Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Logged On

Here is the creative piece I wrote for my first Creative Visions assignment, How We Live Now. It is a short story about how as a society we spend most of our time online.

How We Live Now:
Logged On


Vannixed: Hey.
Gamer22: Hey.
Vannixed: Wanna shoot some zombies?
Gamer22: Always.
Vannixed: I downloaded a new map
Gamer22: The abandoned town?
Vannixed: Yeah.
Gamer22: Awesome let's play that one.
Player1 Vannixed
Player 2 Gamer22
Vannixed: You ready?
Gamer22: I'm so ready.
Gamer22: Let's barricade that house.
Vannixed: Which?
Gamer22: Second on the right, blue door and the dead body in the window.
Vannixed: Oh yeah, gotcha.
Gamer22: Hurry.
Vannixed: Watch that door.
Gamer22: On it.
Vannixed: I'll take the windows.
Gamer22: Okay, here they come.
Vannixed: Ready.
Gamer22: Let's do this.
Vannixed: They're coming fast.
Gamer22: I know.
Vannixed: Watch left.
Gamer22: I know.
Vannixed: There's a runner coming.
Gamer22: Got it.
Vannixed: Headshot! Nice.
Gamer22: Thanks. They're coming, get ready.
Vannixed: Nothing's getting past me.
Gamer22: Cocky bastard.
Vannixed: Jealous?
Gamer22: Just concentrate.
Vannixed: One, two, three, four, five, what a kill streak!
Gamer22: It’s not so special.
Vannixed: Says you.
Gamer22: Concentrate!
Vannixed: What? Oh shit. Revive me.
Gamer22: Yeah, yeah, I'm coming.
Vannixed: Thanks
Gamer22: Now kill zombies and not yourself.
Vannixed: Yeah, yeah, expert.
Gamer22: This is the furthest we've ever got before.
Vannixed: Yeah, new record.
Gamer22: Don’t fuck it up now then.
Vannixed: Hey I have 247 kills.
Gamer22: Compared to my 263.
Vannixed: You got lucky with that grenade.
Gamer22: Now who's jealous?
Vannixed: Shut up and shoot zombies.
Gamer22: I’m trying, there's too many.
Vannixed: Hold on, I'm coming .
Gamer22: Aaaah I’m down! Revive! Revive!
Vannixed: Oh shit! I’m out of ammo
Gamer22: …And I’m dead.
Vannixed: They've got me too.
Gamer22: Aw man.
Vannixed: That sucks.
Gamer22: At least we got a new record.
Vannixed: Something to beat tomorrow. Oh shit it’s late, I gotta get some sleep. My boss’ll kill me if I’m late again!
Gamer22: Later.
Vannixed: Bye.
Ben struggled to wake up in the morning. His alarm only just made it through his sleep-addled mind. He rolled out of bed, sleep still heavy on his eyes. Rubbing his weary face he glanced at his clock: 8.45.
He jumped to his feet. Sniffing at his armpits he decided he could go another day without showering and pulled on the first pair of trousers he could find. His shirt was buttoned up wrong as he sped from his flat. His boss was definitely going to kill him.
‘Late again, Mr Evans, why am I not surprised?’ his boss, Mr Hardacher, said looking at his watch when he caught Ben hurrying to his desk.
‘My alarm didn’t go off,’ Ben mumbled to his shoes.
Mr Hardacher rolled his eyes. ‘I’m sure.'
Ben switched on his computer, pointedly ignoring him. He stood over him for a moment, arms folded, lips tight. Ben stared at the screen, clicking on random icons and opening files. Finally, Mr Hardacher sighed and left.
'Don’t let it happen again,' he said over his shoulder, and slammed his office door.
Ben let out a breath. Wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers, he started tapping away at his keyboard. He couldn't believe his luck; he'd got away with only a minor scolding. Or so he thought.

