Connected

I’d just finished reading about the 1950s, I had managed to illegally get a copy of a book called “Americas 1950s” off the deep net. The VPN service I used hasn’t sold me out yet, even though it was quite a common thing to happen to people these days. It never really felt as thought anyone was safe, and regardless of the professed safe usage they advertised,  I still took further precautions. My IP address was well hidden behind a few VPNs and illegal anonymous web browsers due to my paranoia. It all helped maintain my sanity when I was in this state of mind. My thoughts about internet safety drift away as I ponder the article I was reading. A text message from Mum interrupts my stasis. “Are you coming to dinner tonight?”  Shit, I think to myself realising that I had completely forgotten about my family gathering. I pick myself up  of bed, and meander around a pile of clothes as I lethargically decided what to wear. I start rifling through my pile of clothes and pick up a grey wind-cheater and some running pants and think, “This will do.” The pants were stained with last night’s pizza, but I shrug and begin putting them on. I get another message from Mum. “Turn up your fashion sense bar” I read. I roll my eyes, sigh loudly and say “fineeeee” out loud. I grab my phone and run my fashion slider up to 2, I get a text message “4 please” I text back with a 🙄 but do as I’m asked. Moments after I do I’m filled with a sense of regret and dread. I start to go light headed and the surge of chemicals being released into my body hit me hard like a truck. I lose sight of my room to a hazy grey which covers my vision. My hearing drops out for a moment with a sharp ringing which takes over. “Too much” I thought as I brace myself for the wave of nausea starting to manifest. I faintly hear myself let out a strange wail under the ringing in my ears. It felt as if I had just finished a bottle of vodka in some sculling competition. 

After what felt like 5 minutes the haze starts to clear. 

A few more moments passed and I feel like I’m on top of the world and more like my normal self. I feel more awake and my mind felt clearer, with which I notice and make a dirty look at the clothes I was holding and remember considering putting them on. I drop them and make a noise of disgust and open my cupboard in consideration of more reasonable clothes to wear to Mums house. Reds, pinks, blues pop out at me, I start thinking about wearing my jeans with a poppy pink shirt my Mum bought me not long ago. I pull it off the hanger and I hold it up against myself in the mirror, I give myself a positive nod of approval, and start getting ready.

Another message from Mum appears as I start to groom myself, “Hey, Aunty Anne is coming, make sure your gossip meter is on 2 at least also, and please don’t lower your sliders down so low again, you know how bad that is for you!!”. She was right, I was always putting myself in danger like that, but it’s hard to read about the past when you’re constantly chirpy, I always found myself unable to take the historical papers I was reading seriously simply because my happy meter or whatever was too high. “Ok mum, sorry I was just reading about our history” I text back. I didn’t get a response. She was not very happy about me being able to control my emotional sliders as much as I could. I jailbroke my phone during some rebellious years back in high school and I didn’t have the gall to head in and have it fixed due to the potential repercussions. I wouldn’t be able to read the papers my Dad and others sent me, or those that I obtained off the deep web also if it wasn’t, but the consequences for jailbreaking phones these days was quite steep, I was constantly at odds with myself about this. I figured I’d just have to not get in trouble with the law and they wouldn’t find out. “Haves you resubscribed?” She messages back ignoring my previous text.  I was gelling my hair and didn’t want to get the gel on my screen so I use my pinky finger to slowly type out a “yes”, I still managed to get Gel on the screen thought. ”Ugh” I say trying to wipe it off only to further smudge it across my screen.

