Savannah went missing on Thursday, or at least that’s when Ida noticed she was gone. Ida had missed work a couple days in a row due to a violent case of the stomach flu that had her puking in a trash can every few hours. When Ida returned to work on Thursday and planted herself in the swivel chair at her desk, she realized Savannah’s cubicle had been completely cleared out. Her telenet screen and in-desk keyboard had been removed and replaced with an outdated monitor and detached keyboard. A disconnect? They really hired a disconnect? Ida sighed and wondered why in the hell their HR manager would let this slide.
The disconnect, Ida soon discovered, was a man named Parker Kavanaugh. He replaced Savannah at the very beginning of the following week and soon enough she was a fragment of Ida’s imagination. She forgot about her quickly.
“Morning,” Parker swiveled his chair in her direction. She gave him a side-eyed glance and continued to type on the raised keys sticking out of the desktop. She didn’t look away from her screen.
“Hello,” she said stiffly. Ida wasn’t inclined to meeting new people. She found this surprisingly attractive man with thinning hair and white teeth a bit intimidating. She lifted one of her small hands to push her glasses farther up her nose. He was a disconnect, she reminded herself.
“I’m Parker Kavanaugh,” he reached out of his large hands and held it there. His head fell to the side and he watched her for a few seconds as she clanked away at her keys some more.
“Ida,” she breathed out and swiveled her chair to shake his hand rather sloppily before swiveling back to the seemingly blank screen in front of her.
“Good to meet you, Ida,” he grinned at her and rolled a bit closer.
“Mmhmm,” she mumbled.
“You in accounting?”
“Aren’t we all?” She looked over at him endearingly. Parker sighed and raised his hands as a sign of defeat.
“You got me there,” he admitted as he rolled behind the divider that lay between his cubicle and hers. “Actually,” he swiveled back with a piece of technology so outdated and obsolete that Ida looked completely away from the screen to gape at it. It was small and black with a glass screen cracked on one side. “Can I–”
“What the hell is that?” She pushed her glasses up again and squinted her dark eyes at the device.
“What?” Parker looked down, “My phone?”
“Phone?” Ida gaped, her eyes widening at the device as her mind whirled.
“You don’t know what a phone is?” He asked her.
“I’m not an idiot,” she snapped at him and put her hand out in front of her, “I know what a phone is, I just haven’t seen one since before telenet.” Parker furrowed his bushy eyebrows and lay the device in her palm hesitantly. “Are you even on the telenet?”
“Nah,” he shrugged as Ida snatched the thin glass object and brought it close to her face, “I prefer to stay disconnected.”
“You know, I’ve heard the governor is going to force everyone to be on it by next year,” Ida commented as she pressed the limited amount of buttons on the side of the cell phone. The glass was cracked in several places. She feared she was going to cut her fingers. “They’re getting rid of paper money soon, too, once everything’s been uploaded to the telenet.”
“Well, when the day comes, I’ll switch over.” Parker shrugged, “For now I like my device to be separate from my body.” Ida scoffed.
“That’s just ridiculous.”
“Why?” Parker said. “Nobody’s tracking me–”
“Except for that fruity company that somehow still has service.” Ida corrected him. Parker sighed and plucked his phone out of her thin fingers.
“You really know everything, don’t you?” He grinned at her again. His perfect white teeth somehow mocking her. She rolled her eyes. This guy was already completely infuriating with his cell phone and big hands. “Where’s your accessory implanted?” Parker asked her.
“That’s a pretty private question, don’t you think?”
“Well as long as it’s not up your ass, I don’t see why it’s a private question.” Ida pressed her lips together and breathed in to calm herself. “Consider it you giving me a recommendation for when I get mine.” He smiled.
“Fine,” she hissed at him. She quietly swiveled toward him and unbuttoned the top button of her blouse. She pulled the blouse a little to her right, revealing a small, oval shaped mound under her collarbone. It was slightly discolored against the pink of her skin.
“Interesting,” Parker stroked his chin, leaning back in his chair, “Why there?” Ida immediately pulled her blouse back over the telenet and buttoned her shirt again.
