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Living in Isolation from Unreality

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     Sleep was one of the many sensations Ferreth wasn’t able to remember since entering his new existence two years ago. It wasn’t something he particularly missed; hell, he was happy sleep couldn’t bother him anymore. Even when he was “alive” in a sense, he’d suffer bouts of insomnia that left him unable to sleep. Just thinking about those days made him appreciate his existence as a cybernetic being.

     Across the way of his confinement, he could see the body of Ven laying in bed, looking absolutely exhausted. He didn’t need her eyes to be open to know she was awake. If it wasn’t him waking her up, it was the nightmares that plagued her night after restless night.

     Whatever nightmares she dreamt about, he had no idea what they were of. He figured they must be bad enough to where she constantly tossed and turned in what rest she could get. Seeing her like that made him want to grant her the same privileges being virtual granted him.

     Eventually, she sat up, a knee to her chest and a hand on her face. She called out, “Ferret,” turning towards the desk that held the computer.

     The monitor, its brightness previously set to low, lit up with an intensity in the dark room. Ferreth set aside his worry for the time being and replied with a “Yes?”

     “What time is it?” Ven asked, brushing the stray hairs out of her face.

     “Well, according to the clock,” he replied, darting over to the lower right-hand corner, “it’s 6:08 in the morning.”

     Letting out a yawn, she said, “Thank you,” and began stretching her body.

     As she did that, he took the time to look around the room, despite knowing it hadn’t changed from the day before. The same four walls bare of anything, the floor only being clean because of his persistence, and the windows with blinds that didn’t dare let sunlight in. It was all so empty, devoid of any personality or life. Much like the occupant of this room, he thought.

     Combing her fingers through her hair to straighten out the bedhead, she sat down in the black leather chair in front of the desk. He pretended not to notice the shadows under her eyes or the fresh scars marking her arms. They’d only make him worry more than he needed to.

     With the cursor starting to flit around the screen, it became clear she was planning to begin her day. Although he knew it’d give her more nightmares, he wanted her to get more sleep. She had all the time in the world to do what she wanted to do today and he thought it best to not start the day on an awful note.

     “Ven, don’t you think it might be a good idea to---”

     “Ferret…” she interrupted, cutting off what she knew to be an unhelpful suggestion. She moved the cursor over to the browser icon, clicking it twice to open the window.

     Grabbing hold of the cursor to keep it from moving, he tried to ask again,“I’m just saying, don’t you think it’s okay to---”

     “Ferret, can we not argue first thing in the morning? Today’s crappy enough as it is, let’s not make it worse,” she snapped, looking irritated.

     “...Fine, whatever,” he replied with a tinge of anger in his voice. He let go of the cursor, allowing Ven to have control over it.

     He wasn’t in the mood to argue with her, no matter how much he wanted to insist. Trying to make her listen to him had become so frustrating as of late. With how stubborn she was, it’s like dealing with a bratty kid at times. There wasn’t much he could do, however, with him being inside the computer and all.

     Even so, he didn’t like fighting with her. They were each other’s only companion and if something were to happen to either of them… That was something he didn’t want to think about.

     As the morning passed, the two of them hadn’t spoken to each other. While Ferreth had cooled down long before now, Ven’s mood didn’t appear to have changed. She still seemed to be irritated from earlier and whatever she was doing on the computer didn’t alleviate that.

     Should he apologize? Even though he didn’t push the issue of sleep, he still tried to bring it up when she clearly wasn’t going to. The small shred of pride he had didn’t even want to entertain the idea of apologizing for something he hadn’t done. Still, he was willing to swallow it and amend the situation if it meant the awkward silence between them would vanish.

     “Ferret?” she called out, tapping a knuckle against the screen. “I’m sorry for snapping at you, okay? I just… I just didn’t want another lecture from you, all right?”

     Coming out from behind an open window, he replied in an almost guilty tone, “It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

     “It’s both our faults,” she corrected, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

     This was how their fights always ended. He’d say something, she’d say something back, and it’d eventually devolve into a fight. One or both of them would feel bad later on and apologize, rinse and repeat. Lately, it seemed like not a day passed without something along those lines happening. How they haven’t ended up killing each other yet, he didn’t know.

     He knew constantly arguing everyday wasn’t healthy for them. Even if the fights were resolved later that day, another one would start right back up the next. It was to be expected at this point. If these were to continue for much longer, their life together would be just too miserable to live. If he could only convey that to her without it sounding like a lecture…

     With the turn of evening came twilight as the pair wasted away time. What little sunlight came through the blinds bathed a portion of the room in an orange glow. Due to it being summer, the light from the sunset was bound to stay for a while. Ven, seeming to have noticed it, got up from her chair and went over to one of the windows. Ferreth wasn’t able to quite see what she was doing there but he could probably wager a guess or two.

     Something was holding her back from going outside. Seeing her do this several times in the past confirmed that. He didn’t know what it was but it must’ve been bad enough to make her become a shut-in. Whatever it was, she wasn’t telling him anytime soon, whether it be from a lack of trust or not.

     “There’s nothing stopping you from going outside, you know?” he said suddenly.

     Hearing his comment, she sat back down in her chair and replied, “What makes you think I want to go out?”

     “It’s pretty clear that you want to go outside but you won’t, for some reason,” he answered. Eliciting no response from her, he continued, “Don’t you think that staying in here all day isn’t good for you?”