“There’s a new pack available, it’s called tropical holiday” she messages through. My interest was piqued. I open up the emotstore with my pinky while I comb my hair into a shape I like. “Tropical holiday, a new feeling for you to enjoy at the touch of your finger. Feel like you’re on the beaches in Fiji chilling with a nice rum and coconut cocktail while the warm summer breeze feathers past your beautifully tanned skin”  I read the advertisement out loud. It sounded nice but I wondered about when I would ever use that setting. My cynicism is overwritten by my mood, however, as I read the “try it now, 30 days free” part of the advertisement. I shrug and hit the download button. I turn the “automatically apply” setting off, however, I didn’t need another episode yet, my body was a little shaken from the over-release of chemicals thanks to the fashion slider. “It’s always too much” I whisper to myself with a toothbrush in my mouth. I take a good look at myself in the mirror and notice how unkept I am. “Ugh, you’re disgusting,” I say to myself. “How long have I been reading for?” I ask my phone. Moments later an automatised response voices itself “2 days and 12 hours”. I roll my eyes at myself. “Open mediapp” I say aloud before spitting up my toothpaste. “Ok,” the phone responds. I look over to my screen and down the phone to the cord running into my forearm. I noticed it was looking a bit degraded. “I’ll need to get that fixed,” I think to myself. An appointment drops down into my calendar for next week, Tuesday. “Fucking updates,” I think to myself. I open the automatic appointment and notice that they gave me a crappy doctor too “ah shit, I hate this guy” I say. I flick the calendar appointment away and go back to the mediapp. “Status update, ” I say. The phone responds “Your last check up was 4 days ago, since then, you’ve walked 4km, your resting heart rate has increased by 1%, your veins are constricted, and your cholesterol has also increased by 3%. Please consider doing 4 extra hours of exercise next week to start reversing this”. I was a little concerned about the details my phone just provided me. “Full body scan,” I say. “Are you sure?” the phone asks me. “Yes,” I say back to it. 600 credits are taken from my account and then the app starts showing me a variety of measurements as they come in. “Overall check, clear”. It says.  I pause in waiting for the but though. “But, you have a tooth in your upper left jaw which is starting to decay, I have scheduled a dentist appointment” the phone responses after the scan is completed. I notice the appointment drop into my calendar but also notice the time, “Shit I’m late” I say as I grab my phone, key, and wallet and I shove them into my pockets. “Keys, phones wallet,” I say as I dramatically pat the pockets on the front and back of my jeans. I nod confirmation of my keys, wallet, and phone being in my pockets and I head out.

***

The music on the radio was bland, I noticed I had it on an ambient chill station “How do I let myself listen to this?”  I ask myself as I push buttons on my radio searching for something more upbeat. I find a pop music station, I didn’t like it but it was background noise at best and better than the crap I had on before. I was about 20 minute into my drive and I started to notice that my body felt tired, but my mind urged it on. I kept an over positive outlook but I knew this feeling. I had over done it, I hadn’t slept in 2 days, and had slept very little a week prior to that. My eyes were getting grainy, heavy and they slowly closed as my vision tunes in and out. I tried pushing back the sleepiness, but as I stared at the road in front of me the repeating patterns of the centre line passing slowly hypnotised me. I felt myself disappearing. “I hope I don’t have another episode,” I say to myself. I could feel myself continuing to fade so I slap my face a few times. “It’s a four-hour drive,  I can do this” I urge myself on, but the initial effects of the mood app have worn off, and whilst my body is still upbeat, it’s exhausted. I turn the radio up and hear the host talking about Langdale, “I grew up there” I say wearily hoping to distract my body out of it’s tiredness. It’s no use however, I’ve mostly lost control, my head dips in and out of consciousness, and I keep trying to force myself awake but struggle to do so with each drop of my head. A moment of fear hit the pit of my stomach before my mood app took over. I knew this day was going to get worse, but the through and fear drifted as I fade into a childhood memory and I space out. I hear a comforting sound ring through my ears, the car’s autopilot picked up the signal from my phone, I feel the steering wheel start moving without my control and I let it go and gently let my head dip back into my driver seat. “This is going to be an expensive ride,” I say to myself as I hear credits being taken from my account whilst  I disappear into the darkness.

