In an age where everyone lives their lives through a screen, no one has more celebrity status than fashion blogger extraordinaire, Madeline Q. And in a chance meeting, loner geek, Tayler, is introduced to her world of parties, fan worship and seduction.
But as his own star rises, Madeline Q is arrested for murder. There’s just one problem – there is no corpse. Tayler soon learns that fiction blurs with reality on Social Media Central.
My landlady, Mary, wore a revealing white dress as she sat in front of her outdated computer. With her best years behind her, the frock could not save her fallen breasts from pressing against her desk for more support.One of her cats clawed at her bare feet, meowing as if it hadn’t been fed for days.
Before Mary noticed I was in the room, I went to her kitchen to find food. All I found was milk. A gluggy white custard splattered from the carton with a smell that could strip paint off a wall. I ran the tap and washed the evil mess down the sink.
“Who’s there?” Mary yelled.
“Only me.” I came out of the kitchen.
“Have you fed your cats lately?”
“I think so. Do they look hungry?”
“One of them was scratching at your feet a moment ago. Didn’t you feel it?”
She looked around. I pointed to the ginger furball that had wrapped itself around my legs.READ MORE
“Oh. I’ll feed them in a second. I’m just looking through Tammy’s wedding photos.”
“Have I met Tammy?”
I peered at the screen. A man sporting shoulder pads danced with a woman wrapped in a dress so tight, it was begging for mercy. Both looked like casting rejects from a 1980s prime-time drama about rich oil barons. As Mary flipped through the images, I noted the guests were more engaged with their screens than the couple who brought them to this moment. But at least a few paid the bride some attention by snapping her picture.
“I’m sure I haven’t met her,” I said. “How do you know her?”
“We chat online all the time.”
“Yes, Mary, but how did you meet?”
“Right here, on Social Media Central.”
The reddish feline pawed at my jeans. “Don’t you think it’s time to feed your cats?”
“In a moment.” She closed Tammy’s social page and looked at the newsfeed of a handsome man thirty years younger. In the reflection from the screen, I could see her smile like a child who’d discovered ice cream, followed with concern as if the treat had melted. “Tayler, how did you get into my apartment?”
“The door opened when I knocked. You know, you really shouldn’t leave it unlocked.”
“I didn’t mean to. Why are you here?”
“It’s rent day.”
“Is it Wednesday already?”
“I’ll leave the money on your dining table.”
I left and climbed the stairs, returning shortly with some leftover chicken I was saving for dinner. As I walked in, Mary danced in stilted moves as if she was communicating in Egyptian hieroglyphics to the delighted gent on her computer. She swung her head toward the door, and our eyes met. Hers widened.
“Oh, Tayler, have you met Bernard?”
I waved at the screen. “Hi, Bernard.”
“Hi, Tayler” came the voice from the tinny speaker.
“Tayler’s my tenant. He’s lived above me for years.”
“And how do you know Bernard?”
“Social Media Central,” they both replied.I accidentally bit my tongue.
“Bernard is a…um, what is it you said you were, Bernard?”
“A dentist.” He flashed his pearly whites.
“I see,” I said. “Are you going somewhere tonight, Mary?”
“No.” She looked puzzled.
“It’s just that you’ve dressed up.” With her face turned from the screen, she scowled at me. I handed her the plate of chicken. “This is for your cats.”
“My cats? Why would I need chicken, Tayler? I have plenty of food for my dear little ones.”
“Tayler’s right,” said Bernard. “You look radiant this evening, Mary.”
“Really? Oh, it’s just something I threw on. I wanted to look nice for my friends. At my age, I don’t get a chance to throw on a frock anymore.”
“Then maybe we should do dinner together?”
“Yes, we could mirror meal.”
“Mirror meal?” I asked.
“Really, Tayler, you’re so out of touch.”
“How about steak, mash, and gravy?” Bernard asked.
“Yes, I can make that. I’d light candles but I don’t think my camera works that well with mood lighting.”
“That’s fine. I’ll bring the music. I’ll make up a special playlist and stream it through as we eat.”
