Chapter Four


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Amber Givens I am a snowflake falling down the sky. There are other snowflakes. They are white and moving faster than me. I reach out to them but can’t reach them. Touch them. They form a tunnel. I am falling down that tunnel. There is no ground. I am just falling.

Amber Givens I had pizza yesterday from Pizza Hut with other teachers. Was Meg’s birthday. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. I hate that time of the month, but then who doesn’t?

Amber Givens I love Henry O’Dell. I would wait forever but I’m afraid. When will he ask me to marry him? I would.

Amber Givens Say.

Amber Givens Yes.

Chapter Four

Amber remembered standing in Henry’s kitchen as she swallowed the pill, then falling. Then, there were snowflakes. She didn’t remember landing in water, yet when she woke up she was laying in a puddle. She crawled out of the puddle being  too weak to stand. When she was out of the puddle, she laid on her belly and studied her surroundings. She wasn’t in Henry’s apartment at all. Instead, she appeared to be in front of a barn surrounded by fields of corn. Next to the barn there was a two-story farm house.

Amber slowly stood up and peered over at the house. None of the lights were on, and there didn’t seem to be any other signs that anybody was home. She slowly walked towards the house.

She gingerly stepped onto the front porch. She was about to enter the house, when a voice said, “Your nanites are strong.”

She jerked her head around, and spotted an older, grey haired gentleman sitting in a rocking chair. He seemed friendly enough that he reminded her of her grandfather. “I’m sorry...I didn’t see you there.”

“That’s alright. We almost didn’t see you,” he responded.


“Everybody who’s stuck inside this server, like you,” the man explained. “But, you’re not stuck, are you? Your nanites worked.”

“How do you know about the nanoprobes?” Amber asked.

“Well, there’s no other way somebody can get their personality dumped into the computer, as far as I know. And, I should know since they shot a bunch of those little things into my head, too.”

“I..I, um, swallowed them. In pill form.”

“Oh, well, I was a part of the first trial, then. Injected them straight into my head. Then, I was here.”

“Here?” She stammered. “Where’s ‘here’?”

The man gestured towards the field in front of them. “See for yourself.”

Amber turned, and saw that the fields were separated by a driveway that lead away from the house. There was a huge sign posted at the point where the driveway connected with a nearby road. Amber followed the driveway, then when she was far enough to see the front of the sign looked up. The sign read, “Welcome to Hicksville.”

“Hicksville?” Amber said said when she was back at the house again. “There’s no such place. That’s a Facebook game.”

“Well, it might be a game to anybody who plays it,” the man said, “for us, its a prison.” Suddenly, a gust of wind blew across the farm. Still weak, Amber nearly fell over. “It’s time for you to go. Your nanites are strong.”

“Go? How do I go? Go where?”

“Go back to your body. Be thankful that you’re not stuck here with us.”


“The well.”

There was a well behind the house. Amber studied it carefully. What was she supposed to do? Jump in? Drink the water? She recalled the plotlines of Alice in Wonderland and The Matrix. The well had a crank on one side. It creaked as she turned it. Slowly, a bucket emerged from inside the well, but it didn’t contain water. Instead, there was what appeared to be a computer CPU.

“I don’t understand,” Amber said to herself. “What am I supposed to do?”

“Jack in.” The old man was standing next to her. His voice startled her. “Or whatever kids call it now.”

“Into a computer? How?”

“Use that.” The old man was pointing to her hips. Amber looked down, and to her surprise the tip of a slender tail was suspended in midair. She twisted her body, and followed the cord  to where it connected with her,  just above her tailbone. “Where did that come from?” she asked.

“Hurry,” the man said. “You can’t stay, and you can’t come back.” He gripped the end of her tail, and plunged it into a socket on the front of the CPU. Amber couldn’t help but feel violated, but before she could protest she felt a wave of pins and needles wash over her. It was as if every inch of her skin, and her organs were on fire. Then, the farm began to fade away from view.

When Amber woke again, she was laying down but not in a puddle. She was on a bed in Henry’s room. Henry and another man she didn’t recognize were watching her from different sides of the bed. Henry was sitting down, and the other was standing up. She also noticed that there were wires attached to her which lead to a laptop on the dresser, which was displaying her vital information.

She shifted her body and began to sit up. The room was spinning, and her stomach was doing flip flops.

Henry leaned forward, reaching out his hands for hers but she batted them away. “Amber, are you okay?”

“No,” Amber said, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Simon grabbed the nearest receptacle he could find--the trash can--and handed it to Henry. Henry handed it to Amber just as she sat up and began to puke. When she had stopped, she thrusted the trashcan back to Simon who took it reluctantly.

“Do you feel better, now?” Henry asked.

