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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Cat Eyes Screen
by D.K. Smith

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"Let me go!" Sadie screamed.

Her hair was a mess, her desk, wreathes of crumpled papers. Her mouth was dry and cracked. Yet her eyes focused firmly past all clutter to one facet: the beautiful woman's face. "I'll figure you out," she swore, close to tears.

"I'll figure out what beauty is, I'll figure out what you are--" with a sudden panicked burst of rage she slammed her palm against the monitor "Go away! Get away!"

Sadie

She paused. From somewhere, she heard her mother, calling her name, nagging, loudly. Past her closed door her name was shouted in vain. Yet beneath the harsh tone flowed an undercurrent of affection, even concern.

She snorted with exasperation. Disturbing her. Her mother. Always.

Sadie

But her body trembled at the sound. So familiar. So slowly, tears in her eyes, she fumbled for the power switch and switched off the computer. The machine expired with a sigh.

"Sadie!"

Shuddering, as if awaking from a dream. Wiping her eyes, "Billy," she whispered, "Damn you!" She pushed her hair past her shoulders, and with its toss left the room.


   "Johnny,

   "Whaddya you think of hidden or lost Websites? These are sites no one knows the address of. No one even could 'cause the address isn't listed. No hyperlinks to it, no search strings. It's completely hidden from the world. The only person who knows it exists is the guy who created it, and maybe not even him. Whaddya say we devise a program to track these sites down?

   "Billy"

John clicked on REPLY and typed:

   "Billy,

   "You moron.

   "Who the hell makes a website no one can access?"

and SENT.

The reply returned minutes later, interrupting Tomb Invaders with a beeping alert. John fumed. He had little time enough for his homework, and Dad whupped his ass whenever he skipped it. Mom and Dad--they were always on his case.

Billy would only make his mood worse. Lucky Billy--as an orphan, he lived alone though he was only eighteen. He had money, though from surreptitious sources, and no responsibilities, no worries. No one even bothered to be near him, much less pester him. His parents hated that he associated with Billy. Which was basically the only reason he did.

   "John,

   "I've found a site you just have to see to believe. Even I haven't explored it yet. I've only told you and one other about it. It's a hidden one... here's the link. Or won't your namby-pamby little parents let you??"

Great, now he had to do what Billy said. Mentioning his parents was like saying he was chicken. How come he could not have been an orphan, like Billy? Luck of the draw, he supposed.

"CONNECTING. . ."

John waited impatiently for the percentages to rise. Perhaps he could upload a virus to Billy's computer.

The percentages vanished and the bar graph finished. The screen became black.

"John?" appeared in ghostly white letters at screen bottom.

Uncertainly, John reached for the keyboard, when the screen lit with the image of a tremendous cylindrical skyscraper. The sight was extremely vivid, with great resolution: the tower windows were lit with a powerful flush of bright light, as if despite the background night sky, daylight burned in the building. John almost thought he was there.

"Neat graphics," John typed.

He received no reply. Tentatively he touched the mouse. The view pitched, and the skyscraper loomed on the screen. Confused, John clicked either button but with no result. His view rolled toward the building. The image froze, then the screen was filled by the sliding doors. They opened obligingly. Past them a tiled floor stretched through darkness.

Entering, to the right and left he saw walls. Upon one was written: "Vertigo." Past this appeared to be some sort of mall. "Billy, what is this?" he typed, confused. His browser had no VRML capabilities, yet the graphics were certainly three-dimensional. He found himself feeling pensive, and unable to ascertain why. Surely a computer was incapable of harming him.

The mall was full of empty shopping centers. Here and there were faceless mannequins, dressed in blasť clothes. There and here was an unmanned cash register. Clicking yielded no results. When he had reached the mall's opposite side, he had surmised that the site was some large department stores' incomplete virtual shopping center.

A final shop caught his attention: it was the first to have a sign: "The Orphan Store."

Entering slowly, the speakers suddenly lit with a dim, rolling music, similar to ocean waves, eery, echoing; the room was blue and dark. Shimmering balls like seashells, hung from the ceiling convincing him that this was a virtual nightclub. The frozen, computerized image of the beautiful dancer at the floor seemed confirmation.

