Eager with excitement, I downloaded the new app. It asked to connect with my friends and followers on social media, and I accepted. I filled out the detailed profile, answered a questionnaire that recorded my voice, and linked my Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Within minutes of completing my profile, my first holomorph friend appeared! I stood speechless in my living room as light beamed from the ceiling. Swirling particles formed into my best friend, Dane, from Seattle. Not the real him, but a vivid, life-sized hologram. He was partially transparent, like a Technicolor ghost, but somehow the illusion felt real.
“Oh, my God, this is incredible!” I said.
“I know, right? Like the Starship Enterprise beamed me here.”
We half-embraced, bro-style. There was actually a supple texture to his three-dimensional form, like hugging someone made of thin rubber. Dane was shorter than expected. I’d never actually seen him in person. We’d met on Facebook and became instant friends in a group that discussed sci-fi horror movies. For years, I’d only known Dane through typed-word conversations on a screen, along with his stagnant profile photo—a plump face with a beard.
“The hologram you looks different from your photo,” I said.
“I kinda lied about my weight on my profile,” he chuckled. “I like the holo-me better.”
I didn’t care. I had a 3D friend to cure my loneliness. Dane hung out with me all weekend. We watched a marathon of Netflix horror movies, played video games, and had the best time getting to know each other. Sometimes Dane’s responses were off. It didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t talking to a live version of him, but a software recreation based on his profile. Eventually, we ran out of things to talk about. So I downloaded three more holomorph friends—Raquel from Chicago, Jon from Tallahassee, and Niles, transported all the way from London.
Our eclectic group played poker at the dinner table and chatted about our favorite books, music, and politics. Raquel and Jon debated over whether Democrats or Republicans should be running the country. They were such extreme opposites that trying to convince one another to switch viewpoints was futile. Pretty soon the poker chips started flying. Niles ducked to stay out of the line of fire. “This is better than watching Hulu!” he said and we all busted up laughing.
We played cards for hours. I was the only one eating and drinking, since my holomorph friends didn’t require food or drinks. Cheap entertainment.
My first week using the new social media was a whirlwind of crazy fun. I downloaded friends from all over the world. I threw holomorph parties. Holograms of people filled my den, kitchen, and backyard.
I’ll never be lonely again, I’d thought.
Some of the parties got rowdy. A few friends started fights and trashed the place, so I unfriended them. The friends I wanted to keep, like Dane, Raquel, Jon, and Niles, I couldn’t figure out how to get them to leave without unfriending them. The app’s settings seemed to be missing a ‘go home’ button, so I let my favorite friends stay and hang out. I couldn’t bear the alternative of living in an empty house again.
One evening my friends became glitchy—their bodies flickered and their voices cut in and out.
I contacted the app’s tech support and a holographic man in a blue repairman’s jumpsuit and ball cap appeared in my living room. “Hi, I’m Felix the Fixer. What seems to be the problem, Mr. Bradley?”
“My holomorph friends aren’t projecting fully.”
“That’s due to a technical issue with our satellite. We’re fixing the problem.” Felix winked. “Until then, enjoy some of our premium packages for free.” He gave me the codes and disappeared.
On my iPad, I scanned through all the app’s newest features. Hundreds of choices boggled my mind. I could hang out with holomorphs of famous celebrities, dead historical figures, or adopt a holodog or holocat. I could project scenes from my favorite movies right into my home. There seemed no end to the pleasurable escapes I could experience.
Curious, I ordered from the app’s most popular feature—holoporn! My bedroom filled with a harem of horny holowomen. It took a while, but eventually I grew tired of shallow sex. I felt ready to settle down with a holomorph girlfriend.
I swiped through countless screens of profiles until I found my ideal match. When I downloaded Simone, it was love at first sight. Long auburn hair, cute face, a girl-next-door personality, she matched every trait that turned me on. We had loads in common too. The only downside was she looked like she’d been molded into glowing Jell-O, but the sex was good.
