Day three of being holed up in Karina’s house.
After the police finished questioning me for potentially being an on-the-run murderer, they inspected those huge packages in front of my apartment and found trace amounts of explosive material inside. I’ve been highly encouraged to seek shelter in Karina’s house for the time being, a place further away from my normal routine and not somewhere that the Bidbay auction robots have much chance of finding me.
Being once again forced out of my place is what blows. And I’m going to be missing out on half of a paycheck because of this. Whatever trials the Cybermancer may have given me, I have certainly succumbed to them.
It’s not just the Biday robots, though they are consistently very annoying. That one who cornered me on the street and called me a murderer… it followed me all the way to the subway station. I think people are talking about it online. And I still can’t order any food at the food court because the robots simply don’t recognize me as a person.
Well, let’s not think about reality right now and dive back into mindless platforming video games, like Cool Spot 4: Retribution, which I’ve been stumbling through all afternoon.
I have some roast beef stew going in the slow cooker right now, but it won’t be ready for a little bit, so I’m jumping around as a red dot guy trying to, uh, save the planet maybe. I think this game was product placement for some soda that no longer exists? Either way I’m making pitfall after pitfall and it’s frustrating.
We had that whole weekend planned out just for Genesis Crush, and now that’s all gone and Karina’s back to her same old busy-ness. She’s out at the moment (she’s at orchestra practice at the moment… or practicing for her own piano recital… I forget which is which), and I’m all alone with Cool Spot.
Nope, Cool Spot just fell to his death and is sinking into the depths of the digital oceans.
I’m here to lose lives and wreck my mood, and I’m all out of lives.
Time to reset again.
I’d do some introspection, but I’m not sure this game merits that. Now, Genesis Crush? That would certainly merit it. If only I actually had it.
Genesis Crush, where I could be fighting right now against a pixel art army of zombies and crusader knights, protecting Genesis City from harm with my customized character, performing sick combos and gaining stats… I’d probably run for mayor and win in a landslide due to my character’s popularity as a hero even if their experience at governance is precisely zero and will only add to their stress level. And then I’d have to balance out being a mayor and allocating city resources with going out on the streets to beat up illegal vigilantes and mecha-dinosaurs created by mad scientists…
What a world it would be if I could play Genesis Crush instead of Cool Spot 4. But because of Moonslash, my world is one of jumping across platforms with a really floaty main character and falling to my death every twenty seconds.
Karina finally gets home, like usual giving an exasperated sigh as she collapses on the couch next to me and lays her head on my shoulder.
“Tough day?” I ask.
“I’m such a shitty piano player, and I had two deliveries that went over fifteen minutes, and this creepy guy in the subway wouldn’t stop hitting on me, and… I think we should trade places, okay?”
Cool Spot jumps on top of an enemy, but it turns out that enemy is actually a soda bottle that shoots Cool Spot fifty feet in the air. He dies on impact with the first platform he touches. Whoever put fall damage in a platforming game should be executed.
“We can’t trade places because you can’t cook,” I say.
“I can cook microwave dinners…”
“Delicious and nutritious.”
“Plus,” Karina says. She lifts her head off my shoulder and raises an index finger. “If I was the one who had to stay with you, I wouldn’t have to make these stupid half-hour commutes every time I wanted to go downtown. You have such a good apartment.”
“I wouldn’t call it great. It’s great when I can get the hot water to come on, but that’s once in a blue moon.”
“It’s not the same…”
“I know. You have a shower that actually works right. It’s just so nice.”
“And all of my Dad’s dumb books scattered around the house that he never even reads… It’d just be better if I was in downtown Atlanta, I think…”
“Maybe we should trade houses,” I say.
She rolls her eyes. “Oh, nevermind.” She gets up and unwinds the cord to the second controller. “Let’s play a multiplayer game. I want to beat you up in a fighting game.”
“Waku Waku 7?”
“No, something like, really mean with a lot of punching.”
“Street Sharks Brawlers.”
“Eh, that’s too silly too…”
“I don’t think you own anything more brutal than Street Sharks.”
“Can I shoot you in Doom 5?”
She pulls out her Turbo-CD and puts in Doom 5. She’s going to shoot me with missile launchers, which is honestly not a bad way to go out if you ask me.
“You pick space guys, I’ll pick demons,” says Karina. “I’m going to chainsaw you in half.”
