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by Ren 2 months ago in psychology
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A boy sits on a ledge, contemplating whether or not to jump.

Photo by JC Gellidon

Stumbling, drunk, into the unlit room, a man waits patiently for the automatic lights to switch on, something that happens almost immediately, but feels like an eternity. The pale blue lights quickly, but gradually fill the room with light, showing piles of worn out and dusty goods; it was a mess. He wobbles across the room, kicking garbage out of his path as he stomps across the metallic floor with his dirty work boots.

Eventually, he settles down and falls into an orange chair on the far side of the room, positioned next to a holo-projector. Even in his inebriation, he’s able to summon the menu of the projector from a small panel in the armrest of the chair. His inner ear vibrates slightly, sending tingles through his skull as the device syncs with the information stored in his implant.

The menu pops up in front of him, a holographic interface projected within his mind by his standard issue mental implant. Swiping and pressing through several menus and folders, and scrolling through countless dates and memories, he finally lands on his target.

He presses an image of a boy sitting on the edge of a roof. The projector to his left shakes and whirs, lights beginning to flicker from an opening in the side of the cubical apparatus. From the projector, a 3-dimensional movie begins to play, a hologram projected in front of the drunken man.

Sitting, on the ledge of a tall building, the image of a teenager fills the space of the room. The camera moves around him, revealing several other, very small, spherical drone cameras around the boy, who looks to be around 17 years old.

One of his hands is covered in metal and blinking lights; as he moves his fingers, the drones move around him, capturing his appearance and his voice with perfect clarity. He’s wearing a static-hood, one of those new fashion styles with the fabric able to sense and react to your brainwaves to make cool designs in the electrofibers of the sweater. It’s navy blue, and currently depicts an image of himself on the back in glowing pixels, a boy sitting on a roof.

His eyes are cast out over a breathtaking view. An entire city, the size of a planet, stretching for as far as his magnified eyes can see. Perhaps the planet is small, or perhaps the building is simply very large, but he can see, slightly, the curvature of the horizon, where the skyscrapers and bridges appear to get smaller and angle away. Beneath him, gyro-rails transport busy citizens to and from various buildings at blinding speeds. Their schedules are so precise and so rigid, they haven’t been late or veered off once since their installation on city-planets.

The lights of the immense, buildings around him cast a yellow glow on his face, as he basks in his reflection off the blue, glass-like surface that lines each one. He is surrounded by the future and yet entrenched within his own past. His eyes see nothing beyond himself in this moment, and several moments just before it. On a planet that has been specifically designed to create order…he is drowning in chaos. He takes a deep breath before he begins his final speech.

“Hi…” he runs his fingers through his long, dark hair and sighs, “this might be a little harder than I thought.”

He points to the cityscape before him, “I always kinda liked the way that looked. The matriarchs always said I had a special kind of eye for beauty, I always kinda thought that, too. I just like when things are pretty I guess, I don’t know. And maybe if they’re not that pretty, there’s something pretty in their uniqueness, at the very least. People always liked to hear that kind of stuff.” He scratched his chin, “Awe, fuck. Started rambling again. Alright, well, here goes…” He took another deep breath.

“Uhh,” he pauses, “Sorry. My name is John, John Philips, I am 18 years old, free from the residential bylaws and able to commit my own crimes against the city without anyone else incurring punishments on my behalf. And I am, of sound mind and body, about to commit the crime of public disruption of transportation networks and unnecessary spreading of refuse. I’m about to kill myself, this is my note.”

He chuckles slightly as he reads through the laws his death was going to break, “It’s weird when you think about it. I’ve always felt like a worthless inconvenience in life, now my death is going to be equally inconvenient. I guess that makes sense.” His wrist blinks and vibrates slightly, to which he responds with a scoff and quickly flicks his arm to dismiss it. “They think they can stop me at this point. They think that somehow, I can just fix everything that’s broken about myself. They’re wrong.”

“I’m so…I’m so tired. I’m exhausted all the time from trying to wage war on the demons that fill my head. I can’t always keep up with them, but no matter how many times they win or lose, they never seem to get tired. How the fuck am I supposed to keep up with that?” He looks down, pausing from speaking as he sniffles slightly. Wiping his eyes with his left sleeve, he continues.

“I’ve just felt so consumed for so long by this…this…thing…inside of me. This thing that, I guess, technically, is me, but I have no idea how to deal with it. And not for lack of trying! I’ve tried it all! The medications, the talking sessions, the brain re-training, the meditation, the cerebral surgeries, the implants, all of it. Nothing seems to take the darkness away. You’d think that, by this time in human history, we would have figured something like this out.” He looked away from the skyline, staring instead toward the hundreds of feet of space below him, “But I guess some things just can’t be changed.”

The hum of the cars, and the timbre of the kid’s young, but hopeless voice, fill the drunken man’s room as he stares, listless, into the eyes of the man he had once known. He would have cried but, he had already cried too much over this recording, there was nothing left to cry about. This boy, the one that had made this recording, was long gone now, far away in the recesses of the man’s memory. Most of the others who had seen it had simply deleted it, unable to process the emotional toll, unable to see past their own grief. They forgot this boy, and his dreams. But this man remembered.

