Chapter 1 of the upcoming novel Artificial Investigations
R. Les Alexander
Friday, 8:00 a.m.
Alandis James knew he was a real deal badass. At least, that was what he told himself in the mirror every morning before he left the bathroom. He was confident that people thought of Michael Ealy when they saw him, and he could see why they would compare him to the man. Take away the craziness from The Perfect Guy, and he was just as handsome and attractive.
Standing at just a shade under six feet tall, he was sure that his one-hundred-and-forty-pound frame was the epitome of athletic royalty. Surely if you subtract the muscles, that speed and strength, and pretty much most of the athleticism, he was almost there, he thought. Wasn't he?
All black people are athletic, he told himself. Aren't they? Maybe since he was light skinned, it was different. Yeah, he was skinny, and light skinned, but skinny was a type of athletic form too. Wasn't it? He could even see his abs in the mirror when he took off his shirt. Or were those ribs?
It doesn't matter, Alandis declared silently. At age twenty-two, he was a graduate of MIT and a promising software writer. He had all of the knowledge and tools to achieve any goal set before his extremely informed sight and become one of the most successful black businessmen ever. He had a future as bright as the sun, or so the professors and everyone else kept telling him.
A bunch of fantasies, he thought. It was amazing how perception and reality rarely seemed to mix. Most of his life, he had done what was expected of him. He'd pursued academics because everyone had assumed that a person with his intellectual capacity would, but it wasn't what he really wanted. Truthfully, he didn't even know what he wanted. In reality, he was just a geek. A top notch, grade A, certified dweeb. He had no friends to speak of, and that was including the other dweebs. Even the dweebs called him a dweeb. And they were dweebs! Seriously!
But that's about to change, Alandis promised himself. He knew that deep down in his heart. Today was the day. His day of evolution. Today was the day that he would grab that mighty bull by its massive horns and wrestle his own path to greatness right from it. Today was the day that he would begin his predestined journey to becoming the super duper, swagged out monster he was meant to be. Today would be the absolute last day of his using the word, super-duper. Seriously!
And the most iconic part of his legacy would be that his geekiness had created the foundation for his ungeeky future. That his most crippling attribute would be his most important one. The geek less story, he thought with a smile to himself. If what he possessed got the attention of the necessary people, he hoped it would today, then his future was set in one-thousand-year-old stone. They would be discussing him like the pharaohs of old, but in a good way.
As his thoughts turned outward again, Alandis repeatedly told himself that his future included the beautiful, honey gram toned receptionist behind the check-in desk before him as he sat in the waiting area on the top floor of Electrafyd Incorporated's headquarters.
When he had stepped off the incredible elevator and caught sight of her, with her curly flowing locks sweeping across her left eye and the light makeup on her soft cheekbones, he had nearly fallen to his knees right in the middle of the room. She was like a sample of Cardi B and Selena Gomez, and anyone else that made every man in the world request assistance to close his mouth at the sight of her. He could see the Spanish features written clearly across her face, and the only thing he could think of was, O'lay.
Before Alandis realized that he was staring at her, she looked up. She gave him a slight smile, causing his heart to pound like an angry silverback had mistaken his chest for its own. As she waved at him and told him he was wanted in conference room one, his nervousness returned full force to help snap him out of the trance he'd seemed to have been drawn into just by the sight of her.
In a quick moment of boldness, he attempted to wink at her as he strode smoothly past her desk. Reality gave him a cold slap in the face when her smile faltered before her head turned away to save him the embarrassment, bringing him firmly back down to earth. Last day, he though sadly before taking a deep breath and counting to ten as he adjusted his tie and glasses.
He was only meeting the directors of the largest electronics hardware and software manufacturer in the southwest region, he thought. No pressure at all. No reason for him to be shivering like a child with hypothermia and sweating through his tailored Joseph A. Banks, pinstripe suit. Seriously!
Back when he'd had a father, the man used to say, "Every individual accomplishment is only a single step away. Just take one step at a time." So Alandis opened the door and took a huge step into the conference room. He ignored the curious looks his entrance drew and hoped that he appeared a lot stronger than he felt inside.
As he gazed around the huge, mahogany table at the stoic faces seated inside the conference room, he had to take another deep breath to steady himself. He was no longer on a school campus, but he still felt like the weirdo amongst the normal people. And that was why Alandis couldn't figure out why he was so nervous. He had been facing challenges far ahead of his time, with people treating him like he didn't belong for as long as he could remember.
As his eyes landed on Luis Walker, founder and CEO of Electraftyd Incorporated, he realized why things were different now. He nearly dropped the cube he was gripping when he saw the man's calm expression countering his shaken one. This man expected greatness from him. What if he couldn't deliver? What if he wasn't good enough? What if he just wasn't that great?
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," Alandis said, surprised that his voice didn't break when he spoke. "I am Alandis James. The future of Electrafyd Incorporated's software division." He reached out awkwardly to sat the silver cube in his hand on the end of the table, rooted to his spot and too nervous to step closer. The high and mighty, skeptical smirks that passed around the table came close to breaking his will to achieve his goal. One step, he told himself.
