[Void Galaxia] Chapter 22: Non Manic Pixie Girl


The Authomaton Game [and how to get ahead]…


      Claim – Beat the slushpile! Get read! Get published?

      Method: each member has six bookshelves. They can choose what to read and what to back [put on their bookshelf]. They can also leave comments on other members’ pages, praising or criticising the writing. Each month, the five books with the highest number of backings will be selected for review by an industry professional.

      Members will be able to promote themselves via the website forum or in private messages to other members.

      No abuse of other members will be tolerated.


      These were the basics.

      Of course, there were more rules and regulations to run through, but I didn’t need to see them as, for some bizarre reason probably related to those Japanese scientists and their loopy experiment, I already remembered.

      The same way I’d read that first letter and remembered that I was, in some fashion, a writer, it was the same again now.

      Like the implant had just been shot through the window and directly into my brain.

      And something else…

      Another implant.

      A bigger one.


      The girl he’d mentioned, I knew her somehow. No idea why, but even before he’d written it, I knew who it was gonna say.

      The blonde girl.




      Going to my message inbox on Authomaton, I was instantly hit by a trail of messages, all from her, except one halfway down inviting me to read an octopus/schoolgirl love story written by what looked to be a sixty year old man.

      Sadia’s last message was first, so I started with that.


      ‘Mark, seriously, where are you?

      I know this is weird, it isn’t really real life, but I’m kinda worried about you. I’ve been sitting in that video store caffé I told you about [lots of art students go there, but it’s still pretty cool and laidback and the blueberry pie is awesome] reading your book every day, just to see some of your words again…really creepy, I know lol, but I miss you.

      Guess I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. I kinda think you’re the only one who really understands what it’s like to be me. The pain and the loneliness…the isolation…

      Sorry, I know I shouldn’t be so open. Could be loads of weirdoes reading this lol…

      Hope you log on soon and write something new for me.

      Sadia xxx’


      I counted all the messages she’d left. Seven, and zero replies from me.


      What the fuck was he thinking?

      No…what the fuck was I thinking?

      I clicked on the name and her profile came up, and there was her avatar in the corner, that beautiful, blonde hair in monochrome, those slight lips…just her face, no body shot, no tits, but I didn’t care, not with her. She could have bee-stings and I wouldn’t have cared, she was perfect.

      Now for my seven-day late reply.


      Over the next few days, I camped out in my room, foregoing GENTE+ [mostly] and dedicating myself to the website.

      Sadia too, on her side of the world.

      First, I’d log on and read the new message she always sent during the night. It was difficult for us to be online at the same time as she lived in the US [some California desert town called Fresno, I’d never heard of it] and I was in Liverpool, but I solved that by staying online almost 24/7.

      After reading her message, I’d go to her profile and stare at her avatar for a an hour or two.

      Next, I’d go to the forum and see if she’d started any threads there. If she had, I would read through and check the profiles of all the men who’d replied. If they were young, good-looking or seemed interesting in any way then I would make note of them.

      Then, just to be sure, I’d go back to her message box and check all the people who’d left her so-called private messages [for some unknown reason, the site allowed everyone to see everyone else’s messages – to stop the perverts maybe?]. If there were any from the same guys then I’d make another note. I’d also double-check their profile to find out where they lived, if it was close to her in Los Angeles, or Fresno, or wherever it was. If it was, I’d write ‘DANGER’ in red by their name in my notepad.

      For the remainder of the day, I’d reply to her messages and read her books. She had two uploaded and they were amazing, really, really amazing. I couldn’t believe how amazing they were, and in contrast, how fucking terrible my own were.

      I mean, Lunar Crone? Dream Fucker?

      What the hell did she see in me?

      I was no genius, I was a talentless schmuck.

      Did she see anything in me?

      It was a bit presumptuous but, yeah, she messaged me the most, she left xxx at the end of each one; she cared at least a little.

      But why?

      She was eighteen, I was twenty-two, was that it?

      It had to be. I was the older, wiser one, but not too old, and not wise enough to frighten her off.

      So if I continued being older and wiser, but not in an intimidating way, then it was set.

      In theory, at least.


      On the fourth or fifth day of holing up in my cave, Dad shouted through the bedroom door that the gymn was on the phone.


      ‘The gymn’s on the phone,’ he said again, as loud as an EK-Bot wrestling announcer.

      I stayed on the bed with faraway Sadia.

      ‘Why are they calling you?’

      ‘Said they couldn’t get through to you.’

