Empire of Self

~ a short story

Boxes and lines gleamed within the screen. The mind went with them. A new tab opened a portal; crystalline and infinite in its potentialities, the empty bar sparkled with the possible linguistic facets of a heart, mind, soul. Go anywhere, see anything. Feel the world’s weight from afar, and without really feeling it.

Heart-wrenching news from the Middle East. Rain on Wednesday. The death of a legendary mangaka, too young. Some of these things wet the eyes under the spectacles. A new curry recipe opened a stomach in ill-fated anticipation. Logos and bookmarks bristled the brain, fluttering fingers to affirm or enforce their go-ing with a click. The clack of the keys unto a post not yet read released dopamine. The sight of women and men, monsters and heroes, drawn and photoed, pulsed furious, heartfelt bodily surges. Across every profile and within every doc, the silent lamentations and triumphs of a faceless user screeched and sang. Out of the speakers, surfaced notes that boom and bust, that inspirit an altogether ‘easier’ time online, for whatever that was worth.

The screen before the man at the desk spiraled a rainbow of existential views and simplistic draughts. Despair and gluttony, hope and hunger, came in equal measure. Creation and destruction are both serviced here, from the same pitiful rectangle, a hyperobjectifying zone of malleable pixels.

All throughout, he reads, he writes, he draws, he thinks, he listens, he plays, he speaks and spells and slices up his time into little boxes and lines that gleam within the screen.

He puts himself there, in the screen.

The faintest scent of burning steel and melting plastic greeted the typer, the clicker, the learner, the lewder, sourcing from somewhere inside of his machine. It is not one that he understands the many burring machinations of. At this station, ancillary, tangled wires, a tripod microphone and two pairs of dust-gathering headphones distract alongside tasteless, unsalted, half-eaten snack bags. From a seated slouch on the chair, a second screen glowed onto twitching eyes, flowing twice the info, triple the data into the meat of that skull.

Inside the pages, beyond this metallic fold of plastic and glass and its links to walls and wi-fi, an empire loomed. The laptop is just a vessel, a ship on the vast sea. Tabs, pages, sites, images and words, present sounds, distant smells, tastes – they all beckon, in all of their glory and all of their terror. Over every wave, a fresh, briny buffet of stimuli.

These worlds are all here. For him. Only for him. He is the only one here.

The user sits here, every day, for many hours, taking all of this in. In heart, mind, soul. Forever, he can sail. He can get up at any time.

But where else is there to go? ~