The year was 2046. I still remember that day very clearly. I woke up very late. Or was I awake the whole night, I couldn’t remember. It was one of those nights where you have trouble adjusting to everything. Even though I slept for more than 7 hours I think, my body didn’t feel right. Must have slept weirdly. I often do that. I have been sleeping in weird positions since 2010. Even though my knee doesn’t bend as much as it used to back then, I still manage to put it in a terrible position. Everybody has their thing. That was my thing. My okyu was still on my eyes. I must have slept with it. That’s a first. The okyu was gifted to me by my friend from the States just recently. It’s the latest tech, he said. It really was very thin and lightweight. Maybe that is why I couldn’t feel it while sleeping. I switched it on (it was already on) and entered into my favourite metaverse- Klax. I had left my shopping unfinished the previous day, so I wanted to finish it that day before going to work. The shopping was for a close friend’s wedding that was gonna happen a week later. It was a theme-based wedding where everyone would dress up like how people used to dress up in 2016. Kurta pyjama and shit. I still remember what a task it was to find them.
After hours and hours of jumping from one location to another, I finally found a pair from an old rusty shop called Myanmar or something. I scanned my eyes to pay, but the payment didn’t go through. I scanned again. Nothing. I scanned a few more times and my payment method got blocked. Fuck. At that time I was pissed as hell. I threw the clothes at the counter and left the shop in anger. I anyway don’t wanna go to the wedding. Too many people. Anish would understand Fuck it. I don’t think anyone would even notice that I haven’t come. Nobody notices me anyway. I’ll give him and his wife a good expensive gift or something.
I started walking aimlessly in Klax. That was my favourite pastime. I had customised the ambiance of Klax to make it look like Connaught Place. It was a custom skin that I made a few years ago which became so viral that 20,000 people come to my Connaught Place skin daily. Till today. I made it look like CP because it reminded me of how I used to roam there when I was in college. Fun days. I wish there was a cure for nostalgia. The technology hadn’t advanced so much in 2046, so even if I was walking in my own separate private encrypted lane, I could see and hear other people and they could see me too. I remember that day I bumped into an ex-colleague in front of the Odeon paan shop. He was just sitting there, not smoking, not chewing paan, nothing. I ignored him at first, but when I saw that his avatar was crying, I became a little concerned. It’s a rare occurrence in metaverses to see someone set up their avatars as crying faces. Even the most depressed people walk around with smiles on their faces. Almost like real life. But this is worse. There must be something horribly wrong with this man.
“Hey Aakash, sorry to bother you, but is everything okay? Why the crying face?” He didn’t reply. “Let me know if I can help you”, I said again. No reply. I started walking back. “Is there any way to kill this digital avatar?”, he asked. I turned back. “Why would you want that?”, I asked him, concerned. “I am just tired man. Of everything. I wanna go back. How can I get rid of this?”, he said. “Go back where but?” “Anywhere but here”. “See, instead of deleting, what you can do is keep it on AI mode, it will learn your mannerisms, your idiosyncrasies, the way you speak and it can roam around for you. That way you can be socially active in all your metaverses without ever coming here”, I told him. “But don’t make this a habit, do visit here sometimes. It’s nice to meet people, even if digitally”, I added. He nodded. I decided to sit there with him. On the bench. It reminded me of something, I couldn’t recall. My memory must have been fading, I told myself. “Do you want a paan?”, I asked Aakash. He nodded. I went up to the paan shop and bought two paans. I scanned, but the payment was still not going through. He noticed me struggling with the payment and offered to pay. Thanks. You are welcome.
“So, what’s up with you nowadays?”, he asked me. “Nothing man, just shopping for Anish’s wedding. Oh shit, aren’t you like his best friend or something?”, I inquired. “Yeah, but the wedding is off, didn’t you hear? He messaged everyone yesterday. Anish’s close friend died”, he replied. “What? I didn’t get any message”. “ Yeah man. That happened. No need to shop anymore.” We started discussing how death comes so suddenly that you don’t even get time to fucking absorb that news. One moment you are busy with some useless shit and another moment you are grieving. Mourning. It’s tragic how there are still no notifications about when a person is gonna leave this world. If we figure that out, at least we would be there with them during their last days and not feel guilty about having lost connection with them over the years. In the end, all we care about is how we feel and we sure as hell don’t wanna feel guilty. “Why did you want to delete your avatar”, I asked him as he was about to go. “Because maybe that way I’d feel less sad about not meeting anyone even digitally. Funny how we made all this to stay connected, but in the process, we became lonelier than ever.” He went away. I remember staring at him as he was going. Hope he deletes himself from here. Hope he becomes happy.
But how did I not get any message from Anish, I thought to myself. I checked the phone folder in my okyu and that’s when it hit me. I was the friend who had died. Oh shit. That’s why my payment wasn’t going through. Oh shit. That’s why I woke up literally in the metaverse. And then a bigger oh shit happened. I forgot to delete myself from here. My AI version will live forever. It’s 2087 now. Almost 30 years after my death, I am writing a book now: “forever sucks”. We all gonna make it. Literally. Oh shit.