Author: Melissa Kobrin

The first step of unLeveling is to dial down my Sense-thizer. Have to maximize my time to adjust to unsensethized bio senses. Caleb, set it to zero.

Strings of code slide through the mixed flesh and machine of my brain. The world runs away while staying still. My eyes dart around, instinctively trying to bring it back, as suddenly my focus decreases to only a portion of my vision. Everything other than that spot isn’t fully seen, and my natural bio subroutines seem to flag only motion in the dull areas. They won’t even run an analysis until I shift my painfully small focus spot. Peripheral vision, Coach calls it. And what are those noises? I should know, the input data is the same. But now they’re just sounds without meaning. No Sense-thizer to analyze and compare audio files. The difference in smell always hits me last. Instead of distinct interwoven strands, each one neatly labeled in my head, there’s now only one mushed together scent.

Next year, when I finally hit 5’9’’ and I stop growing, I’ll be eligible for augmented senses. Definitely want at least sight, even though it’s expensive. $1,299.99 for EagleEyeIII’s, Caleb says. Part of me is in no hurry to get to that Level though. Augmented is a huge adjustment. Going from sensethized to bio is bad enough. Not looking forward to augmented sensethized to bio.

The second step is to disconnect from the Net. First I quickly check my messages. One last peek, in case there’s something new. Nothing I haven’t replied to, good. Caleb, any important updates? Noelle Tyler’s new album has reached #1 on the billboards, Congress is debating another amendment to the genegineered pet bill, there’s an 87% chance Sam and Rene will break up tonight, and your grandma just posted a cute picture of her dog, Caleb says. Well, that can all wait until after practice. Caleb, turn off my Net connection.

Systems are logged off and shut down in a flickering cascade. With disorienting suddenness my connection to the rest of the world is gone and my brain goes dark. Information subroutines running in the back of my mind stutter to a halt with no new input. Caleb and I are limited to the data downloaded in my head. Anything could happen, anyone could try to tell me something. I won’t know until I log back on and reemerge in two hours.

Next step. Look down and check the telltales on my shoes. The uniform came from the team, and it’s deadclothes. But I’m wearing my own shoes, and I don’t want the nullifier around the court to damage them. They feel dead; my toes are a little cold and my steps plop instead of spring. The small light on the tongue is dark, nothing to worry about, they’re turned off.

You have thirty seconds, Caleb reminds me. That’s fine, I’m almost done anyway. Just one last step.

Caleb, go to inactive mode.

My senses are dull, my brain is dark, my clothes are dead, and I’m alone in my mind. Completely unLeveled.

Coach jogs into the gym, already blowing his whistle. My teammates and I jump up from the bench and run onto the court. There’s no program to help regulate my breathing during warmups. I have to think about it, do it on my own. Deep even breaths. As we start drills the sound of basketballs fills the air. Why are they called basketballs? Caleb should tell me automatically, as soon as the question runs through my mind.

Caleb isn’t here. Just me.