Author : Joshua Reynolds

“This isn’t good for you.” The words were flat. Colorless. No echoing thoughts behind them, no chorus of agreement, disagreement, no shared community opinion.

Just the words.

Stanley smiled and nodded. It felt good to nod. To use physical muscles as opposed to metaphysical. Felt right. Felt real. And reality was what he wanted. What he craved. Harsh, bland reality. To feel, to touch, to taste what was really there.

It was the whole reason he’d pulled the plug. His plug. His fingers touched the scabby hole in the side of his temple where the aether-jack had been implanted when he was six. So he could join the World-Wide Web, be a part of the community and share the world. In the twenty years since, he’d come to one inescapable conclusion.

He was not a fan of sharing.

“Are you listening to me? I can’t tell if you’re listening to me or not.” Sarah said, tapping the words into her keypad even as they fled her lips. Stanley sighed.

“Of course you can’t tell. You aren’t looking at me.”

“I am so. If you’d just put your plug back in I could see you fine.” She typed. Her eyes remained glued to the flat screen before her. They were green. He leaned across the table and examined them. He hadn’t realized. You only got so much from emoticons, even these days.

“Do you know what color my eyes are?” He asked her, looking at her and not her screen. Her face wrinkled in confusion and her fingers hesitated on the keyboard. But she still didn’t look at him. How long had they been married? Three years? Two? Had she ever looked at him?

“What does that matter? Why are you doing this? We only want what’s best for you.”

Ah. The peanut gallery is heard from, Stanley thought. An ambush sprung. He stood and twisted her screen around to face him. Several dozen avatars floated in orderly columns all adding their two-cents to the debate. As per usual. Intervention by forum. Words spilled across the screen in a deluge of emoticons and parentheses backslash frowny faces. It looked like everyone was here. Friends. Family. Why there was Pastor Milkes. All begging for him to give it up. To give up his addiction. Give up the harsh realm. Stanley blinked at the outpouring of love and caring. He remembered what it was like in there. Where everyone knew your name. Knew everything about you.

Out here it was so quiet.

So quiet.

Out here, no one knew anything about you. Or what you thought.

He liked it that way.

He tapped the screen and Sarah jumped in her seat. Avatars blinked and flashed and words in pastel colors were vomited across the screen. He bent down and kissed Sarah on the top of her head. His fingers brushed the cord trailing from her temple.

With a twist of his fingers he pulled it out.

Turnabout was fair play after all.

One intervention was as good as another.

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