Penelope Penmanship eyed the can with suspicion.
Gibberish. The writing on the side was gibberish. And only one man could decipher it.
"Hello," he said, sneaking up on her from behind.
"Yaaaaah!" she screamed, turning to confront his smirking face. "Al Adventuresome, don't scare me like that!"
"Then how should I scare you?" asked Al, abruptly snatching the pen holder from her hand. He cast an askance glance at the crayoned correspondence. "Ah yes. I know exactly what it says."
"And what's that?"
"Why, 'gibberish,' of course. As in, a garbled group of mangled gigabytes that fails to compute with the Mastermind."
Penelope rolled her eyes at him. "Then try again, Sir Know-it-all. I'm convinced those cryptic characters contain a crucial clue for nabbing our notorious letter nappers."
By 'letter nappers' she meant the kidnappers of her magic letters, a remarkable set of incredible creations that could make things out of nothing and fix almost any communication glitch known to man.
Those letters spelled good news for a girl and guy with a chronic case of "foot-in-mouth disease" - as in, what was germane to Ms. P was geek to Mr. A, and vice versa. He scorned her prose, she loathed his poetry, and the only thing that could cure their mutual verbal dyslexia was a precise combination of magic letters - the very letters their as-yet-unknown arch enemy "The Scribbler" stole when he hacked into Penelope's mainframe on Newsworthy Island.
To find those letters would require a long voyage through uncharted waters brimming with unsolicited criticism and dangerous anagrams.
A shiver runs down my spine as I think how close I am to finishing this lengthy tale. Wisdom bids me create a backup file - now - to prevent potential loss and protect my main characters. But... My impatience itches for more research on ships, oceans, and pirates.
"I'll only be a second," I kid myself as I key in the phrase "monsters of the deep."
The net teems with fishy sites. I click on one "Leviathan's Box", which promises much data on octopi, buccaneers, disappearing ink, and various assorted sea scum.
Just then I see a sudden pop-up warning me of potential malware. Apparently the latest surge in biological 'word-fare' has left my system vulnerable to infection.
A mere spam scam, I scoff, failing to recognize my own firewall's admonition. (I mean, who pays attention to those things?)
Green fills the thermometer on the bottom of the screen as I eagerly await the download.
Any moment now. Ah... ah... ah...
"Choo!" sneezes the screen, bombarding my vision with a sudden spray of squiggly lines. All I see in the blackout that follows is a turquoise square declaring "No signal output."
Sharp pains slice into my forehead. My eyes well up with tears. This cannot have happened.
Angrily I press restart.
"Patieeeeeence" groans the ailing fan. "Hard drive's got a bad case of mono. Let her reeeeeest."
Needless to say, rebooting takes forever, and I'm kicking myself from here to Timbuktu. My online "treasure hunt" was only supposed to last a second. But that's all the time it takes to kill a brainchild left out in the cold.
Confusion overwhelms the keyboard. My throat hurts.
Please tell me Al and Penelope are okay.
Cautiously I open the file.
All that remains of my precious story are a few hiccups of English, mixed with a little Russian spit-up and a couple rows of gibberish, vomit of a screen saver that failed to save. There go hours of blood, sweat and tears, flushed straight down the toilet.
Alas my nauseous stomach, and oh my pounding head! Someone pass the cough drops before I gag.
Interesting how one unseen software program can wipe out years of memory stored so carefully in my computer's hard drive.
And all it took from me was one tiny germ of doubt, small as a question mark, to let it in.
Fire-breathing dragon, host of the forever fever and eternal crash-and-burn, vile brethren accuser who constantly blasts past failures in my face,
I wish I'd never opened your box.
Thank God for the pure, untainted Word who restores my system. He died to conquer you, Leviathan, and return to my own story everything your scribbler's gibberish once destroyed. He'll detect it, disinfect it, and heal each memory yielded to his shield.
Here's to my only true firewall and sure refuge!
File saved, hallelujah.
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