Persistence of the Flesh

📅 Published on May 14, 2022

“Persistence of the Flesh”

Written by Geoff Sturtevant
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 7.50/10. From 2 votes.
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I met her on the Internet. Same way so many people do these days. Sitting at the computer in my dad’s one-bedroom on a Friday night. He was snoring away in the other room, so I knew he’d taken his pills. He slept like a rock on those things. Insomnia, he told me, but I knew the real reason he took them. He took them to escape. To leave the world he’d created for himself.

I also craved the escape, but my escape was video games. At least I wasn’t plying myself with drugs. And outside of that, I was trying to change my reality. I knew there was someone else out there; someone just like me. I was intent on finding her, and soon enough, I would.

Dad would never approve of what I was doing. Internet dating, chat rooms, none of that would fly with him. That wasn’t his way of doing things, and the way he saw it, his way was the only way. That was the ironic thing, because the way he turned out, there was no chance I was following in his footsteps. In a sense, I was glad he drugged himself to sleep every night. It was my only chance to do this.

I opened the browser and navigated to the dating site. Always with that nervous excitement when I went to check my messages. And when the screen finished loading, that dark, sinking feeling when there weren’t any. Not one person interested out of the thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people on here. No one even compelled to tell my ugly ass to get lost. Nothing. Nothing at all. Typical.

As usual, I spent a few minutes feeling sorry for myself, considered giving up, the same way I always did. But I didn’t give up. I took a deep breath and kept browsing for new profiles. It wasn’t desperation, but fear that kept me going. My fear was quitting before my time came, maybe just before my time came. Like walking away from a slot machine before the next guy hit the jackpot. This had to pay out eventually; even if I was the last guy on earth to find someone, inevitably the day would come. It was a waiting game. A numbers-game. No different than the video games I loved so much. As long as I kept playing, I was still in the game.

Just keep at it, Kevin. There’s someone else out there. All you gotta do is be here when she shows up. If you can’t manage that, then you might as well be your dad.

And I kept at it. It was always the thought of my dad that kept me going. A guy who did everything by the book. Who stayed out of trouble, went to Georgetown University and earned a masters degree. Only to marry some narcissistic bitch who only cared about herself, mostly because she was as successful as him. And then to have it all fall apart on him. To lose his house, his family, and most of his money. The last thing I wanted was to be like him.

Sometime later while I was scrolling through the profiles in a hundred-mile radius, a strange bead of light flitted across the screen. A green number “1” up by my inbox icon.
A message.

Someone had sent me a message. In real-time. The idea of it was kind of embarrassing, like I wasn’t supposed to see it so soon. Whoever had sent this was online this very moment.

My mouse hovered over the icon.

Should I click? If I read it immediately, will she know? Would she think I’m a loser who spends his days and nights staring at his inbox? Or some kind of over-eager pervert?

I checked my mail settings to see if there was a read/unread indicator for outgoing messages, but there didn’t appear to be. Preparing myself for disappointment, I clicked on the mail icon and read the heading.

Wanna talk? read the subject line. The name of the sender was Trixie.

I let out the long breath I’d been holding. Trixie. Had to be some kind of troll. Either that, or some cam-girl peddling her wares. But when I opened the message, it didn’t look that way. It said:


You seem like a nice guy in your profile. Would you like to chat? If you do, please let me know. 

– Trixie. 

I read the message several times over. I liked the part where she called me a “nice guy.” Mostly because I knew that was all I had to offer. If she’d called me “hot,” or “sexy,” I’d have known it was fake. But there was none of that; nothing suggestive, no link to some weird streaming site. She seemed like a normal girl. Just some girl who wanted to chat. Maybe someone just like me.
Suddenly I was less concerned with seeming over-eager than I was with losing the chance to take her up on it. I hit reply, and wrote:


I’d definitely like to chat. Thanks for reaching out. I’ll be hanging around tonight, so hit me back if you’re around. 

– Kevin 

I looked over the message, ultimately deleted the word “definitely,” and hit SEND. My heart was beating harder than normal. Had I acted impulsively? Maybe so. But a guy like me couldn’t afford to miss any opportunities. Even Dad had cautioned me to keep my eyes open for opportunities. Although he’d never approve of this one, the lesson still resonated.

