Quia Sum, Cogito: Chapter 1
In 2001, the world witnessed in shock as decades of military exploitation and imperialism finally cultivated a reaction in the way of a fundamentalist attack. In hindsight, it should have been expected that the inevitable global backlash would not be an attempt to address why the terrorist attack took place, but would be twisted to double down on resource acquisition, cultural invalidation, and authoritative implementation of morality that caused the violent outburst. Thus the U.S. War on Terror began, with two implicit intents: first, to justify a “superiority” worldview and, second, (for those with access to invaluable resources: eg. oil, graphite, lithium, tungsten, etc) a demand for assimilation unless they desired to suffer via worldwide political demonization and military occupation.Identifying the Bias of History – Gorner and Stipple – published June 15, 2063
The movement upright was expected and even within the dream I subconsciously knew it was coming. I’ll wait a second to open my eyes. The morning ritual is always the same but the lingering mirage of a dream is something I haven’t felt in years. In spite of the fleeting narrative being lost, the feeling of control and compassion still remains. I haven’t felt this since childhood; long replaced by the numbness of maturity.
I open my eyes to embrace the present existence. The irritation of not waking up parallel to Tess is in conflict with appreciating the natural sitting position. Looking at the back of her head, I see a slight amount of the faded “gray” in her chestnut hair that she’s been complaining about. Considering that she’s still in her late 20s, her concern with premature appearance of old age can be justified. Scanning the sheets I notice the fall where her left leg should be.
In a few hours, I won’t even be thinking about it because she plays it off so well. Everyone says that the improvements made on the new prosthetics are amazing: being able to replicate sensations and such, but the same thing was said about my father’s missing hand and he resented that thing because of the pain it caused. The only way I could (and can) sympathize is to relate it to the annoyance of the Biowear on my forearm. An inescapable constant irritation.
While I remember some specific events, the memories of him are more in line with how I recall the forgotten dream: with the emotions they leave behind. The actual memory of him is fading. It’s easier to think of the time that has gone by rather than the funeral, loss, and depression that are all intertwined together. 2103. That was only… 9 years ago. The realization is a bit of a shock. Time flies. It didn’t seem that way when I was young. I guess that’s right: “time gets faster as you age.” Weird.
Looking back at Tess, I can’t help but to be amazed by her and what she’s been through and what she still is going through. Nor can I help but blame the- nope… can’t let myself go there. Not yet.
I’ll let her sleep in. She doesn’t need to work today and we were up late.
As a reflex, I mentally reach out and start the teaKettle in the kitchen; Tess prepped it last night. Due to the micro-muscular technology, I don’t have to think about turning it on in the same way I don’t have to think about shifting out of bed to start the morning ritual. As I hear the water start to pour in the other room, I have to remind myself that the seemingly natural technologic interconnectedness the BioWear offers is a subconscious manipulation; tricking me into thinking the theft of my body’s inherent energy is an acceptable payoff. The pushed narrative is that the various methods of wind and solar collection embedded into private and public construction are insufficient for the strain on the power grid, I can’t avoid wondering if that justification was an excuse for the current lethargic populace.
Shower, shit, shave. Of course, relieving myself always comes first. Why would anyone take a shower BEFORE hand? Well I’m sure some of the Squatters do (if they bathe at all), but no civil person would.
Showering is easily my favorite part of the day. It is a relief from the subcounsious networking that plagues me every other moment. Having the knowledge that I can extend my consciousness to the other contraptions and media is an invalidation of my natural individuality, but for 5 minutes I’m free to be completely sovereign and organic. The release of being constantly drained of energy excites every cell. The moment I detach the bracer, the world seems a bit more vibrant. It’s likely the unencumbered “electromagnetic biologic circuitry” (or however they describe it) returning to my organs. Even the steam of the shower and the water hitting my skin seems transcendental.
But the 5 minute deadline comes too soon. “Scientists” (more like propagandists) haven’t been able to fix the skin irritation that comes with wearing the different variations of the technology. I easily see where it goes because of the paleness of the skin, the slight rash, and the discolored hair. The metallic clips fastening the cuff back on will stop the timer.
