Jason sat in his tiny bedroom, the lamp on his desk illuminating his laptop. His eyes were focused solely on whatever role playing/virtual reality/first person shooter game he was playing that night (not Call of Duty, because that was SHIT). He had been playing for roughly five hours, ever since he came home from work. Work, home, shower, laptop. That was his routine and he enjoyed it.
He lived alone in his cramped flat. By day he worked in the pharmacy, trying to avoid people as much as he possibly could. He only joined in the most necessary human interaction. He was a very pleasant, down to earth guy; he just preferred his own company. Nights and weekends he’d sit in his bedroom with his laptop. Mostly gaming, and when he needed a break, he’d download films and TV shows. He had a few friends, the kind who he only saw every few months. He liked it that way — human relationships were too complicated.
He stretched and rubbed his eyes. He was about to leave the game he was playing — The Sims — and watch a few episodes of Breaking Bad when the screen went blank and the power button switched off. Perplexed, he hit a few buttons on the keyboard — nothing. It was gone. His laptop had finally given up.
Jason simply stared at his laptop for the next ten minutes, savouring that time in his life when his laptop wasn’t broken. It was a simpler time, a happier time.
“Might as well just go to bed” he muttered to himself.
During work the following day, Jason couldn’t concentrate. What would he do when he got home? Watch TV? No, that was boring. All his favourites had been on the laptop. He was carrying heavy boxes back and forth and realised he was out of breath — he stumbled against the back door and tried to catch a breath. He had never really thought of how unfit he was before. He decided then he would try going to the local gym that night. Yeah, he’d text Peter, his oldest friend from his school days. He’d been on at Jason for months to get a hobby; this would tide him over until he saved for a new laptop.
He met Peter that night at half past six at the gym. Jason tried not to feel uncomfortable — he wasn’t particularly out of shape, he just didn’t enjoy social situations.
“I’m glad you did this, mate” said Peter as they approached the machines. “It’s good to get out for a bit. I was just saying to Caroline the other night, I’ve been worrying about you.”
Jason tried to relax, and soon picked up the hang of the different equipment. He even began to enjoy himself.
Jason went back to the gym the following night. And the night after that, and the night after that. Within a month, he was there six times a week. He felt great, and he’d met so many new people. He’d never enjoyed being around people like this before. Peter decided to give it up, he’d had enough. But Jason had met so many new people he soon forgot all about Peter. In fact, he was rapidly forgetting everything about what his life used to be like.
It was 6am on a Sunday morning, and Jason fell drunkenly into his flat. After being sick a few times he threw himself into bed. He’d get a few hours sleep before meeting up with the guys for more drinks that afternoon. His laptop sat forgotten on his desk, gathering dust.
Over the next few weeks, Jason’s behaviour became increasingly erratic. He spent all his time away with his new friends, brought different girls home each night, lost all contact with his family. He loved his new life. He came home from work one night, however, to find his mum and dad waiting in his living room.
“Hi” he said, surprised. “When did you arrive?”
“We let ourselves in just ten minutes ago, son” said his dad, “Your mum and I are really worried about you.”
“Can we just have a little talk?” his mum asked nervously.
“Of course!” said Jason enthusiastically, and he sat down on the sofa between his parents. “What’s wrong?”
“We’re concerned about you, dear” his mum said gently, stroking his hand. “Don’t you think there’s more to life than just — “
“More to life?” Jason asked, incredulous. “I’m having the best time of my life!”
“There’s so much more you could be doing” said his dad bracingly. “I know you think you’re having fun, but — “
“I can’t believe this!” said Jason, starting to get irritated. He stood up. “You’ve been telling me this all my life and now that I’m finally enjoying myself, meeting new people, going different places, you’re still not happy!”
His mum and dad looked at him, puzzled.
“What are you talking about?” his mum asked.
“What are you talking about?” Jason repeated, thoroughly confused.
“You haven’t left the house in weeks, except to go to work!” said his dad.
Jason stared at his parents, utterly bewildered.
“What are you — I don’t even — “
Jason stuttered, tripping over his words. What the hell were they talking about? He stormed out of the room and through to his dimly lit bedroom. He came to a halt when he noticed his laptop — it was in the middle of a game. He stared, perplexed. His laptop hadn’t been used in weeks. He walked over to it carefully and looked down at the screen; there was his character, out at a local venue with his friends. The life and soul of the party. Lean and fit, drink in one hand and his other arm round a beautiful girl.
Suddenly, just like it had before, the laptop switched off and the power button went off. Jason smashed a few buttons on the keyboard. Up came a black screen with white writing: