Yuuki wakes up to the bright sunshine of late afternoon in a windowless concrete dormitory. Simulated radiance burns overhead and she can't quite stifle the yawning desire to roll over and delay sunrise for another ten minutes. But she manages to catch sight of the pending notifications on her handset and knows the the long day is only just beginning.
"Simi, make coffee. Double sugar, double cream."
The Sluerig machine boils to life, forcing water through a coffee pod, two creamers, and two syrup packs. It two minutes a sweet salute to waking up will be ready. It will be warm and soothing, cloying and inoffensive, the perfect start to a day.
Yuuki gets up and puts on her favorite hoodie and sweat pants. Sun hangs over a pasture, and has been for a week.
"Simi, I want rain and sea. Give me a storm."
A New England nor'easter breaks on the rocky coast of a nondescript cliff side. The overhead lamp strobes like a lighthouse.
"Ok Goggle, what's up?"
"Good afternoon, Yu-uki," a computerized voice booms, "You have six hundred and fifteen notifications from last night."
Yesterday was eight hundred. She feels like she is losing her edge.
"Ok Goggle, play."
A projector beams gossamer notifications into the air. Yuuki straightens up before the motion sensor.
"The weather outside is smoke, visib--"
Yuuki swiped left.
"Headlines. War looms in Myanmar as China disputes lithium deposits. Nova Caliphate recruits disaffected net users with promises of larger bandwidth. Wizard Squad crashes Fony Live, again. Anonymous releases statement on black hat corruption, Contra-anonymous disputes findings. Suspected Analog bombing destroys Nevada server center, millions of Fussbook accounts feared lost. Six reasons the Analogs will fail--"
"eSports. Tsotsi Trasnvaal falls to Goryeo Resurrection in late rounds of Star Con--"
Swipe left. If it wasn't Potrero Power Rangers, she didn't care. Tsotsi was all rush and she couldn't bring herself to root for Koreans.
Swipe left. Her shoulder tired as she dismissed celebrities and politics, music and business.
"Ad space," Yuuki picked up her coffee, "Newbacon Sales! Twenty four hours left on digital immersion software. Code visualizers half price. FitTrick watches, now in pink. Buy one Third Life avatar, get six sets of clothing free. Leveled WeW accounts for qualifying buyers. Restrictions apply."
She marked a few deals to look at later. The green FitTrick could be right around the corner...
"This is a special announcement from the National Safety Administration. Cyber crime is real crime. Associating with the Nova Caliphate or Analog Nonconformity is punishable by suspension of internet accounts. All non indexed markets are forbidden. If you or anyone you know is affiliated with illegal activity, report them to..."
Yuuki rolled her eyes and drank the heavily sweetened coffee. Ads were so boring. She hopes one day she will get enough likes to buy premium access, where there wouldn't be half as many boring announcements.
Yuuki leans forward.
"Update from mom's blog: Miss My Daught--"
"You have eighty six new followers. You now have nine hundred, twenty six followers. They have liked four thousand pictures. They have liked six hundred posts. They have clicked twelve posts."
"You have six hundred eleven MatchCupider notifications. Six hundred ten have pictures--"
"You have one notifications. Subject: Show Me Yours And I--"
"End of notifications."
Yuuki sighs. A gale whips up from just behind the cliff, racing down the rocky shore line and lathering waves in white caps and bending the sparse digital grasses. She feels cool and unruffled, wondering what it would take to get more impressions on her posts.
"Simi, prepare a chirp: 'I am not a morning person,'" Yuuki declares with a frown, "'lol.' Send."
The sound of a sparrow singing the success of her share is lost in the din of crashing sea. It gets six likes.
Yuuki boots up the video editor and looks at her dream feed. Last night she had a nightmare that she was chased by a chair through a winding hallway, and that any time she opened up a door she found a room with the chair waiting and a new hallway behind her. At the end of the dream, she was able to close a door before the chair got through. It was worth three lucid points. She cut the dream to forty five minutes and uploaded it. There were eleven views in the first hour, as well as two comments. At a thousand lucids, she would be able to buy a month without dream ads or get a membership to social sleep. The man of her dreams was another four hundred and forty five lucids away. She might just cash out for Sato-Bits though.
