Dodgy Homebrew Love

Author: Thomas Desrochers

The most popular topic of all was always

Love.

That was how neuro-sims came to the forefront of entertainment, you know. Plug in and a skilled corporate smartiste can have you feeling all that nervous giddiness your stomach borrows from your junk when you’re in

Love.

The magic, and danger, of neuro-sims is how fast they are: an hour in a neuro-sim is a minute in the real world. You can fall in love a thousand times over a weekend. Who needs family, or friends, or lovers, when they have

Love?

I’ll admit, I never went for the popular “most ‘lived’” titles. Back in the day homebrew neuro-sims outnumbered the professional productions 10:1 and there was content for whatever niche you like, ranging from the benign to the truly disturbed. That was how I ended up in possession of the last sim I ever tried.

I should start with this: the author disabled user over-rides.

There I was. The woman I love on the ground, seizing. She’s never done this before; I’m terrified. Jump, then, to the appointment where the doctor points out the brain tumor on the scan. Even as I drown in the mix of emotions – the dread, fear, and resolve – the sleeplessness and anxiety of the weeks since the seizure trickle in.

More jumping. Life, absorbed days at a time. Camping out in the chair by her bed after the first surgery, holding her hand and arguing with the nurses for more painkillers every time she wakes up screaming. The morning after discharge: she tries to make bacon and stares as it burns. I ask her why she doesn’t take it out, but she doesn’t know.

Another seizure at two in the morning. Six weeks of radiation therapy. Countless nights next to her unable to sleep, wondering when the next seizure might hit. Waking every morning to her indomitable spirit and a terrible unease in my gut.

Years pass.

A shock scan. The doctor can’t hide his reaction at how quickly it’s grown. A whole week spent arguing because she doesn’t understand basic things and I don’t yet understand that she doesn’t understand. I wake up at one in the morning to find her making coffee, getting ready for work that doesn’t start until eight.

She can’t work. Trouble using her hands, walking, eating. The weeks blur together – I honestly forget what I experienced and what I was made to remember experiencing. The ability to talk is wrung out of her like water from a rag, until she points at me Christmas morning and says the last thing she’ll ever say:

“Love.”

Every hour of every day spent taking care of her: she can’t talk, can’t eat, can’t use the bathroom, everything stripped away until I even have to smile for her. Hard work, long hours, punctuated by quiet mornings: the two of us in bed with the sun on our faces while we hold hands and just look at each other. She’s broken down piece by piece until all that’s left is her intense, burning will to live, and as the sun rises one morning her breathing slows until, with one last gasp, that too is crushed.

It took my body a week to recover from lying on the floor so long. I still think about it in the quiet moments of my life, that dodgy second-hand love. Being forced to never shy away from that awful reality hollowed me out.

It’s probably good someone stepped in and regulated the market, not that it gives me closure.

Unsettling, unsatisfying, nothing like a professional first kiss.

Love!

12 Comments

  1. Jae

    Nothing dodgy about this. Fine tale.

    • Thomas Desrochers

      Thank you Jae.

  2. LukeSaysMoo

    So very powerful. Our want to be manipulated so we can feel. – My thoughts immediately go to the person who created the sim and disallowed user changes. I wonder was it a reflection of that person’s life or was it fear? Perhaps revenge upon the users for so cheaply valuing “Love.” It’s a well done piece.

    • Thomas Desrochers

      Thank you Luke. It really is a curious thing – I wonder if it is safer for us to let someone else give us something to feel, as opposed to going out and experiencing for ourselves. I do like the idea of it being revenge for the sim’s author.

  3. Hari Navarro

    Wonderful how you managed to sculpt this to pull the reader into your narrative. I found it was at once strikingly personal and heartbreaking in its realism. Really fine work.

    • Thomas Desrochers

      Thanks Hari. I always appreciate praise from you. I was worried it might be too messy! I had a lot of frustration with the ending, there just wasn’t a tidy way to wrap it up. Ultimately that second to last line, “Unsettling, unsatisfying” was really just throwing my hands up and admitting defeat. But it fits, I think!

      • Hari Navarro

        Thomas, in my opinion there is no such thing as too messy. Your writing is you. If you confine it to convention then you do yourself a disservice. Your penultimate line was just as it should be.

  4. SimonJM

    I think worse than the experience must be the state of mind where undergoing it (even if a proper one) seems a good idea!

    • Thomas Desrochers

      Absolutely! Like Adam mentioned, there’s a huge market for being intentionally emotionally manipulated already these days. I have to wonder about how the way binge consumption of media has become a cultural staple – people in America wear it with a badge of pride! Surely it can’t be healthy, and the emotional motivation is always something I find curious.

  5. Adam Gerencser

    Thanks for the story, Thomas, hope you are not writing from personal experience. Having seen a close relative go through this, your description was frightfully accurate. Judging by drama series and books, there will always be a market for extreme emotional rollercoasters.

    • Thomas Desrochers

      You’re welcome Adam. I’m glad you enjoyed it enough to be grateful. Unfortunately this is very close to home – my father died of a GBM in January. I suppose there were two big mercies: it was fast, and it never made him angry.

      Being made to feel things is a big market! I wonder sometimes if it isn’t because people are trying to fill something in themselves.

      • Adam Gerencser

        I’m sorry about your father, Thomas – I know what it’s like seeing a parent through that. No one should have to go this way. Alas, drama doesn’t seem to motivate enough progress in oncology, but I hope that one day science will save future generations from this particular tribulation.

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