little things in the code and script. But like all things, stuff comes to an end. I proposed it after we fixed everything. Designs for logos were done, the program had been renamed, different protocols and websites were set up for it, everything. The whole thing was good to go, except something tiny I had missed. I didn’t research this well enough either. Eventually, after getting turned away and down so many times, I realized the problem. It was simple, too: someone else had already done this.

That’s twice now things have failed. Even worse, the thing I made was pretty much crap compared to the other stuff available on the market. A waste. I can’t describe how close I am to giving up. What’s next? But it’s always something. Moore isn’t happy about things and decides to pull me aside one night, telling me the news I wasn’t looking forward to hearing.

I’m sitting in my bedroom, reading over a few lines of this book in my hand, when he comes in and tells me the thing that ruined my day. “Hey man,” he sighs, “I have some bad news. You’re not… well, you’re not going to be happy about it, Alex.”

Great. What other things can go wrong? “Yeah?”

He pauses, then hangs his face down low, sighing again. “Man… I’m… moving. I’m going.”

“What? Where? Why? When?!”

He slides back against the wall, leaning, eyes away from making contact with me. “The thing is, it’s all failed. All of it, man.”

“What do you mean,” I set my book down, standing up from my inexpensive bed, “what are you saying? I don’t understand.”

“Work is something that I have, right? Well, things are different. We’re relocating, for lack of a better word, man. I can’t be here anymore.”

“But… the lease! Our stuff!” I’m nearly shouting.

He nods, his hands messing with something. Probably a plastic lighter of some kind. “I know. The lease, well, I’ll just pay for that away from a distance. We need to move on… we won’t do anything, accomplish anything or get anywhere if we keep this up like this. I’m sorry man,” he says, “but this just needs to take place. It has to happen. I’m sorry.”

And then it’s over. Our friendship, I mean. It’s done. He’s gone less than two whole weeks later and I’m staring at my desk wonder how the fucking rent is going to be paid. The dreams I had seemed to be shredding into pieces right before my own eyes. There’s a night of drinking, nothing too harsh, but I get drunk. The alcohol helped me sleep and loosen up. I managed the alcoholic way of life about three days before I just had to stop. My body wasn’t happy with me.

I wasn’t happy with me.

No one was really happy with me.

5

 

I’m toying with the USB drive in my hand. Money is low, morale is lower and there’s not much I can do about it. My notes are gone, in the trash. I threw those away. The idea for the software or whatever isn’t getting me anywhere. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. Even worse, there’s this USB drive I have which is mixed up with my stuff and someone else’s. They mistook it for their own at some point. Honestly, my guess is that it’s Moore’s stuff, but I don’t have the heart to make files go away. Deleting another person’s stuff is something I just don’t do and I won’t do, ever.

If there were a way to make these things more personal and secure, I’d do it. Like a lock or something. Floppy drives used to have these locks, that way no one could get into your stuff. They weren’t exactly perfect, though. If you flipped the little tab it would put it back into write mode, making the tab almost pointless. I could only imagine that today, there should be something better with the tech we have. Biometric fingerprints would work well. That’s about as personalized as you can be if we’re being honest.

Next to an eye scanner or something. A fingerprint reader is probably cheaper, though.

I sigh, glaring at the USB drive and its 16-gigabyte magnificence, its plastic glory.

“That’s a good idea,” I mutter to myself.

Wait, that’s it! That’s what is even better than the ideas I’ve come up with before! And it’s simple, too! So simple it’s dumb… it’s stupid! I can feel the heat from the imaginary light above my head as if I’ve had my eureka moment. I open my laptop and go to a place to buy components like the fingerprint reader, the little biometric ones. They’re not so horribly expensive I can’t afford them, but they’re not cheap enough to mass produce. That’s okay, though. I only need one to prove my idea.