“Oh my head is killing me,” Amber said. Simon’s movement caught her attention, and she glanced towards him. “Who is he?” she wondered to herself. An object she could only describe as a computerized widget appeared at the bottom right hand corner of her view. The top of it said, “Would you like to search?” “Sure, why not,” she thought. The widget filled up with text, then a new window ballooned out of it. It was an image of a Facebook profile, and it belonged to Simon. Or, at least it belonged to a Simon Malone. All at once, she knew Simon’s address, where he went to school, and of course his title at Nova Beans. “Hi Simon,” she said.

“Hello, have we met?” Simon said.

“No, but I do see that you live on the North end of town. You have two brothers. Your sister passed away when you were twelve. I’m sorry.” As Amber talked the map showing an outline course to Simon’s house and Mary Malone’s obituary faded from her view. “She was very pretty.”

“What’s that all about?” Henry asked.

“The nanoprobes must have integrated with her brain,” Simon said, curtailing his excitement. “She’s tapped into the Internet.”

“Nanites,” Amber said.


“The farmer called them nanites. He said they were strong.”

“Farmer? What farmer?” Henry asked.

“There was a farmer. He said he was trapped..somewhere. He said I could leave, but I couldn’t return.”

“You talked to someone while you were unconscious?” Henry asked.

“No, I was awake. I was on a farm. He said that his nanites didn’t work.”

“How would he know about the nanoprobes?” Simon said. “Other than staff, only the test subjects knew and some of them never woke up.”

Amber turned to Henry. “During the first trial, how were the nanoprobes administered?”

“Well, at first we tried injecting them--”

“That’s what he said. They were injected.”

“That’s impossible,” Henry insisted. “There’s no way you could have talked to one of the test subjects, because they never interfaced with the computer. Their nanites failed.”

“But,” Simon said, “what if the nanites didn’t fail? What if it was something else? From the way that you’ve explained it, the interface actually relies on copying the user’s personality onto the servers, right?”

“Yes, like a cache. The idea was that a user’s copy would relay data from the Internet in response to commands.”

“There’s something else,” Amber said. “We were inside a game. Hicksville.”

“That stupid Facebook game?” Simon asked.

“Yes...we need to take a look at it.”

Henry pulled his laptop off of the dresser, launched a browser, then navigated to “Hicksville” on Facebook. As the game launched, a title screen appeared containing images of a farmhouse, a barn, and a farmer wearing a plaid shirt and overalls.

“That’s..that’s him!” Amber said. “That’s who I talked to.”

“You talked to a video game character?” Simon said.

“He was real. Like me. I, ah--” A light fog was settling over Amber’s vision. “I’m..I’m having trouble seeing. All of my widgets are fading.”


“They’re these...boxes that appear all over the place. It’s like having ‘Pop Up Video’ streamed to my head. I’ve been seeing them since I’ve been awake. Until now.”

“Could something be happening to the nanites?” Simon asked.

Henry grabbed his laptop, and pulled up the monitoring program for the interface. “The nanoprobes are fine, but we’re getting some data degradation. We’re losing bandwidth.”

“What would cause that?” Simon asked.

“Nothing. It can’t happen naturally.” Henry said. “Maybe somebody figured out what was happening..and is trying to stop it?”

“That’s an awful way to do it. If they cut off Amber from the server farm while the nanoprobes are still integrating themselves, it could damage her.”

Amber remembered the well with the CPU, and the cord that was attached to her like a tail. “We need another place to store my copy. Somewhere close that we can control.” She glanced at Simon’s pants pocket. “Like your iPhone.”

“My iPhone?” Simon said. He removed it from his pocket, and handed it to Amber. “There’s no way you’ll be able to use it. There’s isn’t enough capacity.”

“It will be enough,” she said. Then, instinctively she willed the phone to connect to her. Before she knew it, a mechanical tail had worked its way up out of her jeans and plugged directly into the side of the phone. The two guys jumped back in surprise. Then, Amber collapsed backwards onto the bed.

An hour went by without any movement or sound from Amber. Henry and Simon had retreated into the kitchen so that their nervous pacing wouldn’t distract her from whatever it was that she was doing.

“Seriously, man,” Simon said. “Did you know your girl friend has a tail?”

“She doesn’t.” Henry shot back. When he saw the look on Simon’s face, he added, “Of course she didn’t have a tail. Who would?”

“I hope you guys are going to replace my iPhone. Those things are not cheap. And once she starts talking to the Internet with that thing, my data usage is going to go through the roof.”

“You can send me the bill,” Henry said. “That’s Amber we’re talking about here. I say anything that keeps her safe is worth it.”

“I don’t know,” Simon said. “So far, I’ve almost been puked on and my iphone was pilfered by your cybernetic girlfriend. I’m still undecided about whether its been ‘worth it.’”

Just then, Henry’s cell phone let out a ding. He picked it up and looked at it. “Amber just sent friend requests to everyone I know on Facebook.”

“Does that mean she’s okay?” Simon asked

“I’d say she’s better than okay. She’s in.”

The End

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