Copyright Mark R Morris Jr 2016
All rights reserved
“Let’s head over to Sammy’s junk shop and then we’ll go do town to Fozzi’s for a slice and a cold draft,” Dave said.
“Dude, you sound like you’re reading a commercial,” Mike laughed. He was thumbing through his phone and held up a picture of a scantily clad girl on a beach, “how about this one? Can I go there?”
Dave didn’t even bother to look, “I do not sound like a commercial, and get your feet off the coffee table, Val will kill me if there are shoe marks on there, you know this!” he shoved Dave’s basketball shoes off the glass table top, picked up some dishes and headed to the kitchen, “And no! We are not going to fulfill your pornographic fantasies, I’m serious, man!”
Mike snorted, “Right, that’s just because you already have the love of your life. Your getting married in three weeks, no one cares if Dave dies old and alone. You don’t know, I could pop into this picture, sweep this chick off her feet and you and me could be having a double wedding next month!”
Dave laughed, “Hey, great, you gonna pay for your half, or is it like the beer you keep promising you’ll get next time?”
“Look, we’ve been several places for you. I helped you steal a damn wedding ring from that jewelers website photo last week and all I want to do is meet a girl,” Dave said.
Mike sat next to him, “First, keep your voice down, I have neighbors. Second, we agreed there was no ethical dilemma here because the ring isn’t real, it’s some kind of virtual reality hologram, but a person? You can’t just hop into a photo and snatch a person.”
“Um, pretty sure, you can! We tested it with that bird you took to your mother,” Dave fumed.
“Yeah, and look how that turned out. Damn thing croaked the next day,” Mike replied, patting down his pockets, “Speaking of which, where’s the phone?”
“Took you long enough,” Mike pulled a smart phone from between the couch cushions, “I didn’t really have to ask, I could have just taken it and done it without you knowing.”
Dave chuckled, he took the phone and locked it in his desk drawer, “Except for one thing, 007, I have the phone’s password, and you are not the FBI! Now, are you coming? I’m buying.”
Mike rolled off the couch to a standing position and checked his look in the mirror, fixed his hair a bit and picked something out of his teeth, “Fine, I guess I’ll have to settle for real world ho’s.”
They walked out the door and down the street. The junk shop was about seven blocks away, but it was a nice night and they sat off. For the past few weeks, Dave and Mike had been like their old selves. Since Dave had downloaded an app on his phone that allowed them to literally hop inside of any picture they could upload onto a ‘burner phone’ Dave had installed Wormhole OS 6.9 onto.
At first, they’d just done some silly stuff. They’d hopped into a picture of a bouquet Dave’s fiancée had sent him, saying it was perfect for their wedding and returned with the flowers. Then they’d gone to the rim of the Grand Canyon, walked into one of Elvis’ Vegas concerts, even looked up Hitler’s nostrils, the possibilities were endless. The internet contained images of pretty much everything that had ever happened since the invention of photography.
Then a thought had occurred to them, they could get things. Not just any things. Nice things. Almost anything they wanted. Wormhole OS 6.9 put you right there, in the photo, the objects, the people, the scenery, it was all real and you could explore, touch, taste, even take anything that was directly in the frame of the picture.
They’d thought about becoming art thieves, but they figured, even if they weren’t “forgeries” technically, that might end badly. So, they’d made a list of things people they knew wanted, or needed badly. The first thing they’d gone after was a prosthetic limb. It was for a buddy who’d gone to Iraq and regretted it. It took them forever to find a way for him to show them what he wanted, but once they had the picture, all they had to do was go and get it.
Since the space was just a photographic copy of the real space, the object couldn’t actually be ‘stolen’ or so they convinced themselves. Next, they’d brought back a camera for a young photographer who’d had his gear stolen, and some camping stuff for a homeless guy they passed in the park. The possibilities were endless.
