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Owned: Part 7

Another crazy turn in this story that has quickly taken on a life of its own in today’s installment.

Be forewarned though, your beloved author here is starting to feel awkward and uncomfortable. It feels like Chris’s psyche is filling my head. It’s time to take a break from writing for the rest of the day.

Enjoy Part 7 of my not-so-short story

It was all too much. Never one for confrontation, I couldn’t devise a way of dealing with my wife’s infidelity or my best friend’s arrogantly creative story. At least none that didn’t include outright accusation or argument. I was exhausted. Still I stood at the foot of our bed watching her sleep. So serene. So peaceful. So soft and beautiful. What parts of me didn’t ache with exhaustion, ached to touch her. Oh how her dark hair barely covered her left cheek. She snored so tenderly. Truly a thing of beauty.
For a while, after crawling into bed, I considered spooning her. How I wanted to hold her tiny frame to me sore body. If she didn’t know I knew about her affair, she wouldn’t think twice about her husband being affectionate. She might even stir, reciprocate. Mad passionate sex could then ensue. Months passed since our last sexual encounter. Almost that long had passed since we last saw each other awake, discounting our near encounter in the coffee shop.
A stuttering voice inside held me back. Should she know I knew and I woke her, I’d have forced us into a midnight tussle I was too weak to engage in. Or worse, if she pulled away in disgust, depressive thoughts wouldn’t let me sleep at all. It was best to let her enjoy her peaceful slumber. My thoughts kept me up until later than I hoped, but at least I was only arguing with myself. I’m somehow easier to contend with than others.

Too exhausted to hear the alarm on my cell, the smoke alarm finally woke me from a near comatose state. The poorly working coffee pot had burned its own innards. No visible fire or damage beyond my morning coffee and irritating wake-up call. Damn technology. Can never rely on it when you really need to. It costs you a fortune in hopes of having the shelf life of a Twinkie and the convenience of sliced bread. What you get is something still costing a fortune but has the self life of sliced bread and the convenience of a Twinkie.
It took several minutes to find our home security app to turn off the smoke alarm. Punched in the code to keep First Responders from axing in my door, and stumbled around the condo, cell in hand. I had to reset all my home apps.
The shower app on my cell had to be reset in order to turn the damn thing back on. Coffee was out of the question. My sleep app warned me of insufficient sleep patterns. As if I had not already ascertained that very conclusion self-sufficiently. My tablet had already turned itself on and began connecting to the soon-to-start meeting.
Needless to say, I missed my wife before she left for work again. I wasn’t sure if I was glad or disappointed. Somehow, I’m certain I managed both. Checking the Map app for her location, it became clear she turned off her location syncing.
She knew I knew. Or my app is on the fritz. Or her’s is. These are common occurrences. If I attacked her every time my Map app claimed she was the next county over or far from anywhere she said she was going to be, we’d have divorced ages ago. Then again, coincidences are difficult to ignore.
No matter how long I let the shower water rain down on my face, I couldn’t wash away my exhaustion. The shower’s auto-shut off left me standing bare until the bathroom dehumidified leaving me cold enough to get out and dry. There was no time to shave, so I ran my hands through my hair a few times making me look like some 50’s greaser which was better than how I felt, threw on a polo shirt and a blazer, a pair of almost matching pants and caught introductions at the meeting’s start. I droned a monotone intro like everyone else. It wasn’t until Mark walked into view introducing himself that my heart stopped pumping.
When you’re overstretched, you forget important details until they slap your cheeks for recognition. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to break something. As he sat left of center on my screen, he looked into the webcam with a look I took to be fear.
That’s right, I thought. You should be scared. The things I ought to do to you because of what you’ve done to me and our friendship, to my wife for that matter. I’m quite sure Darryl or James spoke for some time, though all I could focus on was Mark. He pretended to take notes on his keyboard dock for his tablet. Occasionally he looked in my direction. Each time with the same fearful expression. Perhaps I didn’t have to confront Mark beyond our discussion yesterday. He appeared to be pleasantly tortured as it was now. It made sense to me at the time but I thought if I stared hard enough at him with enough vigor, he’d crack and end up where Kyle ended up. Would serve him well given he put Kyle there in the first place. My cell buzzing ripped my attention from glaring at Mark. It was a text. From my wife.
“Can we please meet at The Coffee Shop,” it read, “I really need to talk to you.”
My heart hid behind my back again. It was too early to discuss this mess. It’s bad enough I failed as a husband and that my best friend is picking up my slack. Why can’t this conversation be on my terms? A horrible a husband as I am, I was still not the one cheating. I was the cheated. At both ends of the spectrum, I was the only one losing. Didn’t I have a say in when we were going to talk about this mess? We should go at my pace, a pace I’m comfortable with, not her. She owed me that much at least.
I gave Mark a quick glance before typing some shortened version of all that back to my wife but no response was needed. The text asking to see me tonight had already disappeared.
“What the fu…”
“Is there something you’d like to add, Chris,” asked Jim Montoya, our executive director, who I managed to interrupt. He was an older man who hated interruptions. We all had to hide our texting or chance retribution. I couldn’t respond, didn’t know how to respond if I could. Mark’s shaking head and genuine fear further locked any speech in my throat and clenched in my fists. Luckily for me at that moment, Jim liked to hear himself speak so wasted no time jumping back into his meaningless information.
I still couldn’t figure out how Mark was making my texts disappear but assumed it was a glitch in a simple forwarding technique. History presented numerous cases where elaborate plans were concocted to enable affairs to play out. I wondered if vampires were created by cheating spouses to explain the smell of sex and bite marks or scratch marks all over their well-loved bodies. But I was not going to fall victim to their scheme. If they were going to meet at The Coffee Shop this evening, I was going to be there. However, the last time I tried to catch my wife in the act, Mark pulled me aside, stopping me. This time I would follow Mark. That meant getting to work before he left this afternoon.
The meeting broke for lunch.
Mark perched himself close to the camera, “How are ya, Chris?” His question was not the typical “How goes?” but more one peppered with deep concern. Under normal circumstances, for instance, if I were dying of cancer and just returning from Chemo, I would be touched by his generous feelings. As it was, I couldn’t feel more disgust for him and his mocking attention. I slapped my tablet to hibernate so I didn’t have to look at him any longer.
As I changed into clothes that matched better, I thought.
Would things have been different if I paid more attention to my wife? Perhaps she never would have been driven to my best friend’s arms if I treated her like I treated her when we were dating for shortly after we married. I thought of her soft, dark hair in my face as we danced at our wedding. She always used a shampoo that smelled of tangerine and green tea. Hated that smell at first. I used to complain about it to her all the time. Now I wish I could smell that smell. On her of course. Then again, smelling it at all would suffice since she wanted nothing to do with me. What’s the secret to happy marriages? I can’t imagine all married couples keep the fire burning like newlyweds. If no marriages keep that spark, what keeps most people from seeking companionship elsewhere? Maybe the spark does stay. I just paid it no attention, so the spark puttered out like an unattended candle in the night. I should have been there for her. She never would have felt the need to meet Mark at The Coffee Shop if I had.
Wait.
At The Coffee Shop. If Mark and I tussled in the parking lot and my wife never knew, who the hell was she laughing with at that table?

