Melden’s Ma hadn’t even thought about that. But now that she was, she wondered whether Garth could’ve possibly brought the hack, into their homes. She whispered the suspicion conspiratorially as she leaned in to Melden’s Pa and paced away again as nonchalantly as she could. Melden’s Pa felt it didn’t add all the way up. And, he added, it also didn’t explain the bank’s afternoon inquisition. Melden’s Ma was inclined to agree.
Though, said Melden’s Pa, adopting hushed tones himself: You know what would explain the Bank? What about that one time we actually went in, to the bank, in person? And we’d had to get scanned for auth purposes… only the security guys were going on about how there were these brand new scanners… You were pregnant at the time, and you didn’t want to go through…
Their eyes widened and met; fomented some new alarm there in the hushed corridor.
Melden’s Ma rifled through her own memories, newly suspicious of them but finding what she needed there: a giant queue, going round several city blocks.
Cred nets had crashed that week. It was practically a run on the bank; a rare thing that got people spooked. Too many people, in fact. You waited forever for a full-body auth scan or you took the wrist watch option, when the bank’s reps started plying the queues to hand them out. It had been a welcome option for the elderly and the infirm, tired of waiting. An option to abort mission and go home.
We took the wearable, like lots of other people, said Melden’s Pa, breaking in to her thoughts. And what did we have to do? Just wear them for 3 days straight, right?
Oh my God, was all Melden’s Ma could say, thinking back. We both wore them. And then they could just be trashed, because by then they’d have all the data needed to auth us after the fact.
Like I said though, Melden’s Dad reminded her, we weren’t the only ones who took the easy route. If there was really a problem with the watches, you’d think there’d be tons of news stories by now.
Maybe there are, whispered Melden’s Ma, and we can’t see those, either. Like a… a fifth wall hack.
A fifth wall hack, said Melden’s Ma. Some people talk about it on net forums. It’s when people who are supposed to have a shared reality don’t have a shared reality anymore.
Melden’s Pa stared at her like he’d never met her before. It dawned on him that she really had been reading up a lot about nets.
Wow, was all he could think to say. And then he determined to do something instead of just standing there: he paced back to the doorway. Clearing his throat, he went into the room and approached Garth, took the boy by the shoulders. Garth: do you know who I am?
The boy’s face was blank. Melden tried to drag his friend away, to play. As if he couldn’t understand why he’d suddenly abandoned their interactions. That prompted his Pa to grab hold of him too. Do you know who I am, Melden’s Pa repeated.
The boys’ faces went, just then. Melting like plastic and then reforming into theatrical masks: one a happy face, one a sad face – just like that twenCen meme.
Melden’s Pa staggered back… tripped; fell back.
Melden’s Ma rushed forward, having no idea what his occipitals had just been fed with.
The boys were already back in their bunk-bed forts, swashbuckling and un-moved by the writhing grown man on the colorful rug, clutching his temples; un-moved too by the frantic woman crouched over him. Un-moved further still by the frenzied ringing of the doorbell: the polyphones crammed and overlapping in time, as somewhere several floors down in the lobby, a small wiry frame called desperately to be let in.
“Hey guys – it’s Lily. Where are you? I said I’d come over. Listen… You guys really need to get out of there. I got a buddy to run a scan on the trunk line to your apartment. Hello?”