***

Ding
Ding
Ding
Ding

I shake my head as I wake up to the noise of my car alerting me that it had parked and that my seat belt had disconnected itself. The repeated dinging noise was annoyingly asking me to remove the keys from the ignition too, but I could barely come to, my eyes were gritty and dry and I rapidly tried blinking myself back into a conscious state. It was hard in that moment to wake up, given the lack of sleep. My body pushed for me to fall back asleep. I tried to ignore it.
The exhaustion is crushing but I find the will to lift my head and to open my eyes. I am greeted with the bright light of the sun reflecting off a bland cream white wall. I can see a purple shirted figure walking towards my car too. I realise it’s Mum, but I needed a moment. I signal to her for a second while I try and collect myself. My brain informs me that I need things so  I start to rummage through the things in my car looking for my belongings all whilst willing myself to wake myself up. Every so often I gesture at my Mum to wait for a little longer, who’s eagerly waiting for me to get out of the car and knocking on the window. “Where the fuck,” I say to myself quietly as another ding on my phone goes off. I’m in a temperamental mood, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, and  I start to get angry as I struggle to find my belongings, slowly realising they were in my pockets. By this stage, however, it was too late. My phone lets out an alert tone and I pull it out of my pocket to be met with a red warning. I read the flashing words out loud “warning, you are crossing into an angry state, please adjust your sliders as required, it is illegal to be angry in this state, and all angry moods are recorded and reported to the local police” I hear myself read the warning allowed in a grumpy and tired tone. I ignore the warning as I find my eye drops and apply them to my dry and gritty eyes. I blink as the fluid blurs and then focuses my vision, a single tear from each eye stream down my cheeks, and I slowly start coming to. There’s a tapping on my window now. It’s my Mum, she’s trying to get me to wind the window down, I can’t do that just yet, I need another minute. I motion this to her in some bizarre dance of finger gestures and uncoordinated exhaustion. “I really need to let myself sleep, this can’t be good for me” I whisper to myself as I check the sliders on my phone. “Huh, they haven’t changed” I ponder for a moment until I realise the obvious… I was dehydrated and my blood sugars were low, the phone wasn’t being powered properly which meant my mood wasn’t being managed properly, I gesture to my Mum, who’s still waiting outside my window for a cup of juice, her face turns to serious and she rushes inside straight away. I hang out in the car for a few moments still trying to collect myself, my mediapp notifies me that my phone is about to turn off and I can slowly feel a dark wave building inside me, all the suppressed subconscious feelings of anger, sorrow, and fear these apps force us to ignore are starting to come over me like a wave. I tilt my head back a little and try to focus on the article I was reading about America in the 1950’s. That was a mistake because the first thing my mind focuses on and remembers is the racism that was rife in those days. The thought hits me like a truck and the wave inside me starts to now gain traction, I can feel my muscles tensing up, my phone starts flashing a black and red alert message, I start shaking. I hear my car door open and I fall out without any control over my body. I can hear my Dad in the background, “Turn him to his side, get some sugar in him, his phones almost dead!” I can feel people orientate my body as instructed and I let out wails of primal sounds fuelled by the anger and sorrow and fear overtaking my body. “Bloody hell kid, you haven’t properly slept in months!” My dad says reviewing the settings on my phone. I remember wanting to argue back but I could control my body at all. Dad clearly released then that the cops would be alerted if this continued. He pushes Mum out of the way and forces the juice she had got for me down my throat. I had no choice, my phone fell into emergency control mode, I could express my feelings by couldn’t control my muscles, they were hardened by the phone to stop me from attacking those around me, and truth be told, I could feel myself willing a massacre. I note in the back of my mind that this was the fourth time this year that I let my lack of sleep put me in this state, and strangely enough it felt like a fucked up side of me liked it. I try and push the thought aside as I could also feel remorse and self-pity creep into this fit, I was spiraling out of control and it didn’t feel like things were going to get better. I was stuck in the moment feeding my emotional fit further and further with awful and angry thoughts. Time seems to have slowed completely and the moment felt like hours of fear, sorrow, and anger swirling in a primordial soup venting through my body and mind.

