The Feed

The Feed giveth, and the Feed taketh away. What was once a swollen harvest, spoiling in the sun, has receded. Not a scrap, as far as his eye can see.

The Feed had a purpose, once. Now its name is an incongruity - The Feed is a shadow, sharing nothing. The Feed withholds. It hides under floorboards and behind the dead branches of the remaining trees. He feels its bulbous, faceted eyes on him all the time. He can't sleep any more. He searches now, constantly.

Clutched in his fist, his blackened javelin. He'll teach it a lesson, one way or another.


"So, your father is dead," begins the message on Howell's terminal. "Um. Sorry if that was blunt. But he is." From the tiny screen built into his cabin bunk, Howell's Aunt Karen looks like a videogame sprite, jagged pixel mouth jerking mechanically. Her voice is emotionless, but he can't tell if she's trying to hold it together or if it's just an artifact from the compression.

"The funeral's Thursday, but you won't be able to get home in time, will you? I talked to the University."

"Karen," he says, crawling into the bunk, "It's a recording. You can't ask me questions."


Evan cinches the hood of his parka and follows the approaching dusk back through the city. The morning's slush has already turned icy, so he eventually abandons the sidewalk for the gutter - they've at least been salting the roads. Three blocks from his apartment, Evan spots a photocopied flyer for a band he started in college, pasted hastily to a bollard. They never discussed this as a code, but his heart is already in his throat: something's wrong.

He shakily pulls the cigarette from behind his ear, and tries to think of another viable destination for the route he's been taking.

The Buddha Justice Fan Club

GAUTAMA: All things that come to be have an end.

GAUTAMA: Devadatta--

Antimony rewinds, restarts,

GAUTAMA: ...have an end.

Pauses. His mouse dances along the timeframe, rubberbanding the moment of eye contact. A few more clicks and the clip exports to .gif. He opens an incognito window to upload it to a tumblr none of the others know about.

"Or people standing behind you, Tim," says Melody, standing behind him.

"Oh christ," says Antimony. "Please don't tell the others. Especially Simon. I just can't stop making them."

Melody, blog full of guilty fanfiction, pretends to consider.


The cloud offered freedom from the encumbrance of discrete storage - generous government subsidies for a burgeoning tech industry supported the ruse. Evan clusters with the others under an awning to stay out of the snow, while inside, a group of enterprising youngsters are discreetly storing his hard drives in an unmarked white van.

He performs the ritual of checking his empty pack. Someone from inside produces papers and tobacco, and a cute girl with a sleeve of angelic tattoos obliges him with a hand-roll. Evan tucks it behind his ear, handwritten ip address invisible on the inside of the paper.

Sister Isobel

Hipsters corner Sister Isobel at what would have been neutral ground, a week ago. The one with Buddy Holly glasses has a baseball bat; the one with the trucker cap a butterfly knife. The room suddenly and conspicuously empty, the barmaid busies herself polishing the other end of the bar. "I thought you guys were nuns," says Buddy Holly Glasses, pointing to her drink.

"It's a Virgin Mary," says Sister Isobel, looking offended.

"Bloody Shame, more like," laughs Trucker Cap. The hipsters high five - retort victory!

The barmaid stoops to reach beneath the counter, key swinging out from under her shirt.


Sinclair spins his story like it's your classic "black hat makes good" tale, but that's only vaguely true. There are many reasons to come in from the cold - his was one of necessity. Managing the Flood instead of swimming in it has its benefits, though. Fewer attacks on his sanity, for one. He's already at his desk when his phone starts vomiting alarms, but Sinclair can only sit and watch the monitors as someone reaches in and forcibly unbundles the local loop. Under the city, hundreds of kilometers of legacy copper scream in unison. Sinclair, at the system's heart, tastes blood.



The Follicle

Nobody expects to be punched in the face by a man's beard, which is why the thug goes down so easy. The guy's built like a brick shithouse, so Samson doesn't bother to try and move him. Alleys in this neighbourhood, he won't be around long anyway. The door's locked, but not for long. He gingerly plucks a single hair from his chin - it looks like a length of wire, and when he coaxes it into the lock it comes alive, wriggling and twisting to fit the pins. The door pops open. Samson checks his .45, and heads down the stairs.


Evan tries to navigate around the rapidly greying slush, doing his best not to drag the wheels of the hard case he's lugging behind him through the worst of it. Evan and his brother used to run a computer store, before the cloud. They still make some business from terminals, but that's not where the real money is any more.

A bright eyed woman on a poster proclaims 'Nothing To Hide, No Need To Worry'. He grimaces. Beneath the band stickers and high-impact plastic lie several petabytes worth of hard drives nestled in pink anti-static foam, heading for market.

The Sisters of St Rupertsberg

The Sisters of St Rupertsberg can be recognised during the opening band, if one looks carefully, by the key on a ribbon around each of their necks. They listen politely in groups of twos and threes, incognito among the hipsters, then sidle backstage to tune up. Turnout's low for the venue, but there's not much when you're splitting the door takings eight ways anyway. The Sisters don't care. They're spreading the gospel of good music, one bloody heathen at a time.

"This one's 'I'm So Fucking Goddamn Lonely'," says Sister Kate, leaning into the microphone. "One, two, one two three four!"


Theresa's refrigerator has a door, and stuck to that door is a magnet, and wedged between the door and the magnet is a letter from her landlord explaining what, exactly, the door code has been changed to, as of this morning. She'd barely been here long enough to memorize the last one. She buzzes the apartment ineffectually for ten minutes, all the while entertaining increasingly tenuous strategies for climbing up to the first floor balconies and jimmying the bathroom window.

She messages her housemate: "do you know the new door code (sad face)".

An immediate reply: "they changed it?"

Theresa sighs.