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"What's the furthest you've ever been from home?" he asked, already bored of the question.
"A few counties out. Nothing too interesting. I went to the lake once, when I was still a kid. But that's as far as it is, and really the lakes are pretty much the same as here. If you can see the other shore without getting your feet wet it's not a lake, it's a puddle." Her nose wrinkled in disgust as she spoke. "It's marketing."
"Not a big fan of the glossy arts?" He stirred his coffee. Too much light came in through the front of the shop, and it made his face even greasier than it really was.
"Not a big fan of liars."
"Well, this isn't a lie: you really did win the contest. You're going far away."
"So is this a 'last starfighter' deal or a 'harry potter' deal?"
"The last starfighter almost died. Harry Potter did die." She raised a finger. "For a minute. Still dead. Still counts. But this isn't anything like that. You're going to go on much more beaten paths. You're going to experience the world exactly as seventy five billion other people experience it."
"There are only seven billion people."
"That you know. Honestly, I've been around, and those seven billion aren't that great on the whole. There's a few standouts, a few with a good spot of self-awareness, not too many. You're not missing out on much."
"But I can't call my parents?" she asked, sipping slowly.
"Long distance doesn't go quite that long, no." He smiled.
"Excellent. Let's kill some jerks."
The texts came fast, now.
Hey baby, I've missed you. / I missed you too. I just saw the new AvX movie. /I saw that last week! It's so good! / I didn't like it much. / Yeah the end was dumb but the first big fight! I'm worried about moving to the north side. Crime rates are supposed to be pretty bad there. / If you get nice neighbors it won't be a problem. Try introducing yourself before you move! Ask them abt area.
The deal was that someone would give up on dating services, text into Dotted Line Profile, and get a nonsexual text back from a supposed girlfriend. Cara was a girlfriend between two in the afternoon and midnight, minus three short breaks, for an average of a hundred men. She'd had an aunt go into prostitution many years before and from the way the older woman talked about it the work was similar.
"Men don't just want a hole, Cara. If they wanted a hole they could cut one into a mattress. They want somebody to take their problems seriously, like they're people. None of these guys are getting that at home."
Boss wrote me up 4 being late again!!! So mad!!! / That sucks : ( Wanna talk about it? / I wasn't even late this time! He's faking the timesheets!
There were a lot of people, men and women, doing this work, and the response times had to be kept low. Cara didn't have time to read more than the last two or three messages from any one person before she had to move on to the next, and the next, and the next. She wouldn't ever see these conversations again, and if she did they were so far along (and the names so generic) that she would never be able to recognize it. It was the same faceless man few thousand times a day.
I saw a roach / GROSS!! / Yeah :( not a fan. / Did you kill it???
She usually tried to do her work in coffeeshops or bars, parks or museums. Anyplace where she could look up from the keyboard and see other human beings close enough to smell and hear and if she really, really wanted to, close enough to reach out and grab by the shoulders to pull in for a full contact hug. She didn't really want to, though. Sometimes when she looked away from the clients she stared at the bathrooms and tried to spot wetness on people's hands, residue from a ritual done correctly, safely. She didn't like to touch people she didn't know or open doors herself. She saw a blank window pop up, a first time customer, and then-
R U a bot?! / Not at all, I just like to sell people viagra as a hobby ;P
That one bent the rules on sexual content but they were encouraged to be playful, especially with the B-word in play. Other services used Elizas or some other, newer bots, and it's true most people couldn't tell the difference. Most people didn't care about who was listening as long as they were speaking. But Cara's employer did care, very much, and they did not want anyone getting the wrong idea or starting any rumors.
Just heard about the coolest band, u got 2 check them out! Senin Bir Kitap! / ok I'll search it now!
Someone else would send the next message but Cara dug the headphones out of her pocket and did a quick search in another tab. The band came up right away, a bunch of middle eastern guys singing about not knowing any of their grandfathers' languages while they played decked-out middle eastern guitars and extra-wide synths. The beat was poppy and familiar despite all of the obtusely foreign elements and she smiled in spite of herself, turning on a playlist. The next song was called "never seen a tea leaf" and the album art featured a teacup with a pot leaf on the side.
Hey bb u want sum fuk?
I've been thinking about hitting the new AvX movie. Have you heard if it's good?