The organisers of this suburban festival, run for the community with the cooperation of local independent businesses, wanted to further their promotion of the event on social media. But they were already promoting the details of the activities on offer pretty successfully.
I decided to give them something different to create a little buzz: a short story about the entrepreneurial Spirit of Independence and Adventure, called The Legend of Sia.
It incorporated the names of several of the local participating businesses, thus encouraging them to share the story with their customers and followers.
And it came in seven chapters, one to be released each day on the week leading up to the event.
It created quite the Twitterstorm. Here’s the first instalment.
Chapter 1: The Wrong Peg
Sia heaved another crate of metal pegs onto her ergonomic desk with a sigh. The strains of ‘Better the Devil You Know’ were echoing around the office for the fifth time that afternoon, or perhaps it was the sixth – she was losing count.
In an attempt to stave off the incessant Kylie, Sia hummed a little tune that had recently seeped into her subconscious. She didn’t know the words, but the rhythm tugged insistently at the corners of her mind: Di-dee di-di-di-di dee dee, dee di-di-di dee.
She pulled a shallow metal box towards her, fitted it with a metal lid studded with small square holes, and sighed again.
How exactly had she ended up here?
Growing up in the Suburbs of Ambition, Sia had always eyed the twinkling spires of the nearby City with a mixture of awe and desire. On her thirteenth birthday, her parents had presented her with a Map to Successful Adulthood, upon which sparkled a glitter-strewn route to the City.
From that day forth, Sia followed the Map’s directions religiously, studying hard to pass all her exams, until finally she graduated and received an Honorary Visa, which allowed her to move to the City.
Gleefully, she packed her Imagination, her Creativity, a spanking-new Manual of Corporate Ambition (a leaving present) and her best pair of Killer Heels; she said a fond farewell to her parents and childhood friends, and marched off to meet her future.
As she reached the City’s heavy iron gates, an imposing figure stepped forward. Easily nine feet tall, he was clad from head to toe in metal armour that at first glance appeared to be a steel mesh, but on closer inspection proved to consist of thousands of paper clips, all hooked together. Sia held out her Visa with quaking fingers.
“Hello,” boomed the figure. His deep voice echoed within his cavernous helmet, which Sia saw was made from staples. “I’m the Guardian of Conformity. Hand me your bag.”
Sia passed it over and watched as the Guardian rifled through her belongings. Carefully, he removed her Imagination and Creativity, re-zipped the bag and handed it back to her.
“You won’t be needing those,” he said.
“But, I don’t understand,” said Sia in confusion. “The Director at Tess & Co really liked them. He said that’s why he gave me the job.”
The Guardian shrugged. “All I know is that they’re not allowed in here. Don’t worry, I’ll keep them safe for you. Should you ever want them back.”
He bowed low and heaved the gates open for her. Sia stepped through.
“Welcome to the City of Bureaucracy,” the Guardian boomed. The gates clanged shut.
That was three years ago. Since then, Sia had spent every day working nine-to-five at Tess & Co, sitting at her ergonomic desk in her strip-lit office and inserting square metal pegs into square metal holes while listening to Kylie Minogue on repeat. And, if she didn’t hurry, today she was going to miss her quota.
She emptied out the next crate of pegs onto her desk. But, as she was about to insert the first cube into its cubic hole, she stopped.
For something was different.
In amongst the standard metal squares lay a new shape. Sia picked it up and traced its sharp points with a wondering finger. It was a star. Where had it come from? And why?
She leant towards her bin to discard the misshapen peg, as office protocol dictated, and then, following a sudden impulse, slipped it into her bag instead. Quickly, she reached for another peg and slotted it into the next hole, humming innocently to herself.
Di-dee di-di-di-di dee dee, dee di-di-di dee.
Two hours later, Sia was queuing for the exit and the welcome promise of a post-work pint in the Blue Sky Bar, when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to find the Director of Tess & Co standing behind her, a stern expression on his face.
He beckoned silently and strode off down the corridor towards his office; she followed, heart pounding. Had she been found out?
She wasn’t kept in suspense for long. Upon entering his office, the Director nodded to the wall on the left, which was covered with a mosaic of square screens showing CCTV coverage of every office in the building – including, Sia noted, her heart sinking, her own.
They sat. The Director pulled out a file from his desk drawer and started to flick through the pages.
“So. You’re… the Spirit of Independence and Adventure, is that right?”
“Yes, sir. Sia,” said Sia.
“I don’t need to tell you why you’re here, do I?” asked the Director.
“N-no,” she stammered guiltily.
“You do realise that your actions today constituted a clear violation of Code Four-Oh-Seven of our Office Management Health and Safety Policy?”
“Yes,” she mumbled.
“So, then.” The Director leaned forward and looked her full in the face, his grey eyes blank and unfathomable. “Why did you do it?”
Sia searched her mind frantically for the correct corporate answer, before giving up and confessing the truth. “I don’t know,” she said.
The Director studied her for a while with an inscrutable expression, before picking up a pen and scribbling something onto a piece of paper in front of him. He crumpled the paper into his fist and stood up.
“Well, I suppose there’s no harm done this time,” he said. “Just be warned that such transgressions of key areas of office protocol will not meet with such lenience in future.”
“No sir,” Sia said thankfully, and followed him to the door. As she stepped outside, he leaned forward suddenly, pushing the crumpled piece of paper into her hand.
“Good luck,” he whispered into her ear. And then she was alone in the corridor once more.
With trembling fingers, Sia folded out the note and read the three words scrawled upon it in black biro. Her face screwed up in confusion. What on earth did they mean? She read them again, and then once more, trying to make sense of the message they held for her.
“Find Crazy Wendy*.”
To be continued tomorrow…
[*Locals would have been familiar with Crazy Wendy.]
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