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The Secret Manuscript – Chapter One

Here’s a video I made of me reading chapter one of my new book, The Secret Manuscript, which was published in August of 2014. If you haven’t already purchased a copy, it’s available in every major ebook store. For those who want to follow along at home, here is the text for chapter one.

The Secret Manuscript – Chapter One

Ben pulled out a knife from his back pocket and extracted the blade. Piercing the sharp edge into a corrugated box, he slid the razor between the two flaps that were being held together by a strip of tape. He proceeded to slice off the flaps to prepare yet another box for the floor.

For the most part, Ben kept his head down and worked diligently and unsupervised all morning. He fought the temptation to look at the clock as he knew that would only make time seem to go slower. The only joy of working in the stockroom of a grocery store was that there would be several deliveries throughout the day, giving Ben a chance to be outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, even if it was just from the loading docks. The rest of the day, he was stuck in the chilly stockroom under the dim lighting, contemplating his life choices.

A small radio played soft rock while he worked. Over the tunes, Ben heard a voice shout to him.

“Hey, B.O., I need you in aisle six!” his manager, Chad, demanded.

The secret manuscript book coverBen retracted his knife and put it in his apron before heading onto the sales floor. Chad had a disgusted look on his face as if Ben was the cause of all his problems.

“Somebody dropped a jar of pickles,” Chad said.

“Okay, I’ll get right on it,” Ben replied.

“I’ll be deducting the cost of the pickles from your paycheque.”

“What? You can’t do that.”

“First of all, don’t talk back to me,” Chad said aggressively as he approached Ben in threatening manner. “Second, someone has to pay for those pickles. Pickles aren’t free you know.”

It was the worst logic Ben had ever heard, but he decided to let it go. Unfortunately for him, he needed the job to support his meaningless existence.

“Yes, sir,” he said submissively.

Ben hung his head low and begrudgingly walked to the back to retrieve the usual clean-up supplies. He returned to the sales floor, wheeling a mop and bucket with one hand and carrying a broom and dustpan in the other. The resentful look on his face caught the attention of an attractive girl who was about his age. She must have overheard the discourse between Ben and his manager because she approached him and offered some words of encouragement.

“Don’t worry about him, he’s a jerk,” she said.

“Thanks,” Ben replied. He looked at the woman in awe. In his mind, he quickly made the following deductions — attractive woman in Cold Lake, must be from out of town, must have a boyfriend, probability of getting her… zero. Whatever Ben’s confidence was before he started mopping up pickles in his dorky uniform had now been reduced substantially. The only sensible thing to do was to forget about her and get his work done before he got into any trouble.

As Ben pushed the dirty mop back and forth through the sticky pickle juice, a thousand thoughts ran through his mind. He questioned whether the flack he received from Chad was worth it. Being a stock boy for the local grocery store was not how he envisioned his adult life, but he took solace in the fact he was at least not making minimum wage. For all that the job did not offer, there were a few perks. The main one being the discount he received on all his groceries. Having that reduced his cost of living, making it seem like he was earning more money than he actually was.

It was a task-based job comprised mostly of stocking shelves, handling incoming shipments, and doing the occasional clean up. He could simply come into work, put his head down for a few hours, and not have to deal with people. In fact, he enjoyed the solitude. That way he could get the real work done — creating characters, plotting stories, and developing dialogue. He would store all this information in his head throughout the day, then after his shift, he would go home and write.

However, his one-time dream of being a published author was being crushed with every waking moment. The reality was that he lived in a small town of less than 2,500 people, so being anything other than what he was — a menial worker — was an unlikely prospect.

Upon completing high school in Cold Lake, kids usually did one of three things: move to a bigger city to attend college, move to a bigger city to find work, or stay in town and work some dead-end job. The latter was what Ben had chosen to do — the typical choice of the unaspiring working-class citizen. Nobody really wanted to stay in Cold Lake, Alberta. Those who did slowly withered away leaving behind a hollow legacy of nothingness. Ben did not want that to happen to him. Instead, he wanted to find his purpose, a reason for existing, but from his current standpoint, his future looked bleak.

