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I R I S
People who stare at their phones and hate to read. I Hope people will want to learn how important reading was and still is today.
A story about an ordinary guy gone wrong.
For my ancestors
Wherever you may be.
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
~Emily Dickinson, c.1863
June , 20th, 2021
It started with message.
“WINDOWS XP HAS ENCOUNTERED A FATAL ERROR.”
“PLEASE RESET YOUR DEVICE TO BEGIN CALIBRATION START UP PROCEDURES.”
Thomas figured that this was just a new update and it had most likely crashed the rather outdated operating system. The reason he assumed was the system had overloaded, requesting to many commands at once. This happened to him often since the clunky desktop was fairly ancient, having been assembled and sold in 2017.
HIs assumption it seemed was correct at first glance.
It wasn’t very long before his desktop monitor started to do some rather strange things after the unscheduled update. The mouse’s trackpad sensitivity would often freak out and cause the poor writer’s cursor, to spaz out sporadically, until he grew frustrated enough to do perform a hard reset. Which required him unplug everything and restart hid monitor, which took about five minutes at a minimum. He spent these few minutes staring outside.
It was raining in Seattle, like always. It never stopped it seemed. And because of this, nobody was outside for longer than a few brief moments to run to a store, or to dash to the safety of their Automobiles. Weather had a choke hold similar to that of steel around the city and its citizens, wh0 grew weary of even flicking on the news. A string of murders, rain, a car accident,. More rain. With a possible chance of rain, of course. Thusly, he longed for any sort of communication with another human, that wasn’t through a screen, box, or speaker. He yearned for the chance to make things right. Before he was famous. Before he’d introduced the world to his so called ‘fantastic’ new Idea. Virtual reality, except it wasn’t virtual, aside from the literal sense.
You could touch, smell, hear, and see everything around you.
This was possible due to a pioneering feat in technology, the use of Neural links. His idea for the Neural link began with him standing, in front of his mirror as a teenager, being able to see his reflection in the mirror, but when he went to touch the cold surface, he was annoyed with the fact that his fingers only met glass, and not the texture of his roughened hands, worn from the many licks he had acquired all over his hands, from is many altercations with other boys of his age, even some girls. He wanted to make a place where he could fight without consequences, for the sake of fighting of course. And with that childish goal in mind he studied code and programming languages for two weeks straight. He rarely was scene outside of his room in that time. Not that anyone enjoyed his company or even his presence. His parents never worried about him due to his lack of any dealings with any children, or individual within any sort of semblance of his age range, including that of the opposite sex. And then he came up with the prototype of the Virtuatm. But, he had nothing to fill his new virtual world. There was nothing.
Thomas had hated pretty much everything about modern society. From their “Everyone's a winner” mentality, to their catchy but disgustingly repetitive take on pop-music. However, he did have an unburdened amount of respect for old timers. At that age he’d working at the nursing home, in the suburbia just outside of the Seattle, often listening to the war-stories, political notions, and various points of view almost in awe of what the days of old were like. In the 80’s everybody was about world peace, the early 90’s were all about teenage rebellion. The 70’s were a bit harder to come by. Most of the residents from that generation were in hypersleep, a regenerative comatose-state if you’d like or were so old and senile that they might as well have been labeled ‘Bat-s*** crazy’ or ‘Wicked nuts’. These were terms he had picked up while working there, and people often looked at him funny. Sadly, bats were nearly extinct, so the useage of the term was beginning to lose its luster, and the chance of someone were finding a bat, except on the internet perhaps, was slim to none. In Seattle at least. After working a few months at the nursing home, he realized why it hadn’t been shut down. Who would want to waste their time seeing a family member when you could easily just ignore. He saw these people suffering, as their loved ones slowly forgot about them, only for them only to wither and turn to dust at moments notice.
Thomas originally wanted to make a place where he could fight anyone, anywhere, anytime, with no repercussions. But know he was leaning more towards a place that all outsiders could take refuge from reality. But the old breed he was creating a paradise for, kept on saying the same thing.
The road to hell was paved with good intentions.
Meanwhile, as he reminisced his past, a notification pinged on his smartphone screen.
