FICTION: The Numbers Game

“See, what you do is when she gives you the number, repeat it back wrong,” Scott said, speaking loudly to be heard over the pulsing, thumping beat of the club. “If she pulled it out of her ass, she won’t know or care, but if it’s real she’ll correct you.”

“How long until they catch on, though?” Matt said. “That’s an easy one to get around. No. If a chick gives you her number, call it right away, in front of her. That way you know it’s real.”

“Unless she has a burner,” Scott said.

“What kind of Feminazi harpy is so bitter about men she’d carry a burner phone just to dodge giving up the digits?”

“There’s an app now. It lets them have a temporary number that works like a real one, until they don’t need it anymore.”

“Jesus, that’s sick,” Matt said. “That shit ought to be illegal.”

“It’s a sick world,” Brodie said, bursting into their conversation and putting a big-brotherly arm around each of their necks. “And both of you losers are making the same mistake: you’re giving women the chance to lie to you. Don’t even make it a choice in the first place and you’ll never strike out.”

“Yeah, right,” Matt said, wriggling out of his impromptu headlock. Brodie let go of both of them just before he succeeded. “Just walk up and tell a girl to give me her number?”

“Might work,” Brodie said. “Women love assertiveness. All women respond to it, but not all respond the same. The best ones will want to test you, see how much shit you’ll put up with, which is why they’ll play hard to get. No, my man, the way to cut through that bullshit is simple. You do three things: one, you control the frame. Two, you don’t let her know what you’re after. Three, you create a scenario where you get her number, period. Just telling her to give it to you still leaves it up to chance whether she obeys or not. You have to be subtler than that.”

“I thought women liked assertiveness,” Scott said.

“They do! But once the hamster wheels in their heads start spinning, there’s no telling where they’ll stop.”

“Hamster wheels?” Matt repeated.

“Dude, did you even read those links I sent you?” Brodie said. “Women are driven by emotion and instinct, but they don’t like to admit this. So when there’s something they need to rationaize away or justify, their brains start spinning in circles. That’s the hamster wheel. It’s evolutionary psychology. Because men were the providers, women never had to solve the same problems we did, so they haven’t had the same evolutionary pressure towards rational thought and logic that we did.”

“I guess that makes a kind of sense,” Matt said.

“Damn right it does,” Brodie said. “And because of feminism, women are confused between what they want and what they think they’re supposed to want, and that sends the hamster into overdrive. Remember, their nature tells them to be submissive and follow your lead, but feminism and the matriarchal media complex keep telling them they need to be strong and independent. Is it any wonder the poor things are confused about what they want? But with a little masculine logic, some red pill perspective, and the right techniques, you can slide past all the game playing and get what you want, any time and every time.”

“Bullshit,” Matt and Scott said at the same time.

“You’re slick, but you’re not that slick,” Matt said. “You might be able to hook a 4 or a 5 or even a 6 who doesn’t know it, but nothing works all the time. It’s a numbers game, right? You keep going until you find the one who’ll give it up instead of getting hung up on The One.”

“Used to be you wouldn’t have to,” Scott said. “If you’re a solid 7 or 8 like us, you could nail a 5 every time. She’d be flattered you were talking to her. Now feminism’s taught women they deserve a perfect 10, even if they’re a 4. The whole sexual economy is shot to shit now.”

“Amen,” Matt said.

“That’s pick-up artist bullshit,” Brodie said. “You two both need to get off that trip and take the red pill. It’s all about an abundance mentality, bro! If you know what works, if you know how a woman’s mind works, then you don’t have to take the shotgun approach and hope you hit something. You can score a bull’s eye, every single time.”

“Bullshit,” Matt said again. “It might work on some women…”

“All women,” Brodie said. “Remember: AWALT.”

“AWOL from what?” Matt said.

“It’s more of his red pill shit, probably,” Scott said.

“It’s not shit,” Brodie said.

“Seriously?” Scott said. “It’s like something out of a movie. No, wait, it is something out of a movie.”

“Yeah, I’m not taking dating advice from an obvious beta like Keanu Reeves,” Matt said.

“Fuck you guys, it’s a metaphor,” Brodie said. “The red pill is the moment you wake up and realize all the bullshit that feminism and the female-dominated media and education systems have fed you is a pack of lies. And the red pill works, Scotty. Once you see through the veil and understand what’s really going on, you can live like a king.”

“Okay, so what’s this AWOL thing got to do with this?” Matt asked.

