Trigger Warning: Tragedy, baby loss
Aiden stared at the clouds, thinking carefully about what it might mean.
Simulation theory. Aliens. A bizarre prank perpetrated by some billionaire tech bro.
“10M Human Lifeforms Achieved! Please upgrade your membership to continue growing your civilization.” Read the script emblazoned on the midday sky.
Aiden was not a foremost scholar in physics or philosophy or any combination thereof that might hold an answer to what he saw. In fact, he was a man of meager means, who worked himself to the bone for every scrap he got. He began this life with an ‘upbringing’ in a dank foster home, experiencing neglect in every sense of the word, and the only thing he could muster as a silver lining was his very ardent work ethic. He knew that as long as he worked hard, he could make sure he never found himself in that kind of situation again– surrounded by indifferent people, with no agency to improve his life. Through hard work, he could keep himself afloat financially, and by working hard to improve his understanding of what ‘friendship’ meant, he also eventually learned what it meant to be a ‘boyfriend’, then ‘husband’, and now, any day now, ‘father’ was his latest lesson.
Aiden’s stomach began to twist into knots. What would it mean for his baby? For his pregnant wife?
Medicine had come a long way, so old people weren’t dying at the rate they used to.
Aiden flinched. He was wishing old people would die? Even if it was to make room for his child, what kind of warped and rusted-out kind of conscience did he have, if that was his first train of thought?
Clenching his hand until he felt his fingernails draw blood, Aiden decided to stow the topic away until more information came out. Maybe it was just a prank. Maybe he was freaking out over nothing.
In two days time, it was confirmed that he was not, in fact, freaking out over nothing.
The news anchors tried to use the gentlest phrasing possible, but there really wasn’t a way to phrase mass miscarriages in a polite way. People began protesting, demanding the government find a way to meet the ‘upgraded membership’ condition. Older people hid away from the general public, afraid of what they may be asked, afraid of what they would be accused of, afraid of what might happen to them.
Society as Aimen and Sadia knew it did not last long– and with Sadia expecting any day now, Aimen felt the hardening around his heart beginning. Not the kind that comes from eating deep-fried Oreos, either.
“Don’t even think about it.” Sadia said, cutting through Aimen’s darkened countenance. He had been staring out of the hospital window as she waited for an ultrasound, trying to ensure that the child hadn’t already been lost.
“Don’t think about what?” Aimen asked, trying to put on a brave face.
“I know how desperately you’ve wanted a family, baby. Don’t. We’ll figure something out. The entire world is trying to figure this out. We’ll come up with something.”
Aimen sighed, but not the kind of sigh that was paired with relief. Instead, it felt as though the weight in his chest grew heavier. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. It’s…I’m just not in a good head space. Sorry. This is probably much harder for you than it is for me.”
“Not a competition.” Sadia said. Her voice was warm, but firm, almost like she was correcting a very endearing and frustrating puppy. “It sucks for everyone. We just need to keep it together and not do anything irrational while we wait.”
“I’ve never been good at waiting. I’m just going to clear my head real quick, can I get you something?”
“Apple juice, please.” Sadia said with a very faint smile. It had been her only craving throughout the entire pregnancy.
Aimen managed a half smile back, and he stepped outside.
He hadn’t made it more than ten feet before he heard the noise. The sound of a plastic pan hitting the ground, shouting, then the first scream.
Just down the hall, there was a man with all the fury in the world behind his eyes. Aimen had a very solid guess as to why.
The man was shouting, throwing things, and as Aimen approached, he saw the reflected sunlight off of some kind of metal in the man’s left hand.
Aimen rushed in, unthinking. He had never been the type to wait.
The next minute was compressed into just two moments– when Aimen tried to grapple the man from behind, and when he felt the sharp sting across his throat.
Nurses and Doctors came quickly, Security pinned the man down. Aimen didn’t feel the pain anymore, though he was vaguely worried. He realized that he was confused…and then he felt cold. Medicine hadn’t come that far after all, he guessed.
Aiden pushed open the Simulation Casket. His memories– his real memories returned to him.
The year was 2024. He wasn’t Aimen. He was a University student. He had signed up for a study. It was supposed to be about video game design.
Immediately, he threw up on the floor. The clash of what he had lived– a life that was almost as real as his own, come and passed, in what was probably just a few hours. The love he had felt for his wife. What was her name? He–
His dizzy vision slowly cleared. “What kind of Matrix bullshit was that?”
No one answered him. He wasn’t important enough to answer, apparently.
“Michael, clean up the mess. Aiden, there’s a shower just beyond that door. Please fill out the survey when you’re done.”
As reality sunk back in for Aiden, and he wrote a very precise review in the survey, he left Simulacrum Laboratories on shaking legs, and walked back to his dorm.
His neighbor was an electrician. Aiden went and spoke with him for a moment, asking to borrow a sledge hammer. Then he went to his dorm room, opened the mini-fridge, and drank a bottle of apple juice, before returning to the street, marching right back to Simulacrum Laboratories, sledge hammer in tow.
Aimen was not the type to wait.