The VR headset whirred down. It sounded like one of those old 80’s computers I’d seen in a museum. Once the datapulse had finished, I was once again conscious of where I was: in my room, sitting down and wearing the headset.
I grabbed onto the headset, which looked a lot like a set of goggles. The lenses alone went from the top of my eyebrows to the edges of my nose. I grabbed the strap on the back and pulled it upwards.
Blinked a few times and set the headset on the bed next to my chair. Grabbed the cane resting on the other side of my chair and stood up.
“Shit,” I mumbled, wondering what the time was. The bedroom window showed the pitch black night outside, so clearly the game had been running for a while.
I went to look down at my wrist, only to remember I’d taken my smartwatch off to let it charge.
The smartwatch was on my bedroom stand. It said the time was around one in the morning, which was obnoxious. Meant that I’d been on for way longer than I’d meant to be. I was hungry, too, which made sense.
The cane was nice, at least. Still wasn’t used to it, but I’d bought a pimp cane, one with a jewel on the end, to make me feel better about the whole process.
I walked to the door, moving out of my room and into the kitchen. Took a frozen dinner out of the freezer. Heated it up and ate it out of the carton.
The dinner wasn’t necessarily good, per se, but that didn’t matter much to me. Some people freaked out about cooking. They would spend hours and hours shopping for the perfect ingredients at the grocery store, mixing everything together just right, making sure it cooked just right and all that shit.
Honestly, the point of it wasn’t clear to me. You were just going to scarf the meal down in ten minutes, anyway.
Maybe it would’ve made sense if I’d been some rich fancy asshole living on the Mediterranean, sipping wine with some poodle of a rich old white lady.
But that wasn’t me. Wasn’t my life, wasn’t who I wanted to be.
At the end of the meal, with just one bit of mac and cheese left to go, my smartwatch rang. Unfortunately, it was in the bedroom. I had the last bit of my meal, then hobbled back to the bedroom. Picked the phone up just in time.
“Hey, Chris, my man,” Paula said. She had a smoky voice. She’d always been a little out there, if I’m being honest.
“Hey, Paula. You know it’s one in the morning, don’t you?”
“You’re up, aren’t you?” she said.
“Yeah, but I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier.”
“That’s a laugh, man. Why go to bed? Not like you have to wake up or anything. Leaving your job meant you go to take off the shackles, you hear what I’m saying?”
I sighed. “Thanks for reminding me.”
“Hey, don’t be coming to me looking for sympathy. You got so much cash from that limo guy who hit you, you’re going to be rollin’ in the cash for years.”
That was a wild exaggeration. A lot of that money was going to the medical bills. By my estimation, after those medical bills, I could use that money to pay for everything else for a year, if I budgeted correctly.
Still, my finances were none of her business.
“What’d you call about?” I asked. Paula called every once in awhile, but not all that often. A part of me liked talking to her, if I’m being honest. Didn’t have to worry about her judging me, because she had so many damn problems of her own.
Plus, she and I had gone to college together. Sometimes it was good to talk about the goold old days. They were only a couple years ago, actually, but it felt like it’d been so long since I’d been on-campus.
A part of me missed those days. Another part of me thinks those days are why life sucks so much these days.
“Heard some news I thought you’d be interested in.”
“We should really talk about this in person.”
“C’mon, Paula. It’s not like we’re meeting up tonight. Just lemme know what it’s about.”
“It’s really not good to talk about this sort of thing on the phone. Bad juju, you know,” she said. The way she said ‘you know’ was funny, because I rarely had any idea what she was talking about. She continued, “It’s about Alex.”
I wanted to puke. “Paula, just–”
“Wait until tomorrow. Go to bed now and call me when you get up. We can talk about it over coffee.”
“Go to bed, Chris. I’m doing some body mods later, so I’ll be up all night. You can even text me in the morning. We’ll get coffee then.”
I opened my mouth to say something, only to hear a click as she hung up on me.
“God. Damn. It.”
The fact that Paula didn’t want to tell me over the phone meant it must be something real bad. She wanted someone around when I found out.
And it was about Alex, too.
What the hell could it be? I sat down and took deep breaths, telling myself to calm down.
The fastest way to find out would be to get to sleep as soon as possible. So I brushed my teeth and went to bed.
A part of me wanted to put on pajamas, but it wasn’t worth the hassle of working around the leg. I took off my smartwatch. I went to bed and closed my eyes, but didn’t go to sleep.
No way I was going to sleep, with me wondering what the news about Alex was.
Eventually I turned on the radio of my smartwatch. Closed my eyes and listened to the news.