“Not AWOL, AWALT. A-W-A-L-T. All Women Are Like That. All Women, dudes. They like to pretend otherwise. They want you to pretend otherwise. But they’re all the same underneath that. There’s science on this. Science, bros!”

“Yeah?” Matt said. “Prove it.”

“Fine,” Brodie said. “I will prove it, jerk-off. Pick anyone in this room and I’ll walk out of here tonight with her number. Anyone. Pick a perfect 10. One of the bartenders. A female bouncer. Married. Doesn’t matter. Pick any female present and I guarantee you, I will get her digits.”

“Okay, maestro,” Matt said, scanning the room. “How… about…”

“Her,” Scott said, pointing to a woman sitting on the last barstool at the closest end of the bar. She wore a short black mini dress and was drinking alone. Many eyes were on her, but in the crowded club there was something like a six foot bubble of privacy around her.

“Yeah!” Matt said. “Her, hotshot.”

For a moment, Brodie was struck by the enormity of his boasts. For a moment, he was close to admitting defeat. Though he could not admit to himself a female body might exist that could not be quantified objectively on a ten point scale, this woman was beyond perfect in ways he could not articulate.

But she was a woman, and he’d learned months ago to embrace the red pill maxim he had quoted: All Women Are Like That. The more unapproachable she seemed, the more desperate she’d be for male attention. The higher the pedestal she’d been put on by the drooling betas who slobbered over her from a distance, the faster she’d go down for a man who was willing to bring her down.

If anything, he convinced himself as he strolled over, Matt had really set him up for success.

“Oh my God, your hair is wild!” he said in a cheery, friendly tone. “You’re so brave, I love it.”

“Thanks,” she said, without looking at him.

“I have to get a picture of it,” he said.

“You don’t want that,” she said.

“I do!”

“I don’t photograph well,” she said. “I never take good pictures.”

“Well, you’ve probably never had the right photographer. Believe me, I know how to make any woman seem attractive.”

“Well, go on if you want to,” she said.

“Okay, but if you’re that self-conscious, maybe I should be in the picture with you. That way we can be self-conscious together.”

“It’s your funeral.”

“Oh!” he said. “Only, my phone is old and has a shitty camera. I bet we’ll get a better picture with yours.”

“Okay,” she said, reaching for her purse.

Some men would have already given up by this point, but Brodie had to resist the urge to pump his fist and yell yes! Every woman had an inner reservoir of objections they had to plow through before they felt comfortable saying yes. She’d stopped complaining and was now doing what he said. He wouldn’t even have to fake a smile for the picture.

“Here, I’ve got longer arms,” he said, grabbing the phone from her hand as soon as it was clear of its pouch. She offered no resistance. He positioned himself alongside her and put on his goofiest grin. The phone screen framed his face in a yellow square, but hers… wouldn’t resolve into focus.

Annoyed, he tilted it at different angles and tried to vary the distance. Nothing. He kept trying, his frustration with the image’s focus temporarily overriding his own ability to do so.

“Told you I don’t photograph well,” she said, reaching for her phone.

“No, it’s fine!” Brodie said, quickly snapping a series of shots. “I’m good at Photoshop, there’s a filter thing that will fix it.” He stepped away from her and bent over her phone, flicking through the several pictures with exaggerated care, clucking. “I’m sure one of these will work.”

“You made an attempt,” she said, holding out her hand. “Give up now and you can go on with your life.”

“This one’s okay,” he said, thumb-tapping furiously on the screen. “I’ll just send this puppy to myself and…” His phone dinged in his pocket. He handed hers back. “Thanks! I’m going to treasure that.”

“I’m sure you’ll never forget it,” she said. She turned back to the bar, but left her phone out on the counter.

Scott gave him a fist bump when he returned to their corner, but Matt scowled at him.

“You were supposed to get a number, not a selfie,” he said.

“Which I texted to myself from her phone,” he said, pulling his out of his pocket. He opened his messages and showed it to them. “See? That’s her real number, not a burner. Plus, when I text her later, it will open this conversation and she’ll see this picture as evidence of a shared experience. It’s like having digits and a foot in the door. What do you say to that?”

“You, sir, are an evil genius,” Matt said. “I doff my hat to you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Brodie said, giving a slight bow and a theatrical flourish with his hand.

Hours later, Brodie stopped at a convenience store for cigarettes on his way home. His phone chimed in his pocket. He pulled it out as he was getting out of the car and checked it.

