THE FORSAKEN GUARDIAN
Jack sat at the bar. Alone midday on a Tuesday in the middle of winter. The smell of smoke and cheap perfume choked the lungs.
Jack lit the cig – half tobacco, half pot. It calmed his nerves. Cured cancer even. The media talked about it and big tobacco pushed the ads.
Kids lurked around the streets like shadows, sucking THC lollipops, laughing. Being cool. He was glad he didn’t have kids.
Last week, Jack’s wife complained about the kids these days over a cup of Arabica.
Jack looked at his phone and pretended to listen, like usual.
Coat, keys, wallet, phone. Kiss goodbye.
Traffic, media, radio, stoplight. A man holding a sign on the corner. Jack pulled his film case from his pocket and popped a couple. It was a cocktail; hydro, oxy, lortab, valium, vicodin.
Parking garage, quick toke. Elevator, good mornings and smiles, cubicle, computer. Meeting at 9:00. Meeting at 9:30. Lunch in the cafeteria, a brown bag his wife made the night before. Another meeting.
Now Jack sat at the bar, alone, admiring the craftsmanship in the neon beer sign.
“What can I get ya?” the bartender asked.
“Crown.” Jack took a toke.
He looked at the dancing girls behind him. His favorite was working tonight. Krystal.
The bartender sat the drink down. Before he could walk away, Jack shot it down, holding it across the bar for another pour.
Fifteen minutes later, nothing. Why was the buzz not kicking in?
Bathroom, locked stall door. He pulled a small bottle of eye drops from his pocket. Monkey Juice was what the kids called it. Heroine mixed in to get the red out. A couple drops in each eye and the effects flooded him immediately.
He opened the door and washed the germs from his hands. Tired eyes looked back at him in the mirror. He walked back into the bar.
A man, weathered with dried blood on his face, sat in Jack’s seat.
Jack took the seat next to him.
“Jack Grimes,” the man stated.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Jack said, signaled the bartender for another drink.
“I’ve been watching you for quite some time,” the stranger said and took a drag of a cig. “You ain’t doing so well.”
Jack laughed, eyes on the TV above the top shelf. “The world’s gone all to hell, and you tell me I’m not doing so well? You been watching the news?”
“You could say I keep up with current events, or did,” the stranger stated, watching the cig burn. “What would you say if I told you that we are living in the beginning of the last days of man? The tribulation.”
“I would say you need another drink, friend,” Jack said, turning to look at the man. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
“Gabriel.” The stranger took his shot of crown and faced Jack. “I’m your guardian angel.”
January 14, 2052
“Couldn’t sleep.” I look at my hand.
No shit, Sherlock. Am i supposed to act surprised?
AI had changed the shape of the world over the last decade and was hailed as Earth’s Messiah, preventing everything from WWIII to natural cataclysmic disasters.
Perhaps you should try disconnecting. Mammals need sleep, remember?
I guess nobody counted on AI turning into a narcissistic asshole.
i heard that.
Two females. One male.
The thought of work is starting to take a toll. IRL, I can see the hollow shell of a man I have become. IVR, I am the handsome gentleman with ripped abs known as Jackson Steele. The ladies love me. So do the men. I don’t care. It’s a job.
Another shipment is due to arrive by Saturday, 9 am.
The membership is worth it. A drone delivering anything from groceries to clothes, straight to your doorstep. Genius.
My head begins to throb the same way it does every day. Headache, dry mouth, chills, shakes, IBS, sudden urge to vomit — all the usual symptoms of PSMOL — a condition from the overuse of VR.
VR social interaction was too much for people to handle. The reinvention of one’s self, and the false belief that inherently came with it, led to mental breakdowns worldwide. Suicide rates skyrocketed in the late 30’s. To avoid political and social backlash, big Pharma does what they do best and began to mass produce a new drug to counter the effects of PSMOL.
I look at my hand, waiting for an answer.
“Where is my damn pill?”
You forgot to order them.
“Isn’t that your job!”
Shit. I hate leaving my apartment. I enter the elevator on floor 345 and swipe my hand.
i wouldn’t go.
“I have to.”