Thursday, April 14, 2016

Life After Social Media

Copyright 2016
All rights reserved
Mark R. Morris Jr.

The constant whir and beep of machines had turned into a kind of lullaby and Cara was giving in to it. Her head dropped to her chest and as her arm relaxed, the top-of-the-line tablet, with all the bells and whistles her fiancée prized so highly, slid dangerously close to the edge of her lap and a two-foot drop onto a solid tile floor.
Cara stirred and caught the tablet. She looked toward the hospital bed where her fiancée, Lance had been laying in a coma for thirty-four days now. Nothing had changed. She looked around the room for the source of the noise.
The tablet. She thumbed across the screen to bring it back to life, someone had messaged her on Facebook.
Patricia Leeson- I think it’s great that you are keeping up with Lance’s account, while he’s under. It’s almost like he’s here, laughing at our jokes!
Cara’s brow wrinkled, she hadn’t added anything to Lance’s account except a post to let everyone know what was going on. She’d been replying to comments there and leaving a new update every day in the comments. Maybe that was it.
Cara Miller- Sure, I felt like you guys deserved to know what was going on.
Cara had met Patricia numerous times, she was a receptionist at the D As office where Lance worked as a prosecuting attorney. It was comforting to know they were thinking about him.
Patricia Leeson- Yes, and reading our posts and adding his reactions is really a nice touch. Had me in tears today.
What? That was impossible. Cara clicked into his account, she hadn’t done anything like that. She found account activity and thumbed down through the list. Wow. Someone must have Lance’s password besides her, he’d reacted to over 100 posts in the last 30 days. Weird. Then she noticed a little icon at the bottom of the screen, “Massplanner”, she clicked it. This would explain it, Lance had set up a social media automator, pshew, no one had hacked into her comatose fiance’s social media.
Cara Miller- Not me, must be automated.
Patricia Leeson- Well, if so, that’s an automation system I need. Made me laugh so hard!
Cara was awake now, so she logged into her own account and read a few posts. She replied to her mom and shared an article from a friend filled with miracle coma stories of people who completely recovered. She looked at Lance, her vision clouded with tears.
I just miss him so  much…she typed, then hit send. The tablet buzzed lightly. She looked down. Someone had already loved her post, she clicked the icon and Lance’s profile pic came up. The room swam just a little, Cara’s ears were filled with the sound of her own pulse and she could feel her throat close in. What was happening?
Someone does have his password! She thought. How else is that happening? There’s no way that was automated. Cara picked up her phone and called Rick, Lance’s best friend. If anyone knew what was going on it would be him.
When Rick arrived, Cara was up, pacing the room. She’d added four new status updates since calling him and Lance’s profile had responded to each of them, it was really starting to freak her out.
“He’s just laying there!” she sobbed, when Rick walked in, “And some asshole is out there, pretending to be him! This is sick, Rick, this is really messed up!”
Rick gently hugged Cara, the two of them had been friends since childhood and had dated briefly in ninth grade, until they decided two kids both with braces should never kiss, to prevent locking, and he’d introduced her to Lance.
“Okay, where’s the Ipad?” he asked.
Cara indicated the adjustable rolling table, where she had placed it after finally turning it off. Rick turned the tablet on and it whirred repeatedly, “Whoa! Whoever it is must have seen me come in here! Now, they’re reacting to my posts, all of them, for like the past two days. Okay, here’s what I’m going to do. Let me screen capture all of this, then we’re changing the password. We will get to the bottom of who this is, but first, you’re a mess we got to get this to stop!”
“Thank you! I was afraid if I did that they couldn’t figure it out,” Cara said.
Lance smiled, he worked IT for the cyber crimes division of the state police, “Well, because of who Lance is, I can pull some strings at Facebook and get it tracked back to an IP address. We’ll know pretty shortly. I’ve already got someone working on it.” Rick sat down in a chair, connected a keyboard to the tablet and continued to talk as he worked. “Other than this, how are things going? Doctor’s said he was healing well. Any word on when Sleeping Beauty might wake up?”
“No. It’s infuriating, every time I mention something I think is a sign, they just downplay it and say he’ll wake up when his brain is ready, or he won’t,” Cara sighed.
“Okay, set the password you want, then, let’s do this, why don’t you log into your account and change your status? Just to make sure that solves the problem and I will find whoever is responsible. Hopefully someone we know who’s just going through it with us and made a dumb choice,” Rick said.
Cara took the Ipad and tapped in a new password. Then, tapped in her own password. Glad to have Rick here to help out. She hit enter and nothing happened. She held her breath, but after a full minute, no reaction had been registered.
Rick stood, keys in hand, ready to head back to work, “Well, hopefully that will take care of it, even if it was the automation, that should stop it.” He hugged Cara and moved to the door, “I’ll let you know when we figure it…” Ping
Cara and Rick both froze, then Cara reached out with a trembling hand and picked up the Ipad. There, blinking in navigation bar was a single notification, she clicked it.
Lance Arnett has reacted to your status.
“Um, Cara, look…” Rick pointed to Lance in the bed. His position hadn’t changed, except that his right hand was turned into a thumb’s up sign. “Ha, what’s going on there, Lance? He’s messing with us, right? Lance?”
