"Hey, Jet," I smile at my lanky friend sitting on his plush red sofa in the empty white space of the
"Hey, Jacob! How's life treatin' ya these days?" he
says in the seesaw song of his southern drawl. We're in our forties here, the age we were when we met in real life
and became good friends.
"Oh I'm doin' alright..." I slide back into the faint
twang I developed living near Jet for a while in Kentucky. "Lately been spending most of my days flyin'
around the States and Europe." I lean back in my gray leather recliner and smile, "And you? Are you
still sharing a World with Erica?”
"Nah, we’re not together no more," he shrugs. "I found myself someone else, though. She's great.
Actually, she says she knew your gal in college.”
“Huh. Small world.” I think for a moment about life before AfterLife.
"Say, you wanna go for a ride down
Hollifield, like we'd do sometimes after work?” Jet asks. “This ole mind of mine is itchin' for a physical beat-down,”
his crow's feet crinkles as he summons a smile.
I think whether Fiona will miss me for these next couple of hours and decide she won't.
"Let's do it.”
Jet swipes and pokes at his watch and the white floor and walls and ceiling around us slowly fade away and
disappear, and we are in outer space. Earth floats in front of us about the size of a beach ball; a white Settings
panel peeks out from behind it and comes into full view. Jet tinkers with his watch till he’s got the settings he
wants– Year: 2063; Season: Fall; Weather: 68 degrees; Pain: 100%; Go: Yes. In an instant our galaxy disappears,
and we are in Jet's backyard in Atlanta. We grab our bikes from his shed, mount up, and ride.
Left pedal down, right pedal up. Right pedal down, left pedal up. I focus on the rhythm of motion and my bike
picks up speed. Thick trees roll past us on the left; glimpses of the river peek through the brushes to our right.
The pavement is a little rougher here than on most streets but it's not bad. The air is cool as it blows past us
but the humidity of the place sticks to my skin and beads of sweat form along my body. Jet pulls up next to me.
"How're you and Fiona doin’?" he asks between breathes.
"Pretty good. She’s hanging out a lot with Jessica these days. I’m keeping myself busy one way or another
while she’s gone... I picked up hunting.” The road bends and the river is out of sight.
"Yeah?!" he shouts with excitement, "I love me some huntin’!
What kind you doin'?"
"Oh, yeah, that's a good animal to hunt!" he shakes his head in excitement, "I musta killed a dozen whitetail before I started stalkin'
We ride another hundred feet.
“But everything’s good between you and Fiona?” his face turns somber.
I look ahead at the road we're eating, one pedal at a time, and think about her reaction in the plane earlier
"Yeah, everything is fine," I swallow and pedal harder. "Why do you ask?"
"Well," he starts out like he's John Wayne, like he does when he's trying to be serious.
"The girl I'm seein', she's a friend of a friend of Fiona's," he says looking
I don’t know why but my mind gets wirey, starts thinking fast like it does when I'm
"See, the three of 'em, my friend, Fiona, and their guy friend, all went to college
together," he pauses. “Except, that friend of Fiona's wasn’t just a friend..."
"What the fuck are you gettin’ at here, Jet?" I nearly shout as I feel my
knuckles clench my bike's handlebars tight. I can't see them beneath my gloves but I bet
they're as white as snow. He ignores me and continues.
"I guess Fiona and this friend had a thing in college, but it didn't work out," his face still focused,
"that was before she met you."
A part of me knows where this is going and wants it to stop. The other part is desperate to learn more.
"Well, my gal Diana was experiencing her Feed the other day when she saw Fiona and their old friend sharing a
World together. There was nothin'
extraordinary about it or anything, but it made her feel funny so she told me, and now
I'm telling you."
The road bends again back towards the river. A car drives towards us. I watch the vacant,
expressionless face of the computer-powered drone as it passes us on the left. It seems Jet couldn’t afford much
processing power for his World either.
"What day did your girlfriend see this on her Feed?" I ask.
I feel sweat rolling down my neck; so consumed I'd been by our conversation I hadn't
noticed how hard we’ve been riding.
"Well, about a week ago... on Wednesday evening, I think"
I get the impression he regrets bringing this up. I recount this past week, think of what I did on Wednesday.
"Fiona and I were together all of Wednesday," I say feeling reassured, "we had a picnic down by the
river in the afternoon and went into town and watched a movie." He didn't need to hear all of that, but
saying it out loud made me feel better. "Are you sure it was Wednesday night then?"
"Your girl must be mistaken, 'cause I'm sure Fiona was with me all
Jet looks at me for a moment with uncharacteristic intensity and says, "Okay, well, maybe she is."
We pedal on, quiet for the rest of the ride. A lone blue-and-white hamburger stand comes into view. We eat, say
goodbye, and load back into our own separate Worlds.
Fiona is right where I left her two hours ago, eyes still closed and body limp, the Feed still shoveling content
directly into her mind. I light up a cigarette and watch her lips quiver as she lives vicariously the tightly
manicured lives of friends and strangers. Her body sits right next to mine, yet she's never felt so far away.