“BUY! BUY! BUY!” the signs seemed to scream. They glowed welcomingly, LCD screens smoothly transitioning from one advertisement to the next. Beautiful women and gorgeous men promising that you too could look like them if you only used their products.
Garrel stood gob-smacked in the middle of the arcade. At least that’s what she assumed it was from the vast array of beckoning lights from shops and food stalls. There was a buzz behind it all that she couldn’t quite place her finger on but everyone else seemed oblivious, walking around glazed, holding various packets of purchases.
She felt like she was in a bizarre dream because despite the chaos of lights and sounds, the shoppers walked on. She didn’t know why she had agreed to meet the publisher there. She lived miles from the nearest mall and even then it was a modest building with paper billboards – nothing like this technological shrine to shopping. Still Jarred had insisted that if she wanted her book published she would have to go and meet him because he was far too busy to go traipsing off into the countryside to meet with one little author. Her mother had always told her opportunities must be grabbed, so she grabbed: packed her bags and adventured off to the big city via bus, train and taxi. She was unimpressed.
It seemed something vital was lacking from the people who purposefully advanced around her. No eye contact, no smiles (unless they were handing over a credit card to purchase something), just a veritable temple to the fulfilment of every desire as immediately as possible. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to block out the noise.
A hand on her shoulder broke her out of her thoughtfulness.
“Garrel Jones?” a tall, well groomed, empty-eyed man asked.
“Yes?” she smiled, hoping he would smile back.
He took her hand in a quick, firm handshake. “Jarred.” He was all business, “Shall we sit?” he asked, referring to one of the many tables that littered the arcade.
“You want to sit here?” she asked, confused, “Will we be able to hear above this racket?”
“What racket?” he frowned and began to sit regardless of her obvious hesitation.
Cues lined up around them as people filtered in to fetch lunch. They were speechless and glued to the various TV monitors, watching adverts, music videos and travel promo’s.
“Right, down to business.” He said, “We would love to publish your book as long as a few changes are made.” He smiled. It was as plastic and fake as a Barbie doll’s figure.
“What kind of changes?” Garrel still smiled politely, hoping her heart would not show how it was beating in her throat.
“Well, the ending. It’s a little… let’s just say the mass public will not like it.” The smile again, more plastic, almost forceful.
“Why not? It’s likely.”
“Likely yes, but not popular.”
“I’m not really writing to be popular. I’m just writing what God tells me.”
“Yes, well unless God is going to do your marketing, you will need to make these changes.” He laughed. She was ludicrous to him.
The racket around them swelled and the buzzing began to pound in Garrel’s forehead. Jarred’s face swam before her. What was she doing there?
“I’m not making any changes. At least not the kind you want. If you’d asked for improvements on the writing, fine but the story is not mine to change. That’s what God told me to write – the ending is paramount to the message. It cannot be changed.” She imagined the entire arcade might go silent as she scraped her chair back but everything continued as it had been. It felt momentous, to stand up like that.
Jarred dangled the contract at her and then tore it up, leaving the pieces on the floor.
“Well then, we have no business here.” He said plainly, empty eyes glaring and then disappeared into the crowd.
Garrel blinked not for one moment doubting her decision. She didn’t want to cater to these people’s whims - they would drop her the second something new came along. She turned and walked out, through the throng of people. She wanted only to please God, no one else’s opinion mattered.
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