They were meeting at Mole’s that night since his parents would be at the club. His ears were plugged when Lobe marched down the basement stairs. Three monitors flashed at imbalanced intervals, Lobe pulling the flash drive from his pocket and creeping like a nocturnal beast towards the only free USB port on the tower.
“Don’t try it,” Mole glared from the corner of his eye.
“I got some new mods today on the dark web, really far out stuff,” Lobe explained “You gotta check it out.”
“I am the maestro and this is my symphony,” Mole’s arms stretched the length of the screens, fingertips grazing plastic. “Show some respect.”
“There beer?” Lobe meandered to the minifridge.
“Dunno,” his host continued to double click.
“Just some girly shit Bev left last week. Think I’m gonna go grab something down the street. You want anything?”
“Silence,” Mole replied.
Lobe had grown so accustomed to responses of that caliber in the previous twenty years, that he saw no reason to so much as sigh. Back upstairs, through the kitchen, out the patio door, along the side to the driveway just as Van switched off the lights and exited his jeep.
“Yo what’s the deal here?” Lobe asked.
“Huh?” Van rummaged through his camera bag.
“You parked me in.”
“Are you not staying?” he began tallying SD cards, stopping then recounting to himself.
“I’m gonna go grab some brew. There’s nothing downstairs. Do you want anything?”
“Nah, I don’t think I’m drinking tonight,” Van rezipped his bag.
“Well then let’s take the jeep so I can crack one on the drive back.”
“Who are you right now?”
Lobe groaned. “Can you move your car then?”
“There’s really nothing downstairs?” Van asked.
“Just some fruity shit Bev left last week.”
“Well drink that then or some dad beers from the upstairs fridge. I don’t know why you have to get plastered every time we do this anyway.”
“We all do. Everyone else drinks, or better yet, nobody brings anything and ends up bumming off of me, and you always say you’re not going to have one, but I bet when I come back with some sixers you have one, then Mole and Bev. All of you are a bunch of bums,” Lobe knew that protesting early would leave the night with less burden.
“Maybe that’s why I don’t want to enable myself by moving my car right now,” Van smirked and walked towards the house.
Lobe pictured how he could effectively pull out without ruining the lawn, before deciding that if he was going to upset the man of the house, drinking his beer felt far less evasive. Through the front door, past the living room, on the bottom shelf of the kitchen fridge sat a whole army of Bud Lime Light. He’d have to drink twice as fast to feel anything, but that only made the evening more challenging.
When Lobe returned to the basement, Mole was unplugged, swiveling while Van maneuvered the mouse, bundling loose footage from another week. Dialogue needed rewritten along with the plot. Set design only made the acting less bearable; this passion project best left buried on a queue without limitations.
Nonetheless, Mole jotted notes and upon seeing the credits, immediately ran playback on his latest. It was busy, unstructured, but with enough fragrant disillusionment filtered in to please his cohorts. Lobe downed two beers before revealing his master stroke. The hack was near perfect, untraceable and inconsiderate. They’d never use it on anything, but it would be nice to have around before the next operating system.
“So no one’s talked to Bev?” Van asked.
“She knows where we are,” Mole replied.
“Did she say she had something going on this week?” Lobe suggested. “Let me peruse social media.” He typed the letters, but nothing came up. Then another app and username with no results so Van checked and finally Mole with the same outcome. They tried texting and calling only to fall on empty air and automated voice.
“This has got to be her best project yet,” Van pocketed his phone. “Cutting us out had to take some time.”
“Even the photos she tagged us in are gone,” Lobe added. “Actually, I can’t find a photo of her anywhere right now.”
“So dumb,” Mole scoffed. “It didn’t take much time or thought for her to do this.”
“You don’t think?” Lobe replied. “Cutting us off completely must take some effort.”
“She knows what she’s doing,” Van nodded. “Without a doubt.”
“How long does this last, though?” Mole swiveled.
“You mean if she means it? Hopefully forever,” Van stood from his chair and took in the scene. “Ya know, I think I do maybe wanna go get some beer now.”
“Why don’t you just drink what’s in the fridge?” Lobe remarked.
“Nah, we’ll save that for another time. I’ll be back.” Van walked upstairs and out the door as Mole sat motionless at his keyboard.
“It’s probably just like in Empire when they’re separate for awhile and then everyone’s back in it again by Jedi,” Lobe suggested. “That’s how these things usually go.”
“Just like real life,” Mole began to type again, eyes reflecting waves on the screen.
Lobe finished his beer and had one of Van’s when he returned. They didn’t mention Bev again after that night, although her presence occasionally lingered in-between regular insult sessions. There would be no future dedications in the linear notes or closing credits, but the occasional Easter egg still existed if only to let the audience know just how necessary her opinion was in places like that, on days set ablaze.
Christopher S. Bell is a writer and musician. His work has recently appeared in Virtual Zine, Humble Pie, Solar Journal and The Evening Street Review. His latest collection of short fiction Double Feature is out now. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.