Just before lunch, Mr Hardacher dropped a tie on Ben's desk. Green, orange, and red squares interlinked to form the most garish pattern Ben had ever seen. He looked up at his boss.
‘Can I help, Mr Hardacher?’ Ben asked in his most polite tone.
Mr Hardacher sneered down his nose at him. ‘It may surprise you to know that we do in fact have a dress code, and sweat-stained shirts aren't part of it.’ Ben resisted the urge to check his armpits again. ‘At least a tie will be some improvement. Now, put it on.' A sadistic grin spread across his face.
With a grimace Ben picked up the tie. He looped it around his neck as the rest of the office pretended not to watch. Mr Hardacher stood over him, his bald head gleaming in the fluorescent light. Ben didn't know where he’d found the tie but it smelt of vomit and mothballs.
Once it was tied Mr Hardacher let out dry laugh. 'Now you look like a proper grown up.'
Ben clenched his jaw. 'Thank you, Mr Hardacher.'
'Oh, but your buttons are done up wrong,' he added.
This time Ben did check, cheeks burning with shame, but mostly with anger.

At lunchtime he logged on via ZOMBIEKILL.COM. It was one of the few sites that hadn’t been blocked by the company. He’d have to wait until he was at home to check Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube.

Gamer22: Fired yet?
Vannixed: No, luckily. Just humiliated.
Gamer22: Oh?
Vannixed: Long story, my boss is being an asshole and made me wear a bloody awful tie. Gamer22: He sounds like a right dick.
Vannixed: Yeah he is, kinda looks like one too.
Gamer22: lmao
'Mr Evans what are you doing?' Mr Hardacher stood behind him, his voice cold.
Ben jumped. 'It’s lunch break, Mr Hardacher.'
'Lunch break ended five minutes ago.'
Ben checked the clock on the wall. There were still twenty minutes left.
'Yes, sorry,' Ben said as the screen flashed, Gamer22 had sent him another message.
Ben tried to close the internet tab but wasn't quick enough. He watched with horror as Mr Hardacher’s eyes flickered over his conversation. As he read, his hand crept unconsciously to rub his shiny, hairless head. His face turned red, then purple. A thick vein throbbed down the middle of his forehead.
'Mr Hardacher…' Ben started.
Mr Hardacher turned on him so fast Ben thought he was going to punch him. A hush fell across the room. The rest of the office was watching slyly over their computers monitors.
'Get out,' he breathed, so quietly Ben almost didn’t hear him.
'Mr Hardacher I can explain-'
‘Get out!' he screamed, spittle flying from his lips.
 Ben leapt from his chair, jabbed the computer’s power button, and ran from the office. Everyone was gazing intently at their computers, fingers tapping away at keyboards, smirks on their faces.
Ben spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the shops. He browsed through the DVDs and games at HMV before deciding they'd be cheaper on Amazon, then drifted back home just before five. Walking through the lobby he noticed his post-box was stuffed; he hadn’t checked it for a couple of days. He unlocked the box and pulled out its contents. Bill, bill, another bill. He thumbed through the rest quickly. All brown envelopes, except an Indian menu.
He'd just thought about ordering a number 37: Tikka Masala for dinner when a woman entered the lobby.  He had only seen her once or twice before but recognised her long blonde ponytail. The first time he had seen her she had reminded him of Metroid’s Samus Aran in her Zero Suit, and that was a hard image to forget. She went to her own post-box and pulled out a bundle of letters. Ben tried to catch a glimpse of her name; it was something like Anna, maybe Hannah. He read Miss Beatrix Hayden across a letter. Or maybe not. Looking up, he caught her staring at him. He knew she was taking in his rumpled shirt and hideous tie he’d forgotten to take off. Awkward silence hung in the air. Ben fiddled with the letters in his hands. He finally decided to say something.
'Alright?' Having not spoken in a while his voice came out in a rough croak.
She blushed and smiled gingerly. ‘Hello.’
After another silence Ben left the lobby quickly, head bowed. That was why he didn’t like talking to new people.


Gamer22: Hey, what happened earlier, you went offline?
Vannixed: My boss caught me. He read everything.
Gamer22: …shit.
Vannixed: Yeah.
Gamer22: Sorry man, you fired?
Vannixed: Dunno, figure I’ll just go back on Monday and see what happens.
Gamer22: Good plan. Wanna kill some zombies?
Vannixed: ‘Course, I’ll pretend they’re my boss.
Gamer22: Awesome.
Ben sat in his darkened living room playing ZOMBIE KILL day and night. His playing time was at an all-time high of 389 hours, 42 minutes and counting. He ordered too many takeaways and barely slept. By Saturday he’d forgot all about his job, Mr Hardacher, and the outside world.

