Victim of web fiction
One who walks alone
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Now that I had the reads banked up I wanted to make sure that one of my books losing followers, Alex being a dipshit, or some Crusher Media stunt wouldn’t affect my ability to churn out words.
Alex called the next day. He wore a tie with little love hearts on it and I almost vomited when I saw it.
‘You getting sentimental you asshole?’ I said to him.
Alex just gave a pained sigh, ‘No. I’ve got a date later.’
‘A date?! You couldn’t land a guy or gal if you tried.’
Alex just smirked, ‘Well, actually you helped me set this one up.’
That time I puked a little bit – I swear, ‘You take that back.’
He stretched a hand and ran his thumb along a fingernail, ‘Yep. The bonuses I’ve been getting from your little stories are paying for a mighty fine restaurant. I’d tell you all about it, but...’ he shook his head, ‘... you’ll never be able to visit it, let alone afford it.’
I clenched my fists, reminded myself that putting a fist through my laptop screen, then using the keys to make a ouija board and summoning a demon to curb stomp him on the way to his date wouldn’t solve anything.
I took a breath. Calmed my heart down, then swallowed.
‘I’m back writing again.’
Alex nodded, ‘I’m glad.’
‘And I want to keep writing. I don’t want anything interrupting it. So I need...’
The list was long and comprehensive. Hundreds of containers of dried noodles, a foam mattress to sleep on. A pillow. Two sets of clothes. A mountain of potato chips, tea, an electric kettle, new cutlery, some dried vegetables, nut bars and granola, a new mid-range PC with an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, and a decent computer chair the list went on and on.
‘That computer will be a couple of days,’ Alex said, ‘Electronics always take a bit longer.’
‘That’s fine. Just give me da noodles.’
I felt like a kid at Christmas as I opened those boxes of noodles. I felt like a runway model as I put on my new (oh my god this smells so good) clothes, I felt like Oprah as I walked into the shared area and handed out boxes to my dorm-mates.
‘You get a noodle!’ I said, throwing a box to Astra.
‘You get a noodle!’ Hera laughed as she caught hers.
‘And you get a noodle!’ Victor’s catch was awkward, the edge of the box hit his nose.
‘Thanks.’ He moaned.
After a little period of excitement when I turned the kettle on and watched it boil three times. I settled down into my writing routine.
I pushed out three more chapters of The one who walks alone and two more chapters of A Victim Of Web Fiction.
When I looked up from my screen I realised I was alone. The room was darker than it usually was. It’s an eerie feeling being so lost in the stories playing out in your mind that you don’t notice anything around you.
I rubbed at my eyes then set my aching fingers back down on the keyboard.
‘Okay.’ I whispered to myself, ‘One more chapter. One more chapter...’
I’m sitting on a sandy red hill.
The sun is rising to the east.
A rooster crows in the distance.
In my hand sits a rice cracker. I eat it. It tastes like shit. I wonder why I’m on the hill. I stare at the sun. It’s different. I can’t entirely tell why. Maybe because it’s wearing a yellow tie. Maybe because it resembles Alex’s face.
I see a tiny chicken-rooster-thingy walking towards me. It looks angry but it’s kinda cute. Small things always look cute when they’re angry.
My throat feels a little dry. I pick my nose, try flick the booger that comes out at the sun. The sun yells at me.
Down the other side of the hill are two people. They don’t seem that angry. If anything, they look a little scared.
The rooster’s getting closer. It seems bigger now. There’s all these little people following behind it. They’re like a little stream of ants. Some of them carry signs. I can’t read them but one sign has this drawing of a chicken shitting on one of my book covers.
Okay. So it turns out this is just a really big hill. That means the angry chicken isn’t so small.
Small angry chickens = cute.
Big angry chickens with crowds of angry people = scary.
