Figment

-A story

-By Paul Ewbank

-Based on a random idea I had in the shower a few days ago that made me laugh enough to run with it.

-Warning: Strong language and adult themes

 


 

“The realisation that I am a figment of your imagination has so far had surprisingly little impact on my life.”

Natalie put down the X box controller. “You what?”

“Yup. I figured it out a few days ago. Wasn’t sure whether to tell you or not.”

She stared at me. “…You think you’re a figment of my imagination.”

“Uh-huh.”

“That doesn’t make sense on any level.”

“Babe, it’s ok. I don’t mind.”

“But-“

“You’re going to ask how it’s possible for me to be capable of figuring that out if I’m not a real, conscious person.”

Natalie had been about to ask why she would imagine a boyfriend who left disgusting man-hairs in the shower every time he used it. “Well… yeah, I guess that’s as good a place to start as any.”

“It’s simple. I don’t have consciousness. Just the appearance of it. Like an AI that’s incredibly good at imitating humans. Your mind has created a highly detailed simulation of a person to keep you company. And part of being an accurate simulation is being able to figure out that I’m a simulation, so-“

“We’re playing Geometry Wars.”

“..Sorry?”

“We’re playing Geometry Wars. I literally pressed multiplayer and gave you the controller.”

“Ah. Well obviously there’s some level of reality distortion at play in your mind too. Your mind adjusts things slightly to fit with having another person with you. You probably just pressed single player. Or you’re playing with both controllers. Which would explain why you suck so bad.”

“Witty. I sure imagined a real funny guy.”

“Hey, I have to work with what’s in your head, ok? My failings are on you.”

“Dom, this is the dumbest thing you’ve ever said. And that’s a really profound statement.”

“Come on, Nat. It’s obvious. I’m only ever around when you’re around. I have no existence outside of you. That’s how I figured it out.”

That’s your reasoning?” Natalie snorted with laughter. “Honey, you just don’t have much of a life! Don’t go blaming that on me!”

“Nah, it’s more than that. I literally don’t exist for anyone else.”

“Yeah, sure. We gonna finish this game or what?”

“Sure. I wonder if your brain will let you win for once.”

“Fuck off Dom.”

 

Dom obliterated Nat just like he always did.

“So am I just imagining those mad skills?”

“Yeah. But that shouldn’t take away from the utterly devastating fashion in which I just beat you.”

“It kinda would. If it weren’t bollocks.”

“Darling, just because something isn’t real, doesn’t mean it’s not awesome.”

“Well. Thank you for making what was otherwise a perfectly pleasant date night totally weird. Now, I’m going to the bedroom with a view to taking all of my clothes off and then having sex. If you aren’t too far up your own existential ass, you’re welcome to join me.”

Natalie left. Dom remained where he was for a moment, staring at the door to the bedroom.

“…Eh.” he said, and followed her into the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

 

“You know, this is basically masturbation.”

“Oh fuck me.”

“Well…yeah.” said Dom, finishing and rolling over.

“If sex couldn’t get you to shut up about this crap then I’m going to have to resort to even more extreme measures.”

“I like the sound of that.”

“You fucking would.

“Yeah.”

They were silent for a moment while Dom put his boxers back on.

“You know, you’re basically calling me crazy. Saying I have imaginary friends.” said Natalie hotly. “I think so far I’m doing a pretty good job not getting annoyed by that, but I make no promises for the future.”

“Babe, I’ve told you: I don’t mind! I’m totally cool with existing only in your head. I think it’s great! I literally just get to hang out with you all the time- no responsibilities, no actual earthly burdens. Just a super hot girlfriend to entertain. I mean, did you ever wonder why we’re so perfectly suited? You think any real bloke would be this awesome?”

Natalie stared at him. “You arrogant dumbass! You think you’re the best my mind could come up with? If you were my imaginary perfect boyfriend you’d be a million times better! You’d… you’d stop leaving half drunk mugs of coffee all over the place! You’d be less of a grouchy dick in the mornings! You wouldn’t have such a stupid little nose!”

Dom gasped.

“…I’m sorry. I take back that last one.”

“You said you liked my nose.”

“I do! I really do!” said Nat earnestly. “Your adorable imaginary nose is just one of your many admirable imaginary qualities.”

“And at least half of those mugs are yours.”