My credit card is out and I’m ordering a few of them. The page does the rest and it’s on my way, shipping to me in my crappy apartment. Two-day shipping is pricey but I really need this fast. It’s going to pay off and well. Big time. I’m writing software to encrypt and read the fingerprint, which isn’t easy. In the world of programs and code, sometimes things can be open source. I take advantage of that, finding a few open source bits of data and software code that will do the job I need it to do.

 

Then fingerprint readers are sitting in my mail. The next couple days are easy. I take these things up to my apartment, sort them out and start putting stuff together, the basics of them. I had some bumps in the road at first, hiccups. All hiccups go away eventually, well, unless you’ve got a disease where hiccups are just permanent. That would be something to worry about if it were me with these hiccups forever. I almost thought that things would be like that. I’d be metaphorically belching my way through this whole dream of mine and things would just never smooth over. Well, in the sense that I can’t get my stuff orderly.

I tend to be wrong, though, which means that my suspicion of these hiccups meant things would go right.

On the hardware level, they did. The first one I put together works as if magic, not able to mount unless I have my forefinger just pressed on the reader. My little bit of software does its part on keeping data encrypted until I unlock it. Encryption and mounting are designed to go hand in hand. I extract it and look at the messy glue and bad soldering. The next one, I spend more time on. I make it perfect and even go to a shop to machine a case for it. It is then that I come to realize I never came up with a name.

I here anyway, I should probably put something on the exterior chassis that’s catchy and smart.

Fuck it, I’ll go on a whim here. Cryptid sounds good, I’ll stick with that.

I’m in my jeep next, on the way back home, taking a picture of my final USB Cryptid with a not-so-wonderful cellphone. I share it everywhere I can think of and write a tiny description of the thing. Discarding the phone, I think nothing of my posts.

But when I get home, I can see the likes and questions are coming nonstop.

Someone says they would buy it right now, another says they’d like five, and then someone else says they want to do a bulk order. It’s getting crazy. I had to take a second to turn my phone off and just compose myself. The response is what I was not expecting. Cryptid was on the fly. The name itself is actually getting praise, too. I can’t believe this. I just need to think, clearly, about what to do next.

And that, I tell myself, is to finish it.

I have what I consider likely to be the most popular product I’ve ever made. There’s only one thing to do now: manufacture and grow. In my apartment, I send an email to a couple different companies. Unexpectedly, they agree that putting Cryptid together and splitting profits is fine. I get to hold onto the rights, the data, and everything as long as I just give them a cut of the return and revenue. The income as someone referred to it as. Praise pours into my inbox.

I even had to buy a server just so I can keep a record of the thing.

Moore somehow finds a moment to call me, sending congratulations via an app. “This was awesome! See, I knew you could do it. The whole time, I did!”

I don’t really believe him.

Speed up time, fast forward and three weeks later I have enough money to just rent my apartment for a whole year in advance. Hundreds and more of these have been shipped out. The Cryptid is taking off and I’m not even in the digital press yet, really. Soon, but not yet.

 

 

6

 

The call I get next doesn’t end like the previous chats before. Opposite, really. I wasn’t even expecting this. It’s maybe five or six in the morning and I’m sleeping, the phone going off right next to my ear. I perk up and glance over it, groggy and lethargic. It takes me a minute to realize that this number is not one I recognize. Who is this, I wonder, maybe some sort of advertisement? I pick it up and try to situate myself as best as I can still tangled up in the cold sheets of my bed. I groan and answer it, sighing and my voice almost hoarse.

“Hello?”

A woman answers back. “Hello. Would this be Alex, owner of Cryptid USB?”

“Yeah,” I turn over, “what time is it?”

“5 am, I believe,” she replies, “sorry to wake you so early Mr. Alex.”

“It’s fine,” I slowly sit up, “but yeah, yes, this is me. What’s this related to?”

“It’s related to,” she pauses, “to Cryptid USB. We’re a company interested in the product you have. We’d like to talk to you about it and perhaps purchase it.”

