coldcircuit
rating: +13+x

Boxes filled with live wires and blinking lights; count them. One, two, five, seven, all in place. You inhale, and the network exhales through you. The air feels thick and humming and alive.

You've always had pretty, gentle eyes, people say. You'll ruin them sitting too close to the screen. You'd always been a quiet kid, so you sat back and listened, eyelashes drooping not-quite-shut.

The fans whir. You let your eyes drift shut and pick up a cord without looking, insert it gently, ride out the jolt and the shudders from shoddy handmade augments. This is good, you think, and you nod, convincing yourself of it. This is right.

The connection is made, and you're lying prone and catatonic and at the same time bathed in binary, swimming through a sea of data, letting it tether you. What are you looking for? You know the answer, but the signal is weak. You're years late coming home.

Code crunches thick and sharp under your palms, and you sink

deeper

and then


home, my darling, the place that loved you, stark and empty.

Another breath. The connection holds strong (nod yes because this is true, you haven't lost your grip on it yet), but wavers like wind whipping the sea. It's cold; everything triangles and flickers and half-formed remnants of humanity. Do you remember how to swim? (nod yes because this is true, in all senses but the literal one)

You keep moving. There's no life here anymore, just creations and fragments, what people made and played and cared for tumbling in the digital wind in their absence. Animals ambling in preprogrammed circles, writing and drawings suspended above you, polygonal skyscrapers half-built, soft music that shifts as the day cycles through its ticks. A still life, frozen and yet scrawled over with the fragmented handwritten history of a community. A dead place that doesn’t exist. A breathing corpse.

Is there no one else?

No one home?

(it's not time to nod yet, hold out that someone other than you remembered, or cared, or even happened upon this small simulacrum of a city which cradled you dear for so long, this little garden of digital life. not yet. it can't just be you.)

You can hear the fans again. Your eyes are stinging.

Hello?

A pingback, a message of wakefulness but stasis, wrapped in preprogrammed packets. Alive, but dead in most important senses. Lights on, but—

Am I the only one?

Is anyone home?

if you can hear me

tell them i love you

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