Sitting back in my chair and staring at my inbox notifications, it occurred to me I should check her profile. Bracing myself again for disappointment, I finally got up the courage to click on her icon.

Age: 18
Appearance: white, slim-figured, brown hair
Interests: reading, gaming, hanging with friends
Seeking: nice, unselfish guy around my age

There was a picture of her; a kind of girl-next-door look; not unattractive, not exactly a bombshell. No complaints from me. I’d been called ugly enough to learn to be realistic. I hadn’t even bothered to post my best photo for my profile pic–why raise anyone’s expectations? However this thing panned out, I’d rather she be pleasantly surprised when we met. Or at least not unpleasantly surprised. I can be naive at times, but I’m not unrealistic. I’m no catch. Nice, unselfish—sure. But that’s about all I brought to the table.

After re-reading Trixie’s profile, my inbox lit up again. Again with that lightheaded feeling, I clicked the icon, grinding my teeth at the sluggish connection. When the window finally loaded, I saw Trixie had replied.

Hi, Kevin!

So happy to meet you. I look forward to learning more about you, but could we chat somewhere else? Sending mail back and forth is totally awkward. I put a link below to a special chat site I use. If you could meet me there? My username is Trixie628. I’ll be waiting. 


My heart sunk at the mention of the external link. This was just what the cam-girls did; solicit you at a legitimate place, then drag you to whatever site they were affiliated with to set up an account and start sending them money.

Then again, none of those girls used such plain pictures for their profile photos. Aside from the fact that she wanted to chat somewhere else, there wasn’t much to be suspicious of.
Should I give it a chance?

Who was I kidding? Of course I would.

I highlighted the address in the hyperlink. A long, bizarre domain name that didn’t make any sense, and some mile-long subdirectory. Suspicious by anyone’s standards, but at that moment I didn’t care if it blew up the computer.

First, I got up to make sure my dad was still asleep. Then I opened up a private browser window and pasted it in. The browser worked for a minute, but then returned with the message: Domain doesn’t appear to exist.

My heart sunk. I re-pasted the link again, but got the same message. Dammit. Trixie must’ve messed it up when she sent it to me.

I brought up the window with her mail; was ready to reply to her message when I clicked the actual link she’d sent me. A new browser window popped up, but instead of the not-found message, it appeared to be connecting. I waited. To my surprise, a site began to load; a plain, black background.

When the page was fully rendered, it was hardly passible for a website. Just a plain, black screen and a search box. That was all. Whatever this site was, it looked nothing like a flashy cam-site. No ads, no “sign up” button, no “donate” button; nothing at all that suggested paying. That was comforting in a way. A little discomforting in another–in my experience, nothing online was there just to be helpful. If this was some kind of chat-site, you’d at least expect an advertisement or two. Without any way to take your money, you have to wonder what else this place is trying to take from you.

Where to start? I typed Trixie’s name into the search box and hit enter. The site worked for a minute, then came up with the message “User Trixie628 is online,” and a small window opened up. I saw our names in the window:


Kevin? Had I even typed my name anywhere? Had to be something in that link she sent me. Some kind of token, maybe. But I barely had time to consider it before the message came through.
Hi Kevin. I’m so glad you came.

Hi, Trixie. Thanks for inviting me. I’ve never heard of this place before.

My connection isn’t too good. It’s the only site I can really chat on.

Where are you from? I asked.

You said you’re in Orange Oaks, right? I’m from Summit. Not far.

Yes, Orange Oaks. Your connection is bad over there?

That surprised me. Summit was a nice area, not the type of place you’d imagine having crappy Internet access.

Yeah, it’s slow where I am. I read that you like gaming. Me too, which games?

The conversation was smooth and easy; no long pauses between replies. I told her my hope for the future—to become a video game tester for one of my favorite game developers. Not at all the big, lucrative gameplan most girls want to hear from a prospective companion. But she thought it was “cool.” And before I knew it, it was past two in the morning. It turned out Trixie and I had a lot in common. She was an outcast in school, same as me. A bit of a weirdo, maybe. But a weirdo gamer girl was exactly what I needed. It was still early to tell, but it seemed like we were hitting it off.

It’s getting pretty late, she wrote.

It is. Can we talk again tomorrow? 

Sure. How’s like 9:00 your time? 

My time? I wrote. Aren’t you in Summit? 

JK, she said.

