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The Bison Agenda

Here is the unedited chapter 1 of the Bison Agenda. There is still time to sign up for a exclusive edition by supporting me on Patreon.

The world would soon weep at the name Barry Bison. The bullies who photoshopped his face onto various bovine would know that Barry was destined for greatness. He wasn’t sure what irritated him more, that people his whole life never saw his potential or that the images used to taunt him in school were not always the same species of animal. They put his face on a cow once. A cow!

Now, all the fools in college who ignored him and the teacher who told him that he might want to consider another degree pathway would sweat when they encountered his influence upon the world. Tears would roll down their face, and Barry would cackle with glee at his creation. They would sob and truly understand they had misjudged him their whole life for Barry had made the perfect Buffalo wing.

It was the perfect combination of spice, tang, crisp crust, and tender, mouthwatering chicken. Blue cheese or ranch dressing had nothing on his wing. He envisioned a restaurant packed full of sweating people, devouring his wings, and plates returning with untouched celery and dipping sauce because they were so good, people wouldn’t even consider eating anything else but the meat.

The single wing on his plate with one bite taken out brought a tear to his eye. It wasn’t the spice, but the fact that he had done it. He looked up at his crappy studio apartment on Montgomery. The engine backfires of the late-night cruisers could be heard outside his paper-thin walls. He wouldn’t be here much longer. The Village Inn uniform that hung from the hook on his front door would soon be a relic of his past and not his primary source of income.

The half-sized two-burner cooktop with accompanying miniaturized oven will be nothing but a story he tells to the Albuquerque Journal reporter who sits down with him years later to hear the origin stories of how he went from small family restaurant to a national brand. The trash that smelled day in and day out with all his failed attempts to make a better chicken wing would no longer be a part of his life. He would have employees who would do that for him.

He picked up his culinary certificate from Central New Mexico Community College off the wall and threw it away. The teacher who had suggested another career pathway didn’t deserve any credit for all of his hard work. Barry was the one who persevered through it all, and his name would be on the sign: Barry Bison Wings.

Barry collapsed on his futon. It was a tangle of sheets and always smelled of grease because he was too tired to shower after work. A tear welled up in his eye. It was almost perfect. The dream was near complete. Through an inconvenient fact of his birth, he was named Bison and not the more popular word Buffalo. However, he couldn’t call his creation Barry Buffalo Wings even if it happened to be more accurate. He would be dishonoring all the Bison’s who came before him.

His late father and mother were already etched in stone in a little graveyard near Yale by the university. His parents had even bought him a plot years ago as part of a package deal. He would not be buried with the name Buffalo, and there had to be a solution to his dilemma. Perhaps he could move to Buffalo, New York, and start a campaign to rename the town Bison. It would be fitting to release his innovation of an American favorite in the same city where they were invented.

He knew the idea wasn’t a viable solution. The chicken wing treat was already named Buffalo, and like it or not, the name stuck. The only path forward would be to somehow convince the world that bison was a better word than buffalo. Barry smiled. He was on to something. Bison was indeed the official name of the animal of his namesake. Maybe he could start a society dedicated to championing the word bison. There might even already be a bison enthusiast society he could leverage. Perhaps he could use them to squash the word buffalo from the English language.

He pulled out an iPad so ancient the software wouldn’t even update anymore, and half apps wouldn’t work because they were out of date. He pounded in his code and pulled up the University of New Mexico’s website. If there was a group with esoteric interests, they probably would operate out of UNM.

Before finding the Biology Department’s home page, he saw a little box that said, “UNM LIVE!” There were links to several streaming videos, including one of the duck pond. Barry almost dismissed them as a frivolous waste of time when he saw one labeled, Time Travel with the Professor.

Time travel would do the trick. He could go back to when people first started using the word buffalo and convince them to use bison. Then Buffalo, New York would be Bison, New York. His problem was solved. It was an intriguing thought, but changing the past was firmly in the realm of science fiction. Still, if there was even a remote possibility, it would undoubtedly be more straightforward than getting some bison nerds to lobby congress on his behalf.

