Author: Mark Renney

Darren had come to dread having to decompress. He wasn’t alone and yet no-one was talking about it, even the media were quiet on the subject but then hardly anyone now was exempt. The evidence was everywhere and decompressing people had become a commonplace sight across the city. Old people, old bodies, slumped in cars and on public transport, sprawled across park benches and on the pavements. The only way to distinguish them from the city’s homeless was by their fine clothes. Shrunken and shriveled bodies adorned in the latest designer labels. It was, Darren had decided, grotesque and he was terrified at the prospect that eventually he would be reduced to this.

When Darren first started wearing the chip almost thirty years ago (although he now hated that phrase: ‘to wear’, the chip wasn’t something one wore like an item of clothing or an accessory). No, it was something one used and relied upon. In the beginning decompressing had not been an issue. The moments when he chose to remove it, and it had literally been just that, moments, it was no more invasive than brushing his teeth.

He remembered how he would often remove it whilst waiting for the morning train or even crammed in to the crowded carriage as it rattled its way into the city. But now, if he needed to remove it on the station platform, he would have to ensure he was seated, sitting slumped for at least half an hour, barely conscious, hardly able to move, the precious chip safely stowed in his pocket. Managing this only if after pulling it from its port in the small of his back he was strong enough to move that far. No, the days of the quick and easy fix were definitely behind him.

The chip has been widely available for almost fifty years now and the oldest users are well into their eighties and possibly above. And these are the people decompressing out on the city streets in plain sight. They are degrading and broken, not just the chips but also the users who are unable to stop trying.

At sixty-one, Darren is still relatively young and he hasn’t yet needed to cower and hide away in a toilet cubicle or lock himself in one of the supply cupboards at the office. But the tension when it comes is a bit more intense and the discomfort, the pain, lasts a little longer each time. So far, he has always managed to make his way home where, closing the bedroom door and pulling down the blinds, he huddles beneath the duvet.

When at last Darren emerges, he doesn’t immediately re-insert the chip. Pushing himself up from the bed, he crosses to the mirror on the wall and studies himself. And standing there, as he pushes the chip back into its port, he watches the not so subtle transformation.