By Ryan Kelley

All Rights Reserved.
     things have been complicated between Reese and Prynne for hours now. practi­cally forever. at first they were multifarious, and then convoluted, but they’ve finally upgraded to flat-out unfathomable.

     this frustrates Reese, because he doesn’t know the meaning of these words. he’s all alone in his cell, in that ruddy apartment complex in the Spreadsheets, shaft-deep in his Snatch Box. all half-mast

     but distracted by the silly marimba chimes of Prynne’s chirps on his guyPad. his long sigh at the poor timing. his oh-shites and ah-c’mons. his aggravated whines, his dread: sometimes Reese wishes his relationship status would revert to a simpler time, when he and Prynne were merely sext buddies. because he can’t find these new words anywhere on his Dicktionary app, and they certainly won’t be any use in his game of Banging with Friends.

     but Prynne.

     yes, she is Prynne-sistent. she’s constantly updating their relationship with the Status Scrollbar on her tablet, whose screen triples as a compact mirror and com­pass. Prynne has a different tablet case for every day of the week. on Scatterdays, the back of her tablet resembles a phony pack of stogettes. i would

never smoke one

of course,

          Prynne thinks. it’s all for steez sake. her pinkies are click clacking some pokes and moties to Reese, some jabs to sext him up a bit. she uses her emoti­con add-on to transcribe her chirps into pixilated facial expressions, so it’s easier for Reese to understand her messages. it’s been a hot minute, after all. Reese can’t simply be ignoring her at this point. he must be whelmed, Prynne thinks.



                    Reese. maybe i should be more Prynne-dependent? she’s wondering out loud to no one in particular. or maybe i need to act more like a Prynne-dividual? she’s riding the tread between the router’s different hubs, a featherweight expression on her mug-


          conversing with

          the dead air of

          liminal public space. Reese has marked all of Prynne’s chirps as new in his vox box, even though they’ve long been ignored. he tries to listen, but it’s too hard for him to focus over the loud taunts emitting from his heated match of Angry Words. it’s bad enough that Prynne’s chirps are steady


          the basscussion

          in his heardrums. can’t Prynne inload from his posts that he’s occupied? what really like yeah duh. Reese, a busy hiss of hurried, hum strum grooving to his favorite e-jays. some real hipsmiths, too: post dubstep spinners who sample dial-up bellwork. it’s totally savvy.

          o.m.g. bleck. fuggin’ yuck. the pouty duck lips of Prynne’s avatar popblocking on Reese’s screen.

why do fems make such faces? it’s obstructing his sniper crosshairs from their tar­get: the vid game faces of Zyndromed Zombies from Spaze Planet Zomb. but in a riff moment of mischief, Reese enjoys inloading the image of


          mugwork behind

          the crosshairs. he takes a screenshot of it with his headcam and instachirps it to his monoblog. the pure upvoting gold, he thinks. bound to receive tons of thumbs and rechirps out the godhaveyou. what really uh yeah like hella.

     every savvy fem must know how to multitask, Prynne thinks. she eats her lunch of soy stick and salad water while effortlessly bootstrapping the grid of the Blueburbs. efficiently navigating the travelators without having to watch where she’s going. she’s applying bronzer and plucking eyebrows, all the while catching up on her newstainment soaps and the Tablet Shopping Network. she wants a new tablet case, in the off chance they decide there needs to be an eighth day of the week.

     Prynne is proud of herself.

     even among the heavy smog of ellipsis bubbles and bloggy clouds, she’s still able to meet her deadline for Melodrama Mama. she’s feeling Prynne-ductive to say the least. Prynne-deed. she’s been earning pocket creds by testing products for a galPad zine, the latest a review of the iBrator app, which allows tablets to double as vibrators. Prynne did not give it a very good rating. 3 buzzes. 3.5 at best. Reese leaves a chirp for himself, as an e-minder to schedule a cam session with his…

     …attention therapist. he decides to play the e-minder on a loop during his fantasy floozeball draft at Torrents. save it for later, Reese thinks. mark it new for now. it’s nearly time for happy minutes. getting randy for the floozeball, for hit­ting the boozewall: two for one shine shots and breathy froths of saucewater. can’t spare the netviews right now. no like not so much no.