“Not missile launchers?”
“Not brutal enough.”
“Understandable. I’ll do my best to blow you up though.”
We start on the map and Karina’s demon dude runs at me, chainsaw revving. I’m not a fan of these 3D shooting type games; usually they’re better if you play them at the hologram booths, and on the TV it’s just not the same.
She dodges all of my missiles, which isn’t too hard because they fly in the air at like five miles an hour. This is all pretty lame. And– there I go. Eviscerated by way of being cut into, my guts and blood spewing out.
“Can’t you at least put up a fight?”
“I was, I thought.”
“I will, geez.” We continue fighting, and I continue dying.
If there’s anyone in the world who could brutally murder me and I’d still be okay with it, it’s Karina.
“Oh yeah,” I say. “The stew is probably done.” I drop out of the game and go over to the kitchen to check on our dinner.
“Wow, the CPU character is better than you.”
“I won’t take that as an insult. I’m a pacifist, it turns out.”
Letting me stay here with the condition that I cook all the meals is probably the best deal Karina has ever offered me. I don’t enjoy cooking unless it’s for others, but since every meal I make is going to be shared, I’m pretty okay with it.
Yep, it’s ready. I dip out two bowls (and make sure not to put too much corn in Karina’s bowl because she’s a weirdo who doesn’t like it) and take it back over to the living room.
Since we’re both eating, we turn the game off for now and flip to TV, where it’s showing the dramedy series Love Yourself (it’s about two clones in love fighting for their civil rights).
“Say, Morgan, I’ve been wondering something,” Karina says as she spoons her first mouthful of stew. “Oh, this is so good. I want you to be my personal chef. But– I’ve been wondering about R8PR. I’m kinda worried. I wish we could figure out what’s going on with him.”
“Still nothing, huh?”
“He never responds to his damn e-mails anyway, but I was hoping maybe if it were an emergency…” Karina shakes her head. “Whatever he’s doing is probably more important than your Cybermancer stuff.”
“I certainly hope not, because this is pretty awful.”
“Well, it’s not the worst.”
“I’m being harassed AND ignored by robots.”
“Ehh…” She gives an incredulous look.
“Why don’t YOU try it?”
“It’s not like anyone’s getting hurt, right? If R8PR were here, he’d probably say something like, ‘Listen here, Morgan. You’ve gotta figure out this mystery yourself because it’ll help you grow as a person and help you protect Atlanta better when you need it, but I won’t say that directly so I’ll just make a riddle out of it.’ Something along those lines.”
“Your R8PR impression needs some work.”
Somewhere, I can feel the robot making inexplicable sneezing sounds while he’s in the middle of some important mission, jeopardizing everything all because of our conversation.
“Well, whatever, Chuck will probably fix all of this and we can go back to normal soon,” I say.
“I say we should go down to the Data Farm tomorrow.”
“I know YOU say that, but I still don’t wanna.”
“Why? Just because of your preconceived biases?”
“Yeah, is that such a bad thing?”
“Well, I bet– Mmm! Sorry, I can’t banter with you when this stew is so good.”
“Ah, fine. I’ll see if Chuck has exhausted all his options first.”
And… nothing. I know he’s a busy guy, but I appreciate people who answer phone calls, you know. It sucks when both of the people that could potentially help you out of a jam just happen to be completely gone from existence.
“He told me to call him tonight, but, whatever,” I say. “Guess we’ll go to the Data Farm tomorrow. Whatever secrets it may hold. Probably nothing.”
“Chuck’s a funny guy. He never recognizes me no matter how many times I meet him. Is it because I’m Japanese? Is he racist?”
“I think he’s Japanese too. Maybe he’s just not good with faces.”
“Yeah but my face is way more distinctive than yours,” she says.
“What? Absolutely not. I have this really cool mole next to my eye. You’ve got like, that dopey looking smile, which is way less distinctive.”
“I mean in a cute way, but still.”
Karina flashes her eyebrows up and down.
“You know what I mean,” I say.
“I certainly do.”
My cheeks flush. “No– I just… grrr.”
“Aw, Morgan is embarrassed after giving a compliment to me. It’s like you’re an elementary schooler who just gave a Valentine’s Day card to their crush.”
“You’re brutal, man.”
“I did chainsaw you in half a couple minutes ago.”