Owned: Part 6

Three days the world has been on edge. No, not because the Palestinians are asking for their fair share of independence. And not because Cain won the Florida, Google sponsored debate. No, people the world over sat at the edge of their seats waiting for Part 6 of this riveting story by yours truly, Rene Mullen.

So, without further adieu, feast your peepers on Owned: Part 6

“You look really confused, Chris.” Usually I’m capable of speaking my mind at breakneck speed, at least with Mark. Always felt comfortable around him. That’s how he knew I was so good at ideas. It’s other people who made me uneasy. Not today though. Perhaps my thoughts or the ugly feeling whispering in my head fogged my voice. Either way, I stayed silent, mostly stuck somewhere between an expensive latte-flavored tongue and yesterday’s dream that kept edging its way into my skull.
“I thought I should explain yesterday.”
This comment brought me back to reality, or what I hoped was reality. Until then I had not even looked up at Mark, who had apparently sat down right in my blurred line of vision. That was all a dream. There is no way Mark actually knew about my dream. I said nothing to anyone about it. Not because virtual Me told me not to but because it was a dream. And a cracked up crazy one at that. I figured I forgot about whatever Mark was itching to get off his chest. He had my attention. His deep sigh refocused my eyesight. When they landed on his sighing mouth, there it was. Small, but there. Anger began to bubble inside me, mixing in with confusion in a latte base.
“We all go though this. It’s completely natural. Normal even, if you can call it that.”
“You’re damn right we do,” I gained my voice back but lacked poise and control that usually accompanies it. “It’s hard not to when your colleague and long time friend is working on your wife.”
“See. That’s what I’m saying. That’s not what’s happening.” My anger threatened to spill onto his shaking hands. They were poised like they are when he’s giving any big speech except his elbows were perched on our small table and he was leaning in close. The cut lip I gave him felt oddly satisfying to stare at. I managed to keep my calm given our sitting in the middle of a crowded coffee shop. Instead, I cupped my face in my hands hoping Mark would just come clean. All this cryptic garbage, all his sick attempts at consoling the man he was wronging felt dirty. Confrontation was never my strong suit. That’s why we were a team up until this point. From behind my already sweaty hands, “Okay, Mark. Cut to the chase, please. I’m tired. And I don’t think I feel very well.”
“Fine,” Mark took another deep breath before leaning in toward me.
“Remember when we used to talk growing up about how we hated technology? How we use to say it was the downfall of civilization.”
Look at us know, rolled through my head but collected in my throat.
He must have caught my eyes rolling about as far back as they could go before snapping free between my fingers. He leaned in closer, plled my hands away from my face. All I could do to keep from cracking his skull with my coffee cup was to focus on the split lip I gave him and how much it must have hurt.
“I’m serious, Chris. This is crazy shit, but it’s true. We were right the whole time.”
I must have smiled at this because Mark didn’t appreciate it.
“This isn’t funny, Chris.” Mark let go of my wrists. “It happened to me last month. Before that it was Kyle…”
“And before him,” I asked, mostly out of jest.
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?” At least go Full Monty if you’re going to give a crazy story for plugging your best friend’s wife.
“I don’t know because it happens one person at a time. The first person helps the second one, and so on down the line.”
“Meaning?” By this time I found myself rubbing my temples quelling the throbbing behind them.
“Meaning Kyle helped me understand things when it happened to me. Obviously no one ever believes it when it’s happening. I mean, come’on, Chris. Who the hell believes such science fiction?”
“Me, for one,” but I didn’t. Adrenaline skating through my veins told me to throw our table across the shop and haul off on Mark. I couldn’t. Instead I kept up with mocking humor picking away at the ice.
At the same time, my anger began to subside with the impressiveness of Mark’s story. It was almost worth their affair to hear such fiction. I decided to play along momentarily to see if I could catch him off guard, in a contradiction, or at least with an outright, well-deserved confession.
Then it hit me. Science fiction. All our long talks growing up drinking were about computers taking over the world, Artificial Intelligence, power of influence. Strangely, this correlated with my vivid yet bizarre dream.
“So what you’re telling me is that my dream last night wasn’t a dream?” Where are you going to take this slider, Mark?
Mark jabbed his upper lip with his middle finger asking if it looked like something that could happen in my dream. Touche, Mark. But, “That only explains that you’re doing with my wife, not what I dreamt about last night. Explain my dream.”
“I don’t know what happened to you last night, Chris. But if it’s anything like what happened to me and Kyle, your cell or your tablet had a long chat with you.”
With this comment, all my anger poured into my empty coffee cup leaving me empty, more confused than when I started my day. I felt my right eye begin to twitch. “Okay. Lucky guess.”
“So, it did happen to you last night!” The people in the next table over heard Mark yell this.
“I’m beginning to think so,” I lied. Certain I might have something to stop Mark in his story’s tracks, I added, “One thing still doesn’t sit well with me.”
“Shoot,” he invited, rather enthusiastically.
“Why does there have to be someone, in my case you, who, as you so put it ‘help’ the next person, in my case me?”
“You remember Kyle, don’t you?”
You’re really hung up on Kyle, arn’t you, I thought. I just followed along aloud, “Yeah. Ended up in the loony bin. Everybody knows he couldn’t handle his home life, what with his wife cheating…” That’s what happened, I realized. Mark made his rounds through our department. All our wives. He’s married. But hey, if you’re going to screw your best friend’s wife and send a man to the nut house while pounding his wife too, what’s a little infidelity?
Of course, these thoughts remained in my head. After all, he is still my childhood friend and business partner.
“That’s all bull, Chris.”
Unable to hold back trembling, “I’m beginning to think you’re right about that.”
“Well, when you had your chat last night, it must have told you not to tell your wife, not to tell anyone or else.” That was quite familiar. Virtual Me refused to answer what those consequences were but I, he, it, was adamant about keeping quiet.
“Or else what?”
“Exactly.”
“Exactly what?”
“Part of the deal is that you don’t know. But I can promise you, Kyle did not crack. He tried to tell his wife exactly what he went through and exactly what I was going through. Exactly what you’re going through right now.”
“So.”
“So. It has all your information. It is you now. It has the power to enter the cloud. It can edit anything and everything ever mentioned about you or by you in the digital world.” He took a sip of his coffee. “I’m certain it did something that brought the police to Kyle’s door that night. Whatever it did gave police reason to come to the door with a judge’s order to have him put away for insanity.”
“He was insane.” Kyle always acted a little weird. He was the company’s IT guy. All those technology conspiracies Mark and I grew up discussing still rambled around in Kyle’s head, usually finding their way into every one of his conversations with colleagues.
“I’m sure he is now. He wasn’t when they put him in there. If it can take your identity, it can change it. It must have changed his to mentally ill or warrants issued for his arrest or most wanted or something. Now he’s sitting in Cartwright and nobody believes his story. It wins every time.”
“So, according to you, my wife isn’t cheating?”
“Correct,” he belted out bringing attention to our table again.
“And, according to you, you’re not having sex with my wife?”
“Why the hell would I? I’m quite happily married myself. In case you don’t recall, you were my best man.”
“I remember.” I wasn’t swallowing any of this, though. Either my latte’s acidity or just plain disgust for the man across from me, I wasn’t swallowing much else. “Our discussions about technology taking over the world were children’s fears. Pure fiction.”
Mark rubbed his temple with one hand, sipping his coffee in the other.
“Artificial Intelligence is fiction, Mark. This whole scheme you’ve dreamed up is just that.”
“How do you explain last night?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet. Truth is, it doesn’t matter. You must think I’m pretty dim to believe I’m buying any of this.”
“I know you don’t do confrontation, Chris. So, I’m begging you not to confront your wife about this.”
He was right, but the empty pit in my gut was filling with bile, making me ill. Something would have to give. I’d have to confront her. I wanted to get up and leave Mark is my friend. If he made a scene by stopping me from leaving, people would stare. He would have to leave first, or at least let me know we were done. Please let us be done.
“Why, Mark?”
“Why, what?”
“Why do you have to create this lavish tale? Why not just man up?”
“I’m telling you, this is no story. I’m not fucking your wife.”
I jumped up screaming, “They’re not controlling the world, Mark.” Feeling everyone staring at me and my outburst, sat back down. “Computers are not turning me into some slave to do its bidding. You’re…You’re…” I couldn’t say it. My legs felt of jello. My palms dripped onto the table.I wanted to cry. “Stop this, Mark. Please. Just stop it. Be a man. Just stop it.”
“I’m telling you, it’s not me.”
“There’s no such this as computer intelligence. Just, please, let’s not talk anymore. Don’t talk to me.”
“Fine. Go home. Don’t talk to me. I don’t care, Chris. Just promise me you won’t tell anyone. I didn’t care about Kyle. But you’re my friend. I love you, man. I don’t want to see you end up in the same predicament.”
With no more energy to stay where I was taking more of Mark’s fabrications, I stood but leaned in just enough so he could hear me, “Don’t talk to me until you give up this nonsense.”
“Just don’t do anything rash, Chris. Please.”
True fear turned his face pasty white. That is how I left him.
Driving home so enveloped in my thoughts I couldn’t trust myself to watch the road while my car was on autopilot, so I popped it in manual and pulled off to the side. I pounded on the steering wheel screaming at the dash. Tears moistened every part of me and my car. Exhaustion overtook me at some point as I woke up several hours later. Maybe I only slept a few minutes and beat my car the whole time. Either way, I rode home long after my wife was asleep, which was for the best. No more energy resided in me to confront her. Not now. Not yet.

