Date Worse than Death

This story is part of an ongoing anthology.  However, it is a stand alone, and can be read independently of the others.

  • The Archivist

Dear Prof. Dr. Love Medic M.D.:

It’s me, Melissa Simpdaughter, and I would like to submit a testimonial.  After you helped my relationship with my new boyfriend, I looked on his computer and found some journal documents he wrote before and after you resolved his issues.  I’m going to post them all here so everyone can see how effective your treatment is!  I should warn you in advance, though; the documents he wrote before treatment contain violent, frightening, depressing and sexual material!  You have been warned.

DOCUMENT 1:

I have been embroiled in a singularly bizarre situation.  My circumstances appear pleasant on the surface, but for subtle reasons that will become clear as you read this, I fear that I may be unable to return home or live a normal life.  If I go missing, or find it impossible to return to the life I knew, I would like to have my estate donated to The Red Cross. 

I considered making this a call for help, but then realized that I might not even be able to send communication back home.  Even if the intended audience does find this document, they probably won’t be able to help, because I don’t think anyone understands how to find my current location.  I certainly don’t. 

Since I can’t get to sleep and have nothing better to do, I will write the complete story of where things all went horribly wrong.  Perhaps, reflecting on the events of that day can give me a clue on how to return home.  Failing that, my story may become a useful cautionary tale for the next victim of this bizarre situation.  If worst comes to worst, at least I have something to do with this sleepless night.

My day started out normally.  I went through my daily routine, went to work, got off work, and decided to lounge around in my favorite internet café and unwind with an MMO.  I was deeply engrossed in the game, unaware of my surroundings, until I was jarred back to reality by a woman’s voice, laced with the unmistakable tone of sexual attraction. 

There’s something future readers will need to know about me before I continue my story.  I am asexual and aromantic.  That means that I don’t feel sexual or romantic attractions to anyone of any gender.  As I watched people get into puppy love relationships in high school, I didn’t feel left out, I just felt a little confused.  When my peers spoke about love, and how much they adored their partners, it felt like an inside joke going around between them which only I didn’t understand.  Though I have no drive towards sex or romance, I do feel love, like the love I have for my family and close friends.

Another thing that readers will need to know about me is that I am also attractive.  I have gray eyes, a wavy mop of dirty blonde hair, and a slight yet noticeable tan that gives my skin a bronze “glow.”  I’m tall and thin, with broad shoulders.  I’ve also never had acne, and I have no blemishes to speak of.  I’m not bragging, but anyone else who reads this journal will need to know these things about me.

So there I was, playing video games by myself, when a woman walked up to me and attempted to flirt.  There were several prior occasions in my life where people made passes at me, both women and other men.  Every time I went through the process of turning down the other’s advances, it never got less awkward.  

They aren’t allowed to directly say that they want sex with me, so if I blurt out that I’m not interested in sex with them, then I’m the bad guy for jumping to the conclusion that they want sex.  On the other hand, when they ask if I want “coffee” with them, they get to keep plausible deniability.  I just hate having to cast myself as unfriendly or anti-social, and feel bad about “letting down” potential partners.  As weird and uncomfortable as that situation is, it would still be infinitely preferable to the events that followed, and became the cause of this writing.

I looked up from my computer to see a fairly normal looking woman standing in a slightly hunched position, her hands on the back of the chair in front of me.  Her pose and her contact with the seat clearly said “I want to sit with you.”  After she officially said the words, I gave a non-committal yes, and she took her seat.  As I watched her sit, I noticed something odd.  Literally everyone else in the café was staring at us.  By the way, I only use the word “literally” correctly.  When I noticed that all the other customers in my field of view were staring at us, I meticulously looked around the room to see that every single person there was looking in our direction. 

This situation was far too awkward.  I had to just leave the room.  I minimized the game I was playing, opened my email client, and pretended to get an urgent email telling me I had to be somewhere else.  I then closed my laptop and stepped outside.  That’s where I began to notice that things were going from awkward to outright weird. 