He blinked his eyes a little, and made sure he had his glasses on. He’d just received a text. The thing was, I hadn’t received a text in almost 10 years, since most of his living relatives either hated his very existence, ( for being rich and successful, obviously ; nothing to do with his attitude ) or thought he was crazy. He’d stopped receiving fan-mail at age 18, having been 16 when he first released the Virtua™. You’d think someone so famous would know a lot of people. And he did. BUt 90% of those said ‘people’ were vegetables in is ‘paradiso’. More like Paradise Lost. Almost instantly he tried to respond to the feeble grab at communication, and threw the device at the wall when it said the return address was in invalid account name . Still nothing. He was probably one of the few ‘old timers’ that still used an analog keyboard instead of a chip that was hooked to a goddamn server. One of the few that had grown up without a screen to protect him, to hide behind. Most people he knew were now just vegging out in his virtual world, trying to get away from boring reality. He sighed quietly, shutting down the computer, and tossing the phone into the waste bin, sweeping the glass and metal bits into the trash can, before fetching a crisp white identical phone it setting it on his desk, having it already been preloaded with all of his accounts and such. He sighed boredly, staring out the at the morning mist, before returning to the short story he was idly editing.
This strange behavior continued for several days, until a more direct means of communication was found. He had been revising my latest story, using the built in notepad, when I turned away for a moment, to check the time. When he turned back to the screen, something, or someone had sent him another text message, with an image file.
“Hi. I’m Iris.” was the caption of the picture. It showed one of the few Non-virtual cafes, where one could go and order food, which was, nowadays becoming a novelty. He stared at the picture searching for some significance. It was then he picked a face out of the crowd.
A girl. Wearing what seemed to be a canine’s skull on her over her face, like some sort of weird cult member. She didn't seem threatening at all to him, the skull featuring a surprisingly innocent look about it. As if it was just a part of her naturally. She also seemed to be waving excitedly, no one else on the busy crosswalk where she stood noticing her. Nonetheless his interest with the young woman turned to curiosity and then it got the better of his good judgement. He made sure to scribble down on a sticky to write his epitaph, incase he died under mysterious circumstances regarding this weird woman, and her text message she had sent him.
“Hello?” He typed back, deciding to be a tad stupid and share just a picture of his face and upper torso. 5 o’clock shadow, faded T-shirt. A hair cut. A defined chin and a squarish jawline. By no means bad looking, but he wasn’t a swimsuit model or anything.
Another ping made him nearly jump out of his seat, looking around slightly paranoid, hoping this person wasn’t actually a cultist or a hitman. The two thoughts had seemed ridiculous before, but after thinking about it, he made sure to up his security. He also, with some remorse for his security detail, shortened their breaks from two hours to half of one, and upped their pat to double, to try and give them some incentive not to go on strike. “Hell, I’ll triple their pay.” he said to himself, tapping away at the Workspace Management program, tripling the pay to all of his close advisors as well. Most of them were well taken care of, and easily made six figure salaries.
He then turned his attention back to the phone on his desk
“Why do you look so scared, Thomas?” She replied, her head tilted, her mouth, er, toothy grin pulled into a sort of frown. Maybe he was going crazy. The picture attached to this one was grainy and looked as if she was just sort of teleporting around or something.
“Do I know you?” He replied, not adding a picture, as that seemed to be what she, the dog-creature wanted. Then it dawned on him.
She was taking pictures of were he had been, roughly within the last week or so.
The following responses began to happen randomly, and it seemed to be becoming more agitated, the less time he spent looking at the photos, or her messages. He suspected that soon he would receive death threats, or messages telling him to commit suicide, as many of the few remaining trolls that still prowled the web.
The devilish girl proved him wrong, instead going for a less subtle approach to recieve his attention.
Gifts, in his favorite armchair, which resided in the library. Beautiful trinkets. A pendant, a silver chain, broken at both ends with an attached cross, a crucified jesus accompanied it. A skeleton key that had been inscribed in delicate cursive,
“ If someone is ugly, they are a stalker - If they are beautiful, they are a secret admirer “
The opposite side read,
“ Sometimes to create, you must destroy “
Thomas, aftering picking up the key from the seat of the arm chair and glimpsing at the text, dropped it, and stumbled away staring at the key and the other trinkets.
