The Turbonet Cybercafe reeked of two-day cigarette ashes. Smoke from burning cigarettes held by pimply-faced teenagers, floated around the fluorescent ceiling lighting. I had a sense of foreboding, and every instinct screamed at me not to go further in.
But I had made up my mind to explore alternatives to my usual cybercafe. I took another tentative step in. To further seal things, the young pasty-faced counter attendant flashed me a toothy grin, and welcomed me in. No return now.
As he handed me the membership application form, a tattoo of a dragon, curled around his arms, caught my eye. I shifted my weight. It was as much to put my stomach at ease, as to get rid of the gum that had stuck to my Nikes. I didnt feel the slightest bit guilty about ruining the carpet. It had seen its better days in the time when Hong Kong was still the pride of England.
Dozens of tinted colored heads seemed to pop up from the rows of computers lined up. One stood out from the rest. His green streaked hair looked like dried seaweed. They all seemed to be checking me out. A few steps further in, the carpet ended, and my sneakers squeaked against ragged grey patches on the cement floor. I breathed in deeply, looked around and noticed that there were no windows, or side exits. Quick getaways would not be an option.
To my relief, I was given a computer in the rear where I faced only peoples backs. There were about thirty computers in the room, about the size of a neighborhood swimming pool. Private double computer booths were situated on the left side. I could see teenage couples huddled together. Playing games? Probably.
A young girl with her hair tied up, walked past me. Her red spaghetti top defied gravity. Her heels clacked on the cemented floor and I saw a tattooed tiger on her back. Tattoos and tinted hair seemed to be the trend there. Or at least, a business card, of sorts.
It was noticeably darker at the back. Shadows seemed longer and the air seemed drearier. Wires from computers that were in various stages of repair, stuck out from the workbench behind me. I found myself having to hunch forward a little, to avoid being poked. And to add to my discomfort, the kids were still staring.
Authentic gaming chicks are apparently a rarity in Hong Kong.
It was time for the iron-test. I double-clicked on the Counterstrike icon and waited. Anxious seconds seemed like hours and I heard the computers internal workings whirring away. The whispers from nosy neighbors and shouts from worked-up players seemed to fade into a blurred background track. And then the game menu popped up.
Ten seconds later, I joined a Local Area Network cafe game. And I decided to show them that I wasnt just a gamer chick to be gawked at.
I was a deadly killer gamer chick. In a seedy cafe out of a 1970s 10-cent novel.