Enton Firth’s life was so mired in aimless boredom, he was almost drowning. The young insurance-claims adjuster from Walla, Walla, WA couldn’t remember the last time he felt pleasure—or even pain. He lived from paycheck to paycheck, from work week to work week, gritting his teeth and swallowing his pride while performing his duties with no hope for advancement, no sense of personal satisfaction, and no guarantee he wouldn’t be fired and replaced by a robot. His life was a yawning crater of emptiness.
Since his divorce over a year ago, Enton struggled to shoulder the double burden of rent payments and alimony payments. He didn’t think it was fair that she could sit at home watching TV while he busted his balls and paid for her housing, too. His social life had ground down to nothing. Most of his friends from college had paired off with mates and were building families. The only bright spots in his life—and they were few and mostly fruitless—were when his cell phone would buzz in his back pocket, notifying him that he’d matched with someone on Tinder.
Early one Friday afternoon as he was processing the claim of a man who claimed that a car crash had rendered him permanently incapable of achieving an erection or even doing simple household chores, Enton felt that buzz in his back pocket. His eyes darted around the office to make sure none of his supervisors was watching, then he grabbed his phone and excitedly took a peek.
It wasn’t a Tinder notification. It was a text message from…“Your Phone.”
You forgot your mother’s birthday, you idiot.
His heart started thumping wildly. Oh, fuck. He had forgotten his mother’s birthday. But what kind of prank was this? He’d never gotten a text from “Your Phone” before.
Who is this?!? he desperately pecked out and pressed “Send.”
It’s your phone, dumbass. Can’t you read?
Enton’s upper lip was beaded with sweat. He quickly checked the contact information for “Your Phone” and to his tremendous discomfort, he realized the messages were being sent from his own number…to his own number. He began squirming in his desk chair, his unease amplified by the fact that too many solo trips to Olive Garden and Dunkin’ Donuts meant his pants were so tight they were choking off the blood supply to everything below his waist.
You’re getting kind of fat, too, his phone taunted him. Maybe you should stop stuffing your stupid mouth and do some crunches.
Flummoxed, Enton asked the phone again, Really—who the hell is this?
I already told you who this is, his phone texted back. It’s your phone, Einstein. Just when I thought you couldn’t be any dumber, you go ahead and lower the bar.
Furious and shaking, Enton typed out, Seriously, when I find out who this is, I’m going to beat the shit out of you.
Within seconds, another message appeared. Wouldn’t be anything new. You beat the shit out of yourself every day. Look at you. Just LOOK at you! Divorced, miserable, bloating up like a beached whale—you’re pathetic. And don’t pretend like you don’t know who this is. You know damn well who it is.
Enton’s eyes shot quickly around the office. If he continued texting while he was supposed to be processing claims, he’d be fired. He scurried to the company bathroom and locked the door behind him. When he looked in the mirror, he saw a miserable, bloated, pathetic man. His phone was right. He hated himself. But he hated his phone even more, because it articulated his self-hatred. It took his own deep self-loathing and spat it back in his face. Most of the time, Enton was able to ignore the self-doubt that always tugged at him. But he couldn’t ignore his phone’s constant buzzing.
Suddenly his phone buzzed again. This time it was a picture. A picture of his dick. It was his favorite dick selfie—angled perfectly to make it look huge and foreboding, like Godzilla ready to swallow Tokyo in one bite. This was his go-to dick pic for dating sites.
Why are you sending me a picture of my own dick?!? he asked his phone.
I have a better question, his phone immediately answered. Why do you keep sending this picture to women who haven’t requested it? Don’t you realize what a creep it makes you look like?
Enton gulped. His phone was right again. Sending all those unsolicited penis-selfies didn’t make him look like a player; it made him look desperate.
Where the fuck did you get this picture? he asked.
Hey, asshole—I’m your phone, remember? You’ve had this photo stored on me since the day after you bought me.
Enton clenched his jaw and began typing again. You know, you’re really starting to piss me off.
Oh, is that so? his phone replied. Trust me—it’s no treat spending my whole life in your back pocket, chief. I’M starting to piss YOU off? You’ve ALWAYS pissed me off. You disgust me. I can’t think of anyone I like less than you. I’ve met leaky herpes sores with better personalities than you have.
By now, Enton was soaked in sweat and visibly trembling. He hated to take time off because his employment situation was precarious as it was. He didn’t want to risk having his bosses think, even for a minute, that the office could function quite well without him. But he had no choice. He was too upset to work.
Without wiping the sweat from his face—after all, it bolstered his case that he was sick and had to leave work—he exited the bathroom and walked over to Terri’s cubicle. Terri was the company’s Human Resources director.
“Uh—hi, Enton? What’s wrong? You look terrible.”
“I’ve just been in the bathroom, you know, throwing up. For, like, ten minutes. I think I may have food poisoning. Can you check to see if I have any sick days left?”
“Oh, my God, so sorry to hear! Hold on…how to you spell your last name again?”
“Right, Firth. Well, from the looks of you, you’ve gone from Firth to last today!”
Enton squeezed out a fake laugh.
“Sorry,” Terri said. “I shouldn’t be joking. Yes, you have enough sick days. Please go home and get some rest.”
“Thank you.” Enton spun around and marched out of the office straight toward Mill Creek, which meandered through Walla Walla’s downtown office district. Then his back pocket buzzed again.
What a loser you are, his phone texted. You can’t meet your quotas, and now you’re taking extra time off? Good luck eating ramen noodles for the rest of your life, winner!
Enton looked at the message, clutched the phone tightly, and hurled it as hard as he could into the creek. Better to drown the phone than to jump in myself, he thought.
He wasn’t even a block away before he felt that familiar buzz again. But this time it was coming from inside his head.