     “What’s wrong with that?” she asked, “You make it sound like it’s a bad thing.”

     “It is, Ven. Staying shut up in your room all day isn’t healthy for you. You can’t just be a shut-in for the rest of your life. One day, you’re going to regret this and---”

     Slamming her hands on the desk, she angrily interrupted with, “As if you know what the hell’s best for me! You don’t know anything about me so how can you sit there and say all that crap?! You’re just a virus that can talk so shut the hell up!”

     He lowered his head, stunned by Ven’s outburst. While she’s gotten mad at him before, he’s never had her yell at him like that. The surprise he felt wore off, slowly being replaced with anger. He was only trying to help her and this was the thanks he got for showing concern over her?

     Imitating what she did, he shouted back with as much vigor, “Well, I’m sorry for caring about you and not wanting to see you rot away but I was wrong! You’re just a coward who’s afraid of facing reality!”

     “Why do you care?! I didn’t ask for your help in the first place!”

     “You didn’t have to ask because that’s what good people do but obviously, I shouldn’t have done that! You can die in this room for all I care because I don’t give a damn anymore!”

     “Then I don’t need you anymore so you can get the hell out!”

     As if on command, Ferreth began to disappear. His fingers slowly vanished, along with the pixels that served as his legs. As each and every one of his body parts ceased to exist, he could only feel existential dread and betrayal. He realized he was “dying” again, the only word he could use to describe what was happening to him.

     Staring at Ven with fearful eyes, he uttered out a scared, “You… deleted me?” before vanishing completely.

     Slowly opening his eyes, all Ferreth could see was darkness. With the memory of being deleted still fresh in his mind, he quickly sat up and ran his hands all over his body. He exhaled a sigh of relief when he found his body to be whole again. Having to feel his body slowly disappear and not being able to stop it was too terrifying an experience to go through again.

     Looking around his surroundings, there was just… nothing. Everything around him was an endless black with nothing in sight. Was this a place where things like him ended up when they’re deleted? If so, how long would it be until he withered away into nothing for good?

     Whether he was right or not, this place was destined to be his grave. There was nothing for him to do except wait for the inevitable end. As he sat in the darkness, a memory from the depths of his mind began to play.

     It was when he first met Ven and they were still trying to get used to the idea of living together. He had just gotten back from a trip through the internet and found her asleep on the desk. She had her arms folded on the desk with her head on top of them, her face being the only visible part of her. When he decided to wake her up, he saw tears rolling down her cheeks, which stopped him in his tracks. Although he already had some sneaking suspicions about what was happening, seeing her crying in her sleep was his confirmation that something was truly wrong.

     That moment was what made him decide to stick by her. No matter how many fights they’d get into or what else, he’d be by her side. Aside from the desire to help her, there was another reason he wanted to stay with her, a reason that came from fear more than anything else. I feel like if I were to leave her alone for just a minute, she’ll… cease to function, he thought at the time.

     He needed to get back to her. Even though they just had a big fight, he had to get back to her. He could only wonder how she was faring right now, especially without him there. Although he didn’t notice it at the time, he thought for sure he saw shock and regret in her eyes before vanishing. They needed to resolve this and actually talk about their issues so that this wouldn’t happen again.

     As he drifted upwards to find a way out, he realized something. As much as he wanted to help her and get her to eventually go outside, he needed her just as much as she needed him. She was his only means of communicating with the outside world, of seeing what was going on out there. She was also his only friend, something he didn’t cherish until it was almost too late.

     Soon, he reached what seemed to be a glass wall. It didn’t appear to be that thick and on the other side laid more darkness. Even if nothing looked to be on the other side, he knew this was the way to go.

     He put his hands on the glass and pushed, hoping to get through. The glass didn’t budge, prompting him to do a more direct approach. He hit the glass as hard as he could but it still didn’t move. There was only one thing left to do and if it didn’t work, then he was screwed. He backed a yard or two away from the glass wall and, after bracing himself, rushed at it.

     Feeling his shoulder hit the glass, he hoped it’d be enough to break it. Alas, it didn’t but it only gave him the conviction to keep trying. Eventually, he felt the glass bend outward and with one final attack, broke the glass. It shattered into a bunch of tiny pieces as Ferreth went through the hole he created.

     Suddenly, the world erupted into light around him, causing him to shield his eyes from the brightness. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he found himself in familiar territory. He recognized all the icons on either side of the screen and discovered the personalized cursor hovering below him. Most of all, he saw the figure of Ven just straight ahead.

     She had her knees up to her chest with her arms wrapped around them, sobbing uncontrollably. Her face was completely red, contrasting greatly against her pale skin. Tears continuously rolled down her cheeks as her body wracked with each sob she let out. With how loud she was, he could barely make out what she was saying amongst all the chokes and incomprehensible noises.

     “I killed him, I killed him… Why…? Why did I… He wasn’t… I-I-I…Oh, god, I… I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean it, I swear, I didn’t mean it!…”

     It killed him to see her like that. He had never seen her get so emotional before and seeing her like this because of his supposed death… It honestly scared him. There wasn’t much he could offer for comfort, other than words he wasn’t sure would really get through to her. Still, he had to say something, anything, to convince her he was alive and she hadn’t really “killed” him.

     Gently putting a hand on the screen, he only said one word, a word he knew would get her attention no matter what: