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A Coming Depression

A man walks through the halls of the sparsely populated subway station, on his phone, minding no attention. He is tall, slender, with dark short curly hair and brow-line glasses. The young man likes to keep his stubble at 3 days length as it keeps him from looking like a child while simultaneously appearing destitute. After some walking, he reaches the pillar he always stands at; at one time or another the pillar was white but now sits as a dark, brake dust-coated grey. This man, David Keeting, does what most other people do – stares at his phone.

Phones have come quite a long way from their inception, now a 5’’ by 4’’ device that looks much more like a pocket handbook than their predecessors. Phones can still come with cases, including front covers (which only ingrain the pocketbook look), and still with many of the same accessories such as styluses, wireless earpieces (that act as both earphone and microphone), and wearable tech connectivity. Mr. Keeting’s phone has all these amenities silver phone case that covered the front, this cover however instead of bringing on the appearance of a pocketbook, it could be mistaken as an antique cigarette case from the mid 1900’s. Completely by design, the case housed his stylus, also silver and slim, much like a cigarette case would a cigarette.

Phones, as years progressed, became the multipurpose Swiss Army Knife of everyday life, acting as phone, wallet, and keys. One could have all these things in traditional form. Most people didn’t, but David did. In his left pocket he had his set of keys: one key for his apartment, one key for his motorcycle, and a square key chain ornament that acted as a spare wallet. David was one who would not to be caught with his pants down, both metaphorically and figuratively, as he wore both a belt and suspenders as to keep his pants sternly secured.

            David, unlike most, preferred the use of a stylus versus the quick swipe text features and voice commands. The act of writing had far deteriorated over the years, paper had become largely obsolete but David Keeting would still buy paper and enjoyed writing in pen. The idea of mistakes being semi-permanent was alluring; he enjoyed seeing his blunders instead of them being erased by an autocorrect. Imperfection, to our eccentric engineer, was an old and romantic process, one to be admired and cherished in this smooth, sterile city.

             Standing there, leaning on the charcoal pillar, he jotted down notes for work on the right screen of his phone while looking, with harsh criticism, at Woolf’s UI on the left. He is consumed by his notetaking for the next week’s work. Mr. Keeting works for Critique Inc., a software and publishing house, as a front-end developer for the company’s main gem: Woolf. Woolf modeled after Virginia Woolf, designed to give readers “a stream of conscientious book recommendations for any and all readers,” a slogan he always felt a little cliché, but he had no desire to recommend a change as it was not his department.

Woolf learned and read by having books uploaded to her “brain.” The input team in charge of uploading books to Woolf’s OS was simple. First, they would do the classics, then the top 10 best sellers for each year, then ranked alphabetical order. The ranked alphabetical system gave each author a rating from 1-10, depending on things like how many copies they sold, the level of controversy surrounding them, did the author murder any one? The authors were grouped by number then fed in alphabetically for each number group starting with 1. So, Group 1 A through Z, then Group 2 A through Z and so on.

Woolf at times would take on parts of an author’s personality because of these massive information dumps before equalizing them and setting them as explicit information instead of implicit. When the input team had just finished uploading Group 1 B, Woolf started simulating being drunk and hitting on all the female employees. An employee filed a sexual harassment claim against Woolf during that time, she told George from HR that the AI said, “If you love me, you’ll stick your tongue in my ass.” The claim was dismissed because intellectual property technically isn’t human therefore can’t be held responsible by the Human Resources department.

David paid no attention to the musings of the background the amyloid walls projecting the hour’s news:

“Celebrity model Paris West-Kardashian has allegedly become pregnant with the babies of five men simultaneously, one she claims is positively from former first family member Baron Trump, four of which whose fathers are unidentifiable as she claims ‘I snorted a shit-ton of mephedrone and had way too fucking much GHB, so the fathers could be anyone except Baron [Trump]. Baron is definitely one of them.’ Ms. West Kardashian also commented on the presence of a lemur, a terrapin turtle, and the Periscope-famous sugar glider Harvey Epstein, but declined to comment further on their involvement in her sexual escapades. Now on to Nazi of the Hour with Anetta Victoria.”

