Chapter XVI: There's a cute kitten in this video
Their first ElectON assignment was to make something popular. Anything would do.
Henry stood on top of a boulder pile in Central Park. His fists dug into his hips. He surveyed the New York City landscape in a Superman pose. He dressed as if he were a hipster Clark Kent, with a bomber hat, and a faded X-Men t-shirt underneath a size-too-small sweater. His bare, red fingertips trembled.
“They’ll never suspect us like this!” shouted a voice from below.
That voice belonged to Tommie Spellmeyer, Henry’s digital strategist partner at ElectON. From the top of the rock, Henry saw her round cheeks contrast against her beanpole build. She waved at Henry. Her hands looked pale and warm, despite her hobo gloves. From 20 feet up, Henry could smell her watermelon perfume amidst the discarded popcorn and cigarette butts littering the pathways.
Henry gave her thumbs up, then resumed scouting. He would find something to make popular, cold fingers be damned.
He stared at the skeletal trees obscuring the fields of snow, and the sleeping beggars obscuring the park benches. The sky was overcast— nothing shone here. Henry search for Walton, his other ElectON coworker. Walton was not in view. Henry suspected he’d find Walton doodling pictures of squirrels on his tablet, wiping latte foam from his neckbeard.
A week ago, Sam Bonheur gathered Henry, Tommie, and Walton in one room. She gave them their first assignment: create a viral hit. Could be anything. Before they crafted a memetic Schmeling ad, they first had to craft something memetic. To make matters more difficult, the three strategists revealed, in the first meeting’s icebreaking games, to have contrasting personal preferences. Tommie adored anti-humor, and got into a quote-shouting match with Walton using passages from Schmeling’s worst novels. When asked about her hobbies, she talked about finding terrible Christian movies and riffing on them with friends. When Walton was asked about his hobbies, he brought up his tablet and showed everyone his webcomic. The webcomic portrayed scenes of a man beaten up by anthropomorphic depictions of life, reality, and self-esteem, each thrashing constituting its own comic. Throughout that first day, Walton couldn’t stop cracking jokes about his untrimmed facial hair and lack of self-discipline.
Walton relished in negativity for himself; Tommie relished in negativity for bad art. At their second meeting, Henry took every pause in conversation as a chance to discuss Kerry Ebner. But Walton and Tommie kept exchanging gifs of bad actors talking to the camera about why God hates the phrase “Happy Holidays.” Once Henry gave in, and sent the two a gif from the movie Bel1EVE, all productivity stopped for the day. The second meeting ended with everyone’s cheeks numb with laughter, and with Henry’s sheet of paper, labeled ‘Ways To Become Popular,’ left blank.
For their third meeting, Henry suggested that they all wander outside, to find inspiration in the real world. That was how the three found themselves in Central Park, and how Henry ended up on top of a boulder pile.
Henry scampered off of the boulder pile. His foot slipped on the landing, so he twirled himself into a staggered final stop on the sidewalk. He threw his arms in the air. “Ta-da!” he said.
Tommie smiled. She pulled her ski hat down, to better cover her ears. “A+ botched landing, 01/10,” she said.
“Hey, no one can judge me but me.”
“’God is ALWAYS judging!’” Tommie shouted, quoting the terrible Christian movie Bel1EVE.
Henry scanned the sparse park. Ducks quacked on the half-frozen pond to his right.
“What happened to Walton?” he said.
“Oh, probably asking a squirrel to read his webcomic.”
“Got it, got it. An idea struck me up there. Why don’t we go walk around town and find the weirdest person to talk to?”
Tommie rolled her eyes. “New Yorkers see the weirdest person ever every day.”
“And the rest of the world does not. I know New Yorkers think their city is the world,” said Henry with a grand twirl of both his arms, “but not everyone has seen the wonders of the Naked Cowboy.”
“The world’s seen too much of...
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