In His Room (Passage)

←Quality Time (Passage)

(The following is an excerpt from Heroes in the Dark that documents a night in the life of Steven Frederickson, the main character)

Steven sunk his teeth into the meat of the night. He plopped down on the futon, blasted radio signals from his smartphone, and ritualistically powered on the electronic devices surrounding him. Light from the projector slowly increased in intensity. While the projector warmed up, Steven nabbed a large bag of cheesy fingers from a wooden cabinet beneath his fridge. The cellophane groaned loudly, crinkling in all available degrees of freedom within his eager hands. He pulled forth a small handful and stuffed it into his mouth. His hands deposited an artificially cheesy residue on the right leg of his pants after a few wipes. Transferring the bag to his left hand, he opened the fridge with his right hand, fondling a few cold cans of Jolt. The soda Jolt, an old favorite, boasted about its supersaturated sugar and caffeine content on the side of the can. Steven special-ordered the beverage regularly. He managed to fit two cans into his hand, though he was planning on three. The third would have to wait. Steven wedged his two front incisors between the tab and top of the can and cracked open the mouth. This provoked a hiss of emanating carbonation. Now, it was time.

The powder of pulverized crumbs from previous nights filled every crack of the controller. This night, the cheeseless seasoning from Steven’s hands changed the controller’s color. Picking up where he had left off the day before, Steven guided his avatar, on foot, around the city. The video game gods instructed him to finish a drug deal across town where he would acquire a few kilos of cocaine. After walking a few blocks, he kicked a nearby woman who was leaving her vehicle. He grabbed her purse, stole her keys, entered her car, and drove to his destination. A hollow star on the bottom-left of the screen lit up, indicating a higher level of criminality. One-hit-wonders from the eighties played on the car radio. He arrived at the location of his objective.

In keeping with video-game precedent, the drug deal went awry. A firefight ensued, and Steven ducked behind a small, concrete barrier. Pulling a sub-machinegun from an evidently gigantic pocket, Steven systematically murdered his opponents. Blood spewed onto the pavement. He coolly walked to his enemy and snatched the bag of cocaine. His criminal meter increased by another star. He drove his stolen car back to his own area of town.

Steven left the car in the middle of the street and strolled to the location of his next mission. A policeman saw him and yelled for him to stop. Steven whipped out a pistol and easily shot the cop dead. “Better send SWAT next time,” he muttered. At this sight a nearby lady began to scream and run in circles. Steven laughed at her foolishness. He pulled out a baseball bat and chased her. Among the misses, a few of his swings made contact. More bystanders began to scream. The lady now writhed on the ground, occasionally whimpering pathetically. Steven moseyed over to her, lifted the bat above his head, and smashed her skull against the pavement. Her moaning ceased. He earned another star.

Steven had accumulated enough stars to warrant an all-out manhunt. Over the next twenty minutes, he shot down a police helicopter with an RPG, stole and crashed several more cars, slaughtered forty-seven policemen and civilians through various means, and stole several wallets and purses. He died on the top floor of the Empire State Building. Rather than starting again, Steven chose a new activity.

His stooped form drooped lower in the futon. He rested his head on a pillow and picked up his smartphone. The phone doubled as a sort of remote for the streaming internet entertainment that the projector displayed. After flipping through categories and choices for a few moments, he selected a Japanese game show. The show depicted grown men making their way through a comical obstacle course. Steven laughed as the men fell in twisted shapes, as they were struck with blunt objects, and as they slipped and slid. The show lacked novelty. Now dissatisfied, Steven remembered a markedly similar show from his early childhood.

He scrolled through the choices again. The computer provided suggestions based on his previous selections. Steven picked his favorite comedy show. This cartoon featured characters who, through various antics, regularly shattered the boundaries of decency. Steven had chosen a particularly special episode. This episode held the record across the annals of television for containing the most utterances, within a thirty minute period, of a certain, prized curse word. To relish in this impressive achievement, a counter lingered on the bottom-right of the screen. It flashed when the count hit round numbers. Steven chuckled as two child characters spent five solid minutes delineating defecation.

Born in the late nineteenth century, fringe, avant-garde ideas had pretzeled and morphed through the turmoil and rapid changes of the twentieth century, emerging, in part, as this visionary accomplishment of mainstream television, this triumph of the twenty-first century entertainment establishment over stifling moral constraints. Steven laughed and sank lower in the futon. The cartoon was but a single piece amongst ten thousand, all forming a grand jigsaw puzzle. Alone it was meaningless, it was amusing, and it was entertaining. Steven again laughed and sank. The children cussed. Steven stuffed his face with chips.

Boredom crept up, and he lazily contemplated his next activity. The position of his body forced chunky bits of fat to stretch the sallow flab of skin that protruded from his midsection. He reached over the edge of the futon and found his tablet. The device glimmered. The rear, black metal casing elegantly curved forward. Durable glass sealed the front. Barely thicker than a sheet of paper and somewhat larger than a hand, this wondrously portable machine could access a large portion of all human knowledge.

The browser opened with a tap of a finger. One more tap on the on-screen keyboard prompted a list to drop from the address bar with website suggestions. Steven instinctively tapped on Facebook. The page loaded within milliseconds. Tiny sensors in the corners of the tablet tracked Steven’s pupils in order to create the illusion of a three-dimensional space behind the tablet screen. Steven lazily waved his hand downward. A menu dropped from the top. A small, glittering gift slowly oscillated in and out of the screen. With this gift came a squirt of dopamine. He squished the box between his thumb and forefinger. A new window exploded forward. It highlighted these bullets:

Three of your friends liked your post.

Max Finman likes your status.

Liza Lee wrote on your wall.

He tapped the top line to see who had liked his post. A picture popped forward with a baby panda and a witty caption beneath, his post from earlier in the day.

Jenna G, Roy Adamo, and Jessica Dmitri liked your photo.

Jessica Dmitri had commented under the photo and next to her like. The dopamine flowed. Steven, in turn, liked her comment and opened her page.

Shoot, thought Steven. All of her pictures are in 2D. Even so, he summoned them. The photos formed a quick-arcing half-circle that curved in toward the main photo in the center. Jessica and Steven had shared a few classes freshman year. They hadn’t spoken since. Steven quickly flipped through the photos, waving his hand in command of the reel. He lingered only on the most revealing of the hundred photos he viewed. One photo demanded salivation, and Steven gawked for a solid two minutes. Jessica, more than drunk, pushed her breasts upward with her hands.

Aroused, but not yet ready for anything further, Steven again flopped his hand downward, grabbing the menu. Max is one of the coolest guys at school, Steven thought. That Max had liked his status made Steven disproportionately happy. Concurrently, he felt angry that his other friends hadn’t liked it.

“What does Liza want now?” he muttered.

Hey Steven, just wanted to see what your up 2 these days??! Maybe ill see you around town. :-)

He snorted like a horse and opened her page. Now these pictures should not be in 3D, he thought. Geez. I wish I hadn’t talked to her that one time. I hate how her fat rolls around like that. And that thing under her chin! Bleh. Continuing with his internal rant of disgust, he happened to glance at a digital clock across the room.

He Meets Her (Passage)→