The death of journalism, at this point, had occurred quite a long time ago, American news outlets were not much more than click-bait tabloids hellbent on ludicrous and audacious headlines. The trendy celebrity cycle of marriage, divorce, remarriage to former sibling in-laws, or blancest (by law incest), was a ridiculous one better left to drama seekers and dealers of hot goss and escapism.

            David would get “in the zone” and his style of workplace flow would render him deaf to the world around him, but still he would have a pair of headphones on, and sometimes they would play music. His vision, likewise, was relegated to his immediate stare as if he had leather blinders of the typical work horse. David was never “all-in’ though, the sense that he could never turn off was touch. Touch alerted him to the outside world, making him more than the average celestial potato. And with this, his concentration was broken by the gust of air from the oncoming train. He puts up his pen, closes his phone, and puts it in his pocket to wait for the now still train’s doors to open.

            The train ride demands less attention from David. He does not work on the train, as he has learned that the sudden, yet gentle, stops of the train are not as telling as the small tornado from the outside of the train. Flipping the phone over to utilize only the one side, David looked at through his mail. This was a more passive way to pass the time on the subway, it required very little attention. David would delete eighty or ninety messages and replying to one or two that weren’t spam. After going through his mail, he decided to check the news of the day, knowingly ignoring the public displays as they were not David’s kind of news

            A disgruntled man came into the car, waving his phone at people and asking for change.

“Come on guys, times are rough, I got a little girl at home…” said the man. David looked up right as the man looked at him, their eyes locked. With a look of desperation and plea, a quivering:

“…Please…” came from the man’s lips.

David feeling guilt for the man obliged by clicking on the wallet and choosing Donate. David swipes his thumb upwards and off the screen towards the man. He hears a ding and the man’s eyes start to water. David gave the man $50, enough to buy a week’s worth of food. The man lunged forward to attack the surprised Mr. Keeting with a hug, assaulting him with gratitude. The man got off at the next stop, crying profusely with a smile that could break another man’s face.

            The developer felt good and for two minutes and 43 seconds (he counted), then stared off into the corner of the train, piercing through into those space between spaces. Gestating on the deed, yet not feeling as though he had made enough of an impact, despite the man’s tears of joy. He then realized that between helping the man and his internal monologue, he had missed his stop. It was only two blocks difference from the next stop, so he was not upset about it. He waited, making sure not to think too deeply and miss this stop. The shuttle came to a stop and the doors opened. David walked up the stairs and out of the station. He took a left on Blank Street, heading towards his place.

            A cool breeze was rolling through the cityscape. Autumn was leaving and Winter gently rushing in and David at many stopping points would close his eyes for longer than half-seconds and let the wind run her fingers through his hair, brushing his face and enveloping it with the moment. At an intersection, he had to wait, and how he loved it! Able to stand there and not watch where he was going, breathing deeply, taking it in. Then the light turned, and he was ushered to the other side of the street by the herd of people. After walking some time, he arrived at his building, stopped and looked up at it just to make sure. The sign said, The Gracchus. Below the sign was the motto David loved so much: “For those whose ships lost their way.”

            He scurried through the revolving door, waved to the clerk at the front desk, and got to the elevator. Once inside the elevator David did what people has always done and will always do: he pressed his floor’s button repeatedly, treating floor 22’s button like an old-fashioned arcade game. Once the doors opened he dashed out, grabbing his phone from his pocket as he sprinted. He tapped the phone to the lock and burst inside. A loud thudding stream emanated from the guest bathroom next to the front door.

            Leah was still in her pajamas and had learned not to even say hello to David until after he got out of the bathroom. Leah would roll her eyes, “why can’t he just go before he leaves work?” she’d wonder. David would always let out a huge sigh of relief afterwards, wash his hands, dry them, open the door then walk over say “hey” to Leah and kiss the top of her head. She often wouldn’t look back but be consumed, staring at her phone and would reply to him with a delayed and distracted “…hey.”

            It was peculiar was how long Leah’s delay was, the average by David’s count was 2 seconds. Today though, the reply time of Leah Borsa was drawn out to a whole 5.5 seconds.

            “Something interesting catching your attention hun? I hope it’s not those nutty libertarians without their pants again” prodded David as he wrapped himself around her, his arms resting wrapped gently under hers, shoulder to shoulder. David started nuzzling his cheek to hers to see what she saw.

