2.0.3

“Jiang? Mr. Jiang Xun? Can you hear-”

“Yes Mei,” Xun replied, “I’m here. What is it?”

“Ms. Chen has requested an update on your review of the quarterly earnings report…”

“…I’m sorry Mei, Ms. Chen must have misspoke.”

“No sir, she explicitly said your name. I apologize for any inconvenience this brings you.”

“Maybe Táng can look it over for me, I have a very busy afternoon.”

“Sir?” Mei asked, confusion evident in her voice.

“Yes?”

“Umm…” she paused. “You fired Mr. Táng last week…”

Xun abruptly stopped his multitasking, turning from his virtual work space.

I fired Táng? What do you mean?”

“I – I’m sorry sir,” she stuttered, “I can send you the paperwork if you want to look it over…”

Xun quietly pondered the ludicrousy of the last 20 seconds.

“Sir?”

“N-no Mei,” he finally responded, “that won’t be necessary… perhaps… I should… take the rest of the day off…”

“If I may say sir, you have been pushing yourself. I will let Ms. Chen know that you are out of the office and with your permission, will assign the review of the report to Mr. Zhou…”

“Yes, thank you.”

Xun stared for a moment into the clean but empty walls of his virtual workspace, a void of slightly yellow-shifted white.

“Exit Parallel,” he said.

“Are you sure you’d like to end-”

“Yes.”

The space around Xun faded, and the physical world rematerialized around him. He sat up slowly, and removed the silver cord from the side of his head.

I fired Táng? He thought. The man is incompetent, no doubt, but I don’t have the authority to do such a thing…

He placed his hand on his forehead, which felt fine, and proceeded through a doorway into a small kitchen space. As usual, it existed in a blurred state somewhere between clean and dirty.

Xun retrieved a glass, filled it with water, and took a sip.

Perhaps during a sleep-deprived work night he sent a message to one of the higher-ups…

He let out a deep breath, and exited the kitchen, only to drop the glass from his hands at the sight of a tall, beautiful woman standing in his living space half-dressed. She had what seemed like miles of dark, wavy hear pouring down the valley of her bare back.

“How was work darling?” she asked him softly.

Xun looked down at the glistening shards on the floor in front of him, and then back up at the woman.

“What the hell… is going on?”