Gamer22: And we thought level 37 was good.
Vannixed: This must be some sort of record.
Gamer22: That’d be awesome.
Vannixed: Oh wait, I read about this kid on the internet that was too ill to go outside so he got really good at computer games. I bet he’s got the record.
Gamer22: Stupid kids.
Vannixed: Yeah, I know. Watch your left, zed coming. Hey, watch it. Hello you’re getting mauled!
Vannixed: Help now they’re after me! Hey help!
Vannixed: You still there? Hello?
Gamer22: Sorry, got distracted. My neighbours are having a party and their music is so loud.
Vannixed: Inconsiderate.
Gamer22: Tell me about it.
Vannixed: While we’re on a break, I’m gonna get a drink.
Ben shuffled over to the kitchen and grabbed a can of cola from the fridge. He pulled the tab and downed it in one. Chucking the can in the bin he let out a loud belch. Away from the volume of the computer, Ben could hear the thumping bass of music. He listened for a moment and recognised the popularised beats of the music craze Gangnam Style.
Vannixed: My neighbours are having a party too. Listening to the overused tune of Gangnam Style.
Gamer22: Weird. So are mine.
Vannixed: The same song? Coincidence? 
Gamer22: It is popular.
Vannixed: We should tell them to keep it down.
Gamer22: Yeah right, I’m trying to kill zombies here.  
Vannixed: I’m seriously gonna do it, I hate Gangnam style.
Gamer22: Good for you! I’ll do it too.

Ben hadn’t said anything, but he’d had the thought that they could be living in the same building. But, what were the chances that Gamer22 lived in the same city, let alone the same building? None-the-less, his heart was still racing at the prospect of meeting Gamer22; he’d finally have a likeminded person to chat to, and they could even watch downloaded films, order takeaway, and laugh at funny cat videos on the internet. As he climbed the stairs his stomach was churning; he shouldn’t have had that last cola. The music was much louder on the third floor and the door of flat 3a was decorated with balloons. Ben reached the door when someone else walked down the corridor; a man with messy brown hair and stubble.
                ‘Gamer22?’ Ben blurted out.
The messy-haired man stopped and looked at him, his eyebrows furrowed. That’s when Ben saw the Bluetooth headset plugged into his ear.
                ‘Oh nothing,’ said the man, ‘just some weirdo talking gibberish at me. So, are you coming to the party or what?’ The man knocked twice on 3a’s door and was let in.
Ben waited for five minutes then left, feeling like a coward for not telling the partygoers to quieten down, and like a fool for ever believing Gamer22 could live so close.

Vannixed: I didn’t see you there.
Gamer22: Sorry, couldn’t find my keys so haven’t left yet. Found them now, try again?

Ben made his way up the stairs a second time, feeling sicker than ever. The music was still blaring but the corridor was empty. He knew it was stupid. He turned to leave when a voice called out behind him.
Ben whipped around. Standing in the middle of the corridor was the blonde Samus Aran look-a-like from the lobby.
                ‘You’re Gamer22?’ Ben asked.
                Beatrix blushed. ‘Weren’t expecting a girl, then?’
                ‘Honestly, no.’ Ben’s mouth was dry and his head felt empty. He shoved his shaking hands into the pockets of his jogging bottoms.
                ‘I guessed it might be you,’ she said with a small smile.
                ‘When I saw you in the lobby wearing that tie, I thought surely there couldn’t be two ties that hideous in existence?’ she laughed.
                Ben couldn’t help it; he let out a laugh and felt instantly relieved. He was glad he hadn’t taken the tie off straight away after all. She didn’t seem to care that he was wearing jogging bottoms and an unwashed t-shirt. In fact, she was wearing an oversized hoody, with a cola spill down the front, and leggings. Slowly, he pulled his hand out of his pocket and held it out to her.
                ‘I’m Ben.’
                ‘Beatrix,’ she said and shook his hand. She held onto it even after the handshake ended. ‘Do you want to come back to mine and kill some zombies?’
                ‘You sure?’ Ben asked, his heart thumping in his chest.
                ‘Yeah, I really want to kick your ass in person.’ She squeezed his hand before letting go. ‘Then, maybe in the morning we could grab some coffee, I know a great place.’
                ‘That sounds great.’


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