Tick, Tock, Tick Tock was all John could hear as he lay time-stuck with memories of Martha. Tears streaming down his face, the smell of alcohol filled his breath and nothing but a few drops of whiskey were left in the bottle. He didn’t realize that seconds had turned to hours and, ultimately, days had passed. He had ignored all calls from work, friends, or parents and had been wrapped up in a ball, just saddened by the disbelief of what had transpired. The voice of Angelo finally pops up and says, “Mr. John, I sense you are in distress. Is there anything you might need? ” “Can you bring Martha back?” John asks, to which Angelo responds, “Sorry Mr. John, but Ms Martha is recorded as deceased.”An almost thunderous knock and bashing of the front door is heard, to which Angelo says, “Mr. John, your parents are outside. Should I let them in? Sensing the incoming disapproval from his father, John responds, “Tell them I am not home,” to which Angelo responds, “Mr. John, sensing your current state, I think it would be good for you to have some company over.” John, not wanting to have to deal with the upcoming questions but remembering the comfort his parents bring, finally says, “Angelo, let them in”. The doors burst open and in ran both Henry, a 65-year-old, 6’6 towering figure who looked exactly like his son, and Ethel, an equally towering 5’10 woman with nothing but tears in their eyes and sadness in their hearts. They see the almost empty bottle of whiskey, the room in complete disarray, and a shell of the perfection they had come to know as their son. Nothing could prepare them for the sight, but nevertheless, they hurried over to give their son a warm and reassuring hug. “Son, we feel your pain and we know how much she meant to you.” Henry says, and Ethel, sensing just how broken her crying son was, continued “These feelings are fleeting, but the memories you shared will live on in you forever.”We cannot just say everything is going to be alright, but we can, however, say, no matter what, we will always be here for you. ” “Thank you Dad, appreciate you Dad,” James responds as he gets up, trying to switch into a mode that resembles some sort of normalcy. He asks, “Can I get you anything?” To which his parents said, in unison, “No thank you, my love, we just need to know you are OK.” James, still crying, asks to be excused to go at least look presentable for his parents, but his efforts are futile as he collapses in despair after a few steps, unable to pull himself together.Sensing the complete anguish in her son, Ethel beckons Angelo and asks him to begin running a shower, which he obliges. As the water began its descent on the ground, both Henry and Ethel each grabbed one hand and tried to lift this muscular, well-built man into the shower with his feet dragging and tears still streaming down his face. Knowing the task of getting him fully undressed and in the shower would be a difficult one for his capable but fragile parents, James says, “It is alright, I’ve got it from here,” after which he begins to slowly crawl into the bathroom. As he crawls past the bathroom door, he closes it and begins to undress, starting with the same shirt he had laid out and ironed the night before, the day Martha passed. He followed this with his underwear and continued his crawl, this time naked, to the shower and just sat underneath the water, unable to move but still feeling a sense of calm as the stream touched his body. Henry and Ethel stood outside the bathroom door, just hoping their once happy son was beginning some level of self-care and wanted to be as helpful as possible. Ethel begins to help clean up, starting with the finished bottle of whiskey, while Henry, on the other hand, had been drawn to the kitchen to at least make John a cup of black coffee with 2 sugars, just the way he knew his son would like it. Within 5 minutes, the robot vacuum is back at the charging point, the coffee is steaming, and John, in his new loungewear, is walking back into the room. With red eyes and heavy hearts, John, Ethel, and Henry all take a seat on the couch while “Angelo’s programming deduces that some soft jazz would help lighten the mood in the background.” Henry, the first one to finally speak, says, “Feeling any better, son?” to which John replies, “I don’t think I ever will. Time has lost all meaning. Each moment is filled with despair and my heart is filled with nothing but sorrow.” Henry responds, “Drink your coffee and let out all your emotions.” This was a surprise to Henry, who was used to his father being a man who seemed to always have his emotions in check. John continues, “I bought a ring and was going to propose, but now she will never be my wife. I planned trips and we never went because we always had this vision that our careers came first.” He continues, “Looking forward to life was never an issue, but finding the moments to live by looking back was always a problem. We chased and we ran towards goals that, in retrospect, now have no meaning. ” Ethel, wanting to help her grieving son think more positively, says, “Don’t be sad about the times that didn’t happen; be happy about the times that did.” She continues, “Just focusing on the moments that could have been will leave you with nothing but regret, my lovely boy,” as she goes in for a hug. John continues but cannot help as tears slowly begin to run down his face. “It isn’t even that I am sad about times that weren’t, I’m sad at the sacrifices we made that, looking back, we did not necessarily have to.” The times we stayed late at the office to get that last minute document finished or the times we spent, we would postpone trips because we wanted to save money, which now just means nothing to me”. Henry, sensing the frustration in his son, says, “Look, in those moments you did what you decided was best. No-one can predict the future no matter how smart they think they are, but what you can do is now try and do things to help not just keep those memories alive but to help preserve the beautiful life you’ve built together.” I do not believe it will be easy to move on, but I do believe if you continue to try, one day it will be better. ” “Thank you mom and pops,” John says as he cleans the tears from his face. In the midst of all his grief, he had forgotten to make a call to Angelo, to which Angelo replies, “Yes John,” “Call the office,” John says, “a call in the midst of all his grief. As the dial tone echoes across the room, Henry and Ethel become quiet and a voice says, “Clarkson investment management, Jenna speaking”; “Hi Jenna, this is John. I apologize for nothing coming in the past few days without an explanation. I would like to hand in my 2 weeks’ notice, “to which shocked Jenna replies, “Firstly, John, we heard about what happened to Martha and we are very sorry for your loss. We actually have been instructed to give you a 6-month paid grieving break to allow you to cope. Instead of handing in your 2 weeks’ notice, how about taking some time off and when you are ready, come back; our doors will always be open “to which John replies, “Thank you Jenna, but that won’t be necessary as my decision is final. Have a good day.” Sensing the end of the call, Angelo’s A. I automatically hang up and Henry looks at Ethel in shock but does not utter a single word to John as he knew his son would be OK. As everyone drinks the coffee and time passes, darkness begins to rear its head and John, wanting more time alone, respectfully asks for some time and space to collect his thoughts, to which his parents oblige and beckon a taxi to take themselves home, not before giving their son a hug and reminding him that everything was going to be OK.