The city looked different.  It was like the building had moved to a different location while I was playing my game.  I looked back in through the windows to see that the building wasn’t the one I remembered walking into.  The layout of the furniture and décor was subtly different to what I was accustomed to, and the barista I remembered was replaced with some man I didn’t recognize.  I looked at the road sign to see that the street outside was named differently.  I could have sworn that I went to the same café I frequent, but there was no doubt that I was in a different location.

Returning to the café and going onto Google maps, I was able to get my current location, but for some reason, it didn’t recognize my home address.  The lady I mentioned earlier came back, and asked if there was something wrong.  She must have seen that I was stressed out.  I asked her if she knew her way around this place, and she agreed to help me get home.

I was glad to be away from the crowd when we walked out of the café together.  Unfortunately, that strange staring didn’t stop.  All the people we passed on the street, and the drivers of cars stopped at intersections, all followed us with their collective gaze.

We walked around the block, and couldn’t see a single street or business that I could remember.  As I searched the surrounding area, all the buildings and brand names seemed to be different.  Being utterly confused and at a loss for answers, I just explained my situation to her, as ridiculous as it sounded.  Surprisingly, she didn’t question my sanity or ask if I was on drugs.  Instead, she suggested that I could crash at her place. 

I never thought a woman would be this unscrupulous with her personal safety.  I can’t think of anyone who would let a stranger cohabitate with them after only two conversations, especially when one brings my sanity into question.  With this luck, I sound like I really shouldn’t be complaining, but my situation is so weird that I have an instinctive need to write it all down, if for no other reason than to remember that it really happened.

As soon as we reached her apartment, my host, Melissa, wanted to watch some TV with me.  While I don’t feel romance, I still understand romance on a cognitive level.  That being said, I did not understand the romantic film we watched at all.  It had plot points that went nowhere and made no sense, sci-fi and fantasy elements that were never explained to the audience, and a “hero” who frequently murders side characters, only for everyone else to be completely nonchalant about it.  Despite its dark and fantastical elements, I think it was attempting to be some kind of romantic comedy.  The film felt like it was written by aliens who were forced to write romance, despite all their knowledge of the human race coming from cartoons and video games.

It’s currently early in the morning, but I’ve been too jostled to sleep for some time now.  I decided to look out the window at the stars to try and relax.  Even the stars in the sky seem different.  I can’t recognize a single star, planet, or constellation in the night sky.  There is something else off about the stars, but it’s something I just can’t articulate right now.  They look “fake” for lack of a better word.  There is also some kind of pattern in their placement, but I just can’t quite figure it out.  It looks like they’re supposed to form some kind of repeating pattern, but I just can’t quite focus enough to see it.

There are a lot of things that have me worried, but there’s nothing I can do about them right now.  Melissa won’t give me the key to her Wi-Fi, making it impossible for me to try to find a way home now, so I guess I will just have to try to catch whatever sleep I can in the few hours before morning.

DOCUMENT 2:

Surprisingly, I was able to sleep in until noon and got over nine hours of sleep.  I had a strange day, though, and each discovery I make about this place is more disturbing than the last.  Melissa tried to take me on some couples activities, and I tried to pretend to enjoy them, but she saw through my façade.  I don’t love her, obviously, but I do want her to think I do, since I’m indebted to her and seem to be at her mercy.

When she caught me being dishonest about enjoying her company, I decided that I wouldn’t try to cover my lies with more lies, and just came clean.  She seemed to not know what asexual or aromantic meant, and insisted that they were made up conditions that I diagnosed myself with to hide some deeper psychological issue.  Playing along with her, she took me to some kind of cross between a life coach and a doctor.

After sitting in a crowded waiting room for over an hour, all the people in the waiting room were all called in at once, and sat in some kind of lecture hall while the “professional” gave advice to us as a crowd.  The place we were in was more like a classroom than any doctor’s office.

