Author : Andrew D. Murrell

I awoke.

I could still feel the remnants of foreign thoughts gently receding from my consciousness. Then I felt today’s check deposit into my account, twenty one thousand dollars. Minimum wage jobs just don’t pay like they used to do they? I waited to feel the disconnect signal and then opened my eyes. I breathed in deeply and coughed.

Life, I am getting old.

My bed stood me up and disappeared into the floor. A neural link transponder drifted towards me, eagerly offering its services.

“No, I’ve had enough of other people’s opinions for one day.” Ever since the distributed thoughtnet replaced the static web and our minds themselves became commodities for sale, I have yearned for three things in life above all else: stillness, simplicity, and silence.

But what can one do? Life is no longer simple, still, or quiet, it is complex, ever-changing, and constantly berating us with options, opinions, and each other. Even now, only seconds after leaving the thoughtnet I could feel the incoming interaction requests and updates from SocialLink and the AutoBillPay alerting me to the fact I would soon have no money, once again. If only I could just take a break, a real break.

I walked to an Autoportal wall and felt the breeze gently waft through it as the microfibers aligned themselves to direct wind from outside through the thin coating of electric generators. I gestured to the wall and it became transparent. The day was beautiful and sunny, but the infinite suburb of haphazardly colored and eclectic houses was the last thing I needed to be reminded of seeing. I turned away and the wall once again shifted to a shallow opaque green.

No, I don’t need a rest. Just the opposite, I need something to do. I turned inward and navigated through several thought-changing stations to the System Control Menu in my Neural OS. After reflecting on the oddity that one must authenticate to access one’s own brain, I found the most heavily guarded portion of my mind.

“System, go Offline,” a willful auditory confirmation and the system slowed to a halt. I felt blurry. Enhanced senses shut down and the hum of the dim house faded into the background. I stumbled around until I found the manual access panels and switched the house to full power. I knew that I couldn’t afford it, full lighting for even a few hours was prohibitively expensive as the house itself could not generate that much electricity and would have to buy some from our neighbors, but I had to do it. I could not live out my life from inside my head any longer. I needed reality.

Had I been younger I would have punched a hole in the wall. I would have broken some screens. I would have torn off all of my clothes and run down the streets of ugly houses until the community police managed to take me into custody kicking and screaming about the wrongness of it all. But no, it is much too late for that.

I remember the sound of birds, but there are no birds outside anymore. I thought about that for a while. I thought about birds until the mood had passed. I don’t know if I’d even be capable of those things any more anyway, so no, I will stay inside. I will sit in my chair and wait for the government to say that I’m old enough to die. One day they will tell me that I have lived long enough, met the life expectancy and am permitted to leave. Until then, I will turn off the lights, reconnect to the thoughtnet and sell my mindspace to the rich young folks with new ideas. I don’t need to think anymore they said, our lives are perfect.

I awoke, but only for a moment.

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