Dave didn't know he was lonely until his friends pointed it out. But when he gives in and tries an online dating site, something catastrophic happens - talk about a bad omen.
The Day Dave Broke the Internet
by Tara Tyler
And though Dave didn't put much faith in fanciful wishes, he was starting to believe in fate with this crazy coincidence. He definitely had to meet her. He just hoped he made a good first impression on her.
Nathan tapped Dave's shoulder and whispered to him out of the corner of his mouth.
"What are you staring at?" Once he followed Dave's gaze, he grinned. "Oh ho. Nice."
Presley rapped up his speech with some instructions on how to proceed. According to him, Phase Two would develop over the next few days as the rest of society figured things out. Some would wait for power to be restored and hope things would go back to normal. Others would become desperate and selfish with illegal actions to soon follow. Presley welcomed them to hang out in his shelter, but if they decided to wait elsewhere, they needed to be watchful for criminal activity and keep in close contact. He would spread any news as he received it. He sounded like a good guy.
The crowd rumbled and grumbled as the meeting broke up. Some headed for the stairs, including Sharon and two other women. Dave started to follow, but Nathan caught his arm. Dave sighed and relented. Luckily, the girls stopped to talk with someone before going up.
"We should stay here, dude."
"Nathan. Seriously. Let's get to the server at work and see what's going on for ourselves."
"We know what's going on. Presley is Level 5. He's the most connected guy in the Midwest. He's the guy."
Dave shook his head. Nathan was really sucked into all of it. Dave on the other hand still believed in his country's ability to fix things, even if they took the long, convoluted, paperwork-congested way about it. Dave knew he could help speed up the process, once he got to the bottom of things.
And he wanted to run his idea past Sharon. Though he didn't even know her, he sensed he could talk to her. Her response could make or break his fantasy of her. His plan was perfect, taking care of two birds with one stone—meeting the girl of his dreams and jump-starting the country.
Dave looked over at Sharon and started to smile, but as soon as she glanced his way with a flip of her ponytail, he froze. Just the thought of walking over and talking to her made him sick to his stomach. He'd never felt such apprehension, even as he faced the possible end of polite society. It wasn't because she was a woman. He'd spoken to plenty of women at work or in other public places. It was just her. He was afraid of saying the wrong thing and wasn't sure how to proceed. He started to hyperventilate and sweat. It was ridiculous.
Nathan nudged him. "Hey, let me introduce you to Presley."
"Oh, uh, sure." The distraction brought his breathing back to normal. Maybe he should ask Nathan for help, not that he had any real experience in this unknown realm of dating and females and emotions. He married his high school sweetheart because she told him to.
Dave peeked over at Sharon and a wave of nausea washed over him again.
Nathan huffed at him. "Sharon has that effect on guys. She's very intimidating and she has a strict rule not to date members, unless she's forced to for procreation after an apocalypse."
That was uncalled for information. But Dave respected her policy, which was one thing in her favor. And he wasn't about to become a member, but that meant she was. So many conflicting decisions made his head hurt.
"Do you know her?"
"Not really, just by reputation."
So his postulations could be just rumor making him fret for nothing. As Nathan pulled him along, what he said before sank in. Dave didn't want to meet Presley, he wanted to talk to Sharon and get out of there. He stopped in his tracks.
"You don't have to worry about Presley. He's cool."
Dave shook his head. "No. It's not that. I want to go so we can fix the problem. I'm not waiting for society to break down."
That statement swiveled a few nearby noggins. Dave shook off their questionable glances.
Nathan cleared his throat and the others went back to their conversations.
"Careful with that kind of talk, Dave. What are you thinking?"
Dave wasn't concerned with offending the members, except maybe the armed ones. He searched for Sharon near the stairs, but she was gone.
"I'm leaving. I doubt any of our international enemies have the capability to cause any extensive damage. You know the odds aren't good for a true apocalypse."
Dave gave Nathan the courtesy of whispering his opinions. He wanted to shout about how crazy they were, but he was outnumbered. And he needed to catch up to Sharon.
He started for the stairs. "I'm outta here."
In his peripheral, Dave saw Nathan watch him, then search the crowd, and finally he jogged to catch up.
"Fine, I'll help you."
Dave wondered if having Nathan behind him would help him overcome his unfounded trepidation. He had no idea what caused his body to behave so unreasonably around Sharon. And with such a negative physical reaction, he also couldn't understand why he was so drawn to her. His scientific curiosity drove him to continue his original directive. Surely he could use mind over matter. He swallowed his fear, determined to discover if all his bodily agonizing and concern was worth it.
But when he exited the basement, she was nowhere to be found.