      I glanced left to the my phone. Yup. I’d ignored seven of their calls. No messages though, which was odd.

      ‘What do they want?’ I shouted.

      ‘Just come to the phone, son.’

      I pushed the laptop to the side and lowered it gently onto the blanket. My darling Sadia, I’ll be back soon. Then I jumped off the bed and prodded lazily at the door.

      ‘They’re on your phone?’ I shouted over the banister.

      ‘Probably not anymore, the time you take.’

      ‘Why didn’t they just message me instead of calling?’

      ‘I don’t know. Ask them.’

      A flake of paint was peeling itself off the banister so I dug my nail in and helped it out. There was a chance the gymn was going to fire me. Which would be nice. Then I could spend more time with Sadia. Maybe do what Fahey would do, get a job locally, at the collective gymn. If they’ll have me.

      ‘Would you get down here already…’ dad shouted, coming to the bottom of the stairs.



      A [stereotypical] scouse woman, blonde, orange face, tits bursting out of a Puma top, walked up to the treadmill and asked me what the best speed was.

      I looked at the four red zeros on the speed thingy…the speedometer…confused.

      This was one of the rare things I hadn’t been able to remember. I mean, the details of a workout. They’d given me the uniform of a personal trainer and there was a picture of the old me on the reception wall which told people I knew what I was talking about.

      But that was wrong.

      I didn’t have a fucking clue.

      ‘What speed, hon?’ she asked again, hands on the treadmill bars.

      ‘The correct speed?’

      ‘Yeah…it’s been a while since I’ve been to one of these places. Not sure if I’m thinking of the right numbers.’

      I looked at her legs. Not much flab, but no definition either.

      ‘Let’s try a two minute walk at…’ I pushed the up arrow a few times. ‘…4km/h, then…raise it to 9km/h for a few minutes. After that…’

      ‘Okay, we’ll just do the walking bit first, hon. See if my calves can take it.’

      She started walking and I looked at her through the mirrror in front of us. Decent legs, not terrible waist, huge tits….she really wasn’t bad for…what? A fifty-five year old?

      Mexican beach background didn’t help much though.

      Typical capitalist tech. VR gymn mirrrors glazed full of model types, to make normal people feel like a wretch.

      Better just to show the wall behind.

      Or Sadia’s profile pic.

      Two minutes passed on the timer and I phased out my Sadia fantasies just long enough to ask my client if she was ready for 9km.

      ‘Yeah,’ came back, between ragged breaths.

      ‘Okay, then…9km/h….how about we run for thirty minutes total? Maybe finish on…’ I guessed a number in my head. ‘…18km/h?’

      ’18? Are you mad?’




      ‘Hon…I’m a casual, not Cyril bloody Regis.’

      Cyril Regis? Another gap. Was he a runner? A gymn instructor?

      Fuck it, didn’t matter.

      ‘Okay, how about 12km/h?’ I offered, holding up my hands in the international pose of compromise.

      She shook her head.

      ‘The guy at my other gymn never went higher than 10 with me…’


      ‘That’s what I’m comfy with. 10km. Anyway, the other guy…he said distance was more crucial than speed.’

      ‘Not really,’ I lied.

      ‘Well, I’m gonna stick to 10 for a bit, first, hon.’

      ‘Sure. 10. Fine.’

      After thirty minutes she was leaning over the control panel, completely knackered. I looked through the mirrror again and saw down some of her sports vest.

      For some reason, even though she’d never find out, I thought, ‘sorry Sadia’, and started building my defence: it wasn’t my fault, I was coerced. I wasn’t looking, she was showing me. It was an accident. Every guy does it. I didn’t even realise they were visible until…


      After the treadmill, we did a tour of the weights room – Koh Samui backdrop, models in string bikinis – with a quick run through on how to use the machines. I knew most of them but wasn’t sure if I was telling her the right instructions. Not that it really mattered. She wasn’t an athlete, but also didn’t seem fat enough to injure herself either.

      We came to the shoulder press.

      ‘You sit with your back straight against the cushion, the seat, here… and you hold the bars here…then you push up, hold, and then bring down. Do that ten times in three cycles.’

      ‘I’ve never done this one, hon…can you set a low weight?’


      I leaned down and set it at 20kg.

      She did the first seven no problem, and with fairly decent technique [far as I could tell].

      ‘Good, good,’ I said, mentally patting her on the head, distracted by the Korean model with the buffering head next to the Indian guy standing mid-air above a volleyball net. ‘You’re doing good.’

      ‘Getting heavy…’

      ‘Three more, nearly there.’


