The plastic cup is on the floor, wine drowning the floor. I think for a moment on how I’m not even that drunk, then I think on what I’m doing here. The sound of a thumping pop hit can be heard from the next room, a crowded room containing bottles of cheap drink, cold sausage rolls to spite the vegetarian host, a DJ who totally gets the current scene, and my colleagues who are happy to be doing something tonight, colleagues who I never see outside of work. We’re all here because of Wendy, it’s her twentieth year with the company, and she just had to drag us all here and drink away the pain of that thought. I feel so out of it I can’t even hold my drink, and that moment in the corridor was the best time to slip away. Have a great time without me, I’ve got to get up for work tomorrow… sure, you all do too, but whatever.
I can’t open the door to my flat. There is a distant sound of gunfire, a similar distant thump that the music gave in the corridor, causing my mind to gyrate, and my arm isn’t turning with the key in the lock. It isn’t even a tricky door to unlock, a burglar’s dream. Until he’d get inside anyway, can’t find much money in broken cups and yellowing books. Hell, now I don’t want to get in! And so with a few more moments of metal on metal struggle, I finally open the door, my little corner of the world.
It’s a small flat, one room containing a kitchen, mattress, television, side table, hifi system and one boyfriend, all strewn across the floor, just as they spilled out of the cardboard moving boxes they came from. The boyfriend is sat under the covers on the mattress, playing his favourite game, not answering the door while looking pretty vacant. ‘The World As We Know It’ on the PC hooked up to the television. It’s a fun game, I play it from time to time.
The World As We Know It is a great place to be. Sure, it’s riddled with conflict and death, but a respawn will sort that out. Unlike The World That Is. That place is brutal and will eat you alive. And if I had a gun to fend myself, I’d just be thrown away. I click the button and my virtual self fires a bullet into a rainbow coloured rat. I could stay here forever. But when the girlfriend enters I know its time to return to reality. If only I had a gun.
‘How was the party?’ I ask as she shakes her work skin on the floor.
‘Well, it’s only ten o’clock.’
‘That bad, huh.’ She lights herself a cigarette.
‘I was thinking today on being yourself. In many positions in life, you must adjust your personality to suit situations. If you’re in customer service, you aren’t going to be yourself, and if you greet strangers you probably aren’t going to be yourself either. So if you spend most of your time not being yourself, surely you become that self.’
‘Well, I guess today I was being completely myself. No one will know I went early tomorrow. Anyway, It looks like you’ve had a productive day.’
I shoot my last rat before ceasing fire on The World As We Know It. The girlfriend puts the CD player on, Screaming Females ‘What If Someone Is Watching Their TV?’, then drops her cigarette to the floor, followed with a curse.
‘I’m getting better.’ I tell her.
A man in shining armour standing in the middle of a lake appeared in my dreams. He claimed to be King Arthur and had something vital to tell me.
‘You see, it’s about your arm.’ he began, a muffled voice through his helmet.
‘Why would King Arthur appear in my dreams, I haven’t been exposed to anything that could even bring you forward on a subliminal level.’
‘Well, dreams work in funny ways like that.’
‘I mean how many people must have King Arthur related dreams in this day and age?’
‘I could understand if the Queen Of England came into my dreams, but not Arthur. I didn’t even like the film’
‘I remember something! I’m not King Arthur!’ he roared, causing the lake to ripple.
‘Well, for that to come into my mind still needs to be questioned. Most of my dreams logically come together through my day-to-day experiences. Most are work related, which is a little sad don’t you think? Aren’t dreams for escapism?’
‘Dreams are just those things that can’t be controlled. You can’t expect every dream to be a journey of voyeurism. Besides, that’s besides the point. My name isn’t King Arthur, my name is King Arth…ritis…’
‘What, that’s so lame!’
And then I woke up with a stiff wrist. The same stiff wrist that I’d been with all day. My boyfriend sits by the window looking outside. As usual.
The gunfire is my white noise. I don’t have to concentrate on the actual game, it just keeps my hands busy while I think. I don’t really want to step outside because I tried it once and hated it. Doing things you don’t want to do and being fake with everyone, not for me. The world is not for me. A player asks me how I’m doing and I say I’m okay with a smile. He can’t see the smile and what was I saying? I worked at a mobile shop selling phones and I felt so fake, and the day I realised this was all I’d become, I escaped into the world of video games. A Playstation advert once said you could be so much in games, and I chose to stay here.
