Earthscape artwork by Andres Amador
"I think you are an ugly, stupid pile of human shit," she said, throwing the glass candle jar, cinnamon-watermelon scent, at him.
"Heah, Mason, are you all right?" the IT guy asked him at work. His cubicle computer was getting an updated operating system. The guy, a 21st Generation type, sensitive but in the end give-a-damn, looked at him with concern. "I saw that fight with your wife on YouTube. Man, that candle jar really brought out some blood."
"I'm fine," Mason said. "We have fights like that all the time. Check Facebook, or get on my Yahoo Favorites list. Everything goes out that way."
And Twitter, and Instagram, and Watsup, and who knew what else. He wasn't sure which camera recorded last night's fight, the latest in an uncomfortable marriage and the fight over email that seemed to show he was having an affair with an Islamic babe in Dubai. It might have been the one on the HDTV or one of the security cameras. It might even have been the one on the refrigerator since it pointed out into the open-concept living room.
His supervisor was next in line. "Heah, Mason, you okay?"
The bandage on his forehead ought to have been enough of an answer, but this was his supervisor.
"I'm fine. Just another night in Hell," he said. The supervisor didn't laugh.
"Where are you? I thought you wanted to have dinner," he got an email from an old friend.
"Check the date. The hacker likes to send out old email from a year or two ago to cause me trouble. Remember that meal we had at the new burger place last December? I think the email was an invitation back then," Mason wrote.
"Heah, IT guy," he asked the young dude, still working on installing his new update. What was the delay? "Do you know any way to identify these hackers so I can turn them over to the police? Every time I ask them, or lawyers, or Geek Patrol people, they say, bring us proof."
"I don't think there's any way. Got the IP numbers? A computer forensics guy could trace that down. Of course, they charge $200 an hour. Total to get the hacker or hackers in jail for life would probably be $20,000 plus."
"Thanks for the encouragement," Mason said. He had been standing for a half hour and was getting tired. No exercise, and a salary that couldn't pay to have his toilet repaired. There were rumors he would be replaced by software soon. Only the 21st Gen guy was safe, for the moment. A robot already roamed the hall between cubicles delivering stuff.
"Just give it up. Admit there's no privacy anymore. Go with it. My girlfriend and I like to have sex in front of the webcam because we know the video will get maybe 8,000 hits before we finish." He spoke seriously without a hint of horror or humor.
Mason sat in his mesh chair before the updated computer, ready to process 15 new applications per hour, his quota. He gave the screen the finger, fuck you. Two minutes later the screen went black.
"You've really pissed him off. Maybe Russian. I can't get back in," another IT guy, this one middle-aged and bald. "Check with your supervisor. You've got to get a new computer."
"Damn, Mason. We'll have to let you go if this keeps up. One more new computer, and you're fired."
He'd worked for the company 21 years, starting as an intern.
"Sorry. It won't happen again."
That night he grabbed his wife and pulled her screaming to the floor. He pulled off her pajama bottoms and spread her legs, making sure the security camera in the corner had a good view. He took off his pants. She kicked him in the nuts.
"That does it. Divorce, big shot," she said, and ran into the front bedroom, her office. Locked door he knew. He gave the finger to the camera.
"You're viral, man," the application evaluator in the next cubicle said the next morning as he arrived for work. "120,000 hits already. That expression on your face when she kicked you. Hah, hah." Another 21st Gen hire. A lot of days the "boy" just didn't show up. Management was trying to work with that age so they didn't have to hire old farts like him.
"She's staying," Mason informed. "That's marriage now. You've got that to look forward to, a wife who kicks you in the balls."
"Not me, man. I'm never getting married. Too much available free out there. Human population just got past 15 billion last week. Friends and I celebrated, got wired. Too bad you missed the human flood, man."
Yeah, too bad, he thought. He walked in front of the webcam overlooking the whole auditorium of gray cubicles. Everybody was on security camera every second of the day. He pulled the pistol from his pocket, waved it, and said, "The hell with this life shit. Death to hackers. Enjoy." He put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Red, brains and eyeballs.
"Mason's gone viral. Five million hits so far. He's dead. Can't say I miss him," his wife emailed her best friend who lived on the coast.
"Great email," her "secret" boyfriend posted on Facebook. "Hundreds of Comments. Thousands of Likes. Now it's my turn. Be over tonight."
"No you won't," she commented. "I've got a date with my dildo."
Two million hits by dinner. She giggled at the screen. 10,000 hits on that.
On the side of Facebook was an ad: "DEATH TO HACKERS" T-shirts. This dead husband thing was blowing up big time.