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Day nine thousand three hundred sixty, and counting. I don’t keep track of years anymore, it is useless. I am living under the control of someone else’s happiness. Why should I be glad that I survived another year? I believe it is Spring. No one knows at this point. The dust, or as they like to call it “fog” is getting worse. My crew and I have been constructing The Geneva Commemoration Building for a month now and they already have respiratory problems. Another country, fallen. Just like that. Switzerland was one of my favorite countries; I met my wife there. She’s gone, though, and I don’t really remember why. But that’s not important because I think my medication is working. People have gotten to really low points. More than seventy-five percent of the population is addicted to antidepressants and I’ve been using them for two weeks. I guess they’re working. I mean, I have a will to get up in the morning now. I’m completely unfazed by the cruelties outside my apartment. Like when Junior, a stray dog outside, bit someone to death yesterday, I didn’t even stop to scream. Doctor Hanshaw says I’m getting better every day.
Day nine thousand four hundred ten, and counting. I lied about my medication. I’m beginning to hate everything and everyone around me. My feet are constantly cold, I don’t eat, barely sleep. Dair E. Watchman died while working on the Building yesterday. He was a good man. Other than that, Junior tried to bite me today. He’s never had a problem with me before. I guess he senses my apathy. I don’t want to seem egotistical but why does everyone look at me? Every day, every single day. I could be doing the simplest errands and people stare at me like I’m crazy. I see their eyes. I see the way they judge me. And oh god my head! I am constantly dizzy, so dizzy. My migraines have become a part of my daily routine. I went to see Doctor Hanshaw, I think a week ago. He said, “If you keep taking your medication, you will be just fine.”
Day nine thousand… something. I think there have been rumors going around about me. The mail boy delivers my mail to my neighbor now. He says he’s “uncomfortable” around me. Alright, champ, so what if I had a couple of erratic outbursts? I need to blow off steam somehow. I don’t feel my head anymore. I’m numb from the top of my head to my eyebrows. Doctor Hanshaw says that’s normal. I got a package from someone yesterday. My vision has gotten a lot worse, so it was hard to read what the package said. I had some guy from my crew read it for me. Apparently, it was from the government promising “rest”. The package contained some type of VR contacts. It was scientifically new and they were testing them on citizens. I obviously put them away. There is no way I’m trusting those things.
I don’t know what day it is. I’ve been inside my apartment for two weeks now. Depression has gotten the best of me. Doctor Hanshaw called four times. I didn’t answer. I quietly take my pills, eat, watch television, take my pills, and sleep. That is what life has come to. I’m just so tired. I don’t sleep most nights. My face is almost completely numb. I spent a few more days in this state until I received an alert from my cell phone. It was just a green screen with a red arrow pointing to something in front of me. I looked closer and saw that it was the package. I know I said I wasn’t going to use it but I’m desperate now. I take the box of contacts out and read all the directions. “Welcome,” it read. “We introduce you to your new genes… or G.E.N.E. This is your very own Genome Enhanced Neural Engine. We warn to use this with caution, as it may cause some serious delusions. No worries, friend, that is what we are counting on. Carefully place the contacts onto your eyes before going to bed. You should feel absolutely different in the morning. Happy travels!” After reading this, I did what any normal person would do. I pushed away the damn thing, left it on the floor and went to sleep. After this, an alert came to use the package almost every day. I ignored them and continued to take my medication.
Nothing works for me anymore. I don’t eat at all. I just wake up, wait for the day to pass, and sleep. I’ve gotten to such a low point, that I didn’t see a reason for living. As I was sitting, on the couch, having one of my breakdowns, another alert came. Before, I would have ignored it, but now I decided to try it. My mind was focused on the “rest” it promised and that’s what led me to use the contacts. I waited for nighttime to place them in my eyes and surprisingly fell asleep. I don’t know how long I slept for, though when I was consciously awake, I actually heard birds chirping outside.
“Hey, handsome” a woman’s voice says. My eyes flutter open and I see a woman.