He clicked on the live stream, and there was a man with greying hair and crow’s feet wearing a lab coat. He had a petite assistant with brown hair and glasses. She spoke with a mild English accent, “Honestly, professor, I don’t see why you are live streaming this. Nobody watches it.”
The man’s eyes darted downward and said, “We have one viewer. If that’s you, Theo, this will not count for extra credit. You still need to turn in your assignment.”

The assistant laughed and said, “He’s still there, at least Theo’s watching. Shall we get on with it?”

The professor stood up and said, “Right, Clara, go ahead and program the machine for thirty seconds into the future. Don’t want to inadvertently alter our timeline.”

“That’s exactly what I want to do,” Barry muttered.

Clara tapped the keys on a laptop. The professor pulled out a sealed test tube with a clear liquid. “Inside is a radioactive material that we will be able to measure down to the Becquerel.”

“In English, professor, you may chase off your one viewer,” Clara laughed.

“Theo should know this, don’t you, Theo? The point is if this did travel thirty seconds into the future, we will know by measuring how much the material inside has decayed. Clara, if you’d be so kind as to flip the switch.”

She pressed a button, and a blue vortex with crackling white energy appeared on a long black table. The professor tied a string to the test tube. He tossed it into the portal, and it crackled grew brighter. He waited for a few seconds and then pulled the line back. The severed string fell limp.
Clara shut the machine down and said, “Shame, maybe it will appear in thirty seconds.”

“It might not be in the same reference frame as us anymore. Remember, the Earth is spinning and revolving around the sun as we speak. We don’t know if time travel accounts for that.”
“Suppose it is still bound by gravity. Won’t the portal just open and plop the tube on the other side of it?”

“Sure, but we don’t know what it’s going to do. It could be 900 kilometers out in space for all we know!”

“So, we wait.”

“Maybe I need something stronger than string… a chain perhaps?”

They waited for the test tube to reappear. Clara closed down the controls of the machine while the professor fiddled with equations on a smartboard. Thirty seconds came and went. There was still no test tube. Barry wasn’t quite sure why he continued watching. Maybe it was the small hope that for once in his life, a solution would just present itself.

Barry had to struggle for everything he owned. The perfect Buffalo—no, bison wing was years in the making. He didn’t even know the difference between an oven and a stove when he first started. His parents microwaved everything they ate. It wasn’t until he was eighteen out of the oppressive small town of Crownpoint, New Mexico, and thrown into the deep end of the big city when he first discovered the power of food.

He had walked to the Frontier when a person from Math 0970 course at CNM had suggested it as a place to eat. He expected a small little greasy spoon and got a jaw-dropping display of the power of food. Room after room, stuffed with southwest décor and John Wayne paintings, were people of every ethnic background eating their lunch. It wasn’t like his school at all, which was mostly natives and a few white people.

The place was a well-oiled machine with people flooding toward the counter and red numbers displaying the ready orders. He was too overwhelmed to order at first, and people had pushed passed him. The polite ones would ask him if he was in line to which he could only mutter, and they would step ahead of him, avoiding eye contact.

The reason he had freaked out was that the closest thing to a restaurant he ever saw was Wendy’s in Gallup, and that was a rare treat only when his family would make their monthly trip to Walmart. It wasn’t that his family was poor, it was just that they were so remote. His dad was a white doctor who decided to practice in Crownpoint to help pay off his student loans. His mom was a native woman he had met during his tenure, and they had decided to stay near his mom’s family.

It wasn’t till Barry had decided to go as far away as he could for school when they decided to skip town as well. His dad had retired, they bought a townhouse in the neighborhood where all the professors lived and even got an extra room for Barry. His dad was so damned thrifty that they made Barry live in it. They even decided that Barry would attend CNM and transfer the credits to UNM after a major was selected.

Barry had figured out a profound truth about himself that day at the Frontier. There was something about the cluster of people. The sizzling of the meat in the back. The tortilla machine that resembled a Rube Goldberg device pumping out perfectly round and delicious tortillas. He had found where he was meant to be.

Barry had filled out his application and was rejected the very next day when the interviewer told him to “get more experience” and come back and see them. Much to his dad’s dismay, Barry had decided that a culinary certificate from CNM would suit him just fine. He had no idea how quickly he’d need that degree.