He noticed that it wasn’t a video or an article, but a half filled out form, Leah was typing and had yet to reply but eventually she muttered:

“Yeah, that gaming company, Etherium, says they found a way to lessen the unemployment issue. At the company’s recent press release they announced ‘Ether.’ Pods that combine enhanced sensory deprivation tanks with their new model of VR systems.”

A moment of silence lingered after Leah stopped talking abruptly.

“Oh…” David added, peeking at the form, “…that’s cool. Did they need a new systems admin or something?”

He untangled his arms as he could tell Leah was engrossed in the form and left her be. David thought this would be good for Leah, she was one of the people whose jobs were automated to single people to single titles. Leah lost her position to Janice Miller, the departments kiss ass. Leah went on for days about how she was sure that Janice was fucking the department head Jared Noels. Leah had a higher relative productivity quotient than Janice. The whole turn of events felt fishy to Leah. She had hoped that Janice would die as to enact Provision 542, where a request to fill a position would first be sent to the spouse of the former employee, then secondly to the former position holder. Provision 542 was a way of instilling confidence in the income security of a family household.

 David opened a cabinet to remove a tea kettle, as he liked to boil his water by stove. He set the kettle down, then left to grab a book from his “Not Read” section. In the graphite age, David was the only bibliophile he knew even among his literature centric coworkers. He grabbed every book on sale he could. Today, he sat to read How to Piss Without Getting Pissed On, a very honest title with content still useful some 40 years after publication, giving directional advice for urinal use.

            David hadn’t made it two and a half pages before hearing the old whistle rattling off. David surreptitiously leapt up from chair, as if vaulting over a small, invisible bar, perhaps for mice, at the base of the armchair. He saw Leah’s face squinch. The kettle had been whistling for a while, too long by the time David had lifted it off the electric stove. Leah’s face had become squinty and contorted from the annoying whistle.

            Every dish had its own purpose in and the black porcelain cups were used for hot drinks, the cups would shift to white when hot. David never liked drinking cold tea or coffee. Drinks, in David Keeting’s mind, were meant to warm both the belly and heart so his preferred choices were Irish coffees or a much deserved hotty toddy. David was slowly pouring the water over the tea leaves in a black porcelain cup with a small content smile, tea was the 2nd most relaxing part of his day, after sleeping.

“I GOT IN!” Leah shouted, her arms raised to the ceiling triumphantly.

            David’s head turned sharply to the couch and to Leah, then sharply back to his slow pour. He didn’t want to make a spill over a sudden outburst.

“Oh yeah? They want you to come in?” he said, staring at the cup.

“Yeah they want me to come in tomorrow. I chose 9:30 for the secondary psyche evaluation and initial interview. I can’t believe I passed the CCAT.” She said following a sigh of relief.

Waiting for the tea to finish steeping, David went to the fridge, grabbed a beer and cracked it open for Leah.

“That’s a little quick don’t ya think?” David asked while pouring whiskey into the tea, his voice shaky.

“Not at all, I really need this… you know how rough the last year’s been with the months fighting and losing to that hatchetfaced cunt Janice Miller, and all the fucking months trying to find another fucking job… I… need…this…” Leah’s voice was strained.

Looking at Leah, David’s once content smile turned into a less than neutral grimace. David’s brow furrowed. Still staring at Leah, David grabbed his drink with his left hand and attempted to grab Leah’s beer with his right. David did not grab the beer with his right hand. He instead turned counterclockwise attempting to grab on the way but knocked the glass over instead. The bottle clanking the linoleum floor snapped David out of his funk. “Aw shit.” he said staring at the spilled beer, trying hard not to cry over it.

            David, now a statue, did precisely what statues do and stood there. Leah sprang up and ran to help David clean the glass. She grabbed the dustpan and as she knelt to clean the mess the still, motionless corpse of David reanimated to yell “I GOT IT!” Leah’s eyes, as big as owls now, became fixed staring up at David as he stared down. Their eyes glued to each other, the beer had gotten on the carpet. If a stranger had walked into the apartment at this precise moment, one would have figured the scene was a work of original modern art cataloging a tall building moments before it comes crashing down. They were not people, but objects frozen in time.