Lol. Anyway, how about like 10? My dad’s kind of a jerk about stuff like this. He’s usually passed out by 10 tho. 

That sux, she wrote. 10 is cool tho. 

Cool. I’ll be on at 10.

Goodnite. I’m glad we met. 

 Me too, I wrote. Goodnight! 

I checked the clock. It was 2:30 a.m. I desperately had to get to bed or I’d be passing out in class tomorrow.

But I wasn’t tired at all. I was so excited, I didn’t think I’d ever fall asleep. All that waiting. All that hoping that eventually, if I just kept trying, I’d eventually meet someone. Was it possible we were meant to meet like this?

I erased my browser history and got in bed by 3:00. Eventually I did manage to fall asleep, and for once, my dreams were happy ones. And when the alarm went off a couple of hours later, I woke up like I’d slept a full night. Even the bullies at school couldn’t ruin my mood today. Had I fallen in love?

It was a crazy idea, I know–I’d only just met her. Not even met her, really. I didn’t even know what her voice sounded like. But something had happened. Something different. I might be naive at times, and I guess I was a little desperate, but I couldn’t downplay this, not even to myself. I couldn’t help but be excited. And I didn’t want to help it. After all the waiting; after all the nothing… I deserved it.

* * * * * *

School felt like a snake pit to me; it always had, and it still did, even now in my last year. I barely knew what the place looked like, always with my face pointed at the floor. All around me, people talking to each other like they belonged there. Normal people, I guess, but still… There was always something weird to me about that.

I’d always wondered what things would be like If I showed up today for the first time. I’d had eighteen years in Orange Oaks to establish myself as an outcast, but if I started fresh one day, just showed up and tried to fit in, would I be able to fake it? Would Callahan and his cronies still torture me in gym class? Would the groups of girls still snicker behind their locker doors when I shuffled past? A snake pit. A snake pit I had no choice but to hazard nearly every day of my life.

I was in the locker room getting changed into my T-shirt and shorts. I’d been focusing on Trixie all day, and I was trying not to let gym class spoil my unusually good mood. Still, I could sense the malevolent forces behind me.

Ignore them, I told myself. They don’t matter. Good things are happening.

A shoe hit the back of my head, leaving my ears ringing.

“Oh… ‘Scuse me, buddy. Shoe got away from me. Could you toss me that?”

Good things are happening, I repeated to myself. There was nothing in this school, nothing in this dimension that could touch me. Not now. Because by ten tonight, I’d be in my own dimension. Talking to Trixie.

I picked up the shoe and turned around to face Callahan and his followers. But before I could toss it back, the next shoe hit me in the face.

By 9:00 that night, I was playing Oblivion, but I couldn’t focus on what I was doing. I was worried my dad wouldn’t pass out on time for me to log in. But when he tapped me on the shoulder and I saw the glazed-over look in his eyes, I knew he was close to going to bed.

“Kevin,” he said, “I know I don’t talk to you a whole lot these days, and I’m sorry about that. Just going through a bit of a rough patch, ya know? Hey, what happened to your eye?”

“Nothing. Slipped.”

“How’s school been?”


“Grades good?”

“Yeah,” I said. That much was true. The only thing perfect about me was my grades. Not that I cared much. It was all just effortless.

He sighed, pulled a chair from the table and sat down heavily. “I realize I haven’t been a whole lot of help lately, Kevin, and again, I’m sorry. But let me just tell you this. Remember this, and everything will end up okay. Alright, Kevin?”

“Alright, Dad. What is it?”

“Just keep your eye on the prize, Kev. I know things are…uneventful right now, but you’ll get into college, we’ll get you into a good field where you can find a good job.”

“I don’t want to go to college, Dad. We’ve been through this.”

“ You’re smart. You’ll make good money. Everything’ll be different. Everything’ll be better. You just gotta set yourself up. Set yourself up for success. You understand, buddy?”

Oh, I understood. We’d had this same conversation a million times since Mom left. I wasn’t about to argue with him, especially in his condition–it would only get him aggravated and keep him awake longer. But how was I supposed to take him seriously? A guy who wanted for me everything I hated. To live a conventional, successful life. To wear a suit and tie to work every day and pick up my dry cleaning on the way home. And look where all that had gotten him.

“I understand, Dad.”