      On the ninth rep her shoulder popped.

      ‘Fuck me…fuck, fuck, fuck…fuck me, fuck me, fuck, fuck…’

      As she bent over in pain, telling the whole gymn on loop that her shoulder was fucked, all I could think of to help was to look at the VR backdrop again.

      The Korean model was topless now, one tit being squeezed by a ghost hand.

      General template scene spliced with VIP sex stuff.

      Not the first time it had happened.

      I continued watching, blocking out the client’s moans, hoping a ghost dick would appear, making zero attempt at moral defence.

      Why bother?

      Sadia would understand.


      The gymn manager called me into the office and with his very first words said I was fired. I stared back at him, his salmon pink polo shirt, veins popping out of his biceps, face of a franchise fisherman, until he said it again.

      ‘Bit harsh, isn’t it? I mean, one injury in…how long?’

      He told me it wasn’t the first injury I’d caused, and it wasn’t the sole reason anyway, as apparently I’d been out of contact for over three weeks and they’d had to cover for me too many times.

      ‘Three weeks…’ I muttered, trying to think back.

      ‘Nearly four. In fact, I was gonna fire you after two, but Jenny persuaded me to give you one more chance. Sentimental bint.’

      I nodded, no idea who Jenny was. ‘So today was my last shot?’

      ‘And you failed, kidda. Stunningly. Now fuck off.’

      He was a twat, that boss. That’s another thing I’d forgotten.

      As I walked out of reception, back in my normal clothes, I saw that my picture was no longer on the wall. In its space was a new face, a white face. Or another white face. I’d forgotten about that too. Mark wasn’t Japanese-looking, I was.

      I stopped by the Zombie Gymn Attack poster at the entrance, wondering why they’d never asked about my face.

      Had they climbed a mountain in Wales too?

      Maybe everyone in Liverpool had.


      Back home, I told the others I no longer had a job. Dad laughed when I told him, muttering, ‘silly yoga tarts.’

      Mum shrugged and told me it didn’t really matter, I still had all that money saved in the communal bank.

      ‘Oh yeah,’ I said back, ‘that money.’

      I’d forgotten about the money.

      ‘The reward for your dry monk lifestyle the last four years,’ said dad, caustic.

      ‘And not having any girlfriends,’ added Billy, laughing.

      I stared at them both, blank, unsure if they were right or not. There were a few images in my head, a Brazilian girl on top of me, a Ghanaian with her back turned, an Irish girl in the gymn changing room, up against the wall. Was that Jenny?

      The pictures on the TV changed and so did those in my head.

      The Irish girl became Sadia.

      In black and white.

      Reading her story to me as I pushed into her from behind.

      No, that’s not-…it wouldn’t be her.

      Not like that.

      I blinked, refocusing on the room. Charlie was in the chair in the corner, the farthest possible point from me, glaring at the plant a few inches to my left.

      You okay crossed my mind, or wanna go for a walk, talk about stuff

      But then she shifted the glare onto me directly and…yeah…whatever they’d done to her at that Welsh mountain, it wasn’t holding up.

      At all.


      I went back upstairs, opened up my laptop and messaged Sadia.


      ‘Sorry about lateness, I’ve just been fired from the gymn – that’s where I work – and my boss was a twat about it. Was thinking about you all the time I was in his office, even when he told me to ‘fuck off’. What are you doing? Did you make those corrections? I guess you don’t really need to, your writing’s amazing as it is. Way better than my shit.’


      I stopped, re-read and changed twat to asshole, then pressed send.

      The VR-home machine at the end of the bed gave me the eye, and I made half a move towards it…then stopped. A strange feeling hit, play to death and don’t play, it’s the phase 1 shit, two signals wrestling with each other in my head, the first one in belligerent Japanese.

      But don’t play persevered and, finally, won, pushing me back up to my pillow and onto the laptop.

      Sadia. Sadia. Sadia, I repeated like a creepy sex-cult mantra.

      The Cult of Sadia.

      Sadia of Troy.

      I checked she was online then went through her message box to see who was saying what to her. There were a few guys who seemed to know who I was. One guy, who didn’t even have a name, he wrote: ‘Mark seems like a nice young man and is probably good for you.’ Not really here, that was what he was calling himself. Weird prick.

      Seven minutes later, she had sent a message back.


      ‘Hey Mark, I’ve been thinking about you too. I was at school today, sitting in class and there was a picture of some Eastern European people in the Geography textbook, and when I saw the faces, you came into my head. Kinda weird, haha, but my mind is kinda like that lol.

