Anna Linetskaya is an emerging writer who, after years of academic work and legal practice, finally finds herself writing pieces she truly enjoys. She is currently working on her first novel while completing her MFA in Creative Writing at the City College of New York. When not working on her book, Anna is sure to be found reading books of others. She is unapologetic about her reading locations and is particularly proud of her reading-while-walking skill.
They walked the blocks to Atticus’ apartment in silence. With the introduction of the app, proximity stopped being a fixed factor. The VR claimed to both expand the world and shrink the miles between places and people. The Company casually failed to mention that a distance of mere five hundred yards could also turn into infinity.
Atticus opened the door and let Clarissa and Rita in. The musty smell of his apartment hit Clarissa over the head: it was obvious that nobody came here to help her brother with the cleaning. From the entryway to the main living area, she could not stop wondering why Atticus needed so much clutter in his space. All those shelves filled with books that hadn’t been arranged or color-coordinated, pots of leafy, living plants that needed water, and those horrid framed pictures with all the faces staring back at her from everywhere.
“Why do you still keep that?!” Clarissa snapped as she turned away from one of the photos, her eyes suddenly filling with tears.
“After what she did…?!”
“She did it…! She did it to us all! To you, to me, to Daddy—”
“Clarissa, stop!” Atticus caught her by the hands, and hugged her tight, obscuring the sight of the photo. “I’m sorry, I should’ve thought better…” He kissed Clarissa on the forehead. “You shouldn’t have seen this. I forgot those fuckers taught you to believe she was my wife…”
Clarissa’s tears intensified and she started to weep, hiding her face in the nook of her brother’s shoulder. She shouldn’t have left her studio, shouldn’t have come here, she thought. The app would have been up and running in no time, would have provided the right memories. Not this. Not the memories of this deceased woman, the ones she thought she buried for good with the help of myLife.
When Clarissa’s mother committed suicide in late December just over six years ago, her family tried everything else to help Clarissa cope. Thousands of dollars were spent on therapy, hypnosis, and pills, but her cuts kept getting deeper and her mind less lucid. Francie had called Clarissa’s father and explained the benefits of myLife, a new application designed to help people cope with a reality they couldn’t otherwise face. Yes, it was costly, but Clarissa qualified for a free trial because of what happened to her mother: the Company was looking for subjects suffering with the deep emotional trauma of loss. Clarissa’s painful memories would be reshaped with the help of continuous stimulation, and her environment sanitized from all the negative triggers to guarantee full coverage.
A ‘Well-rounded Person’ package with its limited and controlled exposure to adverse imagery would ensure Clarissa didn’t lose her ability to feel sad and sympathetic, without the need to actually engage with the traumatizing aspects of day-to-day human existence. Atticus hated the idea. He wanted his sister to be able to live her life, with all the highs and lows it had to offer, but their father had already made a decision: Clarissa was to use myLife. And so she did, until it glitched.
A dull and heavy pain found its way in and settled at the bottom of Clarissa’s chest as she stood in her brother’s messy apartment, crying on his shoulder. Suddenly, the device in her pocket vibrated and chimed: in an instant, new pictures and experiences flooded in like water through a broken dam. Clarissa peeled herself away from her brother and looked down at the newly lit screen, glowing through the fabric of her sweatpants.
“Don’t…” Atticus held her hand tight as she moved to reach for the device. “Please, don’t. For us, for her. For her memory.” His begging eyes stared into hers. “You can choose not to. I’ll help you, I know how to now.” Clarissa could hear him swallow hard. Witnessing his emotions was getting to be too much. “Please,” he repeated, softer. “Don’t you see it’s time?”
Clarissa wrenched her hand from his grasp. Regardless of what she saw, myLife was fixed. Regardless of what she thought, new memories would be created, old dogs would look like puppies, and Francie would become her friend again. Regardless of what she did, Clarissa would have to continue functioning as a happy customer. She shook her head and pulled out the device. Atticus was wrong; there was no other choice. MyLife was her life, after all.