Contortion International
A new way of looking at reality
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Emily had had enough of this week.

Cleaning up the sudden disruptions to her life took a lot of effort; it wasn't the worst week ever, but considering how unusual and unexpected events had been lately, the bulk of it got dealt with, though they could have been a bit less challenging. Still, things could have been worse.

Here she was on a Saturday night, back from the gym, and all she wanted to do was to be left alone, to find a little solace. The previous week had finished nicely enough - everything very normal and productive, but after she and a friend went to that magic performance, things began to unravel. She literally fell apart; and though getting herself back together wasn't overwhelming, the fallout from this weird situation kept building, and was more than she anticipated.

An argument with her fiancée, the weird situation with her friend, and a serious lecture or two from her boss. Even Marmalade was beginning to exhibit signs of stress, and when your cat is stressed, you know that you've got to do something to tame the tiger at your door, lest trouble gives you a meltdown.

Feeling even too tired to make it to the kitchen for some green tea latte, she reclined on the couch scrolling through her social networks in hopes of numbing her problems by reading about everyone else's trials and tribulations for the week. However, this only proceeded to bore her; it seemed like this was the week when people just posted bizarre photo memes, or re-posted fake news articles, hoping to either be funny, or to decry some perceived injustice to their routine lives. Yawn.

Normally, she would just scroll past the annoying adverts and suggested posts that accompanied the updates, but one of them just happened to catch her eye; an ad for an app, Klutterdelete - "We make your life better by removing the annoyances; try us out today!"

"Haha", she thought, "just what I need; I'm sure that I could stand to lose a few things from my life, including the stress!"

"Klutterdelete uses the power of cloud computing to remove the useless things from your life, download for free now!"

She watched the short video, and then clicked it.

"Instructions:
1) take a photo of the object you wish to remove
2) by just using your finger, erase the object in question **important!!** Be sure that you have a strong, consistent connection to the Internet during the process"
3) enjoy a Klutter free life!"

The app downloaded quickly, so Emily decided to try it right away. "Hmm, where shall I start?", she asked Marmalade, even though she didn't expect an answer from him... The week's rubbish sat by the door to her apartment; separating out the recyclables, and then taking the rest to the bin outside seemed to be an irritating chore, so she chose that to be the first victim.

Aiming carefully, she took the photo with her iPhone, then waited for the connection to the online cloud to be complete. "Rubbish! Begone!", she exclaimed, hoping to sound wizardess-like, and brandished her index finger in the air like a wand. Dramatically, she brought it down onto the photo on her screen, and with deliberation, wiped the rubbish out of the picture. Her phone felt a bit warmer than usual during this process, but not uncomfortable. Finally, the rubbish got removed from the photo, leaving a perfectly clean image of the view, but without all the bags in front of the door.

Just barely, she perceived a subtle, sudden change of the quality of the lighting, enough to catch her attention, so she looked up... No rubbish! Vanished! Gone!

"Wwoooowww..."  she observed, jumping up, immediately energised, and glided over to inspect the area around the front door... Indeed, her garbage had really gone, no tricks of the light, no evidence that it had ever been sitting there....

"Ohhhhhh my Gaaawd...", mouth opened and laughing, "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT... Ooh, I think I am really going to love this app", and Marmalade m'rrrowed back at her in approval.

"Hot-dog, we are going to get some serious tidying done tonight!", she said with a smile. She was thinking about what to do next, when her radio began to play what   certainly was one of the worst songs ever, that piece of mumbling cacophony by The Chainsmokers. What a shame that Halsey lent her voice to this monstrosity, but Emily could forgive that. Nevertheless, she aimed her camera at the radio, and wiped it cleanly away in a second. This time she was watching it vanish, happening pretty much in real time, and it was delightfully satisfying to see it be removed from existence, molecules dissipating beneath the path of her finger. Her mind was simply brimming with the possibilities she could accomplish with this new-found modern magic. Oh, what great times we live in!

But another thought crossed her mind, in that it would be preferable to have the radio back, just minus the annoying song. "What would happen if I've made a mistake? Well, at least in this case I guess I'll be needing a new radio..." , and started to poke around in the app's settings to see if there was a way to reverse the process. "Aha! There it is, 'undelete items' ", and she clicked on that. Up popped another screen, announcing - "Sorry! Undelete feature is only available in the premium version of the app. Purchase now?"