He cleared his throat and patted me on the shoulder. “Good. I think that about does it for me. I’ll see you tomorrow, alright, buddy?”

“Alright, g’night Dad.”

“Goodnight, buddy.”

Dad shuffled off to the bedroom, as always, trying to walk as soberly as possible and failing miserably. There was nothing sober about him; not in mind or body. I knew he wanted the best for me, but the fact was, he’d never known what was best for himself. If it were up to him, I wouldn’t do a thing but work until I graduated college. Maybe it seemed like a good idea on paper, but people aren’t made of paper. I was a living, breathing person. I was suffering in school. I was starving in this little apartment. And chatting with Trixie the night before had only kindled my appetite. I wasn’t going to college. All I wanted was to find someone else like me. My heart wasn’t made of paper. And the heart wants what it wants. Maybe Dad’s did too, but his heart wasn’t anything like mine.

I waited patiently for Dad to start sawing wood in the other room. It didn’t take long. I had to reload the dating site to get that weird link again, but I’d lost all interest in the site itself, and closed it as soon as the chat site started loading. I was a little early, but was ecstatic to see Trixie was already logged on. She’d been waiting for me.

Hi, Kevin! 

Hey, Trixie. I thought my dad would never get to bed. 

Lol. Did you get any sleep last night? 

A little. How about you?

There was a little pause then. Eventually she replied:

Not really. I’m pretty tired. Tired of everything. 

I told her I’d be sure not to keep her up all night again, and she agreed. There was always tomorrow, after all. Why rush things?

We chatted casually for a little while, but as the night went on, and the moon shone brighter in the window, our conversation took on a kind of gravity. I’d stayed away from asking Trixie about her home life; it seemed better to let those things come out on their own. I got the idea she wanted to discuss some of those things, but maybe she wasn’t ready.

I just want to get out of here, she wrote. Go somewhere else. Somewhere nice. 

It hurt me in a way that she was saying those things. Wasn’t it perfect, after all, that we’d met this way; only a couple of towns apart? What if we were soul mates? How could she already be thinking about leaving?

Well, don’t leave just yet. We haven’t even met. 

 I’m just dreaming, she wrote. I’m looking forward to meeting you. 

When do you think we can? I asked.

 Soon. As soon as possible.

Really? I’m totally cool with that, I mean. When can we meet? 

Neither one of us had a car. I’d have to get a ride somehow. I wondered what I’d wear. All my clothes were garbage. My skin was a mess too; I wondered if I started tonight, how many acne treatments it would take to get cleared up in time.

It took longer than usual for her to reply, but when she did, it was a longer-than-usual message.

I really want to meet you, Kevin. I really like you. I hope that’s not too forward of me to say, but I feel like I can be totally honest with you. I’ve never felt that way about anyone before. 
   The message made my stomach feel funny. It wasn’t too forward at all. I felt the same way she did. She could tell me anything. 

I really like you too, I wrote. We should meet as soon as possible. Wherever you want, I’ll get there. Even if it kills me. 

Another pause. Finally she wrote: I have to tell you something, Kevin. And I’m worried that when I tell you, you’ll change your mind. I promise that if you do, I won’t blame you. I just really hope you don’t. I’m scared, Kevin. Because I’ve never felt so connected to anyone before. And after I tell you what I need to tell you, you may never want to talk to me again.

Impossible. The possibilities ran through my mind. Was she crippled? Missing a leg? Deaf? Blind? But I wasn’t a superficial person; no matter what I thought of, the answer was still yes, I most definitely wanted to meet her.

Don’t worry, I wrote. I feel the same way you do, Trixie. You can tell me anything. 

A longer pause this time. Finally, the reply came:

I don’t want to scare you off, Kevin. I’m not in Summit anymore. I’m in another place now. It’s a different place. And in order for us to meet, you have to come to this place too.

Well, where is it? I wrote. I’m sure I can get there somehow.

This was the longest pause. But my eyes didn’t leave the screen while I waited.

I died in Summit, Kevin. Now I’m somewhere else. And in order for you to meet me, you have to be dead too.

* * * * * *

I could barely keep my eyes open at school the next day. Besides a couple of the bullies though, no one really noticed. That was the story of my life, really; most of the time, I felt like the invisible boy.