“I’m not sure, hold on,” I can’t believe someone is calling me about purchasing my product, “yeah. Okay. Why are you interested?”

“It’s very good,” she says, “and we’d like to help you take it to heights not yet reached. Perhaps a price is on your mind?”

I’m really tired, but I’m also ecstatic. “Well, maybe.”

“How about a million dollars?” she says.

I wasn’t tired anymore. “A… like, we’re talking 7 figures?”

“Yes,” she says.

I shake my head, trying to collect my thoughts. “Wait, hold on, what’s your name?”

“Bell. Would you like to talk about this more?”

Of course, I would! A million dollars? A fat string of dollar signs in my name? “Uh yes, definitely. Maybe we can discuss this-”

“I can meet you and talk to you about it over some breakfast,” she adds, “if that’s okay.”

“Yes, sure, definitely. What day?” I ask.

“Today.”

“When?”

“In about an hour,” she is near a computer somewhere, the keyboard making annoying sounds.

I yawn, then stretch. “Sure, yeah. Okay, you’re local?”

“Kind of.”

“Know any good restaurants?” I ask.

She laughs. “Of course I do, no way I could function this early and not know a good place to eat at all. How about uptown, that place called Sunshine’s Skillet.”

“An hour you said?”

“Yes,” Bell quickly replies.

“See you there.”

Sunshine’s Skillet is famous around here. Their eggs and coffee combo is priced so competitively no one bothers to compete. It’s good coffee, too. I had to grab some as soon as I got in. My jeep made it with no problems, but I wasn’t really following the rules of the road. I got in and picked a booth, sitting down in it and shooting a text to Bell. A few ticks later and she’s across from me, proper and ready to strike a deal. Her hair isn’t short, but not really too long. Lipstick red, eyes blue and hair in a ponytail. She looks cold almost, but attractive all at once. It’s confusing if I had to describe it psychologically from my perspective.

If I guessed her age, it was probably 30 or so.

“Bell,” I offer my hand, “nice to meet you.”

She orders some coffee and shakes my hand. “Alex, it’s good that you came here, we’d like to discuss your product and company more.”

No bullshit, I think. “Okay, sure. So, tell me about your company again because I didn’t get a chance to hear very much.”

She nods. “We’re approximately a year old. We create security hardware for private sectors. It is doing very well. Something like Cryptid would only add to our story and to your success,” Bell says.

I nod. “Okay, yeah, cool. Alright, so you do this kind of stuff, covert and all. Well, you mentioned the price… was… that a joke?”

“No,” she laughs, “no, not one bit. Not at all, Alex. You just would need to sign some papers and supply a couple things to us, that’s all.”

“I don’t know,” I sip on my coffee, “that’s just a lot of money. And Cryptid would help you guys out?”

“Yes,” she takes a drink out of her cup, “it would.”

“So… what do you need from me?”

“Just a signature and whatever data you have. I take it you have something to store records on, yes?”

I nod. “Yeah, I have a server. Databases of stuff, some of customers, some about plans and other things for Cryptid and certain encryptions.”

“We’d need that, and of course, it’d all be our product,” she smiles, “and of course, a million dollars would be all yours.”

“I, uh, let me think,” I stare at a plate of eggs set down in front of me.

A million bucks. I don’t even know what I’ll do with that, to be honest. A vacation sounds good. Maybe that’s what I should do. I sit there kind of quiet, debating on how to respond professionally. I take a bite of eggs.

They’re good.

“Alex?” she stares.

Fuck. I think I’m going to say yes, how could I not? “Alright,” I put my fork down, “where do I sign the contract at? Here?”

She smiles. “That’s a good choice.”

“Oh, and contact information, so I can check up on it. Do you happen to have a business card?”

She hands one to me. “Of course.”

Vacation. That sounds like the right thing to do with a paycheck.