When the girlfriend did return from work, she complained about her stiff wrist after spilling coffee beans all over the floor. I said it will probably go away with rest, but then I’m always feeling stiff and all I do is rest. Better here than out there, were war, Ebola and terrorists lurk.
The dream freaked me out to the point of going to the doctors. Well, at least attempting to go to the doctors. It seems everyone else had King Arthritis invade their dreams, as a huge line sprawled across the street, people rubbing their hands and watching their icy breaths. A nurse held up a sign near the end of the line which said ‘expected wait time: 3 days.’ So I went to work. It probably isn’t arthritis, but I guess you can catch anything at any moment in time. The one guy coughing in front of me helped my decision, and I didn’t want an epidemic working its way into my lungs.
The funny thing is, when I got to work, an office company the next town over, my colleagues were muttering about stiff legs and fingers. I sat on the same chair, switched on the same computer and had Beth coming over to complain about a stiff neck. And Paul mentioning a stiff leg. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the same old, same old. Maybe this is the virus, arthritis for all! The swine flu of 2021 perhaps. Then something struck me and I realised we were all stiffs at computers, probably suffering from repetitive strain injury and lack of movement. And there is no way out.
Man turns to stone by standing around all day says the paper
They call it Rockitis. It starts with stiffness in an area of the body, which slowly spreads. After a few weeks hard rocks form on these areas, which look and react like rocks. No one knows how it spreads, where it came from or what’s going to ultimately happen.
‘A cure is being worked on, I can assure you. For now, stay put, carry on as normal. And don’t panic. The world is uniting to solve this problem, I just ask you all to stay calm.’ Said the prime minister on every screen in the country a few months later.
It’s been weeks of panicking anyway, people are bored with that now and have started going about doing whatever it was they were originally doing. A shame Rockitis didn’t mean an infectious disease of rocking out.
I can’t feel my cock.
A large man was found walking up and down with a sledgehammer in his hands. He had a rock growth around his stomach and his was preaching to us that he would break the curse and we should all follow suit. A crowd formed and he had a volunteer come and smash the hammer into his stomach. The rock cracked and hope sprung forth. But, a whole chunk of his body crumbled away. He collapsed with a whimper, and we all carried on doing whatever it was we were doing. The volunteer got life. I saw it all on TV.
Despite the rockitis, nothing much seems to have changed. But we all worry on how far it will go. But I guess, we wonder how far any disease will go.
One scientist provided a different outlook on a talk show. It went something like this:
‘We have a scientist with us to discuss rockitis.’
‘Get away, keep on running and never stay still!’
‘Hey, why are you so mad, we wouldn’t have let you on if we knew.’
‘I had to keep the truth hidden till now so I would get on!’
For some reason I now want to go outside. Maybe I was always preparing to step foot outside, but knew I could do it at anytime, no rush, the world is still here. But now I’m not so sure. I head to the entrance and start to sweat. There’s always tomorrow.
It’s been six months now I now travel to work on a scooter. The work situation is like this: Paul can’t move his hands, he now types with his voice. Steve can’t hear anything we say, I can’t rub my nose, and Stef has lumpy breasts. It isn’t all that bad, though we did have to stop Stef from ripping off her chest in despair. One man in town tried to fix himself with a sledgehammer, but he just crumbled to bits. Self harm is not cool. Brian had to quit, though. His hands became boulders and all he did was smash the keys. A shame really. People who can’t type can now use voice operated software, and people who can’t speak can use type operated software, and people who can’t do either get the luxury of not working at all.
The world has changed as people start to enjoy their rocky bodies. Television is more about statue posing now than modelling, and a new clothing was out to accommodate for any bulk. We even laughed at the scientist who insisted we escape from it all, it was a new way of life. A slower way of life, but going back to the past seemed a waste. There was more free time, and less need to feel inadequate about yourself as everyone was in the same boat. Except for the celebrities who only seemed to walk around with crusts of rock, Beck Hansen is totally free, but celebrities were never really human in the first place.
And I don’t need to worry about what I eat now, figure isn’t much of a thing anymore. I am a rock, I am an island! Oh, is that the other way round? So what? It’s my remix or something!
My arms were pretty bad, a hard rocky surface had formed so I couldn’t wear a wrist watch. The boyfriend got it in the ass, which I thought was pretty funny, but you should hear the screaming when he’s on the toilet.
So there we were sitting in bed watching television. We were both fairly rocky now, and it had been a long time since we’d had much passionate interaction. I put my hand against her thigh and she looked at me with much contempt.
‘Really? I didn’t think you were interested in that anymore.’
‘Well, who knows how long we’ll even be able to consider something like this.’