“I wanted to be able to see it,” she said as she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose and turned toward her computer. Parker nodded and swiveled back toward his cubicle.
“Definitely my favorite accessory implant spot so far.” He said as he disappeared behind the divider. Ida was thankful he couldn’t see her blushing.
Ida left work at precisely five o’clock and went to the coffee shop down the road to get a small dose of caffeine before she arrived home. She ordered her regular, which was information that was safely stored in the vast database of her telenet accessory. Her thumb pressed into the print scanner at the counter.
“Welcome Ida Luisa Moore,” a dull, automated voice said to her. The voice was female with a bit of a Cantonese accent, reminding her of home. Her mother had been half Chinese and had grown up in what used to be the continent of Asia, before the Technological Revolution. “Your order will be complete in approximately three minutes and thirty-seven seconds.” Ida sighed and slid to the other side of the restaurant, where others were waiting for their drinks. She sat down at a table and looked up at the blank screens above the counter. Within seconds, her favorite television show began to play on the screen nearest to her. She watched with the rest of the customers in the coffee shop, though they were watching whatever their telenet account had recommended for them.
“Hello!” A heavy, familiar voice boomed across the coffee shop. The voice was so loud, Ida and several other customers were torn from their television shows to see Parker Kavanaugh standing at the front counter. His long neck was stretched to examine the back of the coffee shop. Ida watched him for a moment, sure and certain that everyone else in the shop was wondering why this idiot was yelling in the middle of a cyberstore.
Parker leaned over the counter and looked around for a few moments before his big eyes caught sight of Ida sitting across the shop. His expression immediately brightened and he sauntered over to her.
“Hey,” he said with a grin, his white teeth blinding. Ida faced forward, pretending she didn’t notice him. “The service here is terrible.”
“It wouldn’t be so terrible if you had an accessory,” she said through gritted teeth, not taking her eyes off the screen.
“Well I don’t plan on getting one for a while,” he plopped next to her and followed her eyes to the screen. He sat there for a few moments, unmoving before he took another quick look around the shop. “What the fuck are you looking at?” Parker asked her. Several customers looked in his direction. Ida was completely appalled at his use of language, as was everyone else in earshot. She swallowed and kept her face forward. “Hello?”
“Shut up.” She hissed. “You’re embarrassing me.” Parker leaned back against the table.
“Sorry,” he sighed.
“Ida Luisa Moore,” an automated voice rang over the audio from her television show that was blaring into her eardrums. “Your order is complete and ready for pick-up.” Ida shot up from her seat and progressed to the counter where a white cup with a white cap had her name stamped on the side sat, waiting for her.
“Wait,” Parker followed her. She grabbed the cup and turned towards the door, ignoring him. They stepped outside. The gray sky of the city hovered above them as Ida tried to ignore him further. “Where are you going?”
“Home.” She said.
“Can I walk you?”
“No,” she said. Parker sighed, but kept at the same pace.
“Can I at least get your number?” He asked, grinning.
“What do you expect to contact me on?” She nearly laughed in his face, “Your cell phone?”
“What else?” Ida groaned and increased her pace to get ahead of him.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Parker.” He sighed and stopped walking, allowing Ida to go home.
“See you!” He yelled. She turned to see him standing in the middle of the sidewalk, his uncomfortably lanky body leaning to one side in a strange gait. He smiled at her with his white teeth and waved good-bye as she turned down another street.
Ida went home. Her small, bright apartment was only a few blocks away from work and the coffee shop. Though it was tiny, the interior decoration was pristine, and frankly she didn’t need the extra space. Her telenet had found the place for her when she had first gotten her job and she couldn’t have been more pleased. She entered the lobby and took an elevator up to the fourth floor. Once in front of her door, she pressed her thumb on the print scanner and the locks clicked open, revealing her sparsely decorated kitchen/living room/bedroom.
“Welcome home Ida Luisa Moore,” the Cantonese voice said to her as she slipped inside. Ida set her coffee down on the kitchen counter to her right and went to look in the mirror, feeling the bobby pins beginning to put a strain on her head. A headache would lead to more puking, which she had done plenty of earlier in the week.