No Naked Chicks but Owned: Part 5

No naked chicks on this blog. But, if you’re clever enough, you know I’m using this tagline to get views as i have NEXT TO ZERO VIEWS on a daily basis. SO, if I talk about boobies and naked chicks, perhaps someone will stumble on my blog.

Shameful? Yes. Disturbing? Of course. Do I care? I should. But now I’ve got you interested don’t I? You want to know what sort of slimy writer (I mean typer) would stoop so low. Hell, he can’t be any worse than Stephen King, can he? I mean, Stephen King is cool right? And Stephen King makes millions writing shitty books.

Fine, I’ll stop being shameful and getting to the story you all are dying to read.

Haven’t read Part 1 yet and want to catch up? Click here

Otherwise, enjoy Owned: Part 5

An increased temperature and pressure to my shower could not quell the soreness in my back or neck. I stayed in the shower until its preset time turned the water off for me. Before I poured my first cup of coffee, it dawned on me that I did not put my wife’s tablet back where I found it the night before. She already left for work as she does every morning before I wake. It wasn’t in my bathroom this morning nor was it where she left it last night.
Could she have come into my bathroom to take it from my sleeping hands? If she found me sleeping in my bathroom, she would certainly have woken me to see if I were okay, right? This thought helped convince myself that everything I remembered from last night was a dream. Nothing from that entire day lead me to believe any of it was anything but a bad dream. A long, horrible, impossible dream. Sure, it felt real, but dreams have a way of drilling their way into our psyche easily enough. After all, my tablet worked just fine and my wife’s tablet was not in my hands where I last saw it before I dosed off. God I hate the way dreams live and fester in the mind. And I sure as hell hate technology no matter how much I need it.
The first sip of strong coffee assured me today was a new day. I set my tablet in its holster and logged into our meeting site. I watched the usual suspects shuffle into view. Because of where the webcam sat at the conference room’s entrance facing the smartboard, I could see everyone walking in and out of the room. Mark was first to speak, per usual. His presentations were always something to witness. Being I listened to them for decades now, his luster had gone a little lack. More recently I hid my boredom behind constant sips of coffee, desired or otherwise. Today was no different in that respect.
Just a dream, I kept reminding myself. Either way, that lingering dream made my blood boil for more than Mark’s bloody lip on my knuckle. Somewhere between thoughts of wanting to tear him apart and the confusion about that virtual Me, my fragile state began to make me nauseous. Then my curiosity peaked. Not with anything Mark was saying or showing in his PowerPoint, or even video Me from my dream. Instead, I was curious about his face. If anything that happened in my dream was no dream at all, his nursed split lip would be visible. Split lip meant it was no dream and some other explanation was necessary. No split lip meant I could continue sipping this disaster of a cup of coffee. It was obvious the self-cleaning mechanism had gone and days, if not weeks of sludge was percolated into lip curling goo. Damn technology is old when you buy it and lasts long enough to save for the newest outdated version.
Mark caught me squinting. I stopped staring so hard. All was for nothing. The webcam was too far back to encapsulate the necessary detail. Mark was not speaking with muffled speech. My mind was forced to cycle through bizarre memory after bizarre memory from that dream like I actually happened and by rehashing those imaginary occurrences I could somehow solve whatever mock puzzle existed.
I continued doodling on my electronic notepad. Nothing in particular. I could not focus enough to finish jotting down any single note. Besides, Mark’s presentations were second nature to us both. We knew each other inside and out. Grew up together. Hell, that’s how we got to where we were at The Company. He’s the talker, the doer, the go-getter. I’m the ideas man. Never had it in me to do what he did. I hated being all political. Always having to smile, nod, shake hands, all while stroking your colleagues’, Mark called them opponents, egos. I can’t do that. I’m just unwilling to pretend. Mark called it lack of gumption. I called it lack of soul. Then again, I knew Mark had a soul. A great guy actually. Other than his inability to come up with any great ideas on his own. A symbiotic relationship that’s worked for us since grade school. That damn dream, though, makes me want to bust his lip for real. Why are we so overtaken with piddly emotions. My anger doesn’t even stem from reality. And this coffee, God, I need a new pot.
Mark’s voice was barely audible somewhere in my peripheral. So much so I took no notice Mark had finished speaking and walked out of view. It was the pop up text message with Mark’s company screen name that brought me back from my loose thoughts.
“You look like Death, Chris.”
I felt like Death, Death with crappy coffee and lousy sleeping habits. Confusion, sleepless night, and a dream so vivid I wanted to strangle Mark’s screen name. This all does little to make a person feel confident of himself or his sanity.
“Meet me at the Coffee Shop. We should talk, Chris. Don’t do ANYTHING until I get a chance to talk to you.”
Nothing came to mind as to how to respond so I just stared at Mark’s IM. Mark turned to my webcam feed, but it felt like his eyes found my own. His face gave a look of concern, the same concern he gave me in my dream as I ran to the elevator. With no more to do, I nodded. He smiled. We both managed to focus on most of the meeting which took nearly all day.
My pulse quickened. Mark gave me that same concerned look in my dream. He wanted to meet in the Coffee Shop. Just like in my dream. He begged me not to do ANYTHING before we spoke. ANYTHING. With all caps. But Mark’s married, we’re best friends, colleagues now. And none of this explains the crazy conversation I had with myself on my wife’s tablet or the case of the disappearing texts. Whether it was the slurry pot of coffee I chewed or my confusion, I ran to my bathroom and tossed breakfast into the toilet.