The big angry chicken gets to the top of the hill. Each footstep shakes the earth. There are thousands of people cheering it on. Four people emerge from the crowd. They’re carrying two boxing gloves in harnesses between them. The guys are weeping, telling the chicken it’s such an honour.
A hand taps my shoulder, and then a voice says, ‘Is your father a lesbian?’
I turn. The two guys who’d been climbing the hill are standing there. They’re not cheering and they aren’t carrying signs of me shitting on the chicken. The guy at the back looks a little sad. The guy who’d asked me about my father’s sexual orientation looks like he doesn’t give a damn either way. He holds out a pair of ragged boxing gloves, ‘Is your father...’ he starts to say, but I just grab the gloves and try to shove my hands into them.
I realise they’re two different sizes, and the velcro is missing on one of them so it hangs loose. I turn to the guy who’d handed me the gloves, but he just points to the sun.
I sigh and look at the sun. Alex is laughing, ‘I did a real good deal on these gloves,’ he boasts, ‘You wouldn’t believe where I found them...’
I try to block my ears. All the chicken’s fans are spread out in a circle around the top of the hill. They form a human boxing ring.
The second guy who came up the hill pulls a roll of black duct tape from his pocket and uses it to tape the boxing glove to my hand. It’s not great but better than nothing.
I take a deep breath. My heart is pumping. The chicken is bouncing around its corner of the ring. There’s a ding ding ding and the chicken flies towards me in a furious swirl of feathers and sharp claws. I try to duck and roll like one of the characters in my books.
I manage neither. Instead I land flat on my stomach and one of the chicken’s talons rips across my shoulders.
I scream at the white hot pain and grit my teeth.
‘You stupid chicken!’ I yell, ‘who wants to read about a chicken!?’
I run at it. Try to pull at one of its feathers, but the chicken nails me in the jaw with an uppercut.
I fly backwards, and like some weird anime the chicken appears to the side of me and delivers a hook that shakes some teeth loose.
The chicken proceeds to attack me with every weapon known to man including a shoe, a wooden spoon, one of those folding chairs the WWE guys use, and a steel bucket.
I end up lying on the ground, soaked in my own blood and tears while the chicken saunters off with its army of fans.
The guy who’d handed me the boxing gloves bends down in front of me and pokes me with a stick.
‘Mmmmh whaaa?’ I say.
The guy gives me a couple more pokes, ‘I’m going with them,’ he says, and points at the chicken, ‘But you let me know about your father okay?’
I nod slowly, not comprehending what’s going on.
The guy shifts off and I lie there for a while – I can’t tell you how long because the sun never moves in the place of the hill and big chickens – it always stays at dawn.
‘Hey,’ comes a voice, ‘I thought you did really good out there.’
I turn my neck and hear a bone click. I wipe some blood and feathers from my eyes and see that it’s the guy who gave me the tape.
‘I got my ass beat,’ I say.
The blood is starting to dry on my face. I scratch a few flakes off.
The guy pulls out a laptop, ‘I hope you don't mind, but at least for a few days I'm going to include a banner ad for this story in my forum signature in an experimental attempt to drive traffic this way. I can't say if it'll help, but the fact that you have so few commenters is a crime against humanity and I will do my best to rectify it if I have to shove it down the throats of everyone I meet.
If you have any opposition to this plan, let me know. I understand that I'm appropriating your cover art, likeness, and story link without permission and will cease my promotional efforts should you so desire.’
I stare at the guy, ‘Huh?’
‘Oh sorry,’ he says, ‘You’re probably pretty concussed right now, I’ll say it again if you like...’
‘No,’ I shake my head and something in my ear starts to ring. ‘Dude! You’re going to chuck a banner ad for one of my stories on your profile?!’
He nods slowly.
‘Wow.’ I say, ‘Just wow. Appropriate the hell out of that cover. I made the thing in a shitty little cover creation app on a knock-off iPad with a busted screen.’
He turns the laptop screen to face me and suddenly all those talon wounds and pecks from the chicken no longer hurt.