Ida stood in front of the reflective glass and plucked the bobby pins out of her dark auburn mass of hair. Strands slid down and fell onto her broad shoulders in waves. She looked at herself in the mirror and frowned. A brush sat on a ledge in front of her and she took it, dragging the bristles through until the waves became clumps and she was able to twist her thick hair up into a firm bun at the top of her head. She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and sat down on her sofa, likely to experience yet another quiet evening alone. Her telenet wandered to the mysteriously disconnected Parker Kavanaugh, who she could not find any record of anywhere in the cyberhood.
“Good morning, Ida,” Parker plopped in his swiveling chair, holding a small pink box in his hands. Ida didn’t pull her eyes away from the screen.
“Good morning,” she said.
“You like doughnuts?” He asked.
“Not particularly,” she replied.
“Damn,” he sighed and put the pink box on his desk. “You’re already getting at it.”
“I am at work,” she said, as if it was obvious.
“But it’s the morning,” Parker argued, “Who’s really productive in the morning?”
“I should’ve guessed,” he nodded as he leaned his chin on one of his hands. For a few minutes, neither of them said anything. She could feel his eyes on her and grew irritated. Never had another coworker been so intrusive. Well, actually, Ida couldn’t remember if her past coworker had been intrusive. What was her name again? In fact, she couldn’t remember much about her at all.
“What are you looking at?” Ida snapped. She pinched her face and squinted at him, her dark eyes piercing through the thick lenses of her glasses.
“Nothing,” Parker shook his head and slid back into his cubicle. He didn’t bother her for a few hours. During that period of uninterrupted silent bliss, Ida went to the break room to grab a healthy snack. She walked past the manager’s office where the glass doors and windows revealed a rather intense conversation between her manager and two individuals Ida couldn’t identify. She took slow, steady steps, curiosity suddenly getting the best of her.
“Listen,” she heard a large man with fat hands and several chins say, “I told you specifically not to remove Savannah Winston from any accessories and you did, without our permission. We still don’t have any leads and she is now almost completely unidentifiable to everyone in this office. Even if they knew something, it’s gone now.”
“I understand,” the manager said. He was a shorter, balding man with a fiery temper. For someone who was always so angry, Ida was shocked that he was being level-headed with the two strangers in his office. “But our productivity levels were low and headquarters threatened to shut this branch down if we didn’t hit our marks for the month. The disappearance of one of my employees surely would’ve caused issues–”
“Well it’s still going to cause issues because I’m shutting this branch down myself until we have some leads,” the fat man said.
“What?” The manager shouted, his face and bald head suddenly growing red. “You can’t do that–”
“I’d like to see you try and stop me,” the fat man replied. The fat man and his partner began to move toward the door and Ida scampered away. She grew anxious. What would she do if she didn’t have a job?
When Ida entered the break room, Parker was standing near the counter eating one of the doughnuts he had tried to get her to eat earlier. His face immediately lit up when he saw her. He insisted she have one of the doughnuts in the box. Whether it was because he was intimidatingly attractive or that she had just discovered she might be out of a job, she didn’t know, but she finally caved in. When she reached into the box, however, her accessory sent a small shockwave through her body and she yanked her hand away. The accented voice rang in her ears. Ida looked up at him, her expression disheartened. She told him that her telenet forbid her from eating something so sugary. It had detected the nutrition before her fingertips had even grazed the glazed surface. He was disappointed and so was she. She couldn’t remember the last time she ate a doughnut.
“Sorry,” she said meekly, suddenly embarrassed that she had tried to eat a doughnut at all. “If it was up to me, I’d eat it.”
“It’s not your fault,” he reminded her. His expression was soft. “Blame the telenet.” Parker grabbed one of the doughnuts from the box and took an enormous bite out of it, red jelly dripping onto his white button-down. The whiteness of his shirt and teeth suddenly consumed with red. Ida smiled and breathed out a slight nervous laugh. “You okay?” He asked her.
