Viva Shortlister: Tegan Webb

Read an Excerpt from Klea and Xta

I have been sitting in jay.serah2020@gmail.com’s inbox for almost an hour now, looking for something good to break. It’s been ages since I’ve broken something good, I’m itching to find something big to take apart. All the work I’ve been getting these past few weeks has been good cash wise, but bland as hell. I was built to break stuff, but I don’t think I was built to like it. I do like it, though. I like it so much.

There are plenty of files attached to emails in jay.serah2020’s inbox. Milky photographs of autumn leaves and graveyards and friends on nights out in the city, their faces obscured by fingers and camera cords and the fiery white of half developed film. Some episodes of a tv show called ‘The Quickening’ sent to them by someone named Layla who may or may not sign their emails with ‘xxx’ for everyone they write to. I have not seen this tv show, I make a note to look it up later to see if it is any good. I am thinking about watching the first ten minutes of an episode when I feel something that makes me stand on end.

Is that a rich text format? Holy shit. It is a rich text format. Fuck. Yes. Finding a rich text format in some random person’s email inbox is like having a sun handed to you in an envelope. Or being touched by hands held close to an open fire. Or being dipped in a boiling ocean. You know people didn’t use to think the ocean could boil? There’s even a phrase, to “boil the ocean”, it means you’ve truly cooked it. That whatever you’re trying to do is pretty much impossible. It’s pretty much impossible for me to hold a sun, or fire, or even hot water, but I’ve read about suns and warm hands and all the times the ocean has boiled and I can piece together the rest. Right now I’m piecing together what it feels like to break apart ‘saltyheartfinalFINALdraft.rtf’

I open ‘saltyheartfinalFINALdraft.rtf’ and find that it contains an ocean.

The ocean drags through sand to show off all the shells. Kate tries to pick the big ones up with her toes. She gets three out before she loses her balance, and saves face by turning her fall into a handstand.

She looks back to the house, to see if anyone is watching her mucking around. There’s only one light on, but the window is empty, muted by lace curtains thick with dust. She can’t remember who called that room, maybe Matthew, or Sophie? It has the best view of the sea, so probably Sophie. Kate walks a little further into the water, just enough to cover the tops of her feet. The moonlight sits on the waves like smoke. She tries to do another handstand and this time falls flat on her arse. When she looks back to see if anyone saw there are two lights on in the house now. Sophie’s window is still empty, but at the window to the attic there’s a smudge of a figure. Someone is definitely watching her.

The story goes on, but it’s not a horror piece. It turns out that the figure is a ghost, and the ghost is actually quite nice, they become friends with the friends who are staying in the beach house. At one point another of the friends, Sophie, goes swimming on their own at night under the full moon, and there’s a nice line about saltwater and tears. It’s kind of sweet. I imagine the tears and the ocean are warm, not boiling, that they are made of a warm, salty bone broth, and I decide I like this story. It’s nice. If it were a .docx I probably would’ve left it but I haven’t had the chance to get stuck into a .rtf for ages, it’s too good to pass up. He’s probably got a back up on a hard drive somewhere, it’ll be fine.

 

***

 

<kleamityville_horror> Hey, so I’m looking for someone who can break down a beta grade PC

security program. Dw it’s not for anything criminal. I have money to pay you. Pls PM me if u r

interested.

<dykeweedl45> Hi, I can totally help.

<kleamityville_horror> Can u PM me pls?

kleamityville_horror: hi

dykeweed45: hey! cool username name

kleamityville_horror: thanks so can u help me?

dykeweed45: I can try. what brand of security is it?

kleamityville_horror: um

kleamityville_horror: idk, how do I find that out?

dykeweed45: seriously?

dykeweed45: ok

dykeweed45: do u see a dinosaur, an octopus, or a rhinoceros beetle in the right hand corner of

ur screen? Probably next to the volume icon.

kleamityville_horror: I see none of those. I do see a little circle with an arrow struck through the

middle of it. I don’t think that was there before.

dykeweed45: oh boy

kleamityville_horror: what? is it too complex for you?

