Birthday


Tired, Jack disconnected from the Internet, removed his AR glasses, and exhaled in relief. It had been a long day. He’d finally finished setting up his website, a place he called “Room404” because of the way its code enabled it to disappear completely unless you knew where to find it. And on top of that, he’d also received payment from the last job he’d done by deleting some info from a law group’s network.

With a huge grin, he left his room, stretching his arms. He attempted to reach the top of the door frame but missed it by quite a bit.

The living room was small, empty, and pretty much fused to the kitchen, but no one could expect much from a one bedroom apartment that minimum wage afforded.

It had been Jack’s first apartment, but it had also served its purpose. He hadn’t wanted luxury. He just needed a place to concentrate before launching off on his own for sure.

Jack’s stomach growled, so his attention quickly shifted to the kitchen and his mini fridge. After checking it though, he paused and sighed. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting. He hadn’t gone out in nearly two days.

After considering drone delivery, he decided to walk to the convenience store down the block instead. With Room404 done, it was probably time to make the last move.

It hadn’t been that long since Jack had left home. That’s why he lived in a shitty apartment. He’d spent the first month in a motel until he had saved enough to rent an apartment. Now, a year and a half later, he’d prepared to disconnect completely from everything he was.

Outside, the cold bit into his legs. He wore shorts, flip-flops, and a t-shirt, but it was January. The only source of warmth came from his hoodie, which was too long, so it hung close above his knees. It had belonged to his mother, and it was the one thing he owned to remind him of her.

At the convenience store, he walked past the cashier, a young man who scrolled mindlessly on his feed on his glasses. That was the thing Jack planned on upgrading next. His glasses were the cheapest on the market. And even though they served their purpose, he needed something that a programmer could abuse.

Picking up a couple of water bottles, Jack stared at the different brand of ramen for way longer than justified. He’d already tried all of them. And besides the level of spice, they all pretty much tasted the same. He picked up four of them. It would be good enough for a few days.

“I thought there was a curfew,” the cashier said when Jack put down his things on the counter.

“I look young,” Jack said.

“Sure you do.” The cashier slowly went through the items, scanning them patiently. “It’ll be 10 solid. Cash or card?” The cashier paused. “You got money right? You ain’t one of ’em orphan kids on the streets, right?”

“Right, I have money. Card is fine,” Jack took out his wallet from his hoodie, and then handed the card to the cashier.

“Right, I’m gonna have to see an ID for that.”

“Right,” Jack said and gave him the ID.

“No way in hell you’re 18, Mr. Meredith,” the cashier said.

“Why the hell would I make a fake ID and say I’m 18.”

The cashier seemed to accept the argument and ran the card. “Says it’s declined.”

“Oh, I must have forgotten to deposit,” Jack lied and took out a ten from his wallet. “Here.”

The cashier shrugged, took the cash, and handed the bag with the items.

Just as he walked out of the store, Jack’s phone rang. “The Devil,” came up on his caller ID. It was incredible how predictable that man was.

Jack looked at his watch. If it was like last time, he’d have about thirty minutes to leave the area.

He picked up the call.

“Where the fuck are you,” the devil said.

Jack sighed. That man swore that was going to get him to come back. “Seems you already know.”

“I’m going with the cops this time. Just stay put if you know what’s best for you. But I hope God gives me patience, cause I’m gonna beat the shit out of you when you’re back.”

Yeah, that wasn’t part of the plan. He’d left for a good reason: He wasn’t a masochist. “Okay, fine. I’ll wait here and then go back home so you can take out your drunken rage on a living punching bag. I ain’t that stupid.” Jack started walking to his apartment.

“Look, you little sack of shit…”

“Look, you big sack of shit. You are smarter than this. You know I wouldn’t answer the call if I didn’t want to. And you know I knew that you knew about that card. Wasn’t it strange that I hadn’t used it in months? Come on man, you make my genetics look bad. Maybe the smarts come from mom then.”

“Forget the patience. I’m gonna put you in a fucking comma.”

“Why do you even want me back?” That was a legitimate question. It really didn’t make sense. The government aid the devil received because of Jack surely wasn’t enough. “Isn’t it easier for you this way? You can just drink yourself to sleep and not worry about me.”

“I made a fucking promise to your mom. I ain’t ’bout lettin’ you turn into some corner trickster.”

“I didn’t figure you for the type to have imagination.”

“I know what shit you’re into. But I’ll make a man out of you.”

No thanks. “And here I thought you just wanted me because I make good conversation.”

At his apartment, Jack picked up his backpack, packed three sets of clothes, and put on his AR glasses.

“Whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me, and you got to do what I say. I’m your-“

“Don’t even say it,” Jack hissed. “Look. I’m not going back. Ever. Get it into your head. You’re nothing to me. My only parent died five years ago. You can rot in hell.”

“Steven, you’re coming home whether you like it or not!” the devil screamed.

“You know what?” Jack said and tapped a button on his glasses. “I’m through. I thought this would be much more cathartic. You know? To call you a sack of shit and then leave for good. And to be honest, I kinda wanted to say goodbye so that I could move on, and start fresh. But I think I should’ve just left.”

“Steven, stay where you are,” the devil barked.

Jack paused. The call had gone for long enough. His software had invaded the devil’s phone and network. He had full access, and that meant he could completely erase everything and move on.

“Goodbye,” Jack could hear the devil barking on the other side, “dad.” He hung up.

It was done. He had needed some sort of direct connection to get the software to infect the devil. Now, he had him. And with a single press of a button, Steven Albarado would disappear. Jack held his finger up, lingering over the enter key. He licked his lips and hit it.

With that, all of the traces of who he was before were gone. He’d already taken care of his records. The cops had a surprisingly shit security, one he’d exploited to create multiple identities just in case this new one failed.

Leaving his apartment, Jack exhaled once more and stretched. Today was his new birthday. Today he would be whoever he wanted to be.

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