Dating : The Drop

h2>Dating : The Drop

Sparklegleam82 is online.

Megan Bidmead
Photo by Max Ravier from Pexels

a clear and cloudless night, a row of buildings look over the sea. One stands alone, not really in distance, but in build; a modern contraption of dark lines and windowpanes, it is impressive, but somewhat lonely compared to its older, shabbier neighbours.

One room is lit. It’s the best room in the house; jutting out over the cliff, three walls are made almost entirely from glass. On a good night, you can see the stars for miles, can ponder the galaxies as they stretch into the unfathomable distance. On a bad night, you can gaze at the storm clouds, trace a fat rain drop from as high as you can reach, right down to your toes.

If you were walking along the coastline that night — as a few people were — and you happened to gaze upward, you would be able to see everything in that room. The occupant liked to keep the blinds up whenever possible; it made her feel connected to the outside world without actually having to be in it. You would be able to see said occupant, a short, thin woman sitting at a large desk set squarely in the middle of the room. She is illuminated by three screens and a ring light standing behind it. She is small and angular, elbows and knees jutting out, but you might not be able to tell under the layers of clothes — an over sized t-shirt dress, a pair of jogging bottoms, fluffy socks, a cardigan. The strange ensemble of a live streamer. Nobody ever sees them from the waist down.

The woman sips her tea as she waits. Abruptly, she calls out. ‘Alexa. Make the lights purple.’

The lighting changes to a sickly purple. Someone outside points it out to their companion as they walk by, but she doesn’t see this, of course.

She loads up the game. Her avatar, purple-haired and be-cardiganed just as she is, drops into an empty white room. Her username hovers above her virtual self as she blinks expectantly. ‘SparkleGleam82’.

She stands and walks to the wall of glass to the right, the one that looks directly over the sea. Looking down gives her a split-second sense of vertigo, a sensation that remains even now, nine months after moving in. She turns and presses ‘record’ on her phone.

‘Hi guys!’

If the people walking by could hear, too, they would probably turn in surprise at the change of her tone of voice from the one that called out to Alexa moments before. Few people knew SparkleGleam in real life and she had distanced herself from those that did. Even on business calls, she kept up what she referred to in her head as The Voice. It is the catalyst that launches her into her second personality, the one that gives her a living and allows her to live in the glass box house. Sometimes, then, she could go for great swathes of time without using her actual voice, the one she was born with. She could go a whole day, even.

‘I know it’s a surprise, but I’ve just gone live! It’s a little late, but I’m up, and I figured you guys might like a bonus stream this week.’

She walks to the desk, still filming; she moves the phone to focus on her avatar, now swinging her arms from side to side and looking mildly bored.

‘If you wanna join me on our server, I’ll give you a few minutes, and we can play The Drop together. Sound good? Alright, see you five!’

She sits down at her desk to send a Tweet, too, for good measure. No need, really. In the thirty seconds that she was live, eight hundred people reacted with the heart-eye emoji, and already other avatars begin to materialize in the stark white room.

She contemplates switching on the camera, but she doesn’t really feel like it tonight.

A flurry of activity. So many avatars arrive that they overlap, glitching in and out of each other. So many usernames, she can’t make them out. Speech bubbles appear above their heads:

‘A surprise stream, what world is this?’
‘I was SO in the mood to play drop’
‘hi everyone!’

She mostly ignores this. At the start, she used to sit and read every comment out loud and respond to them, both the avatar comments and the ones in chat, even the unintelligible ones obviously written by the younger kids that watch her. Now, she doesn’t bother. She doesn’t want to leave anyone out, so it feels easier just to say something like:

‘Hi everyone! It’s so good to see you guys!’

The wind is picking up outside, and she can hear it in the waves picking up outside. A low but audible roar. She wraps her cardigan up a little bit tighter.

‘You know, I wasn’t gonna do this,’ she says, ramping up the full-flow high-pitched babble that is The Voice, ‘but you know, I’m a little bored out here, I could do with some distraction. Plus, you guys know how I love The Drop.’

It’s true — she does love The Drop. She doesn’t normally play competitive minigames with her viewers, opting instead for the open world areas of the game. Most of her livestreams consisted of her avatar wandering around, exploring user-created areas — schools, beauty salons, pet hotels, famous landmarks — creating a flurry of excitement by players who happened to be playing at the same time. The Drop was her current favourite, however. It represented a tiny shift in the normal narrative of her channel, which she liked to do when things began to feel stale.

‘Right, let’s start the countdown!’

She hits the button. Two giant red numbers appear above the avatar’s heads — 60. The countdown begins, and the avatars begin to jump around in excitement. Her own avatar is lost somewhere in the crowd, but she ignores it, eyes flicking to the chat room.