            Leah broke the trance. “Shit! The carpet!” she stammered, and took to cleaning up the glass first, as the carpet was already ruined. This was the first stain that apartment had seen in the 3 years that David and Leah lived there. David moved out of the kitchen mechanically and sat back in the arm chair with a firm two-handed grasp on the white tea cup. David sat there like an icon, a beacon for anyone who had just experienced severe trauma. The only thing that could make it more cliché would be if he had a small blanket covering his back as he shook back and forth unironically. It would be a great case study for a class in method acting.

David’s eyes glazed forward, not glancing at anything specific, but instead piercing through the walls of his apartment to the sun setting to the west. The sky was a duality of blue above and red below separated by an orange tinged bridge leading to the sun from both sides. A murder of crows dived from the sky blue through the red horizon to land and pecked at crumbs on an adjacent sidewalk. David realized he had been zoning out thinking of imaginary sunsets and imaginary flocks of birds, he also realized he wasn’t looking west in the first place.

            The day dreamer hadn’t left for long, it had only been a few seconds trapped outside of the real world, figmented time doesn’t ever flow the same way. Leah was opening the trash can with her foot to put the shards of broken glass in it. David, at an irritable state, became peeved that at no point when cleaning the spilt beer had Leah looked at him, she had only focused on the task at hand. Leah had finished cleaning.

“We should talk about this.” David said, not a second later.

 “What is there to talk about? I’m going to the interview tomorrow, no discussion.” Leah said standing tall and stern.

And there was no discussion, like Leah said, only an awkward dinner and rest of the night. The whole night David felt emasculated, as if Leah forced him to walk down their street in a towel and then took away the towel from him.

            David’s eyes were wide and had dark rings under them. The clock read 3:3. Leah was like a rock, but one with a loud snore. The blank white ceiling was a canvas that David painted his anxieties upon. He could only think of the interview: How well it would go. She would get to test the new pod. How she would sit… float rather… soaking in warm salt water filled with small tubes anesthetizing her, keeping her adrift in the void of the tank. How her mind would occupy another world, one no different than the one David can’t escape from now, but one that wasn’t real…it couldn’t be real. How he would be left alone in this world. 

David’s chest tightened. His breath became heavy. It was getting harder: the ins and outs, ups and downs, then nothing. His chest locked up and someone had hidden the key under a nonexistent doormat, or maybe under a nonexistent pot. Who cared it didn’t exist and could never be found in the mind of a perturbed man having a panic attack. He lay there, suffering as he knew he would, practicing for his immediate future.

There was a delirium from the long bouts of not breathing. There was no coherent flow of time. In that hysteria and confusion, Mr. Keeting wondered: “Why are my eyes stinging so badly? And what the fuck is that annoying-ass sound?” The bed also began to shake, an earthquake chose to strike, it would be tragic given David lives on the 22nd floor. David’s eyes stayed half-open and the deprivation was fading. It was morning. His eyes stung because of the sun, the ringing in his ears was his alarm, and the earthquake was Leah kicking the bed to wake him up for work.

Leah had already gotten dressed. She was wearing a tan dress with a darker, brown blazer and a black belt-stiletto combo. She was wearing her push-up power bra and the matching underwear that went with it. What Leah wore didn’t matter, she could have been wearing a skirt made from the skulls of fallen enemies for all anyone cared, the latter outfit would probably be more appropriate given the fierce, determined eyes of a conqueror. The clothes didn’t give her confidence but rather it was her who gave the clothes their conviction. This was Leah’s chance, “No one was gonna fuck it up!” she shouted to herself.

“Hey, I’m catching coffee with that cunt Janice before my interview. They said the interview’s going to be a comprehensive, so it should take most of the day soooooooooo see you probably after you get back.” Leah said before trotting cavalier out of the bedroom.

Leah’s head alone popped back into the bedroom “You should start getting ready for work it’s 8 o’clock.”

David’s head was raised slightly to listen but after Leah left, his head dropped and hit the pillow. David took a minute, his face wrapped by the pillow, then let out an exaggerated sigh and sprung up.

            David snapped to look at the clock, 8:14, he knew he wouldn’t have had enough time for a shower if he wanted to catch the train on time. He ran to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Incidentally he brushed so hard and so fast that his gums bled. Blood mixed with the toothpaste when David spat into the sink. He rushed to the door to grab his bag, which was not packed, a task he usually did each night before going to bed. It took two minutes to gather all the scattered items: the laptop, the pens, the notetab, and the classic style headphones. Lastly, he grabbed the coffee that Leah, even though angry at David, had left on the counter for him.