"Hmm, let's investigate this... $25 USD?! A bit pricey... But cheaper than a new radio, surely...", and so she proceeded to buy the premium version. While she stood there waiting for the transaction to complete, Marmalade wound a figure eight around her legs, rubbing and purring loudly - she lifted one leg, and scratched at his back absent-mindedly with her toes; his soft, sumptuous, warm, orange fur felt quite good between them. Finally, the purchase went through, and so she proceeded to the next step, restoring her radio. To undelete her radio, she simply wiped the area where it used to be, and all was once again as it should be, and as an added bonus, the song must have already ended, since something new was crooning out.

She decided she ought to make a list, to start figuring out what else she could definitely live without, but the only nearby writing paper was from her diary; despite all the hi-tech gadgets surrounding her, she got great satisfaction from putting pen to paper, and leaving this quaint documentation of her thoughts and her life in this manner. "Just say I'm a bit of a traditionalist", she told someone once, "and I'll take a paper book over the electronic version of a story any day, as a matter of fact".

She was about to tear out a page, eager to get started, when a genius idea occurred to her - "What if... What if I could delete some unpleasant event from my life? Now that would be a great blessing!" Leafing back through the diary, she fell upon the day last week where everything started sliding downhill. Tearing out two pages, she laid them side by side on the coffee table, carefully took aim, and shot the photo of the nasty situations engraved on them, and then with clear intention, wiped out all the text from those pages. Probably she could rewrite it all later.

The phone got just a bit hotter this time, and the lighting surrounding her seemed to darken for a moment, then briskly brightened, and finally returned to the level she remembered. She had not only erased the events of that disturbing day, but the previous one as well, the one which was the catalyst for it all, the trip to the magic performance. Studying the now blank pages, she wished, "I'm more than willing to have had all of those things never have happened at all", and believed in that idea with all her heart and soul. Suddenly, Emily heard something unusual; a clatter sounding like a piece of porcelain falling onto her oak kitchen table, but it sounded like it was crashing in reverse. She cautiously entered the kitchen, to see what had resulted.

There, sitting calmly, right in the spot where she normally ate breakfast, was one of her favourite mugs, a black "I heart NY ♥" one. Last week, during the freaky incident which involved the breakdown of several things in her life all at once, this mug had suffered one of those consequences, and had gotten broken. But now it was anxiously waiting for her, and she could see welcoming wisps of steam beckoning her... She walked over and sniffed at it... Mmmm, nice, hot, black coffee. "Coffee after 8 p.m.? Well, screw it, I've got some revisions to do", she remarked gleefully. Emily indeed was feeling like a very powerful human.

She had been writing for about twenty minutes, and happily sipping her French roast, easily refilling the two pages with ideas, and was starting a third page when she got a text. Oh... Her friend... The one who was with her at the magic show...

"Hi! Sorry so late - I'm in your neighbourhood, and you know, I got this really odd hunch that I should drop by. Can I come in for some tea? I won't stay long, I promise", it read.

Her first thought was, "Ugh... Not sure I'd like to see him right now", but then changed her mind - if in fact she had wiped the slate clean on that dreadful day, she could verify that with his input. He'd been getting kind of creepy ever since that day, so she had some further questions to ask, and maybe she'd have a bit of fun with her new 'toy'.

"Sure! Hope green tea is ok! #wink"

He arrived ten minutes later. Overdressed for the unusually warm weather, he still took his time peeling off the layers, then followed Emily to the kitchen.

"Before you sit down, I want you to just stand over there for a moment", and she indicated that he should stand in front of the one wall that was bare; bare except for one small potted plant perched on a tiny shelf. Quickly, she snapped a photo of him, he had a surprised look on his face, and asked, "Hmm! Why'd you do that?"  "Oh, just a little 'aide-memoire', nothing to worry about! Have a seat, tea's almost ready."

"So! What's on your mind?", she queried.

"You know, it's the funniest thing, I was just out walking, and the thought crossed my mind, we haven't done anything together for a long time, I have to admit that I've kinda been missing you", he answered, "But the weird thing was, I saw some kind of flash, out of the corner of my eye, and got a bit dizzy, for some reason my memory drew a complete blank about all of last week - in fact, for a minute or two, I wasn't even sure where I was, then I got my bearings, realised where I was, and decided to see if I could come by. Couldn’t have been a stroke, I'm not that old! Just weird though."

"Really! Interesting, tell me more!", Emily said, quite sincerely.

"Well, there isn't much more to say about it, just that last week was pretty dull. Although, I've been wondering if maybe you'd like to do something soon, I read that next month, there's going to be a show by some famous illusionist, maybe you would like to go see it? By the way, how's your week been?"

