Call Me Cub

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His tattoo

Alex showed a picture of his tattoo. People had been asking about it since he told them he had one done earlier in the year.

He was sitting at his kitchen table behind his laptop. He had logged on to The Box half an hour ago. The interface of the visual chatbox showed a picture of a tropical beach with a little hut on the side. As if standing or sitting on the beach, the avatars with their usernames attached to them were spread around on the screen. The tattoo picture Alex had put up for all to see was a close-up, so you couldn’t see what part of his body the tattoo was on. He hadn’t revealed that to anyone either.

“I bet that’s your ass,” Affront said. As usual, he was the first to start teasing Alex. His words appeared in a comic balloon pointing to Affront’s avatar. “Does your mistress know you’re showing it to us?”

Balloons with ‘LOL’ appeared all over the screen.

“He doesn’t have a mistress,” Milli said. “Pay attention, baby.” She was pinned to Affront. In The Box that meant being a couple. Couples displayed their bond by adding the name of their partner to their username. Braces, brackets and other punctuation marks were used to further visualize the connection. For instance, Milli’s avatar showed “Milli~{Affront}” and on Affront’s avatar it said “Affront~{Milli}”.

Alex had no pin to his username, he wasn’t with anyone in The Box. But he showed his preference as a submissive by having written his username in lowercase: cub.

“A lost and lonesome subbie.” Affront said, being his cynical self. There were no laughs this time.

Alex removed the picture of his tattoo from the room.

“I think it’s a very nice tattoo, cub,” Serena said. She was one of his friends at The Slutty Hut, as this Home was called. Many Homes in The Box had corny names. But none of it was meant to be all that serious. The sexual innuendo was important though. Everyone knew the adult Homes were very much about sex.

Serena was a so-called Prodigy at The Slutty Hut. Owners of Homes bore this title. It also meant that they were apt in programming within The Box, using the computer language the interface was written in. The Box was open to everyone to expand this virtual world. Prodigies enjoyed privileges within their homes. They could add rooms, decorate them, put so-called Scripts inside them to create animations, games and dressing rooms with avatar pictures. Sometimes there were build-in restrictions to what users could do in a room. Or rooms remained hidden for private use. Prodigies could also ban someone from their Home if rules of conduct were exceeded. Being banned actually meant your IP-address was blacklisted for a certain period of time. Although nowadays, with VPN’s this measure was easily bypassed. Unfortunately, there were some notorious pests and bullies in The Box. Mostly men who enjoyed annoying the hell out of everyone. But the majority of people were just looking to spend a good time online.

Serena co-owned The Slutty Hut with a few other women. Alex had stumbled upon it about a year ago and had liked the atmosphere instantly. He enjoyed chatting with Serena the most and visited The Hut daily now. As he lived in Belgium and she was near Los Angeles the time difference between them was nine hours. He usually came home from work around 4:00 p.m. his time. The club where Serena worked at four nights a week closed at around 6:00 a.m. After coming home, she would be too energized to sleep right away. Serena had told Alex that spending some time in The Box with a cup of tea and a sandwich was a perfect way to chill out.

“I didn’t see that pic of your tattoo very well,” Barby said. She was one of the other homeowners. “Is it a sun?” she asked.

Before Alex could answer her, Affront responded immediately: “Put your reading glasses on, granny.”

Affront had chosen his username for a reason. Though he could be funny sometimes, Alex found him mostly crude. The avatars he chose to wear were also typical. They were of models and actors with overly trained bodies like The Rock or Vin Diesel. With these avatars, he was obviously stating “I’m a tough guy, don’t mess with me”. There were many men like Affront in The Box. But Alex had come to understand by now that in real life most of these men were not that vigorous. He also understood very well that acting out was one of the attractive features of online double life. It was similar to him but in a very different way.

“Yes, it’s a sun,” Alex answered Barby and ignoring Affront. “It’s actually a symbol for the Magnus Chaos.”

“Is Magnus your pimp?” Affront said, clearly enjoying his pestering.

“Ignore him, cub,” Serena said. “The only reason he doesn’t need reading glasses himself is that he’s too dumb to read.” She was silver-tongued and quick with her typing. You had to be in The Box. A lot of people were quick on their feet with jokes, puns and one-liners. The language seemed harsh sometimes, but everyone accepted the banter as part of the fun.