“Yeah,” she shrugged and took a look around the break room, “I just found out something though and I’m a bit worried about it.”
“What?” He leaned toward her. She could feel her heartbeat increasing.
“Well,” once she was sure there was no one else around, she leaned toward him and spoke in a soft whisper. “I think this branch got in trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?”
“I’m not sure, but I think we might get shut down,” she whispered.
“No way,” he wore a goofy surprised expression that made Ida feel relaxed, “What makes you say that?”
“Well, I overheard Milo talking to some men in his office,” she told him. “They threatened to shut the branch down.”
“I–” Ida realized she couldn’t remember why, “I don’t know.” She said with a shrug. They both stood in silence for a moment as she mulled over her thoughts, picking over pieces of the conversation.
“Well, I’ll volunteer myself to get the boot first,” Parker said as he took another bite of his doughnut.
“You don’t need to do that,” Ida replied, her tone exasperated.
“I’d do anything for you,” he winked at her. She couldn’t help but smile.
Though annoyed, she was equally amused at his quip. As she left the break room, that is the moment in particular is when she realized they became friends.
After that, they started spending time together at work, in small increments. Ida didn’t want to embarrass herself by hanging out with an accessory-less stranger with perfect teeth. She could already see her other coworkers distancing themselves from her. And though her decrease on the social ladder normally would have absolutely terrified her, she found that the situation wasn’t as bothersome as it could have been.
Parker Kavanaugh was just so different. So disconnected to what Ida knew. It was strange and intimidating, but also so interesting. She found his cell phone and his other obsolete technologies fascinating. Back at his apartment, he had what he called a “laptop” and an “iPod” and a “tablet.” Ida would touch the glass and plastic with curiosity, letting her fingertips slide over the smooth, warm surfaces as they lit up their faces. The devices had screens that they both could see at the same time without syncing up their telenets. Imagine that!
When Parker would leave the room or turn, she would touch the place where her accessory was implanted. It didn’t give her the same rush. It was a part of her. It wasn’t special or even impressive anymore. The oval that sat under her skin didn’t compare to the vastness of the devices and their reflectiveness and the actual human interaction she was experiencing with Parker. She could finally see herself in the technology she was using. The telenet had made her feel so bland, as if she was behind the automated voice that droned on any time she did anything.
“What’s wrong?” Parker asked her one evening after work. They were sitting in Ida’s white apartment eating telenet approved non-authentic Chinese food that she kind of liked. It had been a few weeks since he had started working with her in the office. She was stunned he already knew her so well.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged, tucking her dark waves behind her ears, “You just, you seem so free, without a telenet account and an accessory.”
“I don’t know,” she said again, smiling, “I just think that I could feel free too, if I,” she paused and sighed, “I don’t know, I sound ridiculous.” She was rambling and he knew it. He cocked his head, as if he knew exactly what she was going to say.
“Take it out,” he said simply, as if it was something that was actually simple.
“I can’t do that,” Ida shook her head and stood up, placing her hands on her collarbone. “My whole life is on here.”
“But it doesn’t have to be,” Parker told her as he got to his feet. His expression was one of pure excitement. “You don’t need an accessory or even the telenet!” Though Ida had been immensely impressed with his laptop and iPod and tablet, the idea of taking her accessory out? That was absurd! How could Parker suggest such a thing?
“No way,” Ida said, suddenly incredibly defensive. She held her hands over her collarbone and took a step away from him. She hadn’t actually meant it, right? Ida began to wonder why she mentioned her concerns at all. He would never understand.
“I’m not forcing you to do anything,” Parker told her as he sat down, his voice calm and his expression cool. Ida breathed in deeply, calming herself as well. She had been the one to bring it up.
“I know,” she sighed again, “I’m sorry.” She sat on the sofa next to him and faced forward, feeling an awkward tension beginning to brew between them.
“It’s okay,” he told her sincerely. Parker left not long after that.
