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Alex blindly smacked his hand around the nightstand, sending an empty beer can, a pile of loose change, and a data stick falling onto the floor. All that noise was drowned out by the incessant bleating of his con’s alarm. His hand finally found it and pressed the side button, silencing it. The noise stopped, but he could still feel it pulsing away inside his skull, like the memory of it was trying gnaw its way out and escape. His mind hadn’t shown up for work yet; he barely knew who he was, never mind where or why his con was being so disrespectful to him. He buried his head further into the pillow and slowly realized that there wasn’t one. The thing he’d been sleeping on was just his shirt, balled up. He raised his head slowly. The room seemed a bit unsteady. He rolled over and suddenly understood just how horrifyingly hungover he was. The room rocked back and forth. He closed his eyes. It didn’t help. All at once, realization washed over him. He grabbed his con. The time read ‘9:44’ in a big, bold font. “FUCK.”

He hurled himself off the bed. He was still wearing all his clothes and shoes from the day before, aside from the dark blue shirt he’d Macgyvered into a pillow at some point last night, or, more realistically, this morning. As he stumbled to the closet to grab a new one, he tried to remember what time he’d actually gone to sleep, if you could call it that. The simple act of remembering made his head hurt even more. Most of the night was a haze, up until a winner had started being declared. After that, it was an utter blackout.

His arms struggled their way through sleeves and he shambled his way into the bathroom. He was extremely late. He looked at himself in the mirror as he buttoned the shirt. He looked like shit. He vomited in the sink. He still looked like shit, but a bit sweatier. He grabbed the toothbrush and tried to ask his con to read his messages. His voice came out as a hoarse whisper. Then he vomited again. This time, it seemed to do the trick. “Read my messages,” he managed to say with a vaguely human voice, then started brushing his teeth.

“Okay.” The cool, calm voice of his con helped ground him. Until it started reading. “Four hundred and thirteen messages are unread. Sixty-two are from your father, twenty-nine from your mother, one is from your brother, and the remainder are from various senders. Which shall I read?”

One is from your brother. He froze. He hadn’t received a message from Julian in at least a year, and now he decides to send one? He put his toothbrush away and rinsed his mouth out with a handful of water. It couldn’t possibly be anything good.

“Read Julian’s message,” he said, knowing he was about to regret it even more than eating an entire pizza by himself last night.

“Alright.” His con paused briefly, and Alex stared into his own eyes in the mirror. “I won, just like we both knew I would. Are you ready to join me yet?”

“Go to hell, Julian,” he muttered.

“Would you like to reply?”


He walked down the hall and out the front door.


A weird problem gets progressively weirder.
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