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Disconnected

The first story of the new year. It is quite a bit like a story I wrote a few months ago called "Decay was the smelling salt." They are both brief anecdotes about the frequently tragic consequences of the digital age. The world is much the same and in many ways so is the context, but perspective is the at the core of any story and that element shapes the narrative more than any other single element.

Suicide is a decision often made either after years of profound suffering or as a snap response to a sudden emergence of spiritually and psychologically unbearable circumstances that condenses the pain felt diffusely over time into one agonizing break with life. Brett found himself among the latter of the two.
Brett was an adolescent boy who exercised godlike control over his own digital Eden. A few silicone chips held the power to create an entire universe with an extreme level of specification. Naturally, the infinite possibilities of that realm were of far greater appeal than the day to day life of a suburban high school student.
Every moment and interaction in this reality were tailored to indulge any chosen desire. The boy could see no reason to ever leave the confines of his digital fantasies. Brett had more that a dozen utopias stored away in the nearly microscopic memory banks that could be instantly rendered at any time if he wasn’t feeling so inclined to simply build a new one. Given the possibilities, some might find it odd he chose to spend most of his time occupying a reality much the same as the world he inhabited in his auxiliary life. There was only one diverging detail, in this life, he was in a full-fledged romantic partnership with Erin, a classmate he had an intense infatuation with but who seemed like an obvious impossibility at least where flesh and blood were concerned.
The software allowed Brett to integrate her into his carefully customized reality where they were the most devoted sweethearts. Despite being able to change this plane of existence on a whim, he chose to live out a markedly innocent and naively idyllic experience within the confines of a reality constructed from binary code. She was a digital rendering who would always act according to his will it took some time for Brett to open up to his stringless puppet. She was not only his lover but his closest confidant and friend.
When he finished indulging his raging hormonal lust, he would spend hours talking to the cluster of code arranged to mimic a human. He opened up to her. He revealed everything about himself to her. She was a sympathetic ear and since she was a figment of electronic imagination she had nothing to share about herself so he never had to learn anything about that he wouldn’t want to know and no matter what he told her she could only respond with the boy’s imagined version of unconditional love and devotion. He confided his most closely guarded secrets to her even though she was a skeleton he hoped to keep in the dark forever.
Brett had sculpted a mild summer day. The software manipulated his nervous system so he could feel the cool breeze rustling his curtains as it blew over the naked bodies of his and Erin who was wrapped around him in a post-coital embrace. The flesh reinforced the illusion. He could feel her hair on his chest and the weight of her bare breasts on his arm. It was a simple paradise and the very kind of experience that was leading him to regard life as a tedious nightmare he hoped to forget.
He was lazily stroking her hair when the buzzing of his cell phone dispersed the hazy contentment. For a second he was seized by panic. He hadn’t willed the phone call. This instruction had to be swiftly and carefully dealt with. Max was the name on the screen. A mixture of humiliation and terror mingled into a mass that felt like it was congealing in his chest. This was a forbidden world no one was ever meant to see.
His trembling fingers made it difficult to slide the arrow to answer.
Max get the fuck out of here!” Brett demanded trying his best to sound forceful.
Dude you’re on open world!” Max panted.
What?! I always turn that setting off!” Wailed Brett.
You’re broadcasting on facebook turn off your helmet right now!” Max squealed.
Brett jumped when he heard the doorknob turning along with the giddy laughter of a group of teenagers there to relish in his humiliation. There were many among his classmates who could sense an opportunity to inflict irreversible psychological damage, and they were all about to literally catch him with his pants down. The door swung open, and the pack of sneering teenagers quickly closed in on their prey.
Hey, you think Erin might be into this Buffalo Bill shit!” Giggled Sean, the bouncy-haired hazel eyed track star who as it happened was also Erin’s long time boyfriend, again in the world where flesh and blood are concerned. He was quickly surrounded by his classmates. He pulled the covers over him and Erin in a vain attempt to shield himself and his love doll from his tormentors and just like that heaven had become hell.
Brett threw off the plastic visor and tore off the tactile attachments. He was glistening with sweat and his cheeks were burning a blood red. He choked back tears and caught his breath. Denial being a default crutch offered the boy a glimmer of hope. It was possible that was only the simulation. Maybe some kind of invasive malicious code had infected his program, and his life was really still intact.
His phone’s incessant beeping was an ominous sign that wasn’t the case, but he checked anyway. It was his only hope. His Facebook feed confirmed the horrible truth. He was broadcasting from a first person view. The universe’s sudden permeability was the simple result of faulty programming. The settings had spontaneously changed, and in an instant, the boy was a pariah condemned to years of ridicule, harassment, and loneliness.
He didn't know how long everyone had been watching, but apparently, it was long enough. The hundreds of posts that had already appeared under his feed had diagnosed him a “sick fuck creeper rapist!” The record of this life crushing humiliation and enduring shame would leave a permanent digital record. In cyberspace, the past can never be forgotten. It was suddenly apparent what he would have to do.
Brett’s version of Harikari was to swallow a fist full of his Adderall. He couldn’t hold back the tears. He sobbed while his shaking hands fumbled with the bottle. He opened it up and spilled the small dusty blue pieces in his palm. He dropped the majority of them while trying to eat them out of his hand.
He looked a the VR set and wiped his tear-stained cheeks with the back of his hand. His quaking body slowly relaxed, and the tremors began to subside. The visor was the answer. There was no reason for him to die. He could easily abandon this world where life had taken such a disastrous turn. He could return to the dream. He could have Erin back, and he could exact a terrible toll on his tormentors. He put the visor back on. He poured the rest of the pills in his pocket for safe keeping in case anyone tried to bring him back.

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