Ida felt terrible for snapping at him. The idea had been hers and hers alone. He had never once pressured her to remove her telenet until she brought up the idea herself. She sat on the sofa and stared at the screen ahead of her, a box of fried rice sitting in her lap. Her appetite, she found, was gone. Ida sighed and set the box on the coffee table and laid back on the sofa, her dark auburn hair flowing over her shoulders.
Her telenet flipped through channels as her mood indicated that not a single one of them was entertaining her. Exasperated, she shut her eyes and listened to the automated laughter of an idiotic sitcom drone on until the news interrupted it.
“I apologize for interrupting your usual telenet programing, but the governor has a very important announcement to make.” Ida put her Chinese food down on the coffee table and sat forward. “The police believe someone has been hacking into telenet accessories for the past several months. A number of young women, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four have been reported missing in the same time range as the supposed hacking. Please be aware of yourself and your surroundings.”
Ida grew anxious. A hacker? She had always heard stories about them but she never really thought she’d experience the presence of one. The stories she had heard were scary and disgusting. Hackers logging onto accessories and controlling their victim’s choices and decisions and even memories, tracking them, downloading their own fingerprints into the database to have access to bank accounts and residences. Ida had once heard a particular case where an entire house full of girls on spring break had been hacked and killed in their rental. That story had been on the news for weeks after, reminding everyone to keep their accessories out of sight.
Ida wasn’t so sure how hackers were able to get in so easily and unknowingly. She suddenly questioned why she wanted to keep her damn accessory so badly. Parker had introduced her to such a free world. Who cared if she wasn’t on the telenet anymore?
Maybe Parker was right. Maybe her accessory was going to put her in danger. Immediately, her telenet account dialed Parker’s cell phone. Though the tech was obsolete, there were a few small functions that allowed the devices to connect. It rang in her ear for a few seconds before his heavy voice answered the call.
“Hey,” he said.
“Parker,” Ida breathed, she was almost in tears, “I need you to take it out.”
“My accessory,” she said, “There’s a hacker, I need you to take it out.”
“Shit, Ida,” he sighed into the cell phone, “I’m coming back right now.” Ida sat on the couch, hyperventilating. Part of her wanted to rip the accessory out herself, right at that moment. Parker arrived at her doorstep what felt like hours after their call and she answered the door trying to keep herself together.
“Hey,” she said quietly.
“You okay?” Parker came in and shut the door behind him.
“No,” she shook her head, “There’s a hacker in the city, I guess, and I just, I’m so terrified he’s going to–” Ida felt something sharp pierce the skin of her collarbone. She looked down to see red soaking the white of her shirt. Shocked by the sharpness and the color, she took a couple steps backward, looking up into the big eyes of Parker Kavanaugh. He yanked the knife from her skin and pulled her accessory off her bone, holding the pill shaped object between his large fingers. “Parker?”
“Sorry Ida,” he said endearingly, his tone of voice suddenly changing, “It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid,” he told her as he placed the accessory in his pocket. “You just gotta get it out.”
“You went too deep,” she breathed, the pain in her collarbone increasing exponentially as she fell backwards onto the white sofa. Her memories of Savannah and the missing person case suddenly coming back to her. Savannah had been hacked, hadn’t she?
“Did I?” He asked. Ida felt sharpness again and then again. The red soaking the white of the sofa and the carpet. For some reason, Parker looked like a completely different person as she felt sharpness once more. She thought, where did his white teeth go? as she was consumed by red.
Lillian is originally from Huntington Woods, Michigan, a small suburb of Detroit. Currently, she is a senior at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan majoring in accounting and minoring in writing. During college, she was a very active member of Alpha Phi International Fraternity, serving as treasurer, vice president, and then chapter president. Though she majored in accounting, she found her passion in writing and human resources. She is set to graduate in May and will start as the Human Resources Representative for the Adrian Plastic Omnium facility soon after. She’s won a number of writing awards at Adrian College including the Star Light Writing Award, the Creative Writing – Prose Award, as well as having a one act play selected for a one act play festival in the Fall of 2020. She has also completed a novel through an independent study and hopes to publish it one day. Lillian is very thankful for the opportunity to publish “Disconnected” in Idle Ink.