The Bisons had died in an aquatic accident a few months after his introduction to the Frontier. His father and mom wanted to see the world in their retirement and got more than they had bargained for when the shark diving cage malfunctioned. His mom ended up in the digestive tract of a great white. His dad’s wealth was sucked away by the expensive emergency room care treatment, and the days his dad stayed in a foreign hospital before passing on. Even the cost to get what was left of their bodies back to the United States wiped out their life savings.

Barry inherited enough to finish his degree, a plot of land in a graveyard, and a mortgage on a townhouse that went quickly into foreclosure. Unable to secure a job at the hallowed halls of the Frontier, he got one working at the Village Inn near the airport and been stuck there ever since. Until tonight, he finally created something of value in this world, and his late mom and dad would forever be a buffalo if he couldn’t do something about it.

Then it happened. The professor, who seemed to be unaware the live feed was still rolling, asked his assistant for a nightcap. She declined and packed it in for the night. The man turned back to the table, and maybe five minutes after she had left the room, the vortex appeared. A test tube attached to a string came out and fell to the ground, shattering. The radioactive liquid inside spilled to the floor.

The man shouted in triumph and ran into the hall. Clara must have been gone because a few seconds later, he trotted to his equations and inspected the numbers. He yelled, “Of course, the quantum tunnel would experience a time dilation effect.”

He jiggled around the numbers on the smartboard and said, “Yes, yes. That would make the time equivalency more accurate.”

The man typed in a new configuration into the laptop and fired up the time machine. He tossed a penny inside and powered it down. He looked at his watch and counted. The vortex appeared thirty seconds later, and the penny landed on the table.

“Oh my god! It works. Clara, it works!” He glanced at her empty desk. A frown crept onto his face.
He turned toward the computer that had been streaming the event. Barry jumped out of the window and closed down his iPad. He dropped onto his bed and said. “Bison. Barry Bison Wings.”

Clara has it all, a swanky new job, a hot robot babe, and even a time machine. Paradise all comes crashing down when she realizes her ticket to the future was stolen.

She wakes up in a world that has been reshaped by the whim of a time traveler with a strange obsession with Bison and chicken wings. Now she has to fix the timeline, or everyone she knows and loves will be wiped from existence.

There’s also a lot of flightless birds.

Find out how it all fits together in The Bison Agenda, the not anticipated sequel of Time Burrito.

Get an exclusive Patreon only edition by pledging now.

Tuners – Chapter One

Here is a sneak peak at chapter one of the Tuners. Don’t forget to secure your advanced copy over here at Patreon:

Jon Xiong’s earbuds crackled, overpowered by a blast of static. His music was interrupted like a radio station losing signal. In a silhouette of purple light, a blonde in a blue plaid skirt and a white button-up shirt seemed to step into existence in front of the Forever 21 sweater display a few feet from Jon’s location. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and he had a brief moment where he thought he had imagined her.

As real as anyone else, she pulled out a pair of pink headphones from her ear and stuffed them into a hipster backpack. She spoke into her phone, “I’m in U-42—In pursuit.”

She turned and crashed into Jon. They tumbled to the ground. She was on top of him. He looked into her crystal blue eyes and was utterly lost for words. He stammered, but nothing came out.

“Sorry,” she muttered and pushed herself up.

Jon lifted himself to standing, and by the time he had turned around, she was gone like she had evaporated like a drop of water on heated a skillet. The only thing that was left was her white smartphone with the pink case that she had dropped in the collision. He scooped up the device. The make and model were unfamiliar to him. The lock screen had a picture of her and another girl who might have been a younger sister.

Jon was seventeen, had spiked hair and a skateboard. A white cord snaked from his backpack to his earbuds. He was always listening to music, and the soundtrack of his life irritated his dad. His father always hounded him to take the earphones out and pay attention once in a while. Jon, on the other hand, wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he didn’t listen to music.

Blond hair and a blue skirt flashed by the window of the store. He dashed out after her. After a quick scan, he saw the direction she had gone. Jon followed and wove in and out of the people at the mall. At one point, he got stuck behind a large group of elderly women power walking in their jogging gear. Another group of girls sneered at him when he pushed through them.

Finally, he made it to a large intersection where the mall branched in several different directions. He looked every which way and didn’t see her. He thought he had lost her when he had noticed that she had gone down a set of stairs. It was a small service entry, so there weren’t any witnesses.