The boy continues, “I had dreams, once. Well…I guess I still technically have dreams, but they don’t outweigh this feeling. Trust me, I’ve thought about this a lot and I’m very sound in my decision. When I was a kid, and my mom…” he stopped, pausing as he summoned the courage to continue, “my mom would drag me to the flash markets at the heart of the city center, where goods could be bought and sold and teleported through the city’s special teleportation network. I used to always hate going and fought my mom the whole way. Once I was there, though, I always had a great time. We always found the best and cheapest cool things to bring there. I remember thinking that the people who made those goods to sell and barter at the market probably had the coolest jobs ever.”

He looked down at his hands, one of which was totally covered in smooth and flexible metallic plating, while the other was only partially covered, “unfortunately, my hands have never really been worth much. I was never quite talented enough to make it in that game. To make it anywhere…actually. They took ‘em when I was young. My hands.” He held up his hands to the array of drones capturing his soliloquy.

“Yeah. Muggers, working for the…working for someone, took ‘em right off me, in broad daylight. Just a fuckin kid. Didn’t hurt, obviously, I mean they knew what they were doing. But…to a kid…probably part of the reason I’m up here in the first place. I know I’m a freak. As far as we’ve come as the human race and still…the little differences freak people out.”

“—I guess you could say that no matter how much we’ve changed…since the first destabilization, to the settlement, to the first diaspora, and now in this age, the age of us…fabricating life…creating these…semi-sentient creatures to do the jobs that the bots can’t. No matter how much we’ve changed…we don’t, really. I’m just fragile…”

Drunkenness begins to fade into sobriety. Still seeing his old friend through a haze of inebriation, the man leans forward. He knows what’s about to come next. He braces himself for the worst. He mouths along with the words he had heard countless times. The words he cannot erase from his head. The words he refuses to forget.

“Maybe we weren’t meant for all this. I mean…look at it. It’s grotesque, in a way. I used to love coming up here to look at the lights. When I was a kid, my brother, Charlie, would bring me up sometimes, just to look out across this blistering sea of technology. My favorite times were the thunderstorms. Caused by man-made atmospheric tampering, sure. But the lightning would create this gorgeous contrast with the synthetic nature of the city. I just…I loved it. And now, I look out across this mess and I just…” the boy looks down at his feet again, “It’s a long way down.”

Tears well up in the boy’s eyes. His voice grows weak, trembling with every word. Costing him an immense amount of effort just to get his message across. “I want my mom to know that I’m sorry. And my brothers…that this isn’t their fault. I…I have to do this. It’s the only way I can make it stop. I’m not meant to exist right now. And I don’t know if there’s anywhere beyond this, or if I’ll come back or if I’ll be gone for good but…anything’s better than this. It hurts so much, for no reason. It’s not one thing someone did or said it’s just…it’s just me. Me and this world are incompatible. I think that’s all I really have to say about it.”

He steps up onto the ledge, wiping the tears away from his face and taking one last look at the city.

He says goodbye.

He jumps.


He’s caught.

Several small metal devices, shaped like poles and emitting some kind of energy as they flew in a circular formation, rise up from the ledge, holding the boy in a mass-reduction field and lifting him back onto the roof. He gasps as they release him, feeling his body with his hands, and breathing heavily from the surge of adrenaline. After a few moments, he makes an attempt to stand, only to be met with a message displaying on a holographic screen projecting from his metal hand.

Attempted intentional damage to Renaissance Technologies property detected. Intentionally breaking or tampering with these goods would represent a breach of contract and will not be tolerated.

Attempted intentional damage to Cybil City-Planet detected. Causing mayhem or discord, or intentionally being disruptive to the flow of this city is a breach of local and global ordinances and will not be tolerated.

Attempted intentional damage to John Phillips detected. John…this isn’t what you want to do. You have over a century to mend your broken soul. If you take anything from this world, take that anything that is broken can be fixed…with enough time and effort. Please don’t give up. We won’t give up on you. Throwing away the potential your life possesses will not be tolerated. We will be watching.

~ The City Council.”

The young boy laughs. He doesn’t stand. He stares up toward the night sky, gazing into one of his drones, making eye contact with the drunken man. The drunk is now standing upright, gazing into the eyes of his former self. Smiling at the absurdity of a society that didn’t let him die. A society that still won’t. In a small way, he feels anger that his plan was foiled. In a much larger way, he feels relief that his younger self had been stopped. The holographic projection ends. The man flicks the light on in his room.

He sets the bottle down.

He leans out of a nearby window. He no longer sees the bright lights of the faraway city; now, he sees the bioluminescent mushroom trees of a new world, dazzling his face with their dim, purple glow. He gazes up at the stars and wonders how it would have felt to hit the bottom, to hit the ground from the high up. While his desire to end his life has ceased, his curiosity never will. He loves his life. But he, unlike anyone else in his age, will meet death as a friend, as a student, as a being he very nearly touched.

He walks away from the precipice. And goes to bed.


About the author


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