She streams three hours of playing Clash of Candies. Two thirds of her viewers are players on the other teams, which is fine because she is watching them as well. The Clan Elders have repeatedly declared stream spying illegal, but the truth is that it drives up ad revenue and doesn't make much of an advantage if everyone is watching everyone else. The more Sato-Bits they earn, the more guild gear they can buy any way. It sure beats waiting twenty minutes between plays for clash coins. Yuuki has a pretty good WarHead build, but can't afford to get the purple hat with it's +5 stat boost. She chirps about it and the chatters wonder if she's being a poor sport because she's losing or hoping that someone might buy it for her.
At the end of the play she pays ten Sato-Bits for the loot card shuffle. Some people have gotten rare vorpal gear on it and made out big on the auction houses. She wins a common card worth five Sato-Bits. It's better than nothing.
She's seen real dollars in her life. Even has some in her modest bank account. But between the odd jobs and loot drops pay in Sato-Bits--if the cryptos are on a pump swing--she is sometime able to cash out for rent money.
Someone chirps at her wanting to know if she supports @FeministFerocity or #SadJimmies. She replies meekly with a #notyourlabel, and says she just wants to play games. @MeatRightAway calls her a cumdumpster and lols about it. If feels like she can't win, whatever she says. Yuuki will take the re-chirps any way.
"Simi, more coffee. One cream, three sugars. Also, shrimp noodles."
More water boils. There's an ad playing on the screen. She gets up and walks to the stove to pour the noodles into the bowl. The Amazin' button lets her know she's low on noodle packs. Yuuki presses it to order twenty more. Her account is debited six Sato-Bits.
When the ad is over, she checks Fussbook to see if any cute guys have added her. There are some. She has more messages with pictures and a dozen obscenity laced screeds accusing her of being a bitch or a bot. No winners today. She stalks an ex who lives in Texas. They broke up before they met, but they shared some of the most serious IMs she's ever written.
A chirp alert notifies her of a trending hashtag, #BeyBabyBust. Beyonce has just had a miscarriage. Blue Ivy and Orange Sunglasses will not get a baby brother this year. Yuuki chirps that it was probably winter weight gain that she was trying to play off as a baby bump. The replies are hot and heavy.
@d1st4ntLyfe--you know you didn't say that about #QueenB. i'll kill yo skinny skank ass, bitch!!
She gets four follows and a dozen retweets, and smiles gleefully at the drama it stirs. It takes three replies before she's called a Nazi. When the flame wars die down, she live chirps the latest webisode of Dr. Horrible's FireflyBuffHouse: Avenging Ultron. Joss Whedon still hasn't lost it. He chirps back at her and she literally swoons.
"Simi, I want Serenity."
A Firefly class ship floats through space. She stands next to Captain Reynolds on the bridge. Outside the hulk of a Reaver ship floats through the void. The great vastness of black it lists like a drunken ghost. Suddenly, she feels very alone.
"Do you think someone will find us."
"It's not us that's worth findin'," the captain replies. When he turns around there is an unsettling blur across his face. If she stares at it long enough, an interaction point comes up. Unlock Nathan Fillion with one hundred Serenity Tokens. Or pay twenty five Sato-Bits. Yuuki sighs. The face in her heart shows more than a room projection ever can. She falls backwards onto her bed, stares up at the bulwarks, pulls her hood up over her head and pretends to be floating in a space suit.
"Today's analytics are now ready," Goggle tells her, "According to your purchases, you're fresh and frugal--you stick to the basics but keep it interesting. Other people admire your style. You have six new followers. You got three dozen rechirps and twenty eight post views. You have two hundred messages, ninety nine with pictures. Congratulations! You've unlocked the Notable Badge. Keep it up, and you may be net famous one day."
Just before bed, she clicks on her mom's blog post and comments "miss you too, mama. :o)" She doesn't read it. The clock reads 4 am when she turns off the computer. She salutes her followers in a chirp, sending a yawning kitty to nine hundred and thirty two inboxes. One day she will find a dank meme that will mint her viral. Till then, it is saccharine simplicity that she projects. Yuuki wonders if she will actually unlock net fame. What will it be like when she crosses a thousand followers? How long till the next thousand? They say ten thousand changes you, but she doesn't want to be anything besides the simple @d1st4ntLyfe she is today.
As she closes her eyes it does seem that Yuuki is floating through space. Everything in her room seems to pitch itself at a low, comforting hum. If noises could hug, this would be the warmest, softest, most intimate embrace she's known. The Net is truly vast and infinite. Everything is at her finger tips, yet nothing is near. As Yuuki drifts off into her sleep, she is sure, almost positive, that she will finally live the dreams she wants.