A man in a large coat held her by the neck. He had black hair, a black beard, and was missing a couple of teeth. There was a scar on his forehead. It looked as if someone had carved a star into his skull. The man held a blade to her throat. It was an odd weapon that erupted from his knuckles like if Wolverine had one giant fierce claw. She struggled to free herself but couldn’t escape his grip.

Jon thought fast and put his skateboard on the ground. There was a No Skateboarding sign right in front of him. As chance would have it, his favorite punk song queued up on the playlist always rolling around his ears. Jon kicked his feet off the ground and skated toward the staircase. A hefty mall cop from across the way saw Jon and yelled, “You, stop right there!”

He jumped the board onto the railing of the stairs. He ground his way down, and the black-bearded man turned at the last moment. The board cracked the man in the teeth, and the guy went sprawling down to the ground, dropping the blonde in the process. Jon whirled around and stuck his hand out. She took it, and he helped her to her feet. He locked eyes with her for a brief moment.

“You dropped this,” He said and handed her the device.

His heart pounded because he wasn’t sure what to do next. He didn’t talk much to girls much less saved one before. Jon had never been good with women. He didn’t really know what to say to them, and they always ignored him.

“Thanks. I got it from here,” she said and swiped the phone.

“Um—What about him?” He stammered.

She ignored him and turned towards the man sprawled out on the ground. The guy was rubbing his head and groaning. She pulled out her pink headphones, put them in her ears, and jacked into her device. She swiped at an app Jon had never seen before. Abby placed her hand on the man’s shoulder, and she said into her phone. “I got him. I’m tuning now. I just got a local to deal with. Hey, you—”

“Jon,” he said.

“Jon, could you go upstairs and get mall security? Don’t worry. This guy isn’t going anywhere.”

“Um—okay,” Jon said and turned toward the stairs. He got up two steps and said,

“Maybe I should just call—”

The blonde and the man were gone.

Seconds later, the overweight mall cop appeared at the top of the staircase, gasping for air, exhausted by his run across the mall.

“You come up here!” The cop said between breaths. “Don’t—make me—come down there.”

The Tuners Are Coming

A couple of years ago, I started writing a trilogy about a group of teens who heard the sound of nearby parallel universes and could travel to them. It started with a conversation where my wife and I were talking about how malls are the same everywhere, and if there was a multiverse, Forever 21 would find a way to put a store there (this all happened while we were walking past a Forever 21 and commenting how if we stepped into a parallel world would we even know it).

This trilogy is probably the most exciting and action-packed thing I ever wrote. Because I had decided not to share it until the last book was done, it took some turns and twists I didn’t expect because I could always go back and rewrite the first book. I am ready to release all three, and I’m going to do it on the same day. If you want to get a copy before anyone else does, go to my patreon page. I am going to give you all three, and the best part is I’m not going to change the prices. That’s right, you get all three for the price of one.  Stay tuned to this space for more information. In the meantime, help support one of my colleagues with his new release, The Fringe Candidate. Here is a sneak peek at the cover art of book 1:

Aaron Frale ebook (1)In the void between universes, a secretive organization called the Tuners works to maintain peace in the multiverse. The stability is threatened when a group of religious radicals seek to burn all those who do not believe. Jon Xiong, a seventeen-year-old from Montana, gets caught up in much bigger problems when the cult members appear at his home. The order wants him because he has the ability distinguish the subtle differences of the cosmic background noise between universes. He can tune, and now he is a foot soldier stuck between those who would maintain order in the universe and those who would destroy it. Some gift tuning turned out to be.

The Robin Hood of Couches Special Edition

Today is your last chance to get the special Patreon members only edition of The Robin Hood of Couches! Thank you so much to all the folks who’ve already donated. Your support means a lot to me. You can secure your copy here on Patreon. If you want to skip all this Patreon stuff, you can preorder on Amazon here.

Thank you to everyone whose supported me already. Here is a sneak peak at the second chapter:

The Academy never prepared Reese for the smell of a body. It was a putrid, foul odor that was worse than the time he had found week-old leftovers from a steakhouse underneath the seat of his car. Since he hadn’t known what was inside the foil, he had unwrapped it and puked. The body of the man today festered in a drainage pool. The victim’s beard was matted and infested with bugs. According to the display hovering in the air in front of him, the DNA match was for Derrick Yusuf, a delivery handler for MotoCom. According to his supervisors, the man took a week off without giving a reason why before he died.