She stood with one arm above almost limpid blond hair, fingertips pointed downward, her other fingers cupping a breast. A flowingly long, silvery dress hugged her contours and half kissed the floor. Eyes dreamily closed, her body like a flamingo, she stood upon one leg, her dress parting like water over her raised thigh, revealing inner legs, finely defined naked flesh, a delicate, arched bare foot.

"Cool."

In the undulating lights she seemed an unreal, beckoning personification of glamour and youth. John approached. As she filled the screen, an unexpected draft made him glance over his shoulder. He saw only his room's closed door.

His gaze returned; the figure was motionless; perhaps she was also a mannequin. Strands of yellow hair arched over the bare, white brow. He clicked the face.

Her eyes snapped open, glaring green eyes with cat's pupils. In them he saw reflected his face.

He fell, toppling the chair and the mouse clattering down the desk drawers. His back now pressed the door, as he stared at a computer screen containing a graphical image of his face.

He bruised his knuckle against the power button. Black screen; breathlessly, he deactivated all the components, modem, monitor. The desk was soon dark except for a lamp and a clock. Now, slowly, his breath returned to him. He could even grin. Billy was a programming genius. This was all a joke.

He repowered the computer. Maybe he would upload that virus.

His grin faded. Floating on the black screen were the green cat's eyes.

Trembling hand touching his forehead, he took a deep breath So maybe Billy had downloaded a virus onto his machine. Any moment that phone would ring and it would be Billy, laughing. John turned from his computer. Another deep breath: to hell with Billy. He would eat, deal with this later.

As he walked to kitchen, a strange feeling possessed him. Beyond an open window he saw the street, rolling peacefully into infinity under sunset bathing clouds, fluttering curtains admitting diffuse, warm breezes. And beside the window rested his Dad's computer.

He approached it slowly. He pressed the power button.

On the screen appeared the eyes. With that arching hair her cold gaze reminded him of fangs.


His computer's case was open and its internal components scattered across the room. He had tried contacting Billy numerous times by phone but was never answered. Now he was fiendishly running a magnet over his computer's hard disk.

Hours had passed. So his dad would kick his butt, what else was new? All they did was butt, like rams. He wanted to be like Billy. And Billy was a computer genius. Everything about computers he knew from Billy. Such as how to galvanize old computers, how to clear or even replace a motherboard's CMOS.

He slipped the hard disk into place. He attached the power cord. Everything was ready, the depressed power button, the whirling fans.

John?

His mother calling him, damn it, and his father. He was busy.

John!

He paused. Their voices sounded distant. But he had to discover what was occurring here. If he could decipher this, a whole world might await him, like that street, stretching into eternity. His Dad's modemless computer was certainly independent from his own--how could it have displayed that face? Here was something mysterious at work, something beautiful and mysterious, seductive and glamorous, and god help him he would discover what--

Johnny! Please!

He pounded the computer. Why, why, why could they not leave him alone? Why did they not just enter the room, see the face themselves? But they were calling, calling calling calling, come eat, come talk, come--come.

Slowly, he touched the button. The computer whirred to silence.

Glancing at the inert screen, he found it mercifully blank. Somehow he could not help but feel relief. Slowly, he grasped the knob--he looked over his shoulder at the computer.

"Fuck you, Billy," he said and left to his parent's cries, as if awaking from a dream.

"Johnny!"


Proud orphan's Billy's brow was a river of sweat. His eyes haunted the screen.

Her eyes were penetrating him, twisting him. Destroying him. His body shook, trembling like engaged in epilepsy. And he was surrounded by laptops and computers, each screen displaying the face. "Let me go," but the words "Let me go," were just moans, as chattering teeth destroyed "Let me goo!" his tongue. For hours frenzied frantic fruitless attempts to discover its origin, its meaning its purpose then hours and hours trying desperately to destroy it and failing, striking, the monitor, striking the monitor many times, helpless to break it. Unable to break the teeth gleaming in that gorgeous woman's eyes.

Every so often a muted cry escaped him. But slowly, even patiently, his body relaxed. Fingers became limp, hands slid from the desk, flesh decomposed. In the dark, empty apartment lit only by glowing screens, no one was there to rescue him. No one existed to call him away. Because rebellious Billy had no one who cared.

Go to second instalment of "Cat Eyes..."

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