“Check this new app I got; it’s called DistUrbEx.” Ron said. “It actually pays you to explore abandoned buildings and livestream. You can nope out anytime, and it still pays a base amount. It even matches you up with nearby sites.”
“You’ve already signed up, haven’t you?” I asked. Ron was a decent roommate, but had poor impulse control. I wish now I’d tried to help him.
“Yeah,” he said as he grabbed his bike helmet. “It’s mostly old houses and easy stuff. It pays $2.99 just to go inside, and you keep making money the longer you stay. I picked one just half a mile from here on South Water Street. Watch my MyStream feed, ok?”
“That’s a crap part of town,” I said. “It’s gonna be a tiny, 1940s crackerbox house that smells like cat pee. Have fun with rotted-out flooring, vagrants, rusty nails, the cops…”
“You’re missing the fun,” he said. “And the loot. Beer’s on me tonight, man, just you wait.”
“So, we’ll split a single of Natty Light?” I snarked, but he was already gone.
Twelve minutes later, Ron’s MyStream opened to a grainy, poorly-lit view of the back of a shabby little house. It was more dilapidated than I’d imagined, and Ron’s awkward narration seemed to fit perfectly. “Ok, viewers, I took the ‘Max My Payout’ option. Let’s go inside.”
Fat dust particles floated in the flashlight beam as the door scraped inward. Ron stood in the mildewed wreck of a 1950’s kitchen. He began breathing hard and making sounds in his throat. “Aw, I almost hurled. It’s like a sewer in here… So rancid…”
The camera shook as Ron shuffled through debris toward a dark doorway. He gave a high-pitched shriek as something cracked underfoot, and jumped forward. A dingy little sitting room appeared onscreen, complete with peeling wallpaper, moldering overstuffed chairs, and boards across the window. “Oh, it smells so vile,” Ron whined. The video jerked into darkness as he ran back toward the door, hyperventilating and moaning.
“I had to take the ‘Nope Out’ option, guys,” Ron explained to the camera once he was out. “Man, it stinks so bad, I just couldn’t deal. Uh, well, ‘till next time, ok?” Maybe he forgot to tap the button or something, but the video kept going as he rode home.
I squinted to read the “Max My Payout” progress notification in his feed. It read 1%.” I laughed.
I tried to laugh, but I couldn’t make a sound. I tried to stand, but I couldn’t move. Something was wrapped around my arms, my legs, and now my face. My heart raced and I threw my weight against the rough, hairy restraints, but they were too strong.
The lights flickered, then went out. The only thing I could see was Ron’s feed on my video screen.
He was ambling along our hallway. I tried to scream.
He stopped in front of our door and grasped the handle.