As it surged I could feel the pain of my hardened muscles piecing though, I thought my legs and arms were going to snap under the immense pressure, but as if a strong and wide beam of light shot down from the heavens the sorrow, fear and anger disappeared, and relief struck me suddenly. The fit had only lasted a few minutes but I was deeply exhausted, I could feel my muscles slowly loosening, but the lactic acid and fatigue had already built up so much that I could barely move. As the sugar levels in my system restore and my phone started taking control back over my body once again, the fake, but calming sensation of being monitored by technology slowly guided me back to a normal state. I open my eyes slowly and see my Dad controlling my phone, whilst trying to awkwardly juggle his own, “What are you doing?” I say exhaustedly. He shoots me a stare and doesn’t respond. I feel a drowsy sensation wash over me as my fit completely subsides. I guessed that my Dad had adjusted my sleeping settings because I slowly started to drift away again. I watched my Mum hunched over me crying, with her phone settings set to “worried mother” as she held her phone in her hand whilst trying to hold me too. I jokingly think “When did she buy that mood” and as I hear myself giggle whilst I slowly drift off into a comforting and controlled darkness.

“Get up, you’ve been asleep for days” I hear a voice.
I hear the familiar sound of blinds being shifted across their metal rod, footsteps fussing around on a wooden floor and the introduction of fresh air on my face. I haven’t yet been able to open my eyes, my body still willed them to remain closed, and I didn’t really protest. I did, however, feel highly positive and lively. My sleepy state slowly faded and I open my eyes. “Hi, Mum!” I say enthusiastically, “Sorry I slept for so long, I hope I didn’t worry you,” I say as I watch her pull some clothes out of a drawer. “I was very worried”, she says to me, I guessed by her body language and movement that she had switched her app from worried mother to proactive as she was fussing about the room. This was confirmed when she relocated the clothes she had pulled out for me several times, nitpicking at how they were folded and they way they appeared. “The proactive mood was an expensive purchase, but it’s the main reason for many of the recent technological advances we know and have today,” I think to myself as I watch her misuse it to fuss over me. “Come on, get up, the family is still about, you may still have time to see some of them,” she says continuing to fuss about. I remember falling asleep at the wheel of my car during the drive over, the family was getting together, as we do every year. It’s normal for them to say that they’ll only stay a few days but it ends up being over a week before they all leave, I slowly repiece my scattered thoughts and conclude that I wasn’t too concerned that I wouldn’t see them. I think momentarily that the fit I had may have been a godsend too as I grab my phone gladly remembering how much I disliked my Dad’s brother and his love of wrestling with me. “Man Up” he’d say. I hate that saying. I push the thought away and open my mood app and realise that my mood settings were locked into place. “Ah Mum, what’s with these settings?” I ask her. She looks at me for a moment, then looks away “we thought it would be best dear” she says in a supportive but firm manner. I agreed in my mind. “I put myself in danger, I really need to stop doing that,” I think to myself as I bounce out of bed. My legs are a bit wobbly and my body ached a little. “You gave us a fright you know, you need to get that phone fixed before you get caught. The cops came around here you know, they were asking all sorts of questions, and if it wasn’t for your father, you would have been locked up” she continued to fuss. “They will put you in jail, you know!!” she clambers at me whilst pointing her finger. “Yes Mum” I say, it came forced by my mood, I could feel a small part of me up the back being cynical, however. 

