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A Girl in Time. Chapter One

Posted November 30 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

In twenty-nine days, she would be rich.

Cady was almost dizzy with the thought, although it might have been sleep deprivation, too. And maybe a little hunger. That was her own fault, she knew, as she leaned forward into the glow of the iMac.

But it didn't matter.

Because in twenty-nine days, she would be rich.

She shivered in the cold. The tiny studio apartment was unheated except for the valiant efforts of a cheap, Chinese fan heater plugged into one of three power boards under her desk. It was also dark, except for the computer screen and the small constellation of status lights on various pieces of equipment.

Cable modem. Power boards. Macbook Pro. Mister Coffee. A big ass Beoplay A9 kicking out The Funkoars “What's Your Malfunction?” at half volume.

Still loud enough to shake the building.

It was a gift, the A9. Or maybe a bribe, or some sort of enticement. She wasn't quite sure. But she did know she couldn't afford that level of awesome. Some guy from Electronic Arts had sent it over when the game hit number one on the paid App Store.

And stayed there.

And stayed there.

She rubbed at the gooseflesh on her upper arms, warming herself with the friction and the satisfaction of staring at her Sales and Payments pages on iTunes Connect.

Murder City was still number one.

“Suck on that, Pikachu.” She smiled, and her mouth formed an attractive bow, but there was nobody else in the one-room apartment to see it and smile back.

Cady McCall did not much care, because in twenty-nine days, Tim Cook would back a truckload of money up to her front door, and she would be rich.

She checked her watch, her Dad's old Timex, a wind-up piece of analog history. He'd worn it to the factory every day until he retired. Almost time to get going, but she thought she had just a few minutes to check her reviews. Never read the reviews, they said, and they were right. But most of Cady's, like ninety-five percent of them, were four and five stars. Mostly five. And the gimps giving her the one-star write-ups were universally hilarious. Mouth-breathers, all.

She'd made a Tumblr out of them. It was hugely popular, and the affiliate ads linking to her app on iTunes were unexpectedly lucrative.

Suck on that, gimps.

The Funkoars closed out their rap. They gave up the A9 to Tony Bennett getting his groove on with Michael Bublé, a duet of “Don't Get Around Much Anymore”.

That was the good thing about living alone, one of the many excellent things about living alone. She could play whatever the hell music she wanted, as loud as she liked to play it. And she liked it loud. Her studio was on the top floor of a four story warehouse, an old cotton mill.

Solid brick. Bare wooden floors. Big picture windows overlooking Puget Sound.

Cool, right? But apart from a sweatshop on the ground floor, she was the only occupant. The brickwork badly needed repointing with mortar, the wooden floors were scored and dangerously splintered in places, and you couldn't see out of the windows. They'd been painted over sometime in the 90s. The building was marked for demolition, the whole block for redevelopment, which was how she could afford the space. She had no lease, no security of tenure.

Again, didn't matter.

Twenty-nine days.

Her phone chimed. A message from Georgia.

Already here. BuzzFeed guy 2. Where r u?

She quickly sent back a canned response.

On my way!

Cady stood up from the desk, closing the windows on her reviews without bothering to read the new ones, but pausing with her hand hovering over the mouse before logging out of Connect. She couldn't take her eyes off the estimated amount of her first payment.

Georgia responded to her canned reply with an emoji. A skull and a flame.

Die in a fire.

That broke the spell. Cady smiled. She could afford to smile. In twenty-nine days, four and a half million dollars would drop into her bank account. They would probably invite her to WWDC. She might even demo.

The phone rang while she was throwing on a leather jacket and scarf. It was cold outside, and probably wet.

Because Seattle.

The call came in on her landline, giving her the excuse she needed to bust out an epic eye roll. It would be her mom. Only her mom called her on the landline. She only had the landline because of her parents, who were convinced her Uncle Lenny had died of a brain tumor from his cell phone, which he was always yammering on when he was alive, God rest his soul.

Uncle Lenny also smoked two packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day and liked a shot of rum in his coffee.

He drank a lot of coffee.

Cady totally would have answered the call, but she was running late, and Georgia was half way gone to getting pissed at her. And that was why she had an answering machine anyway, because she just didn't have time, and her parents trusted voicemail about as much as they trusted cell phones not to shoot death rays directly into your head.

And the idea that they might just send a text? You know, something efficient?
Forget about it.

“Hi, Cadence, it's your mom.”

The old familiar voice, a little tinny through the cheap speakers. Cady dropped the volume on Tony and the Boob, but did not make the mistake of picking up. That could delay her by up to half an hour, and she had people waiting.

Better to call back in the morning.

“Your dad clipped another couple of stories for you today. He's sending them in the mail tomorrow.”

A pause. Probably waiting to see if Cady picked up. But if she picked up, she'd get in trouble for screening the call, because her mom knew how small the apartment was, and she had no excuse for not answering already. Best to pretend she was already gone.

An almost inaudible sigh.


“You should call your dad, Cadence. He's not been well. I think some days searching the google for stories about you is what gets him out of bed in the mornings. He's very proud of you, darling. You should call.”

She almost picked up then, but Melville started yowling for dinner, and she didn't have time for him either.

