VCO: Chapter 26

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Chapter 26

This week’s QA round table we noticed a strange spike in a competitor’s content—the few competitors we have left. Morgen shows both of her palms to everyone at the table. She says, “I don’t know what the hell you did, but this is an actual tick down for us.”

And I want to pay attention but the glass my water is in is pure crystal. And the way it reflects the incoming sunlight from the window make this thin rim of shadow around the heavy bottom. And on top of this white table it looks as if the glass is sinking into it from the bowing, refracted light.

I don’t think I like this anymore. 

I think I kind of want it to be over.

I say, “It only went down two percent.” Fully aware how dumb this conversation is because we can’t accept we’re fine but we can’t believe we can live without some work needing to be done. This place runs itself. I feel like we come these meetings to find things to stress about. 

Morgen cocks her head. Blinks. Curls her lips in. She says, “Mhm. That’s right. Only two percent.” She continued nodding and as she stewed the room felt like a principal’s office. 

She says, “On a bad month, we do about 3.5 billion views on DPZ alone. Not even the entire PPL network.” She teeter totters her hand. She says, “Around 18 cents per view, and they don’t even have to finish the video, they just have to click on the page.”

Doing the math in my head, that’s 630 million dollars a month.

She laces her fingers and puts her forearms on the table. She says, “Would you like to explain how we lost 21 million dollars of revenue in a single day?” Then her head violently cocks to the left and animal traps flash through my mind. 

The thought that a mass exodus of content creators made me feel light. That maybe this could all be over soon. And Joselyn and I could just stay in the cabin. Alone, forever. 

She’s away today for some special event or other. Always some observance to an element, or a deity, or an old friend.

Lugnut was getting scenes with some of PPL’s heaviest hitters for their collaboration debut on his personal website. Which legally, they are allowed to do. Collaboration debuts are a prized possession for budding adult performers. Second only to their first anal scene. Most hold onto it until their agents say the money is right so Marcus must be bankrolling him. All his content is off of PPL

While looking at the violent plummeting lines on the graphs I hear Everhet growl, “Traitor.”

You fired him.

For the rest of the meeting Everhet’s quiet but restless. Like the energy usually used to power his tongue diverted to his hands and feet.

“I know Marcus. I’ve known him, like, forever. And he’s not the guy…” Everhet rolls his right fist in his left palm. He says, “There are certain people who only speak one language.” His eyes flick to me and back down to his hands, “If he wants to fuck with my money. He can feel free to do so. But I’m gonna fucking bury this prick.”

None of this really resonated as serious to me. Until Morgen says, “Joselyn is furious. It’s why she’s not here today.”

I shiver and think of the snapping twig sound from that day we first walked to the cabin together.

Everhet has been chewing a lot more gum and drinking a lot of soda. And like all hard drugs, poor decision making is a side effect. After the most recent FMCA update the definition of a VCO became so wide and eclectic that virtually anything could be a VCO by virtue of being called a VCO. One need only proclaim it to be true and the object was transformed on a psychological level. The snake oil salesman once again had returned for the digital age. Or maybe he never went away. And I get that minty tingly feeling when I look at Everhet stewing. Is this man the problem? Was Morgen preparing me for all this? If it comes down to it, and it’s between him, and getting what I want, am I prepared to do what I need to do?

If Joselyn is furious, I’m incensed.

I can’t lose my job—because I don’t need to have one in the first place.

I can’t get in any kind of trouble except for one. The kind where the people I love don’t love me back. And I’m in a place now where the people who cause me trouble can be removed.


James Jacob Hatfield is a displaced engineer, a painter, and many other contradictions. His work has appeared in X-R-A-Y, Maudlin House, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Barely South Review, Chaleur Magazine, Havik, and others. His ekphrasis poem “torrents of lahar, No. 36” was anthologized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. He is a Sterling Fellow and a Weymouth Fellow. He is the creator and curator of the Gemini Sessions Substack. He lives in Durham, NC.

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