By Xanabee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: January 2004
Summary: A fanfic writer has some unexpected visitors. A Beta-Reader Appreciation Day story.
December 1, 2003, was pronounced the official Beta Reader Appreciation Day on the LCFanficmbs.com. We were asked to submit a post on that particular day to say 'thank you' to our beta readers.
Here's my effort at saying 'thank you'. Not only to the FoLCs who have beta read my stories, but to all the beta readers in our fandom.
Thank you — for your support and all the time and effort you so unselfishly give to us writers. Without your help, I doubt that we'd have that many excellent stories uploaded in the archive.
Why am I not asleep? I'm tired… why am I so tired? Oh, yeah… I remember… yesterday was my birthday and I had ten people over. What was I thinking?! I spent two days preparing the house and a huge dinner. And what did I get out of it? Sore feet!
I wriggle my toes and stretch my tired legs while trying to pry open my eyes to peer at the clock on the nightstand.
Geez! I went to sleep at two and I could swear I was asleep the moment my head touched my pillow. So how come I'm already awake at four? It's December the first… an important day… I can't remember why exactly… but it is…
I flip on my back and look around the darkened bedroom with bleary eyes. Hey! How come my red dress is hanging on the door? That's not where I left it.
Huh? That's not my red dress — that's someone — a person — standing near the door, wearing a red cape!
"She's awake," a soft male voice whispers.
I bolt upright and turn my head towards the sound. A woman, her arms crossed in front of her chest, is standing at the foot of the bed. She is staring rather belligerently down at me.
"You… you… you're…"
"Cover yourself!" she snaps.
Hastily, I draw up the coverlet and hold it bunched up under my chin. Suddenly, I'm wide awake.
"What do you mean — cover yourself? You're in my bedroom!"
"She's got a point, honey."
Amusement tinges the well-known velvety male voice and I turn my head once again to gape at him.
Him! It's really him!
"Okay, that's enough! Stop ogling my husband. We'll wait for you in the living room. Join us as soon as you've put on something decent."
The woman shoves the red-caped figure out the door while I scramble out of bed. Hastily, I shrug into my housecoat. My head is reeling. Lois and Superman are here — in my apartment!
I run into the hall and stop, abruptly, at the entrance of my living room. Superman is gone and on my couch sits Clark Kent, under the soft glow of the table-lamp, engrossed in one of my magazines.
Drat! I missed the twirl. Why didn't he wait for me before changing into his alter ego?
"You're doing it again — staring at my husband. Quit doing that."
Lois Lane is standing near the dining table and she's sifting through the few assorted chocolates my guests hadn't gobbled up the previous night.
"Help yourself," I say, rather sarcastically, "And before I completely lose my mind — please tell me what's going on? What are you doing here! Are you time-traveling? Is Mr. Wells here, too? And why —"
"Yes, honey, tell her why we came. It was your idea, after all."
"I will — as soon as — ugh… ugh…" Lois mumbles, almost choking on the sticky syrup in the cherry and rum bean she's chomping on.
"It's okay, Mr. Kent, she can eat all the chocolate she wants. Would you like a cup of coffee? I think I need something strong to calm my nerves. This is quite a shock — I mean — I'm sure this is not real, I'm sure I'm dreaming, but you two seem so real, it's… weird."
While talking, I walk into the adjoining kitchen and turn on the light above the counter.
"Coffee would be great." Lois's voice has returned. "But you'd better make Clark some tea. You do have some decent tea, I hope."
"Of course!" I roll my eyes. Geez, is she bossy or what! "Is Earl Grey okay? And before you pop another one of those brandy-filled chocolates into your mouth, will you please tell me what this is all about?"
"Well, just the other day I was checking out that fanfic archive on the internet and I just couldn't believe my eyes. Thousands of stories about my husband and me! I told Clark it's time we found out why you people persist in writing about us."
"Really? So why come to me? I've only got three measly stories in that archive. There are lots and lots of excellent stories in there by writers with truly impressive lists of titles. There's Wendy — and Irene — and Jenni — oh, and Nan! Have you read any of Nan's stories? They're great; I'm sure you'll love 'em."
"You mean — that woman who's trying to make me have triplets? Pu- leaze!"
"Triplets would be nice, honey."
"If it was up to you I'd have ten kids in one big swoop," Lois says sourly. "See?" She turns to me. "That's why you people have to stop doing this — you're putting all sorts of crazy ideas in Clark's head."
I'm curious to know, so I ask eagerly, "Do you have any children?"
"That's not the issue here. Our private life — our real life — is none of your business. You people —"
"Why do you call us 'you people' — we're your fans, you know!"
"I know! And why you'd be fans of a TV series that ended years ago is beyond me. So tell me — you're one of the newest authors of the bunch — why did you start writing about us?"
"Umm… well… it's LabRat's fault, really…" I say, a bit cowardly.
"LabRat? The one who wrote that unbelievably long story Clark's been printing out the other day? Do you know how much paper he's used?"
"It was worth it — it's a great story. It's called 'Masques'. You really should read it too, honey."
"I don't think so, Clark, I don't have time for all that."