“Go catch some rats,” she said, using the toe of her Doc Martens to push the protesting tabby cat out of the front door.

There were always rats. Hence, Melville.

Her mother's voice was lost in the rumble of the heavy steel door sliding in its tracks. The cat looked up at her as if to say, “Well, where's the beef, bitch?”

“Rats,” she said. “I mean it. Earn your keep, pretty boy.”

The landing outside her apartment was dark. The bulb had blown months ago and was too difficult for her to reach. It hung on a wire over the stairwell. She could almost reach it, if she was willing to risk a broken neck. There was no point calling the building owner. They weren't coming out to change a light bulb. She wondered sometimes if they even collected the rent from the account she paid into.

Cady didn't care. She used the flashlight on her iPhone. She juggled the phone and the padlock on her front door with practiced ease.

The cat yowled again, suspecting the worst.

It was even colder in the stairwell. Maybe cold enough to freeze the water in the pipes again.
Twenty-nine days.

Four and a half million.

Her boots sounded louder than usual on the concrete steps and she wondered if something about the temperature of near freezing air amplified sound waves. It made sense, but that didn't mean it was right.

She would've made a note to ask Jeremy the next time she saw him. He was a sound engineer at Square Enix. He'd know, and not knowing was bugging her now that she'd thought about it.
She didn't make a note though.

She had the phone in her hand, but only an idiot would hurry down a darkened staircase in an empty building, thumb typing on her phone. For sure she'd trip and break her neck or something and then who’d spend all her money?

The sweatshop was closed up and quiet as she swung around the landing on the first floor. That was unusual. Russians ran that place, and they normally worked those Asian women until late at night, seven days a week. She checked the time on her phone. It was still early, although she was now more than a few minutes late for dinner.

Maybe the Russians had moved on. Maybe Immigration had caught up with the women.
Unlike the question about whether cold air amplified sound waves, the fate of the sweatshop wasn't something likely to keep her up at night. She'd be gone from this dump soon anyway.
Her phone buzzed with another message from Georgia.

BuzzFeed guy is cute! Don't hurry.

That was good then, she thought, as she hit the street and pulled the main door of the building closed behind her. The deadlock engaged with a loud click. She put the phone away and started walking toward the restaurant. It was a couple of blocks away, not long if she hurried. She was trying to kick the habit of staring at a phone while she walked. She'd seen a guy slam into a telephone pole doing that, and in this part of town you needed your wits about you anyway.

“Cady, I don't like you walking the streets at night the way you do,” her mother said pretty much every time they spoke. Another reason for not picking up that call a few minutes earlier. “You live in such a rough part of town, dear.”

And she did, but Cady McCall was not a victim in waiting. She had a can of mace in one pocket of her leather jacket, and she'd packed a small but sturdy LED flashlight in the other. It threw out a wicked bright beam, enough to blind anyone she light-sabered with it. And held in the fist, it made a great improvised weapon. The sort of thing douchebros called a “tactical” piece.

The rain she had feared was less a drizzle than a really heavy mist. She'd be damp, but not soaked, by the time she walked the few blocks to dinner. Cars drove past every minute or so, going in both directions, their headlights lancing into the darkness like searchlights in old war movies.

Some women, and a lot of men, cannot help but look vulnerable when caught on their own. Moving through an empty landscape, they seem to invite threats. Cadence McCall was not like that. She was not overly tall, but long legs and thick hair that fell halfway down her back made her seem taller. She carried herself through the night with a confident stride, her boot heels clicking on the wet sidewalk. It was real confidence, too, not just a show for anybody who might've been watching.

She was somebody who felt at ease on her own.

And anyway, she wasn't worth mugging.

Until her iTunes money dropped, she had sixty-three bucks to her name.

11 Responses to ‘A Girl in Time. Chapter One’

Dave Barnes has opinions thus...

Posted November 30
Appetite whetted. Deal me in.

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insomniac mutters...

Posted November 30
It looks so different once it's been set out. I wonder if it makes a difference in beta. There is an element of looking easier to read.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 30
I'm doing the final check on my Kindle. It makes a HUGE difference. You see things that your eyes just slid over in a word processor.

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Ceramic mumbles...

Posted November 30
Cor, she seems great. I reread the bit about her walking twice. Love the confidence you've depicted.
Looking forward to the book!

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Dave W reckons...

Posted November 30
Looking forward to it!

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DarrenBloomfield ducks in to say...

Posted November 30
It looks so cool all tarted up out of DB Paper!

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NBlob mutters...

Posted November 30
A free taste, then jack up the price when the mark is hooked.

Nice.<Br>
C'mon man, a taste, a builder, just a smidge.

You know I'm good for it.

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she_jedi puts forth...

Posted December 1
WANTWANTWANTWANT!! Can't wait for this, the first hit was great, now I'm jonesing for the rest :D

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Bondiboy66 is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1
I await with bated breath

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GhostSwirv mutters...

Posted December 2

I soooooooooooooo want to know what message Mom left on the voicemail - I bet it's important!

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Scott mumbles...

Posted January 3
Hey there, are you going to bring this book to Audible? I think most of your books would be great there.

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