The Secret Name
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“I hate my name,” Gladys told him after three drinks at the singles bar where they had just met. She was blonde and he was breathing hard, but it was clear that all she wanted to do was talk. They were all like that with him--at least the pretty ones.

“I’ll find you the perfect new name,” Mike said. “One that will suit your personality to a T.” He took off his glasses to wipe the steam from them. The light was blue in the bar, and that was the way he felt.

“How?” Gladys was beginning to appear interested. She twiddled the swizzle stick in her drink and lifted her gaze from his paunch to his eyes.

“On the main frame parallel computers at Megatronics! I’m a programmer. But this is going to take some time and research,” he said, trying to veil the glint of hope in his eyes. “I’ll have to ask you some questions. Don’t worry!” he hastened to say further, “It won’t be much worse than joining a computer match club.” In the pause that followed Mike could almost hear the tension that sizzled above the tables and booths of The Free Lance Lounge.

  
 
“You promise?” she asked at last.

Mike nodded his head so hard that drops of perspiration fell from his forehead onto the bar counter. He moved his arm as unobtrusively as he could to wipe them up with his sleeve. “When I’ve found you the perfect name you can have your old one changed legally.”

“Okay. What do you want to know?”

Mike pulled out the pad and mechanical pencil he always carried, and he took notes until the wee hours. They finished just as the Lounge and Gladys’ eyes were closing. “Drive you home?” he asked.

“No, thanks. I’ll grab a cab.” She picked up her purse and teetered to her feet.

She gestured to the barkeep who reached for the phone.

“Well, how about we meet here in a week, next Friday? I ought to be done by then.”

She nodded vaguely. Mike hoped she would remember.

Over the rest of the weekend, and during all his spare time the rest of the week, Mike worked fiendishly on the program. It was as though he were inspired, under a spell--he had never worked better.

“I’d give anything to make this work,” he muttered over and over under his breath as his pencil sped over the paper and his fingers poked at the keyboard. Mr. Harris, his boss, seemed impressed by his newly-found industry.

When Mike was done writing the program he fed every fact and statistic of Gladys’ life into the company machine. In return the computer eventually came up with the perfect new name: “Laborna.” Mike hoped like the devil that she would be grateful.

It turned out she was more than that, for when he met her at the Free Lance and pronounced the syllables of her new name she went stare-eyed, entranced. That weekend she did everything Mike asked--everything. With a passion. At her place.

It wasn’t long before Mike realized he had discovered Gladys’ Secret Name, and that the program he had written had made him her absolute master. “I’ll be damned!” he said. “I wonder if it would work on any of the other girls.”

He began to collect information from the personnel files at the company. It took a lot of overtime, but that looked good to Mr. Harris. When Mike had finished, he began to feed the data into the machine. Soon he had computed the Secret Name of every secretary in his department. And in every case all he had to do was to pronounce the appropriate syllables to make each of them his love slave.

All the heavy activity, both physical and mental, took its toll. While he was on sick leave Mike began to realize what a fool he’d been, though, to tell the truth, it had been worth it. He had enjoyed to the hilt the turnabout in the way the men at the office regarded him. Mike had gone in a stroke from wimp to superstud.

Nobody could understand it. Mike had basked for weeks in the envious and malicious stares of his fellow toilers as he walked among the desks with their flickering screens and humming printers.

It was only after he’d computed the Secret Name of Mr. Harris and received two quick and furiously discussed promotions that it began to dawn on Mike that he’d been frittering away the greatest discovery in the history of mankind. He thought that if word got out about his program--which Mike could not allow--he would receive the Nobel Prize. “In fact,” he said to himself, “I’ll make sure I get it anyway.”

When he was back on his feet he began to proceed carefully and methodically with a plan he’d worked out in the hospital. Soon he was well on his way to ruling the world.

One day Mike was sitting in the Oval Office of the White House considering his next move. He’d been ruling the world for quite a while, but it still felt very good.

He enjoyed the feeling of plush under his feet, the silent movements of the servants, the shine of the brass on the shoulders of the guards at the door. All this was too fine to lose, so Mike spent a great deal of time considering and reconsidering what he had to do to keep things going smoothly. He knew he had plenty of enemies who were waiting and looking for his weak spot. It was very annoying. It distracted him from his pleasure.

“Great bleeding Beelzebub!” he cried suddenly, overwhelmed by his blindness.

“Defense!” How was it he hadn’t thought of it before? It wasn’t possible to control every individual in the world, so he ruled by controlling key people. “But what if someone from somewhere comes up with my own program? He could counter my power by discovering my Secret Name! I don’t even know what it is myself!”

Even as he breathed the words Mike headed for the computer room trailing a double-timing cordon of colonels and generals behind him down the elegant White House corridors.

Into the machine--top of the line--Mike fed every fact and statistic of his being. Not even pausing to wipe the fog from his lenses, he pushed the Return key.

Out of the printer there issued a single word, a name. Mike stared at it for a moment, then he cried, with wonder ringing in his voice, “Lafnot!”

Immediately there appeared before him in a cloud of fire a demon conjured by the syllables he had uttered. Mike gasped, “Well, I’ll be damned!”

And he was.

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