DIS: Chapter Four: Get Me to the World on Time.2

“Hello, Aaron,” said Alice, her voice staticky through the phone.

“How’d you know it was me?” he asked. He was propped up inside one of the last working phonebooths in Chicago, which was about teeter off to one side, never to be repaired.

“The number from that payphone’s been under your name in my cell since the day we broke up.”

“So I’ve lost the element of surprise.”

“That’s what happens when nothing changes.”

“Nothing changes? Payphone’s fifty cents now. That’s double the last time I called you from here. It’s a brave new world.”

“You should join it sometime.”

“Is Jason there or are you alone?”

“None of your business.”

“You wouldn’t have answered if he was there.”

“So why ask?”

“To hear you say it. Say you’re alone.”

“What were you doing in the Real World? Run out of weed?”

“Jesus,” he winced, “not on this line.”

“Christ, you’re so paranoid.”

“Is that what they’re all saying about me?”

“That’s cute,” she said, and Aaron imagined her grinning on the other end of the line, wearing maybe an old flannel of his she’d never gotten around to returning. “How’s Takashi?”

“Takashi says I’m leet.”

“What does that mean?”

Ee-leet,” he said, overpronouncing the long e sounds. “Hacker slang. Opposite of noob.”

“Well, I’ve very happy for you then.”

“He wants a USB port installed in his skull.”

“Don’t we all?”

“I don’t.”

She sighed. “Aaron, you still cringe at the sight of nose rings, I’d hardly expect you to jump into cyborg-level body mod.”

“Have you ever read Freud on the prosthetic man?”

“I was an undergrad too. I actually graduated.”

“It gave me nightmares.”

“We’ll file you under ‘discontents’ then.”

“Not all technology is to be trusted is all I’m saying.”

“Even pharmacology?”

Aaron held the phone away from his ear and scowled at it as if Alice could see him. “I medicate.”

“Booze and weed don’t count.”

“Booze worked for Hemingway.”

“Yeah, right up till the end.”

“‘I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!’” Aaron said, deepening his voice.

“You can’t take your whole philosophy on antidepressants from Star Trek V.”

“The underratedness of the film doesn’t invalidate the sentiment.”

“Plus my Shatner’s getting better.”

“Passable.”

“People are calling me the Angel of Death.”

“I’m surprised it took this long to catch on.”

“I think people in the Real World know its me. Some of them I’ve interacted with during notifications. I think someone figured it out.”

“Did you tell anyone?”

“Not even Takashi. Only…” He trailed off. Some names were best not spoken over the phone.

“Yog Soggoth wouldn’t tell anyone,” Alice assured him. “A secret’s worthless if everyone knows.”

“I don’t know. Something’s wrong. I feel like the beginning of a Hitchcock movie.”

“Of course something’s wrong,” Alice said. “Our friend died.”

“No, it’s not that.”

“No,” Alice said, “no, it couldn’t be that, could it?”

Aaron wondered if she was right. He wanted her to be right. But grief seemed so much harder. Grief gave him no mystery to solve, just the hope he’d wake to a little less of it the next day, a little less of it the next.

“I need a place to sleep,” he said, hating how desperate the words sounded.

“Try your house,” Alice said.

“The El’s done and I’ll never catch a cab from here.”

“You could call one.”

“This was my last quarter.”

“Quarters.”

“Exactly. Who carries around a full buck in change?”

“You could get a cell phone like a normal person.”

“Those things are traceable,” he said. “GPS locators.”

“See, a normal person wouldn’t say that.” She sighed again. “I’ll leave the front door unlocked. You can have the couch. You so much as crack the bedroom door, you’re on a park bench for the night.”

“I wouldn’t dream — ”

“I’m serious, Aaron. You’re out before I’m up. I don’t want to see you.”

DIS continues here…

“Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.” -Frank O'Hara

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