‘Dude! What... I mean... hell you made my homemade piece of crap cover into a work of art.’ I shake my head and my other ear makes a popping sound, ‘So people will see that in the forums?’
He nods, and shows me how people can click through. I let out a laugh, ‘Blimey. You’ve made my day.’ I turn my head and ignore the spasms of pain that ripple through my body, ‘Where’s that chicken? Wait until he gets a load of this!’
The guy doesn’t say anything. I think he’s worried I’m going to try chase after it.
‘Hey.’ I say, ‘You’re a writer, so you already know this but...’ I wipe at my eyes, ‘This makes it all worth it. Just that little voice in the comment section going out of their way to tell you you’ve done good.’
And yeah... that’s the weird-ass dream I woke up from this morning after passing out on my keyboard last night. Just thought I’d share in case there are any dream interpreters here.
I told my flatmate/fellow captive Astra about it and she went into this massive unpacking session about how it’s repressed emotions and trauma.
‘I think the other reason we get nightmares is because of these boxes.’ she said, gesturing to the concrete walls of my room, ‘It kinda crushes your spirit.’
We were both lying on the floor of my room looking up at the ceiling while we chatted. She turned to me, ‘What do you miss most about the outside?’
I rubbed my chin, ‘Hmmm, maybe chicken nuggets.’
She laughed, ‘Chicken nuggets! You have the whole world and you choose chicken nuggets!’
I shrugged, ‘They’re expensive in here.’
Astra laughed her bright laugh, ‘Seriously... what do you miss?’
I stretched and groaned, ‘You’re not going to like it.’
She poked my chest – ‘I know cliffhangers are important in webfiction Eli, but this is taking that a bit far.’
‘Okay, okay. I miss reading webnovels.’
She rolled her eyes, ‘Seriously? You can do that here.’
‘I know. But in here it’s different. In here I’m constantly under pressure to throw out a new chapter. I can’t let myself even taste a web novel or I know I’ll be hooked and that’ll be the end of my writing career.’ I sighed, ‘Still. I miss just getting lost in a work of fiction. It’s the best feeling in the world.’
She nodded, ‘Yeah. I get that. Heck, most of us in here get that.’ She shuffled slightly and her arm came to rest against mine. I could feel the warmth of her skin and the slow rocking of her breath. It was peaceful.
‘What do you miss?’
She stared up, straight at the ceiling. When she spoke her voice was a whisper.
‘I miss the stars.’
I sat there thinking about that for a while. Eventually the lights in my room dimmed – a feature of the dorms is you can pay for a semi-night time rather than having the lights on full brightness all the time.
I was thinking about the stars, dreaming a little daydream about breaking out of my cell, stealing a sack from the guards and collecting stars so I could bring them back to Astra. Stupid. I know.
‘Hey,’ she said, pointing to a slight white glow coming from the corner of my room, ‘What’s that?’
‘Oh that...’ I waved my hand, ‘That’s the piece of shit tablet they gave me when I arrived. I’ve been meaning to chuck it for ages but I can’t bring myself to pay them to get rid of it.’
‘Yeah, there’s some liquid leaking out of it. Probably causes cancer or acne or left-handedness or something.’
She laughed, ‘You have a very pessimistic way of putting things.’
‘It’s one of my best features.’
She laughed again, then yawned and started to get to her feet, ‘Okay Eli. Catch you tomorrow.’
‘Don’t count on it,’ I said, ‘I’m gonna practice a bit of cultivation in the next hour, learn how to punch straight through concrete and then get my ass out of here. I’ll be in Japan eating sushi by the time you wake up.’
She rolled her eyes, ‘See you tomorrow Eli.’
I lay there for a little while staring at the corner of my room. The white glow was tickling something in the back of my brain. It took me a long time to drag the idea to the surface, but when it came I had to pat myself on the back.
Pessimist? We’ll see about that...