“Was it a good stress-reliever?”
“I don’t know, maybe I still need to… relax a little bit more, eh?” Karina leans way too close to me and raises her eyebrows again. She can barely hold this for two seconds before she leans back and bursts into laughter. She’s blushing really hard too.
“You’re so weird, Karina.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s just…” She laughs a bit more. “After you got embarrassed I got really embarrassed too, and it was just kind of… silly.”
“Well, you were the one that instigated it all,” I say. “You’re excruciating to live with.”
“Yeah, I probably am. Always away from home working, leaving little Morgan alone in a lonely world of video games and reality shows… Though I was hoping you’d make a better homemaker.”
“What? Wasn’t my stew great?”
“Yeah, but you hardly ever clean up around here, huh?”
“I guess now that we’re living together permanently, I should be more responsible.”
Karina slaps my playfully. “If I’m living with you, it ain’t gonna be in my Dad’s house.”
“I dunno, it’s pretty nice.”
“Not nice enough. My Dad leave all his books around all the time and it just clutters everything up…”
“I swear we had this conversation just a few minutes ago.”
“Crap, I think we did. I think I’m getting delirious.”
“You work too hard.”
“I don’t work hard enough.”
“Do you have stuff tomorrow?”
“Orchestra practice again, but that’s in the evening. We can go to the Data Farm anytime we want.”
“So sleeping in is an option…?”
“Well…” Karina starts.. unbuttoning the top two buttons of her shirt. “I was thinking of going to bed soon. Maybe change into pajamas or something.”
“Ah, oh well. I was tired of Love Yourself anyway.” For the record, that show is still playing on the TV as we speak. It’s been in the same court scene for the past twenty minutes.
“I do have to admit, I’m not that tired yet though. I don’t know if I’ll be able to fall asleep just yet.”
“Oh yeah? And what are you going to do about that?”
“Well… I could… I don’t know.” Karina scoots up to me to the point that our sides are touching. She finishes unbuttoning her shirt, exposing her bra.
“It’s been a long week, hasn’t it?” I ask.
“I really wanted to play Genesis Crush.”
“But this is nice too.”
“Hanging out with you all day,” I say. “Waiting on you to come home like a puppy. I much prefer days where I’m guaranteed to see you to days I’m not.”
“That was the most lame way to phrase that compliment you could have ever come up with.”
“Try it yourself then.”
“Here’s my way of phrasing it,” she says. And then she reaches out and grabs my arms. With one sudden motion she pushes me down on my back. She keeps hold as she leans over me.
“Hey, that’s kind of rude. I’m technically still injured you know,” I say.
“From your broken arm? That was a month ago.”
“Well, for normal people I should still be in a cast. You shouldn’t treat me differently based on things I can’t control.”
“Oh, I’ll go over to see if you’re okay.” She moves forward until she’s right on top of me, her right knee in between my legs. Her face is very close to mine. “You look alright.”
“But you still don’t look tired.”
I reach behind Karina and remove her shirt. She puts her hand on my stomach and begins pulling my shirt up before she reaches–
Some keys jingling.
The door opens.
Karina’s father enters the house, and stares at the two of us.
We should be moving right now, but we are both completely petrified. This is such a rare occurrence that neither of us had given the notion of it happening any thought.
He looks away from us and walks into the bedroom, where he begins taking off his suit. “My bed is perfectly made up,” he says. “I’m not surprised.”
Karina and I scramble off of each other and Karina quickly dresses herself.
After he has changed into housewear, Karina’s dad heads into the kitchen and looks in the fridge and the pantry and then the freezer. “It looks like we are getting low on food. It seems I will be the one to get groceries, then.”
He takes out a TV dinner and heats it up in the microwave.
“He never speaks to me in English,” she whispers.
So he’s talking to me…
I’ve only met him a few times because he’s at work so much. He sleeps there so often that his house is more like a hotel room than anything else. The fact he got home just now is… Welp.
After a few minutes, Karina’s dad takes his TV dinner and sets it down on the coffee table, where he flips the TV on to National Geographic, which is showing a program about an astronaut born in Atlanta. He no longer speaks to either of us.
I lean to Karina. “Time for bed?” I whisper.
“Time for bed.” I put the rest of the stew in the fridge and we decide to never speak of this moment ever again.