Chapter 1 – Just Hit Publish
“Can we make his hair…spikier?”
“Uhhhhh, I’m not sure that is actually a real word?” Nate argued.
“It’s English, you can make anything a word in English,” I fired back.
Nate rolled his eyes before quickly moving his hand over his electronic drawing pad. “Ladies and gentlemen, Jordan Nakamura: inventor of words and Betty of Badassdom.”
I chuckled as I watched my character take shape on the screen. Giving ‘gentle’ instructions, Nate and I worked through the night making sure the newest installment for our web series was perfect. When the sun rose and we were finally out of coffee, I knew it was time to publish a new post and wait for the internet to explode. Of course, by “explode” I meant our three thousand fans would throw up their hands and rejoice at the birth of our new story arc that had taken entirely too long to produce.
I was thankful for our fans. Three thousand fans wasn’t enough for us to quit our real jobs and only produce content, but it did prove that we were, in fact, readable. We just had to keep trying to get out there, and I knew someday we would get our break. “It’s a numbers game,” I assured myself as I handed Nate his jacket.
“Sorry, did you say something?” he asked.
I shook my head to clear it as well as remind myself I had to stay awake long enough to crawl to bed. “Not really,” I answered while opening the door for him. “I mean, I was just saying it’s a numbers game. Eventually we will produce enough content that someone will notice… right?”
Nate reached out and ruffled my hair with a laugh. “Get some rest Jordan, our fans await.” The simple gesture reminded me of simpler times.
“Thanks, but they’re your fans too,” I insisted.
Ha paused long enough to give me a blank look. “Nope, I just draw what you tell me to. Anyway, good night!” Nate braced himself against the cold before opening the door and ducking out into the frigid February morning on the short jog to his car.
After closing and locking the door I stumbled back into my small home office. I looked over the new post one last time. “Well, here goes,” I mumbled, and hit the button to send it out into the world. Glancing at the clock I sighed heavily. “Seven fifteen…. Ewwwwwwh.”
I grabbed my phone off my desk then staggered to bed. I wiggled in an unladylike fashion until I had removed my bra and nothing else and collapsed into bed. Thumbing through the list of contacts on my phone, I found the one I was looking for and hit send. I prayed for a voicemail but instead got a singsongy voice on the other end.
“Jordan? Good morning, Jordan. How can I help you?”
“Mollie, I’m not coming into the office today. I was up all night working on a project.” I listened carefully as I heard my boss feverishly scribble something down on paper.
“Are you not working today? Or are you just not coming in?” she finally asked. The happiness was gone from her chirp.
“I’ll log in and work this afternoon, but if I don’t get some sleep none of my code is going to run without errors.”
She huffed a humongous sigh that had no doubt made her tiny frame shake. Hell, I almost shook on the other end of the phone. “This isn’t going to be a habit again, is it?”
“It may,” I admitted honestly. “If you could afford to pay me more for my coding, including some benefits, I wouldn’t need to freelance out.” I knew coming back to the age old arguments about workers’ rights would end the discussion quickly.
“Jordan, you know if we had a full time position available I would offer it to you?”
“On what planet is fifty hours a week not considered full time?” I growled.
“You know what I mean.” Mollie went quiet for a minute. “Oh, Jordan, I’m getting another call. Sorry, I gotta go. I’ll email you some specs. Just get some rest, then get those fingers moving.” In the next breath, she was gone.
I plugged in my phone and rolled over. I’m confident I was asleep before I actually closed my eyes.
Somewhere between my dream about a wild night with the entire cast of Thunder from Down Under and the dream where I rescued baby ducks from a carnivorous umbrella, I had a conversation with a talking cat. Most of my dreams feel like dreams, but the conversation with the cat felt strangely real.
Just when I was about to enjoy an encore performance from the glowing sex gods, the sounds of loud music ripped through my dreams. “Damn it, no!” I swore as dream-me made one last feeble reach for a leather G-string. I peeked through my lids and focused on the culprit.
My phone flashed and vibrated violently from where it sat on my nightstand screaming Bon Jovi at me. I flipped it over, revealing Nate’s photo on the screen. I hit the green button and squawked loudly into it, “What?!?!?!”
I was greeted with the faint sounds of keys clicking. “Uhhhh, Jordan? Did I wake you up?”
