Our office space in Bushwick was still half-vacant. We only had a handful of writers that needed to come in to work every day, our other team would report to Terrence and I remotely. The rows of monitor stations only took up a quarter of the overall space. The monitors faced a large window that made up the entire north wall. From our vantage point, we could look out the window and see most of the midtown skyline. Terrence had his office space walled off with multi-colored dividers that were covered with sticky notes. I had a modest desk behind all the monitor stations tucked away next to the only small window on the left brick wall. If we had operating titles that mattered, Celia Ramos was our acting Editor-in Chief. She originally came to New York from Puerto Rico on a full academic scholarship, but had been poached by Terrence when we read her Op-Ed in the university’s newspaper about darknet use among college students. She was a writer, and a far more disciplined one than I’d ever be. She saw me walk into work with the documents Jacob gave me and got up from her monitor to walk over to me.
“Terrence told me about that guy who passed out outside of Clive’s during your investor meeting last week. That sounded pretty wild.”
“Oh yeah, Percocet guy. Funny.” I commented as I turn on my laptop and scoot in to my desk.
“Where’d you get the papers?”
“The contractor. Said it’d help me ‘translate’. Have you heard of SSL?”
“Sure, Several Samples.”
“Have you ever been on it?” I asked.
“No, never got a hyperlink to work.”
“Well now we have one. I need some of the staff writers to spend time on this. I’m going to try to scan as much of this manual as I can so you can all help out.”
“What are we looking for?”
“Anything that can help with a new story. I’m trying to tie up the series we have on internet security.”
“Got it.” Celia replied. “Send me the link.”
“Already done.” I said and looked up to see Terrence walking over.
“What’s new guys?” Terrence asked us both.
“I was just telling Celia about a new lead.”
“You ready for tonight?” Terrence asked.
“Oh yeah, dinner. Sure.”
“Did you get a new suit?” Terrence asked me.
“I have a suit Terrence.”
“Just check out some of the ideas I sent you.”
“I’m not talking about this again.”
“Just look presentable.”
I shot Terrence an annoyed glance. Celia laughed and walked back to her station.
We were having dinner with one of the more reputable publishing conglomerates that evening. The point was to discuss possibilities of selling The Edge. Terrence had been working on finding buyers for over a year, and since our new stories were receiving so much buzz, we’d finally been approached with an offer that wasn’t terribly insulting. Terrence was the money guy, even though I produced the content, I almost never spoke during business meetings. Terrence’s was the only voice that was needed.
“As I said to you before,” Terrence said as a waiter standing near me carefully poured the table more red wine. “We liked your offer, but there’s a lot here that you’re not considering.”
“If you’re going to tell us more about your new numbers,” one of the reps put his hand up to stop Terrence. “We all know growth like that can’t last very long.” He was an older man, far older than anyone else at the table. The other rep hadn’t spoken much, and looked like a young version of the older one. They even had the same moosed-back hairstyle.
“Not unless you’re entering a new level of exposure entirely.” Terrence retorted.
“And how can you prove that you have?” The older man questioned.
“We’ve got another story in the works,” Terrence replied, “it’s going to have substantially bigger numbers and higher traffic for the site. We’re already starting to talk to more mainstream outlets to have them quote us directly when the story drops.”
“What’s the story?”
I sat up in my mahogany chair and looked at Terrence sharply. I communicated to him with my eyes that there shouldn’t be any more conversation on the subject.
“Well,” Terrence looked back at me with a smile. “Our section editor doesn’t really like to discuss stuff he’s got in the works.”
“I think this isn’t really the time to be withholding,” the older man looked at me and said. “If you’ve got proof to back up your associates claim, you should let us in on it.”
“Sorry guys,” I put up my hands, “I really wouldn’t want to jinx this thing. All I can say is that I’m working on it and I’ll be using the same sources I pulled from on the series about internet security.”
“You know,” the younger guy laughed, “I haven’t heard someone sum up your series so well before. It’s really about contemporary internet security. There’s just so much in it, it’s easy to get lost in the detail. Not that it’s a bad thing.”
“No, I get it, it’s dense.”
“Well, he’s the author,” Terrence laughed, “nobody’s gonna understand all that internet jargon better than him.”
The two reps joined in on the courteous laugh. Terrence wanted to make sure they wouldn’t try to move any lower on the selling price, so we settled on a nice round number that everyone pretended to be comfortable with. After they paid for our dinner and left, Terrence and I went outside to get in our Uber. Terrence had the destination set to one of our regular post-work bars, so I went with him to Mona’s, a dive bar not far from the office. It was in the same once-industrial section of Bushwick that we worked in. It was a stark contrast from the Francophile setting we’d previously dined in. At the bar I ordered a beer while Terrence had his regular rum and coke with a side of Smartphone. He’d been staring at his screen incessantly since we’d gotten out of the Uber.
“You think Celia’s been working out? Her body looks crazy in this instagram pic.” Terrence turned his phone around to show me a photo of Celia in a bikini on some beach.
“That was recent?” I asked.
“Yeah, says a few days ago.”
“She’s got a body, sure.”
“Would you fuck?” Terrence asked with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek cadence.
“I have,” I said drily.
“Our first Christmas party, you don’t remember her going home with me?”
“Fuck, I do.” Terrence said as he kept scrolling through her Instragram photos. “So what was her body like?”
“Nice. Nothing crazy.”
“Well it looks crazy.”
“What do you think about the price? You don’t think we could get better?” I asked.
“I’m surprised they want us so quickly, it’s only been three years,” Terrence replied without looking up from his phone.
“What was with you telling them about my story? I haven’t even begun writing it yet.”
“Well you will, and now they’re going to be looking out for it.”
I shrugged. “I’m only going to have the one beer tonight; I think I’m turning in early.”
“Lame,” Terrence replied.
“It’s been a long week.”
Writing about the internet is never linear. A lot the conventions you learn don’t really work. How do you cite a source when the only name you can find is xxTrumpsVagina? How do you quote a Youtube video that’s been taken down for copyright infringement? The other issue is finding the real stories. There’s a lot happening on the surface web; enough to distract most people. In order to know where to look you have to be able to understand the languages that are fluently spoken on the message boards and image boards of the internet. The shorthand, Cockney-style wordplays and endless meme references bury all information under layers of cryptic language. Once you get a hold of the web’s lingo, you can begin to mine for treasure. My method for gleaning information off the boards is the digital equivalent of ease-dropping. Enough of that combined with a few sources to give you on-the-ground information, and the internet rumor-mill can be traversed.
There wasn’t a specific moment when I decided I would focus all of my attention on the digital world. It wasn’t hard to find interesting stories, and I’d spent the better part of my adolescence transfixed on a monitor screen, dumping any and all information I could get straight into my brain. It’d occurred to me some time ago that I was quite possibly one of the first generations of humans to ever have the ability to consume a non-stop flow of unfiltered, uncensored information. Most people spent their early teenage years taking selfies and grooming their social media personas. I spent countless nights on Wiki’s, Chan’s and subreddits that never seemed to lack in new, exciting information.
Editor’s Note: If you enjoy Adam’s writing, be sure to check out his previously featured works with Big Easy Magazine here! Also, be sure to read some of our other short fiction. This includes works from Nolan Storey, Margaret Marley, Camille Goering and Fritz Westenberger!