Flash Fiction by Abigail C James
Wires. Tubes. They interchanged before his eyes each time he blinked. He could not even tell them apart anymore as his eyelids grew heavy. Wait. He was pretty sure they were wires – but they kept him alive like dextrose tubes as he scoured the vast world for a happiness that always felt like it could be found on the next page; he just had to scroll down a bit more.
The wires – yes, they must be wires – kept him in constant connection with his life force. Instead of blood, he thrived on information. Each selfie was a boon; each tweet a welcomed distraction. Vast tendrils that locked him into this world – the wires.
One wire for his phone. No one ever called or texted, but he always felt the urge to check online, like a heroin addict craving, needing another hit just to get him through another hour.
Another wire for his tablet where he viewed full screen videos, played HD games – but only those that require the internet so he had an excuse to talk to people. The tablet had all the same functions as his phone except he didn’t have to charge it so much.
Another wire for his computer. It was a top of the line, sleek brand that everyone at Starbucks used. He was still paying for it, but it was worth it to belong. He used it to maintain his blogs, editing his special pictures that were meant to impress all of his friends – the ones whose names he only typed into a search engine.
There were more, of course, for all the other devices that were like pace makers and dialyses. They kept him alive but they clouded his reality… It was not pleasant how the wires sometimes felt like they were strangling him as he lined up each device on the empty space of his bed. He always kept them close in case he got a notification; a new comment, a new like, a new retweet. He revelled in them all.
There were nights where he barely slept at all, especially when he posted something new. He would wait for the feedback to pour in, to gauge how successful it might be. Some nights, like this one, he had to plug everything in – it had been a productive day by his standards, which meant everything needed to be rejuiced, including him.
His eyes were extremely droopy as he went to lie down beside all his precious things that needed wires to survive. He also needed them, and as he drifted off to sleep he imagined he was connected to them, each finding a vein on his arm, leg, neck…
When he woke up, he checked on the wires but he was not in his own bed. This time the wires were tubes, fluid slowly dropping through the IV. He craved for his phone. Could it be with him?
He tried to remove the blanket from his body but his arms felt heavy. From his wrists down, both hands were heavily bandaged. He could not see his fingers. No! He needed them. The heat sensors on his phone could only be moved by his skin…
A doctor came into the room, carrying a clipboard.
“Ah, so you’re awake,” she said.
“What happened to me?” he asked.
“There was a fire in your apartment. It started when your circuit breaker overloaded and then spread fairly quickly. It’s a good thing there was a fire station on the next block.”
The wires had caught fire. But what about his things?
“What happened to-” he started.
“Your hands? Well, you tried to go back and save your things. You were a bit disoriented, you see. You had to be sedated. Maybe that’s why you don’t remember much. Unfortunately, you still ended up with second degree burns.”
His head dropped and he stared at his bandaged hands. Second degree burns, all for his possessions. He couldn’t even remember the fire. All he could remember were the wires.
He didn’t say anything in return. The doctor asked a few more questions but he gave limited responses. She then expressed an understanding that maybe he needed more time to recover. She tucked her clipboard under her arm and headed towards the door. At the entryway, she stopped. He looked at her.
“If there’s anything else… Are you going to be okay?” she asked.
He stared. A smile broke out across his face.
“Of course,” he said. “My followers are gonna love this.”
(Abigail C James is a senior fellow for fiction and essay at the Nagkahiusang Magsusulat sa Cagayan de Oro. She has been a writing fellow at the 2014 Davao Writers Workshop and the 2017 University of Santo Tomas National Writers Workshop.She teaches English language and literature at Xavier University where she obtained her AB English [magna cum laude] and is currently working on her thesis for an MA English Language degree. She is the fiction editor of the Bulawan Literary Zine of Northern Mindanao.)