Lois unwraps another chocolate and this time bites off a small piece and carefully starts sucking out the sugared rum.
"LabRat, indeed! Why would anyone use a name like that — and why is it this LabRat's fault that you started writing?"
"Well," I answer while I hand Clark Kent a cup of tea and start pouring coffee for Lois and myself. "I'd written a few pages about you and your husband coming to Amsterdam and —"
"Oh yeah — it's about a chocolate festival. I liked that one — it was short!"
"You only like short stories? You've never read one of the longer ones?"
"Of course not — I have better things to do. Clark, on the other hand, loves those long stories. He wallows over them — he's a sentimental softie."
"I don't wallow, Lois."
"Yes, you do. Remember that story about a bunch of racists who abducted and hypnotized you? You were upset for three days after you'd read that one!"
"You mean — Yvonne Connell's 'Purity'?" Eagerly, I turn to Clark. "Isn't that just awesome? She won a Kerth for that one."
"Hah! A 'Kerth'!" Lois rolls her eyes. "Don't get me started on that. Let's get back to this LabRat person. You were saying?"
"Uh… well… it's like this… I'd written that short story, you see, and it really was the very first time I'd written a story about you guys and in English no less, so I was worried. In a reckless mood I sent it to LabRat and asked her if she'd be so kind as to tell me if it was any good. Of course it wasn't — it stank! But no one could've been nicer about it than LabRat. She told me — very nicely — what to fix and how to do it and she agreed to be my BR — my beta reader — for that story."
"Your beta reader? You mean — she helped you with your grammar and such?"
"Oh! And much more! Without her, that story would still be sitting on my hard drive. Or I would've deleted it, who knows. I certainly wouldn't have written a second or attempted writing a third one, believe me! "
"Hmm… I see… so a beta reader is essential?"
"I think the majority of the writers would agree. When I started writing 'There's Always Something' I placed an ad on the message boards for a BR. I didn't dare pester LabRat again. She's a very busy lady, you see, and this story was getting a bit long so… anyway, I struck gold. TriciaW sent me an email, offering to help, and believe me — that story is as much hers as it is mine. I honestly couldn't have done it without her. She stuck by me — the whole — endlessly long — seven months it took me to finish it."
"So… if there weren't any beta readers then there wouldn't be any stories?"
"A lot less, maybe. People would continue writing, I guess. But I'm sure I wouldn't — I'm definitely not prepared to upload a story that wasn't looked over by one or more BRs."
"Ahah! Clark, that's it! We'll have to visit those beta readers instead of the writers. To try and persuade them to stop helping them."
"They won't!" I glare at Lois. "We need them, so leave them alone! They enjoy being BRs."
"We'll see," Lois says militantly, "Where can we find this Tricia person? And that other one — that LabRat? Clark, put down that magazine — let's go!"
"Honey, I rather enjoy those stories. Why are you so adamant to put a stop to this?"
"I'd like to know that too," I say, "It's completely harmless. And such great fun! So why do you —"
The shrill sound of my telephone interrupts me and I walk over to the console and pick it up. Who in the world is calling at four in the morning? Oh well — anything is possible in this weird nightmare I'm having!
"Hi Sis!" The cheerful but terribly off-key voice of my sister immediately starts singing 'Happy birthday to you!'
"Thanks for the serenade… but don't give up your regular job yet — not for a singing career, anyway. You're late!"
"I had to work late. I just got home. Are the others still there?"
"'Course not! The party ended hours ago." I glance at the clock on the wall. "You know it's six hours later over here… it's December the first already. Hey! Now I remember: it's the official Beta Reader Appreciation Day! Wow! I've got to… You go to bed and I'll talk to you later, okay? I'll call you."
"Hey! Not so fast! What official 'whatever day' is this?"
"Never mind — I'll tell you later. Maybe… umm… maybe not."
I hastily hang up and turn to my unexpected guests.
"I'm sorry — that was my sister who lives in Florida…"
My voice peters out. Where are Lois and Clark? I run into the kitchen. No, they're not there. The bedroom? No… They're gone already? And they didn't even say goodbye!
Drat it! I missed the twirl — again!
How come I didn't hear a whirling sound or feel a gust of wind? Isn't it supposed to happen like that?
Oh well — I'd better send LabRat and Tricia an email. To warn them that Lois is on the warpath… Naah! Better not — this didn't happen for real… this is just a dream…
I climb into bed and adjust the alarm. No need to hear it ring at nine… eleven would be better.
As soon as my head hits the pillow I'm asleep. And when the alarm goes off, a few hours later, I tumble out of bed, bleary-eyed.
Boy! That was some dream! Where did that come from, anyway? I know that when I was busy with my birthday preparations I was thinking about not forgetting the Beta Reader Appreciation Day… maybe that's what triggered this crazy nightmare…
Yawning hugely, I walk into the living room and abruptly stop. My mouth drops open while I stare at two coffee-cups and one teacup on the table; just where I put them 'in my dream' — beside the bowl with chocolates.
And on the floor are the two crumpled wrappings of the bonbons Lois ate…