He then started to get more frantic and needy messages as soon he left the library.
The thing was behind him in this picture, wearing a long black night gown, he features accentuated by the electric lamplight. He fumbled with his phone, dropping it, a crack splitting the glass. He stood there trembling with rage as he resisted the urge to delete the contact.
“wHAT THE F*@$ do you WANT?” He screamed turning in a circle, something flickering at the side of his vision. A figure. She had found him. He didn't care anymore. Instead of addressing the apparition like spirit, he just hurriedly continued on his path, towards his mansion. On the way, he heard whispers and phrases, as well as suggestions to turn around and see her for his own eyes. Her voice sounded sad and nervous, but his mind wandered to the greek tale of odysseus, and the terrific might that the sirens had possessed over him and his crew.
“P-please? W-what am I to you? I miss you. H-hello? Why do you hate me? I’m s-s-sorry?” It’s frantic stammering and childish whispers made him want to console it, as if it was a kid who was lost. He stepped into his home, and quickly slammed the door on her face. He then shuddered, before turning and dead bolting the door. After a few moments, he spun on his heel, and peered through the peep hole.
It was standing there in the rain,, seemingly crying. Its thin feminine form, almost shadow like in appearance, was shuddering, slowly, rocking back and forth, knees pressed up against her thin frame. It then noticed Thomas staring at it through the peephole, and sat up, peering back, one of her one iris’s blinking, as it breathed against the door in soft, ragged breaths.
And then it knocked four times, quickly and politely.
“C-can I come in?” she asked softly, the voice was scared but not of him. Of rejection.
“Why? A’ll you’ve done is cause me discomfort and paranoia.” He snapped. He watched her visibly recoil, falling silent. Her jaw clacked softly, hanging limp, the shadowy form of flesh under said jaw was now visible. Black as night. And a set of human teeth lay in that mouth.
“Thomas. Have you ever wanted to wander alone for centuries, disfigured, knowing someone could fix you easily with three words. Except no one would have you?” She asked, her voice chilling and quiet.
Her jaw snapped up and locked in place.
“Wait! WHAT ARE YOU?” He yelled, watching as she sort of faded quietly to dust.
He then felt a soft breath on his neck. The thing. Iris. Whatever was behind him.
“ Isis. Goddess of death and children. “ It responded, n a more firm, but older and wiser tone. He then put two and two together, and realized that it was actually two voices.
“ I’m Iris! “ The more high pitched voice squeaked from the behind the skull,
“ What do you want from me? Why in the name of god have you been following me around like a serial killer? You could have told me that you weren’t going to kill me... “ He mumbled quietly, feeling the arms around his stomach turn ice cold. A bead of sweat rolled down his neck.
“ Actually, not to burst your bubble or anything, but I need you to die. I’m terribly sorry for all of the disturbing stuff me and Iris have put you through, but we needed to make it seem like you were murdered. And we know that everyone you know is long gone, so we figured you wouldn’t mind a bit of a more permanent vacation. SO ANYWAYS, you’re needed elsewhere, in a different place. I’m going to stop your heart now. Iris will lead you, no worries! “ Isis added on quietly.
“HEy? Wait, WHAT?” He asked dully noting the Spirits bad usage and structure of grammar, but before he could correct her,
“Dying isn’t so bad, I’ve died before!” Iris said cheerfully, as if trying to reassure him.
Moments later he died, however he felt like he was still watching the world around him. The bony dog creature waved before shutting his eyes.
“ I’ll see you, on the flipside. Sweet dreams. “
Then the sea of endless black slowly washed over him, sinking deeper and deeper into what could only be described as a peaceful decent into the heavens. Or wherever he was going. Thomas didn’t know, and didn’t care. He smiled.
“If you lived onwards in death, what was the point of living anyways?”
His thoughts sort of just faded to blackness. Nothing.
When he woke up, he felt sand beneath his toes, and an arid wind against his body.
“ Hiya! I’m Iris, I’ll be your lovely guide through the egyptian underworld today, I’d recommend keeping all extremities inside the path at all times, if you’d like to keep them, of course. “ Iris added cheerfully forcing his eyes open.
“ Thomas? “