What made matters worse was the grocery store manager, Chad. He was a few years older than Ben and by this point in his life had worked his way up to a management position. The gross abuse of power was evident in nearly every decision and directive he made. For the unaspiring, having authority over others quickly fostered delusions of grandeur. Those who wielded the minutest of power rationalized their position as having a natural superiority over their subordinates. Chad was no exception. He made everybody’s life there a living hell, especially Ben’s. Ever since Chad was promoted, Ben had been looking for a way out — any way.

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Drowning in a Sea of Ignorance

Many of you may already know there is often a great disparity between knowledge and wisdom. Take for example a recent situation I had at an annual meeting for the building I live in.

My neighbourhood, and more specifically my apartment building, is comprised of high-income earning professionals — doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc., and therefore, one may think with such a concentration of intellectuals, common sense would thrive like algae under the hot sun. However, if you thought that, like I did, you would be wrong. As I discovered, common sense can be crushed by the obese weight of ignorance. I documented the experience in a little short story I’m calling…

Drowning in a Sea of Ignorance

The meeting was held at seven o’clock on a Thursday night. My girlfriend and I arrived early and found a set of seats about midway down the aisle. While browsing the Internet on our phones to pass the time, we took notice of the mix of people who funnelled in through the rear doors.

The room quickly filled with chatter as people took to their seats. Acquaintances made polite introductions to one another and laughed over small talk. Despite the familiar faces, most people did not know each other beyond holding open a door in the rain, or sharing an elevator ride. As I would expect is the case with many apartment buildings, we are a community of strangers.

There were several topics on the agenda for our building’s annual meeting. One of which was to discuss the issue of owners renting out their parking spaces to non-building residents. As it occurred to some, this created a potential security risk.

parking garage black and white

Photo credit: midnight-vanburen.deviantart.com

“I’d like to open the floor for discussion,” the speaker announced.

“We cannot just allow non-residents access to our building,” a man said smugly.

I try not to make snap judgements about people, but we all do it. When analyzing the man’s purposefully stiff posture and very deliberate outfit, I began to unconsciously put him into a particular category. He had been the most vocal participant for the better part of an hour, and quite frankly I was getting annoyed. He spoke confidently and mostly went unchallenged.

As he was talking, I leaned over to my girlfriend and asked, “Who is this guy?”

“He’s this really pretentious painter who lives on the second floor,” she informed me. “I once overheard someone inquire about one of his paintings, and he told her, ‘You couldn’t afford my work’.”

man holding a sign that says, "I am a moron."

Photo credit: gawker.com

“Wow, what an obnoxious thing to say to someone.”

The man continued. “We have had several car break-ins and bike thefts recently and we need to keep ourselves and our property safe,” the stout man said. “I say we outright ban this practice.”

I looked around the crowd and saw people nodding in unison. It appeared as though this overly simplified and obviously ignorant assumption was gaining support. Up until that point, neither my girlfriend nor I had said a word, we remained passive listeners. I decided that I had heard enough and was going to offer the crowd an alternative to his one-sided ear beating.

“Do we even know this to be an issue?” I asked. There were some murmurs amongst the crowd, but I cleared my throat and proceeded. “If I understand this correctly, you’re saying that non-residents are the cause of the break-ins and bike thefts. If this is true and this is a real issue, then there are several solutions we could discuss rather than an outright ban. However, if they are not the cause, then we are not only banning something that doesn’t need to be banned, we are also wasting time discussing a non-issue.”

“So what do you propose?” the speaker asked.

“First,” I said, “we need to know if people are renting their stalls to non-residents. I mean, how many people are actually doing this? Second, we need to know if those individuals, if there are indeed some, are the cause of the break-ins and thefts. If a resident is renting their stall to a non-resident, then perhaps a simple registration would allow us to screen people and keep a record of who is coming and going from our building.”

“A registration?” the man scoffed in outrage. “Nobody fills out forms!”

“Then we can make a rule, if you don’t fill out the form, you don’t get the parking stall,” I suggested.

“But then we’re going to have a stack of forms and it will be too difficult to maintain,” the man said in disgust as if I made some horrible proposal.

“A stack of forms?” I questioned. “We have no idea how many, if any of us, actually rent out their stalls.”

“I rent out my stall,” someone from the crowd said.

“Okay, and who do you rent out your stall to, if you don’t mind me asking?” I said.

“My sister.”

“Okay, so we know of at least one person, are there any others?”