“Morning, Eva.” It felt nice to see my wife in the morning. I felt like it had been ages since I spoke to her. I observed her face, the small details that no one seemed to notice. Like that small dimple only visible on her chin, or that long vein that runs down from her forehead to her left eyebrow. My mind flooded with thoughts and memories of Eva. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking of our wedding. She looked so beautiful as she danced and laughed with everyone that night. I also noticed my back was sore and I had a headache. I expelled those thoughts from my mind, though. Eva was with me. Why did it feel like I haven’t seen her in a while? How long should one night feel? Maybe I was tired, I don’t know. I began to feel a little anxious, though Eva’s voice calmed me again.
“I made you breakfast. It’s your favorite. Sunnyside up eggs with bacon”.
“Really? Oh, it’s been a while!”
That’s a little odd. I like scrambled eggs, she knows that. It’s alright, I mean they’re still eggs. Plus, I appreciated bed in breakfast way more.
“I’ll eat these in a couple minutes, Eva. I feel queasy, I’m gonna go take some antacids.”
“No, no stay here. Enjoy your breakfast. I will get it for you”, insists Eva.
“ You already did so much today. Stay. ”
She stares at me blankly and complies with my request. Now as I walk to the hallway, my head becomes dizzy. It feels as though when I try to remember something, it gets completely wiped from my mind. I ignore it and walk towards the kitchen past a huge mirror in the hallway. I catch a glimpse of myself in it. My white tank top and black shorts, and my slick brown hair. Wait a minute… brown hair? I have black hair. I shout to Eva:
“Honey, we gotta change the lighting in here. It’s making me look… unusual.”
As I inspect myself more, I notice a lot of changes in my appearance. Where did my tattoo go? My nose looked a lot smaller and I felt taller. I looked more closely in the mirror and saw wrinkles around my eyes and mouth. I looked very old for a twenty-six-year-old.
“I just changed the lightbulbs yesterday”, says Eva as she walks into the kitchen. I don’t reply to her comment. I just stand there with a mesmerized look on my face while I observe myself in the mirror. Something doesn’t feel right. I can’t remember much. To be honest, I can’t remember anything from the past few days. Not even a minuscule detail. What day was it?
“Gene, are you okay?”, Eva asks.
“Who’s Gene?” I question. Did she mix me up with someone else? I’m her husband for God’s sake, how does she mix up my name? Is she seeing someone else?
“Charlie” I reply sternly.
“Who’s Charlie?” my wife says innocently as she glances up at me.
“Me. I am Charlie. Eva, are you joking with me?”
“Gene, have you taken your meds? Oh! Silly me. I forgot to mash them in your food.”
“Meds? I don’t have a prescription to any medication. Why would you put something in my food??”
“Come on now, sweetie,” she says as she forcibly shoves her hand towards my mouth, trying to give me a pill. I grab her arm and slowly move it down, keeping a concerned look on my face.
“Eva. What is going on?”
She, again, tries to give me a pill. I refuse. This scenario goes on for a couple of minutes until I give up and allow her to give it to me. I immediately feel less hazy than I was before.
“Is that better, Gene?” Eva asks.
“Who is Gene?! I am Charlie!” I yell. She doesn’t say anything. She just stares into my eyes with a small smile perched on her lips. I glance at the mirror again and am compelled to look longer into it. I take a step further to it and notice my features. White tank top, black shorts, brown hair -- seems normal.
“Gene,” I say looking at myself.
“That’s right. That’s your name.” Eva says. I turn around to her and smile.
“I am Gene,” I say while smiling and pointing at myself. Eva laughs and runs up to give me a hug.
“Come on, let’s go eat breakfast. The sunny side up eggs is waiting for you.”
“Great. They’re my favorite.”
I went a whole day in this state. I honestly don’t even remember what happened before. When night finally came, and Eva dozed off, I laid with my eyes open. I wasn’t having trouble sleeping, I just needed my thoughts to calm down. They were too loud, buzzing, in my head.
“Gene… Gene… Gene” I said to myself, in my head. Repeating my name was like therapy for some reason. It reminded me of reality, I guess. So while I waited to fall asleep, I just repeated my name, on, and on, and on, and on.
“Gene… Gene… Gene.” And just like that, I fell asleep. Something bothered me while I slept though, and it showed in my dream. A man refused to give up his name to everyone he knew except for when he saw me. He immediately introduced himself as “Charlie” and shook my hand. I knew this man from somewhere. He wasn’t a nice man. He yelled at me and hit my face, urging me to come back. Come back to where? I would never know.