by Stanley Lieber

SL’s friend followed him around with a camera. Offline, so it was technically permissible under the hotel’s ToS. Didn’t stop SL from getting annoyed.

"Quit pointing that thing at me," SL would say, and his friend would quit, for a while, sometimes for the rest of the day. But the camera always returned.

SL had got enough of this treatment at home.

Breakfast now consisted of reading a paper newspaper, alone. Half the paper’s weight comprised loose leaf advertisements printed on slick paper that stuck to his fingers when he tried to remove them. Coupons for stores and restaurants that did not have operating locations in this tiny resort town.

It was a local paper.

The supposed news itself was all too relevant—hyper specific POV reporting that relied on an intimate knowledge of local personages and customs. SL possessed neither. He poured over the paper anyway, enjoying the certain je ne sais quois of this textual delivery system for... nothing. Anyway, it passed the time.

In the afternoons he could often be found by the pool. This unlikely juxtaposition found him defending his sketchbooks from the regular interpolation of screaming, splashing children. He wanted to give them back their visors.

He was settling into the routine, and yes, he was still cheating.

SL’s friend had found other things to do with his time. He was not even showing up online anymore. Zero contact for the last month. SL had stopped keeping track.

He had contrived any number of schemes for tracking his friend down, but frankly concluded that he might be better off simply letting the friendship go. Lately, he’d noticed himself contriving ways to avoid him. That seemed to suggest perhaps the partnership had run its course.

He wondered how his friend would react when he found out SL had stopped paying the hotel bill.

SL wanted to think this would work. So far, being dropped into an environment of strict network non-availability had to cut his daily time online in half. Without the visor, and without authorized access to the local mesh, he was slowed down enough to discriminate carefully between potential activities. He planned in advance.

No logging. Bandwidth wouldn’t permit it.

Remembering what he was doing still proved to be a challenge.