When I first saw the post, I didn’t know how to react. “Prices constricting websites rising yet again.” I sat there, baffled, unsure of how I was going to pay my internet bill, let alone my rent. This was the fourth time in the past three months they’d decided to jack up the prices.
“I’m not sure where all that money was going, but at this point, they’ve probably got enough to employ a small army.”
I turned to look at my door. Within the dark frame stood my sister. She made her way over rotting floorboards and piles of trash until I could make out her face in the pale glow of my monitor.
I studied her ever-thinning frame, concerned that she wasn’t getting enough food. We both knew, however, that she was getting all the food that she possibly could have.
“Rachel, you don’t look healthy,” I said. “You’ve got to get something into your system.”
Ignoring me completely, she said. “I think this is another full raise. Didn’t take them long to figure out that raising every website at once is going to fund their greedy habits much better.”
I turned back to the monitor, noting that the brightness was dimming slowly. I’d have to pay soon or it’s going to shut down. I looked back up to my sister’s fragile frame, weighing my options.
She stared at me, puzzled. “Nathan, what are you doing? Pay the fee or it’ll shut down the computer.”
Finally settling on my choice. I watched at the display slowly faded until we we’re bathed in shadow. I precariously made my way to the light switch, once almost stepping on a jagged edge that would have sliced my decaying shoes to pieces.
I flipped the switch. Nothing.
“They shut the power off last week. We didn’t pay the bill. You told me we could just use the computer lights.”
My sister pulled a lighter out of her tattered pocket, and did her best to combat the darkness that had taken over the room. I looked at my surroundings. I hadn’t left this room in weeks. Had the walls always been this shade of mold?
“Let’s go downstairs.” I said to Rachel. When we arrived in what we once called our “kitchen”, she confronted me with my inaction as the computer faded.
“You need to eat more. This week’s computer wage is going to go into your stomach.”
“I’m not that hungry, I ate on Sunday.”
“Rachel, it’s Friday night.”
Ever shy in the face of confrontation, she backed off and sat on a small trash-less spot on the floor.
“I’m going to walk to the store and find us something to eat, you stay there.” I told her. “Don’t let anyone in.”
“Who would want to get in here anyways.” she mumbled, but complied non-the-less.
After a few hard pulls, the door came unstuck, replaced by a wall of humidity and heat. I was taken aback initially. It must’ve been, what, four months since I left the house? Five? It’s hard to keep track when the computer doesn’t sleep.
As I hurried on the sidewalk, eager to end my errand as fast as possible, I saw the familiar glow of LEDs from just about every window on the block. Each house was falling apart, but at least they had their internet, right?
In the store, there was one attendant, who was nice enough to instruct me in where to find what I needed. The faster I get home, the better. I don’t like being out here.
As I rounded the corner to my street, I saw lights from within my home. Shit, is someone raiding my setup? I rushed in to find my sister gagged and bound on her knees. Next to her were two men in riot gear. There was a third in front of them, clearly instructing them.
At the sound of the door they turned, and with a smile on his face, the head officer looked at me.
“Ah, Nathan, is it?”
Unsure of what to say, I just stood there, groceries in hand, the outside climate still breathing down my neck.
“It says in your file that you’ve stopped paying your internet bill. Is that true? That would be such a shame. It would mean we have to take you away.” He said with a faux sadness in his voice.
Angered at how he was treating my sister, I charged him, swinging the only thing i had at him as a weapon. There isn’t much a can of meat can do against someone in kevlar except to annoy them.
He smirked at me, and then sent a left hook to my jaw that toppled me to the ground. Dazed, I tried to get to my sister as she screamed through her gag. The man planted his boot firmly on my back, pinning me to the rotting floor.
He leaned down and whispered in my ear, an audible smirk in his voice.
“No one can live without the internet, Nathan.”