Chapter 1 - Bryan West
Bryan continued to ignore the beeping whatsapp notifications.
[Didn't I mute everything for a year?....]
[Why can't I mute it forever?] He thought as the pings continued.
Annoyed by the unstoppable sounds, he couldn't ignore it anymore. No man could sleep under the barrage of such sounds.
[Must be some office group. Is some report pending?] He tried to think of the reason for these buzzes as he still could not muster up the energy to get up.
[Did I miss a deadline? Not again.] As this thought came into his mind, he missed a heartbeat.
He couldn't afford to lose his job, not now at least, during this pandemic.
He worked at a tech company in the bay area, San Francisco.
Things were fine before the pandemic. A salary of about 80k before taxes was not much here in SF but he could live off well.
"Well" was a relative term though.
Well for Bryan was a studio apartment in the suburbs from where he commuted daily for hours to reach his office.
Despite all this, he was living the American dream or so he thought he was until the pandemic attacked.
He had gotten the virus really early.
He had survived it but at what cost.
Not the cost, his insurance plan covered as he had to dive deep into his savings to pay off the bills and have regular checkups.
"You can't do heavy exercise, for 6 months or more." The doctor had told him.
Bryan had a self insulting smirk on his face at that time.
Heavy exercise. The only heavy exercise I do only uses one hand. He thought at the time of doctor's advice.
His thin biceps in spite of the daily exercise proved that the exercise wasn't very taxing, so he ignored the messages.
It was not that Bryan did not want to exercise, there was no time. He travelled for hours to get to work. When he got back, he was too tired to do anything. The weekends were meant to take rest.
The pandemic had been an postive in that regard. Work from home meant he didn't have to waste time travelling.
He could read more, more novels. But that did not last long. The filler arcs annoyed him so much that he turned to the dark side.
He installed tinder. He even bought the premium plan to right swipe till his hands hurt.
Yet no results.
[Maybe there is some problem with my account.] He had thought at that time.
Still, he did not give up. He swiped when he had the time to do it between work.
Ofcourse, he did not pay for the subscription again.
Why would anyone pay for a bugged application. Bryan was many things but he was not stupid and more importantly, he was not rich.
Money had not been a problem for him considering his frugal life. It only became a problem when the company decided to reduce the salaries by fifty percent.
"Downturn in economic activity" was the reason in the company mail.
"What a load of horse crap?" He had told his fellow employees.
He had more work now than before but he was paid less.
And, this was not the end. The HR had the decency to only send office mails during working hours before the pandemic.
It wasn't like that anymore. They could call him at night if they saw him active online.
It was this reason that he didn't want to open his phone. Once, he opened it and they saw the blue tick mark. He would be caught.
The phone had no intention of slowing down.
Even the sleepy Bryan got curious now and a little scared.
[Is it good news or bad news? Maybe, they ended salary cuts.] He tried to think positively.
He himself could not believe they would do that. There were so many unemployed on the market, they had no problem utilizing cheap labour.
"Is it some girl texting me?" Bryan tried to be an optimist.
He got hold of his phone as he tried opening his eyelids which seemed to be the heaviest part on his body despite his self proclaimed big D.
"What the fuck!" Bryan thought as he saw his phone. He had bought an Fruit last year, how did it become the samsing.
It was at this time, he noticed the change in his surroundings. The dingy studio apartment had turned into a minimalistic bedroom with just a bed, a table, a chair and a cupboard.
He rubbed his eyes as if trying to confirm that he was not hallucinating.
"What the fuck? Is this not like my old college room." He said aloud.
"How did I end up here?"
Here was his university in San Diego in the southern tip of California, opposite of his studio apartment in North Cali.
Flashback inside Bryan's mind.
Tired of staying home, he decided to go out in person to buy groceries instead of having Alexa do it. He walked down the road from his apartment.
Bryan saw the small corner store after months. It was still the same.
[Woah, is the tesla truck already for sale?] Bryan kept updated on the news. He had seen the presentation. It was unique and now it was in front of him.
He was gazing at the truck when he saw the signal turning green for him to cross. He wanted to have one more glance at the Tesla truck as a result of that he did not focus on the pavement.
"Shit!" Bryan spoke as he looked at what he stepped into.
Months of staying inside, he had forgotten the sights. He added toilet paper to the list of things he needed as he walked along an obstacle path made of shit and needles.
Feeling a little better that it was just shit and not a needle, he went inside the store and saw a completely different site.
Black tshirts, black masks, fists in the air.
Bryan stood like an eye sore with his white clothes. Feeling the gaze of the people, he carefully dodged them and walked in.
Picking up his stuff, he walked to the counter to pay for it and looked at a scared girl at the counter who spoke.
Bryan passed the sales lady a Benjamin and left the store without the change to support local businesses unfortunately.