Pluto_was_wronged: Gotta love the drop
Kayla_loves_sparklequeen: SO EXCITED I can’t believe we get an extra stream this week
HenryCallifer: Really? You’re livestreaming? Tonight, of all nights?
Biggestsparklefanxo: Love u guys, so happy

She pauses, re-reading one of the comments. She takes a breath as though to say something, but is interrupted by Alexa: ‘You have one new email from: unknown. Would you like me to read it?’

She frowns. Alexa only alerts her to messages in her personal e-mail account, the one not connected to work. She rarely receives emails not relating to SparkleGleam, so she always forgets to switch off the notifications. Still, it can wait. She quickly mutes the microphone.

‘Er — no.’

She turns back as the timer ticks down.

‘Sorry guys, ahh! Seven-six-five-four-three-‘

She can’t help but glance at Alexa, which glows yellow, but stays silent.


The screen goes black for a split-second, then her avatar emerges, falling through a cloudy blue sky, dozens of others falling alongside her.

The game is simple. Steer your avatar towards a soft landing — a cloud, a patch of sticky pink goo, an open body of water — and you survive. Land on a hard surface, and you are eliminated.

The beginning stage is, as always, fast, brutal, and uncompromising. About forty to fifty other plays are eliminated immediately. Kids, mostly. They join in because they want the split-second thrill of having played with SparkleGleam, and they will probably go to bed happy afterwards.

‘Tough luck you guys! It was SO fun to see you! Am I gonna make this landing? Yes — yes!’

She lands on a soft cloud with a small handful of others. The screen wipes, and she’s falling again. This time they’re soaring towards a great city. The longer your avatar falls, the more they pick up speed — it’s trickier to land right at the bottom, but you get extra points. She spots a patch of pink goo on a helicopter pad on one of the skyscrapers and aims for that. It’s a pretty easy landing, so she won’t get a great score, but she wants to look at the chatroom again.

HappyHippo_xo: OH NOOOO my friend just lost. Ah well
JellicleBellicleCat: Stfu @HenryCallifer, can’t you just let people be happy
ElizabethBanks79: ShEI0RAE= — — — — — — — — -APSP
GeorgiePorgiez: I LOVE U SP OMG
Katy_OfficialSparkler: @JellicleBelliceCat no swearing or suggestion of swearing, please. This is your first official warning. One more time and you’ll be removed from chat. Thank you.

She slams her palm down on the desk, unable to believe her own stupidity. She usually takes a few minutes at the beginning of each stream to ensure the presence of her mods; her chatroom gets frenetic, especially at peak times. She recently enabled automatic censoring when it came to swearing, but it still required a bit of maintenance to keep the chat family-friendly. It must have slipped her mind to do so tonight. Still, she is lucky to have loyal mods — Katy must have seen the notification and logged on straight away.

People didn’t usually start arguments in her chatroom.

She glances up at the picture in a frame on her desk — it’s her old logo, the one she had before she switched from YouTube to livestreaming, her username inside a cupcake, with a slogan underneath.

Happiness, Glitter, and Fun! Since 2010

She lands safely. The screen goes blank again. ‘Okay guys, ahhhh! We’re through to round three! How many of us are there left? Thirty?’

Now she is falling through an angry looking sky, a landscape of purple and orange storm clouds. Sometimes, the game generated lightning clouds, which kill you upon impact. A zigzag of lightning erupts in front of her, missing her by inches — she swerves, crashing into another avatar, which glitches momentarily.

‘Guys,’ she gasps, head back in the game, ‘I can’t see a safe spot to land! There’s too much lightning, this is crazy! Where am I gonna go?’

Rain splatters against the window. Her tea begins to cool. In the corner of a room, a fat ginger cat lays entwined with a tatty old jumper, the one ‘messy’ spot in the otherwise pristine office.

Alexa glows yellow, still.

Her avatar lands safely on a cushiony purple cloud, bounces slightly. ‘YES! I’m through!’ Most people made it through this round, despite the lightning strikes.

‘Okay guys, we’re doing SO well.’

She’s falling again; this time the level is an eye-watering concertina of rainbow-coloured circles, large at first, then getting smaller and smaller, creating a cone with a narrow hole at the bottom. It’s a tricky level, and as she falls, several players smash face-first into the rings around her.

Her phone lights up. She just about registers it on the corner of her desk where it sits, face-down, creating a small circle of light around it. A phone call, or a message? She can’t reach out and check — the level is too difficult to tear her eyes away from it.

‘Guys, I don’t think I’m gonna make this one –‘

The phone goes dark. Immediately, Alexa speaks, making her jump.

‘You have one new email from: Mum. Would you like me to read it?’

‘NO!’ she shouts, surprised, and slams abruptly into a green circle.

GAME OVER flashes up on the screen.