"I see a new beginning before me today," he said as he took an unconscious step closer to the table. "For the future of Electrafyd electronics. for myself as a programmer. And yes, for every single one of your here today."
As he recited the words of his handwritten speech, Alandis knew that he just had to make it past the first question he'd prepared to ask them. If one person responded like he planned, he would be okay. He would literally be able to relax and let his work speak for itself. This would be a done deal. D-U-N, done!
Today is the day that imagination becomes reality," he continued. "That we take the unimaginably impossible and turn it into the everyday ordinary. That the world of electronic evolution starts and ends with Electrafyd Incorporated. So, I ask you this. What would you say if I told you that I could hold a fully sentient mind in the palm of my hand?"
"I would say," the man at the head of the table cut into his presentation. Alandis knew that his moment had arrived. He could feel it. His shoulders rolled back as he stood taller and more confident as he awaited the green light from one of the most successful men in his state to drop his bomb.
"That today," Walker continued after a pregnant pause. "Is not the day, for new beginnings. Good luck and good day, young man," he finished with a head nod, rising out of his expensive leather chair.
"But wait," Alandis said rapidly, seconds after he realized what had just happened.
"Sorry sir, but he said good day," one of the faceless assistants answered, following the head of the company out the door.
For Alandis, it was almost like a movie line come to life right before his eyes. His favorite movie had been The Fast and Furious. The scene in the desert, when Letty raced the guy in the Dodge viper, and he was chanting, "Another one bites the dust," had been his favorite line to speak when he was doing interviews and someone asked him how he felt when accomplishing something he'd set out to do. Only this time, his mouth was full of dust. In the blink of an eye, he found himself standing in an empty conference room, surrounded by the extremely unnecessary opulence of corporate luxury. Alandis James was just another failure.
How could this happen to me, he thought. It was something he'd never really experienced in his life. He had lost. He had followed the course that everyone had expected him to follow, and he had failed. While he stood in front of the huge conference table staring at his cube, Alandis tried to process what he felt at that moment. The numbness in his chest was simply beyond words. Alandis would have described his state of mind as ghostly, but he knew that expression was inaccurate when he was nearly startled to death by the receptionist calling his name.
"Excuse me, Mr. James, but you can't stay in here all day," she said softly, as if he was a fragile piece of glass.
And in a way, he was. Barely on the tip of mentally shattering, just like his father. Alandis was unsure how long he'd been standing there, glued to his spot in front of the conference table, but he knew immediately that it wasn't where he wanted to be.
"A waste of space, I know," he mumbled as he grabbed his cube and turned to leave. She didn't have to smile at him in pity anymore. He didn't need the sympathy plastered across her face.
"Hey," she said as she reached out and grabbed his arm. Alandis had every intention of telling her exactly what to do with her sympathy when he turned, but he found himself staring into the most beautiful, light brown eyes he had ever seen face to face. And he really felt like he could see inside her eyes. They were deep. Better than the ones he'd seen in all those men's magazines and Instagram photos of beautiful women. And he was sure they weren't contacts.
"Everything's gonna be okay," she said softly, staring into his eyes. "Even steel has to go through fire before it becomes the strong metal we use for almost everything important. We've all been there. Don't give up, okay?"
Alandis just nodded. At that moment, with the sparks shooting up his arm from where her hand held a firm grip, he would have agreed to world domination and eternal servitude to the goddess that stood in front of his devoted, subservient eyes. Anything her angelic heart desired was only a simple request away as far as he was concerned, and he was pretty sure she knew it. But he also knew that there was nothing about him that would interest her even a little. All he had was brains. Her expression to his eye wink earlier was proof enough that he would need more than that to impress her.
The sound of her feminine giggle was what snapped him from the daze he'd allowed his thoughts to lock him in. And when he saw how incredible her full smile was, he had to stop himself from falling to his knees again. "Don't stare at me like that," she told him, her smile turning shy on her face and making it even more appealing in its innocence. "Or I might think that you're dumb enough to like me."
"Uh, actually, uh. Well you, uh," Alandis stumbled as he tried to form a coherent reply. Her resulting smile just made the natural thought process of a human being that much more difficult for him. he gave up on his ability to form the words for a reply.
"Well, if you're able to remember my number, you can call me sometime. Anytime," she said before rattling off her number at a machine gun pace that he was sure he would need her to repeat. she winked at him as she turned to leave, mirroring his earlier attempt at flirtation with way more swagger than he could ever hope to dream of so shocked he stood at the sudden shift in his luck, he never got a chance to ask her to repeat her number as she disappeared through the door with another heart stopping smile over her shoulder.
"Legs," Alandis blurted aloud. He was extremely grateful that she had left the room. He'd had no intentions of saying that out loud, but it seemed as if he'd been unable to keep it contained inside as he watched her leave. It was proof that I.Q. meant nothing at all when it came to people, especially beautiful ones like her. As intelligent as he was, his mind had gone completely haywire in her presence.
Normal was too generous a word for what he felt himself return to as he looked around the empty conference room again. Goodbye beautiful future, he waved to the room with a tight squeeze of his cube. Hello miserable present, he thought as he walked out of Electrafyd Incorporated, completely oblivious of the seething hatred that tracked his exit.