Mike had wanted to go into a pinup image pretty much from the beginning, but Dave argued that they really didn’t know how they were effecting the items they brought back, or their counterparts in the ‘real world’. So, they decided to try something small, a parrot they had taken to Dave’s mother’s house when the damn thing refused to sleep. It had died about two days later. A vet said from shock, the bird was too old to have been moved from one home to another, but Dave wasn’t so sure.
When they got to Sam’s the door was locked. Mike felt along the top of the frame and came down with a key that had been kept there since Sam had opened the place two years ago. They let themselves in. The lights and AC were on, so Sam must be coming back soon. He was way too cheap to leave it on unless he was coming right back.
“Hey, check this out!” Mike said, placing his head behind a taxidermy buffalo’s head, “I’m a minotaur!”
The shop was filled with odds and ends of furniture and collectibles. It had never made much money, until recently. Sam had found a local supplier that was bring him some world class antiques and things were looking up. Mike and Dave wandered to the back of the shop and into the warehouse where larger items were kept, and Sam had a repair shop for furniture and other things that needed a little fixing.
In the center of the room, there were four white pedestals, all with Plexiglas cases over the tops and a single artifact sat on each one. In one there was a Viking helmet, it looked ancient, with embossed designs covering its iron surface. Under the second was a knife. The third held a clay figure that looked like images Dave had seen of Mayan and Incan art. The last one was empty.
“Man, this doesn’t look like anything Sam’s sold before,” Mike said. That Viking helmet is a thousand years old, at least, and that knife looks about the same age. That’s a ceremonial figure from a Mayan temple, you think this stuff is from his new supplier?”
Dave coughed, “Yeah, maybe.”
“What does that mean? You’re acting weird. Did you just rub your nose? Because you only. ever, rub your nose when you are hiding something good. What is it? You know something about this?” Mike asked, peering intently into Mike’s eyes. “You do,huh? What?” Mike looked back to the pieces. He walked around them, studying them, and his friend.
“Yeah, um, Sam mentioned it. Hey, you probably shouldn’t touch that,” Dave said, reaching out as Mike started to lift the cover off of the Viking helmet. “Why not man? How epic would it be to have a selfie in a genuine 1000 year old Viking helmet?” He started to tip the case.
“Stop! You’ll trip the alarm,” Dave said, he stepped over and pulled Mike’s hands from the Plexiglas. “Um, Sam said that would trip the alarm…”
Mike grinned slightly, giving Dave a conspiratorial glance, “Hahahahaha! You old dog! It’s you, isn’t it? You’re the new source of antiquities! Am I right? I am! When were you gonna tell me? Better yet, when were you gonna cut me in? Man, I cannot believe the two of you, running a scam behind my back. Or, wait, does Sam even know where this stuff is coming from? ”
Dave’s shoulders dropped, he looked down at the ground and sighed, forcefully, “I couldn’t tell you, Mike. I just couldn’t risk you shooting off your big mouth. Of course Sam knows, I couldn’t put his business at risk without telling him, could I? ”
Mike gasped in disbelief, he looked around, “Is anybody else hearing this? Hello? He accuses me of having a big mouth. Me! When I kept the secret. You’re the one that told Sam. You’re the one that set up a virtual reality import export service! Nice! I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that, because you’re my best friend, and I really don’t want to hate you for the rest of my life.”
Mike left the warehouse and walked back out to the main showroom. Dave heard the beeping of the alarm as the front door opened.
“Sam’s here!” Mike called, “So, you can come on out here and the two of you can finish stabbing me in the back, or whatever!”
Dave huffed, now what? This would have to be handled carefully.
“Hey, Dave, what’s up?” Sam said, in a ‘happy to see you’ tone, offering a fist for a knuckle bump.
Dave brushed past him and waited by the door, “Not much, man, can we just get this over with?”
Fozzi’s was quiet, which typically was great. It meant you got fast service and had no competition for the pool table, but with the cloud of betrayal hanging over the three friends, it didn’t seem so great. Dave wished for a crowd, or at least some noise. He put his debit card in the jukebox and chose a half dozen songs. Maybe they could salvage this, somehow.