She mutes the microphone as she catches her breath, mind racing with possibilities. Normally, she would receive a flurry of apologetic, encouraging messages from chat at this point. Instead:

PinkPurplePoppyPosy: AH NO SPARKLE never mind
HenryCallifer: I mean it’s not like the world’s ending or anything.
JellileBellicleCat: @HenryCallifer stop being so dramatic
Georgina_Jax_and_Evie: I LOVE U SPARKLEGLEAM. Sorry you lost
HattyMcHatFacex: GG
Jake_OfficialSparkler: @HenryCallifer @JellicleBellicleCat keep it light, guys
GallopinGargoylesHarry: Yeah but the real news is Sparkle just lost at LEVEL 4 whaaat

Gathering her thoughts, she switches her microphone on again. ‘Uh, I — sorry, guys, I lost you for a second there. Can’t believe I got out already, ahh! Let’s just watch the rest of the game for a …’

She trails off. She has picked up her phone, and the message is from Jake: ‘Think maybe you should cut this short tonight.’

She takes a deep breath, leans back in her chair. Her cat is snoring ever so slightly. She can’t keep her eyes off the corner where Alexa sits.

She composes herself.

‘Let’s just watch the rest of this game, shall we? I can’t WAIT to see who wins this one!’

She types a message to Jake: ‘yeah I’ll probs end it soon’

She checks the chat. No more dubious messages. Perhaps all is well.

PinkPurplePoppyPosy: Sparkle ignore all these messages, we love u
ilovesparklegleam12: love u sparkle GG ❤
Therebmonster: Guys my parents say I have to go : ( BOO Sparkle when are you next on?
Jake_OfficialSparkler: @ScheduleBot
ScheduleBot: SparkleGleam82’s livestream schedule for the week beginning 4/1/2021 is …

‘You have one new email from: Mum. Would you like to me read it?’

‘Alexa. NO.’ She stands and starts to walk toward Alexa, but forgets her headset is plugged in. It pulls away from her right ear and snaps back when she stumbles. Swearing, she rips it from her head.

‘You have one new email from: Tabitha. Would you like me to read it?’

‘Ye-NO. No.’

The wind is picking up fast. The rain hits the windows hard in a sudden gust, and the cat, previously sleeping, opens one eye in reproach. Outside, the paths are empty. Her home stands, steadfast in the wind, one-sixth aglow in purple.

She’s back at her desk. ‘Okay, guys,’ she says, ‘Who do you think’s gonna win this one?’

There are four competitors remaining. They’re good, all of them — they sail through a complicated jungle level with ease.

HenryCalliper: Do you guys not watch the news? Do you not realise what’s going on?
HattyFeathers900: Reckon that guy in the blue is gonna win this one.
JellicleBellicleCat: @HenryCalliper of course but that’s not the point. People come here 2 escape. Y r u even watching
Pbobs_uok: World’s gonna explode may as well watch SparkleGleam amirite
Georgina_T92: @Pbobs_uok What?
Katy_OfficialSparkler: @HenryCalliper @JellicleBellicleCat ENOUGH. There are children here. That’s enough
PBOWser: I’m scared Mom! Lol
HenryCalliper: I mean wtf is the point of a chatroom if you can’t even say what everyone’s thinking, kids can’t even f***ing read anyway
Jake_OfficialSparkler: @HenryCalliper dude. Enough. I’m banning you

Head in her hands, she tries to remember to breathe.
The windows rattle slightly.
One competitor face-plants into a tree. And another. Two left. Letters flash on the screen


And a new countdown.


She looks at her phone. It’s Jake again.

‘We need to shut this down. After this round?’

She takes off her headset, walks slowly to the window. Off in the distance, she can see the lights of the village blazing. It makes her feel calmer, somehow. The presence of people, even if in reality, her neighbours have little to do with her. The cat ignores her, as he tends to do.

She puts her headset back on. ‘Okay guys. We’re on. It’s the final! I’m rooting for you both, but only one can win! What’s the last level going to be?’


The two remaining players plummet through thousands of stars, dodging asteroids, trying to find a planet with a minuscule patch of water to land. Despite everything, she can’t help but watch, mesmerised. She really does love The Drop.

‘Come on guys, this is so close! I don’t know what’s going to happen!’ her voice quivers slightly, but nobody notices.

HenryCalliper was removed from chat
JellicleBellicleCat: @Jake_OfficialSparkler hey, man, I’m sorry
Jake_OfficialSparkler: That’s ok man @JellicleBellicleCat last warning though, alright?
GallopinGargoylesHarry: HOLY S***
Katy_OfficialSparkler: @GallopinGargoylesHarry LAST WARNING. SERIOUSLY. What is going on tonight
GallopinGargoylesHarry: CHECK THE NEWS
GallopinGargoylesHarry: EVERYONE CHECK THE NEWS

She picks up her phone and immediately she sees the headlines. On the small screen, a man screams with rage, shaking his fist, under flashing lights. A dozen reporters shout his name. The players continue to soar among the stars. When Alexa next speaks, she is somehow not surprised.