This “doctor” greeted us by announcing that he was proud to introduce himself as “Professor Doctor Love Medic.”  During his entire session, he never gave us chances to ask questions.  All his advice was on how to pick up women, but none of it was about what to do once you have a woman’s affection.  Since I never got to ask a question, I had a nice excuse to just sit through the lecture and have a good time picking apart his comically terrible “advice.”  It sounded like a parody of all the worst self-help / dating advice imaginable.

He started by telling us to be ourselves, before immediately lecturing us on how to go about being ourselves, which meant putting on an act. 

One particularly funny part was where he told us that anything is possible if you believe in yourself enough, so if you try something, then find it to be impossible and fail, you should take it as an insult, then try again with more personal investment and less critical thought.  When I say that that’s what he said, I don’t mean that he gave a basic “believe in yourself” message that I read too much into, I mean that those were almost his exact words.

This speech about the power of belief to conquer odds, enemies, and the laws of physics was made even funnier with his visual aides.  He visualized success with images of a winning football team celebrating their victory, which is a terrible motivator for two reasons.  The first and most obvious reason is the fact that football teams must work together to beat the opposing team, meaning that his example is accidentally an example of how humans have inherent limitations.  The second and more insidious reason is the fact that football teams win by making the other team lose.  If it’s true that you can’t lose if you think that you’re unbeatable, then wouldn’t most competitions at high levels end in draws?

I may be reading too much into this, but it looks like he assumes that everyone in the audience is completely solipsistic.  Each listener is supposed to see himself as “the one true human,” and not acknowledging the fact that everyone else is also a complete human being, with their own life, motivations, and belief in themselves.

The speech also contained what I think was an attempt to preemptively thwart any criticism of this nature.  He talked about knowledge, curiosity, and critical thought as distractions that only hold people back from achieving their goals.  Nobody is saying that self-doubt and analysis paralysis don’t keep people from reaching their full potential, but being unaware of your limitations and dehumanizing everyone around you are not good traits.

Now that I think about it some more, his speech shows off all his personal failings better than psychoanalysis from a professional probably would.  It’s obvious that he has a “MUST WIN!!” attitude about everything, and doesn’t know when to quit.  He also sounds like a sociopath, because he thinks (or at least assumes each listener thinks) of other people only in terms of how they can help or harm him, as if everyone is expected to see everyone else as emotionless, AI controlled video game characters.

I suspect that “Professor Doctor Love Medic” drove away someone close to him, and this person called him out as being selfish and hard headed.  Being completely incapable of introspection, he re-branded all his flaws as virtues, and then decided to preach this philosophy to everyone else as some kind of passive-aggressive revenge.

That’s almost as pathetic as if I wrote a work of fiction in which the antagonist parrots back things said by people I hate, and then wrote a main character exactly like myself who describes why they’re wrong to the audience.  Good thing I’m above doing anything like that!

After the lecture, things got even more unnerving.  Melissa asked me how the session went, and I told her how un-helpful it was.  She said that I shouldn’t question it, and urged me to go right back to participating in couples activities with her.  It seems like she really thinks that professionals shouldn’t be questioned on the effectiveness of their work, even when it’s as obviously useless as the speech I had to listen to today.

Unfortunately, I still couldn’t fake enjoying Melissa’s romance, so she said she’ll be taking me back to see him again tomorrow for a one-on-one session.  I am not looking forward to being alone with that guy.

It’s currently night time, and Melissa’s doing her own thing, probably watching TV or doing something on the computer by herself.  Unfortunately, she still won’t give me the Wi-Fi key, so I won’t be able to access the internet from here.  Luckily, she does have a TV in another room, which I can use to watch the news.  Unfortunately, the TV painted a picture of this place more bizarre than I ever would have guessed.

The news was heavily covering a story about people using illegal sciences.  The background image behind the news caster is almost comical, showing a stock image of a screaming woman from a 50’s horror movie poster in front of a goggle and lab coat wearing scientist.  The scientist is has glowing eyes behind his goggles, and holds a textbook labeled “science” in his right hand, which emits a stream of mathematical formulae and chemical diagrams that form a glowing energy ball in his left hand.  He looks like he was supposed to be wizard from a fantasy game that was re-skinned to be a sci-fi game at the last possible second.