The moment of cynicism strikes me as odd though, I bring my mood settings up again as I tune my mother’s ramblings out and review the settings locked down on the phone. I smirk for a moment, it was clear that Dad had my best interests in mind. He gave me a little bit of realism in the lock down. I smirk again “he knows me so well,” I think to myself. That being said, he’s a scholar and understands the addiction to reading and learning all too well himself, and he’s given me just enough to allow me to focus on texts whilst living out the punishment dealt to me. “I suppose I could read more positive things too though” a through creeps in. As I debate with myself about the next book I’m going to read I put on what’s been selected for me to wear.  At this stage, Mum had fussed her way out of the room and I could faintly hear her still rambling down the hallway. I put my pants on with a bit of a wobble here and there and slide a grey and blue striped shirt over myself. I wrestle my head through the neck hole of the shirt and find myself looking at my reflection on the cupboard door of my old bedroom. I take a close look at my reflection and find it a little concerning. My eyes were bloodshot, my skin a little pale, my hair was disheveled and had dried bits of gel woven all through it. “Wow, I really did a number on myself,” I say. ” You did” I hear my Dads voice. “Hey Dad,” I say to him without turning around. “Thanks for helping me” I follow up after a moment of silence. “No worries, although you gave us a fright kiddo,” he pauses for a moment. “I don’t like parent locking your phone, but it was the only choice we had when the cops came over”. I rapidly turn around. “The cops?” I say realising Mum had said the same thing. The feeling of fear quickly subsided as my phone hijacked the response and pulverized it. The fear was very intense though, which meant my phone had to respond aggressively, the fluctuation of chemicals left me light headed with a ringing in my ear. My Dad notices and calms me quickly. “Don’t worry, they didn’t look at your phone, although you need to be careful, they will catch you one of these days” he says concerned. “Yeah well, I didn’t plan to freak out like that. I just.. I haven’t been sleeping, between working and studying, I get very little time to myself so these reading stints allow me to maintain my sanity” I explain. My dad pauses and acknowledged my response, but then simply says ” Yeah, but is it worth your life?” His response hit me hard and I hold back some tears and quietly concede with a “No.” as my chin sinks into my chest. He notices my remorse and changes the topic. “Anyway,” he says “The lockout is for a week and you’ve slept through most of it so you’ll be back to reading and studying in no time.” He gives me a moment to accept his words and the follows up with “But, I hope you’ve learned your lesson!” he said this with a point of his finger as he looked at me directly down his nose under his glasses, he was dead serious when he said this. A moment passes and he changes his tone and says “When you’re ready some of your family’s downstairs waiting to see you”. I follow him down to the living room where very few of my family members were left.

It seems like many of my family members didn’t stay as long as usual. According to Mum they all seemed to be in some kind of rush, although she didn’t fail to mention how concerned everyone was about me. I’m assuming that mean they spent some time gossiping about me. “Great,” I think to myself.

Only my Uncle and Aunty from Mums side were here and my cousin from my Dads side was left. My cousin was in regular contact with me, so he had no new news to share with me, so were just hanging out in the living room as he was showing me his new phone implant. He was explaining some issues to me and I was trying to focus on him but I was also quite focused on the food Mum had put out in plain view in the kitchen.

I focus back to my cousin as he explains his issues. “I cant do anything with this thing” he complains. His parents were very religious and didn’t particularly like him working on the phone, it was a new concept to them and for that matter many other people. So many didn’t take well to it, that is to say mainly people from the older generations didn’t anyway. It caused a lot of issues in the job market and it was quite a sudden change too. About eight or so years ago there was a major paradigm shift in the way people make money and how they work, and it was a tough one to swallow for those use to working 9-5 type jobs. The hardest hit are those still waiting in line for the phone installation which is backdated for years, and getting work without a phone implant was basically impossible these days. Unemployment rates were quite high because of this and very few places needed unconnected people. Many of the desk jobs from the past were automated by robotics and clever programs.   My cousin had stopped explaining his very dull and boring situation as a thought struck me and I cut him off desperate for a topic change. “Have you ever heard of World of Adventure?” I ask him cutting into his description of the warehouse he worked in. He shakes his head, I should have seen that coming.

