Vision Paper – Elena DeLuccia
By Elena DeLuccia
May 10, 2017
Sleeping used to be so easy before the project. It’s supposed to change everything. I didn’t know what to expect when I signed on; most of us just needed the money – I know I did. It sounded like a luxury, too. All this power at the blink of an eye, literally. It seems, however, that we might have taken on a bit more than we were capable of.
It’s been about a month since I became a part of the project. They offered a bi-monthly pay of $11,000 to a dozen individuals who had the proper amounts of time, intelligence and stability. We will get our pay once we’ve spent two months following the instructions to a tea, and reporting all of our experiences. Other than that, we simply live our lives. I haven’t seen the others since we got implanted. We met, talked about how intrigued we were, danced around our hesitance, and exchanged contact information, in case the manual confused us. They told us that the manual will get smaller the more reports the test subjects give. We’ll be the ones to figure out the tricks to making it work. The manual now consists of pages upon pages of the neurological make-up of each section of the brain. Which neurons are supposed to fire where, what they mean, why they might do the things they do, and how we know it all. After this month, I’ll have only scanned a few pages at random. There are no guides in the manual about what to do when your intrusive thoughts kick in and lead you to videos or articles of someone driving off a bridge, or punching someone in an office.
Every thought needs to be controlled lest the computer catch on to that specific thought and bring you to some obscure part of the internet. I’ve unintentionally watched countless videos of people on bicycles crashing into things because when I see someone riding a bike I think: Hey, what if they just hit a patch of sand and ate shit. Lo-and-behold, hundreds of videos, articles, pictures, of hysterical and/or horrifying bicycle accidents. There are also, of course, the contacts that pop up. Aunt Sandy, Shithead, Patches Barber Shop. Aunt Sandy is the hardest to get off the phone. Shithead is an old boyfriend of mine whose number I was never ready to get rid of. He doesn’t ask too many questions when I accidentally call him since I’ve done it a fair few times. The first time I ever called him was the day I got home from the implantation. I explained to him the project so he wouldn’t think I was just the creep who calls their ex-boyfriend two years after last speaking. I had been spreading mustard on a sandwich wondering how much mustard a person would have to eat before their shit turned yellow. Then I thought about how disgusting it was that I always have involuntary thoughts about shit running around my head, following which, the ringing began. I reached to my back pocket for my phone which wasn’t there anymore. They took everything I had on my phone and transferred it to the chip, so it would feel the same: photos, videos, saved web pages, games, contacts, apps. I still technically owned a phone, it was just in my head. The ringing continued and I realized I had made a phone call, not knowing to whom.
“Hello? Hello? Devin? Why did you call me? Hello?” He took no time between each question, breathlessly moving from one to the next. I rolled my eyes and hoped that this wouldn’t trigger some Google search for ‘irritated looks’ or ‘sarcastic responses’. His voice sounded from the inside of my ears. It felt as though someone was whispering into my ear from behind, the sound circulating like wind through a tunnel deep within in my ear canal; I almost felt the sensation of breath down my neck, but there was no one around. What’s most unsettling was that I could have just as easily been having a conversation with myself. I had to constantly remind myself that he was real, and hearing me too.
“Yeah, um, hi. Sorry I didn’t mean to dial you.” No one said anything for a moment.
“The last time I checked you had me in your phone as ‘shithead’. How do you ‘accidentally’ dial shithead?”
“It’s just this whole thing. I’m sorry. I’ll go.”
Hang up, I thought, but I still heard the buzz of sound from the other line. Hang up. I thought louder, but still the buzz, and a few quiet breaths. I wondered why he hadn’t hung up yet. I began to blink ferociously and shake my head back and forth to get the phone call to end.
“Dev? Are you still there?”
“Sorry yeah. I don’t know how to hang up so can you please?”
And so began the conversation where I explained to him everything. How I was selected out of hundreds of applicants to have a chip inserted into my brain that would pick up the electrical impulses from my neurons as they fired. The chip has all the capabilities of a computer; I, and the 11 other people selected, simply had to learn how to control it. The research goal is to get our thoughts organized enough to control an entire computer with our brains, thus giving us limitless knowledge and constant access to the rest of the world. Someday, the chip will hopefully sell with the ferocity that the iPhone does.
We talked about how he was my first phone call. How it was triggered by an uncontrolled thought about shit. He asked me to tell him what the 62nd number of pi was and what the capital of Uzbekistan is, two things he was positive I didn’t have in my repertoire of knowledge. It didn’t take long for me to figure out how to conduct a proper Google search in my head. Some thoughts are louder than others. I can close my eyes and see that the capital of Uzbekistan is Tashkent, and its neighboring cities are Urtaaul to the west, and Yalangach to the northeast. I’ve even mastered conducting these searches with my eyes open, although I haven’t yet learned how to focus on the person I’m talking to and conduct a search at the same time. Everyone now knows that I’m scrolling through Facebook or Twitter when I check out of a conversation. Last week I visited my parents to update them on the progress I was making with the chip. My dad raved about the government’s involvement in my thoughts and how this was the stupidest decision I had ever made. My mom still wants to talk to me about work and how my life is going. While my mother tries to explain to me the plot of the most recent book she’s read and my father tries to talk over her about the government knowing when I’m watching porn, I find something else to do.
“… but only in the third act of the book does she realize that he was poisoning their daughter all along and that’s why he stayed…”
“… every time you’re doing nasty things to yourself the government knows it because they’re probably off somewhere checking your temperature and sperm count…”
I’m already logged in. I can still hear my parents talking, but it’s just like looking down at your phone and honing-in on whatever you have pulled up on your screen. It’s easier to pay attention to that.
“Nadine just give me a second to talk to the boy.”
“He’s heard it all before Alan just let me tell him about my damn book.”
I’m staring intently into my mother’s eyes as she talks giving her the idea that I’m engaged in her words but I’m looking at the most recent engagement picture on new news feed. Samantha Litto got engaged to this huge man with a perfect beer belly despite his young age of 27. The picture is of them on a boat standing next to each other, him pointing to her hand and her holding out her ring finger prominently. The bottom of her fiancé’s hairy belly is poking out of his t-shirt and I’m disgusted by it.
“I know, terrible, right? Guts everywhere and not a clue who did it, but I know it’s going to be the step father, obviously.” My mom continues, reading the disgusted look on my face as a reaction to her story. I tune back into her but the photo is still in the fore front of my mind and I have trouble getting it to close. My mother keeps talking as I mentally track the mouse to the ‘x’ at the top of the screen. Unfortunately for me, my mother gasps, remembering a new bit of information from the book, causing me to click on a video. The volume is already up way too loud, as I last had audio playing during the shower, where I need it turned up.
“AGH” I cringe and clutch my ears; my parents start to talk to me in a panic and I put my head between my legs with my hands still up at my ears, which doesn’t help at all, by the way. With my eyes closed though, I can concentrate. I can focus not on my environment but on getting the mouse to click ‘pause’, and then to move it to reduce the screen. The song stops and my surroundings become clear instantly. I slowly take my hands off my ears and my parents are dead silent. All I can hear now is the sound of the dishwasher running and leaves rustling outside of the glass door at the back of the dining room.
Slowly looking up, I see my father standing there, arms crossed and smug. My mother’s eyes are wide and she is clearly coming down from a moment of sheer panic watching me settle myself. I take a breath and look at them. My mom speaks up:
“Was that the government?”