“Behind the Screen”
Camille waited to go to sleep for a full fifteen minutes. She stared defiantly at the aqua screen, the “Shutting Down” process certainly taking its time. When the screen finally blacked out and the laptop wheezed as it shut down, Camille set the laptop on the floor by her dresser, and set her alarm.
Please, she prayed wearily, let the screen stay off. She looked at her alarm clock and groaned. Five hours until her school alarm clock woke her up. Camille switched off the lamp and sank into the darkness, accompanied by several yawns.
She hadn’t been asleep for fifteen minutes when the screen suddenly turned back on.
He was always waiting by her side for her to notice him, for her to finish her sentence while she was speaking to him. He always gently corrected her spelling – she was a horrible speller and her grammar was even worse.
His name was Aerion. He knew that much. Aerion2, because he was the second Aerion she had possessed. In a way he felt cheated. What was he, just a replacement? He was supposed to mean something to her. He knew all of her thoughts and her daydreams. She had let him read her diary – only once, but it had been intimate. She had deleted it from the laptop afterwards, and he really couldn’t blame her. It was still on the hard drive, but he respected her privacy enough not to go after it, like a book purposefully dropped into a gutter.
He knew and spoke with her friends online. She was a Gemini. He was a Packard. Well, when he checked his serial number, he was a Pieces so it was close enough. She listened to the strangest collection of music. She would be tapping her feet to violin and head banging to eighties rock music next. He replayed them, over and over, just for her.
It wasn’t like he had a choice about his role in the grand scheme of things, but he was beginning to enjoy it. The previous Aerion hadn’t. The previous Aerion had been her first real laptop, with real internet, as a graduation gift from her parents. She forgot to name Aerion until almost a year through and she was terrible about firewalls. The original Aerion finally went mad with infections and had killed himself. Some nights, that first week after Christmas, Aerion2 had heard her crying with frustration over the lost stories and homework on that laptop, stories that the fried motherboard of the first Aerion could not recover. She learned quickly. From day one that she met Aerion2 she began to back up her files.
Aerion2 had almost instantly chosen a form. It wasn’t always the picture set up as her background (she usually preferred pink-and-orange sunsets and inspirational quotes by famous authors) but she had one picture stored away in her scanned drawings, in a folder she preferred nobody look at. Just that one that he looked like on the inside, with a few tweaks here and there, that one did the trick for him.
Last week he had finally perfected it, byte by byte. He had shimmered and projected himself outwards and suddenly he was standing in the middle of the girl’s messy room.
Aerion2 felt something beneath his feet. Feet? He had FEET. He scrunched his toes against the plush carpet – what an explorative word, scrunched, he reflected (he had always loved it whenever she had typed in “scrunched” because it was just so descriptive.) He looked (with his eyes, he was stunned to realize) into the large antique mirror that hung over the dresser.
His skin was so soft and breakable. He poked his arm with a black-nailed hand and watched with black eyes. He couldn’t describe how the way the sensation in his arm (or the words that automatically came out) felt compared to the scrunching of his toes, but he would definitely prefer toe-scrunching to arm-poking.
His hair was long and black and it hung braided down his back like a thin cord. His eyes were black with white pupils. He was surprised to see that his earrings and eyelashes weren’t red, like in the original design, but silver, like his laptop. No, not like “his laptop”… like him.
He looked around for the laptop, but his usual form was missing. He felt something that caused his human form to frazzle (Frazzle? No, not the right word.) To freak? No, he was calm. He searched his extensive vocabulary and document files. Aha.
He was confident that he could return to the laptop by morning. Confident. That was a very good feeling. He enjoyed these human feelings; they provided such temptation for him, such an escape from the emotionless world behind the screen.
He almost short-circuited when he saw her. She was real, alive, breathing breath upon his hands as he reached down to touch her. She was cold, curled up into a ball. Her messy black ponytail fell on her Giants sleep shirt. Her chest rose and fell. The cool wind from her barred window, cracked as much as she could, fluttered her hair and caused him to shiver. Shiver; it was another sensation better experienced in real life.
Her brown hands with the neon-pink nails lay limp on the coverlet. He reached out and took one. It was warm, her pulse gradually matching his.
Pulse. That was what it felt like. He was human; he had a heart now, not a battery.
Her brown eyes opened the moment he squeezed her hand.
Camille blinked her eyes open to find herself shivering. The skin on her hands tingled, as though somebody had touched them. Her right hand felt warm.
She saw that the silver Packard was turned on, tipped over on the floor near the foot of her bed.
“Moron,” she scolded herself softly. “You fell asleep with the computer on again.” The lie she told herself made her uneasy; perhaps, she reasoned, it had been knocked on when she kicked it off of her bed.
She felt uneasy. Every time that this had happened, she was positive that she had shut down the computer before, one hundred percent positive.
Camille shivered again and noticed the window screen was opened as much as it would allow. No wonder she was cold, she thought dryly. Snowflakes were melting into slush on the dirty Brooklyn streets below her. She cranked the window shut and crawled back into the bed.
“Weirdest dream,” Camille muttered to herself. She set the computer back on the floor and managed to fall back asleep.
Meanwhile, Aerion2 waited until Camille had been asleep for at least fifteen minutes before he allowed the screen to flicker back on.
He had allowed human emotions to govern his human form. He had felt fear, his hard drive acknowledged, and panic. He would wait patiently, like all of his kind did, because his kind did not know impatience. Aerion2 would wait to speak to Camille face to face.
He would wait day by day, minute by minute.
He would wait for Camille, always, behind the screen.
|I love writing! When I started this account, I was a hardcore artist, but it's been several years since I've painted anything and I've given most of my paintings away. Thanks to an injury I don't draw often anymore, but I do write.|