The only light in Nick’s apartment was his computer screen, which flickered through several shades and colors as he skimmed his daily feeds. There were Christmas lights that he hung up around his windows, but those burnt out a couple months ago and he never got around to changing them. He thought about unplugging them, but he didn’t want to get out of his chair, not right now, not yet.
He clicked and clicked and clicked, with the light glinting off of the mess he had on his desk. A red glow bounced off the off white old Chinese food box, and then a blue shade hit several empty soda bottles. A white glow lit up his vitamins, still sealed and fresh as they day he bought them. But just beyond the light were some drawing supplies covered in a thin yet consistent layer of dust.
He looked to his screen, now on a page showing dozens and dozens of people like him. His friends all sitting on their computers, hardly even aware they were being watched if they didn’t switch back to this screen.
Nick switched tabs to a forum that he felt a little guilty for joining. It was the last of his social media he hadn’t x-ed out of yet. He flicked through conversations on dozens of movies and tv shows he enjoyed when he was a kid. Each discussion was filled with a new interpretation about a cartoon being a dream, or maybe an extended metaphor for the existential plight of an overworked laborer class.
But he clicked on a description of a scene from a movie he watched dozens and dozens of times. In this scene the villain was tangled in dozens of vines, suspended high in the air. He struggled to get out, but it only entangles him deeper. Finally, he pulls out a machete and begins cutting. He cuts, and cuts, and cuts, and after cutting the last thing holding him back, the vine around his throat tightens and he hangs.
It was an accident. He didn’t want to die. He was trying to free himself from being trapped. That’s what the explanation said. And for a while Nick was interested, but he was also tired. He didn’t quite know which day it was, or what time it was either. He could open a window and find out, but then he would have to remove the tape he used to black out the windows.
Nick leaned back in his chair, as it slowly groaned, and closed the forum. Once again he saw all of the live feeds to others in dark rooms on their computers. He sighed and closed it too. All that was left on his screen was the desktop he cleaned up the day before. Even the background was changed back to the default wallpaper.
He heard the sound of porcelain clicking on tile in the room next to him, and then the sound of the door to his bedroom open slowly, and finally he felt the grip of a cold hard hand on his shoulder. He shuddered.
“I know. I’m getting there.” He didn’t turn around, just speaking towards his blank computer.
His phone vibrated, showing that he received a text message from his mom. Nick flipped the phone over so he didn’t have to see the message. He felt like he already knew the direction their conversation would go. And to some degree, he wanted that conversation, but the grip tightened, feeling the hard rigid digits dig into his shoulder.
“I cleaned my computer. Can’t you see? I’m getting there. It just takes time.” Nick pleaded with the figure, still staring forward.
The other hand of the figure reached forward, and caught the light of the computer screen. The black chitinous hand was holding a pair of long weaver’s shears, and then gently set them on the computer desk in front of Nick.
Nick sighed deeply and adjusted his weight in his chair. “Okay, I’ll do it.”
He grabbed the shears and went underneath his desk. He sat there, looking at the mess he still had left, wishing that he worked just a little harder in cleaning. He thought about how much he could still get done if he had another hour, so he started to plan it out in his head. He would start with removing the soda bottles and putting them into a recycling bin. He would wipe down the legs of the desk so they were clean. Then he could organize the sheets of papers and bills, putting them into the drawer of his desk. And finally, maybe he could vacuum.
And then he heard the sound of the porcelain fingers tapping the plastic arm rest of his computer chair, an impatient click click click.
He reached for the modem and pulled it closer to him. He took the long needle-like pair of scissors and placed the cord between the blades. He begins to gnaw the blades through the thick cord. Cutting and cutting and cutting, trying to cut away the last thing that was holding him back.
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