“Life Bytes”

ATSF's technosoap for the digital millennium in twelve chapplets

Chapplet 12

Ring! Ring! Ring! Ring!

“Brrring, brrring, brrring”

The alarm shattered the silence. Tom moaned and reached for the clock. Meg mumbled some expletive into the pillow. She’d finally crawled into bed about 2am having discussed The Terror situation with Tom and then gone on to finish her marking.

Tom stumbled off to the bathroom shouting for Brid to make a move. He heard soft scrabblings at the kitchen door downstairs. The cats knew breakfast wasn’t far away.

Meg didn’t stir as he got dressed so he decided to make a mug of tea for her and try to ease her into the world more gently than usual.

He faced the onslaught from Seran and Dippity as he opened the kitchen door carefully containing them. Sometimes they had the habit of chasing upstairs and pouncing on errant feet or toes extruding from the bedclothes. They also had a fascination for anything that moved under a duvet so you couldn’t win if you tried to hide from them. He put up with them twisting around his feet whilst filling the kettle but fed them first before starting toast for himself.

Brid dragged herself to the table a few minutes later. Tom knew better than to make any conversation in the morning and just put her mug of tea in front of her.

“Keep the scavengers in while I take this up. Your Mum’s not too happy as the marking kept her up till 2!” he explained.

Meg was fast asleep. Tom reckoned that she’d really need to get up at 8.30 so he set the alarm again and crept downstairs.

“Are you coming with me?” he asked Brid.

“No ... meeting Nikita at the gate” came the reply. Brid had woken up properly now and glanced at the time.

“Hell! I’ve got to go!” She swung into action and the cats started to follow her but they got distracted in the hall by the sound of a rolled up paper being pushed through the letter box and went to investigate.

Tom finished his breakfast staring out through the window going over his strategy for The Terror situation. It came down, he’d decided, to giving Peter the space to do his work for the project and giving the right access to any support the others needed to help them. Perhaps a bit of creative room allocation and a temporary ‘guru’ figure attached to the team might be going along the right lines.

“Bye,” shouted Brid followed by the bang of the front door. This reminded Tom that he needed to move pretty smartly, too. He gathered up his case, jacket and car keys and headed for the front door. Dippity was pawing at the paper that was sticking out of the letter box. Seran was watching intently from her vantage point on the hall window ledge.

Tom tickled Dippity’s ears as he pulled the local paper out.

“No!” he said gently, “it’s mine.” He tucked it under his arm and glanced at his watch. “Go on, go and wake Meg up.” He tried to shoo them in the direction of the stairs but they didn’t take any notice of him.

“Typical! You never do what you’re told. Worse than kids,” he mumbled stepping out into the porch closing the door behind him. He was still going over The Terror situation wondering if Peter would resent a ‘guru’ in the team and feel ousted. He absently unrolled the paper on the way to the car.

“Oh! Double shit!” he breathed in a low whistle stopping dead while looking at the front page picture of a bedraggled Meg in her gardening shorts—squinting thunderously at a very scared cat hardly recognisable as Dippity—and a pin-up, bare-chested fireman pointing to some deep scratch marks on his shoulder. Tom took half a step forward and then two steps back towards the house glancing up at the bedroom window.

“Damned if she thinks I saw this and damned if she thinks I didn’t!” he thought, echoing The Terror.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” he tried to convince himself. At the same time he felt he ought to go back and weather the storm till she calmed down. He glanced at his watch. If he didn’t go now, he’d be late.

Taking a deep breath he rolled the paper back up and shoved it half-back through the letter box, turned and hurried to the car.

A surprised Dippity had another go at playing with the paper by standing on his back legs and tapping it with his paw.

“Brrring. Brrrrrrring, Brrrrrrrinnnnng” the alarm went off upstairs.

Both cats looked momentarily towards the sound and then raced upstairs to the bedroom.

“No-ooo!” moaned Meg fighting with the clock. “Bloody hell! What sort of time is that!” She screeched as 8.30 came into focus.

“Ahhh! Get off. NOW!” she flung the duvet aside defensively as the cats sprang and simultaneously landed on her feet.

“Tommmm? Brrrr-id?” she shouted into a vacuum as she headed for the shower.

Meg ran round almost as demented as the cats. She ate breakfast as she collected her marking and other necessities for her meeting with Heather. Finally cramming the last piece of toast into her mouth, she headed for the front door. Dippity took one last swipe at the paper. It was precariously close to falling.

“Out the way” you two, Meg hissed, struggling into her jacket, swinging her bag over her shoulder and reaching for the door catch.

“This has to be a better day than yesterday,” she said through gritted teeth. Images of lost attachments trapped within web threads, spiders scuttling out the way of viruses and the web master a shadowy figure in the distance, flitted through her mind. “This IS going to be a better day,” she chanted trying to psyche herself up. She pulled the rolled paper out and threw it across the hall at the settle already piled high with jackets, road map books, and old papers. She shut the door smartly behind her as the paper half missed the bench, fell to the floor and unfurled.

Dippity and Seran both jumped backwards before Dippity went forward sniffing at the front page picture that was going to become a recurring nightmare image for Meg. He nonchalantly curled up on it for a cat nap. Seran meanwhile, her head at that slight knowing angle, watched Meg’s retreating figure out of sight from the window ledge.

Little did Meg know; it was going to be a far worse day! The picture was already pinned up in the sixth form college entrance hall.

This is the end ... Tell your friends!

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Life Bytes is written by Santa Fe and Sanity Claus