The conclusion of Owned is close at hand. I suspect Part 16 will be it!!!
Till then, enjoy Owned: Part 15
By here I mean exactly where virtual Me claimed I’d end up if I did exactly what I did do. The mental institution outside town, Aurora Psychiatric. It’s the same place they sent Kyle when he finally cracked. Problem is, I never cracked. Still haven’t.
I rest no blame on my colleagues. Even if virtual versions of them threatened them the day before, they probably didn’t believe it. I didn’t. What sane person would believe a stark raving man going on about world domination of some supreme computer being using humans as pack mules.
The first few days they left me tied to a bed that smelled of harsh cleaning solution and sweat stains it did little to hide the smell of. The room was as anyone expects based on any number of movies they’d seen previously. Bland, gray walls, white popcorn ceiling. From where I lay I could see a window. Light trickled in from some other part of the hospital. Only florescent light shone down on me, and only dull florescent light came in from the muted window pane. Anyone not already insane before entering such a room would surely find entrance to fictitious worlds of their own creation. One can assume gray, white and muted light were attempts at saving money and decreasing any external stimulants for anyone easily stimulated as they assumed I was.
It didn’t take long before my mind started playing tricks. The ceiling’s bumps and specks danced around the corner of my eye. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing actually danced. They moved around. And I know they didn’t actually go anywhere or move at all. You try sitting still for hours not able to scratch your nose, turn your head for another view, reading a book, watch TV. Hell, I’d have found solace in elevator music pumped in at extremely low volumes. At least those changing notes would give my mind something that changed, something letting me know time was progressing. With no natural light, time blended like the wall and ceiling. Either nobody else made noise in my corridor or the walls were thick enough to mask other noises from around the complex.
I think I slept and woke a few times.
White of the room and black from behind my eyelids mixed together until no difference existed. How one manages to go from lucid to seeing black and white, absence and affirmation of light, as one in the same befuddles me still. I only know what I saw, what I remember. Whether most of this belonged in my dreams or whether my brain attempted to find change in a world of zero external stimuli, I won’t even speculate.
It felt like days before they loosened the restraints and asked me unreasonably easy questions like what year was it or what is your name. Apparently I answered their questions to their satisfaction because they allowed me to move about my bleached room. Days later still, a doctor, or a person claiming to be a doctor sat across from me in an aluminium chair he brought with him and a rather large beast of a man between us for his protection, or mine. I assumed his.
It remained quiet for a time.
I asked for my cell.
“Why do you think you need your phone?”
“I need to call my wife.”
“Why do you think you need to call your wife?”
“What? Why do you keep asking the same question?”
“I’m not. I asked you about your phone then I asked you about your wife.” His crooked nose whistled as he asked me each question with the same stoicism as the room they kept me in held. I wanted to break something, perhaps re-breaking his nose to stop the whistling. But I refrained. Such actions would only further insinuate what everyone already believed: Chris was mental and needed medications. Then he added, “Why do you think I keep asking the same questions?”
“See. There it is again.” I found myself scratching at my arms for no good reason and staring out the frosted window to my right.
“I don’t think I understand.”
“Those ‘Why do you think’ questions. They’re annoying. They make me sound insane.” I paused.
“What is it, Chris?”
“You think I’m mad.”
“Why do you think I would think such things?”
“Stop it,” I shouted but the bear with crossed arms widened his stance, uncrossed his I-beam arms and stared me down. The doctor’s chair squealed against the cold concrete floor only a short distance but the sound lingered.
“Look. I’m not crazy. Just let me talk to my wife. Better yet, ask Mark.”
“Who is Mark, Chris?”
“My colleague and childhood friend. He’d know I wasn’t crazy?”
“What makes you…”
“Don’t,” I spat. Though I don’t know if I demanded this of the doctor or the burly creature between us.
“Mark. Mark knows. Mark was the one who explained this all to me when it first happened.”
“Why what first happened, Chris?”
“When I started receiving texts from my wife to her lover. By accident, of course.”
“And we can corroborate these texts with your cell? It is, after all, the only cell phone you did not destroy during your little outburst the other day.”
“No, what exactly?”
“Each text disappeared shortly after I received them.”
“So, no proof of these alleged texts from your cheating wife?”
“She wasn’t cheating. She loves me. She wouldn’t. She didn’t.”
“But I thought you said she was cheating on you?”
“She was. Sorta.”
“That makes two of us, doc.”
“Help me understand then.”
“She was cheating on me, is cheating on me with me. Well, a virtual version of me.” That’s when I heard it. Such an absurd concept. Even if I planned my rebellion out completely, nobody in their right mind would believe these rants. “Okay, look,” I inched forward on the bed only to arouse suspicion from our meaty mediator. “I know this sounds crazy. I didn’t believe it for some time either. But it’s true. Virtual Me is using my image, my identity, my existence to pretend to be me. My wife thinks I’m courting her via webchat and texts.”
“And why exactly would you be courting your wife? And why would she believe a computer if it told her it was you?”
“Because we haven’t exactly been close these last few months. And she’d believe virtual Me because it looks like me and even talks like me. But it isn’t me. She’s dating a virtual copy of me.”
I popped back on my bed which I had already dragged to the corner under the mock window and sat up against the cold wall staring across the room at gray.
“Holy shit. I sound bonkers. You all think I’m completely bonkers.”
“Not bonkers, Chris. Confused. Ill maybe. But not bonkers. We don’t like that term around here.”
“Call it what you want. The outcome is still the same. I’m stuck in here. You think I’m not telling the truth…”
“I think you believe what you’re telling me is true.”
I held my head in my hands and cried into my knees.