Finally, after hours of laying down silently in the darkness, John closes his eyes and his racing mind begins to drift into the calmness of sleep, marking his first rest in days. After a few hours of tossing and turning, he awoke screaming “Martha!” as if the memory of seeing her lifeless was playing on repeat in his mind.his screams were in vain because within seconds of turning over to grab his lover, he remembered she was no more by his side. He remembers she will not be there today for a morning kiss, be there to join him in the shower, be there to help him pick out the perfect tie that would help him tackle the day with the confidence and assured will he needed to go on, and he just lays back down silently feeling alone. It wasn’t the silence of the room that made him feel worse, but knowing that the peace he now felt was only going to be disrupted by the soothing words of his A.I companion Angelo. Coincidentally, as he laid down like clockwork, he heard the voice that was all too familiar say, “Hello Mr. John, would you like a cup of coffee or breakfast this morning?” It was Angelo who, after the latest cloud update, was set into grief mode. This mode, which had been remotely active by Henry, was supposed to help grieving individuals with more menial tasks so as to allow them to be more stress-free. At least that was what the marketing campaign set out by Supercore, the company behind Angelo’s A.I., but all it felt like to John was relieving him from all the tasks that made him forget his current reality for a few seconds. As John slowly dragged himself out of bed, filled with grief and some level of resentment, he put on his grey Harvard hoodie, found the nearest sweatpants, and sluggishly dragged himself out of the house. Darkness still filled the streets, but the glistening lights of the Budweiser logo glowing from the front of the bodega shined bright, almost calling John to get another drink to help remove himself from his current unwanted reality. A few steps down the street, and John was at the bodega, browsing the aisle for the drink with the highest percentage of alcohol. A reach for the whiskey and a few steps out of the bodega and he was back home on the couch, drinking like a man on a mission to finish before the competition. Half way down the bottle, he stops and notices his V.R glasses just sitting perched on the corner of the black coffee table Martha had been so adamant about, which would tie the once newly furnished apartment together. The stress of his hands, tussle with a strap and calling out the words “On” and he was on the virtual reality home screen scrolling for some world to take his mind far away for hours to come. After a second of scrolling with just the thoughts in his brain, he blinks and the world of Livasha appears. You see, Livasha wasn’t just any world, it was a program created to help people grieving reconnect with loved ones through the thoughts they had of them. This means that, by combining photos, messages, and patterns of behavior stored for an individual online on a database, algorithms can create perfect replicas of the loved ones people like John have lost. A great idea, to say the least, but not exactly what John had in mind, and he decided it was too much for him, prompting him to take off the glasses. John, having watched all the movies and books, knew the harm of trying to recreate Martha in a program because, despite the fact that he was sad at the passing of his beloved and trying to escape reality, he still believed that his life would eventually have to go on. Almost immediately after taking off the glasses, he hears Angelo call out “Incoming call from Donald Dukinson”, a childhood friend and confidant of John’s, leading to a response of “Accept”. As the phone connects, Donald asks, “Hey mate, how you holding up?” to which John mumbles, “Doing alright I guess,” sensing the sadness in his voice, although not wanting to highlight the obvious and trying to be careful, Donald responds, “I will be there in 2 minutes, do you need anything?” to which John says, “No thank you brother,” while drinking, throwing a drink down his gullet. As soon as the call hangs up, John lays his head on a pillow, and within a minute, the front door is swung up and footsteps approach John. His red eyes are open almost instantly. It is Donald, running in to provide comfort to his long-time friend and confidant. The usual loud, short, bulky, and loudmouthed Donald, for once, is left almost speechless by what he states. He sees his long time friend, and in his mind, all he can think is “wow, my friend is really broken”.