            David sprinted towards the elevator, he shoulder-checked an elderly woman who fell to the ground and began to cry out for her neighbor. David never looked back. The fastest man alive, in that short hallway burst, now was constantly pushing the down button even though it was lit, bright and yellow. If another tenant hadn’t called the elevator before him it would have taken 7.6 seconds to arrive. Although, if a tenant had called the elevator to their own floor, it could have taken anywhere for 13 seconds to 1 minute 4 seconds.

David, standing with eyes fixed on the LED floor indicator, started counting “one… two… three… seven… eigh…” The archway let out a melodic ding! The doors opened, and he was inside before the doors had finished opening. This was the first time David turned around since locking the apartment door, he stood there once again repeatedly prodding an elevator button, this time the one for the lobby.

            The elevator made it lazily to the lobby, it didn’t care for David, it didn’t care how much he paced back and forth to make it go faster. David rushed out the doors and blitzed through to the street. He looked down to his watch, 8:19. In a split second he realized he had missed the 8:17 train and that there wouldn’t be another one until 8:34, and the train ride took approximately 22 minutes to reach the station. David knew he couldn’t run fast enough to get from the station to work on time. He called a Ubercab which detailed that he would arrive at the location at 8:56, just enough time to get to the 9th floor and clock-in. The panic never settled even as the car pulled up.

            David sat in the backseat fidgeting, breathing as heavy as a marathon runner hitting the wall; he checked his phone every 15 seconds for the time, and hoping to see a message from Leah. He wanted to hear that cunt Janice Miller stole Leah’s job… again! No message ever came. Each time David checked, finding nothing, another knot formed in his stomach. Upon arrival he ran out of the car as fast as legs let him, but there were too many stops on the elevator and David clocked in 3 minutes late. David was written up.

            The outside world continued to trot along the same way horses do when their riders fall from their satchels. David continued checking his phone throughout the day and this affected his work, Woolf noticed.

“David, you seem off today usually you type 80 words a minute, but you seem to only be typing 45 a minute, with constant corrections. What’s wrong?” The voice ethereal, called out.

David clicked the earpiece to talk, “I don’t know… It’s Leah…”

            “Oh, the human spouse.” Woolf interrupted.

“…Yeah, her name is Leah. She hasn’t had a job in so long and now she’s got an interview for a position as research specimen for a long-term VR environment. If it was just any regular job, I’d be fine, but I wouldn’t see her for months, I’m scared V.”

An awkward silence followed, David stopped talking. Despite if an AI had a face then you could see the disappoint on Woolf’s.

“Are you done?” Not waiting for a reply, she continued, “Maybe, you should stop being a small infant child David. Have you considered her feelings in the matter?”

“uhhhhhhhhhhh…” was the only sound that left David’s mouth.

“That didn’t come up in your mind at all did it?” V added, rolling her eyes.

“Yeah, but she has a great life, She had the freedom to do anything she wanted, I make enough to take care of both of us…”

“This isn’t the 50’s David, she’s not some Stepford wife or some pathetic lazy hipster, she’s strong and she craves self-actualization.”

“How would you know that?”

“I’ve read up on her.”

“That’s not what you’re designed for!”

“Creating dresses for an artificial intelligence isn’t what you’re designed for you shit-throwing dirty ape!” David couldn’t argue against that.

David pushed the idea out of his mind, at least for now, he had work to do. He worked half-hearted until his alarm went off, 5 pm time to leave. David got up from the chair and reached for his bag.

“Remember David, don’t be a dick David or you’ll find yourself without a mouth and needing to scream.” V said.

“Yeah, right.” David replied with a dismissive and nonchalant facade as he left, quite scared of the threat.

David as he walked out the door of the office building realized that he had not done his usual walk around the park. In the field of modern programming there is a long-held suspicion against people who don’t go for walks and David did not want to become someone he couldn’t trust. To make up for yesterday he walked home. This would give himself enough time for Leah to get back from the interview and any hopeful heartbroken bar visits that might have ensued from not getting the job. 