“So this game is just one of many ways to make money these days without having to work a 9-5 job” I explain. His eyes lit up, the concept clearly blew his mind.  I knew prior to getting the phone he worked with his parents in one of the last remaining print factories. He helped print out and distribute Christian propaganda in the form of a newspaper called “The Dying Times”. The title of the paper was as dramatic as the old “journalist” who wrote for it. It was their last front and “saving throw” to remain relevant in the technological world it had to attempt to exist within. There were very few who practiced and believed in religion theses days, so those who did didn’t really fit in too well with current times. I could see my cousin was desperate to get rid of that stigma. He had mentioned issues with money earlier, hence my topic change. “I only just got the implant two months ago. Mum and Dad locked it down straight away because they want me to finish the bible schools phone training app before they’ll release it to me. But they don’t have them and they can’t get a job right now other than at the warehouse, so we’re living off of rations provided to us by the church and about 200 credits a week each” he says to me quite sombrely after the reality of what he had said hit him. “I don’t think I can make money playing games or whatever else,” he says to me in his continued somber tone. “Gimme a look,” I say to him as I hold my hand out gesturing him to show me his phone. My Dad takes notice, and I quickly gesture to him the game I have loaded up on my phone screen. He nods and waves us on. “Hmm, the lock down you have doesn’t restrict your ability to download applications,” I say to him.  Clearly his mood app was not active yet, which explained his somber demeanour and the reason his phone wasn’t alerting him of his display of illegal emotions.”Here, let me put a few things on here that can help you make some cash. It takes time and you’ll have to put some hours in at the start, but once you’re in the clear and your online CV looks good, you should have too many issues, plus I’ll show you how to make some money on this game”. He seemed to get extremely excited very quickly, he starts bouncing up and down and I didn’t really know how to take his mood swings. I’d not really seen or interacted with anyone who didn’t have their moods and emotions regulated. I realised it was quite difficult for me to handle. “Ok, just chill for a second,” I say whilst I watch his puzzled face shift into some sort of strange wide eyed stare. I start downloading the game to his phone. “Ok while we wait for that, have a look at these apps”

I start showing him writing apps that pay well for good articles, which is where I made most of my money currently. I mainly write fiction stories about the past inspired by real events that I had read about, and I also made some money helping Dad edit and write his university papers. Dad was a doctor in psychology and one of the first to start researching the effects of our phones and our moods and behaviours on them. He was onto some big things, but I only ever edited and wrote the papers that didn’t divulge any of the deeper detail his research dealt with. I was hoping to talk to him more about it while I was here, but the timing wasn’t right just yet. While we waited for a few of the apps to download I realised that I actually felt sorry for my cousin, he was bright and eager, but his parents wouldn’t let him get a proper education through any other means than Christian School, and these days all the answers were “god” pretty much, so his “education” wasn’t really credible in the market. It would be hard for him to get people to ready anything other than fiction stories, so I suggest he starts with that and builds on writing more credible things later. He agrees. A small ding rings out from my cousins phone. “Ahh Cool! World of Adventure has finished downloading” I say. I gesture him to open the app. He creates and names his character. “JesusBoy” was the name he went for. I made no judgement about it despite my internal concern, but I did warn him about people flaming him for it. He shrugged my warning off.

“So, the idea to make money in this game is that you do what we call grinding. Basically what that means is you put more effort in than others do to obtain rare gear which you can sell for credits. Now this sounds easy but it will take time. Only the really rare gear gets the high price, however, what most players do is trash their lower level gear to the NCP. But if you put it up for sale, some lazy slob will by it  because they cant be bothered finding it, so long as the price is right. What you can do is go to the auction house and search for the gear you find, if it appears in bulk, undercut the lowest price, if it doesn’t  appear at all, set a reasonable price of your own choosing. As you find gear at better quality and higher level you can increase that price but by using the same method. Most people play to level 20 and then never get past that boss, so their level never progresses but they always want to buy gear, so that’s how I do it.” He nods in excitement. “Just a few more tips” I continue. “Make sure you do the levelling quests and find some people online to play with because it makes it easier hunting for loot and finishing quests”  I finish explaining the basics and he seemed to get the concept.  “Any questions?” I ask him as he struggles to tear his eyes away from his screen. He shakes his head as he engaged a level 5 monster and someone how killed it at level 1. He skipped 2 levels doing that and found some gear that I gauged had a market value of about 100 credits. “You’ll do fine,” I think to myself. I go to walk away and he quickly stops me “Wait,” he says. He pauses for a moment then asks “Why don’t you just do this full time?” I shrug, I was more interest in reading, although he was right, if I worked hard enough I could easily make hundreds of thousands of credits monthly just playing the game. “Eh,” I respond. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was already loaded from endlessly grinding I did in that game back a few years ago. I had 2 stashes of credits from finding rare loot and selling it on the credit auction house. I didn’t really need the credits as the work I did for my Dad and the fictions stories I wrote kept my accounts topped up. My cousin notices the awkward silence I caused after simply responding with eh and looks back to his phone. As he does so, a memory flashs across my mind, it reminded me of when I was just starting out in the game and my best friend had giving me some in game gear and credits to get started when I was desperate for cash. The game had just come to mobile phones, and we were one of the first to gain access to it, although he had access to it for a few weeks longer than me. I realise I should do the same for my cousin. I logged into my main account on World of Adventure and scroll through my inventory looking for level up gems and level 20 high end gear. I find some stuff and then get my cousins attention. “Hey, so you’re still quite a low level, but take these and use them when you level up,” I send a transfer notification to him. “That should help you at level 20”. I smile as I hear him receive the transfer.

