Creus woke up, his alarm flashing silly video clips in his face. There were sound effects too, boinks and whloops. He usually found them funny, but not today. He swiped the alarm app off.
Nepenthe showed him his notifications and read it aloud. “Notifications, 1. Filtered, 2 million and forty-two.”
“Show me,” Creus said and went to the bathroom. He splashed some water on his face, and swiped the ridesharing ads from the mirror.
“Thea has sent an email. Would you like me to read it out loud? Default setting for emails from Thea is: Always read. Swipe away in five seconds or wait for the message.”
Creus sighed and looked at himself in the mirror. He needed a shave, so he got right to that. He picked up the electric shaver from the wall socket and started to make himself presentable.
“Baby, why won’t you move from that godforsaken end of the Earth you call home? Come to the city. I’m right here waiting for you, it’ll be nice. Don’t worry about the rent. Winky face. Winky face. Eggplant emoji.” Nepenthe said with her synthesized voice.
Creus didn’t say anything, he simply took care of his stubble.
“Shall I autogenerate a message for Thea?” Nepenthe asked.
Creus pushed his skin around, stretching it for the shaver. “Yeah. Go ahead.”
“Thea baby, we’ll see. I’ll try and find some time after this project I’m working on, you know I’ve got a killer deadline. As soon as I’m done, I’ll try and visit you. Winky face. Winky face. Water Splash emoji.”
Creus nodded and kept on shaving as Nepenthe replied for him. It made his life so much easier. Nepenthe took over the mirror and showed him a selfie Thea just posted, and auto-liked it with a comment. Thea was more cute than pretty, but he liked her. She dressed a bit nerdy with cartoons and movie quotes on her t-shirts, and he definitely liked that. She didn’t wear much makeup, or rather she did but she had explained to him it was the no-makeup look. She usually had something colourful on her hair, something like a rubber band with a cartoon character or a hairclip. Headphones were her usual gadget, even though nobody needed that antiquated technology after holosound became available.
The comment from him on her selfie was, ‘My boo, love you. heart emoji’
He had a few seconds to reject the comment, but of course it was exactly what he wanted to have written. Nepenthe knew him, it was like she read his mind.
He peed on the toilet, which ran a scan on his urine and told him he’d probably drop dead in thirty-six hours unless he immediately bought a Zeethromax drug, 55% off if he ordered within thirty seconds. He sighed and swiped the damn ad away, finishing his tinkle and shaking it.
He got dressed, putting on his one and only t-shirt. He liked that white t-shirt, he picked it up from the UV rack where it was cleaned all night. He let Nepenthe decide on what to show on the surface. She chose a meme that was popular this week, he liked it and nodded in approval. He put on his jeans and looked down. He was ready for work.
He yawned once more and walked to the next room, his home-office. He kept his workspace in a separate area so as to distinguish the working mindframe. It helped. Sometimes. Other days, he didn’t have much of a will to do any work at all. This was one of those days, but the calendar reminder kept bugging him and he couldn’t ignore it any longer.
As if reading his mind, which was impossible but Creus thought it was the case many times in the day, Nepenthe spoke. “The deadline for the Titan project is due in three days.”
“Yeah, thanks…” he said out loud and sat on his computer-slash-office space. He didn’t need to reply to Nepenthe, but being alone all day and working alone all day made him crave that tiny bit of human interaction, even if it was with a digital assistant.
His computer was on, booted up a few minutes ago by none other than Nepenthe. He opened up his emails, sighed at some, frowned at others, swore out loud at two in particular and let Nepenthe reply on all of them. Her responses were spot on anyway, it was exactly what he wanted to say in each case.
He didn’t have to utter a word.
Some days, not this one where he cursed and replied, but others, he didn’t even speak at all.
Nepenthe was an expert in bringing you what you needed, when you needed it, a moment before you even realised you needed it. He heard the usual whirr of the delivery drone. It came and rested on its usual perch right outside his window, on a square net with clear indicators where it could land without issues and recharge if needed. That one did, so it sat there for a few minutes in silence, recharging. Creus stood up and opened the slot, receiving his taco.
It was exactly what he wanted at that moment, and he peeled the environment-friendly wrapper and bit into it, moaning with pleasure. It was good. Warm. Juicy, perfect.
He sat back down on his computer and scratched his head, chewing his food. Okay, he needed to do this. The Titan project was, well, titanic. It was a station in orbit that would be an automated factory for artificial organs, hearts especially. The constant freefall allowed the organ printing process to create the heart without a structure. That, when done on Earth’s gravity, needed to be removed and there was no real method for that. It was best to not need the structure in the first place. That’s why it made sense, despite the astronomical costs.
It was a big project, and it was at least a decade overdue. The prime-minister had promised it done within his term, so they threw money at it and plenty of overtime. Creus didn’t do anything vital in this, its not like the entire titanic project was waiting for him to be done with his part, but he did need to finish it.
It was mostly virtual design of materials and redundancies, and simulations of various disasters that could happen. That required a supercomputer, and he didn’t have one at home, naturally. So he sent the simulation parametres and waited for the supercomputer to finish it and send him back the results. That’s why he could work remotely, his job could be done from literally anywhere on the planet with an internet access.