Warm. A beach, maybe. Somewhere sunny

 

 

7

 

Something I didn’t think would happen, and I should have known, was the amount of new “friends” that I presumably had. Apparently these people I had known for many years or went to school with, or something like that. Honestly, I don’t remember most of them. I would get comments and all sorts of requests and likes on social media with people claiming to know me so well and always had faith that I’d achieve success. I nearly regret posting the thing on my feed about finally making it and selling Cryptid. With a million dollars, you have friends out the ass. I told a lot of them I was busy or just didn’t respond.

I ended up turning the smartphone off completely, just because I wanted to avoid it altogether.

Besides, I’m in the islands right now. The Bahamas. I’m soaking up the sun, laying back on the beach and getting more drunk than I should be. A couple people are next to me chattering. Somehow the name Cryptid gets brought up and one of the women over there approaches me. She sits on the sand next to my chair, looking up at me. “So you’re the mastermind behind that Cryptid thing?” she asks.

I nod. “Yeah. I mean, I did it, but mastermind?”

“Well, you got a million dollars for your USB thingy, that means a lot,” she says.

I shrug. “What’s your name?”

“Lea,” she shakes my hand, “nice to meet you.”

“Thanks,” I take a drink of my expensive mixer.

“Want to go to a bar tonight? Friends and I are wanting to hang out, have some fun. I think you’d like it and I’ve never been to somewhere with a super famous person,” she laughs.

I look over at Lea, watching her golden auburn hair blow in the wind and her tan skin glimmer with sweat and ocean water. Her green eyes are cute, but she’s nothing super amazing. Just cute. “Okay,” I say, “sure, that sounds fun. We’ll get something to eat, too.”

“Yeah!” she laughs.

I look over at her friends, some other woman, and a guy, staring over at us. “Who are you friends anyway?”

“They work in the industry, too. They thought your work was really impressive.”

“What do you do?” I stretch.

She laughs. “I’m just some nurse.”

“Nurse Lea,” I say, “on a beach in the Bahamas.”

She shrugs. “I needed a break. So, what will you do after Cryptid?”

I have no answer. I didn’t think of that, honestly. What will I do after Cryptid? I’m enjoying this so much I never stopped to think about it. A million doesn't last very long if you blow it all. “I, uh…”

“You’re working on another thing, aren’t you? Secret?” she leans back, smiling.

I nod. “Yeah, sure.”

I’m not working on anything. It’s a lie when I tell her I am. Maybe I can try something else like Cryptid. Right now, though, it doesn’t matter. I’m loving this too much to worry about any of that. I may even have fun tonight, who knows. I wouldn’t have been doing that if I weren’t pushing my product out. This is what I’ve wanted, too. Success.

“So, want to go?” she asks.

I nod. “Yeah, sure, I’ll grab my stuff.”

I can't let go of the nagging, intrusive thoughts. What will I do after Cryptid? What will happen to it now that I put it up for grabs and sold it to the highest offer? We’re heading out of the beach and I stop by the rental truck I got for the time down here. She paces up next to me. “Can I ride with you?”

I shrug. “Sure.”

“Okay, cool. So after the bar, are you busy?”

“Why?”

She smirks. “I’m free all night. All. Night.”

I’m not going to let this slip. Anxiety can wait. “Funny,” I start the truck, Lea in the seat next to me still in her bikini, “I just happen to have all night available.”

Lea and I slept together. It wasn’t amazing or anything, but it was sex.

Earlier we did some acid. I spent about four or six, maybe more hours just tripping. Colors, shapes, all of that. The whole rumor about being unified and hallucinating is true.

Sex on acid is interesting, too. It’s not like what I had imagined it’d be like, but it’s interesting.

We topped it off with pot, then passed out. The Bahama Green, she called it, was too powerful. I was knocked out in seconds. The booze and acid only made things more intense. I had the best lucid dreams for however long I was passed out, but still, I woke up.

