Chapter 5 – Trending
by Paul du Preez
Through December and January I’ll be serializing this YA novella. Enjoy! (Its available in stores right now – scroll down to the ‘announcements’ panel for retailer links.)
It took me ages to write and record this stuff: what would really help me is some feedback. Thanks in advance.
The break bell went: the school system lifted media restrictions and Jordan’s classmates began messaging news of his new celebrity.
But Jordan was too wrapped in misery to notice anything. He slouched through Islington Park High’s concrete-walled rat-runs feeling trapped – doomed to wander through its grimy maze forever. Crump!
But looking for Liam. To update him. Or something.
He dragged his feet along the corridor’s yellow vinyl floor tiles. Heading for the cafeteria – good a place as any to look for Liam, he reckoned. And he needed calories, before lunchtime.
Normally, Jordan tried to look at things in a positive way – liked to imagine the cavernous halls of Izzy-Park High as the courts of a castle: the steel footbridge that arced from reception to street-level as a drawbridge; the sunken car-park below as a moat. (And for a few ditzy days, the duty teachers watching the street end of the bridge as knights in silver armour, colourful pennons fluttering from their polished helms. That’s before he decided the idea was barf-worthy.)
So, tired of dragging his feet along the corridor’s vinyl floor tiles, he thought he’d focus on their bright yellow colour, and imagined: ‘Streets paved with gold…’
Waste, blud. Give it up. No ways is today a positive day.
When, out of his imagination popped:
‘…But getting old
When you get told
And you been sold’
Surprised, he thought, Hey, good flow! And wished he were brave enough to throw back his shoulders, lift his head and, just… RAP, dropping lines boldly. Right there. In the school corridor. For everyone to pick up on, and admire.
But…he didn’t have confidence.
A passing student – Kendrick, the class alpha-blud – clapped him on the shoulder. “Good one. Nutters though.”
Kendrick pirouetted smoothly, still walking – but backwards, and looked at Jordan incredulously: “Your hack blud. Like, what else?” He twirled, and was gone.
Worked out what Kendrick meant – enough of it.
Put on a pose of manful cool, and strode into the cafeteria.
Normally he liked to imagine the place as a ruined medieval cloister, open to the sunlit skies, lawns starred with yellow daisies, doe-eyed damsels and their gallant beaux jesting under ivy-wreathed arches.
But not today.
Today he’d risk reality.
And, in fact, the damsels – seated at melamine-topped tables on brightly coloured plastic chairs – were not doe-eyed. They were messaging in AR, air-typing on virtual keyboards, reading text on their eye-wear. Some were peeking at him shyly out of the corner of their eyes; others inspected him brazenly from behind dark and flickering lenses. Whoa! He felt a jolt, like the tickle of phantom fingers between his shoulder-blades. His reputation must be mushrooming, he reckoned – multiplying in student-space faster than fungus in a fairy-circle.
A positive feeling, he decided. But unfamiliar. Scary.
He ignored it; tried to act like it was normal – just his due. And headed for the food counters, picked out a carton of ‘Italian tomato’ pasta and a bubble gum smoothie. Got in line for the checkout.
An incoming message pinged his glasses. Bunnylicious99@…? He accepted. A pic flashed on screen. Weird shape. Flesh-toned. A body-part?
Jordan felt a blush beginning its burn up his neck and cheeks. But who was Bunnylicious? He didn’t dare look – everyone was watching.
No. Chill Blud, he told himself. Only Bunnylicious knows who she is. And what she messaged…
Suddenly he felt like a frog on display in a glass aquarium.
And her friends: they know. They’re all laughing at me.
A frog who was never going to be kissed into a prince. Dissected in public more likely!
Waste! Everyone’s in on it.
Jordan snatched the glasses from his face, pocketing them. Crump! Live girls were scary. Not like digital ones. Not like Sabrina, the virtual assistant Sean had given him. She’s awesome. Sabrina is…
But before he could finish this thought, Liam skated up to him. “Bruv, you’re trend-rending,” he yapped. “Tell me.”
Relieved, now he had a reason for keeping his glasses pocketed, Jordan did: all about the silvery humanoid, and Grumpet. But not about Bunnylicious.
“Whoa, way cool.” breathed Liam, impressed for once. “I Gotta red-message bruv Sean. But off-net, like. Don’t wanna give him up, do I. Not if they’re looking.”
“No, don’t wanna give him up,” agreed Jordan as Liam scuttled away. Though he didn’t worry, dropping me in it. ‘Never track it back,’ he said. Right! Didn’t take them five minutes.
Exiting the cafeteria, Jordan wandered moodily towards the playing courts, downing pasta as he went. There, some seniors gruffly invited him to shoot hoops. Stashing his smoothie, Jordan dribbled ball. The bluds were taller than him; some, a lot taller. But Jordan knew he had height coming.
It was an honour, them asking him. Like being made a squire. In the days of King Arthur the knights did everything on horseback – made them even taller. Centaurs…
“Eye on the ball! You slow? I’ll send you a postcard, next time.”
The bell for class went.
No Ways! by Paul du Preez
Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions
Will & Jordan: Cyberhunt is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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