*beep, beep, be-*
Shit. Almost made it. I listen. Tess stirs slightly. God damned technology. Constant irritation. I close my eyes as I feel the static of the room, all the small shimmers of reality that we could take for granted drain from my senses. It’s my daily moment of zen in which I embrace the misery of the next 24 hours that will go unnoticed. Opening my eyes, the world looks a bit more deluded and I feel the exhaustion compared with how it was moments ago.
Wiping the mirror off, I see the olive tone face looking back. I see the stern eyes that used to belong to my grandma and the rounded cheeks belonged to my mom. More than anything is the brow and nose that come from my father that I look at in pride. Even the strong jawline of my uncle pales compared to the nose. The asymmetry of the face is offset slightly by three moles scattered on the left side. After shaving, I amplify those just slightly in order to show my support to the party. Not enough to draw attention, but to ensure those that are looking for it can see.
I hear Tess stir again as I leave the bathroom and grab the alternate battery from the storage port on the wall between the closet and bathroom door. I eject the battery from the BioWear that has been leeching a day’s worth of my energy and lock it into the vacated wall space next to Tess’s twin providing some supplement to the energy grid. The empty battery is replaced back into the metallic sleeve.
She’s fully awake by the time I start getting dressed:
Her morning stretch (part of her ritual) warps her voice slightly to make it a bit deeper and strained than it usually would be “You’re up already? What time is it?”
“A bit after 7:30. I was going to let you sleep in.”
“Oh. No I need to start making food. Thank you though.”
Forgot, we are scheduled to donate to the Squatters. I didn’t realize until this moment that Tess’s desire to help the unfortunate would conflict with… Of course it would be our turn today.
I pull my shirt over the metallic cuff – hiding it from view – as she hops over to me assisted by the furniture between us (nightstand, dresser, and so on). I let my eyes wash over her. A long t-shirt and skivvies looks good on her. She doesn’t seem to have aged in our 3 years being together other than the fading highlights she used to treat her hair with. She matches my height. Her body has changed by a small amount, slightly heavier than her original medium build as a result of her bedrest while she was healing. Her new haircut, which she has only been sporting for 3 days, only frames half her face. The welcome change gives a feel of novel familiarity, and I can’t help but feel lucky as she gives me a kiss on the cheek.
I recollect my thoughts, “Right. Right. I forgot it was the 12th. What are you making for them?”
“Probably just some pasta or something. They seemed to appreciate it last time.”
“Well they should.”
“Tark, come on.” Even before I look, I know the exasperation from her tone, and – even more – the use of my name.
I look up from buttoning my shirt, she is looking at me with judgment and concern. She considers my disdain unfounded, but she’s naïve and wrong. Even after losing her leg, she still believes in the anarchist ideal. It’s childish. But there is no use in arguing about it again, so I refocus on the buttons and avoid eye contact while I lie, “Sorry”.
“I really wish you would let it go. This”, I look up again to see her pointing to her absent leg, “was no one’s fault. It was an accident.” My eye is drawn to the ankle clasp on her remaining leg that serves the same purpose as the tech on my arm. Most people choose to hide the abomination under their clothes out of both respect to others and a want to ignore it themselves. The different placements and styles identify how much energy is being drained; the arm cuff like mine being the standard because it drains the least amount without endangering the supposed equilibrium that society has with the environment (at least that’s what we are told). To get the ankle version, you have to show that you are an exception since it pulls less energy. Tess’s disfigurement allowed that. The change in placement is still not something I’m used to, expecting it to be on the slightly discolored region of her upper right arm.
I look at her face again and I know there isn’t a point in objecting to her sincerity and innocence, so I return to the closet and fetch a tie from the back, “I know.. It’s just.. taking me a while.” It’s not. She’s just wrong. With time she will eventually see that I’m right. The fallout of tomorrow’s agenda will help reduce their propaganda.
