Norman, like many, was just another misunderstood teen. He was thirteen years old, average height, somewhat skinny, so he didn't look all that different. His hair was jet black and his eyes a dark gray, yet his skin was ghostly white, because sports had never interested him.
He preferred reading, playing video games, manufacturing his own computer chips, and just about anything having to do with technology. Norman wasn't popular or well liked, and he only had one friend.
That was Lizzy. Lizzy was just about the opposite of Norman except that she was the same age. Her real name was Elizabeth, but being someone who doesn't like proper names that sound long, she prefers to be referred to by her nickname.
Norman often can't remember if she's even able to pronounce her real name anymore.
Lizzy was a bit shorter than Norman, so it was hard for her to get the upper hand when trying to convince him to have some fun. Many times she had said that he was too uptight and to loosen up a bit, but he refused.
This story begins with the beginning of a seemingly regular day for Norman. In bed, he yawned and stretched out his arms. When he opened his eyes, he found Lizzy's wild green ones staring him down. He grunted and pulled the covers over his head.
"Lizzy, it's a Saturday. Leave me alone for a little while...also, how did you even get in here?"
Lizzy almost never slept as she was constantly full of energy, so she jumped onto Norman's bedspread, landing on his lap. She pulled the covers away from his face, so the boy used his pillow instead.
"I climbed through the window. Anyways, you should really get up; the weather is great this time in the morning! And besides, you didn't call me "Fizzy Lizzy" again!"
Lizzy always made up cheesy nicknames for herself like "Silly Lizzy" or "Dizzy Lizzy," because she could never focus on even being one person at a time. She always begged Norman to call her one of these, but he refused to do anything that wasn't practical and realistic.
Lizzy took the pillow away from him and threw it behind her.
"Norman, can you please just get up for one sec?" she pleaded.
"Meh." he replied.
Lizzy waved her arms and screamed,
"Quick! The house is on fire! A flood's coming! Your mother is dying! ...THERE'S AN ARMY OF BLOODTHIRSTY PENGUINS COMING TO KILL YOU! Come on! Pleeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaase get up!"
Norman looked up into her horribly fake puppy eyes and groaned. After a few seconds' silence, he finally said,
"Nnnnnn, fine. I'll be up in a minute."
Lizzy grinned a goofy smile and jumped off of Norman's lap, making him gasp in pain.
"Great! I'll meet you outside! Don't wait too long!"
Lizzy was about to rush out the door when she realized that she would attract attention from the rest of Norman's family, so she backed up and climbed out the window. He sighed once she had left. In his head, he thought,
"Why can't Lizzy realize that, unlike her, the outdoors aren't exactly the ideal environment for me? It barely has anything to do with machinery, if anything at all...still, I promised I would go out with her, so there's no getting out of it now."
He stretched again and pushed down the covers. He got up and made his bed, dressed himself, combed his hair, brushed his teeth, and clipped his fingernails.
He liked to look his best whenever he went out.
Norman made sure to be quiet as he walked down the stairs. Realizing that he could possibly miss breakfast, he grabbed a pickle from the fridge before he went to the door. After getting his shoes on, he strolled casually out the door of his large home and into the street.
He lived in a small city—named Transville—located on the southwest edge of California. His home was larger among some of the other houses, since his father owned a business deeply involved with Apple and his mother worked as a doctor.
Norman munched on his pickle while he walked down the street. He did have to admit that the weather was pretty warm out, possibly eighty degrees. Without much thought, he knew where to find Lizzy because she always went to the same place.
The two friends lived right on the edge of the Pacific and where they lived the water was almost always warm on the beach, especially in the summer.
Norman walked down the road of his town until he reached the newly established Cocoa Beach.
Cocoa Beach had recently become a beach only a year ago, and that's when Lizzy had started bringing him there.
Norman found Lizzy standing at the beach's edge where the waves just washed onto the shore. She had taken off her shoes, and was enjoying the water. From a few steps away, Lizzy turned around and noticed him approaching.
"Finally! I've been waiting for you FOREVER! You should really take off your shoes, the water feels good on your toes." she said quickly, splashing around a little.
Norman rolled his eyes, but agreed to kick off his shoes. The sand also felt nice under his feet.
Lizzy put a hand to her forehead and peered at the rising sun, which was colored a blazing red.
"The weather is so nice out here. Don't you think so?" she asked, turning her head.
Norman was still standing awkwardly behind her, and snapped back into attention when realizing someone was talking to him.
This time Lizzy rolled her eyes.
"Norman, you really need to stop playing Minecraft so much! Your brain is gonna start shutting down if you keep going! C'mon, I'll show you how to have some real fun!" she declared, jumping up suddenly and sending a tidal wave of water on top of Norman.
