I, Imaginary Friend

The world was a simulation.  My world at least.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Madelyn Silvia.  She was my only link to the real world.  In fact, I wouldn’t have even existed without her premium monthly subscription to DreamSpire.com.  I’m talking about a next level avatar database allowing users to not just control unique characters but fully inhabit their consciousness whenever and wherever they like. 

Madelyn wasn’t able to control my thoughts or feelings per say, just my actions and irregular sleeping patterns.  All without the use of a keyboard, joystick, or cumbersome VR headband.  Granted, not everybody was crazy about embedding a nex-gen Game Boy microchip inside their grey matter for recreational purposes, nor was compromising the free will of a perfect stranger the best way to make a first impression.  Even so, I soon found the prospect of inheriting a lifelong imaginary friend pretty invigorating.  Especially once I realized that I would never grow a single day older no matter how much I fought off a good night’s rest.  I’d just keep reliving the same day over and over again until Maddie’s next software update or something.

Having kids was out of the question.  Lucas was pretty skeptical when I told him about Maddie.  Initially, the only thing he had to say about the matter he could’ve saved for one of Joe Jackson’s less spiteful kids.

“So, tell me a little more about your childhood.”

Admittedly, I was pretty anxious after considering whether or not the mean-faced Scottish meathead I lived with in Santa Clara hadn’t bothered to tell me about the blonde pay-to-play puppeteers already occupying his own deviant headspace. 

Alas, I was the only one in my universe with a Maddie.  This was probably by design, suspension of disbelief and all that, but RPGs were RPGs.  Maddie loved the escape, and before long I welcomed her into every aspect of my life.  This of course made Lucas very uncomfortable, given how she could see everything I saw, Category 5 upwind kilts and all.  Despite this, he had either one: accepted my deteriorating mental state as a total plus given his preoccupation with the small stage flirts occupying his free time at our local community college or two: he figured dating someone who communicated telepathically with someone he’d never meet was way better than dating someone who spent hours on the phone with an obnoxious girlfriend he couldn’t stand.

My biggest issue was the whole “man behind the curtain” thing.  I needed to see Maddie.  Fortunately for her, long mirrors existed in my dimension.  Fortunately for me, Madelyn was born in South Dakota.  This meant lots and lots of main street loitering.  It also meant she had taken every liberal arts class offered in Wall Drug’s summer school catalog over the years.

With Maddie guiding my sketching hand, I was able to craft her flattering likeness with a #2 pencil on my first try.  Several multimedia studies soon followed, at least until the accident.

Actually, I had no idea what had happened and never would.  What Madelyn couldn’t tell me was that the talking ECU inside her Jamaican teal Chevy Cruze had been compromised.  She had been passing through an active intersection at the time, and given the state of public transit in Shanghai, Seoul, and Baghdad just seconds later the Russians were blamed for the mass disruption.  This remained the case, even as molten steel began to descend over St. Petersburg during the snapping tightrope tense weeks to come. 

Fully automated drones and ultra-private satellites had become more modern science fact than bipartisan political fancy.  Madelyn would never walk again, but she would call Wall Drug’s only major hospital home for all of eternity.  Despite her crippling neurological injuries, her daily EEG results remained quite promising.  Since capitalism had died during the permanent pacification of the earthbound Tesla Roadster, her medical bills were of no ultimate concern to the volunteer hospital staff.  The American government paid no mind either, not as long as the world continued to declare war on itself rather than Sarah Connor’s bastard children. 

For all I knew, Maddie had simply gone to sleep with no ambition of ever waking up because of me, not nuclear warfare.  This wouldn’t stop me from traveling to South Dakota someday looking for her.  After my seventh or eighth trip, I’d finally convince myself that we could never truly exist on the same post-operative plane no matter where our intertwined wills took us. 

Even if I had become besties with the most psychogenically active eighty-year-old quadriplegic in post-apocalyptic America, my hope for humanity would continue to thrive until Maddie left me for good.  Everyone in Wall Drug could get by just fine without free ice water and self-adhering bumper stickers reading “Boredom Doesn’t Kill People, Not Even The Fake Ones.”  Maddie just couldn’t help herself anytime she told me, “Ask me anything, Kerri.” 

And I did.  Don’t you hate it when a website prompts you to prove you’re not a robot through a simple one-touch command and you fail to do so miserably?  Will you help me forge a love letter to Lucas using your own fascinating brain and any ink color but fuck hole fuchsia?   How many homeless people from your world do you think are NPCs in mine?   Would you be mad if we stopped being friends the moment you let an actual computer finish every thought you ever have?

I would never think twice about saying yes, after begging Lucas to propose to me everyday.  Especially if I knew the real tears Maddie cried in her hospital bed kept her breathing machine from being disconnected more times than I’d ever care to know.

— In Loving Memory of Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Lyra, and Robin

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