The local detective walked right into the display. Typically, it was rude to step into other people’s screens, but Reese had set it to private so no one could see what he was seeing. The cop poked at Reese and said, “Do you need to puke?”

“No, I’m fine.” Reese’s stomach had come a long way since the tinfoil surprise, but that didn’t stop the smell from making him lose his appetite for the rest of the day. Which was unfortunate because for lunch later on, his girlfriend treated him to this new Russian place with the best perogies in the city, and he didn’t eat a bite, claiming illness rather than recounting the memory of the smell with her.

“I’m surprised. All you corporate types puke your first time on the scene,” the detective said.

“Most of my colleagues are here to expose fraud and get big paychecks when they find the CFO skimming off the top. I’m here to find the truth,” Reese said.

“What? You didn’t get into Corporate Investigations for the finder’s fees and the big payday? If you want to make a difference in the world, you should come to collect the city paycheck with us.”

“Then I wouldn’t have access to the best equipment, and I couldn’t afford those subscriptions on a cop’s salary.”

“It’s the equipment, he says. Yeah, yeah, you’ll be driving your Maserati at the track on weekends. We appreciate the funding CI gives us but try to remember this is a crime scene. That body’s a real person, and don’t touch anything.” The cop walked out of the screen view, and Derrick’s information came back up. His crawler was now downloading social media info. Mr. Yusuf apparently liked to cure his own meats and made his own cheeses. It was an esoteric hobby when everyone’s entire house was a giant 3D printer these days.

The truth of the situation was that Reese enjoyed the tech available to even the lowest-level investigator, but it wasn’t the real reason he decided to attend the CI Academy, a school that only admits .07% of the applicants every year. He suffered through the sleepless nights of study, grueling physical activity, and endless skills training because he really wanted to make a difference in the world.

When the CIs weren’t driving their Maseratis at the tracks on weekends, they were making the world a better place. It was a high-profile CI who brought down the most notorious drug lord that made crime bosses of the past like Guzmán and Capone look like the awkward kid brother. CIs brought down an entire terrorist network that almost snuck a dirty bomb into the Olympics.

A lot of people criticized the CIs and said they were only out to protect their bosses’ payday, but no one ever mentioned that, by protecting corporate interests, the people’s interests were protected too. The cop wouldn’t understand any of it. He’d think Reese was a CI chasing another payday when the reality was that this new recruit cared just as much about solving the murder as the police did.

Since the victim had a couple of anomalous shipping discrepancies, CI was called onto the scene too. Despite the cop’s misgivings, Reese wouldn’t need to touch anything to find out everything he needed to know. Microprinted nanites swarmed the scene, scanning everything and uploading it to the CI cloud. They were spawned from a top of the line set of implants. The chip in his arm and ocular enhancer in his right eye were years ahead of what someone could get installed at the mall. In fact, the injections wouldn’t even be available to the public for another five years, and by then, CI would no doubt have upgraded him.

While the profile of the murder victim was being built, Reese swiped away his display and decided to snoop around the crime scene. It didn’t take a forensic scientist to figure out the cause of death. The man’s head was caved in with a blunt object. The wound was messy and created by many swifts strikes, as if the killer lashed out with rage. From the angle of the blow, the perpetrator was of average height.

From the looks of it, the body would have gone unnoticed for a while if a couple of kids hadn’t decided to race their sticks down the storm drain. According to the social media reports, the man didn’t have anyone close enough to report him missing. A few friends grumbled at him for standing them up, and a regular gaming group questioned why he didn’t show, but there were no police reports filed. From his phone and email history, he sparingly called home. CI was quick to submit the documents for the release of personal records, and it was even easier when there was a body. Reese was sure the local police didn’t even have email access yet.

There also didn’t seem to be much motivation in his social circle for his death. No one seemed to be more than lukewarm to him. That left the shipping reports that flagged CI to investigate the potential profit loss. According to the report, Mr. Yusuf was a lead handler for MotoCom’s automated shipping service, and his vehicles seemed to be expending more energy than they were scheduled to use, which meant that he was moonlighting and MotoCom wanted a cut. All cars were driverless, but robots were not quite ready to tackle the task of moving a package from the back into the unknown circumstances of someone’s home. So the driverless trucks would park outside a house, and the handlers would bring the box to the door.