A new text message had arrived, from the same number that had sent the pic. It said

hey hmu when ur home if u want more pics

He grinned and swiped back:

how about now?

The reply came back almost immediately, but its content dimmed his smile:

when ur home

Every woman thought she had to shit test a man. He sighed. He wasn’t about to give up control of the frame. He texted her back:

Im home now

Another almost immediate reply that downright pissed him off.

lol nope

He wasn’t home, but there was no way she could know that. She was playing with him. Well, he wouldn’t play back. He’d grabbed the upper hand in their first encounter and he wasn’t about to give it up. She clearly thought he’d break down and beg, at which point she might give in, but she’d also be mentally moving him down several notches in her internal estimation.

The winning move here — the way to keep the frame — was to ignore her. He’d text her later, when he felt like texting her. If he felt like texting her. That “lol” was going to cost her.

He did his business with the store and then headed home. A soft light burned in the corner window of his corner apartment; the lamp he left on in his bedroom. He keyed his way inside the building and climbed the stairs to his fifth floor apartment. He never took the elevator unless he was moving something on wheels. Maintaining frame would only take you so far with the females, after all. He needed his physique to establish his value.

He hit the light switch on the wall as he entered his living room. His phone chimed.

how about those pics now?

Ah. She had figured out he wasn’t playing a lot sooner than he’d expected. He decided to reward her surrender with a reply.

whatever

He smirked. There were limits, after all, to his generosity. There had to be, or she’d decide he was too easy a mark to be worth anything.

u like bedroom pics?

He replied:

sure

A pause. A chime. A box appeared and became a picture: her, cropped at the neck. She was still wearing the dress from before, which disappointed him a little, but she was lying in bed, on a comforter that was strikingly familiar.

He smiled. This was going to be so easy.

you know this is wild but we have the same bed set

He sent that. The gods of the red pill were setting him up with the perfect come-on.

lol nope

He didn’t even mind the disrespectful reply this time, because it left him in the perfect position for his follow up.

bet you we do

He didn’t expect to be waiting long, and he wasn’t disappointed.

no

He smirked.

no, really we do! come over sometime and I’ll show you

Another picture came through. He saw the text before it finished loading.

not my bed

She’d flipped the phone out of selfie mode and taken a picture of the view down her legs and past her feet. He saw the foot of his bedframe, and past that his bookshelf and the slightly open door to the living room.

Another message jumped into view.

come in here and I’ll let you see my face my real face it doesn’t photograph well but I’ll let you see it with your own two eyes do you think your brain will handle it better than a camera does lol?

He was reading it over for the third time when he heard the creaking of the bed springs and the sound of weight shifting, through the open door. An overwhelming sense of primal, superstitious dread — -the misgivings he’d felt back at the bar when he first complicated her multiplied a millionfold — -and he fumbled the front door open and raced headlong down the stairs, back to the parking lot and his car.

He peeled out of the parking space and drove away into the night.

His phone had chimed once shortly after he left the apartment. He didn’t check it until he stopped, outside a ten story hotel in a town along the interstate that only seemed to exist so there would be a place along the interstate for hotels.

He’d left without a plan, with no desire in his head except to get the hell away. He’d wound up in the middle of nowhere, and only stopped because he was exhausted. The sky was still dark, but morning birds were twittering away in the trees.

The message on his phone was short and to the point:

lol rude

“Room 215,” the hotel clerk told him when he asked for a room. “Second floor.”

Exhausted as he was, he headed for the elevator. He called it, and was watching the light slowly descend from 10 when the phone chimed again. He checked it more out of habit than anything.

A picture of a door frame with the number 215 stenciled on it. Leaning against it, a familiar body in a familiar dress.

He texted back

WTF DO U WANT????

The reply: a picture of a hallway. At the end was an elevator.

Right after that, another shot of the hallway. The elevator doors were a lot closer. The carpet was the same as the one he stood on.

The next shot was of a hand reaching out for the down button. He glanced up. The indicator light was just hitting 3.

He turned and power-walked for the nearest exit. He could hear the bell from the door opening on the floor above as he did. He reached the door and forced his exhausted legs into a run, darting around the corner.

His phone was still in his hand, still in front of him, when it chimed and popped up with a picture: another selfie, with the head cropped. This one was taken sprawled across the hood of his car, right around the corner in the parking lot.

Panic gripped him. He texted back

what do you want from me

She replied. Only text this time, not a picture. Even in the depths of his terror, he managed to feel ashamed at how relieved he was.

i wanted nothing from u. u wanted something from me. u got it. aren’t you happy?