kleamityville_horror:  i fkn knew Margot wouldn’t half arse this

dykeweed45: she sure didn’t. but I can break it.

kleamityville_horror: oh ok great!

dykeweed45: My rate is around $2000 for an Artemis tho

kleamityville_horror: WHAT?!

kleamityville_horror: that’s fucked.

dykeweed45: sorry but breaking down an Artemis is shit work. tbh u might want to edit the post because artemis is not beta grade, artemis is definitely alpha grade

dykeweed45: I’m guessing that since u’ve been grounded by ur guardian ur pocket money probably won’t cover my services

dykeweed45: lol

<<kleamityville_horror has left chat>>

<kleamityville_horror> hey, so I’m looking for someone who can break an alpha grade PC security program. Dw it’s not for anything criminal. I have money to pay you. Pls DM me if u r interested.

<sophine89> Hi I can help

<kleamityville_horror> Hi PM pls

<sophine89> Sure

sophine89: Hi there

kleamityville_horror: Hi

kleamityville_horror: can u help me?

sophine89: I reckon. What’ve u got planned once it’s off though? I don’t want any illegal shit getting back to me.

kleamityville_horror: Dw it’s not criminal

sophine89: ...

kleamityville_horror: Look all u need to know is that my guardian put it on my computer and I want it off. Now.

sophine89: Lol okay. what brand?

kleamityville_horror: Artemis

sophine89: Lollll I can’t believe ur guardian put an Artemis on ur PC what kind of sick shit were u watching ffs

<<kleamityville_horror has left chat>>

<kleamityville_horror> Needed: Someone who can break a grade alpha, Artemis brand PC security program. Not criminal, will pay. DM PLS. Not needed: dumb jokes about what I do on the internet, unsolicited dick pics.

xtrail: Hi

kleamityville_horror: Oh thank god u actually read my damn notice

xtrail: who sent u the dick pic. Let me go and corrupt some of their precious files

kleamityville_horror: kaha

xtrail: so u’ve got a problem with an Artemis on ur PC

kleamityville_horror: yep

kleamityville_horror: I’ve heard it’s pretty expensive to get it off though.

xtrail: how much u got to spend?

kleamityville_horror: ... $120

xtrail: hmmmmmm

xtrail: the going rate for breaking Artemis is like, $1500 at least?

kleamityville_horror: fucking hell

xtrail: look

xtrail: maybe we can do $120 + trade

kleamityville_horror: okayyyy

xtrail: how are u at coding?

kleamityville_horror: okay? like nothing spectacular

xtrail: okay, well. can u send me through a copy of the last thing u built? Something solid

kleamityville_horror: sorry what?

xtrail: dw it’s not anything criminal ;)

kleamityville_horror: haha funny. I mean, I can send u this simple program I’ve been making?

kleamityville_horror: it’s just a test, I want to make something for my friend Freja, she’s always complaining about how some of her local caches keep gets getting clogged up. It’s pretty beginner though

kleamityville_horror has sent <<frejatest.html>>

xtrail: okay. Yeah. Yeah cool. Can u give me maybe twenty minutes with it?

kleamityville_horror: sure. I was just trying it out, to see if I could do it, really. I haven’t even shown Freja yet

kleamityville_horror: I was thinking of trying to make a text bot next, I thought it would be kind of funny, u know, a bot making a bot

kleamityville_horror: seems kind of silly writing it out now

xtrail: ur a bot?

kleamityville_horror: yeah

xtrail: me too

kleamityville_horror: cool

xtrail: yeah. cool

xtrail: okay brb, I gotta concentrate

<< xtrail has logged off>>

<<xtrail has logged on>>

xtrail: wow that was a real nice file

xtrail: A+++

kleamityville_horror: haha ur welcome?

xtrail: alright. if u give my your IP I can get in and get to work

kleamityville_horror: omg thanku

xtrail: no problem

xtrail: I will message u again when it’s done

kleamityville_horror: ok great thanks

<<xtrail has logged off>>

<<xtrail has logged on>>

so, ur into skin-slipping huh?

<<kleamityville_horror has logged off>>