Dysontopia | 4/4 4:44 | 4.1

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Chapter 4

“4/4 4:44”

Opening my eyes, my vision is doubled and I feel nauseous, like I’m spinning. I immediately think something is wrong, so in a panic I try to jerk myself awake. The feeling reminds of the time I randomly woke up with vertigo five years ago. I spent two hours spinning, then it just stopped as I sat in the waiting room of the doctor. I never want to go through that again. Luckily this time the sensation passes after a moment.

The glow of the lights outside filters a dark shade of blue through my curtains, reminding me of the lights mounted above the kitchen window of my grandparents’ old house. Funny, the lights outside are usually a lot more yellow. And that shadow is not supposed to be there. I barely make out the silhouette of a person in the corner. Long hair. Glasses. I scramble around madly for a weapon of some type.

I knew it before I turn on the lamp on the bedside table, which illuminates that distinctive face and hair (and those nails). She’s back. Continue reading “Dysontopia | 4/4 4:44 | 4.1”

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Dysontopia | Metal Conducts Electricity | 3.4

<< Metal Conducts Electricity 3.3 | Patch Log | 4/4 4:44 4.1 >>

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A lot can happen between the months of January and May. That final semester at Azure Coast did not live up to the seven that had come before it. I got falsely accused of plagiarism on a paper in a required class I didn’t even want to take, knocking my GPA down from a perfect 4.0. That meant I graduated magna cum laude, not the summa cum laude title I had my heart set on. No gold and silver honor cord. No graduation speech. I just walked up to the stage and grabbed a fake piece of paper with the alma mater lyrics and an alumni association ad in it, just like everybody else.

While that was going on, one of my best friends since childhood, Mae Albritton, and I got into a falling out over this guy I was dating, and as so often happens with sororities, they turn on you when the drama starts. Considering Mae had just as much involvement in Pi Beta Eta as me, basically a she-said, she-said civil war broke out. It didn’t take me long to just give up and let her spread her gossip about me. It didn’t matter, I was leaving anyway and she was just a junior. No hard feelings. I’ll just got out and let her do her thing. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Metal Conducts Electricity | 3.4”

Dysontopia | Metal Conducts Electricity | 3.3

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“What,” I resisted. “I just told you what happened to my mom. She’s dead and that’s that.”

“I know you better than that, Sydney Winters. You were the star of Azure Coast University 15 years after your mom died. You loved your life, and you really loved the nightlife. Losing your mom when you were three years old did not turn you into…” she motioned at me with her hands, fumbling for the right words to describe the mess of me. I’d thought I’d help out a bit.

“What? A jerk? A smartass? An insensitive prick who thinks everyone around her is a –?

She retaliates, “A person who absolutely is dealing with depression, a mental illness which affects literally a billion people.”

“What the hell are you saying?” I feel this powerful surge of anger. I can acknowledge that I’m an asshole. I can get behind the fact that I’m mean to people and deserve to be treated likewise. But depression, that’s the thing that put my mom in the ground, and I wasn’t about to let that girl start flinging around words like depression and mental illness. I am not weak. I am better than that. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Metal Conducts Electricity | 3.3”

Dysontopia | Metal Conducts Electricity | 3.2

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I remember one time, when I was sixteen-years-old and finishing up another lazy spring day in the life of high school sophomore, Dad got off of work from the lab early. He pulled up blaring some deep cut from Soundgarden or something – I’m not sure, I wasn’t really into that kind of music at the time – and said he wanted to take me to a baseball game. I think I had plans that night with one of the hundred jerks I dated in high school, but something about hanging out with my dad just felt like the right thing to do. I didn’t much care who the Jacksonville Suns were even playing or how they were doing in the standings, I just remember eating this really big hot dog and cheering when the crowd did. I was also a fan of pulling for the underdog during those stupid half-inning mascot race games. That night, it was The Great Office Supply Race, featuring Nicky the Sticky Note, Armstrong the Rubber Band, and fan-favorite Jim the Paperclip.

One thing I had always found odd was that it was just my dad and I living in such a big house. The residence at 1228 Halcyon Drive, with four bedrooms and this awesome loft, was clearly big enough for a family much larger than our little dynamic duo. That loft, which I eventually named the Sky Roost, was my sanctuary and favorite room in the house. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Metal Conducts Electricity | 3.2”

Dysontopia | Metal Conducts Electricity | 3.1

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Chapter 3

“Metal Conducts Electricity”

“You know you’ve got a bed, right?” Millie says, closing the apartment door behind her. Knowing my dearest roommate, she was out until 11:00 p.m. with her friends. And by “with her friends,” I mean quizzing each other on possible drug interactions using flashcards. You have to think that on long nights things devolve into something a little dirtier, like competitive ganglia nerve cluster diagramming.

I must have turned the heat in the apartment up to like 75 degrees, drawing a short complaint from Millie as she walks by, but I still feel cold. I’m sprawled out on the couch in my purple tank top and a pair of mismatched running shorts I changed into when I got back. Honestly though, I’m wide awake thinking about everything that’s happened today and how much I miss the people I love.