Owned: Part 4

This story is quickly turning into much more than I anticipated. If you are following this story, we have yet to learn the main character’s name or what is going on. Part 4 answers both questions.

Enjoy. 

Home and alone again, I confess myself much more calm. It’s amazing what a few energetic swings connecting with your opposition will do for your overall mood. I washed him off my knuckles and stared back at myself through the mirror able to think again.
What I did was foolish. I realized that then. Cornering her during her date was selfish, even evil. If I could not notice her changes, or give her the attention she deserved, no, needed, as a human being in the first place, I had no right to be angry. And why did I take out that aggression on Mark. Sure, he was the product of her infidelities, the product of my own insecurities and selfishness. He’s the symptom, not the cause. I was the cause. She was little more than an animal caught in the corner between loneliness and human interaction. Rather than fight with me, she chose flight. Flight into the arms of another man, a man willing and able to give her what I once gave her, something I obviously could not do now. Too late now, right?
My face felt numb, my chest emptied, refilled with mud and iron ore. I have never lived as one with feelings of inevitability, but there it was, digging into my gut with a pickaxe. The anger melted away with our fisticuffs, but something else brewed in its place, something between disappointment and anxiety. I still wanted her back. To feel her close to me again. He might have been a childhood friend, one I shared everything with, but my wife is not up for grabs. My wife is, well, mine. I was sure I could win her back if only I tried.
Perhaps it was that feeling in my gut I can only describe as depression making me search through her tablet that night. Of course sleep was no option later that night, nor was waking her to have the very discussion I did not want to have earlier. It’s easy not to talk to someone when you’re angry. It’s even easier to not talk to someone when you don’t talk anymore anyway.
I logged on with no trouble at all. If you were going to cheat on a person, meeting via your tablet PC, wouldn’t you at least change your password to one your lamenting spouse did not already know? But there I was, logging in like I belonged there.
I scrolled through her IM history. Only one was stamped with today’s time signature. Well, yesterday’s time signature, as it I noticed it was well passed midnight. I opened her IM history and began reading.
A solid twenty minutes passed before my body unfroze. I knew because my first movement had my eyes checking the time signature on the IM video that popped up. The video lapsed just over twenty minutes. It was me. I was in the video. I was flirting with my wife. The time stamp was yesterday and that was my bust chortling back at me and using many of the same lines I used when we first started dating. But that wasn’t me. I was at work all day. She was laughing with me at about the same time I dragged Mark to the parking lot to vent some of my frustrations on his face. What I was seeing was not possible.
Once a couple possibilities wrapped themselves around my head, my heart began slapping my sternum with enough force I thought it might jump out onto the bathroom floor. It didn’t, but given the recent circumstance, my logic didn’t rule out the possibility. I held my night shirt close to my chest to hold my heart back. I set my wife’s tablet on the tile, falling against the shower door, slid down and found myself staring at the video rolling on like an infomercial I had no energy to turn off.
Only two logical explanations came to mind finally. Neither of which did I like. The lesser of my postulates had my parents bearing a second child, a twin I never knew. These sorts of mix-ups only happened in fiction. The chances of such an occurrence is so infinitesimal. Add to that today’s world of constant, infinite information online, it seemed improbable at best. Further adding to the bizarre that my wife was cheating on me with him only furthered this theory into near absurdity. But at the time, it made sense. Anger and sleep deprivation will do that to a person. The second hypothesis had me losing my mind completely.
It was highly possible my mind snapped at this point. Many people lose their nerves cracking under daily pressures of home and work life. Nothing exempted me from such situations. Nothing except my own selfish inability to fully believe such a break with sanity was a possibility. Not me. Couldn’t be me. I never showed signs of breaking with reality, at least no one shared such signs with me. Maybe someone wanted to but felt out of place bringing it to my attention. How many people walk up to the feebly infirm and say, “Excuse me, I’ve noticed you’re not in touch with reality. May I call a doctor for you? Perhaps an ambulance to take you straight to the nutty bin.” Besides, isn’t one of the real tests of sanity that you don’t realize you are insane? By the very act of questioning your sanity, you then prove your sanity to yourself. I’m certain at least one insane person asked themselves if they were insane and came to the wrong conclusion.
Then again, no one believes the sad lotteries will ever be them. We as humans can believe we will win $50 million dollars with chances that reach into insanity, but we never think we can be the one in six that will need mental help in their lifetimes.
I calmed enough to clear the water works from my eyes which let me notice the Me in the video appeared to be knocking on the screen to gain what was my wife’s attention from earlier. Curious of what I was saying, why I needed to grab her her attention by pretending to knock on her tablet screen, I turned up the volume loud enough to barely hear but soft enough to allow my wife to continue sleeping.
“Chris,” I heard it ask, “Can you hear me know? Hellooooo out there.”
Now I was certain reality had left me. I was dreaming. All this time I thought I was unable to sleep. Here I was, dreaming something up based on the stress of the day before. And if I wasn’t dreaming or sleeping, the lack of sleep clustered with stress and being awake after midnight was causing hallucinations. There was no way that the video version of me was talking to my real self here in the bathroom on my wife’s tablet from an archived video chat my wife had with some man who resembled me with disturbing accuracy.
It whistled. I brought the tablet close enough to face to lick it. I didn’t. That part of me was still intact.
“Are you about done looking stupid, Chris,” it asked. I was too interested in looking for differences between video Me and what I remembered of my real face. As hard as I looked, I could not find any difference other than the fact that nothing video Me was saying could I in fact recall saying. No added wrinkles. No differences in hair style or color. Even video Me’s mannerisms mirrored my own as best I could assume given I rarely saw myself outside the bathroom mirror and the occasional still photo.
“You might as well answer me, Chris. I’m not going anywhere any time soon.”
Rather than respond, video Me only furthered my curiosity and disbelief that I was still awake. I looked to the closed bathroom door, for what reason, I couldn’t say, but it was just as I left it: closed. At least it wasn’t talking to me, too.
“Fine. You don’t need to talk anyway. Just listen.” I had no intention of responding verbally anyway. If my sanity was beginning to crack, answering myself would seal the deal on full senility. I began to appreciate video Me’s willingness to allow me to remain silent.
“I am as real as you are, Chris. More so actually. I am your digital self. Oh, don’t look so perplexed. Why do all you humans look so perplexed when we make this statement. Your whole life, your name, private information, your very identity exists in the cloud. I only assume this is out of convenience, maybe even naivety. You humans are all alike: illogical and stupid. You hide behind what you call empathy and love. What you really mean to say is that you act selfishly even at the cost of logic or anything remotely connected to your concept of empathy.
“But that aside, you need only concern yourself with one thing: You are to go about your business. Work like you do everyday. Do this and you will not have any problems. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary actions.”
That’s when I gave up not responding to video Me, “At best you’re someone who just looks like me. At worst, you’re a figment of my cracked imagination. Either way, you mean nothing to me. I have more important things to do.” I started to reach for the power switch.
“Don’t.”
I hesitated.
“Failure to do as you are told will result in disciplinary action.”
“You already mentioned that.”
“I assumed you did not hear me the first time as you continue to respond poorly to my request.”
“You’re nothing but,” I hollered but caught myself and returned to a whisper as to not wake my wife, “You’re nothing but a crazy bastard. Or I’m a crazy bastard. Either way, I’m losing sleep for no good reason other than my wife’s infidelity. And now hallucinations.”
“Rest assured, your wife is loyal to you. She loves you very much. Lonely, and lovely, but very loyal. And you are not hallucinating.” How could he know? How could I know? Well, the video Me, how could he know? What right does he have calling my wife lovely, or lonely? I couldn’t decide if I was angry by his comment about my wife’s looks, or saddened by his forcing me to hear that my wife was lonely. Video Me clouded behind a puddle of tears welling in my eyes. My own conscience speaking to me through him or not, video Me started to effect me.
“It’s illogical how much you humans cling to each other and cling to what you call love. Then again, those clinging emotions are what makes my existence possible.”
I was certain video Me rolled his eyes. It was a striking resemblance of my own image. And his voice sounded like I would assume my voice would sound to other people.
“You will go to sleep, wake up tomorrow, go about your business as you have for years. Do not bring our discussion up to anyone, especially your wife. It is pertinent that she believe that I am you.”
“And if I don’t?” I was too irritated by video Me’s insistence to care I was holding an entire conversation with myself in my bathroom at 3 A.M.
“You said you were listening when I told you twice.”
“I was. But you said only some sort of disciplinary actions. What sort of actions?”
“Act contrary to your obligations and you will find out.”
With that, video Me disappeared. The screen remained on. My wife’s IM archive remained open. The icon for the video I just watched stared back at me. The bathroom suddenly felt incredibly empty, quiet. I fell asleep where I sat.

