Charlie Waclawski’s best builds ran cool and quiet, even pumped for gaming. I got to know him on NeoGaf when his post about Fortnite went viral. He was crazy, but he made me laugh. By the time we met, he wasn’t gaming much anymore—too many vulnerabilities, he said. He was even thinking of going off-grid. But then he discovered the n’Kiri bouncing along his fiber optic cable and into his motherboard.
I was the first one to hear about the n’Kiri. Maybe he thought a woman would be less judgmental. He’d posted before about vortex beams, about how light doesn’t just travel in waves but in crazy, spinning twists and turns. If we could manipulate its torque, he said, we could find the right frequencies to communicate across the multiverse.
I thought it was just hacker talk. I knew Charlie could spin the what ifs. Then, out of the blue, he sent me a private chat and asked if we could meet. In person. Charlie Waclawski, the guy who only left his basement for a good cup of coffee. He suggested a bench near the Swan Boats. When I got there, I almost walked right past because I was looking for the Pillsbury Doughboy. And Charlie was anything but. Not at all doughy. And not even a boy. In fact, she was totally my type.
Maybe that’s why I didn’t blink when she told me about the n’Kiri. About how her computer had been hacked, even though every test she ran came up clean. About how the n’Kiri reconfigured her circuit board, twisting quantum particles until bits became qubits and the n’Kiri finally had a way to say what they needed to say.
I asked her what that was.
“Everything.” she said.
“Anyway, I wanted you to know.” She got up from the bench.
So the n’Kiri were here. But Charlie Waclawski was about to walk out of my life. And that’s when my world broke right down the middle. In one, I lived a life where I’d never met Charlie. In the other, I lived a life where I’d always just lost her.
I didn’t like either. “Do you have to go?”
She gave a little shrug.
That’s when I did the stupidest, bravest thing I’ve ever done. I leaned in, took her face in my hands, and I kissed her.
That night the internet went dark. You don’t remember that, do you? For 48 hours people huddled in their cars listening to the news on their radios. And then, bang, it was back. Everything rebooted. And life went on.
For another 48 hours.
Yes, I still see Charlie. But not like I’d imagined. The n’Kiri changed all that. There’s no single story now. No single ending. We’re sitting on the bench. And not sitting on the bench. We’re kissing. And not kissing. She’s her. And she’s him. And the light corkscrews out from our fingertips, dancing and not dancing, across the dark, silent expanse.
Copyright Bonnie Burns 2019. All rights reserved.
*This is a repost with the missing third paragraph now intact. Don’t even ask.