I hear the straps being tightened as she puts on her leg. I can’t help but feel a bit sad for her as I remove the slack from my tie.
Coffee, breakfast, community media. Sun lotion, shoes, puff of Air.
The inhalation felt off. I look at the levels of the respiratory depressant: “We are getting a bit low on the inhaler.”
“I’ll add it to the shopping list. I’m going out today.”
For just a second my eyes shift to her leg. Of course I realized my mistake before I look back to see her annoyance. Hell, if I’m already being judged, I may as well commit to asking:
“You’ll be ok?”
“I’ve told you. I’ll be fine, I don’t even notice it unless someone reminds me. And I really wish you wouldn’t.”
“Alright” I’m sure she’s lying, but if she wants to put on a brave face I won’t push.
“Are you going to be there tonight to help in the kitchen?”
“I can’t, I’ve got the presentation defending the algorithm tonight.” I hate lying to her.
“Oh! I didn’t know it was this soon! Is everything ready?”
“Everything is ready as long as the system doesn’t crash again.”
“Have they been similar to the results you got three weeks ago?”
The thought of all the wasted time and effort causes me to sigh with irritation, “Not ‘similar to’; it’s the same attempt.” Her look of confusion prompts me to clarify, “we’ve been having brief power surges at the office. They don’t mess with most people and they are rare enough that few people care, but they’ve been crashing my runs. I’ve had to reset it a handful of times now. Today is the last chance I have to get some practical results.”
Her confusion turns to concern hidden behind a nurturing smile. She knows how much investment I’ve put into this. “Well even without that, I’m sure you’ll impress everyone. There is no chance for you to be there tonight though? Some of them really want to meet you.”
The thought of mingling with potential Tendians makes my skin crawl. “No, it’s going to go late,” another lie… even if it’s a half truth.
She lets the smile linger for a second more before it changes. Instead of one that brings comfort, it’s now one that offers charity. One that is trying to say “it’s fine not to feel ok yet, but we need to accept this”. I’ll never accept this. They hurt Tess. They hurt so many with their immaturity. It needs to end.
“I really wish I could. Tell everyone that I wish I could be there.”
She nods; accepting my excuse. “Alright, so I’ll see you when I get back?”
“I should be back before you are. Have a good day.”
We give a quick kiss goodbye for the day to finalize the ritual which is only followed by the expected farewell. In an unexpected breach of familial etiquette, she hugs me. After an instance of surprise, I hug her back. Bliss and hate collide, but the feeling of her against me is enough to focus on. When we release, she looks me in the eyes.
Her voice is absent of any critique: “I really wish you would know I’m ok. I am ok.” The emotional contrast is amplified by stressing “am”, but her gaze is enough to ignore it. With that she resumes the expected salutation, “I love you. T star.”
“I know. I love you too. T star.” I smile through the increased and overwhelming frustration. As I turn away, I embrace it before it builds any further.
The dream, the embrace, the reassurance, the love: it’s all a sham. In a world designed to demand integrity with function how can people believe in the chaos of anarchy? The hug should have been an untarnished version of the control and compassion from my dream, but every embrace is mitigated by the monstrosity on my arm, forcing impotence and reducing my ability to feel. The control and compassion inherent to the reassurance was undermined by the delusion of incompleteness and the added insult that she was feeding those leeches that ultimately caused the accident. Even the control and compassion that was always built into my love – my authenticity – was stolen by their expectation that I forgive them.
I let the contradiction of the feelings build as I start walking away from my sanctuary. I look down the street that leads to the broken society we depend on. One of degeneracy and lawlessness and sloth and greed. I wait until I cross onto the public greenway to mentally activate my AR. The information invades my every thought; forcing me to question where I stop and the outside begins. Most seem happy to be integrated and lose their sense of self. So it’s no wonder that it was taken advantage of – creating a social labyrinth that can’t be navigated without complying. The forced conversion into an organic android is both a reminder that my ritual has ended and that I’m entering into the social dystopia beyond my refuge.
The dystopia that robs me of control.
The dystopia that robs me of compassion.