"Oh...", Emily replied, "Nothing to speak of, really... Just work, work, work, you know...", and internally was jumping up and down with joy - it worked! No trip to the magic performance, no missing time from work, and later she would check out whether her fiancée hadn't gotten overly jealous about her friendships with other men. She was nearly ready to explode with happiness, but kept it all to herself, the only artifact being a bit of a devilish grin. “Actually, I think I’m done with these magic shows; magic’s just not my thing…”


Just then, the screen on her friend's phone lit up, having received an email. Emily's eyes widened, because the inverted image that stared out to her, was a screensaver of a picture of her! It was one from her photo feed, one that she remembered not leaving up very long before deleting. Her friend quickly reached for his phone, switching the screen off.

"What was that??!", Emily asked, in a perplexed tone

"Oh, nothing, just some spam", came the reply

"No - I mean, there's a photo of me there, why is that your screensaver?"

"Um...", he said, startled, and beginning to blush, "it's... I really liked this photo! It really shows off your eyes so well! And the background, the marina... Well, it's like art! Just a beautiful scene! It makes me happy to look at!"

"... Why, exactly?" Emily was feeling that she was about to hear something unexpected, and not exactly welcome.

"I... Well you know, I feel... You're like one of the best friends I've ever had! And to be quite honest, I think that you are stunningly beautiful... Especially in that photo! Don't I tell you that? I'm sure that I must have said..."

"I suppose you have told me... Didn’t take any notice, really... But I'm not so sure that I like you staring at... This photo... Hmm...", in fact, although briefly public, the picture in question was meant more for her lover, and she hadn't minded sharing it with her closest ones... Best friend? Really? How odd. She certainly didn't feel the same...

"It's intoxicating... I can't say why... And you post so many selfies, all of them... Just wonderful..."

Something clicked inside Emily's head; she realised that in this "relationship", there hadn't been any clear observation of boundaries... Maybe he had some particular expectations that she had no intent on meeting... She interrupted his blathering by holding up her right hand, making the peace sign with two out-stretched fingers. When she knew she had his complete attention, she looked down quickly at her phone, where she had already opened the photo of her friend in the app, and swiftly poked at his eyes on the screen with those two fingers. "How do I look to you now?", she asked, sarcastically.

There was a scream, and her friend stood up, shakily, knocking over his chair, flailing with his arms, was trying to find something to hold onto. He couldn't see a thing. One hand gripped the edge of the table, and his other hand reached up to his face. There was another shriek as his hand, while exploring his face, discovered that he no longer had eyes... His fingers probed the new holes in his head where his eyes should be, and terrified, cried out, "What... What is this? What have you done? What's happened to me??!"

"Maybe a little bit of payback, this is for the tickling that you subjected me to last Thursday - and I know that you're aware how sensitive I am, and that I can't stand it... Anyway..."

"What are you talking about?", he interrupted, "I haven't seen you in two weeks!!", and with that, Emily became convinced that she had really changed reality somehow for her past, and felt that this should be punishment enough for him, even though technically, he hadn't committed the act; still...

"Anyway...", she continued, "Let this be a pre-emptive warning, if you will... Don't worry, everything will be OK, this is simply a temporary condition... But please be a bit more respectful of me, especially when you look at me. I don't want you to get any irrational ideas..."

"Emily... I... I... Adore you! Really love you! You're so gorgeous, so clever and cultured, I swear I tried not falling in love with you, that maybe our friendship would just find its course, but it is so hard... I can't help myself from gazing! There's no one else who even holds a candle to you! It's all I can do to stop myself from just grabbing hold of you, to steal you away somehow... "

"Shut up", she said, flatly and coldly; with her pinky finger, she wiped away his mouth from the photo, and he was silenced. This unexpected confession made Emily feel strange, in fact even angry, but she couldn't exactly rationalise the reason for feeling this way, and that was as unsettling as the confession. She had been looking away, however, at that moment, she glared straight at him, and had to suppress a giggle, since her friend's head now resembled a giant WhatsApp smiley, and she could see clear through his head to the wall, through the holes that had replaced his eyes and mouth. She looked away again; the silence lasted for only a moment.

"You know I'm engaged. Your flirting and attention were really flattering at first, but now I understand that you are just delusional", with a tone that was as hard as the words, and then she got a bit louder and angrier. "I really like doing some things socially with you, honest, but this hidden agenda just disturbs me... Furthermore..."

