Totally For Real
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The white trash Watsons, are the working-class people I grew up with: opinionated, fake victims for whom everything is always someone else's fault. Not the imperilled, plucky heroes of middle-class novels. Science got me out of that and it does the same for the Watsons. They get pulled into the largest online fantasy game. Can they find redemption in a world where their reality has become unreal? More
… “these people have gone missing inside the computer. But they can’t be in the hardware – because they aren’t seeing the hardware. They aren’t surrounded by giant microchips and circuitry. And they can’t be in the software because that’s just instructions sending electricity to switches.” Azeem paused, now unsure whether his idea was dumb.
“So where are they?” coaxed the professor gently.
“I was wondering if the fantasy land the computer operates exists somewhere.”
“On another planet?”
“Not somewhere physical. More like – in the computer’s imagination.”
“… The problem is: whoever heard of a computer with an imagination?”
… Guy lifted the carpet and said curtly, “I’m taking that, if you don’t mind.”
“Don’t we need it to get to Blackskull?” asked Eileen.
“It won’t hold all of us. So either we all walk to Blackskull or else one of us returns to the village and two take the carpet.”
“I’m going on the carpet,” said Mrs Watson in a tone that would take no argument. “He’s my son.”
“I’m going,” said Inspector Cole. “The law is on my side.”
“You aren’t the law in this country.”
“… This country happens to be inside the computer. The computer happens to be inside my district. Therefore the law still holds.”
…The Cat House was halfway down a dark alley. The Mad Hatchets gathered at the end, prepping Dillon for his experience.
“Have you ever done this with a real woman before?” asked Archie.
“Yeah, of course,” replied Dillon casually. “Well nearly. The girls on our estate will do anything. They’re pretty skanky in fact. You don’t know where they’ve been so you daren’t touch them. So I haven’t really had the chance.”
… Dillon took a deep breath. “I don’t think I’m going back home.”
“What? Of course you’re going back home!”
He stood up and crossed to the window. Outside was the starry sky with the rind of new moon…
“Mum, I prefer it here. I like it here. I hate it back home. Everything back home is either boring or illegal. I’m not able do the boring things, like school, and I won’t be allowed to do the illegal ones... And mum, there’s even places to go where there’s no one. Places that aren’t owned by anybody. Where there’s no one to chase you off. I’ve never ever even seen that back home. There’s always someone getting at you for being near their stuff. And everywhere is someone’s stuff.”
“So you want the easy life. Who doesn’t? But what about us? How would we feel if you left us forever?”
“Would you care?”
… Harmony dreamed that night of being a princess. She had her own castle with a beautiful round room in a high tower. All the windows were stained glass and they looked north, south, east and west over a fair kingdom. She opened her eyes and had one of those moments when she knew she was still dreaming and had only imagined waking up. The bed she lay on was voluminous and soft. Morning light filtered through coloured glass, spilling onto the white, crisp bed sheets.
“Oh Jesus,” she cursed. She really had woken up.
… Dillon found his dad slumped over the table where he had left him, drooling on the maps. Dillon had seen his dad sleeping many times before. Yet he’d never seen him look so tired. Dillon shook his shoulder. He looked up with bleary eyes.
“Son, you’re back.”
“I am. I found a way into the castle.”
“That’s good son,” his dad replied with an exhausted smile. “This virus, it’s getting bad. We don’t have much time to get out.”
“I know, Dad.”
“But we’re not going without your sister. We can’t leave Harmony.”
“I don’t want to leave her too, Dad.”
“It’s all of us together.”
“That’s what I think too, Dad.”
“I know I’ve never been much use before, but I’ve been looking at these things all night. I have a plan, son...”
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