A half dozen people reluctantly raised their hands.

man shouting in a meeting

Photo credit: thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com

“So if this ban goes through, we will not only be limiting the income of some individuals, we’d be denying a person’s sister — someone who they’ve presumably known their entire life — the opportunity and convenience to use an otherwise unoccupied space. At the very least there ought to be a grandfather clause to allow residents to continue to rent their stall to people they know well. If it is deemed necessary, we could simply ask these individuals, as well as future stall renters, to give us some details about themselves. In the event of a break-in or theft, and they are suspected, we can have a database of who they are.”

“You’re missing the point,” the man said. “We don’t want non-residents in the building. With their key fobs, they can access certain floors… it’s a safety concern.”

“With respect, I think I understand the point very clearly. And if I may, I’d like to point out that this fear-based decision may not have anything to do with non-resident stall-renters. If having superfluous access is the issue, perhaps we could limit their fobs usage to just the parkade.”

The groans from the audience told me I was barking up the wrong tree. Mind you, I do not rent my stall so either way the vote goes, I won’t be affected. The main reason I spoke up was to save common sense from drowning in a sea of ignorance. As a secondary reason, I wanted to speak up for those who may be absent from the meeting, or are too shy to address their concern in front of a room full of their peers, especially in the face of such defiant dissention.

“Don’t renters pose the same problem?” someone else said. Yes, I am not alone! As soon as I heard the sweet voice of reason amongst the crowd, I had a brief glimmer of hope. Common sense may be gaining momentum after all. The optimism was short-lived when I realized the voice was coming from my girlfriend, who was sitting beside me.

“Currently, owners are permitted to rent their units to anyone they wish,” she pointed out, “and no one has said a word about that. How is renting a stall any different? In fact, one could argue, renting an apartment to someone poses even more of a security threat since it gives the renter a reason to be in the same living space as everyone in the building. This could lead to more opportunities of crime for opportunistic criminals.”

“I agree,” I said in support.

“And what if we have an overnight guest,” she said, “—someone we trust — a friend over for a visit, relatives from out of town? Can we not provide our space to certain people in certain instances?”

“Of course, that is most certainly acceptable,” the speaker said.

“So lending out our space is permitted, but accepting a fee for it is not?” she pointed out.

“The two scenarios are a bit different.”

“How are they different? Moments ago we learned that someone is renting their space to their sister, for which it is certainly reasonable to accept a fee. The ban would effectively prohibit this exchange. Does that seem right to everyone?”

Since no one was brave enough to answer the question, the room fell into an awkward silence.

“Alright, I think we’ve heard enough from both sides to make a decision on the issue,” the speaker announced. “Let’s put it to a vote, shall we?”

Photo credit: www.nola.com

Photo credit: http://www.nola.com

After the final votes were tableted, the results were astounding. 54 people voted ‘Nay’, and a meager 10 people voted ‘Yay’. Shocking, I know. As my girlfriend and I later discussed the issue, we concluded the people who voted ‘Nay’ fell into at least one of the following categories:

  • Most people don’t rent their stalls so they did not have a dog in the fight
  • Despite the lack of evidence for the threat, most people would rather err on the side of caution
  • Most people who show up to these events (a small fraction of the building’s residence) are dumb people who want to feel important — the type of people who are unaware they are dumb
  • Professionals who spent most of their lives studying and have very little common sense

As we shook our heads at the fact the ban was passed with such overwhelming support, we realized three loopholes that are equally as dumbfounding.

  • Despite their best efforts to curb a potential security risk, there was no discussion as to how this policy will be enforced. Will it go on the honour system? As it stands, there is no way to know if people are renting their stalls.
  • Lending out your stall seems to be permissible, even if it’s for an indefinite period of time. In effect, this amounts to the same way it was before.
  • The rule, as it was purposed, only prohibits a resident from renting their own space to non-residents, but one can still rent their stall to a resident within the building. However, there is no rule in place that prevents this renter from subsequently renting the stall to a non-resident. In effect creating an easy way to circumvent this policy.

In conclusion, ignorance prevailed, but I hope with this post, I will spread the word of my cause and have common sense live up to its name, and be common.

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Prodigy Introduction

Prodigy - Edward MullenThe year 2030 was a significant turning point in human history. It was the beginning of a global catastrophe known as World War III.

