Bitter 72

“What are you doing?” said Britta, suddenly panicked.

“Nothing,” said Lewis without looking up, his fingers tapping away. He struggled to keep the laptop on his lap as he worked his knees up while trying to not fall off the seat.

“I said you can’t tell anyone,” said Britta, getting annoyed.

“I won’t.” He was still typing.

Britta leaned into him, her face brushing his shoulder as she tried to see what he was writing. It was a thread on a Fishtail.com, telling them he knew someone who had seen the pod—only he called it a ‘VIB’ for some reason—and that it was horizontal not vertical. It wasn’t exactly shocking news, but as soon as he posted it replies started appearing.

“You just told people!” She was more irritated by him lying to her face than what he wrote. It was so bland and irrelevant, she didn’t think it could possibly break the NDA.

“It’s okay,” said Lewis. “Nobody’s going to believe me.”

Britta was confused. “Then why post it?”

“Have you been on Fishtail?” asked Lewis.

“I had a look, but there didn’t seem to be much there. It’s a bit too toxic. People calling each other names and saying weird stuff that makes no sense. And hardly anyone knows what they’re talking about.”

The replies to his post now numbered fifteen and all of them were basically calling him a liar. Many of them were also telling him he was full of shit, his suggestion was shit and that the only place his horizontal box would take him was to a virtual world made entirely of shit.

They also pointed out the main flaw in his claim to have a friend with a VIB, which was that there was no way he had any friends of any kind. Many people upvoted this comment.

Which was followed up by some discussion about his mother and what she’d been up to last night. The conversation was hard to follow after that as a picture from an old television show was posted with the caption ‘yo little ting’ which made no sense to Britta but  provoked a string of responses that were in some language not yet available to the general public.

“Yeah, you’re right, but if you build up a decent reputation, you get access to the higher level forums where the real info is. I’m going to put this here, people are going to throw abuse at me until they get bored, but when the VIB comes out and I’m proved right, I’ll get my karma then.”

“What’s a VIB?” said Britta.

“Virtual Information Box,” said Lewis. “Why, what does your Dad call it?”

“A pod.”

Lewis began typing again. It seemed harmless enough so she didn’t try to stop him. Her bus drove up and she got on. Lewis didn’t even notice her going. It was his bus, too, but he was too engrossed.

When she got home, the padlock on the living room door was open. She could hear the hum of the pod. Dad was still in it, probably fighting some monster, or some player. She went upstairs and got changed. She had plenty to do and she was determined to resist the urge to waste the evening surfing for more information on APE and the game. It was pointless, and no substitute for playing the game. Nothing was.

She changed and came back down to get something to eat. Supplies for her adventures in homework. The padlock was hanging off the hook. It was a digital one with a small keypad to input the combination.

She lifted it up in her hand, still attached to the loop on the doorframe, and it was quite obvious from the greasy fingerprints that the numbers one, two and eight were part of the code, although that didn’t tell her what order they were supposed to be entered. Knowing the digits would make it much easier to figure out, but it didn’t matter, she already knew.

28th December, two, eight, one, two, the date most important to her Dad. Stan Lee’s birthday.

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