“Yes!” I snapped grumpily. “You interrupted a glorious dream involving a scantily leather-clad man who could tie cherry stems with his tongue….”
“So the guys from Thunder Down Under again?”
“Yes.” I sniffed that he so easily knew me.
“Sorry to interrupt what was no doubt another X-rated dream, but something is wrong with the site.”
I all but jumped out of bed and rushed to my laptop in the office. “Were we hacked?” I asked in a panic.
“No, but could you look at our viewership?”
I tapped my foot impatiently as my laptop loaded and I made my way to the site. I clicked on stats and flopped into the rolling chair beside me. I was in shock. “Does that really say forty-five thousand hits?”
“Forty-five?” Nate asked. I heard him frantically clicking. “That’s three thousand more hits in the last ten minutes. I needed to refresh.”
“Oh-Em-Gee!” I cried into the phone. “Do you think something is broken? Or do you think a spambot got ahold of our URL?”
“I don’t know,” Nate answered in a distracted tone.
“It’s rather funny how neither of you has considered that your site is going viral?” said an unfamiliar voice. I whirled around in my chair to confront the intruder, but the doorway behind me was empty.
“Uhhh Nate, someone is in my house…” I trailed off before absent-mindedly hanging up. I heard panic in his voice just before my phone went silent. I jumped out of the chair and rushed into the hall. “Hello?” I called out to my seemingly empty condo. “Hello?” When my phone started singing again I let out a shriek before answering an undoubtedly worried Nate.
“Jordan? Jordan? Are you ok?” he cried into the phone. “Lock yourself in a room and call nine one one. I’m on my way.”
I turned the corner and looked into my bedroom and then my bathroom. “Nate, I think I just imagined it. I woke up really suddenly and I don’t think I was fully awake.” Just to be sure, I grabbed my old softball bat from the hall closet and headed into the living room. I quickly checked it and the kitchen. Nobody was there.
I heaved a sigh of relief. “Sorry to worry you, but I think I just imagined it. I’ve been through the whole house. Nobody but me is here.”
I heard Nate let out a long breath. “So you are okay?”
“Yeah, I think so,” I told him while nodding to myself for reassurance.
“Don’t scare me like that, Jordan. Mom and Dad would be so mad if I let something happen to you.”
“Yeah, let’s try and avoid upsetting the parental units if we can help it. It is nice to know that my little brother has my back though.”
“Little,” he snorted.
“You’re two years younger!”
“And you’re two feet shorter!” Nate fired back.
“I’m not that short…”
He snickered like he had just gotten away with something. “Fine, maybe you’re not that short, but if you aren’t suffering from a home invasion, I’m going to let you go so I can get back to work.”
“Thanks!” I said as I started a pot of coffee. I dropped my phone on the table and rummaged for a coffee cup. Coming up empty – I had avoided dishes for three days while we were in crunch time – I gave up and washed a mug.
I poured a cup and sat down at the kitchen table. I inhaled deeply to drink in the aroma before taking the first sip. “Damn, if coffee beans aren’t really magical beans, I’m not sure I want to believe in magic.”
“Well that is a charmingly naive point of view,” said the voice from earlier.
“Eeep!” I squeaked as I dropped my mug and watched it crash and break on the floor. “My coffee!” I cried despondently.
“Seriously, you’re our best hope?” came the voice again.
I looked around the kitchen in a panic. I wondered if I was having a nervous break or if I could reach a knife for safety fast enough. “Who are you? Where are you hiding?” The table in front of me shook slightly, bringing my attention back to it. In front of me sat a non-descript grey cat. Nothing about it seemed out of the ordinary other than it was sitting on my kitchen table… and I didn’t own a cat. “Will you please calm yourself down? We don’t have time to sit here while you have a panic attack.”
I blinked repeatedly. “Are you talking?”
The cat yawned before sticking me with a glare that chilled my blood. “You’re serious? We had a conversation for over an hour this morning, and now you choose to freak out over me being a cat?”
The cat sighed, causing its whole body to rise and fall. “This morning around ten we talked about why I was here. I gave you a whole rundown.” I continued to stare. “You know, the whole chosen one thing. I’m here as your guardian. You need to defend the world against evil. Is any of this ringing a bell?”
“You’re a talking cat!” I yelped.
The cat growled at me. “Humans!” It shook its head. “Fix another cup of coffee, grab a can of tuna, and sit back down. I guess we will go through all this again.”