South Africa


Urban fantasy: an excerpt from Joe Kitchen’s micro-novel Twitter Dawn

Urban fantasy: an excerpt from Joe Kitchen’s micro-novel Twitter Dawn

This is a story about what may become of social media in the distant future. Though I have written it in 21st-century English in order to be understood, the characters actually speak a dialect as far removed from ours as modern English is removed from Chaucer.

Every person or incident in this novel is imaginary, and any similarity with persons or incidents, either in real life or in virtual reality, is merely coincidental.

The manuscript was originally published, tweet by tweet, on Twitter from 2010 to 2013. I have reprinted it here, rearranged in short chapters for easier reading, with the minimum of editing and alterations.

Then, one night, everything changed. Just when I thought my life had reached a new sort of routine – breakfast at Gumtree, visits to the library, blogging and watching Jews being murdered – I received a totally unexpected visitor. He came under cover of darkness. Under cover of darkness…

I was lying in bed, perspiring as usual, with infatuated dreams about the Gumtree girl and pangs of desire for Trudy, when I heard a noise outside my front door. Though my screensaver was up, and I was clearly offline, someone was trying to break into my house! Was it a hacker? Was it the Geek Police? Who could it be? Who could it be? Who could it be? 

I got up, walked up the stairs, and peered through my upstairs window. Sure enough, there was someone standing right underneath the ARBEIT MACHT FREI banner above my front door. He had a bunch of passwords in his hand on a silver key holder, and was trying them out one by one, trying to open the door. That was the noise that had woken me. “Hey, asshole!” I shouted. “Go hack into some other site! This is a private domain!”

The hacker looked up from his task, saw me standing at the upstairs window, and waved. I saw his face in the moonlight before I heard his voice, and my heart almost stopped. “Hey, Alfie, open up, it’s me!” Kraker said in a loud whisper. Kraker! KRAKER WAS BACK! HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE? HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE?

Without removing my screensaver, I let Kraker in through the spam filter at the back of the house. He looked terrible! His hair and beard had grown and were frightfully dirty; his clothes were hanging from him in rags, and – this was the worst of all – he was covered in tattoos. “Where’ve you been?” I asked, too nauseous to touch him.” “Inside,” he replied. “Inside where?” I asked.

He sat down on my couch, put his feet up on the coffee table, and sighed. When he next spoke, the weariness of the streets and the slums were in his voice. “I know you won’t believe me, Alfie, but I’ve just spent three weeks in the Recycle Bin,” he said. “It was horrible!”

“The RECYCLE BIN?” I said, aghast. “Is there really such a place? I’ve heard rumours of it, of course…”

“Believe me, Alfie, it’s the worst place on the planet. Including both 3D and 4D. It’s the pits. I never thought I’d see the light of day again. I rubbed shoulders with all the thugs of the underworld, everyone who’d ever been deleted from civil society, blocked from Facebook, declared spam, and such like. What a bunch of worm-ridden, virus-infected losers! Once you’re in there, they forget about you. It’s not as if you serve your sentence and then later you get a chance to refresh and clean up your act. The Recycle Bin is a one-way street, Alfie! That’s why they won’t even come looking for me! I don’t think anyone’s ever escaped from there before. Got any whiskey?”

“Yes, I’ve got whiskey.” “Bloody marvellous! In that case, can I crash here tonight?” I hesitated for a byte or two. “Crash?” He smiled, and for the first time I noticed he lacked some of his teeth. “Okay, let’s drop the slang. Can I go into Sleep Mode here tonight?” 

“Of course you may sleep here tonight, Kraker! But do you mind freshening up a bit first? I find it hard to break through the stench barrier!” “Of course! My apologies. I got so used to all these smells in there that I stopped noticing, I guess.” He pushed his own ‘Refresh’ button, and instantly, the foul odour disappeared. I was even able to give him a brotherly hug. Was that the glistening of tears in his eyes? “Thank you, my Top Friend,” he whispered hoarsely. 

Without further ado, I went to the front windows and once again checked the street out front. There were no police vehicles, strange iCars or other unknown hardware parked out front, so felt myself relax a bit. 

I walked to my liquor cabinet, took out a bottle and two glasses, ejected some ice from the fridge, and sat it down on the table between us. “I want you to tell me all about it. What did those dudes do to you after they took you away in that Flashdrive? How did you escape?” 

He shook the ice cubes in the glass and took a large gulp of the whiskey I had poured him. Closed his eyes for a moment. “The Resistance managed to recover me,” he said. “Got me out of there in the back of a garbage truck, rolled up in a bunch of old floppy disks, and dropped me right at my old spot. When I saw it had been changed to a fake Wild West saloon, I came straight here. Straight here.”

“The Resistance?” The whiskey in my mouth suddenly tasted different. “The Resistance?”

“Yes, the Resistance, Alfie. Yes, indeed, they exist. I’m one of them. I’m sorry I lied to you before. I guess I should have levelled with you ages ago. I AM a terrorist, have been for quite a while. I DID try to wipe out Twitterworld. And, once I’ve told you everything I know, you will want to do the same.” I went cold inside. “Kraker, are you serious?” “Yes, I am. You can report this post right now, you don’t have to Like it, but I’m telling it straight. Between you and me. There is a Resistance.” It was my turn to close my eyes. “Tell me everything, Kraker. TELL ME EVERYTHING.” DM

Twitter Dawn by Joe Kitchen is published by Naledi (R200). Order online.


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