Spelling Bee

Carlyle sat outside the Writing Recruitment Centre, known colloquially as Work Centres. They were giving spelling tests as a warm up for the National Spelling Bee. The Reality Corps had been put together not long after The Exquisite Corps was heard of, operating out in Thesaurus Space, a hinge-space near The Unscripted Realms, where the rumour was they had been creating new Reality Engineers and Non-Sequiturs to push into The Scripted Realms through security breaks in The Slice. They needed to recruit as many people as possible to go out there and fight as they could.

It was strange to think that one of the largest literacy drives in history could be attributed to a need for warriors. For the longest time there had been a separation from supposed men of action and thinkers, but now, with reality as the battleground, if you couldn’t think you couldn’t fight.

Carlyle had been teaching Billy logic problems and the classics since he could talk. Billy had memorised passages of Dickens, sonnets by Petrarch and Shakespeare, Blake, Shelley. Carlyle didn’t like to think of Billy out there fighting things that defied the laws of physics, came from outside the bounds of reality, and might make him fall to pieces with the blink of an alien eye, but he also didn’t like to think of doomed to driving a truck from Came-Bridge to L’undone like he had to every day. Carlyle, like most fathers, want something better for themselves.

Billy rapped on his window. ‘Dad, I got in.’

– * –

Two weeks later he was sat in the audience, watching Billy Carlyle spell the long and complex words that would get him into the Reality Corps. Billy was head and shoulders above his competitors.



Bill could barely remember the Maturation Chambers; the Compressed Education Training, or Set,as it was known. His father Grayson Carlyle was a dim thing that came to him when he Zip-Slept.

The training was interesting – you didn’t think about it, but you could notice it unspooling through your thought processes, as you were confronted by something that should not be, but was. It lunged at him. He punched his keys, and he hit the return. His hack-rig buzzed, the signal fizzing out into the localspace. The creature folded down into nothing; a punctured truth. It was a pattern repeating throughout Thesaurus Space, and their world bubbled with the energy of it all.

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