My mind wouldn’t let me sleep, not with my USB design scratching at the back of my intoxicated cortex every fifteen seconds or so.

The hotel I’m in is comfortable. She’s asleep next to me, naked and off in dream world. I’m awake because I can’t stop thinking about what I’m going to do next with my life. Checking my bank account isn’t fun either; I’ve already spent nearly one-quarter of my million. I set the phone aside, debating. How is Cryptid, anyway? What’s happening with that company? What are they doing now? I get out of bed, slip into some boxers and check my bag, finding a business card the lady had given me. The number on it is hard to make out in the dark, so I turn on a light.

Lea wakes up. “What are you doing up now? Come back to bed, there’s a naked woman here.”

“Calling someone,” I say.

“Oh,” she lays back down.

There are a few rings and then a click. A woman starts speaking. “The number you have called is unavailable or temporarily out of service. Please try again later.”

Click.

What the hell? Out of service? Did I dial the right phone number or did I fuck it up? I try again, this time being sure to put in the right number. “We’re sorry, the number you-” I hang up the phone at this point.

My trip down here is going to be cut short. I’m worried. Something seems off. A company just doesn’t disappear overnight. Look at their website on my phone gives me an error. 404, page not here, etc, something like that. Later when I try again the domain isn’t even there.

Something isn’t right. The name of the organization isn’t even showing up when I search for it. What’s happening? “Lea,” I say, “I think I need to go early. Thanks for the night, it was really fun.”

“Hey, take my number,” she says, “it’s this.”

She hands me her phone. “Okay,” I say, frustrated at her but doing my best to hide it.

After I put her in my contacts, I’m getting dressed. “You’ll call?” she asks.

I nod. “Yeah.”

“Okay, otherwise it’s a wasted night. Do I need to go? Or can I stay here?”

I shake my head. “No, you can stay, it’s good for another 12 hours I think.”

“A free hotel room. Yay,” she fell back into the bed, curled up into the sheets and passed out.

8

 

Coming home was easy for the most part. What wasn’t easy was spending the next week trying to find any bit of information I could about the company. I don’t even see my Cryptid website up anymore and the product has essentially been removed from the web. This must be a big mistake, I think. It has to be. The product was perfectly good, there wasn’t anything wrong with it and I did get a valid amount of money. My bank took it, so this must be a real transaction. I stare at the screen of my laptop, wondering what the hell is going on. Eventually, there’s a knock on my door.

I rush to open it, seeing Moore standing there on the porch. “Oh, hey man, I wanted to stop by and see how it’s going. Didn’t know if you were still here. Did you turn your phone off?”

“Shit,” I say.

He shuts the door behind him and stares at me. “Shit? Like… what?”

“I mean it’s not going well at all.”

He shrugs. “You know, side note here, why are you in this place when you have a million bucks? It seems like it'd be better to just grab a bigger place or something.”

“Call it wanting to save money.”

“Bullshit, I know that you weren't even in the country,” he says.

“Well, okay, I’m just lazy and I already live here,” I explain.

It’s true. I didn’t want to even bother with moving when staying here with the money I had was cheaper. He walks around, sighs, then plops into the crappy sofa. “Still have this, too, huh? Man, this thing is like really old, too.”

I nod. “Yeah. Look man, I’m busy at the moment.”

“Why? You should be kicking back. Enjoy yourself. The high life of being a millionaire. I mean that’s what I’d be doing if I were you.”

“I can’t,” I tell him.

“Well… uh… why?”

I shake my head. “Moore, I think something is wrong. Very, incredibly, awfully wrong.”

“What?”

“Cryptid! The site is gone and I don’t see anything anywhere about it on the web.”

He stares at me, then opens his phone and does a search for himself, brows raised. “Huh. Well, yeah, you’re right. Weird. I wonder why.”

I rip out the business card again, checking the address of the company. “Come with me,” I say, “I want to check something.”

