Author: Sophie Villalobos

Phyllis was carrying in a three-tiered sponge cake. Her hips ticked one way and the cake the other. She lifted the party hat that was perched on top of Brain’s tank and set it down on the table beside him.
‘Happy birthday, Brain!’
A lacklustre stream of bubbles rose from beneath Brain’s frontal lobe. ‘Alas, another year,’ he said. His voice crackled in the speaker system.
Phyllis ignored him and started to cut the cake. ‘A slice for me,’ she said, removing a perfect wedge, ‘and a slice for you.’ She cradled a second wedge over to him, uncovered his tank, and sprinkled a few crumbs into the water. They fluttered down like fish food.
‘How’s about a little champagne to soften the blow?’ Brain said.
She licked the frosting from her fingers. ‘Okay, but just a drop. You know what alcohol does to your grey matter.’
Phyllis retrieved a bottle from the refrigerator and added a splash to his water. She replaced the lid of his tank and balanced the party hat jauntily on top of it. ‘I also got you a present. Any idea what it might be?’
‘It’s another hat.’
She dropped her arms by her sides and moaned. ‘Have a little imagination!’
‘Phil, darling, I’ve been stuck in this jar for forty years. There aren’t many other options.’
She stifled a squeal. ‘Oh, shush!’ Her shoes slipped over the floor tiles and when they reappeared, she was nudging a wrapped box with the point of her toe.
Brain drew behind a curtain of bubbles. Phyllis tore off the paper and heaved the contents out of the box. Brain heard her groan. The bubbles parted and he moved forward, rising a little like a cloud.
‘Lift with your back, not your arms!’ he said.
‘Easy for you to say.’
She rolled the gift onto her knees and lugged it over to the table. The cake jumped into the air as she dropped the object down beside it.
‘Well, it’s not another Panama, that’s for sure.’
‘Do you like it? It’s a diving helmet. But wait, that’s not all!’ She turned a key and the helmet began to whir. Cogs rode up behind the eyeholes and spun like pinwheels—a click—then six metal legs shot out from underneath it. Phyllis reached inside and tripped a switch. The helmet took a step forward. ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’ She grabbed a handful of electrodes from inside it. They hung between her fingers from a tangle of blue wires.
Brain fizzed with joy. ‘I can’t believe it! A brain-machine interface?’
‘Yup! Adapted from old Soviet gear. All we do now is pop you in here and you’re off! You can operate it without a body!’ Phyllis was about to attach the syphoning hose to Brain’s tank but she stopped herself.
‘What? What are you waiting for?’
‘It’s just,’ she pointed to the bottle of champagne, ‘You aren’t really supposed to drink and drive.’