She stopped in mid-sentence for two reasons; first of all, she suddenly felt her phone getting very hot, and secondly, there was again, that subtle, but obvious change in the quality of the lighting surrounding her. Looking up, she was just able to see her friend's head dissolve into nothing, like it was a wisp from the exhalation of someone's cigarette smoke dispersing. His still standing, headless body remained upright, trembling, but otherwise motionless.

Emily looked down to see that her thumb was firmly planted on her friend's head in the photo; upon releasing it, his head was also missing in the app's photo. "Ohhhhhh... I'd better fix this... I can fix this. Sorry.", she said in a flat monotone. The fact that her words were falling literally on deaf ears was not lost on her, but it wasn't so funny this time.

The phone was still quite hot in her hands - not only that, but the app was reacting very slowly. "C'mon! Work damn you!", and repeatedly punched at the settings button in order to undelete her friend. The menu blinkered on and off, and she jabbed at it, but a microsecond too late - her finger had punched a hole through the centre of his chest.

Emily looked up to see if the same had transpired with her friend, and indeed it was so - a clean, round hole right through the heart. The surreal remnants of his body just crumpled onto the floor in front of her, as if in slow motion, so maybe now was the time for some extreme, focused action.

Her horror was again interrupted by the phone squeaking out a low battery warning, and she realised that in addition, she was about lose her WiFi connection. The screen went black.

Sprinting to the bedroom for her charger, there was absolutely no time to lose. It lay right on top of the bed, very conveniently in plain sight. She flew at the bed, scooping up the charger - her lazer sharp focus appeared to make time stand still, while her precisioned moves, a side effect of her excellent snowboarding skills, turned this exercise into one swift ballet pirouette.  Twisting in mid air, she already had one end plugged into the phone, and when she hit the bed, her other hand was perfectly in position to accurately thrust the power plug into the socket over her bed with one whole smoothly graceful motion. Ballerina moves for a potentially life or death situation.

Her relief at seeing the screen blink on again was cancelled by the sound of a strange new 'bleep', and she was confronted by a new menu screen...

"Delete All? Yes/Cancel"

Quivering slightly from the adrenaline rush, of course, she hit cancel. It was obvious she hit cancel. She was completely sure of hitting it.

"bleep!"

"Photo image deleted"

"What?? No! NO!! Cancel! Fuck! Stop!"

From the kitchen, the was a very bright flash, and a rush of air, first moving away from her, then almost as quickly, blowing back at her, it was stringently cold. By contrast, her phone had become too hot to hold, and she dropped it onto the bed, dislodging the plug from the charger. The screen went dark again. Emily grabbed the wire and plugged it in again - a little bit frightened, she crawled off the bed and hesitantly padded off to the kitchen.

The first shocking thing that she saw, was that now, a huge square hole had appeared in the wall of her apartment, it fit the dimensions of the view that was shown in the photo she had taken. Half of the potted plant, and the small shelf it was sitting on remained attached to the part of the wall that still existed, threatening to fall down, as it was missing half its support. From outside, on the bare branches of the maple tree, a black squirrel stared back at her, curiously. There was no sign of her friend.

She looked down - and there were his red sneakers, simply lying there haphazardly; they hadn't been in the original photo. She could see a thin trickle of red liquid snaking out of them. They were not empty. And then she could smell the undeniable odour of blood.
........

Chat Transcript from Klutterdelete Helpdesk:

Akhmud761: Hello Emily! Thank you for choosing Klutterdelete app, how can I help you today?

Emily: Hi - you have to help me, I deleted something and I need it back

Emily: Hurry please

Ahkmud761: Of course! Please tell me what you did, we can help with your problem.

Emily: I took a picture of my friend, and then I deleted him - Now I need to get him back. It was an accident! But my phone lost power, I got disconnected from the WiFi

Akhmud761: So let me understand, you were modifying a photo, and you lost power

Emily: yes

Akhmud761: And then you lost your WiFi?

Emily: Yes. And then I lost my friend

Akhmud761: Hmm, what a pity, I'm afraid your image is completely gone...

Emily: but isn't there a cache or something? Can't you restore him?

Akhmud761: Restore who? What?


Emily: my friend!!! He's gone

Akhmud761: Hahaha, that's funny, he's gone

Akhmud761: But if you have lost the Internet while you were processing a photo, I'm sorry, there's really nothing we can do























(copyright 2016  -  Paul Chownyk)


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