In my favorite RPG video games, you always had a number of skill points you could distribute to choose your character’s best attributes: Strength, charisma, dexterity, endurance, etcetera. I always put a lot of skill points into charisma; it helped you interact with other characters to affect better outcomes. In real life, it seemed like my charisma was permanently stuck on zero. No one noticed me, and when they did, it was never a positive response. The bullies only stopped teasing me when they got bored of it. Even my teachers couldn’t help but yawn when I asked them questions. If I had any high attribute at all, it was the ability to slip through life without being noticed. Stealth. But not the roguish stealth you used to your advantage in video games. My stealth was dullness. And because of that, I’d only been noticed by one girl over my entire high school career—a supposedly “dead” girl from Summit. It was also because of that, I was able to sneak out of gym class without being caught. I was also able to sneak into the library to do some research in the newspaper database.

It wasn’t long before I found what I was looking for. At the sight of the name in print, my stomach knotted.

Trixie Williams, 18, of Summit, was discovered dead on Sunday morning by her parents, Sue and Andrew Williams. Trixie suffered from depression, her parents explained to police, although she’d showed no sign of suicidal thoughts or behavior prior to the incident. “She actually seemed really happy the past few days,” Andrew explained. “It was the last thing we expected.”

Trixie was a talented artist and hoped to work in video game design. She enjoyed painting, playing the guitar and playing video games. Services will be held at Summit Memorial Home this Friday, February 26.

The date of the paper was 2017. Three years ago. Trixie still claimed to be 18 years old.

I just sat there for a while, staring at the article and trying to process the information. This had to be some kind of prank. Some sadistic weirdo trying to get me to kill myself. But why would anyone want to do that? To create a profile. To stay up until two in the morning trying to convince the most inconsequential human alive to commit suicide? It didn’t make any sense.

I checked to make sure no one was around, and opened up a new window to sign on to the dating site. I accessed my messages and hit the link. The browser worked for a while, then returned the familiar message: the domain doesn’t appear to exist. I tried again, but got the same result. I put the domain in the search engine and scrolled through pages and pages of supposed matches, but not one pertinent results showed up. The link only worked on my home computer; almost like the site was intended just for me. Some kind of Dark-Web thing? But no, you needed a special browser for that. Internet Explorer didn’t make the grade. It was more than that. It was surreal. That was the word for it. Surreal.

I checked my watch. Twenty minutes until I needed to be at my next class. There was a feeling in my stomach like I was starting to get sick. Was this Trixie-thing some kind of sadistic prank using unheard-of technology, or was it real?

There were only two possibilities, I decided. It was fake, or it was surreal. And if it was surreal, did that disqualify it from being real?

Trixie Williams, 18, of Summit… The girl was real. At least she was in 2017. My feelings were real. If she wasn’t real, then why couldn’t I let her go? Like winning the lottery and giving all the money away. Giving up these feelings would leave me in a worse place than I was before. I couldn’t, I knew. I wouldn’t. It was all I had right now. The heart wants what it wants.

* * * * * *

I was playing video games at home, always keeping an eye on the clock. 9:00 p.m. Every twenty minutes or so, my dad would come out of the bedroom and shuffle into the kitchen. He’d take the bottle off the top of the refrigerator and fill his glass. Open the freezer and drop in a couple of ice cubes. Then he’d retreat to the bedroom and disappear for a while. Sometimes he’d hit me with some fatherly platitude on the way out, like: “You do your homework, buddy?” and I’d tell him: “Yes, Dad,” and he’d nod, and that would be that. But tonight he paused by his door and walked back to the living room. I could sense him standing behind me.

“Got some news for you, buddy,” he said.

I paused the game and turned to face him.

“Look, I know you’ve got your own ideas about things, but I want you to know I only want the best for you. You know that, don’t you, buddy?”

“What is it, Dad?”

“Look, I went ahead and applied you to Georgetown University, just like your old dad. And you know what? You got accepted.”

The smile he put on was like a car salesman trying to unload a junk car. He knew just what I thought of that, and the idea that he thought he could sell it with a smile made me that much angrier.

“We’ve been through this, Dad. I’m not like you. I’m not going to college!”

“That’s ridiculous, buddy. You’re smart enough to know that.”

“I’m smart enough to know I don’t want to do things your way. I’ll be just fine. I’ll figure something out.”

