This is where we start. There's a house here, an unassuming white-collar relic from the 1970s, located in a suburb that's largely the same.

Inside the house is a boy, standing just beyond the threshold of adulthood, metaphorically speaking. Literally speaking, he's standing in his bedroom, wearing faded black briefs and not much else. He's staring at a pair of crisp brown slacks, and his mind is thinking of the tattered jeans he's only just kicked off, left in a pile on the floor, atop a T-shirt that threatens darkness with the spell of magic missile.

Stop me if you know this reference.

The boy does, and knowing that he does will tell you almost everything you need to know about him. These are the other things: He's twenty-two; his skin and hair and eyes are cast in shades of brown; he wears glasses; no one would ever call him handsome; he's somewhat overweight. If you asked him his greatest talent, he'd laugh nervously and tell you it was slaying dragons. On the Internet.

No one ever asks. Which is why the boy never mentions the final detail. It's about lying—or rather the lack thereof—and, if squinted at in bright light, it could be considered a kind of magic. We'll get back to it later.

For now, know that the date is late December, and the time is evening. It's a Friday. Tonight, the boy has his first official Office Christmas Party.

He doesn't want to go.

His father, David, says he has to. Both father and son work for the same company, Lokabrenna, Inc., nowadays mostly rebranded as just LB. Once upon a time, Lokabrenna mined for coal. Now, LB's computers sit on every desk, its smartphones in every purse and pocket.

The boy's father is an accountant, the boy works in IT. Internal IT, of the have-you-tried-  turning-it-off-  and-on variety. His father believes in old-fashioned corporate progression, of starting in the mail room and working up the ziggurat with sweat and dedication. The boy knows this idea is a rusted relic of the past, a scratched record in an era of MP3s and online streaming. Because privilege is born, not made, and talent is scouted from abroad, not recruited from the basement. If the boy ever gets his name in the credits for any Great New Thing, it will be buried down at the end of a very, very long list.

He doesn't want to shake hands and make small talk at the party. He's young, has posters of dragons on his walls, and would rather spend his Friday playing games on the Internet with his friends. He resents the crisp brown slacks and nice new shirt, and he resents his father, just a little, for buying them. Mostly, he resents the arguments and awkward silences that won over his acceptance of David's secondhand aspirations.

The boy dresses and heads downstairs. His father gushes and tries in vain to smooth his son's hair down into something fit for corporate consumption. In the end, he gives up, but pretends he's satisfied with the results. He is so, so proud of his boy, for whom he dreams great things.

He has no idea.

David drives them to the party. It's outside, in the center of the city, in a place called Osko Park. The gleaming edifice of LB's corporate temple looms large across the street, the grandest and most imposing building in the state.

It's hot, and bright, because that's what December evenings mean in this part of the world. The boy nurses an imported beer—a Corona—and worries that his sweat stains will show on his new shirt.

After an hour or so of misery and too many small spring rolls, the boy detaches himself from his father's watch and retreats behind a large and ugly piece of public art. He sits down on the grass, fends off mosquitoes as best he can, and pulls something from his pocket.

It's a Spark, a handheld gaming console made by Pyre Computers, a subsidiary of LB. The boy uses it to work on a game played by only two other people in all the world. Those two others are his friends, and the game is a project the trio makes together. One does art, one writes. The boy cuts code.

Liesmith: Book 1 of the WyrdWhere stories live. Discover now