He groans, moans and stands, behind me as I leave the apartment. “Fine, okay, sure, yeah.”

I had to know for myself. If it wasn’t there, if the company didn’t exist, I’d have a late night trying to find any connections I could to Bell. She had to know something.

 

 

 

The building is empty. I parked my car next to it, got out and made my way just in front of the FOR SALE sign on the door. Moore is standing behind me, probably more confused than I am. Why would Cryptid be bought by a company that just disappears not even after a fortnight? I need to think. The number I called isn’t a real number, it can’t be. That means it was given to me then shut off or it was never there to begin with. Considering how things are going, I’m willing to bet it was never there to begin with. I wish I weren’t so blind or irresponsible. Why did I do this to myself?

Moore peers in through the glass. “Empty.”

“Fuck.”

“Nothing in there, man, like no, really, it’s completely empty,” he says.

I kick something. “I can see that, you know.”

“Calm down,” he shouts, “I’m your friend, I’m just trying to help.”

“Well, stating the obvious isn’t helping,” I yell back.

“You’re a dick,” he says, going back to the jeep quietly.

Fuck, I don’t know what’s going on. Where is my product? The emails obviously won’t work so I can’t just call them and ask questions. The building is empty and the company phone doesn’t work. Then it hits me: Bell. That number wasn’t the company number. I pull my phone from my pocket and look through the call history. Eventually, I find it and I swipe, waiting for an answer. There’s a ring, another ring, then someone picking up. “Bell here.”

“Bell!” I sound like I’m probably crying.

She doesn’t really say anything, then says my name. “Alex.”

“What’s going on? Where’s your company? Where’s Cryptid?”

She groans. “Why does it matter? Cryptid isn’t yours anymore and neither is the database.”

“What? Tell me what is going on!”

“Figure it out,” she says.

“Wait, wait,” I calm down, trying to get some more information out of her, “wait, just… look, just tell me where Cryptid is, okay?”

“No,” she says, “but I can tell you where it isn’t.”

I wait, then ask her why. “Okay, can you tell me why?”

“Sometimes things cause problems for other things, Alex, and they need to be put away. Goodbye,” she’s already hanging up the phone.

“Wait, no! Damn it!”

Moore stares at me from the jeep. “What?”

It hits me then. This wasn’t a buy, this was an assassination. Cryptid isn’t anywhere because they didn’t want it anywhere. “The fucking bought me out,” I scream, “to keep Cryptid from going anywhere!”

“Why do you care though?” Moore laughs.

“What the fuck did you say?”

He points at me. “You got your money, didn’t you? You made Cryptid. It died, so what?”

“Cryptid was only bought so it couldn’t go anywhere else but down. They pulled it off the market on purpose. Probably,” I realize what she meant by things causing problems for other things, “because it was competition.”

“Paranoia, man. Paranoia.”

“Oh fuck you,” I say, “and get out of my car.”

“Fine, I will,” he flips me off and hops out of the jeep.

I’m pissed. Beyond pissed. I just need to get home and think.

9

 

Bell, who are you? What do you represent? That was my question and I knew I need to make damn sure it was answered. I spent the whole night just searching the web, forums, anything I could. No tips, no traces of anyone or anything. I tried the company name, her number, everything. I didn’t understand, still. Then I had an idea: why not just search for stuff on the product I made? Cryptid. That’s what I needed to do and what I should have done from the start a week ago. I had the caffeine I needed plus all the time in the world. Hell, I could do all-nighters if I really wanted to.

Which is exactly what I did.

Night after night, searching. Finally, I hit paydirt. Someone had been working with Cryptid right when it disappeared. Eventually, I got a hold of them and they decided to talk to me on the phone. The conversation wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t think that it was very helpful at first, but in the end, it more than illuminated the major mistakes I had made agreeing to hand off my product.

My dream.

