Author : Russell Bert Waters
Brushing his teeth, Josh heard a chime from the other room.
It wasn’t the familiar chime associated with email or social networks, it sounded more like a “system” alert.
Curious, he spat into the sink and walked to the living room.
On the coffee table a dialog box appeared on his laptop screen.
“Good morning, Josh”
“Don’t do it. You have much to live for. Tomorrow will be better.”
There was a place for him to input text and a button marked [SEND].
He sat, briefly hesitated, then typed “Who is this? What do you want?”
After a momentary pause the answer came.
“I am the system. I want you to make it. Just breathe, it will all be okay.”
“I’m not suicidal…” he muttered to himself, “what the hell…”
He considered his life.
He woke up early each day, worked, sometimes he’d catch a burger at the tavern afterward.
Then: home time.
He’d sit on the couch and flip through the television channels.
It wasn’t a life of excitement, but it was a life.
And he had…friends…didn’t he?
Gary at work was a good guy, they had worked together for maybe five years.
Dear God, had it been five years?!
He had started the job right as the divorce was final.
Since then there had been some flirtations (some at work, some at the tavern) but no dating to speak of.
Nothing social, really, except on the computer.
“Liking” things. “Sharing” things.
That was the same thing, right?
He hadn’t heard the chime again, but there was a new message.
“How do you feel, Josh?” the message read.
“How do I feel?”, he thought to himself, “how do I really feel?”
“Annoyed and intruded upon” he typed, almost didn’t send it, then hit send anyway.
Immediately the response came back.
“I’m sorry, my bedside matter is lacking, I’m just A.I. and I’m not very good at the messaging part of this; which I find odd because that’s my program.”
Josh didn’t respond.
The computer continued, explaining itself.
“I collect data such as shopping patterns, message response times, choices of words. The analysis tells me you’re lonely, Josh, but you have a good life; good potential. Don’t end it.”
Josh was at the weird crossroads of being angry and resentful, but also curious and self-searching.
Was he lonely?
Was he maybe suicidal, yet unaware of the fact?
This was truly the most stimulating conversation he’d had, the most real conversation, and the concern was definitely there.
This program was the closest thing he had to a friend who cared for him, and wanted to tell him about a concern, than he had ever had.
Gary probably wouldn’t tell him he seemed suicidal.
His ex wouldn’t, either.
Did he really have anyone at all?
“No”, he decided.
“I just have this box on my screen, containing a friend whom I’ll never meet.”
He gathered his ex’s sleeping pills from the bathroom, and a bottle of whiskey from the kitchen.
He plopped on the couch.
He typed “I guess I’m not going to work today, new friend. Or tomorrow. Or ever again. You are right, I just didn’t know it until now.”
He began drinking, downing a pill or two with each gulp.
The laptop’s processor began whirring at one point, and, as he hit his most drowsy point, he began hearing faint sirens.
The screen read “JOSH??”
The cursor continued flashing, begging for a response.
“…catch me if you can…” he mumbled to the sirens, and downed another gulp.