      I made the corrections, but I’m not sure if it makes my stuff any better. I read it and I think maybe my stuff’s really bad too haha. And don’t be stupid, your stuff is wayyyyy better than mine. Your stuff is amazing and when it’s in the bookshopp I’m gonna get the first copy…and a kiss haha. If you’ll kiss an ugly girl like me lol.

      Btw, I went to the video store caffé again today – my one girl stand against the rot of VR and GENTE+ haha – and saw some guy actually renting a video. The waitress told me it happens all the time, but I’ve never seen it before…until today. Wonder how he’s gonna play the tape though…do they still make VHS machines?

      Yeah, I know, I always talk about that caffé…I can’t help it, the blueberry pie’s just sooooo good. I hope I can take you there one day to try it…we can share spoonsJ’


      I sat back on the bed, my body against the wall.

      No sign-off, no xxx. But the rest of it, the actual content…and a smiley face too.

      Man, she really was keen.


      I sent seven messages that night, she sent seven back.

      It started with talk about our books and the criticisms we were getting. It ended with her suggesting I should come and visit her in Fresno.

      Yeah, I thought, a random internet guy just turning up on your doorstep with a surprise Japanese face he never told you about.

      But she was serious, repeating the offer and insisting I could stay at her housse, her mum wouldn’t mind.

      As the final proof, she switched us to email, then to our phones, and gave me her address.

      ‘I know it’s crazy and I don’t care. We’re young, we should do wild things like this, right? And it’ll give us some material for our next books haha.’

      Sadia, I’m already there.

      Ghost dick and all.


      I walked downstairs, hovered a bit by the Cat People Redux poster then headed into the living room. Mum, Dad and Billy were watching something on GENTE+, an old sci-fi show about necromancy. They said Charlie had already gone to bed.

      ‘Bit early for her, isn’t it?’ I said.

      ‘Bit, yeah,’ was all I got back.

      I put the kettle on, asked them if they wanted tea, and then sat on the free chair and watched a blonde haired girl in a painter’s gown stretch out her arms and throw a green stick into the sea.


      Interpretations of seven messages

[while watching TV]


      Straight – She likes me. We get on well. She thinks I’m a good writer. She wants me to visit her. No declaration of love, so it might simply be a holiday with a friend. Perhaps something grown into, after a week or so.

     …a dark-haired woman in a green-swirl yukata walks down into a basement and picks up a book. It says Necromancy – Intermediate Guide on the cover and the camera hovers on it for at least seven seconds just so we know. Flicking through, the woman reads out a page to herself, then puts the book down and produces a green dagger, presumably from inside her yukata. A spell is muttered, then the blade is plunged into something below. We stay on her face as she frowns, and says fuck, again? The camera loiters a second longer then pans down like a geriatric koala to the thing below; a dark-haired woman’s naked corpse, skin almost transparent blue. And then a close up on her right hand, showing three fingers missing.

      Romantic – This is it, this is the one. We’re young, we’re apart, but it doesn’t matter, she likes me. I’m like no one else in her life. I’m special, I’m a writer like her. Those other boys at her school, whoever they are, they’re too young, they don’t get her. I’m older, wiser, I do. I get her completely. She gets me. The Mark side. She wants me to go over there. But this is no holiday. This is insane. This is the start of something, something nuts. I’ll get there, and I know it’ll be perfect. We can do anything if I’m there. We can get a car, travel across the States. Hold each other in motel beds at night. No parents, no one else. There’s something permanent about this, I know it. There’s no one else like her in this world, no one, no one, no one.

      …the blonde girl, in a FUCK THE MUNICH MANUAL t-shirt, sits at a round table, staring at an empty bowl. To her left and right are two dark-haired women who look almost identical. They tell her it’s not the first time it’s happened, and if she doesn’t do something, Mum 6 will just keep doing it forever. The blonde girl picks up a green stick from the table and holds it up menacingly. She says inter-group fighting is not allowed, especially from early Mum iterations. The dark-haired woman to the right shakes her head, saying it was Mum 3 who was leading it. Before Mum 3 can respond, another dark-haired woman walks in, yawning, and opens the nearest cupboard. No cereal, she says, turning back to the table. The blonde girl [ plus Mums 2 and 3] glares back, her fingernail scraping the tip of the green stick.