“Alex,” the voice said, a man probably about the age Bell was, “you wanted to talk. I just want to say I can’t really tell you a whole bunch, mostly because I don’t know much.”

“I know you helped with Cryptid a week or so ago before it went dark. Tell me what you know, this little bit or whatever the hell it is,” I had the phone up against my ear so hard I may as well have been just gushing blood.

“Look, I just did some work on the server. That’s it,” he said.

I shake my head. “No, no, you tell me what you did. That isn’t good enough for me.”

“I worked for someone and they just wanted the files off of it for vague reasons. They were a part of a different company. They were an investor, I guess.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah,” he says, “that’s it. Aside from getting rid of the server and nuking the data left over.”

Holy fuck, they wiped the information I had on there? “The server was wiped? Clean?”

“Yeah,” he said, “just after I pulled everything for it. The database is gone.”

“That’s not all of it, it can’t be. Come on. No, you know more, tell me more,” I demanded, my fist on the coffee table.

“Alex, I’m sorry. That’s it, there’s nothing more of this. Let it go,” then the phone hung up.

I threw my cell against the wall. “Fuck!”

Nothing useful. Well, on second thought, maybe it was. An investor? This was a hit like I thought. It made sense now. Someone bought Cryptid, someone big and important, to keep competition down. They wanted the files, the information, and all that data to either advance their own agenda… or...

I opened my laptop and research the kind of encrypted fingerprint media I had made. Right there, on the top ten list of search results, was a biometric fingerprint external hard drive. ROMSoft Inc., was the manufacturer. I went to their website and right there, on the staff, was a photograph of the person who called herself Bell. Jessabelle Ann Michaelson. She was one of the execs that work for ROMSoft. It all made sense now. ROMSoft made encrypted USB drives and external HDDs. The fingerprint thing was mine and they wanted to stop any kind of competition, so they bought my stuff and used it to their own advantage.

They even made their own product out of it.

And what could I do? Nothing. The contract was signed and it was over. Even if I could find a lawyer willing to do something like try the case, the system would just push it aside because the paperwork was done and over with. Nothing illegal happened so there was nothing to be done about it in any way.

I had something great. Cryptid. People loved it and that’s why it took off. I wasn’t making millions but I would have been if I just stuck to it.

I can’t help but think of the bank account saying it had 1,000,000 available in it, I can’t help but remember Lea. The beach, the bar, the sex, the drinks, all of it. Even the acid I took.

For what, being screwed and bought out however many times?

 

 

10

 

For a month, I stayed inside. I never went out. I didn’t do anything. I just lost the will to try and associate with anyone. The apparent friends I had disappeared. Moore vanished. It was just me and my thoughts, just me and the paper and laptop I had. The phone still worked, so I had that too. I was bored, sometimes depressed. Angry, sure. One night I got so drunk I decided to call Lea. The first call didn’t even get answered. She didn’t pick up and I wondered if maybe that was some sort of falseness, too. I’m in my bed drinking, thinking about how I gave up a dream for money.

The phone finally goes off. I pick it up. “Alex?”

“Lea, hey, how are you?” I ask.

“Good, good,” she says, some obvious rain in the background, “glad you called. How are things?”

“I’m… okay.”

She’s probably smiling on the other end. “Okay is not bad, so that’s good.”

“Yeah.”

“I haven’t even heard from Alex the Entrepreneur Mastermind in what, a couple months? Thought you just fucked me and left,” she said.

“No,” I say, “no, just… been dealing with some stuff. What are you doing, anyway, Lea?”

“Oh, just got fired,” she laughs.

I sigh. “That’s not good.”

“I’m not going to really worry about it,” she drinks something I can’t see.

I’m in bed, confused about why someone isn’t upset about their bad luck and misfortunes. “Aren’t you upset? Worried?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can find something else. Chances are always coming, you just need to take them. Like you did, right?” she says.

“You know,” I say, “you’re right.”

“Can I come up and visit you? I can pay for the plane ticket.”