The victim’s job was to sit in a truck all day and deliver packages when it stopped. Robots were no doubt already being conceived that could replace Derrick and his coworkers, but until the robotics companies could guarantee that a robot wouldn’t trample a kid playing in the lawn when it went to deliver a package, humans were still needed for deliveries, especially furniture. Derrick seemed to deliver a lot of it.
However, unlike driverless cars, which had the backing of many large companies to get them on the road, the multipurpose robot that could move a couch didn’t have as many industry giants because the real money was in digital property. Since all buildings constructed after a certain year had 3D printing technology built into their very walls, companies had been selling people the right to use their designs for a subscription fee.
Because objects could materialize from the 3D printers in the walls of most houses, the act of shopping every week for the latest fashion had become an antiquated thing. People really didn’t own anything anymore. The stylish handbag was the digital right to reproduce that handbag. As soon as the owner canceled their subscription, they no longer had the right to produce the purse, so the 3D printers would strip it down atom by atom and use the material for whatever active subscriptions were there. It was the ultimate in recycling.

Since most people 3D printed everything in their lives, Derrick’s job was a niche industry. The other odd part was that people very rarely had furniture shipped. People who kept the shipping industry alive did it because they would insist that 3D-printed wine didn’t taste the same, or wanted a printed book signed by the author with the assurance that the author’s hand really did touch that page. The bulk of shipped items consisted mainly of small objects that a collector or an enthusiast would pay absurdly high prices for in order to prove that its molecules weren’t stacked up by a 3D printer.
A collector wanting furniture that didn’t come from a 3D printer had to have deep pockets. Derrick bought wine from a vineyard once as a gift for his girlfriend, and it was the most expensive thing he ever purchased in gift form. And in all honesty, when his girlfriend wasn’t looking, he had the same wine 3D printed and could not tell the difference. He thought that the whole shipping industry was a gimmick to squeeze money out of wealthy people.

However, the furniture deliveries didn’t add up. Derrick delivered to many different addresses and never the same one twice. Each delivery was to a different name. Even an enthusiast wouldn’t have that many alternate identities. The only possibilities were that the mystery person was paying a new person every couple of days to receive the furniture and then coming to pick it up later, presumably to hide its final destination, or the person was laundering money, and most of the shipments were fake. It was a possibility that Derrick doctored his reports and got a payout for no delivery.
However, laundering money in the shipping world was pretty complicated. Since the truck had an internal scale that would track the weight coming on and off, Mr. Yusuf would have had to hack the system and trick the onboard computers into believing that furniture was being delivered, in addition to paying off all the movers under him to corroborate the story. The furniture was loaded on the truck at one of the mega-warehouses that were initially constructed by Amazon. He’d have to do some digging to see where the furniture came from because the mega-warehouses were the world’s largest middlemen.

Reese was sure the crime and the massive influx of furniture had to be connected. Even though he wasn’t supposed to investigate the murder, he knew he’d be the one to figure it out. If he could leave the world a better place than he had inherited, then he could count his new job as a win. The first step would involve checking out the last shipment Derrick ever delivered, an apartment full of furniture to a Tyrell Bryant.

The Robin Hood of Couches Cover Reveal

The Robin Hood of couches is coming out soon! Check out the cover art below. Remember, if you want to get the special Patreon members only version of this book with bonus content place a $5 or above donation before 7/25/19 ($2 donations will get the regular eBook edition in advance of everyone else). If you want to skip all this Patreon stuff you can preorder on Amazon here.

coveredited

Thank you to everyone whose supported me already. Here is a sneak peak at the first chapter:

Tyrell’s life was officially over. He elected to spend his last precious moments fiddling with the controls of his couch. When he had first learned of the impending disaster, he decided on Fluffy Cloud, which made it feel like he was drifting through the air when he sat on the billowing white cushions. Now, after a few swipes and taps on the display hovering in front of him, he selected College Futon. The molecules in the couch rearranged themselves to a hard, uncomfortable mattress on top of a black metal frame.