‘Well…’ she bit her lip then rolled on top of me. ‘I guess it has been a while.’
I put my hands down her pants and she reached for my penis. Then stopped.
‘Hey, you’re rock solid down here.’
‘Isn’t that normal?’
‘Well, you’d think so, but this is a literal rock solid. I can’t put this inside me, I’m still moist down there. Can you imagine sticking pebbles up your ass or something. No thanks.’
‘Oh… okay, wouldn’t be much different from before,’ she rolled off me and I put my boxers back on. ‘So, what’s on TV tonight?’
‘Hmm, I think the conclusion to the Lucy murder on Soap is tonight.’
‘Rich has killed Paula and Wendy and next week he is going to kill again!’
‘How do you know the future?’
‘Why did he kill?’
‘Accused of cheating, which he did and so he took them both out. Stop the nagging from them all.’
‘Why does he kill again?’
‘Because he’s a killer now. That’s just what they do!’
We found Steve in a ball on his chair at work, doing nothing much at all, he wouldn’t say a word. Not like he said much anyway, had to poke him a few times to be sure, who knows if he was even still a person inside the rock. Where does the person go? As I studied his rocky carcass I knew this wasn’t the place for me to be. This is what we were going to become. I said adios to my colleagues and rolled on off out of town. They pleaded me to stop as I’d miss the government vaccinations which were nearly finished, much like they were nearly finished eight months ago. Screw this, why work to become a Steve. No one wants to be Steve.
I ended up not too far from town, but far enough to know getting back would be a trek. A hotel was nearby thankfully and I stayed the night, much to the surprise of the owners, who only stayed open for the regular business trips that took place. I just didn’t want to be Steve. I stayed over and fell into a deep sleep.
When I awoke I awoke with a leap. I felt so light, that’s what a good night sleep does to you! When I jumped out of bed I tripped over some rocks lying on the floor, my rocks. I looked at my hands and my hands were flesh, I looked at my legs and my legs were flesh. For some reason… I was cured.
Maybe I’d woken from a long dream. I fell asleep with a stiff wrist and just woke up fine. Even if the room had to change a bit overnight. Dammit, wake me up.
I haven’t seen the girlfriend for a while now. I always wondered why she stuck around. To her I’m surely the charity bag she just hasn’t had time to drop off yet. But the news says she’s cured, formed a cult. I’d like to go and join her, tell her I’m free from my prison, but my legs won’t move anymore.
I wasn’t playing games today. I decided sitting in bed in my virtual world playing virtual games was a bit too much meta for one day. I stood by the window looking at nothing much in particular. I don’t know how it got to this, but I just can’t leave the house. To say I could leave any time is a lie, a real house hermit.
One guy was running around outside screaming to no one who would listen.
‘Get out here, keep moving, don’t stop and be free!’ It was that scientist, Rob Meecher, on TV! ‘He spots me and waves.’
‘I’m trying to.’
‘You’re so full of shit, telling everyone to stop doing whatever it is they’re doing. Look at you, you don’t look so hot anymore. If you were so free, why are you running around outside like that? Asshole.’
I try to close the curtains, but I can’t move no more.
I don’t know where I went wrong.
Whatever. I don’t know either. Who does?
The bed I slept in became a real hotspot. People were stunned as I ran down the stairs and out into the day. People from all over the world would travel to be cured, and it worked. For some reason the businessmen who frequented kept getting rockier. I even had my own cult, following me wherever I went to dump. The only problem was I didn’t know exactly were to go, so I just spent most of my time wandering the fields before returning to a bar for a drink. The bar I frequented liked the extra customers, even if they all wouldn’t fit in the bar. But eventually rocks started to form once more and my followers became part of the field scenery. I went to the bed at the hotel again, but they wouldn’t let me back in, there was a six-week wait held up by one of the owners, rocky and confused. It was time to go home.
I returned home, a slow steady trudge up the winding staircase. I wrestled with the key once more and walked in to my same shambles of a flat. The mattress on the floor, the jazz records in a pile. I hate jazz, it’s just on to make me feel like I’m better than those at work. I don’t watch soaps and go to the pub, I listen to jazz, watch art programmes and drink beer to help me sleep. A cup of cold coffee. And my boyfriend stuck to the floor, watching the television. It was the continuation of the soap, and we were about to see the killer drive off with some kids in his car. I already knew what happened, I’d read the spoilers. But I sat there and watched the show carry on doing what it was always doing. And I could no longer move, next to my boyfriend who had stopped moving long ago.