      Negative – it’s the fucking internet, what am I doing? Reason this out, Mark, reason it. Kuso, I don’t even know her. She’s a picture on a screen. And she’s American. They don’t get people like me, they never have. And she doesn’t really get my messages or my writing either, does she? She reads it, but she doesn’t really understand it. She can’t, she’s eighteen. And her stuff…is it really that good? It seems good, but isn’t there too much poetry? What is so good about it exactly? And go to the States? Mate, that’s ridiculous. She’s a fucking picture, that’s it. It’d be awkward, she wouldn’t like my face. I’d stay one day then she’d blank me and I’d ask her what was going on and she’d pretend like there was no problem and if I pressed any further she’d just say that she only meant me to come for one day, and it wasn’t like it was anything more than that. Mate, go over there? Fuck that, I’m staying here.

      …forming a triangle with both hands, the blonde girl tells the six dark-haired women sitting around her in a circle that Mum 6 is not truly gone and with a bit of luck they will able to contact her and find out what happened. One of the dark-haired women mumbles something under her breath, while another gets up and storms off. Leave her, says the blonde girl, putting on a pair of goggles. Focus on the green light. One of them moans that everything is always green, and another snaps back that green is the colour of re-animation. This is not focusing, says the blonde girl. The dark-haired women fall silent. In the middle of the circle, a pale green orb materialises. The blonde girl asks if a dark-haired woman called Mum 6 is there, and the green orb flashes once. That means specify, she explains to the circle. We know, mutters one of the Mums. Adjusting her goggles, the blonde girl asks if a recently murdered woman with dark hair and a poor attitude is there. The green orb flashes twice. What does that mean, asks one of the dark-haired woman, but the blonde girl doesn’t reply, instead taking off her goggles and mumbling, session over.

      Dirty – Shit, she’s fucking fit. She’s blonde, she’s American, she loves the accent, she loves the age factor. I’m an idol for her, and I’ve gotta make use of it. Go over there, Mark, go over, meet her, let her show you around then the first night put your arm around her. Talk a little first, but get your arm around her and then kiss her. Maybe feel her up a bit too, and…no, not that fast, not on the first night. Stay there, how long? A week? Two weeks? There’s money in the bank, it doesn’t matter, just go over there, stay however long it takes. Maybe three or four nights then make the final move. Will she really let me stay at her housse? I wonder how liberal her parents are…if they’re full lib they’ll let me stay…fuck, if they’re anarchist, they’ll take me up to her room themselves…and then it’s really on. If I’m in her housse, it is simply not possible to fuck it up. I’ll be able to get into her room, her bed, and she’s eighteen, it’s not like she hasn’t done dirty shit like that before. There’s no way she’s a virgin, no way, she would’ve told me. And she’s talked about other guys, exes who weren’t that nice to her, so that means they fucked her like baby rabbits then dumped her, or cheated on her, which means she’s done it all. And she wants to do more with me. Definitely…it’s all in her messages, she’s gonna open up for me big time. She wants my cock, and I can’t wait to get over there and give it to her. Kuso, she’s fucking fit…amazing face, amazing eyes…haven’t really seen her body, not properly, but I think she might have some tits on her. And if not, who cares? Fuck it, long as she’s got a muff…and even if she hasn’t, even if it’s a dick…that could be good too…just like Katie in my Bōl lecture…

      …the blonde girl lies on the floor, unclothed, looking up at the dark-haired woman on the bed, who is wearing her JOHN JOAN DEE t-shirt. She’s wiping her fingers on a tissue, with a pile of other, scrunched-up tissues next to her. That will never happen again, says the blonde girl, pulling the duvet down to cover herself. The dark-haired woman finishes with the tissue and throws it down at her daughter/creator’s chest. Your cunt tastes like water melon, she says. One of my favourite fruits. Flicking the tissue away, the blonde girl launches herself up and grabs the dark-haired woman by the throat, who smiles and tells her to strap up first, if she really wants to go again. You can’t say things like this, Mum 12, the blonde girl replies, voice breaking at the end. You can’t. It’s not right. Mum 12 stares back at her, a blank void. You made me, she whispers, finally, stroking her daughter/creator’s wrist.

      Cynical – Fuck this shit, who needs a woman, anyway? An eighteen year old? I bet she’s fucked half of California already. Liverpool’s better. Closer. Easier. Utilise face and language skills. Fuck everything.


      The next day I sent twelve messages to her. She sent twelve back.

      The day after, ten each way.

      The day after that, eleven.

      The day after that, thirteen.

      All on our phones, private, no voyeurs from the site.

      None in my housse either.

      Except two.

      The VR-home machine at the end of the bed, and Notes on Anarchism on the desk to the side, but both of those were irrelevant now.