College Futon
felt right. Let them take a sad futon when they took everything he owned. He went for the TV next. He closed the couch app on the screen hovering in front of him and opened the TV one. He always liked 360 Display with HoloSport Playback. He could see the football fly from the rear wall of his apartment to the front as if it were in the room. He turned off 360 and pulled up 1970’s Vintage Wood Panel Tube. The TV screen that enveloped his living room faded away, and an old tube TV with wood paneling appeared on the other side of the room from his futon.

Tyrell got up and clicked the big thick knob of the set. The screen changed from an I Love Lucy rerun to the technicolor world of Green Acres. He laughed as he flipped the channels with an actual dial. “Don’t touch that dial,” he said and cackled.
The replica was so authentic. He even had to bang the side of the TV when the picture went out. He could have saved so much money per month if he had done this earlier and stripped the furniture in his apartment to the basic models and lowered his service plans. But now it was too late; his bank account was not only negative, but it was so negative that his next paycheck wouldn’t even make it positive again.

He would have been fine if his son’s school waited till withdraw the tuition Wednesday like they said they would. Instead, every little five-dollar transaction got hit with an overdraft fee. Tyrell was addicted to chipping in five bucks to any Kickstarter campaign that seemed halfway exciting or had a heartwarming story behind it. The little charges created a giant negative cash flow when the overdraft fees got involved.

Tyrell had yelled at the customer service representative of the bank. He had called the fees a tax a on poor people and would rant to anyone who would listen about how banks could charge as many fees as they wanted, but the only people it would end up hurting were the people without money. He had screamed and yelled, but in the end, could do nothing to prevent the loss of everything he owned.

He plopped back down on the futon and enjoyed the last few moments on a hard, uncomfortable surface. The screen hovering in the air popped up with a message and a countdown timer marking the final minutes he’d own a couch:
Couch+: FINAL NOTICE: Your payment was unable to process. Enter alternate payment method now?

When Tyrell failed to enter an alternate payment method, the couch dissolved when the timer reached zero. With no molecules strung together under his rump to form a College Futon, he hit the floor with a thump.

The TV went next:

TV HERO: Payment failed: 3rd NOTICE. Please enter a new payment method now to avoid disruption of your service.
In the course of the next few days, every object he owned disappeared until he was left with an empty apartment. He thanked his lucky stars that his bathroom was tied to the rent and wasn’t on a subscription service. He still had another couple of weeks to figure out that impending disaster.

_______
The 3D printer built into the fabric of his walls was the deluxe edition, and the payment bounced like the rest of them. Now he couldn’t even print a new couch even if he could restart his service. He sat down in the middle of the empty room and a pit formed in his stomach. Tyrell’s ex would be dropping off his son tomorrow, and once she saw the state of his apartment, everything she ever said or thought about him would be confirmed. He knew what would happen next. She would march his son out the door, and the state would evaluate his fitness to be a father. Because of a few overdraft fees, he would never see his son again.

His paycheck had hit the account a week ago. The negative balance was slightly less negative but still not even enough for a meal. Tyrell was hungry because even the food in his fridge (not to mention the fridge itself) was on a subscription service. He was lucky that lunch was a perk at his place of employment, so he at least got one meal a day plus whatever he could shove into his pockets.

Tyrell pondered borrowing some money to clear the balance and at least re-up his kid’s room subscription service. His mother had less money than him. His father was in prison, and his friends always owed him money. That left payday loans, which were worse. He’d owe more money than he could afford in interest and be right back where he started. However, the black hole of payday loans was tempting. Maybe his ex would be a little more sympathetic when she saw he spent his last dime on his son.

Tyrell wrung his hands and cursed the overdraft fees. There were fees to keep his drone technician license up-to-date. There were fees for phones, utilities, and roadways. Every time he encountered a necessary task from the government, there were fees. There were late fees, overdraft fees, neighborhood associations fees, parking fees, and the ultimate scam, the electronic processing fee.

It also didn’t help that most of his paycheck would go to his ex. The money was supposed to be for his son, but he saw her nails and hair. They weren’t cheap to maintain. He cut that thought before it could go any further. Whenever things got rocky, he’d blame her for their problems, which led to the divorce. It wasn’t until he almost lost his son that he realized he had some of the blame to share as well.

He sat in an empty apartment and waited for his life to crumble.

