“So, just to fill you in, my friends Theo, Eva, Jan, and myself—aka, the Runt Squad—use this app called SuperMegaNet. It lets us upload and download to any phone or computer also running the app. We can also go virtual on literally assloads of SMN servers around the world. People still use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, I guess—but anyone worth their pubic hairs has got SuperMegaNet installed. After all, who wants to text and post audio or video when you can actually upload to your favorite spots, actual or virtual? (Quick lingo lesson: virtual is when you upload to a server running a Bahamas sim; actual is when you upload to the real Bahamas.) But because we’re so lame, we pretty much stay actual most of the time, uploading to each other’s bedrooms—wait, that sounds gay. Can I start over?”
I stop recording, glare at Ernie from behind my DSLR as he unwraps the Twinkie I only now notice he’s been holding in his hand the entire time. “Ernie, when I said I’d help you make a video, it was under the pretense that it wasn’t going to be anything involving morbid stupidity.”
“There’s nothing morbid or stupid about what we’re doing here!” Ernie shouts, holding the Twinkie halfway to his mouth. “Current events need to be documented, and so we’re documenting them!”
Disheartened, I glance at Theo and Jan. We’re seated on or around my bed (all of us practicing our fundoshi like good little citizens), and have come to facilitate the filming of Ernie’s very first documentary. That’s why he’s using my camera, by the way. Well, correction: I’m using the actual camera (I wouldn’t let him touch my equipment in a million years). He’s just being his usual ridiculous self. I should’ve known better, but I’m a shutterbug. My parents recognized this early on and, for my tenth birthday, got me a camera. In the nearly three years since, I’ve taken pictures and video of anything, everything, everyone. No biggie—lots of girls my age like to do that. However, instead of merely doing fish lips or showing off what I’m eating for lunch, I like to edit short documentaries of friends and family. Call them vlogs, if you want. I’m weird like that. I’m always the one who’s got her phone out, more content to see a vacation trip to Milan through the lens of a camera than to actually be there in the moment. I think Ernie knew this about me when he asked that I help him film a documentary on life in post-DOSVID-19 San Angelico. Documentary, he’d said. Not…whatever this is going on in front of my fifty-millimeter.
“Don’t look at me,” Theo says with an apathetic shrug of his monochromed shoulders. (It’s hard to believe he’s been faking as Tommy Carlton ever since the city’s Fundoshi Mandate and rolling power-ons first kicked in. Is he really that embarrassed to be seen in a loincloth while skinned default?) “I’m not the one who volunteered to turn her bedroom into a public access TV station.”
I frown, face forward again, pressing record and gesturing for Ernie to continue.
“Should I start over or—”
“I’ll get it in editing.” Possibly. “Action!”
He scarfs his Twinkie. With his mouth full, he mumbles, “Anyway, my friends and I don’t really have much in common except that we’re all super-smart. Or, smart enough for the powers that be to dump us into high school two years early. They think they were doing us a favor or something, but I can’t describe the hell it is to be thirteen years old and attending Boca Linda High. High schoolers are some of the most wretched people you’ll ever meet. Everything they do is motivated by sex, money, and how to use one to get the other. You know what Boca Linda means in Spanish? ‘Chocolate mouth—’”
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Theo’s auto-correct instinct kicking in as he looks up from his phone (I’ve got him doing behind-the-scenes footage), raises his hand, starts to interrupt—
“—I mean, what the hell is that?” Ernie continues. “A shitty name for a shitty school packed with shitty students who want absolutely nothing to do with us because we’re too young to be bought, too young to be fucked. So, our academic slave masters lumped us together as part of an assignment. Friends for the friendless even though I already have friends. Two-hundred-thirteen of them. Check my buddy list. But I’ll hang with Little Asia (that’s Theo—geek, small fry, currently skinned as an undead Tarzan boy named Joey, would give anything to make sweet love to Eva), Bug Eyes (that’s Eva—bug eyes, flat chest, on the wrestling team, wants to bone Jan as badly as Theo wants to bone her), and the Dirty Czech (that’s Jan—pronounced yawn, closet jock, poor as fuck, barely speaks the good Lord’s English, into meaty female bodybuilders) if it’ll keep them from dying of social starvation. Because that’s the kind of thoughtful guy I am—”
“You’re calling me ‘Little Asia’ now?” Theo interrupts again.
I glare at him. “That’s the part that upsets you? Not the talk of all of us wanting to sleep with each other?”
“You’re ruining the take!” Ernie shouts.
“It was already ruined the moment you faced the camera,” Jan snickers.
“Also,” I add, “I forgot to press record.”
Ernie turns livid. “Are you jerking me off? I was on a roll!”
“You are a roll.”
“Just for that, no bokeh for you.”
“Fine! Flowers are for girls anyway!”