Shelf Life: episode 2. "Shelf School"

“Hello, new recruits.” He said. “Welcome to Shelf School.”

I stood there with the others; hundreds of them who all looked exactly like me and I wondered, “Why the hell don’t these guys look more confused?”

Everyone was standing crisply to attention, well everyone but me…

“My name is Thaddeus McGladeus.” The elf in black said, his voice booming over the crowd. “But you will call me sergeant. I will be your mommy! I will be your daddy! I will be the nightmares that keep you up at night and I will be your greatest salvation!”

I instantly disliked Seargeant McGladeus. I found myself searching the crowd for some sign of shared indignation but all I could see was a sea of stupidly, smiling faces that seemed to be hypnotically glued to the Sergeant’s every word.

“Because we are modern elves in a modern time,” McGladeus continued. “We will expedite our training with modern technology. So now, open your telecoms and push the flashing green button.”

The elves around me all obediently retrieved their devices from their pockets. I was hesitant for the briefest of moments but whether it was curiosity or conformity I followed suit, thinking that whatever I could do to get this over with was probably a good idea.

I held my breath as I pushed the button, remembering the gut wrenching sensation that occurred when I pushed it before. This time there was no immediate reaction.

The screen turned black for a moment and then transitioned into a warm orange color which faded into a pixelated image of a face.

“Greetings new recruit” the device said. “I am your neurolink education device but you can call me Ned.”

Ned’s voice was comically high pitched, as if it was perpetually of the verge of laughter. The device then rattled mechanically in my hand and sprouted two tiny robot arms, followed by two adorable robot legs.

“I look forward to being with you through every step of your mission.” Ned said.

Then Ned laughed. But really Ned giggled, like a baby. I couldn’t help but smile. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside like I had just eaten an overly sweet piece of fudge. And that was the moment when Ned lunged for my face and locked on like a demonic, robot spider.

I could feel his tiny and adorable legs drill into my cheeks. I tried to move but my body would not respond. I couldn’t breath and I couldn’t see. I knew I shouldn’t have pushed another button. The pain was nearly more than I could handle when it just suddenly stopped.

“Phase one of your nerolink is complete.” Said Ned’s comically high voice. “I am now inside of your brain.”

I could hear the voice as clearly as the heart beat that was pounding in my ears. Sweat was pouring from my brow and I realized that I had fallen to my knees. The other elves around me were in similar states of disarray and I found that somehow comforting.

“Your training begins with a mission statement.” Ned said. “Your mission is to covertly retrieve information regarding the behavior of your assigned targets and then relay the information nightly to intelligence headquarters at the North Pole.”

I kind of nodded my understanding, not really sure of how to politely speak to the new voice of Ned in my head.

“There is one cardinal rule for all elves in the field.” Ned said. “Under no circumstances are you allowed to reveal your true self to any human targets. Failure to comply with this rule will result in my fail safe protocol. Do you understand recruit?”

“Um…” I said, not entirely sure of how to respond. “What happens if I fail to comply?”

“Failure to comply will result in my activation of the fail safe protocol.” Ned said.

“Um…” I said again. “And that is, what exactly?”

“Failure to comply,” Ned said. “Means that I will self destruct and explode in your head.”