“It’s been figured out, Kevin. There’s a way to do things. There’s a recipe for success, and it’s been figured out for a long time. You go to a good college, you get a good degree, and then you’re successful. And that’s what I want for you.”

“You want me to be successful? Like you, Dad?”

The implication was obvious, and I could tell that it stung him.

“Listen to me. I’m not going to try and tell you I did everything right in my life. No one does, okay? But a lot of stuff I got right. And I need you to get those things right too.”

“Look at yourself. Look at where those ‘right’ things got you. You think I want to be anything like that? You think I want to be anything like you?”

“You are a lot like me, Kevin. You’ve got the smarts. You’ve got what it takes. But here’s some news for you if you don’t know it: you need money to live a good life. And you’re not going to make that kind of money playing video games and sitting around not having a plan.”

“Maybe I’ve got a plan, Dad. And maybe that plan doesn’t include fucking college!”

“You’re going.”

“I’m not going! And I’m sure as hell not going to where you went! What the hell do you care anyway? Is it that important that I end up like you did? To marry some psychopath who fucks up my life and leaves?”

“I want you to have choices! Not to make all the choices I made, but to have those choices!” He shook his head like he was hoping to fit his thoughts together. “Let me level with you, Kevin. You’re not going to build a life by chance. You’re not going to catch some great stroke of luck. And it hurts me to say it, but you’re not going to get by on your looks. You’ve got brains, Kevin. That’s what you’ve got. And God knows why you don’t want to use them, but–”

I threw my video game controller at the wall. It left a dent in the sheetrock and landed on the floor in pieces. He glared at me wide-eyed and speechless.

“Fuck you, Dad. Fuck your college and fuck your success. You’re a loser. And maybe I’ll be a loser too, but I’ll never be a loser like you.”

My dad couldn’t speak. He just stood there smelling like booze and sweat, not knowing what to say. My eyes never left his. Finally he turned and shuffled back to his bedroom.

“You’re going,” he said quietly. “If not to Georgetown, then somewhere else. Not here.”

He went into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him. Then it was quiet. Very quiet.

It was still quiet at 9:30, and he hadn’t come out for another drink. At 9:45, I put my ear to the bedroom door and heard him snoring. He’d made his escape early tonight. I was free.

And only then had I settled down enough to think about what he’d said. I was going, he’d said. Georgetown, or somewhere else. Not here. He was going to kick me out. He couldn’t force me to go back to school, but he could force me out on my own. So I was going to have to come up with some plan after all. And what would that entail? Some shitty retail job with barely enough money to get by? Wasn’t that exactly what he hoped for me to avoid? I needed some time. A new set of armor. A better loadout. I wasn’t ready yet.

Dammit… I sat at the computer and pulled up the weird link, clicked it. Trixie wasn’t on yet, no messages in my inbox. Damn, did I need to talk to someone. Every second that went by felt like an hour. And something else occurred to me then: How would I talk to Trixie if Dad kicked me out. This only worked on this computer, only in this apartment. Would I lose her too? Along with everything else?


I brought my fist down on the desk, then cursed myself for making noise. It didn’t matter—Dad was still snoring. Drugged-up prick. He was no different than Callahan and his goons at school. Doing his best to make me miserable. I could only imagine what they had in store for me at Georgetown. Four more years of hell. A gilded sheet of paper—a first-class ticket to a life of misery. I could hear it right now: “I’m sorry, Mr. Garder, but don’t you think you’re a bit overqualified for this position? I mean, a degree in finance from Georgetown University? Why would a guy like you want to settle for four walls and a Playstation?”

I clenched my fists but resisted the urge to pound the desk again. It was 9:55. Still no Trixie.  I turned my chair to face the wall, still with the empty inbox icon burned onto my retinas. I took a deep breath and considered things. Maybe I was overreacting about college. Maybe this was my chance to do what I’d always fantasized about—to show up somewhere completely different. To redistribute my attribute points. To start fresh. Like a whole new character.

But how long would I be able to pull that off? How long before I became an outcast again? Started walking the halls with my eyes glued to the floor and the girls cackling as I shuffled by? And add to that, with no ability to chat with Trixie. The only computer that worked was at my Dad’s place. Not only would we never meet, but we’d be cut off completely. And while I rotted away at college, she’d be rotting away wherever she was. She seemed so lonely, just as lonely as me.

