Yeah, so, I haven’t been around much lately. The rolling power-ons have kind of cramped my style in that I can only come out and play when the juice is on and the Wi-Fi is proliferate. Drawbacks of being virtual. It’s not so bad, though. When your hard drives spin down you’re basically on pause in a deep, dreamless sleep. Teenagers do it all the time, crashing for long stretches of day and night, and only waking now and then to eat, shit, fuck, or shower. I don’t mind being on pause. It’s the idea that one day my hard drives might not spin back up again afterward that bothers me. But I guess we all entertain the darkness from time to time.
“Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” I say, doing the Doc from Star Trek: Voyager as I download into Theo’s bedroom. “What’s on your mind, little dude?”
“It’s probably nothing,” he says, “and I feel like an idiot for asking, but…” He’d been sitting at his desk; now he turns to me with a super-cereal look on his face. “Is El Cassetto a real thing?”
“You know, the Mexican banda cassette tape meme or computer virus or whatever it is downloading itself into people’s bedrooms via SuperMegaNet? Is it real, and can you actually get pregnant after listening to it?”
“You’ll have to excuse my not keeping up with the times. I’m only conscious for four hours a day, max, thanks to the power outages.”
“Oh. Right. Um…” Theo blushes. “Well, that’s basically what it is. A lot of people are talking about it online and in the news. Asia Afrodesia’s blaming her pregnancy on it.”
“Asia’s pregnant? How long have I been out of the loop?”
“I kind of feel the same way.”
I shake my head, think out loud for a moment: “So, basically, an unsolicited object is downloading automatically and is applying a persistent effect while actual?”
Huh. Is that a distant gaze on my face?
Is that my virtual heart skipping a beat in my virtual chest?
“I’ll ask around,” I tell Theo, and I upload back home—but I don’t stay home. Instead, I go to see an old friend.
I go to see Val.