     o.m.g. the bumwaiters are out of order.

          the stairs, the
          dreadable stairs.



                    stairs. Reese is already late for the weakend slinky show at the smut club. all his BookEnd friends are going to be there. Prynne’ll understand, he thinks: every savvy bloke should be able to enjoy his Scatterday eve. you know, crack a yolk and toke the funny rope. bazoom some balloons of Painquil fumes. maybe tuck and fold loose credits into the wrong-a-thongs of some holowhores. you know,

     basic scro stuff like that. Prynne is also late, for her horrorscope reading and weekly tox shots at Guru Lulu’s. she’s all jazzed about her coupon for a free stretching and bleaching.

     but, sigh, there’s no LAN service there. Prynne’s gotta strap a few blocks out of the Blue,

                         towards the Sheets, through the corner of C and P. rough neighborhood in those haps. the C=P inter­sect: a bit pint of shade, a nook of sleaze in the border Sheets. a haven for nub­bish grimeballs. the whole place so desperate for a Fabreezy Cleansweep. Reese is downright dreadable right now, Prynne thinks.



                         Reese. what are we going to do with a scro like you? you, Reese, with your status askew. this calls for a Prynne-tervention, she thinks. Prynne decides to DM Reese for some face time, as her last resort. before she loses all netview interest.

               Reese feels right

               at home in the C=P, sharing its long greasy queues with his juvie mates and brothers of the nub parade. all wallowing in a

               broken line

     of clone-a-drones,

               lolling trolls

     with stony domes.

               they’re waiting, for the admin bouncers to let them through the firewall of Torrents. used to be a smut club at every intersect, but now that Torrents is rubbing dirties with the cabinets, they have a whoropoly. but the haps could be worse, Reese thinks. he’s thankful for his entry-level smother­ment job: a travelator operator. gives him a bit of clout and amnesty with the bouncies around the C=P. not much of a job,

     Prynne always says. the travelators practically operate themselves nowadays, she says. Reese can just hear it now. he can already inload her long, dramatic Prynne-terior monologue, full of her “Prynne-ciples.” always chirping in the fourth person. always wanting more from him, like some leaching bottom feeder.

     forever blotto and




                         like a bloody Prynne-somniac. Reese makes twice as many creds as she does on her little tainment zines. the fems should be breaking off the bacon, Reese thinks, not the other way round. that’s it, he thinks. that’s the haps. he needs to donkey punch the scapegoat. go up-in-smoke in the old escape route. he needs

               to cut ties with Prynne.

               that’s what he’ll do.  update his status to single, or perhaps solitary. angsty anchor. maybe lonely island or brooding boulder. well like really yeah duh, whatever fits his current steez. Reese is now livid whipped in a digit fit, so busy mashing updates that he doesn’t inload

     Prynne, who’s heading directly towards him on the treadwalk of vector C. she’s on a bee­line for the Torrents queue, only five more recs to Lulu’s in the H=P. her current trajectory honing unconsciously on Reese. Prynne is mere feet from him now, where he’s slouched over hunchback in the endless queue.

     she’s busy dressing her avatar in different minis and airbrushing its eye­brows. she dreads her own fugly brows. Prynne is enamored with her avatar, and slightly jealous of it. she takes guilty pleasure in staring into the screen

     and imagining it

     as her reflection. she’s even pondering what Reese’s avatar would like, despite herself. dirty little

Reese, who has just chosen single-and-a-badda-bing-mingling for his custom status

     on the Scrollbar. he leaves himself another e-minder to CC Prynne on their



          he feels sudden relief.

                         a burden lifted from his heartdrive. now he just hopes a ripped-right-and-loaded binge at Torrents can wipe Prynne clean from his netviews altogether. he’s so close to the front of the line, right on the fringe. knows he better turn off his tabs and screens for inspection. goes through the saving and minimizing and shutter bugging, but then the cursor on his Kaleidoscreen freezes.

          he’s getting a DM:

          a face time request from


, but there’s hardly any time between them anymore, in that liminal public space.