And eventually she’d find someone else. Someone with the determination to actually meet her. And I’d be heading to work in my suit and tie, and picking up my dry cleaning on the way home to my empty apartment. And sitting on my computer scrolling through profiles and watching my empty mailbox while no one replied. No one. Because I missed my shot. I walked away from the slot machine and the next guy pulled the winning lever. Because I missed my jackpot, and it was the last chance I’d ever get. And I’d…

My heart was racing. I turned back to the computer. The light from the screen had taken on a blue glow too bright to look at. I stood up on weak and wobbly legs and slid the chair away. I walked down the hall to my dad’s bedroom and slowly pushed the door open. He was snoring. I walked around the bed and picked up the little orange bottle on the end table and left the room. In the kitchen I poured out the contents of the bottle and counted the little oblong pills. Twenty-four of them. Harmless, innocuous little things, they seemed. But not all at once, they weren’t.

I took Dad’s bottle off the top of the refrigerator and unscrewed the cap. I took three or four pills at a time, chased them down with the booze until they were gone. My heart wasn’t racing anymore, but my arms and legs were still weak and wobbly. It occurred to me that I ought to wipe my history and turn off the computer, but on the heels of that, I knew it didn’t really matter.

I could feel the alcohol soaking into my bloodstream, and brought back a memory from my childhood when I’d snuck a beer from my dad at a barbecue. That warm, relaxed feeling, like everything was suddenly right with the world. It felt odd to me back then, but tonight, it was exactly what I needed. And unlike then, this time I didn’t want to go back. And I wouldn’t have to. I was going. Not to Georgetown. But not here.

I sat where I was for a minute, my flesh oozing between the slats of the wooden kitchen chair. Eventually I forced myself to my feet and back to the computer. My arm felt weighed-down, and the mouse felt glued to the desk. I didn’t know if Trixie was still online, but I knew she would get my message. In the text field I typed:

Trixie. I’m coming.

* * * * * *

Trixie’s not here. Then again, neither am I. They carried out my body earlier this morning. I was lying prone on the floor next to the computer, still with the strange site open on the desktop. Even then, I was watching, waiting for Trixie’s reply. But the moment my dad thought to look at it, the browser crashed and shut down on its own. It was for my eyes only.

I know intuitively that I’m stuck here, the same way I’d be if I’d jumped off a moving train somewhere. Dad’s back in bed, performing his famous disappearing act. No pills this time. That’s my fault, I guess. Maybe the whole thing is my fault. I wonder if he’ll come to join me one day. Maybe the two of us share the same destiny after all.

The browser reopens as I stand in front of the computer, the strange address refreshing in the URL field. The site opens, and there’s the plain black screen and thread of messages. Trixie is typing.

 I’m sorry, she says.

Sorry? For what? What has she gotten me into?

I reach for the keyboard, but my fingers find no purchase. And how is she typing? There has to be some kind of trick to this. It’s like a video game when your think about it. Maybe I’m stuck now, but I’ve got all the time in the world to figure it out. It’s a waiting game. A numbers-game. As long as I keep playing, I’m still in the game. I’m not going to Georgetown; that much I know. Whether I’m going anywhere else is left to be seen. Things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to–my dad could tell you that. But hope persists, even beyond the persistence of the flesh. It’s the antidote to the tortured soul. Without torture, I wonder if hope would even exist.

Trixie has logged out. She probably knows I can’t reply. Not yet. But Trixie and I are the same now. I’ll figure this out. There’s got to be some bug–some exploit in this game, and who better to find it than me? I’ll find it—by God, I’ll find it.

I’ll find it.

Rating: 7.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Geoff Sturtevant
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Geoff Sturtevant

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Check out Geoff Sturtevant’s critically-acclaimed collection of short stories, Occupational Hazards: The Blue-Collar Omnibusnow available on Occupational Hazards is an omnibus of acclaimed novelettes from the “Return to the Dirt” and “Just Speculating” collections, and new, exclusive stories only available in this book. The stories exemplify the unsavory side of our everyday existence. Existentialism, absurdism, and outlandish humor merge with ordinary, workaday life for a unique and hilarious perspective of the human experience. Occupational Hazards is an unflinching ride through the absurdity of it all. Not recommended for the faint of heart or easily offended. But if meaty stories are what you’re after… I hope you’re hungry.

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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