The doorbell rang.

He tiptoed toward the front door. His footsteps echoed in the empty apartment, and the noise was unsettling. He almost didn’t answer the door, but the doorbell was persistent. He swung it opened, and a white guy with a long beard and thick glasses said, “Tyrell Bryant?”

“Who’s asking?” Tyrell said.

“We have a delivery for you,” the man said, and a screen appeared between them with a signature box. Tyrell reached out and signed for the package with a flick of his finger. The man went back downstairs to get the shipment. Tyrell racked his brain for what it could possibly be. The various Kickstarter campaigns would always come with a reward, but they would still be digital.

In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he had a physical object shipped to his house.
It was way more expensive to order an object like a fancy new kitchen knife and have it delivered than to pay a low monthly fee for a fully stocked kitchen of any utensil he desired. Only elderly people like his grandma had kitchens with all these drawers and cabinet space. Before his subscription ran out, he’d punch in the tool he needed, and it would appear on the counter in front of him. When he was done, it would disappear along with the mess. It was much better than loading the dishwasher, like when he was a kid.

Only collectors and wealthy people seemed to own physical objects anymore. He had a friend who would buy the hundred-dollar tier on Kickstarter just to buy a physical copy of a book because he liked the way the pages felt. He used to think his friend was such an oddball. However, his entire collection of Kickstarter reward books disappeared when the EliteCloudPlatinum digital storage space had expired. He would not make fun of his friend anymore because of what he’d give for a book or something to take his mind off his encounter with his ex tomorrow.

The bearded man didn’t come back with a book or anything that could even be misconstrued as a reward for supporting a crowd-funded campaign. It was a couch, a large brown sofa with a stain resistant finish.

“Where you want it?” the bearded man said.

“I didn’t order this,” Tyrell said.

“If there is a problem with the order, take it up with the place you bought it from. We are just the delivery service.” The man rolled his eyes. His partner set the couch down and leaned against it.

“No, what I mean to say is you got the wrong address.”

“Are you Tyrell Bryant? At this address?”

“Yeah.”

“Then all this stuff is yours.”

“What do you mean all?” Just as Tyrell said that, two more large men hefted a twin-sized bed up the stairs. It was the perfect size for his son’s room.

“You can refuse delivery—” the bearded man began.

“No, you can put that over here, and that bed can go in the smaller of the two bedrooms under the window,” Tyrell said. His prayers had been answered. Even if it was a mix-up, maybe he could keep the stuff long enough to clear his account and give his son a place to stay for the week.

For the rest of the night, the movers lugged a two-bedroom apartment’s worth of furniture up three flights of stairs and down the hall to 307. He was getting the full service from lamps to a new bed, and even kitchen utensils (including a cart to store them in). He also got a network-enabled TV, not that it would do any good without subscriptions to any of the streaming services. To his surprise, he even got a bookshelf with enough books to make his friend jealous. What really amazed him was an archaic piece of technology called a Blu-ray player. He hadn’t seen one of those since he was a kid. Physical movie players disappeared when collections went digital. Some of the movies included were ones he remembered watching as a kid in his pajamas with his father. However, oddly enough, there were new movies too, even though companies stopped making Blu-rays years and years ago.

Before he could ponder any further, the bearded man shoved a stylus in Tyrell’s face and sent him a request to share a screen. “Sign here to verify that it is all here.”

“Since I don’t know what supposed to be here, sure, I’ll sign,” Tyrell said. The bearded man and his colleagues walked out the door. He could hear them mumbling something about rich people as they went for the elevator. Tyrell would have been right there grumbling with them if his apartment wasn’t fully loaded with subscription-free furniture. The couch itself must have been worth years of Couch+ service, and it was sitting in his place.

Tyrell was pretty sure it wasn’t illegal to accept gifts, and for all he knew, the furniture was a gift. It was addressed to him, and while he didn’t know all of his neighbors, he was pretty sure a person who could afford to have furniture delivered wouldn’t live in his apartment complex. He was sure they lived in compounds with private lakes in the center. Even if they did come looking for it, he’d give it back. All he needed was a few weeks to get his bank account back on track.
Until he knew otherwise, he decided to treat it like it was his own.

That was until the police showed up on his doorstep a week later.