"Lizzy!" said Norman, holding his dampened shirt that was turning darker from the mud in the water. "This is a nice shirt!"
Lizzy snickered and splashed him again.
"Then take it off! Come on, what you need is some loosening up! Like, how many times do I have to say it?"
Norman grumbled and pulled off his dress shirt so that he was left wearing a plain black T-shirt. Unfortunately, when he had been pulling off his shirt, Lizzy had splashed his dress pants as well. As soon as he had thrown his dress shirt next to his black shoes on the shore, he realized that his pants were wet.
He wanted to strangle Lizzy, but she was already running farther into the water.
She looked back as she was waist deep in the water.
"Now you have to come in!" she exclaimed.
Norman pulled off his soggy dress pants and threw them aside, now left in just shorts and a T-shirt. He looked out into the water where Lizzy was standing. Again she was giving him her fake puppy eyes. Norman hated it when she did that, because she wouldn't stop until she got her way.
But he couldn't. It was against his nature to be playful—which he thought was childish—and he still couldn't make himself run into the water. He looked at Lizzy and stepped back.
"Can we just, like, walk instead? I'm not much for swimming." he suggested.
Lizzy was disappointed, but she agreed to just walk.
As Norman and Lizzy began to walk down the beach, the sun began to rise farther until it had cleared the horizon. At that point, Norman heard a deep rumble. He looked around at Lizzy.
"Did you hear that?" he said.
"Yeah, that was my stomach. I'm STARVING! I'm so starving I could eat a whole cow! ...oh! Wait a sec, I think I just might have something in my pockets..." mumbled Lizzy.
She felt around in her pockets and pulled out a pink gumball. She looked at it, shrugged, and then popped it in her mouth. After blowing a large bubble, she said,
"Well, it's not exactly filling, but I guess it'll do."
Norman and Lizzy walked down the beach until they began to see more of their city. Lizzy wanted to make sure they got the most out of the morning, so she pulled Norman back onto the beach when they hit pavement.
Norman tried to get back to his city, but Lizzy held him tight.
"Oh no you don't! I'm not letting you leave until you see the thing I REALLY wanted to show you." she stated firmly.
Norman sighed and reluctantly agreed to follow her. Lizzy pulled Norman quickly down the beach, and unfortunately for Norman, she didn't stop. Lizzy finally jerked to a stop right on the edge of where the water washed up on the shore. Norman, not being the most athletic person in the world, gasped for breath as he hunched over, his legs aching.
Lizzy looked over at him and smirked.
"You really need to get in shape, Norman. Some day you won't even be able to walk anywhere if you don't get your muscles moving now."
While Norman continued to take deep breaths, Lizzy dug out the sand beneath her. Hidden underneath the sand was a hollowed out room, just big enough for two people. The sand above was held up by plates of sandstone she had found, which were attached together roughly with cement.
Norman looked down into the hole when he had finished catching his breath. Lizzy slid down into the small room quickly, and beckoned for Norman to come inside. But instead he crouched over the edge of it, looking at the structure.
"Lizzy, are you sure these sandstone plates are strong enough to hold up the sand? Or even themselves?"
Lizzy replied by grabbing Norman by the arm and jerking backwards so that he fell into the room, landing on his back. She leaned over so that her hair dangled in his face.
"It's fine, so just get up and look around!" she said, smirking at his clumsiness.
"Yes, yes, go on and laugh at my pain." he muttered, feeling a bruise start to form over his spine.
Norman sat up and looked at the small room. He had to admit that Lizzy had done a nice job of filling the space. There were a few small lanterns around on the ground, some potted plants put around the corners, and there was even a cooler sitting up against the wall.
Lizzy grinned even more as she said,
"This is my secret hideout. My dad actually found the sandstone, and he fashioned them into plates so this room could be made. This is where I spend a lot of my time, because there aren't any buildings or concrete sidewalks in sight...hey, you want a soda? There's plenty in the cooler."
Norman nodded politely, still wanting to display being a gentleman—even if it was to Lizzy.
As Lizzy handed him a Sprite, Norman asked a question.
"Lizzy? Lizzy, why did...Lizzy, are you even paying attention?"
Lizzy was preoccupied with her root beer, watching the bubbles inside fizz and pop.
"Mmm, fizzy...oh, what? Sorry, I was just watching the bubbles. What were you saying?"
Norman repeated himself.
"Lizzy, why did you bring me here? Is there a reason?" he asked.
Lizzy frowned a little, hoping he wasn't annoyed.
