AlterNet Life

“How was it?” Agnes asked as she checked in the ancient book.

“Eye-opening,” Nora, a scrawny teenage girl, giggled. Her laughter caused the group of four friends around her to erupt in giggles. They all remembered they were in a library and started shushing each other. “Can you hold it for Eden, please? She said she wants to check it out after work.” Agnes raised an eyebrow but nodded.

“No problem. And, I’m glad you two are finally talking again,” Agnes said. There weren’t many kids in the small-town and Agnes knew them all personally. Gossip about their ongoing teenage dramas always made it back to her eventually, but sometimes news was slow to reach her. Nora shrugged and used her thumb to point at the newest face in town behind her. Claire, the tallest girl in the group, stood at the back of the group.

“Claire helped us talk it out,” Nora said. “She’s the one that recommended the book to all of us too.” At her words, brief memories flashed through Agnes’ mind. She realized Claire was the first person to check out the book Agnes didn’t even know existed in her library. She loved books and her job, Agnes had personally touched and remembered every single book in the small library. Except for the one Claire wanted to borrow. She’d never seen the book before but somehow it was cataloged in her system.

Agnes remembered Claire brought one of the other girls when she returned it, and it was checked out immediately. Each time someone read the book, they returned it while bringing along someone else to check it out. Agnes didn’t think anything of the situations individually; but, looking back on them as a whole suddenly seemed suspicious.

“Wow, it seems like a great book,” Agnes glanced at the black leatherbound tome. It was so old that the title was mostly worn off. She could barely make out the word ‘manual‘ and a faded embossed logo. Even though the computer gave her the full title, it sounded like dry reading that wouldn’t interest a group of teenage girls. “What’s it about?”

Reality,” Nora said with mock awe and exaggerated wide eyes. The group of girls launched into giggles again. “Anyway, Eden’s out in a few hours, she’ll come by to get it then. Thanks, Aggie!” The group waved their good-byes and turned to leave as one. Agnes initially minded the nickname, but she realized it was meant to be a term of endearment and not a display of disrespect.

“Bye girls,” Agnes waved as they left. Once they were gone, Agnes looked down at the dark tome. “Reality, huh?”  She opened the book and found the first paragraph.

“Unauthorized Access. Unauthorized Access. Unauthorized Access. Unauthorized Access…” Agnes scanned down the rest of the page, then flipped through the book. Every time she stopped to read a sentence it repeated the same words: Unauthorized Access. 

“What the Hell?” She mumbled, then grinned. “Are they pranking me?” she wondered how they might have gotten access to her computer to catalog the book, but knew there was no way. She shrugged as she stared at the full title on screen, hoping to glean something interesting.

“AlterNet Training Manual: Written by NPCs for NPCs”

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