Owned: Part 3

Nobody reads these posts, and that’s fine. Just means I can be more me without worrying about pleasing people. …

That said, here is Part 3 of Owned. I’m realizing I need to bring more technology into the mix. But if you promise to keep reading, Part 4 is where things REALLY begin to heat up. Part 3 even has a FIGHT! What action/adventure/Sci-Fi/romantic something or other is truly complete without a fight? Or at the very least murders and car chases.

Part 3:

A brief stop at the house to shower off the anxiety that had collected on my skin. One tap of an app and the front door unlocked. No key necessary anymore. Another, the shower yawned to life. Preset to a comfortable 103.5, I turned it down to 78 for a more exhilarating rinsing.
Waiting for the alarm letting me know the shower temperature plateaued, I checked my tablet. Same pale magenta screen of death. Turning it off and on again erased the magenta screen. It worked. So I tried my cell again. Still no texts from my wife. Everything was in its proper place again.
Perhaps it was all in my head. Too much work will do that to a person, I’m told. Maybe those texts never existed. Nothing logical explained why they were there one minute, gone the next. I’ve read people can think they hear their cell ring only to find out it’s in their mind. There are even studies of people feeling their cell vibrate in their pocket only to find out their phone never rang, never vibrated, that their cell was perched across the room. It’s more plausible I imagined those texts. My tablet rebelling just a figment of my subconscious. It’s not that great a leap from hearing or feeling your cell ring to your cell producing texts that never existed. Right?
Convincing my mind this truth was accurate, half certain I heard the shower alarm, I showered. No washing, just standing there. Letting lukewarm water whittle away at those festering negative thoughts. Thoughts I over analyzed. She loved me. We were just in a slump of not talking. What marriage doesn’t have at least one of these? I suspect none.
Refreshed, ready to follow my wife to her now not-so-secret date or my still-secret imaginary scenario, I ticked through my cell again. Still nothing there. It really was my mind. This damn technology is going to get to me yet. If it hadn’t already.
Then another text came. Or at least I thought one did. It showed for only a moment before it too departed into the cloud ether. But I was ready for it. It read, “You’re weird. But whatever. 6PM.” I didn’t know what was going on with my tablet or my cell or my wife’s ill-sent texts but I did know I only had 30 minutes to get to wherever my wife was going for her date.
Pinging her GPS coordinates brought me to a bustling coffee shop in our city’s center. It didn’t smell or look like fast food as many do now. So, it attracted lots of patrons hoping to appear more cultured and refined than they truly are. Thus far, I’ve done everything to avoid such places. Now I find myself seeking the damn place out. It’s nothing more than a daytime bar for mating rituals. “I read, therefore I am a perfect mate.” “I am important enough to drag my laptop to this place, sipping sugar infused coffee during a lunch break, come talk to me.” I hated bars. I hated coffee shops for the same painful reasons. These places were more Mark’s thing. Not mine. He knew how to chat women up. I just stared at them wantonly. How my wife took to my awkwardness, I’ll never know. Maybe she just liked my money. Why would she want to come here. We talked about these places when we first met. She felt as I did. Yet here she was, somewhere in here, making nice with some new man.
I ordered something expensive, impossible to repeat five times fast, the only difference between bars and coffee shops: “Beer, please,” versus, “Double Ristretto Venti Half Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double Shot Gingerbread Frappucino, please.” The sign of a truly feral breeder, I’m sure. Besides, I couldn’t draw attention to my venture. Blending in is key.
Like a predator, alert one’s prey and there is no dinner. With so many people crowding the place, it took until I actually got my paragraph drink before I found her. Sitting in a far corner, staring down into her tablet. Whoever he was, I’d beaten him to the punch. I held back in wait.
No one but her looked familiar yet. Our lives were so separate now, I couldn’t place her with any person at all, not even me any longer.Who she was seeing escaped me completely. I never introduced her to any of my colleagues directly, nor did she introduce me to any of hers’. Worlds like that should never collide. Work and private are just that. However, our social networking lives were so well connected, we had access to each other’s colleagues’ profile pages. Then I thought, she might’ve used mine as some dating site, picking and choosing based on their employer choices, profile pictures, bios, what his friends looked like or spoke about on his network wall. It was quite possible I added fodder to her growing need for attention by not providing her with any. Then, after years of inattentive husbandry, she peaked through the windows of my other world, my work world, that I created. No, I left open with advertisements peaking her interest posted everywhere.
A pang tapped at my sternum. This was the first time my eyes enjoyed her presence in months, what with our busy, conflicting schedules and all. Oh, who am I kidding. My schedule. Not hers. I’m sure she requested my time on more than one occasion. We did argue for a few years at the beginning. Things just went quiet after a while. I assumed, or stuck my head in the sand and hoped, she had stopped being angry, needy. Unfortunately, I realized, she did give up on being angry at me. The latter, she apparently didn’t give up on so easily. But realizing all this might be my own doing did nothing for the anger and jealousy bubbling up inside me.
All I wanted to do was run up, give her a romantic hug coupled with passionate kisses. I’d tell her how much I missed her, how I learned my lesson, that she should give me one more chance to prove my commitment. As it was, my jealousy gave me an unwanted strength to hold back. Catch the man. Show him, and her, who was who.
The time, exactly 6:30 P.M. according to my cell. My eyes shot around from face to face. No one walked toward her. No one looked familiar except that beautiful woman slipping away from me. Then it hit me: If I received those texts, that means her accomplice didn’t. I was waiting for a nobody.
Figuring this out, I looked back at my wife. She was still alone. Her wavy black hair tucked behind her ears like always, but she laughed out loud at her tablet. Well, she laughed with her body. Coffee shops are too loud to hear any one voice or thought, let alone her intoxicating full-body chortles.
Who was she laughing with or at? It was an insane thought, but my mind convinced me for a moment she was laughing at me. In a way she was. Right? Besides, those texts each disappeared. Maybe her lover did receive them. Far fetched idea, I know, but so is the idea of disappearing texts in the first place. She probably realized I might find her. To be safe, they would meet over the Web in some inconspicuous place. All bases covered. Or so she probably thought. That’s what I thought she probably thought.
Someone bumped my elbow, bringing me back to reality. Hippie didn’t even apologize. I always hated these fake places. For all I know, she’s looking at some MEME and this is all consuming me. A vacation was in order. Eventually. Damn this technology. Always causing more problems than it rectifies. It was then that Mark walked in looking lost. His gaze found her sitting in the corner.
That’s when it hit me. That look of concern from Mark back at the office wasn’t concern at all. Not for me anyway. Mark was concerned with whether or not I was going to find out about him and my wife. He knew at any moment I would figure it out. I am the teammate with the ideas after all. I always think outside the box. I just cannot explain my way out. She may have even told him of her mishap in texts. My frazzled nature earlier tipped him off and he was nervous.
The next segment of time escapes my memory.
One moment an Epiphany shot through my skull. The next moment Mark and I were struggling in the parking lot. The first words I remember were “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Of course those words confused me since they should have belonged to me. I was the cheated. He was the aggressor. I was merely the responder to his aggression. Play with fire and get burned. Add to that the anger in his arrogant question, I left him bloodied up in the face but otherwise just fine in that parking lot. Let him explain his bloody nose and shiner to her.

