Chapter Description: Cassie and Clark have a heated argument that starts over a random ad but hints at much deeper things.
Little Voices: Isn’t it time we listened?”
There was a brief pause as UsBox finished its commercial and went to the clip of the Muffet Show that I’d clicked on. Cassie and I unclapped our hands over our ears and came out from our hiding spaces. She was buried under all our blankets and pillows. I was under the bed with my eyes slammed shut and doing my best to close my ears to what the commercial may or may not be broadcasting.
“The FUCK was that, Clark?!” She was crying already, not that I can blame her. “THE FUCK?!”
I ran back over to the computer and clicked out back to the desktop. “It’s a commercial,” I said. “It’s just a commercial.” I was breathing hard, trying to stop my own tears of panic from breaking out and streaming down my cheeks.
The moment the commercial came on, and the word “Maturosis” was uttered, I leapt from my computer chair and scrambled under the bed. MistuhGwiffin had been rife with pop up ads on non-safe site that were hypnotic and mind fucking in nature.
Lots of chatter about ads that couldn’t be skipped and ‘glitches’ that made it impossible to click out while the ad was running. If you were close enough to the screen to click out, you were just as likely to get sucked into whatever mindfuckery subliminal bullshit that was being broadcast.
“I guess UsBox isn’t safe anymore.”
“YOU FUCKING THINK?!” Cassie screamed.
I did not react well. “HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?!” I screamed back. “IT DOESN’T TELL YOU WHAT COMMERCIAL IS GOING TO PLAY WHEN YOU CLICK ON THE VIDEO! IT MIGHT NOT EVEN HAVE BEEN A HYPNO AD!”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT WAS HYPNOTIC OR NOT!” Cassie said. “IT’S DANGEROUS!”
“HOW IS THAT DANGEROUS?!”
Cassie hopped off the bed and just sobbed. She opened her arms. “JUST FUCKING HOLD ME!”
I did. We held each other and cried, her grip never loosening on me, nor mine on hers. If we weren’t both standing up we might’ve cried ourselves to sleep.
Finally. After much too long, she let go. Our breathing was steady now. Our voice lowered. But what she said next hurt just as much as if she were screaming at me. “I want you to quit.”
“What?” It didn’t register. I was so shocked that I didn’t allow the weight of it to register fully.
“I want you to find a new job.” Cassie’s voice was low and patient. Steady as a clock. “Work somewhere else.”
I should have asked “why”, but really, I knew why. Instead I just took a step back and shook my head so quickly and subtly that vibrating it might’ve been a better descriptor. “No.”
“That commercial was talking like Beouf! It said Maturosis and everything!” Cassie said. She gestured to the computer as if it was its fault. “That Amazon on the bus and her Mind Fucked doll were talking about Little Voices. Remember?”
Of course I remembered. How could I have forgotten? The thing is, I almost agreed with Cassie. But I was feeling attacked and ambushed by my wife as much as by the UsBox commercial. People, in general, don’t respond well to feeling attacked.
“That means it probably wasn’t a hypno video,” I said. “If Little Voices is like Beouf, that’s a good thing. Beouf is against that kind of shit!”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a hypno video or not,” she said. “That shit is dangerous. It’s telling Amazons it's okay to treat us like babies.”
“At least it’s not telling them to treat us like Dolls.” I regretted saying that the moment it came out of me.
“I WANT TO BE TREATED LIKE A PERSON! AN ADULT PERSON!” The walls of our bedroom were shaking with Cassie’s rage.
I was crying now. I wasn’t scared or sad. Just fucking frustrated. “Cassie, my job is important to me.”
“You’re important to me.” Cassie’s waterworks had switched on. “You’re more important than your job.”
“Cassie,” I pleaded. “I’m teaching people. Not just my students, but my coworkers. I’m making a difference.”
Cassie gestured to the screen. “Do you think you’re making more of a difference than some corporation with unlimited money and airtime? Do you think you can teach Amazons the truth faster than they can be taught that we’re forever children?”
“I got not one but three Amazons to defend me from at least three other Amazons.”
Cassie scowled. “And how many other Littles have those Amazons mind fucked and thrown in a playpen? When is Beouf gonna look at one of her prisoners and go, ‘maybe this is an adult that I should treat with respect?’” I got quiet. “You’re not a teacher, Clark. You’re their feel good exception that proves the rule. You’re a collaborator. You’re a Helper.”
I stepped back. The tears stopped for a second, but only because I was so angry. “Wow,” I said. “That hurt. Alot.”
My wife was out of tears, too. “Yeah? Well it hurts me being worried that every day you leave for work you might not come back. Or that if you do, it’s because you’re in a stroller and some giant wants a matching set.”
The meanest light bulb popped up over my head. “What else am I supposed to do?” I asked. “What am I supposed to be doing with my life that’s less dangerous? I can’t draw like you. I can’t code or do stuff with computers. Any other job I take will be less pay and just as dangerous. More dangerous because I won’t have ten years of good credit built up with whatever Amazon I’m working for.”
“You could learn.” Cassie half-suggested, half-accused. “Online classes are a thing.”
“And pay the bills how, in the meantime?” I countered. “Most of my paycheck goes to the mortgage. I stop earning my part of the money…” (I was kind enough not to say “the majority of the money”) “and the only way we keep this house is if the new Amazon couple that buys this place moves us into the nursery!”
Cassie stepped back. She had nothing. I kept attacking.
“I’m on contract, anyway,” I said. “I can’t even think about quitting until the end of the school year. If I don’t show up for work too many times, guess what happens?” She didn’t need to. We both knew. “So what do you want to do, hun?” I almost spat. “Do you want me to quit my job and we’ll go live in a trailer park? Where we’re paid shit wages by Amazons who don’t have to see us? Where we’re constantly on the lookout just like we are now, but don’t even have the money or the privacy that we get? Should I just knock you up and keep you safe nine months at a time like your Mom and Dad want? Is that it?”
My wife turned away from me. “You’re not being fair,” she said.
“Life isn’t fair.” I said back. “You seem to know how my life should be. You want me to make all these drastic changes in my life because a new group of Amazons decide to be assholes and throw money at a screen. What alternative do I have?”
“I don’t…” Cassie stuttered. “I...I don’t know.”
I sighed and softened my tone. “Neither do I, hun. Neither do I.” My hand hovered over her shoulder. “Can I touch you?” Her back still turned to me, she nodded. I hugged her from behind. “I promise it’s gonna be okay,” I whispered to her. “I’ve got good people surrounding me. They’ll keep me safe. We’ve got it better than a lot of other Littles.”
“But what happens when we don’t?” Cassie softly replied.
“The moment I see anything suspicious; anything wrong; anything I can’t handle; I’m out of there. Okay?”
She clasped my arms to her chest. “Okay,” she said. Still, she sounded defeated. She sounded defeated, but I didn’t particularly feel like I’d won anything.