Creus enjoyed his peace and quiet at first, but after a while he didn’t want to leave the house. Everything he needed could be brought to him, and Nepenthe actually did just that, ordering his favourite food, drinks, gadgets, keeping him entertained with social media and posts and silly pictures of old friends.
Yeah…
There was talk for a reunion with some buddies from school, and there was a group chat and everything where there was much excitement at first, but after a while and plenty of non-agreements on scheduling it died down. Thankfully, Creus was honest with himself. It was one thing to chat with those guys and girls, and another to actually meet up with them in person. Jeesh, the mere thought brought him waves of anxiety. What would they say? What would they think of each other? The comparisons would be inevitable, who got fat, who got bald, which class babe became an average soccer mom.
Nah.
Creus was fine, letting Nepenthe respond to all that, saving up his time for more important stuff.
Like his girl, Thea.
Sure, they hadn’t met yet, but they were taking it slow. Seven years was not a long time these days for a relationship to develop, and he wasn’t one to put pressure on others. They spoke of shared dreams and aspirations, but deep down they both felt more comfortable being on their own little home with their quiet bed and their own personal space.
Relationships were hard, after all. It was never good to rush these things.
He got a text from Thea, Nepenthe read it out loud. “Baby, I’m off to work. Will be thinking of you. Kisses. Hearts emoji, kissing emoji.”
He smiled and let Nepenthe reply to her. He didn’t even pay attention what the message was, he had to focus on work. Okay, designs. He needed to put some effort today. He opened up the CAD program and loaded up his project. He winced, realising it all looked foreign to him. Gods, how long had he been procrastinating. And more importantly, what had he been doing? Okay, he was browsing, watching memes and funny videos, fooling around with his social media buddies from around the world.
But wasn’t Nepenthe supposed to make more time for him by automating and taking over tasks for him? He was supposed to have more time for himself, to rest, to think, to work. Yes, Nepenthe couldn’t do his work for him, but she could do everything else, the chores in the smarthouse, the orders, everything.
All he had to do was to work and sleep and play.
He ran his fingers through his hair. How many days had he wasted, being idle? And what was he even doing? He hadn’t visited Thea, as they always talked about. He hadn’t done anything fun, and his sleep was a bit disturbed. He bought some sleeping pills on sale when the pillow detected irregular brainwave patterns. Those helped, but he didn’t want to become dependent on those.
Creus always thought that people became too dependent on things, and that was bad. Everybody should think like him. He needed only a few things in life, a modest home, his workstation, his internet connection, his delivery drone subscription, his t-shirt subscription, his shaver, his Nepenthe subscription, his Agora subscription, and a few other things. He didn’t really need much in life. In fact, he was positively Spartan. Other people wanted frivolities like golden doors or whatever.
Creus could settle for doors that were Nepenthe-enabled. No biggie.
He slapped himself for procrastinating again. Work. Right.
He started to poke at the project, it looked completely unfamiliar. He knew of it, the memories fuzzy, and deep down he knew that he was the one who had made the entire thing from scratch, but it had been months, probably, and it all looked so foreign now.
And he had three days to finish it.
Or else, he’d be fired. And he’d lose his paycheck, and he’d lose access to all the nice things he had, what little they may be.
He puffed his cheeks and started to work, attacking the project from various angles until it made sense again.
And it did!
Hours later.
He didn’t realise how late it had been, it was eleven at night. He had some bathroom breaks, and Nepenthe had ordered some more snacks for him to munch on, but other than that, he had been working all day. And he was proud of himself, he had become re-acquainted with his project and had done a tiny percentage in headway.
That was progress.
Tomorrow he’d do better, he knew that.
Tired, he yawned and stretched his back. It was really hurting from all the sitting all day. He put his back against the wall and pressed back, feeling the coolness of the concrete, his back getting a bit relieved.
He threw himself on the bed and hugged his pillow. It suggested some drugs for him, but he swiped it away.
Nepenthe spoke. “Thea has a message for you.”
“Yes…” Creus said, muffled through the pillow. He was sleepy.
“She says that she’s sorry she broke up with you and wants to get together again. Automatic reply is: Yes, baby, I feel the same way too. Bygones and stuff. Heart emoji. Kiss emoji. Reply in five seconds if you want the message to change, or else do nothing.”
Creus perked up, and pulled the day’s texts on the surface of the pillow. He saw their chatlog, it was extensive, they had been chatting all day. Or rather, Thea and Nepenthe had been chatting, his messages being formed automatically from what Nepenthe thought he would have said.
And yes, they had gotten into a fight, typical of a long-distance relationship. And there was a pause, and then Thea texted him, and he replied coldly, and she said she reconsidered but he’d need to change his ways, and he said he had work to do, and she said fine, and he said, no really, I have work to do, Thea, the deadline is around the corner, and she texted fine with no emojis at all, and he texted her back after a while, and she ignored him, but he knew she was online since she was posting memes and liking them, and he sent her a few pleading messages, and she finally caved and responded, and that was the final message.
Whew.
What a day!
The pillow insisted on those drugs. Creus tapped and ordered them, he’d need them for sure after all this excitement in his love life.

The End.

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