This is a short story about living in a lie.

“Thank you for coming to the studio today,” said the presenter.

“Thank you for having me, it’s a great pleasure to be here, Thehany,” the CEO smiled and sat down next to the presenter.

“Mister Smith, your company has developed this incredible piece of technology…” the presenter paused because of the audience going wild with claps and cheering. “But skeptics are warning about long-term dangers of the use of said technology. They claim your augmented reality devices, are nothing more than rose-colored glasses and they will be the end of our civilization.”

“First of all, please call me John,” the CEO smiled. “Then I need to clarify, our technology goes beyond augmented reality. We use a cutting edge psycho-emotional stimulation so the effects are broader and more immersive than what augmented reality alone could ever provide. And there are always skeptics in the beginning. What we have developed is absolutely not a pair of rose-colored glasses. There are no similarities between these two concepts. We are positive that this technology will be a breakthrough for curing depression.”

***

Zaak woke up. He was confronted with a grey sealing of his tiny apartment. The paint was peeling off. In the corner was a huge black spot of fungus. It looked hideous and disgusting. Zaak closed his eyes and activated the Pinkies. The sealing was perfectly smooth and white. Not too white to look at but pleasantly clean and fresh.

He continued with his day. Zaak didn’t shower. There was no need for it. He smelled pleasant. He also didn’t need to brush his teeth. They were perfectly white and shiny.

It had been twenty years since, more or less, everyone had their Pinkies. The product had evolved from contact lenses and morning pills to what it was today, an implant with enough juice to sustain its effects for a lifetime. They still hadn’t figured out how to keep them activated when everyone gets up and avoid the unpleasantness of reality. Somehow the brain was circumventing the system while asleep.

Zaak headed to the office. He had a wonderful life. He was on the management of one of the top companies in the world and he was having a blast of a carrier. Ever since he got his Pinkies he hadn’t have a single stressful day in his life and the product had helped him to absolutely excel at everything he attempted. It was worth every penny he had to spend on it. He looked through the window of his newest sports car and at first, didn’t understand what he saw. There was a huge grey parking lot in place of the park. No trees and smiling children, just a grey lot with some sheds on them. Few people were sitting by the fires made in old oil barrels.

Shocked he looked away and realized he was not driving his super slick sports car. He was sitting on a dirty bus, full of smelling people. He was smelling as well. No, this was beyond smelling it was a stench of aged sweat and half-rotten bodies. A burning feeling woke up in his mind. He was too shocked to even localize it at first. It was his teeth. Most of them were gone, but the ones that he still had felt smaller under his tongue and they hurt.

Zaak’s heart started to race and his vision blurred for a moment. What the hell was going on. The rest of the passengers were sitting peacefully. Someone had a broken arm that had already grown badly. Someone else had only one eye. Most of the people were bold and all of them looked old. Very old.

The bus must have driven into something. Those who were standing fell on the other. No one said anything. No one shouted. A guy had hit his head on the rail of the seat and now his forehead was bleeding. He was not reacting. In a few moments, everyone was back on their feet looking into the distance not seeing anything. Not feeling anything.

Zaak grabbed this pocket in search of his phone. The phone would have an answer. It always had an answer. But it wasn’t there. He must have lost it somewhere. Zaak started to panic. The entire world had hit him with all its ugliness and brutality. His whole life turned out to be one big simulation. A lie. A bubble that had just burst and blinded him with the disgust of reality.

His heart was racing faster and faster as the realization of the reality was becoming clearer. And then he felt at crucifying pain in his left arm. He tried to grab by his chest and withstand the pain but he just collapsed and everything went blank.