       Sex was on the cards.

       Soon as my dick booked the plane ticket.


      I went into the bathroom and washed my face.

      Brushed my teeth.

      Studied myself in the mirrror.

      Not good.

      Some dark under the eyes, a couple of rogue white hairs at the back. Possibly caused by the nutjob experiment. Or residual stress related to it.


      White hairs already. Three of them. At 22.

      Heroic – I’m an old man, Sadia. Go for someone your own age, forget about me.

      Pragmatic – Everyone gets older. Who cares? At least it means I’ve lived.

      Sympathetic – These white hairs, I wouldn’t change them for anything. These are my pain, they have history in them, each single strand.

      I put the brush down and looked at my Japanese eyes, my Japanese nose, my Japanese mouth.

      Defeatist – It’s okay, I get it. I’m Japanese and you don’t like Japanese. I’ll leave, don’t worry.

      Sanguine – It’s a face, that’s all. And it makes me special, doesn’t it?

      Conquer the world – Fuck everyone, there’s you and me, and who gives a fuck what kind of face I have. Love is much, much bigger than any of that. You wanna hear some Japanese?


      That night, I had the strangest dream.

      In it, there was a castle, me as a princess, and a Japanese man climbing up my hair, which was hanging over the side of the castle wall, and when he reached the top, I jumped past him, falling into a go-kart and racing down the ramparts, and there was a Japanese man in another kart, and the alien from Alien and Captain Eto in another one, sharing a kart, and the other Japanese man was chasing me…

      I woke up, jump cut, all of it still playing in my head.

      Phone said four in the morning.

      I turned over and tried to get back to sleep but couldn’t. There was something in my head, a question.

      ‘Why is the alien in Alien black?’


      The next day I sent Sadia a message telling her about my dream then sat back on my bed and waited the whole afternoon for a reply.


      Ah, maybe she’s sick or something…maybe she’s just busy…

      Re-strategising, I went back on the site and left a message there.

      No activity on her profile for the last day and a bit.

      No messages from other men.

      Reassuring, in a way. At least she hadn’t ditched me someone else.


      ‘There’s a burning fire in the room, and I can feel the heat of the flames suggesting themselves at my ankles, my shins, my thighs, and up further, and it’s so hot, and so luminous that I can’t see anything else of the room, and I’m afraid to shout out, to shout for my mum or my dad or my stepdad, because this fire, this bright, burning fire might climb into my mouth.

      A breath. A quick, subtle breath.

      I blink and the fire is gone.

      I’m not burning.

      I’m not anything.’


      I read it again and again, trying to imagine the feeling of being burnt, and then watched three episodes of Doctor Who on GENTE+ and after that went back and read it seven more times and wondered what she was really trying to say when she wrote about that fire, but I wasn’t really thinking that, I was thinking about the message she hadn’t sent, and I wondered if this was it, if this was the day she’d finally got bored, or the day another guy finally asked her out over there in Fresno, or the day she…

      Before logging off, I checked my own story online. It wasn’t the new one I’d written, that wasn’t ready yet, and you needed at least thirty pages before you could put it up on the site. It was the old one, Mark’s one. Or mine, technically: Dream-Fucker.

      I re-read the first chapter and then thought about it in comparison to the burning girl in Sadia’s.

      Kuso, the difference…the sheer fucking scale of it.

      It was like an abyss.

      Worse, it was an abyss with no bridge and a whole bunch of critics dressed as crocodiles waiting at the bottom to tell me face to face how shit Dream Fucker was.

      Yeah, I know that already, crocodile critics.

      Really, I do.

      She was Ursula Le Guin, I was Ed Wood.

      No wonder she’d stopped talking to me.


      I woke up without checking the time and picked up the phone which was sat loyal next to me on the bed.

      No new messages. No emails.

      Throwing the piece of shit Japanese tech towards the bottom of the bed [and almost clipping the geriatric VR-home machine], I reached over to the desk and turned on my Japanese-brand laptop.

      Strangely, I was still logged on to the site, and it was still fixed on my profile page, so I refreshed and looked at my message box.


      Fuck, after two and half days?

      I thought about typing out another message, but vetoed myself, deciding it might come across as creepy.

      I threw a football at the wall and caught it.

      Did it again, and again, about a thousand times.

      Dad shouted up the stairs, asking if I was conducting an exorcism.

      I stopped and checked my inbox again.


      Nothing, nothing, nothing.

      Sadia, where the king of hell were you?

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