As the sun sank beneath the clear sky, Clancy jogged to the parking lot to find his junker car. It wasn’t an old car, but he couldn’t afford the type that would last. It was sort of a disposable item, and one that would eventually be recycled to become part of a new piece of junk. He dreamed of owning a solid machine, that would be able to carry him across his home country for years. He appreciated the freedom that it afforded him, however, and he had saved money for half a decade to purchase the car. The young man checked his appearance in the dash screen camera, and scrolled through his social media before turning up some music. He burned the tires out as he flung the lightweight vehicle onto the street. He avoided the bright lights of the shopping district, favoring the more arboreal areas where he could really hug the curves.
He pulled into the driveway of his parents home, as the cool, purple twilight replaced the warm light of the sun. The crickets were making noise in the yard, making him feel nostalgic for summers in his past. Living in the suburbs meant commuting to the city for school, and the sounds of nature felt like guilty pleasures for him. Many areas of the country no longer had a population of large insects, such as crickets. Their numbers were encouraged by breeding and feeding, as part of the package deal of his community. In that way, their presence was man-made.
As he entered his house, he greeted his mom from the door, and went upstairs to drop his stuff off. He had to pass by his twin brother’s room, and he always wished he would just keep the door closed. He didn’t care for his brothers depressing music, or the dim lighting that made it feel like an air-conditioned cave. The door was open, and his brothers virtual reality suit lay on the ground like a fleshy, discarded skin. It was disgusting for reasons other than the creepiness, and the aesthetics. He knew that most of the fantasies that he enjoyed were better left unspoken. He knew, partly, because he himself would have done similar things. Clancy was resistant to this lifestyle, even more so from watching his brother. He assumed the suit was fun to wear, but not so fun to observe. It was pressurized to allow for touch sensations, and contained many other features to provide an immersive experience. He was grateful that it did not have waste collecting capabilities, like other models.
His brother, Terrance, appeared from behind the door. He was thin and pale, and had carefree stubble on his face. His hair was darker than Clancy’s, partially due to a lack of sun exposure. He wore stylish large-framed glasses, while Clancy wore contact lenses. He barely looked at Clancy as he went to move past. Terrance turned back towards Clancy as he moved, and Clancy knew he was in for a confrontation. There was rarely was any other type of interaction with Terry in the past couple of years.
“Hey Nancy, did you meet some fanatic chick?” Terry asked.
“Hell no, fucktard,” Clancy said.
“You’ve got that smell about you. Not pussy, of course, but of something lame and annoying. Was it some kind of vegan?” Terry asked.
“Uh, no, you know how I feel about meat,” Clancy said. He had always been a fan of meat, especially when covered in steak sauce.
“You going to join some gay social movement?” Terry asked. It hadn’t been popular to use the term ‘gay’ in a derogatory fashion in decades, but Terry liked all things retro.
“What the hell is your problem?” Clancy asked.
“Your reading is off. It looks like someone got in your head. Trust me, I’m familiar with the appearance of that state,” Terry said, sounding technical.
“Don’t look at my fucking reading,” Clancy said.
“Hey bro, I can’t have you making me look bad. We have the same genes. Still, you are more prone to absorbing bullshit than I am, because you’re ignorant,” Terry said.
“So, what do you think you see?” Clancy asked. Without trying, the feeling of that mental object appeared. It seemed to have form in his mind, as if the edges of it were touching the inside of his skull. He was curious of his brother’s reaction. He viewed him as being closer to the norm than himself.
“Oh, don’t you use me as a guinea pig, dude. You either tell me what happened, or be fucking gone with you. And hell yes, I am more normal than you,” Terry said. Then, his eyes widened.
“Oh, I get it. You’re horny for an abnormal. You fucking idiot. They’re goddamn crazy. Worse that some bullshit fanaticism, my friend,” he said.
“I don’t think she’s a fanatic,” Clancy said, though he started to worry.
“How the hell would you know the difference? You wouldn’t know the difference between reality and some fucked up version of it if your dick depended on it,” Terry said.
“What if this feel is something important? What if it’s something that I can use?” Clancy asked.
“That’s what fanaticism does to you. It makes you think some bullshit is important, when in fact it is just a figment of your imagination. The only real ‘cure’ you found there was the ‘cure’ of delusion,” Terry said, using air quotes around the word ‘cure’.
“But it connected with the words she was saying. And, she used it to deal with her loneliness. By the way, I never said I wanted a cure,” Clancy said.
“You didn’t have to, bro. I’ve got a cure for you, and it’s laying on the floor in my room. When are you going to accept that virtual reality is the only one in which you will get laid?” Terry asked.
“Because I’m not you, douchebag,” Clancy said. Terry smiled, and then punched Clancy’s arm so hard that his nerves sparked with pain.
“Fucker, I need my arm for more than jacking off,” Clancy said.
“You think I’m jacking off? I’m talking to actual women online, idiot,” Terry said.
“You got proof?” Clancy asked.
“Yeah, we meet up sometimes. See, I’m not the delusional one, here. But I’m not inviting you, because you’re a fucking stiff, like a dead guy,” Terry said.
“Whatever,” Clancy said. He went to his room, finally dropping his back of dirty clothes. He closed the door, and sat down on the small couch in his room. His custom sound track came on went he entered the room, taking away any need to make a decision. It made him feel at home, like he picked up where he left off when he’d exited his room in the morning. It was even programmed to adjust the volume at the good parts of the song.
He spent some time trying to figure out what the girls name had been. He got the feeling that it started with an S, or maybe an R. A spark hit him, when he realized that she knew where to find him. She could always go back to the field. Hell, she probably could figure out what high school he went to. Maybe he’d see her again there. He found that he needed that reassurance, in that moment. With that settled, he was left to contemplate what she’d shown him. Was it something real? Did it exist only to tantalize him, or did it have meaning on it’s own? He looked at his own brain map for a while. He worried about becoming too self-absorbed, and so he tried not to watch it constantly. Still, he was curious. Thinking about that mental object, he saw a pattern in his brain. A quick internet search brought up some sketchy responses, but many of them described his emotional state as awe. He was disappointed. He didn’t understand how this had caused the girl’s loneliness to flee. He remembered that her mind was suffering from more than mere loneliness. He wondered what else she was capable of fixing inside of herself. It was enough to keep him awake that night, although sleeping would be more likely to help him find the answers.