Affront responded to Serena with a Slap-cast. A graphic of a hand appeared on her avatar’s bottom accompanied by the sound of a slap. It was possible to trigger such a basic animation by clicking with your mouse on anyone’s avatar on the screen and typing a specific command. There were many such Casts in The Box. You could blow someone a kiss or draw a heart on them. Or you could switch your own avatar with another picture for a few seconds and accompany it with a sound, for example, a laugh combined with a picture of a laughing cartoon character. They were playful tricks that enhanced the user experience. The Box had started in the late 1990s. In those early days, you had to write the code yourself to create these Casts, but now there were websites where you could download ready-made Casts and copy-paste them for your own use. If you understood how the code worked, you could alter existing casts and make them into new ones. Some people were very clever in doing this. Alex had never bothered learning it. He’d copied some of the usual casts like the kiss and the slap, but nothing more.

The Slap-cast Affront had put on Serena was not only accompanied by the sound of a hard slap but also by a comic balloon that said: ‘Hotdamn Baby, you deserved that and I know you enjoy the afterburn!’ This addition Affront had most likely put into the code himself.

“Don’t you dare slap me again,” Serena warned, “or you’re out of here.”

Affront shut up for a while. He knew that as a Prodigy, Serena was able to ban him for a few hours if he would go on being a nuisance. He would be kicked out of the Home immediately and unable to come back in for as long as Serena saw fit. For Affront that was a bother because of Milli being one of the homeowners. Milli knew that Serena wasn’t too fond of her man, and she’d let her ban him once before. Serena was boss, everyone at The Slutty Hut knew it.

“So, what is this Magnus thing?” Serena asked Alex.

“The Magnus Chaos is from Greek mythology.” He explained. “It’s the supervoid that came before everything. Like before the Big Bang.”

“Cool. Show the pic again?” Serena said.

Alex put up the picture of his tattoo again. It was only a thumbnail, so the details were not very clear.

“Send me a bigger pic on the PVT,” Serena said. “I like it. It’s very different from the tats I see around here.”

“Thank you, Mistress. I will do that.” Alex smiled to himself as he addressed Serena formally. She would probably respond to it, which was exactly what he aimed for. He clicked on the PVT button that opened up a separate window in the interface. PVT was a messenger application within The Box’ interface. You could only add people from The Box on your contact list there. You could chat with them privately, but more importantly share pictures, video’s or any other document. Originally the name PVT was an abbreviation of private, but since the possibility of using a webcam had been added, most people thought PVT stood for Private Video Talk.

Alex looked up a close-up picture of his tattoo in a higher resolution and send it on the PVT-messenger to Serena. Alex added another picture of his naked torso where you could clearly see the tattoo on his left breast. He felt a familiar tingle in his groin as he clicked send. He’d never send Serena a real picture of himself yet. When he had taken the torso picture, he’d thought to use it on The Box for people to see, so he’d made sure his face wasn’t visible.

So now she two reasons to respond to him. First, because he had called her Mistress, and second because of sending her a nudie of his torso.

Serena did not respond right away, as if she was thinking about what to say. Alex stared at her avatar. She was wearing one of her usual’s: a picture of tough Latino film star Michelle Rodriguez wearing a white singlet and her hair wild and loose. In the original picture, Rodriguez leaned against a tree, but as most avatars were cut-outs, Serena had positioned her Ava in such a way that it looked as if she was leaning against the window frame of the Box-interface. Alex liked the Ava very much. It made Serena look like a woman who was very much in control.

“LOL @ Mistress!” Serena said to him on PVT.

Alex smiled happily as he read it. “Smiles” he typed in response.

“You’re a good boy,” she said.

“I always try to be,” he said, hoping she would catch on that he meant it towards her.

“I know. That’s why I love you, cub.”

Alex stared at that sentence for a moment. Of course, he realized she meant it in a playful way. But it hit him; he wanted to be more to her. Over the past months—since they’d started chatting regularly—Alex’s feelings had grown. Serena’s behaviour had shown a clear tendency to be dominant. But she was also very caring towards Alex. He knew that she liked him, but he didn’t know how much and in what way. Especially these last few weeks he’d hoped that she would become more explicit about her feelings towards him. The sentence that he was now staring at was exactly the thing he had wanted to hear.

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