The first three weeks with Simone were heavenly. She made me feel whole again. After a month, I reached the limit of her varied responses and she began to sound repetitive. I longed to touch and hold and have meaningful conversations with the real Simone. Her profile said she lived in Boston. I messaged her on Facebook and asked if she’d like to visit me in Dallas. A strange thing, though. The real Simone had no idea who I was. I told her we met on HoloMatch and I was her holomorph boyfriend. She wrote back that she already had a boyfriend. A real one. She threatened to call the police if I ever bothered her again.
I continued to date the holoSimone until I came home from work one day and found her in bed with Dane. Furious, I ran to my iPad and unfriended them both. Their holograms vaporized.
Raquel and Jon yelled at me for sending their friends away, so I obliterated them too. Niles and my other holofriends kept their distance from me. I began to resent them all. None of them had anything new to say. They talked about the weather, TV shows, current events, but it was all surface stuff. When I probed deeper, I kept hitting the limits of their programming. I longed to connect on a soul-to-soul level. I felt alone in a house full of ghosts.
When each holomorph became boring or got on my nerves, I ended the friendship with a push of a button. I had millions more friends I could download. I went through dozens of them. I learned that not all friends match their profiles. Their photos looked friendly, but their holograms projected their true natures. At my birthday party, one weirdo said he saw everything as a video game. Then he went bat-shit and started stabbing my other friends with a kitchen knife. I grabbed my tablet and vaporized him just before he stabbed me.
While my friends moved through the house around me, their names and faces blurring together, I sat on the couch and sifted through the app’s unlimited features on my TV. In bed, I swiped through profile after profile, seeking a woman to be my soul mate. At work, I mostly stared at my computer screen. Around me, in a maze of lonely cubicles, a mix of real people and holoworkers interfaced with their computers and tablets. Wherever I went out in public, I kept my eyes glued to my cell phone. I kept delving deeper and deeper into the app, searching for happiness.
Today I noticed my body turning transparent. My bathroom mirror reflected a ghostly version of myself that flickered.
I summoned Felix again. “What’s happening to me?”
“You’re very popular, Mr. Bradley,” Felix said with a grin. “You’ve had multiple friends download your holomorph into their homes. On HoloMatch, you are currently boyfriend to over twelve hundred women. That’s a lot of downloads, my friend. The drawback is you’re beginning to atomize.”
My body flickered faster. “What do you mean . . . atomize?”
“After awhile the holomorph versions of you begin to disintegrate your body into thousands, and eventually millions, of atoms that live in co-existing realities. It’s a limitation when combining our software with human biology.”
“Why didn’t you warn me before I downloaded the app?” I yelled.
“It’s all there in the fine print of our contract. Once you agreed to Holomorph Corp’s terms, you gave them the right to download your atoms to their millions of subscribers.”
My skin began to pixilate and lose cohesion. Tiny holes speckled my arms. I grabbed his shoulders. “You have to fix me.”
“I’m afraid atomization is a permanent glitch for lower grade subscribers.”
My hands disintegrated. My pixilated flesh and bones flew up toward the ceiling like a swarm of insects. Holding up the stumps of my eroding arms, I howled and began to cry.
Felix tapped his iPad. “Not to worry, Mr. Bradley. We still have time to save you. Now that you’ve surpassed five thousand friends, you’re eligible to upgrade to our Holosphere.”
“Wha-what’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s our most exciting new feature. As the Holomorphs founder predicted, people no longer need the physical world. So our engineers developed the next evolution in reality.” He pushed a button on his tablet and a neon red door opened in the center of my living room.
“Follow me. I’ll take you to a place where you’ll always be happy and have plenty of friends.”
Desperate to feel whole again, I followed Felix through the holodoor.
~ Brian Moreland
© Copyright 2017 Brian Moreland. All Rights Reserved
About Brian MorelandBrian Moreland writes horror novels and short stories that get your heart pumpin’. He’s published eight books, including Darkness Rising, The Witching House, The Vagrants, The Devil's Woods, Shadows in the Mist and Dark Needs. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he wrangles monsters from other worlds. He’s dealt with his share of ghosts and serial killers too. For fun, Brian loves watching Dallas Cowboys football, world travel, and exploring caves.
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