I grin. “No, I can cover it. When?”

“Well… uhm…”

“You don’t have anywhere to stay, do you?”

“No,” she lets out a long sigh.

I think I could probably use a good company. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Really?!”

“Yeah.”

She’s giddy on the other end, bursting with joy. “Oh god, thank you so much. What airport?”

“We’ll figure it out,” I say, “there are probably a ton.”

“I’ll get my stuff. When?”

“Fuck,” I look over, “tomorrow. Morning. I’ll wire everything you need, then you can go. I’ll just pick you up. I need to sober myself.”

“You’re drinking?” she asks, concerned.

“Yeah. Drown the sadness. It swims.”

“I’m coming up there and smacking you for that. Don’t drink when you’re sad by yourself,” she pauses, “I mean you’re alone right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Well… just curious. Look, whatever is bothering you, other things can be worse.”

“I fucked up Cryptid,” I say, “it’s gone. The company killed it.”

She scoffs. “Assholes. But, so?”

I don’t know how to handle that. “What do you mean, ‘so’?”

“You can do it again. But better, right?”

Maybe. “I don’t know that,” I say.

“Yes you can,” she is scolding me, “you know you can, don’t doubt yourself.”

“Oh come on, you just liked me because I was famous.”

“No,” she said, “no, I’d been following you for a while. I just ran into you and thought, well, why not?”

I laugh. “If you could do me again but better, would you?”

“Yes. I’ll do you as much as I need to until it’s never anything under perfect.”

I laugh. “Better and better.”

Then it hits me. I can do it again and better. I got into this business because I loved starting things, mothering them into their full form. I love making things, not money. I mean I love that too, but it's just a secondary thing. “You know,” I take another drink, “you’re right. By the way, where are you?”

“The Bahamas still.”

“Go to the nearest airport. I’m paying for the ticket right now.”

I can hear the joy in her voice. “Really?”

I open my laptop. “Give me your bank details.”

She’s right, though. Chances come and go. I made a vow after I picked her up from the airport. I wasn’t going to sell my company again. All I wanted since I was little was to grow something and nurture that thing until I died. She and I worked together and started a new company. I guess she had a knack for design. It failed, then we tried another and it failed too, but we kept going.

Eventually, we got one to work. Oleander, a name she picked. It was a small computer in a small thumbdrive that stored data about the statistics of your employee’s working history. You’d see if they were fucking off or actually working. It also kept records on the computer or server, things like the amount of RAM being used and temperature. What made it special was that when you plugged it in, it cross-referenced it with previous data in the bank and compared it for efficiency. This was linked to a server we had that stored it for comparison, which turned out to help companies a lot.

A few times we had people offer to buy us out which neither of us agreed to.

I wrote the software and soldered the hardware, she did the design for the website and logos. Together we made a good pair. It took a few times but I had my dream back. This time, I wasn’t going to mess it up. I wasn’t going to sell it to the highest bidder. I didn’t really want to do that anyway.

It’s not about the money for me and if I ever thought it was, I was wrong. Oleander would prove that. Besides, we were making so much money off Oleander we didn’t need to sell to anyone. I wouldn’t anyway, even for a ridiculous price. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, a startup master.

I get a call one day from someone. “Hi, this is Jeremy from Interlab. We’d like to talk to you about Oleander, if we could.”

“What for?” I ask.

“Well, we were interested in purchasing it.”

I shake my head. “Oleander is not for sale.”

“Well, we have a really nice offer that would say something otherwise,” he says.

No. Nope. Never. “No.”

He sighs. “Look, just hear me out.”

Sometimes hanging up a phone feels better than it should. Each time I tell them no, it just gets better and better.

I smile, lean back in my crappy couch with Lea, kiss her and hang up the cellphone.

Oleander isn’t for sale.

 

 

 



© Copyright 2017 Abhimanyu Kashyap. All rights reserved.

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