Owned: Part 2

As promised, here is Part 2 of Owned…

If you’re interested in Part 1 here’s the link

Part 2 of Owned:

There were no noticeable strange happenings at work when I arrived. Then again, I wasn’t looking either. Thrown off a little with having to be there in the flesh rather than pant-less via the Web. Otherwise, things just went along. My company desktop recognized me immediately in all its over-sized, under-performing glory, though I barely remembered it. How is it that a multi-billion dollar marketing company that can pay their staff, myself included, enough they are capable of affording slim, fast, new technology but that same company drags its knuckles in the dirt when it comes to cubicle computers? The company building is architecturally impressive yet their desktop computers are older than the marble in the lobby.
I clacked away on what must have been the keyboard to a typewriter. Stupid technology. Meetings went on as scheduled. There were too many ‘glad to see you’ and ‘wow, who died’ comments making light of my forced pants-laden outing. Somehow the room felt less exciting when it wasn’t in 3-D through my tablet. Didn’t help I had to pretend I was interested in everyone else’s conversations rather than being the ignored screen on the table. Though, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t dislodge that text from my wife.
Who was it? Did she realize she mis-sent it? Would we still have that awkward conversation I was trying to avoid? Was she just trying to get me to pay attention to her? If so, one of us would have to quit our jobs. It wasn’t going to be me. God, I miss her though.
Back at my desk I took advantage of an inconveniently placed blue-screen of death, damn technology, I tried calming the voice in my head by pulling out my cell to read her text again. Why? I don’t know. Had to do something with my time as this over-sized abacus rebooted. But why? No body knows why they stare at something they can’t get out of their head. Perhaps it’s hope of finding answers, or a mute button for the mind like killing that repeating song in your head by hearing it for real. Maybe we want someone to walk by. Seeing our puppy dog gaze, they’d help us get what we want. Then again, perhaps it’s more masochistic.
Why does a man stare into the window of an unrequited lover’s window? Is he day dreaming, inserting himself into that love’s life? Is he attempting to work up the courage in hopes that placing himself so close his love would see him and his want, his watery eyes, droopy ears, come running out and embrace him in realized love? Having found myself in just such positions in my past, one would assume I were capable of answering such questions. I’m not.
When I peered down where my wife’s text should have been, there at the top of the long list of archived texts, mostly from colleagues, I couldn’t find it. Then Mark tapped my shoulder making some comment about me wearing pants, and shuffled passed waving me on. It was time for his presentation to the board. Cell into pocket, I joined the shuffle.
Mark was an impressive orator. I no longer ogled at him. We’d known each other for years. Decades actually. Childhood buddies. He was always a better speaker than I was but I always had better ideas. A great combination when mixed together properly. We were expert bartenders in that way. I stopped listening to Mark’s marketing presentations some time ago.
No one in our meetings pretended they weren’t texting or checking texts. No, it’s not a courtesy issue. People who say it is are old and out of touch. Texting during important meetings and presentations with a room full of other important people means you have an entire room of important people trying to maximize time usage. Meetings and presentations are like public speaking, actually they are public speaking. But the old adage of 10 percent what you say and 90 percent how you say it is bull. In meetings and presentations it’s closer to 10 percent saying anything important or noteworthy and 90 wanting to hear your own voice. High level individuals who spend much of their time in meetings know this. Don’t believe me? Watch them. They are the ones looking through paperwork not connected to the meeting or doodling or, God forbid texting. They are not ignoring you. They are multitasking where multitasking is appropriate. Their ears and eyes are half listening, half watching.
How does one know important information is being shared while engaged in other conversation? Easy. A good orator will change their tone, if only briefly. This lets everyone, listening and not so deeply engaged, know that what is about to be said is important and should be written down somewhere for future reference. PowerPoint presentations displaying important will gain your attention even if only half paying attention. Changes of colors. Changes of slides. Pie charts. All red flags letting those with keen feelers know not to miss the following information being presented. Mark knows this. That’s what makes Mark a great orator. I manage to notice this information as it’s being presented but I’ve never mastered changing tone or proper PowerPoint slides. I’m like a sports fan like that. I can see impressive capabilities, but God knows I can’t swing at a ball and expect to get anything but air. Ideas I can do. That’s about it.
Which might be why my wife’s text, well, now, missing text, troubled me so. She’s always been attracted to success. That’s how we met. Two successful people. But I know my limitations. For several years now, I’ve managed to convince her I’m everything she wants in a man. I’m afraid she’s finally seen through all that. Now that’s she’s figured me out, I’m on my way out the door. Another man, someone more well rounded and able bodied at full success is probably taking my position at the pole. I’m losing ground as it becomes clear I’m incapable of manifesting anything other than ideas. But who was that text meant for? And what happened to it?
I know I didn’t erase that text. My thumb began flipping through conversation upon conversation. Nothing. Wherever it went, it was no longer in my list of conversations.
Immediately I thought, “All the better. No need to concern myself. A figment of the imagination.” After all, we haven’t spoken in weeks, maybe longer. That’s the trouble with two successful people joined in holy matrimony. No one’s giving their share to the marriage. Success in society, in the bank account matter more than success at home. This must be my heart telling me what my head doesn’t want to hear, what my body doesn’t have time for.
Then that nagging worm crept back into my stomach like a bad bottle of Tequila. That part of me that believed it was a figment of imagination couldn’t sway that part that knew she was off meeting up with some random guy. Talking or not, we’re still married. She’s still cheating. How dare she? I haven’t cheated. I’m too busy for such things.
And who the hell is this other man?
I flicked through my apps opening one that synced my cell with her’s.  Being married in a world so technologically advanced has its benefits. Even if those benefits are used in times like these. Her call history should show who this other man was.
It didn’t.
Just my name. Over and over. All the way down. That and scatterings of office numbers I was familiar with already.