"I just thought you would like to see my hideout, that's all. What, you don't like it?" she suggested, hoping he would say otherwise.
Lucky for her, Norman shook his head.
"No, of course I like it! I never said I didn't. I was just wondering if you were going to tell me something secret or something. I mean, this is basically a hidden underground bunker..." he thought about what he just said and shook his head. "Never mind, that's a stupid thought."
Lizzy paused for a moment. Then she opened her mouth and was about to say something when they heard a noise coming from above. It sounded like someone shouting. Norman wanted to stay out of whatever was going on there, but Lizzy couldn't resist her urge, so she moved past Norman and started climbing out. Norman knew he'd have to follow her, so he climbed out the hole as well.
But before she had gotten all the way out, he heard the tinkle of plastic against plastic and looked up at her awkwardly underneath the sandstone. Suddenly, something was tossed at his feet.
"Here, take this real quick! No questions, no answers!"
"But, I...what?" he muttered, picking up from the ground what looked like a weird necklace.
It was definitely a necklace. It had chains of chrome and, hanging at the bottom, was a strawberry frosted PopTart charm. It had a bite in it.
When he looked back up, Lizzy had disappeared from sight. He breathed through his nose heavily and took a glance back at the necklace. He assumed it was supposed to be a gift, so he decided to just accept it politely. He unclipped it and put it around his neck, reaching behind him and then clicking it back into place so it hung loosely around his neck.
When his head came out of the hole, Lizzy was standing still standing just above the hideout, looking out at something not too far from them. Once he was out of the hole, Norman stood up too, looking in the same direction.
There was a kid struggling to ride his bike through the sand. He was only about eleven years old, and appeared to be holding an armful of newspapers. The kid halted to a stop when he saw Norman and Lizzy. He quickly set his bike down and stumbled up to them. Holding out a newspaper, he said,
"You two! You need to read this, there's some kind of emergency going on!"
Lizzy unrolled the paper and looked at the front cover. Then she began to read aloud.
"'22 year-old cat gives birth to twins. Owners are thrilled with the exciting and surprising news.' Oh, that's not an emergency, that's wonderful!"
The newspaper kid took back the paper.
"Dang it, I keep giving everyone the wrong article! Read here!" he grumbled.
He handed Lizzy a different paper. Lizzy began to read that one instead. She surprisingly started to frown and her face took on a worried expression. Norman looked over at her, trying to see the paper at the same time.
"What? What's wrong?"
Lizzy kept reading for a few more intense seconds before finally handing the paper to him. Norman looked at the front cover, and read the news article. The title read Technological Terror: Computers Failing Due to Majorly Dangerous and Mysterious Viruses.
"'At exactly 8:30 this morning, it was found that the computers all around the area have been failing. The virus has been spreading at a rapid pace, and now nearly all of the computers have stopped performing adequate work. News reporter Rob Bobson reports that phones and other electronics have also begun to shut down.
"'The virus has not yet been discovered, and there is talk that if the source of the bugs cannot be found that the virus might spread even outside of California. To find out more about this crisis, see page A3 for deeper details...'"
Norman couldn't think. The paper slipped out of his hands and landed at his feet, the front cover's words screaming out at him. All of the technology in the city was failing? How could that happen? Norman started to think he would never be able to use technology again, and the thought almost brought him to tears.
But Norman shook his head. He told himself to man up and do some problem solving. He knew he wasn't a real professor when it came to technology, but he decided that he would have to use all his knowledge to figure out how to erase the virus causing the technology of his city to glitch out.
His head told him that it was hopeless, but his gut told him he should go with it. Normally, he listened to his head, but for this one situation he just might trust his gut.
Lizzy was looking at him the whole time, trying to read his thoughts. Norman turned to look at her. She didn't show that she was worried, but inside she definitely was. She may not have ever liked anything to do with technology if it wasn't in nature, but she still had a feeling that this was something major.
How would she toast her PopTarts without a working toaster? That was technology too, right?
If Norman had told her he was going to try and find the virus and exterminate it, she would have said he was crazy. But Norman decided to keep his plans to himself when Lizzy said to him,
"What are we gonna do now?"
"I'm going to see if my computer is affected yet. All my life's work is saved on it..." he said. "I knew I should've invested in online storage!"
Norman didn't want to lie about trying to find the source of the bugs, since blatant lying was against his nature too, so the best thing he could do was just stay away from the topic.
After saying goodbye to Lizzy and the newspaper kid, Norman followed his own footprints back to his original spot. Thankfully, his dress clothes were still there and not stolen. Norman gathered up his clothing neatly and headed off for home, waiting to see whether all his work was erased.