A Murky Revelation

@theo

Bleh. Fine. Whatever. I’ll check on Ernie. I suppose I could upload to the Semantic Web for a while and then lie about it. But my phone would be left behind; at any time Eva or Jan could simply lean over and check to see if I’m really where I’m supposed to be. I could upload back home first, citing network latency concerns, but, then, part of me does want to…know. Forget Ernie’s missing school, I’m talking about this morning, about how much of me he really saw. I’ve got to…confirm. Kind of like when you’re little, and you’re almost but not quite sure if your parents have caught you doing something naughty. You go right to them and pretend nothing’s wrong while testing for information, dropping certain key words in certain ways to get them to reveal whether or not they…know.

I swipe myself into the murky twilight that is Ernie’s bedroom. The curtains are drawn closed; the usual piles of clutter rise high into the shadows. The air smells like cookie crumbs and dirty socks. Ernie’s computer monitor glows beacon-like.

“Ernie?” I whisper, and step carefully toward his desk. The back of his gaming chair is facing me; his arms hang over the rests. He probably passed out during another one of his Hella War all-nighters. How on Earth he manages to keep up with his schoolwork I’ll never know. “Psst! Ernie. It’s me, Theo.” I move behind and beside him, putting my hand on the headrest. He’s wrapped in a grandma quilt. His hair is mussed (he’s not wearing his usual beanie). He’s got his headset on; there appears to be dried blood caked beneath one of his ears. “Ernie…” I tap his shoulder—

—he jumps in place, looks up at me, screams this startled little girl scream. “Ahh!!

Ahh!!” I scream back.

Ernie takes off his headphones. Waits with his fists clenched on the desktop. His face is swollen, and there are scorch marks around his eyes. It looks like a pair of firecrackers went off, one in each socket. What’s that expression about looking none the worse for wear? Well, Ernie looks worse for wear. Way worse.

I tap his shoulder again. “Dude—”

“Go away!”

“—we’re waiting for you at 3 Hags’. What’s the deal?”

Ernie pulls the quilt around his shoulders. “I’m not hungry. I have a cold—fuck off!”

“Is that…baby food?” I glance at the collection of emptied jars on the desktop.

“Maybe!”

“Ernie, what’s going on?”

“I told you, I’m sick!”

I lift my hand to adjust my glasses and, forgetting that I don’t wear them anymore, I end up simply swiping the bridge of my nose. “But you never miss doughnut day at 3 Hags’. Not even when you’re sick. You gave us all the flu once. Remember your motto? ‘Feed a cold—with doughnuts. Drown a fever—with soda—’”

Ernie whirls around in his chair, facing me. “You want to know what’s going on? Okay, fine! This is what’s going on!” He turns on the desk lamp, throws off his quilt, revealing his gigantic, bloated belly. Did I mention that he’s completely naked? Because yeah, that’s what’s going on. I stare, wide-eyed. He’s been overweight for as long as I’ve known him, but this is enormity even by Ernie Goodale standards. “That’s right, junior! I’m pregnant!”

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Jesse Gordon

Geek. Writer. Supreme overlord of the SUPERMEGANET pseudoverse. Author of THE OATMEAL MAN, DOOKIE, and other such wasteful nonsense.