     Prynne is bootstrapping rapidly, in a fury to weave the grubby lag of the C=P, to cleave its dreadful buffer overflow. she’s very lucky to have bookmarked Guru Lulu at the last haps of a Scatterday afternoon. Prynne travelates

with her head down, to avoid the contact traps and general whacklash of the Sheet creepers. she’s juggling

                    tablets: the Kaleidoscreen tracking her progress through the grid, as a little blue dot on the Pathquest radar. her galPad shuffle-browsing though dozens of auctions on spree-Bay, all the culty fashions on her twitch list: jump drives disguised as sticks of bubble gum; stiletto heels that lower and rise with a fem’s self-esteem; a tablet utility belt called the Uncanny Pack; a smart-purse to hold all of her various clutches. she’s rushing to consume, through the chirps of the thrushes, until she’s abruptly ruffled

                    by Reese’s avatar on her feed. his avatar has denied her request for face time, and worse, it has removed Prynne’s many pieces of care flair. it’s over, Prynne thinks. she’s gone from ;-) to >:-() to :-\. from semicolon flirt, to furrowed carrot brow, to a slashed understanding.



                    Reese. what are we going to do with a scro like you? you, Reese, with your status so askew. Prynne longs for their static conversation of fragmented chirps. for the dancing of their checkered pixels. for those moments of awkward silence. Prynne’s wishing for

a little face time with Reese. but she’s gaining speed at the end of the tread-walk: hella kinetic, the conveyer belt ready to propel her into the center Sheets. she’s refusing to look up, even in unfamiliar territory.

               she needs to be ready for his Reese’s cam session, to accept his invites and e-pologies. he’ll be back, Prynne thinks, right after he drops a couple butts and deposits his rocks. sweeps it out of his system. but Reese has nearly been swallowed

by the maw


               Torrents. he’s hollow, just standing there: a goonish nub, letting spittle and drool catch on the collar of his unisuit.

                         wha… huh wha…

     he’s roused slightly by some blips in the bustle, by the pattering of boot­straps. he’s lifting and turning his mugwork, only in the final moments. he’s com­pletely lost for chirps, with no handle on the haps. he’s only halfloading some split-end fem

                    who’s strapping completely out of control. at Prynne­conceivable speeds,

                    and with such Prynne-opportune timing. he at last knows it’s Prynne,

                    for those few seconds.

     Prynne-sanity. the top of her domepiece, her tightly bobbed braidwork. it’s coming at him, with Prynne-point precision. perhaps it’s been Prynne-evitable all along, he thinks. in these moments of Prynne-decision. she’s colliding with him now, at too high a travelocity, in that liminal public space:

     the top of her cranium forcibly striking his nose and folding it like a scrunchie accordion, his bridge bone splintering into the soggy medullas of his brain.

     and then Prynne is already several recs away, totally oblivious in the throws of her Prynne-vincible strapping. she’s running on Prynne-stinct, unaware of this unlikely Prynne-dicament. she’ll be several hot seconds into Lulu’s bleaching by the time she realizes something is Prynne-accurate. a sudden, Prynne-tense migraine: that the haps are slightly Prynne-congruent. she’ll feel the uncontrol­lable urge to update her Scrollbar, right around

the same time that dirty little Reese crumples into a heap of skin and wires, some pieces of nonworking flesh connected together by cords.

               his ruins still warm with the pulse of umbilical USBs. but he’s being ignored by the negligent admin bouncers. they’re too service equipped in their veillance, repeatedly swiping the blank parts of the impatient clientele. that long queue of greasy juvie brutes, who casually



                    the cyborg corpse of their brother, Reese:

nothing but the endless nub parade, steady farce marching through the firewalls of their Scatterday eve.

Ryan Francis Kelly wishes he were the Cheshire Cat, so that he could disappear and leave behind nothing but his floating grin. His writings have been published in Wordstock Ten, Third Wednesday, and The San Diego Reader.

This story is included in Issue #46: Real Time/Virtual. Copyright © 2013 by Fiction International. Authors of individual works retain copyright, with the restriction that subsequent publication of any text be accompanied by notice of prior publication in Fiction International. Please contact the editor for reprinting information.

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