Seventeen followers, Len reminded himself. That’s why he was here. Seventeen followers, which led to a bottom-left-corner feed at the online party for twenty-somethings last night. He had been little more than a cluster of pixels—not enough for anyone to recognize him or find him interesting, even if he had stood on his head and worn moose antlers on his derriere. Which he hadn’t. Some guy handled DJBowser had done that, and his feed had grown and swayed away from the corner as he gained followers and people struck up conversations with his antler-clad hindquarters. He claimed interest in language reform and was working up a petition to change the plural of “moose” to “meese”.
Even more embarrassing for Len had been one lady in particular who had left both him and DJBowser in her dust. Now Len stood before a storefront sporting the name “Personality Emporium” in cursive letters stenciled in a red-to-white ombré. The loop of the “l” was like a woman’s curved, manicured finger with scarlet nail polish, beckoning him to enter.
His new shoes squeaked as he shambled into the diminutive brick room, and the change in acoustics surprised him, just as it had outside and on the bus over, after having spent three months inside his apartment. The brick appeared to be real brick—abrasive, uneven, and inert. He poked it once, but nothing happened.
Satisfied he couldn’t misconfigure or erase anything with a stray touch, Len took in the store’s unusually static features. It was too small for the word “emporium.” It was really too small for the word “store.” “Shoppe” fit its antiquated feel, but was pretentious. The same space might have been a hobbit-hole. Or a sushi bar.
A dark brown, broadly built man smiled and waved him in. Len shuffled over and slid onto a barstool in front of the man’s high desk, which resembled a bar.
“Welcome! I’m Tank. It’s not a handle. It’s a real name. With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking this morning?”
Len blinked twice. “Oh! Uh, Len,” he said. The word tasted odd in his mouth. “My name is Len. Um, also not a handle. I thought I might want — ”
“— a new personality. I’m sure I can help you, Len, but first, tell me what drove you to want a fresh start at this juncture in history.”