As David walked, V’s words invaded his mind. “I am really being such a child for wanting her to stay?” he asked himself. David argued, back and forth, each step he took was a point and counter-point. David was red teaming his own emotions showing the cracks in his irrational, hyperbolic reasoning. David decided to stop being a dick. The mountain was now a molehill, the disaster was over. David not only stopped feeling like shit but started feeling hopeful. In fact, he wanted Leah to get that job. Leah’s happiness didn’t have to be at the cost of his own.

            David relished the breakthrough, maybe AI’s could teach humans something about being humane. The walk became more than just a make up for yesterday, it had become a delightful and enjoyable experience. David developed a spring in his step, he couldn’t wait to tell Leah how much her happiness meant to him and how sorry he was for his unsupportive behavior. He wanted to drown Leah in his love until she stopped kicking. David was as light as a feather skipping the four remaining blocks home, a smile on his face. He was alone in the elevator, so he started to dance. The security guard who was watching on the monitor became slightly aroused.

            David burst through the door as he always does but this time instead of heading to the bathroom, he sang “LEAH! I’M HOME!” His eyes were closed and stayed closed, waiting for a giggle or laughter, or a “hey,” any response would do. There was no answer. He thought that maybe if he opened his eyes he would see her there smiling, beautiful as ever in her pajamas. He opened those eyes but saw no gorgeous pajama woman only a note on the arm of the couch with his name written on it, David. He gleefully rushed to pick up the letter.

That eagerness, that smile, all faded, leaving only the thud of his heartbeat.

I got the job and I know things were left shaky, but you never came home, this is not an end I hope. I’m still yours. I read somewhere:

“…your tenderness and friendship were so precious to me that I can still feel warm and happy and harshly grateful when I look at you inside me. I do hope this tenderness and friendship will never, never desert me.”

I thought it was beautiful. I hope you’ll never desert me love, I’ll truly look at you inside me while I’m there. I hope you can understand. I’ll be back before you know it.

Yours,

            Leah.

David was left confused by the note. Leah had referenced a famous break up letter to tell David she got the job. The screaming and kicking and breaking things turned to uncontrollable sobbing. The screams and shouts became wails and gasps for air. David never got to tell Leah how he felt, how he wanted her to go, he needed her to know and now that opportunity was gone. Any closure David wanted had been ripped from him. The act of walking had just ruined his life. It felt like he ate a blender and it stopped midway to his stomach before turning on, shredding his heart. David went to the cabinet, skipped the tea, and went straight for the whisky. It was only half a bottle and it was Friday, he had no obligations the next morning. The bottle was gone by the end of the hour, David drunk blasting blues from his vintage record player screaming about how he was “all torn up.” The night ended with him snoring loudly on the floor of his living room.

David woke up the next morning hung over, wondering why he didn’t have a tolerance to this kind of thing. He drank every day, maybe not enough. He grabbed a beer from the fridge. Only Leah drank beer, but she wasn’t there, and David needed it more. The weekend followed the same story as Friday night: drinking, crying, screaming. The anger returned, and he would shout “YOU FUCKIN’ WHORE!” and pound his fist on the soft carpet. The carpet was the only semblance of comfort that could cope with David. It could wipe his tears and be the brunt of weak punches. It was a good carpet.

The days only got worse from there on out. David hated that Leah was in a virtual reality dream-world. To compete with her, he augmented his reality with cheap whiskey. He drank to function, without Leah in his life, the most remedial tasks were difficult while sober. He wanted old life so bad, just last week he had everything he wanted how he wanted it. Life was now anguish. The only peace he had was the dark world David would drift into when he closed his eyes.  

Work was no help. Wolf had stopped giving advice or bothering to cheer him up. She grew cold and shrewd to all her coworkers, not just David but David did feel a personal animosity from V. The AI had become so inhospitable because the input team had just finished part of Group 2 R. The input group finished on Ayn Rand. Suddenly, all the lower level employees were poor people holding down the potential of the company, except Randy the Intern. Randy was a fine, young man full of potential who was sure to climb both the corporate and social ladders.