Those who were fortunate enough to survive the attacks, nuclear blasts, and fallout were met with decades of economic recession, famine, and illness. Staying alive during those times required diligent effort, team work, and a lot of luck. People grew despondent and any remaining civility eroded. While the war was going on, there was a total disregard for law and order. Riots, looting, and senseless murders were a routine occurrence in nearly every city. Financial systems unraveled, infrastructures deteriorated and entire neighbourhoods were abandoned as people sought refuge in rural parts of the country where it was deemed to be safer.

When the war finally ended, it was a pyrrhic victory that decimated the majority of the world’s population and left the world in a state of ruins. If there was a positive, it was that the survivors came together like never before. Roughly one billion remained – a technologically savvy group of individuals who refused to be bound by outdated ways of thinking. They had nothing more to lose and everything to gain. With a fierce tenacity, they organized together and vowed to never let the mistakes of the past lead them to war again. They used the Internet to create a true democracy that allowed them to vote on every issue. Humanity had given life to technology, and when they needed it the most, technology gave life back to humanity.

The access to information enabled them to be tolerant of other cultures, educated about the issues, and intelligently discuss different ideologies. They took pride in rebuilding a new civilization because they felt like their voice mattered. Each law, policy, and institution was examined and discussed. Within a relatively short period of time, a new constitution was enacted by the people, for the people. Shortly thereafter, the New World Order was established – a benevolent and centralized government that became the administrative body for the entire planet. They operated with a simple agenda of creating optimal living conditions for all. There were no invasions of privacy and no invasions of countries; the sole purpose of its existence was to facilitate the will of the people – the way it was intended by the ancient Greeks.

Once the financial system was put in the hands of the people rather than power-hungry individuals, everything changed for the better. The economy became more efficient and people were no longer at the mercy of cyclical fluctuations and unstable speculative markets.

The educational system of the past was determined to be fundamentally flawed as well. It was designed hundreds of years before and no longer met the requirements of the modern world. The entire world population was now required to be educated according to a contemporary curriculum consisting of ten main subjects: mathematics, finance, science, languages, law, history, philosophy, psychology, art, and athletics. Each main subject could be subdivided into a vast collection of subsidiary subjects. Amongst these traditional subjects were a number of new and important additions to the curriculum. The study of personhood, mind management, and discipline were introduced in an effort to help people better understand the complexities of their egos and to moderate their temperaments.

Each subject would take years to master, but would not be learned in the traditional sense. Now, subjects were broken down into several parts and downloaded directly into people’s brains. Once downloaded, there would be no need for tests since the student was able to recall anything they had downloaded at a moment’s notice. For the most part, learning the traditional way, through repetition, became obsolete. Nearly everyone on the planet was enlightened, in effect, creating a world of kind and rational human beings.

The concept of countries no longer existed. People were free to live anywhere they wished. Individuals from underprivileged parts of the world were offered the chance to receive a one-time location reassignment, temporary lodging, and a full education – completely free. Nearly everyone accepted and moved into major cities leaving many of the harshest environments on the planet abandoned.

The Child Rearing Act was introduced as a method to maintain the global population as well as filter out children who were deemed to be a high risk for causing problems in society. An evaluation process was put in place and each woman was required to be approved before she conceived. Any woman wishing to have a baby would have to meet certain financial, educational, physical, and psychological requirements. Global populations became stable and for the most part, poverty was nullified.

Before all these changes, the world was on a steep descent into depravity and this seemed like the only logical step to take. Any woman who was found to be in violation of this act was often imprisoned and sometimes sterilized to prevent future offenses. In addition, the baby became the property of the state to ensure it would receive an adequate upbringing. Although the punishment was severe, it was deemed to be the only way to keep the system from falling back into the flawed ways of the past.

The ubiquity of information allowed people to gain a thorough understanding of worldly cultures. As a result, many of the cultural differences between people began to fade. Despite being separated by great distances, people still felt connected to each other in a communal sense. They had no nationality, no allegiance to a flag, and viewed themselves as citizens of Earth. They acted as one conglomerate global super-culture where many old nonsensical customs were abandoned and replaced by rational thinking and empathy. For the first time in human history, there was sustained global peace.

Article by Edward Mullen

Author of The Art of the Hustle and Destiny and Free Will

Host of The Edward Mullen Podcast


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