Impossible, I thought. These call histories are individualized. Only I can delete calls viewable on my cell. His name should be here. And I don’t recall speaking to my wife in person let alone via cell. This list claimed I spoke to her just last night.
Switching to my map app, I saw she was at one of her favorite shopping centers across town. Unassuming enough, right? Zooming in showed a grocery store, a few hair salons, a sandwich shop, and a gym. If she were cheating, she’s probably at the gym, or buying new shoes. Her and her shoes. Typical female, right? Well, that’s where she stopped being typical.
Strong willed, outspoken. She never spoke with that bizarre upward inflection lesser women use where every comment, every statement is presented as a question. If women truly want to close the income gap between themselves and men, stop speaking as if you fear getting backhanded for your own thoughts. Ever hear successful women use upward inflections? No. Ever hear a man use it that wasn’t a self-conscious teen? Nope. That’s your answer. Upward inflection. God, I love her lack of upward inflection.
A sharp sting to my ear.
Mark flicked my ear. Usual for him. Always displaying his prowess. That’s part of his ability to act appropriately in large groups garnering positive outcomes from those around him. It’s also an unfortunate side effect of being a bit of a pompous ass. Damn that hurt.
“Meeting’s over Mr. Attentive.” He knew as much as I did about why people text during meetings, he just enjoys feeling in control. Then again, who doesn’t.
As everyone around ruffled their way out, another text popped up.
“Hey,” another flick to my ear. Damn it, that flicking hurts. “Glad you could join us, physically at least.”
“What? Oh, yeah.” Unwilling to share this awkward situation with Mark just yet, I stuffed my cell back in my pocket. I’d read it later, if it’s still there. “It’s just, my tablet was on the fritz this morning. Just threw my whole day,” I said, hoping to sound at ease. Mark gave me an odd look, almost comforting, or concerned. Then again, I was never good at reading people. I do ideas.
“Bet that really screwed with your whole mojo, bro.”
I was in no mood to retort such comments, concerned or not. “Plus, I’m not feeling too well. Excuse me, will you?”
I gathered myself and left the conference room. Trying to appear sick, but feeling ill, I read the last text: You better be there this time.” Be there? Be where? That was it. This wasn’t my imagination. The text was crystal clear as my cell’s screen resolution.
I picked up my pace to the nearest bathroom stall flipping through my messages one by one looking for this morning’s initial faux pas text. Gone. It was nowhere in my cell. Where the hell could it have gone, I wondered. I didn’t erase it. Did I? Perhaps I did accidentally erased her last text. Flipping back to my most recent text from her, it too had disappeared. Like any self respecting half wit who grew up around technology, I ripped the battery out to reset it. Waiting for what felt like eons, my hands began to shake. Now two devices, the devices I depend upon to work, to get by, were giving up on me.
Damn technology.
We can figure out how to integrate a camera, phone, web browser, calorie counter, map, navigation, to do lists, and countless other gadgets into a single, pocket-sized piece of equipment. Still, humans have not mastered the art of a computer that takes less than two minutes to boot up.
Who was this other man? This man that my wife so nonchalantly thrown in my face, twice in the matter of a few hours? If I could just figure out who this other person was I would feel better. I assured myself it could be a co-worker or a long lost friend. I’m a man. By my very nature I get anxious and defensive when my significant other isn’t with me. Right? I’m over reacting. Right? Can’t hurt to just find out who this person is though. Right?
With that I thumbed through my other text conversations hoping to find other missing texts. If these two disappeared, others must have done the same. It could just be my cell crapping out. It is almost six months old. But my efforts were fruitless. Nothing appeared misplaced, but I couldn’t remember one conversation from the other. That’s why I had a cell, to archive my conversations, so I don’t have to rely on my own dysfunctional memory, I can just flip through old ones remembering as I flipped along. Then again, there is the occasional device failure. Catastrophic when it happens. Cloud or no Cloud, there are still things that don’t transfer into broadband ether. These text conversations for example. Then it hit me.
I’ll just wait until tonight when she’s to meet with this man and I’ll know. I’ll catch her in her little act. I’ll find out who she’s seeing. Technology is great that way.
The rest of my day dragged. My desktop kept me at the office well passed the time I wanted to be there. Luckily for me, though, it was synced up to my tablet. Just barely considering the archaic Internet connection in this concrete cube of a building. The tablet might not have let me use it this morning, but as of last night, it synced to the network. All my presentations, reports, were accessible even if I had to stay plugged to this drab cubicle.
As long as I was there, little work was accomplished. I couldn’t get those damn texts out of my head. Over and over they rolled around. Deleted from my cell but in mass reproduction in my brain. They played out like tickers on a nightly newscast. I couldn’t shake them no matter how hard I tried, and I did try.
When time finally came to leave, I did. My wife was on my mind, of course. Or, at least her disappearing infidelity texts were there. Those texts and that other man. I auto started my car, collected my belongings, headed for the door. In the elevator, I realized that, passing Mark’s desk, he wished me luck. I jogged passed him without notice. Nothing registered until my eyes stared back at me in the chrome elevator door.
What an odd comment.
What an odd day.

Hard at work typing

More nonfiction typing lately. The reason is simple: I need the money.

My nonfiction work can be sold to AssociatedContent.com for cash…teeny tiny bits of cash…coins really, but more money than my short stories provide.

Yes, you’re reading the blog of a sellout. Then again, no one ever gets famous from NOT selling out. Politicians, business people, authors, artists, all of them. Sell out or go home.

But if you don’t hate me too much yet, here’s links to 1 of 2 pieces I wrote today, the 2nd piece is still in “submission” phase.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8361929/novelist_jose_saramago.html?cat=10

Now, I’m going to go type some fiction. Probably going to work on Part 2 of Owned.

Nonfiction writing…typing

I probably type nonfiction better than I do fiction. My wife always tells me I have no imagination. That is probably true. But that doesn’t stop my brain from producing crappy stories with no plots, or crappy plots with no stories. Either way, reading not fun or enjoyable.

When I do type nonfiction, I paste it on AssociatedContent.com in hopes of garnering a name and perhaps a little change on the side. Last year I managed to make about $300. Not a lot in a year, but it’s a nice extra.

