It took thirty days to render an immersion matrix for Jack.
Technicians tested it thoroughly for paradoxes and anomalies.
“It’s ready,” they said.
Jack was plugged into the matrix and we calibrated sensors so he wouldn’t realize that he wasn’t in the real world.
Everyone and everything he’d encounter in that matrix would be generated by it. Even Jack would be rendered by that matrix.
“It’s working,” said the technicians. “He doesn’t realize anything.”
For ninety years, we kept Jack running, and he thought he lived a full and happy life.
“We did well,” I said.
And they unplugged me.
I can’t believe he’s marrying her.
She’s such a hot mess. Total psycho.
What is he thinking?
And he’s got kids, too, right?
She can’t handle herself. How is she going to handle being a stepmother?
I wouldn’t trust my kids with her.
Why is he doing this?
Maybe it’s the “I don’t care if the chick I fuck will get my kids killed” gene?
Or “I’m a shitty father” gene.
He has it, passed it on to the kids, and it’ll get weeded out by natural selection.
Maybe we’ll get them a family burial plot as a wedding gift.
I’m tired. You’re tired.
And you say, “I’m going to bed. Goodnight.”
I say “Goodnight.”
And before you vanish, I want to say something, anything, but all I manage to say is “I” before you vanish.
I smile, and whisper the other two words, and tell myself “Maybe tomorrow.”
Like I told myself last night. And the night before. And every night before that.
But I never do.
“Goodnight.” I say to the empty air, and I breathe in slowly.
Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after that.
Just three words?
And I vanish to sleep.
Okay, so you know about King Arthur and The Holy Grail, right?
It was the vessel from which Christ drank, and any who drink from it are healed of all disease and illness.
Well, I know about the Unholy Grail, from which those who drink are poisoned and suffer greatly.
Still, no matter how many times you warn the guys, the moment she spreads her legs, they all come with their tongues waggling and licking.
Then, they come crawling to me, begging for a sip from the Holy Grail.
“It’s in the dishwasher,” I say, and I slam the door.
A rose by any other name is still a rose, but we knew her as Circe.
Whenever I was being an asshole, she’d call me an asshole.
And whenever I wasn’t, she’d still call me an asshole, because she knew it was only a matter of time.
She told me she was listening to all of my stories from the beginning. It gave her something to look forward to.
How do you respond to that? Their last months… weeks… days.
I know I wouldn’t waste my remaining time on that shit.
It must have been the morphine, clouding her judgement.
Let me tell you about the greatest comedian in all of Second Life.
Her jokes aren’t original at all, if you can call them that.
It’s just funny shit she’s ripped off some site that’s ripped them off of Buzzfeed or Twitter or Reader’s Digest.
She reads them in her roadhouse comedy club, which is a copy of a place that this guitarist chick once ran, but with a bunch of posters and stuff plastered over it.
So, how is she the greatest?
Because she’s made a complete joke out of you who believe that, and I can’t stop laughing.
I met this girl at a bar. She said she was an artist.
“What kind of art do you make?” I asked.
She invited me back to her studio and she showed me.
“It’s called splatter art,” she said, picking up a brush and carelessly slopping it on a canvas.
I hadn’t gotten laid in weeks, so I said I liked it.
The next morning, I offered to cook breakfast.
“I’m a chef,” I said.
Then I proceeded to randomly grab stuff out of her fridge and toss it on the stove.
“I call it splatter cuisine,” I said, laughing.
When I got a high-power laptop from work, it could produce my podcast and run Second Life, so I didn’t need my personal laptop anymore.
It’s still got a year left in it, I figure. I could have sold it on eBay or trade it in for Amazon credit, but I decided to give it to someone who needed it.
The problem is, whenever I see them log on and off a few times in a row, I worry that the laptop is having issues.
I don’t want to be nosy about it.
I’ll just budget for another. And wait.
The first time you needed help, I helped you.
And you thanked me.
But when I needed help, where were you?
“I’m busy,” you said.
I got through it on my own, but it hurt. A lot.
You live, you learn.
And you remember these things.
Now you’re back, all bloody and begging for help again.
Don’t spit in my face and tell me it’s a long-distance kiss, baby.
I know the difference.
And you know the difference.
It takes a lot of strength to put the past behind us.
I slowly close the door, and whisper “Goodbye.”
When I arrived at the emergency room on Saturday, alone and helpless, my phone battery was dying.
My friends contacted the hospital gift shop, and by the time I reached my room, a spare charging cord was delivered.
That phone was my lifeline to family and friends.
On Monday, my mother-in-law arrived with my laptop, and I pulled out a spare cord from the laptop bag.
Just then, a careless orderly broke the gift cord.
It lasted just long enough to do its job, and then sacrificed itself so the orderly wouldn’t break anything else important, like my other arm.