Addiction

The grass is green and the sun is shining, but Kate wouldn’t know it. She’s inside with her curtains closed, stuck in a firefight between a Pakistani, a Filipino and a New Zealander. She ducks and dives, performs a somersault and leaps from the tallest building, but it doesn’t show in the tone of her muscles or her complexion because she does it from the comfort of her titanium, leather-upholstered, articulated gaming chair.

Kate’s computer occupies the centre of the room. That’s where it gets the best airflow to keep the graphics card and processor cool. Using this set up she’s developed a real knack for shooting zombies.

As a zombie materialises behind her, Kate uses her laser optical mouse to whirl around faster than anyone else on her server. She’s invested in the best hardware she can to ensure that she has a competitive edge over the guy from Pakistan, the guy from the Philippines, and the twelve-year-old from New Zealand. Suddenly, the screen freezes.

Is there a hardware problem? Has her motherboard burned out? Has the server crashed? Has a hacker messed around with something? Nope. Her internet connection is gone.

Kate moved to this rural town because it was the first to get an optical internet connection. The optical cable runs right into the wall outlet, so she can get the best internet speeds in the country. Shortly after this town was connected, the big-wigs decided not to roll out the system to the same standard in the rest of the country. Kate took the bitter pill and packed up her life to move away from her family in the big city, counter-intuitively seeking a “better connection.”

After six months of stepping outside only to pick up her delivered groceries from the front porch, Kate has turned into a bag of pus. Now she’s being forced to go outside. Her translucent skin glows in the sunlight. She squints in the late afternoon glare. She ventures to the end of her street and looks to the top of the hill. The beauty of the scene around her compels her onward, yet the allure of her den draws her back.

“You must be new in town” A voice calls from behind.
Kate whirls around as quickly as she can, like she does in her computer games when a zombie creeps up behind her. Her feeble body doesn’t respond in the way she expects. She falls flat on the ground and the stranger rushes to her aid.

“The internet’s down.” Kate utters as she lays sprawled on her back.
“Yeah, I heard. It’ll probably take a couple of weeks to fix it. We’re low-priority out here.”
Kate sobs.
“Let me help you up.” The stranger reaches out his hand. “I’m heading out to get Chinese, then I’m taking my nephew out stargazing. The stars are bright out here. Do you want to tag along?”
“Oh, well, I like science fiction, so okay. I guess…”

Kate spends the next two weeks meeting the people in the town through the guidance of the stranger. Her skin turns from translucent to pale – a major improvement; and she regains the ability to climb a flight of stairs. One day the stranger can’t find her anywhere. It’s like Kate’s been ripped from the world.

The internet’s back up.

T

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