He replied

NO

She sent back:

u got my number in ur phone u had me in ur bed u could be w/ me right now isn’t this what u want? lol maybe ur confused

Frantically, he texted back:

NO! I DON’T WANT THIS! LEAVE ME ALONE!

The reply was swift as ever.

then u leave me alone. leave us alone. delete my number. delete my pics. go home and delete your accounts, all of them. go forth & sin no more

He looked at the message, looking for a threat or trick or trap. He couldn’t see any. He couldn’t make sense of it, but he couldn’t make sense of anything.

that’s it? i do that, u leave me alone?

She replied:

that’s it but do it or don’t. if u text me again, offer is off and i will see u soon ❤

He caught himself in the act of swiping out “fine” and stopped. He deleted the thread, then opened up his gallery to make sure the pictures deleted. He started to put his phone back in his pocket, then thought better of it. He looked around to make sure no one was looking, then he popped the back off and took out the sim card and memory card.

Picking up one of the ornamental half-bricks that was used to edge the sad little hotel garden, he smashed his phone’s screen in and then hammered it repeatedly until the frame split, then threw it away.

He found himself torn between heading to the car or back up to the room. She’d been at the car last, but location didn’t seem to matter to her, didn’t seem to be really real for her. Plus, he was exhausted, and he’d paid for the room in advance.

On the other hand, though, she had told him to go home. Was strict adherence to that part of the deal she’d spoken of?

Maybe. Maybe not. He still had some pride, though. She — it, whatever it had been — had gotten its claws into him, gotten him scared, riled up really, but now it had moved on. He’d let it chase him out of his own home, but how could he ever maintain frame with any female if he let the fear of it chase him back home with his tail between his legs?

No, he’d taken out a room and he’d stay in it, then drive home rested and refreshed and feeling more like himself.

He was reaching for the door when a warbly but unmistakable chiming sound erupted from the trashcan near to it.

He ran all the way back to his car.

Brodie did close all his accounts. He stayed away from the club scene for a while, and all the other scenes. He left women alone. He didn’t even look at them. He didn’t hang out with Matt and Scott any more, or any of his other friends, really.

He got a new phone only when it became necessary for work-related reasons, and with great reluctance. He turned off text notifications completely, so that not a sound or a pop up arrived to herald a new message.

At first he checked for new texts only when he was told to expect one, and then he started doing so every couple of days regardless, and then it became part of his daily routine.

Every day that passed and nothing happened, no texts arrived out of the blue, and no pictures, he relaxed a little bit.

It was almost a year later when started checking out women again, then months before he started cautiously feeling them out. He still panicked a little when they looked at him a certain way he couldn’t quite define. He told himself he was being silly, that not all women could be like that one, but the fear was primal, the reaction deep-seated.

Still, it diminished in time.

He didn’t belong to any forums any more, wasn’t active on social media, but he missed the sense of community he’d had what some people called the man-o-sphere, the red pill Reddits and the MRA blogs and even the pick-up artist forums that had helped him take his baby steps in the art of constructing and maintaining frame. He started browsing them again, even if he didn’t participate.

As he did, he found that the further he got from the events of that night, the easier they became to put them in their proper context. It couldn’t have happened like he remembered, that was impossible. He’d been drunk, he’d been exhausted. Probably the whole thing was just the guys messing with him, anyway. They had been jealous of his prowess, of the clarity the red pill had given him, and sought to take him down a peg. Hadn’t they goaded him into boasting? Hadn’t they selected his target?

And it had rattled him, he was now ashamed to admit. They’d had a good laugh at him. Well, he was man enough to laugh at his own mistake, and didn’t they say that he who laughed last laughed best?

Once he could laugh about it, he found his confidence returning, until finally he found himself back in a bar.

Not the bar, not even a club, really, but a bar.

There was a girl alone at the bar. He gauged her as a 4. He smiled. This would be a nice confidence booster for both of them. He was just about to make his move when his phone chimed.

He had never turned the text notifications back on for his current phone, and he had long since forgotten what its default text sound was. He knew it wasn’t what he had just heard, though, because what he had heard was the sound from his old phone. A sick, sinking certainty swept over him as he pulled it out and looked at it.

The text was from a number he had tried his best to forget. It was just five letters.

AWALT

He looked up at the 4 he’d been contemplating. His phone buzzed and chirped again in his hand. He looked down at it.

All. Women.