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Switched Off

Technology is great. Humanity wouldn’t be in the position it’s in now if it wasn’t for technological advancements. You could argue that technology has brought nothing but trouble on us humans, but that’s down to human nature and the misuse of it, not the technology itself. Science should be used as a tool to improve the lives of every living thing on the planet, and beyond, but it should never be allowed to control us.
Steve Dean's Short Story Switched Off

Some authors are constantly writing material that. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I’m not really one of them. Most of my stories are just written to entertain, to hopefully allow those people with busy lives to switch off for a while. Occasionally, I like to write something with a deeper message that reflects my philosophical beliefs.

Technology is great. Humanity wouldn’t be in the position it’s in now if it wasn’t for technological advancements. You could argue that technology has brought nothing but trouble on us humans, but that’s down to human nature and the misuse of it, not the technology itself. Science should be used as a tool to improve the lives of every living thing on the planet, and beyond, but it should never be allowed to control us.

*              *              *

Something was wrong. Gandalf247 had been flying home on his magic carpet when everything froze. He waited a few seconds. This happened sometimes, usually when he was somewhere busy, like Central Plaza or The Great Forest. He was still frozen, so he tried moving up and down, left and right. Nothing worked.

“Escape,” he said, but nothing happened.

“Exit!” Still nothing.

“Unstuck!” nothing was working.

He lifted up his VR headset and looked down at the keyboard. He hadn’t used it in months and had to actually search for the escape key. When he found it, he pressed it several times, then several more. Still no luck. He began pressing other keys, then multiple keys together, then as many keys as he could, but it made no difference.

He gestured for his phone app to call Support, then remembered his computer was frozen. With increasing anger, he looked around for his smartphone. He’d been disconnected for over two minutes now. It just wasn’t acceptable. He had important things to do: he had a date later with xCatGurl69x and he wanted to buy a new avatar before they met near the reverse waterfall in Central.

The phone was nowhere in sight. He had to think when he’d last used it, which was when he last left the house about seven months ago. He’d been to the dentist because they couldn’t check his teeth over his internet link for some reason. He came home, put his phone down… on the table near the front door.

Gandalf247 sighed deeply. He would have to get up, disconnect his sanitary tubes and his sex attachment, get out of the chair and go all the way out into the hall to get the phone. He sighed again when he realised it would probably have a flat battery by now and would need charging before he could use it. At least, that was easy, the wireless charging pad was right there in front of him, but that would waste even more time. He cursed himself: if he’d just brought the phone up with him and thrown it onto the pad it would be right there.

He thought about waiting to see if the problem would resolve itself, just have a nap and come back later. No, he couldn’t do that either because he didn’t have access to his sleep software, which monitored his sleep apnoea and played whale music to relax him into sleep. Instead, he leaned over and opened his fridge, selected an energy drink and a few snack bars and settled down to wait.

When the snacks and drink were gone, his VR goggles were still frozen.

“Damn it!” he pulled them off and threw them down onto his desk. Looking around, he tried to think of the things he could do to get his life back on track. He’d seen something once, a meme about a nuclear power station which melted down and stopped working. Something about turning it off and back on again. Yes, that was it. A black box sat on his desk with a series of lights on the front. They were all red, except the one at the end, which was green. He had no idea what that meant. Leaning forwards, he started checking the box for a switch or button that said off. As soon as he touched the box the lights went out and whatever was whirring inside span down to silence.

Ok, now to turn it back on. He grabbed it, turned it around and pressed the small switch he found on the back. The lights stayed off, even the green one. It was then he noticed his room lights had gone off, his fridge wasn’t making strange noises and the clock on his microwave was off.

“Damn it!” Gandalf247 looked towards his bedroom door, it was several feet away. With no other choice, he struggled out of his chair and carefully detached the tubes. By the time he’d shifted his bulky body upright, he was sweating all over and his breath was rasping in his chest. Bravely, he headed for the door.

The flat was quiet, which was unusual because he could normally hear his neighbours. The couple on one side did live porn shows so they were always having over-exaggerated sex. The woman on the other side was a professional gamer. Most days he could hear her killing something or other and shouting very loudly in triumph. Today there was nothing but silence, they weren’t even shouting at their computers.

He went out into the short hallway and grabbed his phone off the table near the door. It didn’t come on when he tried it—the battery was flat as he expected. A shape moved on the other side of the glass in his front door. Probably a neighbour looking for answers. Once again, he hesitated. He hadn’t actually interacted with a real person since he’d been to the dental surgery. He made himself move. He really didn’t want to miss his date. The door creaked open when he unlocked it and he stepped out onto the landing beyond. The entire world, or at least what he could see of it, was silent and still. There was a strange smell in the wind, a burning, chemical smell. He looked around to see if the neighbour was still there.

To his left, and moving towards him, was a strange bird-like alien in an exosuit. It was pointing something that looked like a gun at him.

“Cool, dude! Like your cosplay!” Gandalf247 grinned. “Are you in there or is that a drone?” The alien didn’t speak, just pulled the trigger and blew his brains out.

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