“Royce!”

The bang of Mr. Thompson’s fist on his desk almost sent Barry Royce ass over tea kettle off his computer chair.

“Sir!” Barry yelled back reflexively.

“Time to get up, boy! There’s work to be done! That’s why we’re paying you!” Thompson shouted in his thick, possibly fake Texas accent.

Barry stuttered a little and scooted himself back to his desk. “I wasn’t asleep, sir.”

“Well you sure as shoot tweren’t awake, neither!” Thompson shouted as he walked away.

Barry wrinkled his nose at his computer screen. “Tweren’t?” He shrugged and started back on the database report he had been working on all week. He managed to work for five minutes before tabbing over to Firefox.

He spoke as he typed. “Urban-dic-shunary, dot, com.” He clicked and typed again. “‘Tweren’t. The area of skin between your scrot and your anus, otherwise known as the bifkin, taint or perineum.’ Huh. That can’t be what he meant.”

Barry looked at the clock. It was 10:45.

“Shit,” Barry hissed as he grabbed up some folders on his desk and sprinted down the hall toward the conference room. He ran at full speed until he was two feet in front of the entrance, skid his New Balances to a stop and lightly pushed the doors open. The lights were dim, but not dim enough to slink over to an empty chair undetected.

“You are so freaking late.”

Barry nodded. “Yes, thank you Frank. I wasn’t sure, what with the presentation being almost over and all.” He settled back into the metal chair and tried to cross his legs. Instead, his shoe thunked loudly against the underside of the conference table. He looked around the room along with everyone else, attempting to locate the source of the noise. Then he sunk into his seat for what would be a half hour of pure hellish boredom. He hadn’t finished his reports yet, but they wouldn’t get to that part until later in the week. Right now, he just had to look in the general direction of the screen and let his eyes glaze over.

Suddenly, his butt cheeks clenched and his feet jerked an inch off the ground, a reflex he had conditioned in himself so as to not pelvic thrust the air when his cell phone vibrated in his back pocket. The little device gave two quick buzzes before going still.

Barry worked his hand into his pocket and pulled it out just enough to see the screen. It was a text message. His heart raced into his throat and his shoulders slumped.

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TROUBLE AT THE CAMP. PLEASE RESPOND. THE RED HAND HAS ATTACKED.

“Oh God, not now,” Barry mumbled a little too loud.

The presenter paused his slideshow and turned to the back of the room. “Is there a problem Mr. Royce?”

“Oh, uh,” Barry said as he was getting up from his chair. “I have, uh, an emergency. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just need to step out for a few minutes.”

The presenter nodded. “Please try not to be long if you can help it.”

“Oh!” Barry said. “No, of course not. My apologies.”

Barry slowly walked to the door and cracked it open just enough to slip out. The light of the office flooded into the room. When it faded to a thin line he was gone.

His feet pumped across the stained blue carpet as he raced to the stairwell, his laptop tucked under his arm. Papers fluttered out of their folders leaving a billowing trail behind him. When he met the stairwell door it crashed open with the impact of his foot, and he started leaping stairs two at a time.

Third floor.

Fourth floor.

Fifth floor.

Sixth! Barry snatched the handle of the metal door and flung it open. He took two bounding steps into the hall and tilted to make the 90-degree turn down the linoleum hallway. As he ran he pulled at his tie and the buttons on his shirt began to give way.

He screeched to a stop at the end of the hallway in front of a janitor’s closet, jiggled the handle and forced his way in, reaching into his shirt as the door slammed shut behind him.

Barry put his back against the wall and worked his shirt the rest of the way open. He pushed his hand into one open side and produced a headset, which he quickly secured to his ear. Then he sat down on an upturned bucket, slapped his laptop onto his knees and jerked the screen open.

Planet of Battlethings was already booting up as he anxiously watched the bars to go green on his wireless tray icon. The warmth of the access point mounted on the wall next to him felt like a towel fresh from the dryer.