“Dom.”

“At least twenty percent of those mugs are yours.”

“By which you mean one of the mugs is mine.”

“I’m looking at one massive mug that’s yours right now.”

“Witty.”

“Goodnight dear.”

“Sleep well, dear figment.”

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Hell no.”

 

“So you just stop existing the moment I leave?” said Nat next morning.

“Yep.” said Dom, pouring coffee.

“Right. Wait right there.”

Dom watched bemusedly as Nat opened the front door of the flat and went outside. After a moment the door opened and she came back in.

“There.” she said triumphantly. “So, what, did you just vanish for that second? Surely you’d have noticed massive blank spots in your memory before now?”

“Yeah, I wondered about that too.” said Dom, pouring extra milk into Nat’s coffee and passing it to her. “But I figured it out. I did vanish while you were outside. But when I re-appeared the memory of standing right here was planted in my mind. So to me now, it feels like I’ve been stood here the whole time.”

“Put the milk back in the fridge, don’t just leave it on the side.”

“Sorry. But it makes perfect sense- reconstructed memories. That’s how I remember having a childhood and parents and stuff. Your mind gave me a really mundane backstory, by the way. Couldn’t have given me anything more exciting?”

“I guess you being involved in anything remotely exciting as a kid just never seemed believable to my mind.”

“Buuuurn.”

 

“So what’s happening now?” asked Nat.

“We’re having lunch.” replied Dom, mouth full of taco.

“Yes, but how does any of this situation make sense if you aren’t real? What would Ernie be seeing?”

“Huh?” said Ernie.

“Is he watching me talk to an empty chair? Presumably all my other friends would see me doing stuff like that all the time and would think me a nutcase.”

“Firstly, your friends do think you’re a weirdo. And they’re right.”

“Point taken.”

“And secondly, no- I told you. Reality distortion.” said Dom off-handedly. “Our conversation is just in your head. Ernie is just looking at you middle-distancing. Or rather, he’s looking at your burrito. Might wanna finish that off quick.”

“What do you make of all this, Ernie?”

“All what?”

“Dom is trying to convince me that he doesn’t exist.”

“…Who is trying to convince you?”

“Dom!”

“…Who?” said Ernie blankly.

Nat went pale. Dom’s face lit up with surprise and glee.

After a moment Ernie burst out laughing. “Pahahahahahaha! Your face mate.”

“Hah!” said Dom.

“For fuck’s sake.”

“Mate, as much as we all wish Dom didn’t exist, I’m sorry to be the one to inform you he’s right there.”

“This proves nothing.” said Dom.

“Right, reality distortion. My mind is twisting everything that’s happening. Which is convenient as there’s no way for me to prove you wrong.”

“Yup.”

“It’s like trying to convince me I’m in a dream I can never wake up from. No way to prove it, and since the dream is the only damn thing I’ll experience it doesn’t even sodding matter.”

“Which is why I’m telling you to chill out about the whole thing!”

“I’ll figure out a way to prove you wrong.”

“Good luck, gorgeous.”

“By the way,” said Ernie, gesturing to Nat’s place. “You gonna finish that?”

Nat sighed.

 

“Dom.”

Dom put down the X box controller. Nat was standing by the bedroom door, looking pensive.

“You ok hun?”

“I think you’re right.”

“I know I’m right. I definitely saw your glasses in there, ok? Check under the-“

“No, I mean I think you really are a figment of my imagination. Which means I’m going totally batshit crazy.”

“Hey, hey hey, don’t say that!”

“It’s true though,” she said weakly, singing into the armchair. “I’ve been imagining having a boyfriend for nearly three years, when in reality I live alone, indulging some pathetic fantasy, beating myself at Geometry Wars and pleasuring myself imagining a hairy six foot ginger with an adorable nose.”

“Nat, you’re taking this all wrong. So what if I’m not real? We still have a great time! Your mind has gotten so good at fitting me into your life that I am real for you, and that’s all that matters. You said yourself- if the fiction is so completely convincing, what does it matter if it’s untrue?”

He reached over and took her hands. She sniffed.

“Everyone has their own version of reality.” he said encouragingly.” So what if yours includes some added extras? What’s actually real doesn’t matter!”

“No, Dom. It does matter. Which is why I’ve decided.”