‘You have an email from: Mum. Would you like me to –‘
A pause, a glitch. Her ring blinks blue, then orange. She starts again.
‘You have an urgent message from: The Emergency Alert System.’
She freezes.
‘Alexa. Stop.’

‘Wait — what?’ She clicks the mute button. Her fingers have gone numb. ‘Alexa. Stop.’
‘I said stop! Alexa, stop!’

There is a brief moment of silence so loud it seems to fill every space, stretching into the sharp corners of the room, into her skull, into her heart. She stares at her logo on her desk.

Happiness, Glitter, and Love! Since 2010

She has time to register the chat.

JellicleBellicleCat: WW3. Wow.
GallopinGargoylesHarry: Wtf. This is what happens when rich white men have all the power. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS
Katy_OfficialSparkler: Okay. Everyone please watch what you’re saying. I know it’s scary, but there are children here
I_love_u_sprklgm: what’s going on? I dont get it
GallopinGargoylesHarry: MISSILE LAUNCH IN HAWAII.
PinkPurplePoppyPosy: …
PinkPurplePoppyPosy: isn’t that where @SparkleGleam82 is?

One player splashes safely, in a small patch of water, on some unknown planet, having made it through light years of stars. A small mercy, she thinks. The word ‘WINNER’ is displayed on the screen. Fireworks flash. Suddenly, they’re all transported to the white room. It’s quieter now.

@Katy_OfficialSparkler has left the chat
@I_love_u_sprklgm has left the chat
@zanealwayslive4u has left the chat
@Greywolf8000 has left the chat

PinkPurplePoppyPosy:@SparkleGleam82 ???
GallopinGargoylesHarry: @PinkPurplePoppyPosy she never said for sure she was in Hawaii, did she?
Jake_OfficialSparkler: spark pick up your phone

It’s ringing in her hand, silently, by her side. The wind howls. Off in the distance, she thinks she hears noise. Voices. A small scream. Footsteps. The headset goes back on.

‘Okay — I — congratulations to the, er, the winner. I’m sorry. I didn’t see — I didn’t see who did it …’

Her voice is very small, a rough approximation of The Voice.

‘I’m — I’ve really loved playing tonight, guys. You know. It’s been super fun. You guys — you were — you’re amazing. I love you all. Erm, let’s — let’s –‘

She is moving her avatar in circles without realising.

‘Shall we — shall we play a game of Chance and Fortune?’

Another minigame. You get to play once each day. Spin the wheel, receive an award. Usually a few coins, a new hairstyle, something like that. Her avatar pulls on the handle and the wheel clicks into motion. She’s not sure if anyone is watching.

‘Okay? I’ll be back in a minute, guys.’
She mutes the microphone and begins to pace.

Alexa glows blue, waiting.

‘Read my emails from — from Mum.’

A siren howls, the one that speaks of doom and disaster even for those too young to understand it. Her eyes widen. She wonders where the sound itself comes from. Speakers? She’s never thought to look for them.

She walks to the window, hand clutching her phone tight. She could make it into the village in fifteen minutes if she ran flat out, but her legs seem to be made from lead. The cat stalks over. Wraps himself around her. Meows. Alexa reads, in her punctuation-less way.

‘The email sent at 7:47. Darling please call me please call me …’

She feels the need to touch things. Anything real, something to root her into life, into existence. She imagines running through the house, brushing her fingertips against every surface: the cold steel of her stove, the tattered paperbacks in her living room, her towels, the box of purple hair-dye sitting on the edge of her bath. Anything. The will to do so does not emerge. She stands, swaying slightly, as Alexa drones on.

‘… I do love you very much so please give me a call as soon as you can we can’t leave things the way they are things were just hard after Dad …’

Her avatar leaps and twirls with excitement as her prize is chosen.

‘… I should have respected your choices even if I didn’t …’

After several long moments, she puts the headset on. For the first time in her eleven-year career, she forgets to use The Voice.

‘I …’

She swallows. Her mouth seems to be filled with sand.

‘I have to go.’

If you were to walk outside that night — which you probably wouldn’t have done, not at that point, anyway — you would have seen what appeared to be a small woman in a purple box, staring out at the sea, her fingertips not quite touching the glass, a cat twirling incessantly around her feet.

She stares down. Vertigo. As a deafening roar fills her ears and the rush of something above her shakes the foundations of her square box house, she keeps her eyes trained steadily on the sea. Imagines herself dropping. Falling, almost flying.

The churning waves rush toward her, gathering speed.

She lands.

Read also  Dating : What if… today WAS in fact your very last day?

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