The news didn’t even say exactly what the scientists were doing, but just gravely intoned the word “science” as if it were some kind of witchcraft.  Could this imply that the entire culture in this place is as anti-intellectual as that “doctor” who preached about the power of blind faith?

The news casters are hyping and dramatizing the fact that the scientists killed one woman.  From what I can tell, they also killed a large number of men, but their deaths are only casually alluded to and glossed over.  Thinking about the story has brought me to a shocking revelation that I feel stupid for not noticing earlier.  Ever since things started getting strange, I’ve hardly seen any women.

In the café, all the customers except Melissa were male, and the female barista was replaced with a male one.  This explains why everyone in the city seemed to stare in my direction.  They weren’t staring at me, they were staring at the woman because women a rare sight in general.

How does the population of this place not go extinct if women are so rare?  I’ve got it, I just need to ask Melisa one awkward question to test my theory.

I asked Melissa if she plans on having children.  When she said “yes,” I asked how many, and she said “only one or two batches.”  Now it all makes sense.  I’m in some other world, where “humans” reproduce like insects.  They are almost all male, and every female can birth huge numbers of children.

If that’s the case, then does that make me a different species from everyone around me?  This fact has led me to a huge number of new worries.  What if they have food additives that are harmless to them, but a deadly poison to me?  What if they can re-grow limbs, and think that it would be easier to amputate a broken limb than to set the bones and let them heal?

While this new information has given me a lot to worry about, I suddenly became thankful for a lot of things I took for granted.  At least this other world has a breathable atmosphere, and at least the food and water I’ve consumed so far seem safe.

This is all a lot to take in at once, but I seriously want to know more, so I’ll continue watching the news.

Unfortunately, the news switched to some “human interest” stories, which provide little information.  One last thing that struck me as odd when the news people signed off for the night was the closing segment.  The end credits were shown over a computer animated image of what I think is supposed to be the planet.  This planet has the same geography as Earth, but it’s a disc instead of a sphere.

It looks like the United Nations logo, with a protrusion coming out of the center of the North Pole.  There are two discs suspended on other poles sticking out of the literal North Pole, presumably the sun and moon, moving in circles above the “planet.”

Am I located on another Earth, with an alternate history in which nobody proved that the planet is round?  Or am I really on another planet, that’s actually shaped like the thing I saw on the news?

I have more questions now than I did at any time before, but all those are questions for another time.

DOCUMENT 3:

Melissa seems increasingly frustrated at the fact that I don’t act romantic.  Counseling from “Doctor Love Medic” couldn’t have possibly made me stop being asexual, but I thought it might help me get in character enough that I could trick Melissa into thinking I got “cured.”  Unfortunately, it didn’t.

I’m sitting in the waiting room, while Melissa speaks with that quack behind my back, but at least I have a laptop and a word processor to occupy my time.  I would rather be researching this world I’m trapped in, but I can’t get an internet connection here.

The dating advice I got was just as useless for me as any other, all about how, and completely ignoring the why.  I avoided telling him that I am asexual or aromantic, because those don’t seem to be recognized conditions in this world, and mentioning them would raise suspicion.

Without saying “asexual,” I tried to explain my situation to the “doctor,” but he acted like he wasn’t hearing what I was saying.  He seemed to be reciting a canned speech to me, and every time I asked a question, would appear to listen to what I had to say, but always reply with the next point of his speech, pretending it was the answer to what I asked.

At least the advice this time was on how to maintain a relationship in progress, instead of how to start one, but that’s the only good thing I can say about it.  It was almost comical how he would acknowledge the difficulties of dating, while leaving the reasons I would want to date unspoken, then pretend that it’s the answer to the question “what’s so good about dating.”

