by Ben Hallert
The block’s turning into a rough neighborhood, the kind of place murder victims go to hang out. It’s nasty and dirty but it’s home. What’s got me pissed isn’t a little trash, it’s these stupid glasses everyone’s wearing. Government wastes money on them instead of doing their goddamn jobs, drives me nuts. The worst part: that dumb smile. You know the one. Bunch of fakers, walking around smiling at all the filth like it’s high art.
“Hey man, forget your specs?” Crap, a cornerboy snuck up on me because I wasn’t paying attention. He holds out a set. “Free pair.”
“I pay my taxes, boy, it’s not free. Bug off.” I keep walking, the pest follows.
“Ok, then you’ve already paid.” He waves ’em again.
“I don’t want ’em. My taxes should go to REAL cleanup and maintenance, not… those.” I stop, point. “They’re insulting, I’m not interested in fantasy.” I walk again, faster. The boy keeps pace, switching to that infuriating ‘reasonable tone’ parents use when they’re trying to con kids out of being monsters. I don’t NEED to be handled, I just want him gone.
“Look guy…. if you don’t take these, someone’ll try again later, then again after that. Might as well get it over with.” He brightens. “Hey, you can just turn off the overlay if you want, you know.”
I slow. “I can turn ’em off? And you’ll all leave me alone?”
“Sure, you can turn off any enhancement. Click your tongue twi-”
“Yeah, I’m not a caveman.” I grab the set. “Ok, you win. Go bug someone else.” I scowl at the glasses as he leaves to find his next mark, then put ’em on. Everything around me changes.
I ignore the pretty lies and start configuring. I know if I don’t, the slums’ll look like new construction, the garbage in the street’ll be gone, and everyone’ll have the bodies of freakin’ supermodels. After a minute, I’ve got honest, dingy reality back. I’ll take true filth over fake clean anyday, but… everyone still has that dumb smile. I want to scream “It’s not real! It’s a lie, they’re faking you out and you’re buying it!” I want to, but they say I sound like a crazy person when I drop hard truths so sometimes I don’t.
They don’t care. They get their shiny buildings and pretty people and nobody has to DO anything for it.
Well, at least the cornerboys’ll stop hassling me. I squint, it’s bright out. Re-open the editor, make ’em sunglasses. Not bad. For funsies, I flip one of those idiot mouths upside down. Oh, this is rich, the simp looks so messed up. I flip a setting so everyone’s like that. That’s better, now I don’t have to look at the grins anymore.
Fine. They can have their illusions, I’ll stay in the real world. I know the score, I’ve got my integrity.
I keep walking, the last honest man in a world of lies, and I smile.