Exit Stage

Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2009)

I was talking shit about old folks up until the point when I realized I was one.

Things like this don’t come gradually like you think. They come all at once, a shock, a crash, like everything in the world suddenly stops working the way it’s supposed to and you’re left to figure it out all over again, alone, no instructions, one good eye and way too little light to make sense of anything. This old age thing sucks. Ask anyone.

Only everyone I know’s always been young.

%Wiki says you gotta get a will together% says the blinking display in front of my eye. Can’t tell who sent it, but gotta be one of my boys, the ones who come around every day and take me to play. Only today they’re not taking me anywhere.

~Will you come and help me?~ I wait for an answer, but thirty seconds, nothing comes.

There’s these blips and beeps in the back of my mind and I can’t focus on it, can’t quite tell what it means. The constant stream of information that usually flows across my vision and ties me to the world is strangely silent. I wonder if I imagined it all along. And what the hell is this persistent beeping?

I look around, try to focus. Peeling wallpaper, faded floral prints, dusty windows. The glow of streetlamps through the glass. Dull radiation from the ruins of the nearby metropolis. Maybe just daylight. It all looked much better through the guise of augmentation. But everything fades with time.

%Wiki says you should probably take the easy way out%

~What’s easy?~

Deep down, I sort of know. Understand the things my boys say. Even if sometimes they say things I don’t quite believe about the world, as if I’ve been out of it so long it isn’t my place anymore. Not like I changed anything myself, cured cancer, invented flying cars, brought peace. But the world changed anyway. Always does.

You start questioning things and you don’t even know for sure if your boys are boys. Could be forty-year-old lesbians from Iowa, all you know. Who’s to say? And who’s to care?

%What would you like to do today?% One more query.

When I don’t answer, the query or my own thoughts, when I shut the connection, look around at the remains of the room, distant-and-long-ago, I can see clearly for the first time.

Unplugging is the most difficult thing. It’s quiet, sort of peaceful. Ticking of a clock, far-off honking horn. The world slowly floods in, and I can’t say it’s unpleasant.

We define ourselves by our exits.