Welcome to the third part of the first The Exquisite Corpse of 2019, hosted by @gardengnomepubs
There are six writers who each are writing a part of the story. None of us know what is coming - there is no plan - so we have to react to what has been written by the writer before us. The six writers are @blockurator, @fromage, @felt.buzz, @blueeyes8960, @stever82, and @sarez. Writing in that order.
Please read the first two parts, firstly, to make sure you know what is happening, and, secondly, because they are bloody brilliant!
If you have read them and just want a reminder here is a brief summary:
Our hero has witnessed something odd, a transformation of beauty into something else, something ugly, weird and disturbing. When things start exploding, he runs. People seem to know who he is, but he isn’t so sure. He witnesses a woman kill an old time cop. Is she a threat? He’s having a bad day, and decides there is only one way to escape…
The credits began to roll, and I felt the jerk of the jack as it was pulled from the socket in my skull. The oh-too-familiar searing white light pierced my brain. I lay still, rapid blinking my only movement, waiting for the bright light to fade, replaced, gradually, by a multitude of shadows that slowly became defined shapes with colours.
“You alright?” Blake stood to one side, the wire that had been planted in my head dangling from his hand. I blinked again. His facial expression was odd.
He looked... concerned.
“What do you care?” I snapped, trying to sit up, immediately regretting it. Firstly because my head felt as though I’d been shot with twenty nail guns from every fucking direction, and secondly because I was still strapped to the Dreembench.
“You Dreemers,” Blake turned away in what I assumed was disgust. “So rude.”
“You don’t usually give a shit, Blake. Why now?”
He turned back and to my horror I read pity on his face.
“You're losing it,” he said. “Suicide? Again? We talked about that, man. There is an audience for suicides, you know that. I know that,” he released the straps and I shivered as they slithered back over my body, feeling like a hundred thousand crawling insects. “It pays well, if you know what you’re doing. But you’ve built up a following. They like... traditional fictional heroes. Flawed characters, sure. But they want them to win in the end.” He walked over to the screen at the back, and pressed his thumb to the screen. “Or at least, not end up looking like vomit splattered on the fucking sidewalk.” He turned to look at me. “You could have done anything, man. You know what I’d have done?” I didn’t care, but I knew he’d tell me. “I’d have fucked that broad who shot that cop. That would have gotten you some upvotes.”
I sat up, holding my head the skin around the socket was tingling. It never used to do that. A lot of things weren’t like they used to be.
“I Dreem what I Dreem, Blake.”
He peered at the screen. “Well, you better Dreem better. You’re losing the high payers. If things continue like this you’ll barely cover the cost of the broadcast.”
I felt the tingle in my brain. A notification of payment by DreemVision, 9.2010 Steem.
“You’re shitting me.”
Blake shrugged and smiled. “I told you, you’re losing followers. You need to get some help. Or you’ll lose your spot. There are better Dreemers than you, we both know that. The only thing that has kept you on the payroll is the following you have. If you lose any more of the big upvoters we’ll replace you.” He shook his head, and I saw that look of pity again. “Sorry, man. It’s just business.” He pointed at the door. “Come on,” he said. “Get the fuck out. I’ve got the next Dreemer in the waiting room.”
With difficulty I shuffled out of Dreemroom3 and into Recovery. There was no one else in it. That was something, I supposed. I couldn’t deal with meeting another Dreemer. Especially a newbie. Always full of excitement, promise and youth.
I poured myself a large glass of water from the dispenser, ignoring the Notification of the debit of 0.0001 Steem, leaving a balance of 12.4432 Steem.
Blake was right. I was losing it. I was struggling. My BrainMeld was failing. It was old. Secondhand - maybe third - when I bought it. It was effecting my creativity. Time was I would have created a DreemVision Sensation out of that scenario. A season of twenty episodes. With advertising revenue on top of the upvotes. Maybe, if I didn’t get too bored I’d have managed to squeeze out two, maybe three, seasons. I sipped the water, watching the replay on the screen. At all the points of the story I could have chosen a different option, I could have taken it in a completely different direction. That character, that woman - what was her name? - Pugnacia something, where the hell did I get that name from? - was right. I should have just taken the fucking stairs.
So why the fuck hadn’t I?
I walked over to my locker and it unlocked at my touch, the tingling announcing another 0.0001 Steem deducted from my acount, leaving a Balance of 12.4431 Steem. I ignored it.
Everything cost Steem, these days. Everything you buy, consume, throw away. Fuck me, my morning dump cost me 0.041 Steem today! I dressed quickly and left, ignoring the flash of the comments from the viewers. I would leave that little pleasure trip into misery later. I had a bottle of whisky waiting for me in my apartment. A leaving present from him.
I was going to have to move. In three days time, my monthly rent was due: 9 Steem. If I wanted to eat, drink, or shit, I was have to take a smaller place. And - checking the current market rate - it would have to be on the other side of the river. I’d promised myself when I got out of that hellhole, I’d never go back. Well, it wouldn’t be the only promise I’d broken recently. Even there, I’d be lucky if I could afford a studio. And travel costs would go up, of course.
I needed to earn more Steem. And fast.
I walked past the line of SureRicks positioned just outside the building. Long gone were the days I could afford to sit in one of those babies.
“Would you like a lift, sir?” I looked down. An AutoBoard slid through the air beside me.
“Discounted rates, sir. Improved safety, sir. Surely, you aren’t going to walk, sir?”
I ignored it, and moved away. Fucking bots. The world was run by them. Not technically, maybe, not yet. But we’d become too fucking reliant.
I felt the tingle in my head. Twice. One was from AutoBoardInc wondering if I could spare a moment to participate in a survey. I spared a moment to throw it in the trash. The other was a notification from DreemVision. Someone was trying to contact me. Probably, a fan. Or former fan. Telling me they were disappointed. Or worse to tell me they liked it. I couldn’t take any more pity. I ignored it.
Tingle. Another message. The same account as before. This time it was Voice. Who does Voice anymore? I checked the signature. No one I knew. Without really knowing why, I accepted it.
“It’s Cheeze,” I said, correcting her pronunciation automatically, even though it was a recording. The words left my mouth before I realised she was using my real name. Not my Dreem name.
“We have to meet. I know it sounds a little melodramatic, darling, but it really is a matter of life and death. Call me.” Then a pause. “We have met. Sort of. My name’s Pugnacia Arabesque.”
I am excited to know what @blueeyes8960 will come up with next! Tune in for the next exciting episode!
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