“Decided what?” Dom sounded a little apprehensive.

“I’ve decided to admit myself in to a psychiatric ward. I’ll tell them I have delusions and hallucinations. It’ll be rough, but they’ll be able to cure me. And I’ll be free to face what’s real.”

Dom’s eyes widened “Nat… are you breaking up with me?”

“No, Dom. You don’t exist. So I need to stop pretending that you do. I need to get help, so that I can figure out what’s real and what isn’t. Losing you will be hard, because I really do love you, but it’s for the best. “

“Nat…no…”

She put her hand on his face as he stared imploringly at her. “It’s ok, Dom. You’ll always be a part of me.”

“Bollocks to that! You’re talking about killing me, Nat! I’ll stop existing! I’ll freaking die!”

“No, Dom. You are me. Healing myself is healing you. We’ll get through this!”

“Stop trying to say profound existential stuff. That’s my job!”

“You are me.” said Nat again. “So all your personality traits, your dubious wit, all your existential bollocks, they’re all me in the end. Maybe it’s time I take it all back.”

“Natalie, please.” said Dom desperately, squeezing her hands tight. “Listen. If you cure yourself of your delusions I will stop existing. And that is not something I want. Shit, I wish I’d never told you I figured this all out. Let’s just forget about the whole thing, ok?”

“Well… I guess there is one alternative to me getting treatment for insanity.”

“Yes?”

“You’d have to do something for me.”

“What?” said Dom, leaning over her, eyes wide. Nat leaned in close, lips inches from Dom’s ear, and whispered

“Clean the dishes.”

Dom froze.

“…What?”

“Clean the fucking dishes. And tidy up that pile of your crap by the TV. And stop coming home drunk at 3am and demanding to have really long conversations with me about stuff that happened on your night out. Nobody cares what deep meaningful connection you found with some random dude while you were getting high behind Nandos.”

“Nat-”

“Oh, it doesn’t stop there.” she stood up suddenly, causing him to fall backwards, looking up at her in horror.

“Things are going to run a little differently around here. Cooking? Your problem now. Housework? Your problem now. Chasing that mangy cat out of the hallway when it sneaks in and tries to piss everywhere? …That was always your problem, but you better believe it’s doubly your problem now.”

“But-”

“Yes, I know that in reality it’ll still be me doing all that. But in my crazy, messed up head it’ll look like my figment of a boyfriend doing it while I sit watching Gilmore Girls and drinking red wine out of a sodding Kermit the Frog mug.” Natalie’s eyes were glinting manically as she advanced on Dom, who was still lying on the floor, backing away from her.

“ You, my friend, are going to become the perfect boyfriend. You’ll be kind, considerate, thoughtful of my feelings, respectful of my female independence while still basically doing everything, willing-eager, even- to engage in favours of a sexual nature whenever I demand, and in every way you will treat my needs, whims and desires as though they are your entire world. Because, dear figment, they are. And if I decide you aren’t pulling your weight, or I’m not satisfied with your performance in any way… I’ll let the ravages of intensive therapy and high strength medication take their toll on my mind. Or rather, yours.”

“This is blackmail! This is horrible!” Dom protested.

“Damn sodding right it is!” laughed Natalie. “What’re you gonna do? Go to the police? Report me to the Society for Mistreatment of Fragmented Consciousness? You are trapped, Dom. A prisoner in my head. You can’t do anything because you don’t fucking exist. And if you wanna share my head-space then you’re gonna have to toe the line.”

“…Shit.” said Dom.

They were silent a moment.

“Or.” said Natalie.

“Or?”

“Or you could just promise never to mention anything this cataclysmically dumb ever, ever again, and we get on with our pleasant lives, unperturbed by unanswerable philosophical quandaries, as though none of this ever happened.”

“Deal.”

“Brill.” said Natalie reaching out a hand to pull him up.

“That was intense.” said Dom shakily.

“Yeah. Geometry Wars?”

“Ok.”

 

A few minutes later he was whupping her ass like normal. Nat suspected he might have been going a little easier on her but chose not to bring it up.

“You know,” said Dom, “If I didn’t love you so much you’d be the most terrifying woman in existence.”

Nat smiled, taking another sip of wine from her Kermit the Frog mug. “Is that my existence, or yours?”

“Shut up.”

“Love you too.”

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