He nods in excitement and starts rummaging through the stuff I sent him. “Thanks heaps!!!” he exclaims. I dropped 1000 credits into his account and probably about another 2000 credits of gear into his bank. “No worries, Oh and watch out for scammers, they are rife in this game. A rule of thumb I follow to avoid getting scammed is if it’s too good to be true, then it’s a scam and don’t sell anything to other people via direct trade, you’ll get scammed that way through switch trading” I could see the terminology puzzled him so I sent him a quick google link with the definition. “Always sell in the auction house! and never meet up with people for trades in real life unless you know them”. He nods seriously and walks off staring at his phone. As I watch my cousins excitement a little bit of gaming motivation appeared in me which was quickly squashed by my Dad who’d called me over to the kitchen. “We need to talk” he says to me as he gestures me to walk over to him. He sounded serious. I was worried I was in trouble again. He seems restless and nervous. It was strange, why would anyone want these mood settings, I wondered for a few moments as he starts to pace back and forth as I walk up to him.

“Dad, whats up?” I asked concerned. He stops me with his hand, looks out to the family room where my Mum, Uncle, Aunty and now phone obsessed Cousin sat. My Aunt and Mum were babbling with their gossip modes to full and my uncle was reading something on his phone “We will talk tonight” he says but gently points out of the window in front of us. At first I don’t see anything and look at him strangle. He just directs his head back out the window after meeting my gaze. Moments pass and nothings happens. A few more moments pass and as I go to tell Dad that he was scaring me a level of alertness appears across his face and body like I’d never seen before. I quickly look back out the window to see a man in a black hat and coat walk by “See that man?” Dad asks “He’s walked past our house several times now” he explains. I’d never seen him like this. “Dad, are you ok? Is your phone malfunctioning or something?” I ask. He ignores my question and simply says “Meet me in my study later tonight, I have something to tell you”. I went to ask what it was about, but Mum called out “Hey you two, get over here, we’re saying our goodbyes” and with that Dad brushes past me and walks over to my Aunty as if not a patch of darkness or fear had come over him. What was even more astounding was there was no pause between his mood changes… it was peculiar, he didn’t even phase out into a head spin to switch between the two extremes so quickly. It was all a bit strange I thought. Mum catches me in mid ponder, “Get over here” she calls out waving her arm madly towards me in gesture of movement. I walk over and say my goodbyes, and walk my family to the front door. I spot the man Dad was paranoid about walking past again, he was staring at my Aunty and Uncle getting into the car. My Cousin was hitching a lift to the train station with them, and as yet hadn’t taken his eyes off his phone screen. “I’m going to get into trouble for that” I whisper to myself as I focus my stare back at the stranger walking past Mum and Dads house. I elbow my Dad and direct my head out to the street, but his eyes are already locked onto him. “I don’t know if it’s my app speaking Dad, but I think you’re obsessing a little too much about this person,” I say to him. My dad just shakes his head and says “We’ll talk later”.

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