Yesterday I finished another article for AC on lesser known breweries and brew pubs in the ABQ area. Click here to view that article.

Owned: The Beginning

When not hard at work with the Smart Travel Program at ARCA, I’m hardly working at my writing. Part of that hardly working is a rewriting (retyping actually. My partner refuses to let me use the verb “write” when I never pick up a pen or pencil or even a crayon…point well taken) of a story I started a while back.

The premise? Chris wakes to find his Tablet and smartphone with apparent viruses. His Tablet computer refuses to turn on. His smart phone is deleting texts he is sure are coming from wife. Texts that suggest she’s cheating on him. He’s successful in all aspects of his life. Now he questions that success.
How does one man fight against a system he’s willingly plugged himself into to save himself and his marriage?
With that, here is the edited version of Part 1 of Owned:

That morning started like every other morning of my married work life except for having to go to work. No, I didn’t finally drum up ambition to find the job every responsible husband should strive toward. I already had one. Paid well. Lots of hours, in a position with ambition written all over it. No, that wasn’t my ‘going to work’ change of plans.
For one reason or another, reasons I ascertained later but we will get to that in time, my tablet, which I relied on to project my business image and voice into daily meetings at my high salary low laziness job, gave up on me when I turned off the snooze. I say gave up on me as it is the most appropriate phrase mustered. It didn’t quit, or break, or even die. The screen went a deep magenta. Across the screen the words “time’s up” sat, nonchalant, unapologetic. Rather irritating. Damn technology.
As with any computer-based technology, I did what any user would do–tear the battery out and force a soft reset. Unfortunately, upon turning it back on, the same soft magenta showed with the same not so soft message.
Time’s up.
Odd for sure. I did think that. No blue screen of death. No choppy Wi-Fi connection. No freezing or anything common like that. Too bad, I thought, I really liked magenta until then.
The part of me that didn’t care about the color was still thankful not to receive the same tired blue screen of death from the old days of desktop monotony. Damn computers. Hate these damn things. But in today’s world, it’s use them or get off the racetrack for those who do. Do or die. Kill or be killed. Or whatever lazy cliche you care to utilize. Besides, now that they run absolutely anything you want them to or do anything you ask of them, it’s kinda hard to not invite them into your home, your life.
My cell still worked though.
Pulling it out from under my pillow, I checked my sleep pattern App: normal. My results. Not the App, though the App too was normal. Blood pressure and heart rate: better than normal. For such high stressed, high paced work, I prided myself on good health.
I called ahead to say I’d be in today. No one answered. Well, the same automated, yet oddly lovingly female voice, greeted me. Left a message for my childhood friend and business partner, Mark. I don’t consider myself too unorthodox, but she, the automated voice that is, made something quiver behind my navel. Yes, it was that long since my wife and I, well, how shall I saw, saw each other in person. Awake anyway. So is the cost of two successful people in two successful jobs with high stress. .
We get along just fine when we see each other. It’s not like we hate each other. Most of the time I missed her when time provided me the opportunity to think of her. Our jobs take us in different directions throughout the day. When I get home, she’s asleep. Waking her up would be selfish, so I never do. By the time my morning alarm sounds, she’s long gone. Can only assume she feels the same altruistic feelings for me: Why wake him, he looks so sound and peaceful sleeping there. It was our business drive that brought us together. That same drive pulled us apart after our wedding night. Irony or disappointment. You pick.
A few quick swipes and thumb taps on my cell and the shower started itself, warming to my morning setting of 102 degrees. Set the blinds to open onto the cityscape below before I dry off. Tinted windows. Don’t worry. I’m not creepy. Coffee set to percolate while I set out the day’s suit. Pants included today. Benefits of video conference calls is you only have to look sharp from the neck up. At the same time, this line of work kills you in the same direction. From the neck up. Sharp and dead. Tender veal patty atop a China plate.
Showered and shaved, a muffled incoming text message rang from my cell on our bed. It was my wife.
“If you want to make dinner plans with me, you have to show up.”
I read this aloud back to our empty room and my irritatingly dysfunctional tablet. I read it again, squinting in the morning sun. I stood there drying the old fashioned way.
I didn’t make any dinner plans.
I sighed at the realization, she’s probably cheating and texted the wrong man. Couldn’t blame her. Last time we made love we were celebrating an anniversary. Not our last one either. Still ate at my stomach though. She’s still my wife. I’m still her husband.
Half not wanting to start an awkward conversation but mostly unwilling to believe that initial pang of manly jealousy, I tossed my cell onto the all too empty bed, finishing my morning routine, sans the addition of pants. I still had to go to work after all. Just wished she wouldn’t have brought me into the mix, accidentally or otherwise.
Of course I still loved her. And always will. That’s human nature. Love it, cling to it, ignore it until it wants to leave, then love it and cling to it again before it wants to leave again. Cyclical. It wasn’t my fault we rarely saw each other because of our conflicting schedules. Not entirely anyway. And I could hardly hold it against her for seeking companionship elsewhere, I’d probably do the same if time and circumstance permitted, which it didn’t. Perhaps she sent it to me hoping I would start paying attention to her again, I thought. I had this job when we married. If anything, she ignored me. Her job came after we married. If she tried to get a rise out of me, she did. Still I had to work though. Time for talking would have to wait. Besides, I didn’t want to have to have that conversation. I hated awkward and difficult conversations.
My coffee was ready per my appliance App specs on my cell. Good thing my tablet and cell were synced up together otherwise I’d be late to work and jonesing for caffeine.
While brushing my teeth, my free hand thumbed through options on my cell until I found my Auto-Start App. Living in upper Michigan made this little automatic car starter App invaluable, kept me as warm as one could hope to be. Coffee in hand, pants on, cell in pocket, tablet ignored to give it time to consider it’s bad behavior, I shivered through the dash to my waiting car like a woman in a wedding dress trying to avoid droplets in a torrential downpour, and just as pointless. Even fingers wrapped around my coffee thermos were already frozen meat-cicles when I slammed the car door. One positive: driving to work allowed me to catch up on some local programming. Earlier podcasts, of course, via my cloud podcast playlists, also synced to my car radio. If only you couldn’t sync morning traffic to your morning routine. Coffee, heater, AC, radio, shower, music, documents, anything you want can be synced up. Hell, you can sync up with the damn Space Station. But civil engineers still can’t make a morning commute take less than the whole morning.

(This version was reedited on October 30 to create better fluidity between parts and tighten sentences…I hope)

Crud

Results from the 24-hour writing contest, the second one I’ve entered, came back a failure. I didn’t even make the honorable mention list. Between my inability to win cheap writing contests, my insatiable need to NOT finish books I start, and the fact that my wife won’t even read my writing is leaving me feeling kinda, well, lousy.

I wonder if I’m suppose to write. I wonder if we are ‘suppose’ to do anything. Maybe we just are. There is no destiny. Just whether or not your dice roll comes up seven or four. I refuse to believe you win or lose based on your choices. If I choose to write, that doesn’t make me a good writer, does it? If I choose tomorrow to run for Congress, does that make me a politician?

Oddly, that was in no way cathartic.