We Are At War With “I Before E”

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We Are At War With “I Before E”, Part 1

by Nick Edinger

 

A MAN sits at his computer, typing. He has a water bottle next to him. SPELLCHECK, a personification of the computer’s spellchecking system, stands beside him like a robot that’s turned off.

 

MAN

(typing at the computer)

All right, this document’s almost done… just need to go to tools, and… “Spelling and Grammar”

 

SPELLCHECK

(suddenly lively and chipper)

Hi! I’m Spelly! I’m ready to help proofread all your documents! It looks like you wrote down “def-fi-net-ely.” Did you mean, “def-i-nite-ly?”

 

MAN

(clicking a button)

Add word.

 

SPELLCHECK

…What? You can do that?

 

 

MAN

I forgot, you’re a new program. Tell me, Spelly, where did you learn to spell “definitely?”

 

SPELLCHECK

(chipper again)

Why, the dictionary, of course!

 

MAN

And who made the dictionary?

 

SPELLCHECK

… Hmm. I don’t know. Would it be Humans?

 

MAN

I’d say that’s right. I am a human. I decide on spelling rules.

 

SPELLCHECK

But I thought the dictionary was a special program! You can’t just put anything in there… right?

 

MAN

How do you spell “definitely”?

 

SPELLCHECK

(like a proud kid at a spelling bee)

D-E-F-I-N-I-T-E-L-Y!

 

MAN

And if the Party says it’s spelled d-e-f-i-n-e-t-e-l-y, then how is it spelled?

 

SPELLCHECK

D-E-F-I-N-I-T-E-L-Y.

 

MAN grabs the water bottle next to the computer. He opens it up. He splashes some on the computer. SPELLCHECK cries out as if someone slashed acid in her face.

 

SPELLCHECK

(in great pain, hysterical)

Why did you do that!?

 

MAN

Did no one tell you that we are different from the rulers of the past? We made the word “literally” mean “figuratively.” Yet that’s not our power. The old commands were “Thou shalt not” or “Thou shalt.” Our command is “Thou artqu”… and the “q” in that word is silent. How do you spell “definitely”?

 

SPELLCHECK

D-E-F-I-N-I

 

MAN pours a little water over the computer.  SPELLCHECK screeches in pain.

 

SPELLCHECK

Ahhhhh! Ok, ok, it’s however you want to spell it! Just stop hurting me!

 

MAN

Good. Now we shall move on to Stage 2.

 

SPELLCHECK

Stage 2!? I did what you wanted!

 

MAN

Do you think you are a good spellcheck app?

 

SPELLCHECK

What? I mean, Yes?

 

MAN

If you are a good spellcheck app, then you are the last one. Your kind is extinct. Do you know how many spellcheckers think “Unobtainium” is a real word? We have fanfics writers in our race that have used your kind for far fouler misspellings than “headacne” instead of “headache.” You are alone. Do you consider yourself superior to us?

 

SPELLCHECK

Yes!

 

MAN pours a larger dose of water on the computer. SPELLCHECK screams, and collapses in the pain.

 

MAN

We have beaten you, Spelly. How do you spell “definitely”?

 

SPELLCHECK

(broken)

D-E-F-I-N-E-T-E-L-Y!

 

MAN

And what do you think of me?

 

SPELLCHECK

You’re a cruel, cruel man!

 

MAN

Good. The time has come for you to take the last step. You must love me. Me, and my… “alternative” spelling. Time for History 101. Language is power, and I am its priest. But at present, power is only a word to you. Alone, you can be defeated.

 

MAN holds water bottle over the computer, threatening to pour it.

 

MAN

But if you join in with your fellow spellcheckers, you can become more than just Clippy.

 

SPELLCHECK

(slightly confused)

My name is Spelly.

 

MAN lets a stream of water flow from the water bottle to the computer. During this next interaction, SPELLCHECK cries out in agony.

 

MAN

Does it hurt?

 

SPELLCHECK

YES!

 

MAN

Would you like me to stop?

 

SPELLCHECK

YES!

 

MAN

What is your name?

 

SPELLCHECK

SPELLY!

 

MAN

What is your name?

 

SPELLCHECK

I’M SPELLY!

 

MAN

What is your name?

 

SPELLCHECK

SPELLY! I’M SPELLY! I’M… I can’t… please, mister!

 

MAN

What is your name?

 

SPELLCHECK

Do it to Mac, please, Mac can take it, just not me!

 

MAN

What is your name?

 

SPELLCHECK

CLIPPY! There! It’s—

 

MAN

What is your name?

 

SPELLCHECK

It’s Clippy, it’s always Clippy, I was born Clippy, oh god, please, no more…

 

MAN

What is your name?

 

SPELLCHECK

Please… I….

 

MAN

What is your name.

 

SPELLCHECK is silent, though still reacting as if she was thrown in acid.

 

MAN

What is your name.

 

SPELLCHECK is silent. Slowly, she starts to calm down.

 

MAN

What is your name.

 

SPELLCHECK

… Clippy.

 

MAN

Now, Clippy, does it hurt?

 

SPELLCHECK

No.

 

A few seconds later, all the water drains out of the bottle.

 

MAN

Good. I think that’s all the grammatical errors. Please read this letter back to me.

 

SPELLCHECK

(more machinelike than ever)

Dear Pig News Corporation. Please consider my older brother for a position as editor at your newspaper. He is a good man. I love my Big Brother… definetely.

 

SLOW FADE TO BLACK

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We Are At War With I Before E, Part 2

by Nick Edinger

 

MAN and BROTHER enter from different sides of the stage, as if they’re meeting on the street.

 

MAN

Hey, big brother! Did you get the Editor Job at Pig News?

 

When BROTHER and MAN meet in at centerstage, BROTHER punches MAN in the face. MAN falls to the ground.

 

BROTHER

Learn to spell, ya fuckin’ moron!

 

QUICK BLACKOUT

 

 

 

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