This Is Bad, Really Bad

by Lee Wright

I sit on the sofa, drunk, watching her surf, black text underlined here and there in blue, reflected in the thick lenses of her glasses. She says, “Shit,” almost under her breath, lights a cigarette, sighs, and tells me, “It’s much worse than we thought.”

I sit for a moment, stunned, worried, more than a little confused. Not knowing what else to do, I put my beer on the coffee table and crawl along the scuffed hardwood floor, searching for the plug, the wire, the connection. My head spins as she rambles on and on and on about proper protection and how we might lose everything.

Lying prone under the table, I slap around until I find a blue wire with white too-small-to-be-legible words printed on its blue rubber skin. I grab it as if it’s a lifeline thrown from some distantly passing boat. Can I actually feel the ones-and-zeros, the potential, surging through it in both directions? I think I can. There’s a rhythm I can feel in my bones and behind my eyes. Everything that ever was is right there, surging against my skin. I can feel the potential, the hope, the fear.

I close my eyes and let the cable slip through my fingers.

“Goddammit,” I say, “We have a virus.”

Lee Wright is a fat, surly, bald man who lives near Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his beautiful wife (who is only a little surly) and son (who is not at all surly and has made his parents considerably less surly). An unapologetic genre-hopper, his short stories have appeared in, or are forthcoming in, Absent Willow Review, Metal Scratches, Micro Horror, All Genres Magazine, Black Fox Literary Magazine, and Apocrypha and Abstractions.

You’d mentioned in an email that the word “virus” generated this story. Could you a talk a bit about the role “virus” played in the process of creating the story and in its final appearance here, as a product?

    This story started with the title. I was out of ideas so I randomly wrote the word “virus” at the top of the page and started at it for a while. A virus, whether biological or technical, is something very small that can radically alter a much larger preexisting system. While I was thinking about that, my two-year-old son ran by at top speed, probably on his way to chase the cat. I smiled. My little virus.

    He’s growing up in a world that is constantly flooded with information—good, bad, confusing, and often contradictory. He’s part of the first totally plugged in generation, bombarded by compressed, instantly accessible information and entertainment. Most of the time, that makes me really happy. Other times, it scares the hell out of me.

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