“Then it’s a date. How does seven p.m. tomorrow sound?”
“I can’t tomorrow, my love. I have another appointment.”
“Not another woman?”
“No, nothing like that. I’m overdue with my taxes, so I’m linking up with my accountant in the evening.”
“We can have a late supper.”
“No, let’s mirror meal on Friday. That way we both won’t be dateless over the weekend.”
“Sounds perfect.” She placed the plate of chicken next to the computer. “Tayler, why is your mouth open like that?”
“Sorry, I’m in shock. Let me get this straight. Instead of going out for dinner, you’re both cooking steak and mashed potato and eating in front of your computer screens. Oh, brother. Let me take an educated guess. You two have never met face to face.”
“Tayler, don’t be so rude,” my landlady said.
“That’s okay, Mary. My son, Mike, is just like Tayler. Out of touch with technological trends. No offense, Tayler.”
“Mary, my darling, I have to go. Tammy is trying to get my attention.”
“I was just looking at her wedding photos. Put her through. We can both talk to her.”
“I can’t really do that. She’s marked her contact request as private. Between you and me, I think she married prematurely. There were already problems in their relationship, but she went ahead with the ceremony anyway.”
“I understand, my darling.” Mary lost her smile momentarily. “I’m looking forward to Friday.”
“So am I, my love.”
“Bye, Bernard, until—” Her cyberboyfriend disappeared.
“Oh, damn these bad connections. The government needs to get this right.”
I placed my hand on her shoulder. She didn’t respond. “So was it love at first sight?”
“Not quite.” She seemed oblivious to my sarcasm. “But I knew there was a special connection the first time we video chatted.”
“Has he met the Amazing Twenty?”
My hand slipped from her as she stepped forward. “Tayler, he came up with the name. Without him, I wouldn’t have met the others.”
“Has he got legs?”
“I’m just asking. I mean, have you ever video chatted with him doing anything other than sitting down?”
“I think so. Hmm.” She rested her finger on her chin. “Oh, Tayler, why can’t you just be happy I’m in love?”
“So, Bernard is the reason the Amazing Twenty exists. How did you find him?”
“We told you. Through Social Media Central.”
“Yes, but through which application?”
“Oh I see. Through Lover Net. Does he blog about his pursuits?”
“He used to.”
“Does he blog about you?”
“Sort of. He calls me the sophisticated lady in his posts.”
I tried to keep a straight face.
“Oh, Tayler, don’t rain on my parade just because I have someone and you don’t. Love will tap you on the shoulder one day. Isn’t that what I always say to you?”
I missed the landlady I used to dine with—the woman whose wisdom had turned to mainstream quotes since she discovered Social Media Central. I wanted to say, “Step into the real world,” but there was less and less real world to step into.COLLAPSE
mousewife on Amazon wrote:
I was drawn to this book because of the story and concept, and Kevin Klehr excels at crafting a fascinating look at life in the near future. Drawing on Orwell and the current, concerning state of social media in our modern life, he delivers a fast-aced, rip-roaring read you can't put down.
Read full review HERE
Amos Lassen on Amos Lassen Reviews wrote:
This evokes some of the classics by Bradbury, Orwell, and Huxley, which involved terrible totalitarian regimes, futures where thought is regulated, controlled, or discouraged. This particular story uses a more subtle, layered method to introduce the menace and peril of its society, a society which the modern reader can relate to only too keenly.
Read full review HERE
Kirsty on Joyfully Jay wrote:
I am sad that the plot is plausible but I enjoyed the bold characters who really have no idea just how without power they are. This is a thought-provoking read even though I found it troubling. I felt that George Orwell was hovering above as I read the powerful social commentary presented here.
Read full review HERE
Kevin Klehr’s latest release is a novel set fifty years into the future, yet it is the premise that interested me. I have lost count of the number of times that I have sat around a table with family or friends and we have all been on our phones rather than engaging in conversation. There is no doubt that we live in a digital era and there are positive aspects to that, but the power of social media in our lives cannot be denied.
Read full review HERE