>Dr. Funkentime! Thank God! Get in here now!
>DF! Where have you been!!?!?
>H0 Lee $#!+, man! arent you at work//

Barry smiled and raised his sword to the skybox. “Behold, guildmates! Dr. Funkentime has arrived to quell this uprising most evil. I have but one question to ask of my brothers in arms before we cut these heathens down. Do you feel funky? Because it’s FUNKENTIME!”

image

A roar of text flashed upward on his screen. He pushed the Up arrow key and went forth into battle. He could see the cries of his enemies as they fell to the power of his superior guild.

>Where is King Babune?
>IDK!!1 Were getting slotered
>F*** me guys! F*** me he’s coming after me!
>TXT Babune on his cell11!! 5556325\
>Whatsthe area code?/
>What?
>OHGODHISDOGISEATINGME

Barry’s smile broadened as his fingers danced across his keyboard. He raised his watch up to the glow of his monitor, pursed his lips and leaned over to pull the power plug out of its socket.

When the fluorescent lights in the board room flickered to life, Frank was surprised to see Barry next to him. “When did you get back in here?” Frank asked.

Barry smiled and shrugged. “Oh, I’ve been here for about ten minutes. Did I miss anything good?”

Frank smirked. “Is that like a joke or something? I mean, even if you were here for the whole presentation, I don’t think it’s going to help you in your career goal of beating Peggle in a single sitting.”

The presenter raised his hands. “Everyone,” he said as the conversations in the room slowly trailed off, “Everyone, I’m so sorry. I forgot to go over this week’s net ratios for share portions. I know we’ve all been here a while, but twenty more minutes won’t kill anyone. Barry, could you get the lights again, please?”

Barry felt a sharp staccato vibrate down his thigh, and he bolted up from his seat. “Oh, uh, sir. I’m sorry again, but I think I might have to be excused … um … again.” Barry looked around the room and nervously shrugged. “Yeah, see, I get diarrhea in twos. Like sneezes. Or- I mean, I don’t sneeze when I have diarrhea. That would be like pumping a super soaker when you’re still shooting it, right?”

Frank looked up at Barry and shook his head slowly. “Stop talking,” he whispered.

“Yeah! So,” Barry continued. “I’ll just go … uh … have more diarrhea, then. Sorry. Again.” Barry turned and briskly exited.

Frank chuckled uneasily. “You’ll have to excuse Barry. He gets a little nervous when he talks about aaaaaAAAAHH.” Frank looked down at his own vibrating cell phone clipped to his belt.

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FUNKENTIME TOOK OUT NOOBS. MOUNTING RETALIATION. NEED BACKUP.

“Oh dear,” Frank said as he stood. “I think I might have caught Barry’s diarrhea.”

The presenter put his palms on the projector. “What the hell are you talking about, Mr. Fleshum?”

“Sorry, can’t stay. I’m having it right now. It’s like a baby, you know? Gotta get to the hospital.” Frank bolted for the exit and shoved the doors open with the palms of his hands.

“Mr. Fleshum!”

“Call my husband!” Frank shouted behind him.

The presenter pushed a button on the conference call box. “Hannah, could you have someone check the water coolers on the 2nd floor for me?” He leaned in again. “Today.”

As Barry ran down the stained blue carpet towards the stairwell, he felt something unfamiliar. A vibration out of sync with his own steps. He didn’t even have to look back.

Frank.

“Sixth floor Janitor, Frank.”

“Sixth floor Janitor it is, Doctor.”

Barry looked behind him as Frank gained on him. “You’ll never win, Frank, and do you know why?” Before Barry finished his thought, he smashed shoulder first into the right steel door of the stairwell. Frank gave a little hop and smashed the left with his foot.

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Their laptops were already open as they hustled into the tiny closet and locked the door behind them. Barry took the overturned bucket and Frank had to settle for a box of Raid next to the wall for a seat. The two of them huddled together, barely inches apart in their tiny sanctuary.