While they waited for their pizza, Mike brooded out loud, “You know, I ought to tell Valerie. Can you imagine that, man? Can you imagine her response when she learns you did not go to an all night florist and have that design copied for her, or that her ring is not a highly expensive copy of Princess Fiona’s engagement diamond? It’s actually just a digital reproduction! Ha! I can. It won’t be pretty.”
“Look, I’m sorry, okay? There’s probably a way we can cut you in,” Dave said, “It wasn’t like it was the plan to keep this a secret forever. Just until we got it established and made sure none of this stuff can be traced from its original source.”
“It’s not Dave’s fault, Mike, it was me. I was just nervous about too many people knowing. I already have cops coming around, same as any resale place, looking for stolen stuff. I just thought, the fewer people that know, you know?” Sam said, apologetically.
Mike was already on his fifth beer. He tipped his mug back and finished it off, then reached for the pitcher, “No, I don’t know man. I’ve never kept secrets from you guys. You’ve both known everything there is to know since, third grade, since the third frigging, grade man, then you go and pull this shit? What is this, huh? Tell me that! What is this? No, I don’t know, and it’s not all right and maybe you shoulda been….shoulda been worried! Cause I can tell, ya know? People do listen to me! I know people ‘sides you two losers… oh man, I need to pee!”
Mike staggered off to the bathroom as their waiter arrived and slid two piping hot pizzas onto the table. He left extra napkins, brought some crushed red pepper, then left the two men alone at the table.
“You know this is going away, right? You’re going to have to deal with it,” Sam said, taking a slice of pizza, thick choose, string out behind it.
“We just need to let him sleep it off. Odds are tomorrow, he’ll barely remember this and care even less,” Dave said, “Give me a chance to talk to him.”
Sam snorted, “Right. Like the last time when he got us all suspended?”
“Junior year of high school? Are you kidding me?” Dave said.
“Nope, not kidding. He hasn’t changed a bit. But, it’s not up to you. It’s not your antiquities license on the line. It’s not your shop, so it’s not your call. So, you deal with him, like we discussed if a problem comes up, you know what to do,” Sam said, taking a huge bite of pizza as if that settled it.
Mike came back to the table and burned the roof of his mouth with pizza, which kept him quiet for the rest of the meal.
Dave called an Uber, since there was no way Mike was walking seven blocks. When they got back to Dave’s apartment, he put Mike on the sofa, it could wait until morning.
When Mike finally regained consciousness the next afternoon, Dave was sitting on the arm of the sofa, smartphone in hand. “Hey buddy. Sorry about last night,” he said, “I think I know how to make it up to you.” He turned the phone toward Mike to reveal a beach scene with no fewer than three bikini clad girls.
Mike sat up groggily and took the phone, “All right, man, can I brush my teeth first?”
The sand was brilliant white and the invisible sun beat down on a patch of clear blue water. Two blondes and a brunette lay between them and the ‘frozen-in-place’ waves in skimpy bikinis.
“So, what do you think?” Mike asked. “Think I can handle the brunette?”
Dave smiled, nervously, his eyes resting on a solid piece of driftwood about the length of a Louisville slugger a few feet away, “Sure, buddy, go for it.”
“How do I look?” Mike asked.
“Well, if she’s anything like the bird, it won’t matter until we get her out of this picture.”
“Right, right, okay, here goes nothing,” Dave said, walking towards the girls across the sand.
Dave slipped the phone into his breast pocket and buttoned the flap, picking up the driftwood as he moved in behind Mike. He got a good grip and took a heavy swing, catching Mike right in the back of the head. He toppled forward on the sand and lay still.
“Damn it! I hate that I’m doing this man, but I have no choice,” he quickly pulled out the phone and thumbed it to life, hitting enter on a photo of him on the sofa in his apartment. As he was dragged into the photo he knew, a huge piece of his soul was not going with him and most of what was left had been sold.
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