Author: Tim Emery
Genre: Young Adult (Sci-Fantasy Thriller)
Title: The Fire-Breather's Daughter
Adam’s room was messy. Not normal teenager messy. Yes, posters hung haphazardly on the walls and there were clothes on the floor, but there was some less conventional teenage untidiness. There was a shoe on the window sill. To be precise, there was a shoe in two parts on the window sill. The leather, laces and sole had each been cut without leaving any indication of the method of separation. There was no sign of force, pressure, cutting or burning. The shoe in two parts could have been abstract art. The corner of the top of his desk was missing, exposing a smooth, bare edge. There was a large hole in his duvet. It wasn’t a tear or burn. It was a clean hole that continued through the sheets and part the way into the mattress below. The deep shag pile carpet also had several holes. But for the shoe, you might have thought that Adam had a serious moth problem.
Most of the time, Adam was as oblivious to the damage as he was to the clothes on the floor.
As he was shutting down his laptop window by window, Adam smiled at the link to ‘Hackers’. The story described his past with uncanny accuracy. Thankfully, it also painted a rosy future for him. Sure, he was going to have more problems; that’s what happens in stories. But he got past them or will get past them, or he will have got past them, but more easily now he had the advantage of prior knowledge.
Finding a story of your past and future life is, well, unsettling to say the least. Adam shook his head. The problem with the story of his hacking is that it didn’t have him finding the story of his hacking in it – if you see what I mean. In the story, he and his best friend Guy were, no are, incredibly clever hackers, but never hacked into a Literary Agency’s system. So, unless Adam did nothing with the new found knowledge, he was already diverging from his written path. Adam felt a little like he had seen God’s plan for him, and that God had accidentally left a path open to mess with the plan – if he dared. Adam did like taking risks and after all, His god was no more than a writer with an inconsistent omniscient point of view.
He hesitated over the link to ‘The Fire-Breather’s Daughter’. He wondered again how he could feel an attraction to a character in a book. However, he was sure that Vicky was more than words, more than just a written character. Somewhere, she had flesh and blood as he had flesh and blood. He thought he knew how to get to wherever that was, to meet her, to help Vicky. Her story, her future, needed improvement far more urgently than his. He felt that scene, that early scene, that horrible early scene had to be changed and he could do it. He had to do it.
The final window contained a Word document of which he had definitely been the author. The document comprised mangled notes and explanations for Guy. He knew he couldn’t wait for Guy. He hadn’t got time to explain, and he knew would never have time because he didn’t really understand it himself. A demonstration was the best way to get Guy’s support.
Adam closed his laptop. It was time for action. He preferred action and his action would speak much louder than his words, both written and spoken. Slinging his full backpack over his shoulder, he paused as he caught sight of the shoe. That was a lesson well learnt. Then there was the corner of the desktop. Now, that lesson had not been well learnt. He wasn’t sure where the pen and the corner of desk had gone, and more importantly why he had failed to get them back.
Running down the stairs, he shouted. “Off then mom. Not sure how long I’m gonna be. A few days, maybe more. See ya.”
Adam nipped over the low wall between his mom’s house and their neighbours, and bounced up to the front door. Before knocking, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and selected the ‘Tripudio’ app. He realised he had to slow himself down. He felt like a five year old on Christmas morning and knew it. It wasn’t cool.
Slipping the phone back into his pocket, he rapped the knocker of number 42, Hikers Avenue. In his mind it was the tune from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. To anyone else it was a few oddly spaced raps. Through the small frosted pane he could see Laura, Guy’s 14 year old sister. He smiled. He was pleased to catch Laura before he left, just in case things … well, just in case. Recently, Laura had been regularly dropping into Guy’ room when Adam was there. Now he knew why. He felt a little awkward at having read about her feelings for him. It wasn’t as if he had read her diary, it just felt like he had. “Hey Laura. Wow, you’re looking good. You’re really errrm …”, but what he could say to his best friend’s younger sister. He settled for a clumsy kiss on the cheek and shot up the stairs before she could react.
Bursting through his bedroom door always drew Guy’s attention away from his laptop.
"Guy, I know you'll think this is nuts. I've seen the future, or a future, or maybe, maybe just ONE of our futures. One as it has been written. I'm not really sure yet, but I think this is all virtual." Adam gestured to take in the room, finishing with a thump on the wall – though that only demonstrated its solidity.
"LIFE IS VIRTUAL. Nothing is really real, if you see what I mean." Adam continued breathlessly. "But everything is as real as we want it to be, and you and I, YOU AND I can be masters of reality, or at least of virtual reality. Appealing or what?"
Guy raised his eyebrows. "Adam, slow down and give me that again in simple English."
"Guy, I can’t fully explain ‘cos there’s still loads to work out. But I have been experimenting. I'm going to disappear for a while; to help someone called Vicky. You don't know her and, well, she doesn't know me yet, but I might need you here, to help me to help her."
"Please Adam, sit down mate and slow down." Guy gestured to the desk and chair at the end of his bed. "Take the backpack off and sit down. What's in there anyway? It's crammed."
His attempt to divert Adam's line of talking failed.
"I've created a folder on the network. It’s called Slushfiles. You'll understand more when you've read my notes and followed a few links. There is a link to our story Guy. OUR STORY! I've found our story with others - the notes tell you more."
"What do you mean our -"
"Shut up and listen. I've been working on programs to do with virtual positioning." Adam's eyes glistened and he shifted from foot to foot. "I'm going to try something now, here and now." Pulling his phone out, he rolled it over and over in his hand as he talked.
Guy tried to speak. "What -"