I’ve never understood why the news comes on so late. Who wants to fill their head with images and video of traffic collisions and homicides right before bedtime?
Mom and Dad, for beginnings. That’s the big thing that sucks about my bed being in the living room. I have to watch what my parents watch, when they watch it. Like now: they’ve just downloaded from whatever friend’s house or corner pub in Brno they’d spent the day at (I honestly don’t know how we’re making rent at this point), and are sprawled on the couch with the TV turned up full volume. They’re still on Czech time. To them it’s morning power hour; to me it’s late-night power hour. They seem clueless that while they’re starting their day, I’m trying to end mine. They probably don’t even know there’s a dosequisvirus epidemic going on.
When they’d first started doing this, I’d thought it was a sporadic, accidental kind of thing—sort of like their overall parenting since becoming SuperMegaNet addicts. I’d figured if I just went to bed normally, they’d only have to glance over their shoulders and spot me in bed with the covers drawn up and my arm thrown over my eyes to get the point and turn the TV off. Or at least lower the volume. Like any caring, reasonably aware parents.
But the news played on.
I’d tried to be more obvious, yawning, tossing, turning, going to and from the kitchen in my underwear. One night I’d even wedged myself between them with bread and cold cuts, waiting to be disciplined, to be told it was bedtime on a school night. But they’d been oblivious. Worse, they’d thought I was enacting a rite of passage.
“Manling,” Dad had said. “When a boy stops wearing pajamas.”
“Our little manling,” Mom had snickered.
Then the two of them had snickered together.
So, here I am sitting slumped in my bed, back against the wall, eyelids drooping, attention wandering lazily between the TV and the outline of the backs of my parents’ heads when this happens:
“…and now breaking news out of San Angelico. Self-proclaimed blood metal slash action figure rock siren and social media starlet Asia Afrodesia is pregnant. She broke the news via @l33t_master’s SuperMegaNet feed only moments ago, downloading naked into the unsuspecting fan’s bedroom and posting this status update: ‘El Cassetto knocked me up. Congratulations on breaking the news, @l33t_master #luckylittledude #cutiepie #12yo8in #ElCassetto’ Accompanying the post were a handful of selfies of @l33t_master and Asia throwing peace signs, making fish lips, and mocking the unborn fetus with a vinyl copy of Neil Diamond’s Lovescape. Even more bizarre are the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy itself, which the perennially adolescent singer attributes to El Cassetto, an Internet meme about a cassette tape of Mexican banda music currently making the rounds via SuperMegaNet…”
The @l33t_master standing dazed and confused beside Asia in each and every one of the selfies?
Rubbing my eyes, I transition from bed to sofa, squeezing between Mom and Dad. Undies be damned.
“…Asia is one of literally thousands of victims who are blaming unwanted pregnancies on the nefarious relic medium. Due to the ‘always on’ nature of SuperMegaNet, it’s unclear as of yet how users can safeguard themselves. Police are investigating. In the meantime, should El Cassetto be downloaded to your phone or computer, experts recommend that you not play the tape, but rather call the authorities immediately. Turning to sports…”
My parents glance at me.
I glance back. For a moment I wonder if they’re going to tell me to lay off SuperMegaNet for a while. That’s what normal parents would do, right?
No, the look in their eyes isn’t one of concern, it’s an unspoken pact being offered by two addicts uploading their brains out on my PC day and night (power-ons permitting): We won’t talk about it if you won’t talk about it.
Well, that’s the look my dad’s giving me. Mom’s just smirking at my undies. “No cold cuts this time?” she asks.
I get up.
“Manling,” Dad chuckles as I return to my bed, lie sprawled on my back and staring up at the ceiling. I wouldn’t say I’m team Ernie with the whole El Cassetto thing. It’s probably a hoax, someone somewhere using the Internet to pull their prank, make their mark. I’m just…more aware of it now. Because, prank or not, if it’s on the news, it has to be real.
My parents stay put; the TV stays on. It’s going to be a rude night again. I figure, then, if I’m not going to sleep, I may as well work. Curling up under the covers, I carefully arrange the pillows. Then I pull out my phone, tap the SuperMegaNet icon on my home screen, and shoot Theo the obligatory text:
jkounicova > l33t_master > you and Asia huh?
Not waiting for a reply, I upload to my secret place.