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"Everything is the same," Marcus said as he watched the same events repeat for a sixth time, a seventh.
Leo observed him carefully, preparing for bad reaction, ready to pull out the big guns if Marcus got to out of hand.
The Last Resort: deleting the encounters between him and Marcus; which could corrupt the avatar's code, resulting in either a reset or a glitch, leading to deletion. Neither option was optimal, Leo wanted to avoid tampering with Marcus' code at all costs. Would, in fact, only interfere that far behind the scenes if this revelation proved too much for Marcus and corrupted his code anyway.
"Everything is the same," Marcus repeated after having watched the sequence another four times. Leo was becoming worried that he had failed in enlightening Marcus.
"Why?" he finally looked at Leo. His eyes distant, spirit broken, Madness systematically conquering his psyche. He wasn't entirely lost yet, or so Leo hoped. He inhaled deeply, preparing himself for the big reveal and met Marcus' gaze.
"We are not real. I'm not entirely sure what our purpose is, but we are avatars, controlled by forms beyond our comprehension. Not everyone is controlled by a direct form and some are separate individuals controlled by one form. Our environment will change around us and will take absolutely no notice, regardless of how subtle or drastic the change. People will appear and disappear with loved ones never having known them or remembered them after their rather unexpected departure. Like your Shelly. She perishes in probably the most horrific and spectacular way, nothing reported in the media, to the emergency services, and her family has no idea who she was.."
Marcus cuts into Leo's exhaustive dialogue, "I remember her," he whispered to Leo, tears streaming down his cheeks.
Leo excitedly nods his head, "Yes! You do! That's why I have shown you the way. You're an anomaly, like me. Not a mindless zombie, not conscience algorithm of the universe itself, but a sentient code aware of the shifting world around us. You remember a love that never happened, I witnessed a reset and didn't become a corrupted file and wasn't reset myself. You're the only other person that I have encountered that shares a similar experience." Leo stopped, suddenly overcome by guilt.
"I have to confess something, Marcus."
Marcus cocked his left eyebrow, "You mean, you can find more words to make random nonsense out of? Now that, I find impossible."
Leo laughed, glad to see Marcus maintained humor through such a life altering conversation.
"Actually, yes, I can. I have to tell you, I'm not a really a detective. Not officially anyway. The reason I knocked on your door.. I was in the malt-stop when Shelly burst into flames. I took a chance, I had nothing to lose if you didn't remember Shelly. I'd have just left and remained the only anomaly in this crazy, unreal world. But.. You did remember her! And now I don't have to be alone here anymore." Leo finished with a wide grin on his face, happiness spreading through his body, warm and buoyant.
Marcus returned the smile and nodded his head slowly, clapping a hand on Leo's shoulder.
"Why don't we go back to mine and drink the rest of that coffee. We can add a few shots of bourbon or scotch or whatever tastes good in coffee.. Though, let's take the walk back. None of that hoodoo phasing in and out of Reality stuff. That gives me the worst headache."
Leo laughed again, loud and deep from his chest. He stood from the bench, gesturing for Marcus to join him.
They made quick work of the short walk, stopping at the liquor store a few blocks away from Marcus' apartment building to buy a bottle of cheap liquor.
When they arrived, Leo immediately went to the kitchen to brew a fresh pot of coffee adding their liquid spirits into the empty pot.
"Hey, I'm going to hit the head," Marcus called from the bathroom doorway, before closing and locking the door.
Leo shrugged him off, wondering why Marcus felt the need to disclose his current bathroom activities. He finished spicing the coffee and carefully set the mugs, brimming with hot, steamy deliciousnessness. Leo sat and sipped from his mug, slightly burning his lips. He was could barely contain his excitement for telling Marcus everything he had seen since his childhood. The cowboy felt like he could speak for weeks.
Five more patient minutes pass, Leo was half way done his mug and a little tipsy. He was never one to ponder the bathroom activities of other's, but he was starting to wonder if Marcus was alright. He decided that checking on him might not be to odd and rose from the loveseat.
He swayed on his feet as he walked through the hallway, stopping in front of the narrow bathroom door. He rapped his knuckles on the wood a couple of times. Marcus didn't say anything.
"Everything alright, in there, Buddy?" Leo called to him. Still no answer. Leo knocked harder this time, brow furrowing with concern.
"Marcus? What's up man? Did you flush yourself down the toilet?" he laughed nervously, pounding on the door.
All was silent on the other side of that door. Leo's previous euphoria was maimed and replaced by urgent need to see Marcus alive.
Leo gained as much room as he could from the small hallway, the walls only being a short 3 and 1/2 feet wide, and rammed his shoulder into the door. It easily splintered in the frame, pressboard fragments flying through the air. Leo stumbled through the wreckage, calling Marcus' name.
His gaze settled on the pink water, brimming over the tub's edge. Marcus was limp and submerged beneath the mess. Leo jumped the short distance to the tub, hitting his shin on the toilet seat, barely noticing the pain.
He plunged his arms into the water, dragging Marcus from the bottom. He assessed the body: forearms flayed open, tendons and muscles exposed and raw, blood pouring from the wounds to stain the water red. Marcus was lost, nothing short of a miracle would bring him back to this life and Leo was fresh out of miracles. All he lad left was sorrow and a reset; but not for Marcus. Leo could sense his code already degrading and returning to the source. Leo could only reset himself and hope to undo the death of his only kindred spirit. His only option and no guarantee for either of them; but he had to try..
Reggie logged off his computer, citing the end of the work day and shut down his computer. He pulled his phone from his pocket while winding his way through the cubicles, seeking sweet freedom. He "woke up" the cellular device and tapped the icon for his favorite Idle Minds RPG.
He nearly bumped into his supervisor, glancing up for a ill mannered, apology look and went immediately back to staring at his phone. The game was stuck on the loading screen, little butterflies flying around an annoyingly slow percentage circle. The screen suddenly went black, before displaying an error message.
Dear User, we are sorry to inform you that your game data has been corrupted, resulting in error. Please uninstall the software and reinstall the software to continue game play.
Your IT Support friends at Idle Minds TM