Cara reached out and touched Lance’s cheek, there was no response, he seemed to still be completely out of it. She looked at the monitor, which she had studied for hours every day since his ‘accident’ and everything appeared exactly the same as it had. But, there it was, a thumbs up, and his response to the status had been a ‘like’ symbolized by a raised thumb.  As she watched, his thumb folded back down slowly and his hand rested on the bed cover.
“What the hell?” Cara felt as if the oxygen had been sucked from the room.
“Maybe we should call the doctor?” Rick suggested.
“No, no way. They’ll just downplay it, I’m telling you, it’s awful. Try it again,” she said, holding the Ipad out to Rick.
“Why me?” Rick hesitated.
“Because I am terrified, please?” She shook the Ipad, Rick reluctantly accepted it.
He set the Ipad down and typed in a message. Lance’s thumb went up, followed by a ping from the device. Rick typed again, again, thumbs up. Again, this time, the corners of Lance’s mouth went down and the reaction was a teary eyed emoticon.
“Oh, my, God,” Cara smiled, “He’s in there, he knows what’s going on!”
“Yeah, but how does he know what I’m putting on Facebook?” Rick set the tablet down and stepped away from it. “I’m going to go now.” And with that, he walked out the door.
Cara looked after him, but didn’t leave. She picked up the tablet and started typing. She posted questions, Are you in pain? Lance smiled and a laughing emoticon appeared in the comment box. Can you wake up? Anger Have you been hearing me the whole time? Thumbs up
Cara went on like this for about an hour, smiling, laughing. When the nurse came in for vital’s check, Cara said nothing. About three hours later there was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” Cara said.
Rick entered the room, “I, uh, brought someone that might help,” he said. “Sorry I left in such a hurry, this whole thing is kind of freaking me out. This is my aunt, Delia. She’s, uh, sensitive to stuff like this”
A tiny, dark skinned woman stood in the door, looking apprehensive.
“Um, hello, Delia,” Cara said, taking the woman’s hand. “Sensitive? You mean, like a psychic?”
“No, not psychic, not sensitive, just old,” Delia said sharply, “This him?”
She walked to the bed and touched Lance’s hand, which immediately curled into a thumb’s up.
“Help with what, Rick?” Cara asked.
“Finding out what really happened to him,” Rick said, “Who did this.”
“It was an accident,” Cara said,  “I don’t think I like where this is going. We’ve been over it.”
“The official story just didn’t make sense, Cara, he fell off of a ladder? In the middle of an organized crime investigation, one where he was personally threatened?” Rick said.
“Rick, you weren’t there! When I found him, he was in the middle of the garage, on his back, with the back of his head bashed in and no pulse! Why else would the ladder have been there? Why else would the attic be open?” Cara sobbed, “I just think we should be grateful he’s communicating.”
“Cara, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I think we should talk to the doctors, though and let them know what we saw,” Rick suggested.
Cara wiped her eyes, “Okay, could you just give me a minute, to get myself together?”
“You have a dark secret, girl. Very dark,” the old woman said, as Rick led her from the room and closed the door behind him.
Cara walked to the door and listened briefly, then moved quickly to her bag, on a seat by the window on the far side of the bed. She reached in and came out with a large, empty syringe, “Sorry, baby,” she said, unhooking a line from Lance’s saline drip. “I can’t have you sharing what you know.”
Cara pulled back the plunger on the syringe and fitted it to the line, “Goodbye, Lance, I really did love you.” She said, pressing the plunger home.
Lance suddenly set up, his eyes flew open, “Cara!” He yelled, Cara jumped back from the bed, but it was too late, the monitor squealed and Lance appeared to seize as the embolism did its work. Cara took a deep breath, refitted the line to the saline drip and dropped the syringe into the red biohazards box on the wall, before moving to the door.
“Help! I need help, he was waking up, but then…” Cara allowed a nurse to push past her, an evil grin coming turning up the corner of her mouth. “Rick, he came to, for a minute, then…”
Rick rushed into the room, while his aunt stopped, faced Cara and pointed.
“Shut up, bitch, breathe one word of what you think you know and you’re precious Rick is next,” Cara whispered. She walked to the end of the hall and found a seat in the ICU waiting area, as much as she wanted to flee, it would look far too suspicious. She’d worked too long to gain his trust, find out what he knew, subvert his case, then lay this trap. If only he’d stayed dead.
Twenty minutes later Rick came down the hall slowly, from the look on his face, it was over. She masked her relief with a loud sob, “NO! No, it’s not fair! It’s not fair!” As she stood from her seat, Rick wrapped his arms around her and over his shoulder, she glimpsed Delia, a slight grin on her face. What could that woman be smiling about. She’d won.
The doctors had warned her repeatedly of the risk of embolism in Lance’s case, that’s where she’d gotten the idea. They’d never suspect a thing, and even if they did, what evidence did they have?
“Can I see him, just for a minute? To say goodbye?” Cara asked, Rick nodded. The doctors and nurses had vacated the room, the monitor was gone and Lance’s body lay still in the bed. She walked into the room, leaned over the bed and whispered into his now deaf ear, “I win.”
Cara reflexively looked down at the Ipad in her hand a single notification, it was nothing. But the timing… she had to look.
You’ve been tagged in a post.
She clicked on the notification and pulled up the status. There was a short post and a series of comments.
Rick Jackson- Did you know your killer? @Cara Wilson
Lance Arnett has reacted to a post you’re tagged in.
On the bed, Lance’s dead right hand, slowly formed into a thumb’s up.

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