>E15[friendly_girl]

Nobody had come into the shop. No texts.

I stared into space as the wires in my neck spread my conscious out.

You think you’re in a brain with a body? 

I’m spilled milk in a rat maze.

Right at the moment, I was an eighty terabyte memory bank brimming with spyware. I became the thing. Like suddenly possessing a second head, but this one was infested with terrible squirming things. A million writhing eyeballs.

Jesus, it was like they’d been farming the things.

Multiplied into every file, infecting every video and game. It was like being able to look close up at the pseudo-living viruses that were in my own cells, hijacking my own programs, and understanding their being.

DNA unfolding. Chromosomal scaffolding contracting, signals like robotic walkers going out.

I pulled out my wires from the drive.

That was enough of that.

My eyeballs refused to focus for a moment as I changed gears.

“I’m going to go get lunch,” I said, squinting at the ceiling lights.

Miss Fong gave some kind of acknowledgment or dismissal from the back. At this time of day she would be online as much as she worked. An addictive gamer. But I had thirty minutes for lunch and she wouldn’t do a thing. I had ordered my food ahead of time.

As I stepped out into the mall a different song played which I didn’t recognize. A song about Christmas parties and liqueured up eggnog.

My phone vibrated.

>’Nyx’_12:01:33 | location received

I smiled. 

Starting off towards the food court I had in mind nothing but what to say. I didn’t want to lead the conversation, I wanted to listen. What would I talk about anyway? The personal info and memory data I’d skimmed off for usage in targetted advertising? I knew a guy named Richard Callaghan was going to be getting adverts for anti-depressants. I’d seen the journal entries. Felt his emotional footprints.

That was if he was still around.

But besides that thought my weekend was uneventful.

I passed shop after shop, but between the two lanes of foot traffic up ahead, I saw the table. Situated in front of a shopface baring glowing golden arches, there was one occupant already there sitting. She’d beaten me here, as usual.

I only had to grab my food trey and take my place.

Delilah was leaning forward. She inspected my food as I set it down. Critical.

“Hey there,” I said. “What?”

“It’s so predictable. Don’t you prefer street food? God, I know I do.”

I peeled back my sauce’s top. “Haven’t had it in two years.”

“Are you just trying to be bland, then? Really?”

I stopped what I was doing and looked at her. Blue eyed, shoulder lengthed black hair, elbows on the table and arms bundled in a heavy black jacket. Her accent leaned proper. I couldn’t tell if the humor was hiding discontentment, but it would be out of character. I was overthinking it. I couldn’t read her.

When could you read anyone, fucko?

Oh.

I shook my head. “It’s the goddamn money, you know? Ever since the city started reporting to the insurance companies. Everything I do. I can’t think of even touching a bike if I want to stay in my apartment. Fuck, man.”

“How terribly sad.” There’s the meaningful meaninglessness. I liked disingenuousness when you both knew it was intentional. Showed the light behind the eyes, subtext. She looked up as if she could see the sky, thinking. “But, you know…

I grinned. “What?”

My day revolved around this. This was the only time we saw each other in person. And this was the only person I saw.

She was the punctuation to my monotony.

She groaned. “You could get out more. Yeah. You should really break out. It’s Christmas time. Go see that giant tree in D district. You’re completely bumming me out.”

“I’ve seen pictures. What about you? You’re depressing me.”

“How so? I’m unpredictable. That’s hardly depressing.”

“You can’t keep a job and you won’t tell me anything about yourself. That’s depressing.”

“And yet here we are?”

“Yeah, months later. Here we… are…”

I had a text.

>’’_12:09:01 | “Get out. Exercise. Daily reminder! There’s a lot to do still, Frode. We’re not done yet.”

The ragged crack in the screen split the words. Staring at it, my smile faded.

Delilah kept speaking but my mind was suddenly far away.

//////////

I sat on the end of my bed. The dark of my apartment surrounded me, interrupted only by the likes of the digital clocks on the stovetop and dresser.

Strange memories played in my head. The psycho-data recorded and stored deep in so many dead computers.

I saw my daughter running towards me, tears streaming down her face. Knees skinned pink.

It was such a mixture of concern and love. But it wasn’t mine.

No, I was gonna sit there. Every day I did the same. Come home and process the memories and data. Countless hours of it at rapid speed.

Delilah sometimes came to mind. Mostly it was an awareness of the overwhelming information.

Sitting there on the end of my bed, I wondered where the time had gone and when it would be time again to sleep. Time to go to work again. Time to see her.

Time.

It was the box for the narrative.

As I remembered holding my daughter tight, my empty hands clenched in the air in front of me. They opened before falling down at my sides.

I was alone in my apartment. The taste of cookies and soldering fumes lingered in my mouth.

Where was the story?

 

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