“There’s, um, some pizza in the refrigerator if you want it,” I mutter, unsure if I was speaking loud enough for her to hear me. Gosh, I must have been just staring up at the ceiling for hours now. It has become so incredibly hard not to cry. It’s like you can build that long-term toughness where you don’t cry at anything anymore. With practice you can sustain that stability for a little while, but then the dam breaks and you find yourself depressed even deeper underwater. I must have cycled through that process three or four times over the past two years. Millie is heading to her room, study materials in tow, without any intention of saying another word to me. The way I treated her this morning, I don’t blame her. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Metal Conducts Electricity | 3.1”

Dysontopia | A Study in Bad Acronyms | 2.3

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Dude comes back to take our food order, but of course I don’t have to say anything because Val’s already got it covered with my favorite. Large thin crust. Bacon, bell pepper, mushrooms, and that oh so scrumptious pineapple. Pure pizza bliss.

“Sector… Zero?” I’m trying to comprehend what that has to do with society or history or really anything of the sorts. I understand the words, of course. Land is often divided into sectors forming a grid. So are areas of three-dimensional space. And they’re often numbered 1-100 based on a predetermined position and established area size. Meh, who knows, maybe the office just got together and voted on a cool name.

“And you’re saying that’s somehow less ominous than CHASR?” I quip. Continue reading “Dysontopia | A Study in Bad Acronyms | 2.3”

Writing the Unreliable Perception of Time | 0.4

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“Hey Matt, tell me about your day,” Nikki says literally everyday when I come home from work. I love the question, but I also dread the question. Why? I’m always falling short of making the detailed time-delineated list I aim for. Because, if I may be terribly honest, the life of a graphic designer is not that interesting. I mean it’s fulfilling, but there is just not much in the day worth recounting like some kind of epic tale.

Imagine a TV show about graphic designers. No doubt the special effects and production value would be out of this world, but each episode would be the same thing each time with just minimal tweaks. Hmm, now that I think about it, that could actually be really good. Think Groundhog Day meets Edge of Tomorrow meets The Office. Producers of the world, I demand to be a writer on this show! Continue reading “Writing the Unreliable Perception of Time | 0.4”

Dysontopia | A Study in Bad Acronyms | 2.2

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She shrugs, of all things, and says, “As a matter of fact there is.” Then she smiles, and it’s all rather peculiar. I’m trying to comprehend why someone would be so happy-go-lucky about apprehending me, or whatever is going on.

“Go on,” I say, tilting my head, feeling more annoyed than anything.

“Are you hungry?” she changes the subject. I quickly shake my head no, furrowing my eyes behind the sunglasses. That was actually a lie. Millie was right about the sugar crash.

“Are you going to tell me what the hell you want?” I fire back.

“Hey, relax. I’ll tell you everything, but can we do it over lunch? Please? Something tells me one granola bar just isn’t enough.” She pulls out the empty wrapper I had dropped on the ground.

“How the –” Continue reading “Dysontopia | A Study in Bad Acronyms | 2.2”

Dysontopia | A Study in Bad Acronyms | 2.1

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Chapter 2

“A Study in Bad Acronyms”

As I escape Elmore Hall like a prison break, I notice the same female professor from my earlier observations had stationed herself on the park bench at ground level to the left of the steps. She is using a fairly bulky laptop, and for a moment I get a glimpse of what appears to be some kind of computer code or programming language. Was I wrong, perhaps? It occurs to me that she might not be a professor at all. Upon further inspection, she does look rather young. Long red hair, tallish, slightly olive skin, green – no make that blue – eyes. At first I had her pegged for sociology, or maybe archeology, but neither of those fields use a level of computer complexity anywhere close to what I think I just saw. Suspicious.

Descending the steps, I’m contemplating what I should do now that I’ve flown the coop. This could have been planned better. I think I’ll go into town, stock up on some supplies, and just go wander for a little while. It’s not like I haven’t done it before. Continue reading “Dysontopia | A Study in Bad Acronyms | 2.1”

Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.4

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He glares for a second before giving me the third degree, telling me that I’m lucky he even lets me take the exam at all. That would be fine by me. I don’t even care anymore.

The computers were set up in hexagonal groups, six to a table. He told me to take a seat at one of the open iMacs, so I park myself across from Amy. Amy Summers. Somehow I think the only reason she got in this school is because some admission dean somewhere thought it would be hilarious to have a person with the name Summers and someone named Winters in the same classroom. She’s my only sort-of ally in the program. I say ally because she’s not even close to being my friend. However, she’s also the only person who doesn’t hate me, so she’s got that going for her.

Suddenly Ryker comes scampering in, his hair a mess and the bottom button of his jacket undone. Papers are flying, and he practically crashes into the computer directly behind me. Nobody says a word. Such is life. You think people are beyond middle school social cliques, organizing into groups and singling out people to pick on, but that maturity is too much to be expected of people of any age. The social dynamics of 14-year-olds are not much different from those of 24-year-olds, they just take on a different, more “professional” setting as people age. And academic types, for all their “knowledge” of why people behave the way they do, are the absolute worst. Continue reading “Dysontopia | Cold Outside, Cold Inside | 1.4”