The more this guy described dating, the worse it sounded.  Dating always seemed like an unnecessary hassle to me in the real world, but the way “Doctor Love Medic” described it makes it sound like a parody of what it used to be.  You know how romance is portrayed in movies, where the man has to make huge, sweeping gestures to show off his love for a woman, and all the woman contributes to the relationship is sitting around and looking pretty?  This man’s description of dating sounds comically one sided.

These quotes from the guy aren’t what he actually said, but they are a condensed version of the key points of his lecture:

“Women have the ever so difficult job of having standards and judging men against them.  Men have the easy job of obeying.  In fact, men never even have to question what they’re told, because the woman has the tough job of making decisions for the both of you.”

“Being in a relationship makes life much easier.  The two of you split up tasks, with each member doing what they’re meant for.  The man gets to do the work for partners, while the woman is saddled with enjoying the benefits enough for two people.”

His words painted a picture of the dating scene that looks like a caricature, made by someone who’s never spoken to a woman, and thinks that it’s normal for men to kill one another for a woman’s affection, like something out of a video game.  That’s it!  It’s like I’m in a work of fiction.

The Smurfette principle holds true in this world, because there are so few women in general. 

The fact that there are very few women makes it normal for men to fight over them like a precious resource, enabling the distressed damsel trope.

Intellectualism is feared because of the “science is bad” trope, like what I saw on the news, and the “brains bad, brawns good” trope.

Luckily, fourth wall breaking is almost completely relegated to comedy, and due to all the confusion and misunderstandings, I must be in a sit com.  Since I’m also from another world, that makes me

Wait, scratch that, it’s horror.

Something or someone just walked into the waiting room.  I can barely stand to look.  There’s a man and woman couple, but the man has no eyes.  It looks like his eyes were surgically removed and the skin grew back over them, leaving indentations in his skull.  Where his eyes would have been before, he has cartoon eyes either painted or tattooed over the bare skin.  I can barely contain my fear, I have to ask about that man.

 

I just asked the couple about the man’s eyes, and I wish I didn’t.

“I was grossed out by his uncircumcised penis, so I decided to have him circumcised.  Since he was already going in for surgery, I decided that I also didn’t like his eyes, so I had the doctor remove them.  I recently realized how much I hate his tongue, so we’re here to have that cut as well. ”

I asked her how she could do that to anyone, and she said “yeah, being blind means he can’t work anymore, so I just got a second boyfriend for that.”

That’s it, I have to escape!

Melissa’s Notes

After he finished writing this document, my boyfriend ran out of the waiting room.  He ran a several city blocks away in a state of panic.  I notified the police that he went missing, and they did a thorough search of the surrounding area.  They found him hiding in an alley, but when they tried to catch him, he ran into the street and threw himself in front of a moving car for some reason.

As luck would have it, the car that hit him was an ambulance, so the paramedics reached him before it was too late.  Since he was already unconscious, Professor Doctor Love Medic M.D. was able to operate on him while he was recovering.  Using the latest in neurological technology, my boyfriend was cured of his weirdness and anxieties.  This next document was written after he got home from the hospital.

DOCUMENT 4:

The rough times are finally over.  I had all these silly anxieties about dating, when the answer was staring me in the face all along.  I believe in myself now, and stopped worrying.  Prof. Dr. Love Medic M.D. was right, my brain was getting in the way of my dating life, so it’s a good thing he was able to fix it.

I’m happy to be dating Melissa now, and learned to enjoy her company.  I love the way she gave me direction in my life.  I used to be such a scatter brain, always thinking about how things could go wrong, or how I could get back to my old home, but now, I don’t think much of anything anymore.  I have all the thoughts I need handed down to me from her!  Her word is perfect and unquestionable!  She is all I need!

This will be the last journal document I write, writing reminds her of the man I used to be, and she doesn’t like the man I used to be, so she decided to have me stop doing things that remind her of him.

Thanks, Melissa, for helping me overcome my personality/identity/ego thing.  Even I didn’t know that it was what was making me miserable all along.

 

© Wyatt Waggoner 2015