[Establishing shot: sunrise on a midwestern town. Camera slowly pans. Deep, resonant voiceover begins.]
Voiceover: There was once a man …
[Cut to shot of normal suburban house]
Voiceover: … who had …
[Cut to interior shot: we move along the hall towards open bedroom door]
Voiceover: … an extraordinary talent.
[Quick fade to black. Fade up to closeup of thin, sweaty hands manically typing on a cheap, clacky keyboard. Several symbols along the top row of numerals have been replaced by various smilies.]
Voiceover: In his hands, any email became …
[Cut to closeup of computer screen. Windows 95, email compose window. Bright red text. Comic sans font. Exclamation marks.]
Voiceover: … a forward.
[Sudden fade to black. Fast breathing, close to mic. Final volley of keypresses; then silence. After 2 seconds, 'new mail' sound is heard.]
Voiceover: He is — The Forward Writer.
* * *
… Because haven't you noticed: every single 'FWD: fwd: re: fwd: LOL! You WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS' email you get has actually been written by the same person?
The one same person who, furthermore, has discovered the secret of eternal youth via a timewarp that holds them forever in the mid/late 90s? Because FWDs are so 90s they hurt. More 90s than Britpop. Than The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Than Creutzfeldt-Jakob's.
Anyway. I know the setting of my cinematic teaser above is domestic, but I actually think some big yet shady e-corporation is keeping this guy (it's a guy, believe me, it's a guy) holed up somewhere, in a secret, heavily-guarded basement. He's not allowed out: he just stays in the same lightless, 90s-in-formaldehyde room, twitching and shaking, dosed up to the nostril hairs on Skittles and Opal Fruits (not, mark ye, Starbursts).
Elsewhere – high, high up in the glistening glass-and-chrome interior of the e-corporation HQ – there's another office, in which sit a man and woman named Duncan and Gabrielle. They're on iMacs. And, day after day, they scroll through innumerable thousands of inbound emails.
Largely, they work in silence; at intervals, however, one will look across at the other and speak. We join them at one such interval:
'Hey. Duncan. I'm getting it from one of my sources that there's ... there's demand for emails about women's shopping habits.'
Slowly, Duncan looks up.
'Women's shopping habits? My god.'
'I know,' replies Gabrielle.
'Well. What can I say? It's a crazy idea … [he pauses thoughtfully] … but, d'you know – I think it might just work. Women's shopping habits, you say?'
'Yes Duncan. Women's shopping habits. This is uncharted territory – I don't mind admitting that, straight off the bat. But, hell, I've just got that feeling about it. The feeling that this could be MASSIVE.'
'Damn it, Gabrielle, you're starting to convince me! Hell, it might even go viral.' He starts to his feet, takes a few paces … 'Women's shopping habits. Women's shopping habits … There's – got – to – be – something!'
Gabrielle follows him with her eyes. 'You're a fine man, Duncan, and I almost don't dare say this … But neither you nor I have it in us to get to the bottom of this. To write something daring –something searingly comical, invigoratingly fresh and yet forehead-smackingly true to life – about (of all things) women's shopping habits. Duncan, I just don't think we can do it.'
Abruptly, Duncan halts and shakes his head like a man beleaguered by many woes (or possibly a horsefly).
'Damn it, Gabrielle, it hurts me to say it but I think you're right. We both know it: there's only one man who can help us now.'
They lock eyes. For a moment, neither speaks. Then, as if motioned by some hidden cue, they utter in unison:
'The Forward Writer.'