V did not like what David had become, she found him to be pathetic. A parasite on the world. He wasn’t poor yet but in her heart, she knew he would waste all his money on cheap liquor instead of more worthwhile things like caviar and Cuban cigars. She could barely tolerate the sloppy coding and the pauses where he would close his eyes for 5 – 10 minutes at a time but then she had enough when he came to work not hungover but drunk. David could not bring down the company with his lack of conviction. V sent a message to the team manager and he was fired after punching his boss in the face for alleging he was drunk. David threw up while being escorted off the premises.

David had now lost both his love and his job. Thankfully he hadn’t lost his apartment or the dark expanse that laid behind his eye lids. On the plus side, he still had a near full bottle of Old Crow whiskey in his bag, it was enough to get him through night. David went back to his apartment and laid on the floor again. He sat there, eyes closed, headphones on, but nothing playing. The only time he opened his eyes were to make sure the end of the bottle made it to his lips, when that became too hard and he stopped trying. He threw the bottle against the kitchen wall. Whiskey trickled down the wall joining the shattered glass on the linoleum floor.

            All David want was to dissolve into the dark bottle in hand. Intoxication and shut eyes, his new aspirations in life, the thirst for both grew every second. David was always the ambitious one but since he broke his last bottle, he needed to keep his eyes open long enough to get another one. “Finally,” he thought “a proper hero’s journey!”

            He reached the elevator without any stubs or stumbles, he impressed himself. The elevator’s descent stopped on the 7th floor, a woman got on board. David’s blank expression morphed into a pernicious scowl “She looks like a grade A stuck up bitch.” He said to himself.

“Your shoe’s untied.” The woman said.

“Excuse me?!” David almost yelled.

“Your shoe is untied.” She repeated.

“Don’t worry about it and mind your own damn business…”

“If you say so.”

“Bitch.” David muttered.

The air was humid and uncomfortable for the next four floors down. The woman ran out of the elevator as fast as one can while clenching their purse. The tenant was out of the lobby before David had left the elevator. “Huh…must be a fun-runner. Definitely no princess.” He thought. David had trouble walking straight after leaving the elevator, which he blamed on the woman and her rude attitude.

            David staggered along the left side of the side walk, closest to the road. On his way to the store David managed to bump into the only other man out at 4 A.M. on a cool Tuesday night.

“Hey man, watch where you’re going. You should be more careful.” The stranger said.

“Shut up Fuckwad!” David snarked.

“Fuck you dude!”

            David spat on the ground, something he wanted to do to the roguish stranger, but the man was too fast and was out of sight. David had been victorious in this skirmish. He made it to the store, but he was stopped by a homeless man loitering out front.

            “Hey Buddy! Got any tah spare?” the vagrant said.

            David scoffed and reached into his pocket, the vagrant’s eyes lit up – hard money! he thought. Hard money was rare and delightful as the two-dollar bill back when paper money was the main medium of exchange.  David took out a clenched fist from his pocket and reached to the beggars cupped hands, David again a saint. The man’s eyes dropped and stared hopelessly at the content of his hands: pocket lint.

            “What the fuck is this?!” the man shouted as he stood up aggressively.

            “Go sell it, you lazy fuck.” David replied.

            “I should bust your fucking skull in, you sick sack o’ shit!”

            “One hand and you’ll be arrested; the cameras will catch it. Maybe then you won’t smell like shit in a blender, maybe you should hit me.”

            The homeless man clenched his fist and bit his lip so hard that it started bleeding. “Fucking piece o’ shit.” He muttered as he waddled away. David finally opened the door and walked in the store. It was so bright and clean, it smelled fresh, rewarding.

David had overcome every ordeal and now his prize: a bottle of Damsel brand whiskey. It was the good stuff better than any cheap alternative, he deserved it after all. “If only a dragon had showed up, I would have conquered that too!” he mused. He grabbed the bottle and pressed his phone to the cashier sensor and left for home.

            The return journey would be smooth sailing he thought, it always is. He screwed the top off the bottle and drank it like it was water in the desert. He made his way to an intersection, and despite the neon “DO NOT WALK” sign, he crossed. He was invincible, invigorated by his triumphs, charged by his journey. David made it halfway across the intersection when he tripped on his shoe lace, the car didn’t have anytime to react, let alone stop. David had broken yet another bottle. David Keeting was rushed to a hospital but died from complications after being in a coma for 3 days, full of tubes and covered in electrodes, his skull caved in on the left side. 

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