A Matter of Perspective
The break room was a zoo by the time Edmund got there. Two senior watchmen bounced around on a lunch table, throwing stale bread and meat this way and that, screaming into the crowd like a pair of harpies with especially foul mouths.
“What’s all this about?” he asked a junior, easing the door closed and crossing his arms.
“Tech’s on the blink again,” said the junior quietly, eyes darting to the rabble-rousers as if he were afraid to provoke them further. “Lost five marks today already.”
“Did we now,” said Edmund, and then pushed through the crowd until he came to the tables where the two seniors were bouncing. He tapped the close one — a thug named Cranmer — on the leg.
“What?” snapped Cranmer. “What the fuck do you want?”
“Get down from there,” said Edmund calmly. He didn’t look up when he spoke. He was staring at a patch of empty real estate on the floor, and by the way he was looking at it, it was clear that was where the conversation was going to take place.
Cranmer grumbled the whole way off the table, stood in the assigned spot, and continued to fume.
“Let’s have it,” Edmund said, checking his phone out of the corner of his eye. A vein in the side of Cranmer’s head was pulsing furiously, but his colour was coming back to normal.
“The damn pads don’t work no more,” said Cranmer. “There’s been at least five goats gone by today that nobody saw comin’.”
“And the pads are to blame?” asked Edmund, checking his phone. “I’ve been reporting goats all morning.”
“You ain’t using the pads, boyo!” snapped Cranmer. “The phones work just fine. It’s the pads that flake the fuck out! Look here!” He handed his iPad over to Edmund. Sure enough, there was no wifi signal. A little progress icon spun helplessly. Edmund looked above him to the wireless repeater attached to the underside of the bridge, then back to the iPad.
“Isn’t that something,” he said, almost to himself. “It’s been like this all day?”
“On and off,” said Cranmer. “Works fine one minute, and the next all y’hear is someone screamin’—”
“Goats on the bridge!” shouted a junior from the west window. “Goats clearing the bridge!”
Edmund and Cranmer shoved their way through the crowd to the door, up the stairs and out onto the platform, just in time to see a small group of goats clearing the far side of the bridge. The lone junior on the other side was waving his hands at them, trying to make them stop, but they paid him no heed, charging towards the hills, towards… something glinting?
Edmund climbed the western tower, scrambling higher and higher until he reached the lookout station. He took a pair of binoculars from the junior there, focussed into the distance.
“Jesus wept…” he gasped. “How did you not report this?”
“R-r-report what?” asked the junior, squinting at the hills ineffectually.
“There…” said Edmund, handing the binoculars back, and pointing at a boulder-sized grey dome on the horizon. “And there… and there… they’re… they’re everywhere!”
Cranmer reached the platform, out of breath, snatching the binoculars from the junior and taking it in.
“What is it?” he asked. “What are all those things?”
“They’re jamming us,” seethed Edmund. “They’re blocking our wifi and blinding us! They must have someone on the inside! They’re compromised our systems!”
“Oi!” yelled Cranmer to a junior below. “You! Get over that hill and bring back the first grey dome you see!”
“Yes sir!” nodded the junior, and dashed down the road. He got all of ten steps before his brains exploded out behind him and he collapsed into the green grass.
Cranmer and the other workers ducked instinctively, but Edmund just stared into the distance, eyes narrow. He hadn’t seen where the shot came from, but he had a solid feeling there was more than one sniper out there.
A moment later, his phone buzzed, and he opened his mail to see the message he always knew would come one day.
“Trolls,” it said in disjointed hoof-typed letters, “the bridge is now your Prison. Leaf and die. Good Day.”
This Topic Tag was requested by Damon, using the words "iPad trolls". The funny thing is, I wrote most of this long before the actual devices came out, so I had no idea the wifi glitches would be topical.