On the sparsely covered plains of the ever stretching virtual landscape, Dr. Funkentime and King Babune first laid eyes on each other, then on their clans. Clans that were not locked in a struggle with one another, but united in a single front against the blood-chilling PvP raiders of the server, Ratcliff. A name not even allowed to be spoken in some circles.

Dr. Funkentime: Dear Lord, Frank. This is …
King Babune: Get it together, Barry. We’re in it. We have to deal with it.
Dr. Funkentime: Right. You’re right. Ok let’s roll.

Barry jumped up from his bucket about four inches as he felt the familiar buzz of his cell. He sat down slowly and looked over at Frank, who was already charging into battle.

“Barry Royce’s phone. How may I help-” Barry’s face went tight as he looked up at the ceiling. “Hello, Mr. Thompson.” He sighed and rested his elbows on his knees.

“Yes sir, I’m down in the server room fixing- no sir, server room 5.” He clenched his fist and lightly hit it against his forehead. “What I meant was that I was just in server room 5. Now I’m going over to- what’s that? Yes sir. Yes sir. I’ll be right up.”

Before Barry left the room, Frank received a similar call. Barry could hear a carbon copy of the chewing out he just got. Yes sir. No sir. Right away sir. Frank hung up his phone and looked up Barry as he was about to make his exit.

They stared at each other for what felt like eons. Then Frank unplugged the power cord from his laptop.

Barry swallowed hard and put his hand on Frank’s shoulder. “Frank, this is Ratcliff. Ratcliff takes XP. Ratcliff steals gold. Ratcliff sells off quest equipment on eBay. I can’t leave them.”

Frank nodded and sat back down on the box of pesticide. He was about to speak when both their phones gave a sharp, loud buzz. Text messages. Text messages from management. Messages that said basically the same thing: Report to my office immediately or be fired.

Barry took his phone out of his pocket, looked at it and, with a flick of his wrist, sent it spinning into the mop bucket in the corner. There was a splash followed by a dull thud.

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“You’re right, man. You’re so right,” Frank said. “This is bigger than both of us now. No job is worth more than the honor of brotherhood.” He looked at his own phone and then slipped it into his pocket. “I would throw my phone in, too, but, this is mine. I paid for it. It’s really expensive. I mean, I’m saying, don’t worry about that, but I’m just going to put it on silent, OK?”

“Oh,” Barry said. “Well that’s cool. It’s just. You know. That was mine too.”

“Oh, seriously?”

“It was one of the new Blackberries, but, I kind of got caught up in the moment, and …”

Frank kind of smiled. “Wow, you just threw it in there. That’s, you know … wow.”

Barry sat back down on his bucket. “I thought it would be dramatic.”

“Oh, it totally was, man. It gave me goose bumps. You were just like, bam.” Frank made a tossing motion with his hands.

“Kind of thought …” Barry said as he plugged his laptop in, “… thought, like, you’d do it too. ‘Cause of all that brotherhood stuff you were saying.”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I totally wanted to, but … you know, I just bought it, and I haven’t really backed up my numbers or anything.”

Barry shook his head. “Whatever, it’s no big deal. I just thought we were both … and … but, it’s not like I let you know I was going to do that.”

Frank nodded. “That is true. You didn’t.”

“Yeah. Anyway, let’s do this, I guess.”

Frank slapped his hand on Barry’s shoulder and gave him a little shove. “Right on, my man. Let’s kick some ass.”

Barry glanced up. He thought he heard a faint buzz coming from the murky mop water of the sixth floor janitor’s closet. Then he looked back down at the screen.

Stephen Failey was born 25 years ago from an American mother and a British Father, making him a superhuman hybrid of arrogant bravado and constant complaining. Enjoys ice cream for breakfast and is easily enraged by small children. He currently lives with his wife and dog in Northern Louisiana.

Stolen Pixels #49: 2008 Awards, Part 2

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