‘I= life* n(others + me)’ by Richard David Lawman

It felt like there was more darkness than the room could hold. Like a battle against the light was being lost.  Gall slumped in his chair in front of the glowing computer screens, watching dust particles illuminated by the screen light rise and fall on the convectional currents.  The air was thick. He could feel himself getting full from just breathing it in.  Gall sat and stared at the screens, as he always did.

In the corner, an orchid strained for the light and optimistically bulked it’s flower head ready to bloom and fill the room with colour.  Gall sat and stared and watched the screens – just as he always did.

A greasy pizza, crushed into its cardboard coffin, rammed through the letterbox.  Gall heard the clunk of the lid shutting as the delivery boy took his payment which waited for him.  Gall shuffled across the room on his swivel chair, re-tracing the familiar groves in the dust on the floor as he fetched his meal, and never taking his eyes off the screens.

Gall heard the ripples of rain against the window. The sound still got through the blind, curtains and board he had in front of it.  He never took his bulging eyes off the screen.  Always watching them.  No one watching him.

And then Gall woke up.  Bright lights, moving images, unfamiliar sounds.  He was in a hospital bed.  After taking a few minutes to adjust, he turned onto his side and found her sat by his bed.

“How…?” he murmured in her direction.

“You had a heart attack, Dad. You’re going to be ok, thought…” She softly said.

He shut his eyes again, forcing himself down as deeper as he could go, closing off everything around him.  After a few seconds he opened them again.

He was back in his room.  The darkness felt even heavier.  Light crushed in on all sides.  He smiled, for the first time in months, he could do it – he could live any life he wanted – vicariously – without the risk of death, pain, heartbreak.  He clicked off the page of the father in his hospital bed with his daughter at his side and clicked onto a new page.  The letterbox rattled as his next meal crushed through.  He shuffled over to retrieve it, never taking his eyes off the screens, and looking for his next experience.

“Why live one life when you can live many?” he said to himself, hot, greasy pizza slopping onto his chin.  But then it stuck him – who would want to live his?  He ushered that thought away and returned to staring at the screens, concentrating on his next trip and eventually, his next victim.

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