Therefore I Am

I haven’t done a Flash Fiction Challenge in a really long time and wanted to get back in the game. We had to choose a random sentence* from a list and use it in a 1,000 word story.

         I tried to hide the revulsion in my eyes as I wiped the dribble of saliva from his chin. Stubble flecked his cheeks where the Carers had missed. I wondered if he was somewhere else in his mind—somewhere nice. Maybe he relived his greatest successes or humble beginnings. I hoped he was staring into the moment where everything ended, the start of my personal hell.


It was supposed to change the world—the sharing of consciousness. A chip implanted behind your ear translated your thoughts into layers of complex code that could be relayed to others. They marketed it as MindMeld and the first ads read like a science-fiction dating app. But popularity grew and the first inklings of the capabilities rippled through the techsphere. MindMeld became the next “it” thing—opening the doors to other technologies powered by your brain. The iCorp conglomerate pounced and soon you could calibrate your mobile devices to MindMeld. The usual anti-tech groups protested—it was turning us into robots, stealing our thoughts, our souls, our individuality. The programmers ignored them, the marketing campaigns mocked them, and soon even they were silenced.


Caleb convinced me to get ours done together. “It’s the future, Macy!”
I asked him if he was worried about not having any secrets—about the total lack of privacy. He took my hands the way he always did when I was nervous and rubbed his thumbs across my knuckles and said I don’t have any secrets from you. It seemed sweet—the tech at the clinic said it was romantic.


With MindMeld, you could shake someone’s hand at a networking event and they could download your resume and work history. It would be stored in the individual’s ThoughtCloud and could be accessed later. There were more intimate uses for it, too—dating profiles or personal ads. The privacy settings were unmatched, they said. You had to have permission to MindMeld with someone through a series of specially tailored, unique thought commands. When the advertising potential was fully realized, there were certain “public” zones where advertisers had limited access. Times Square was one of the best examples—information from billboards downloaded directly to your cloud. They lauded it as the greatest technology invented; its uses were universal: medical, social, financial.

No one knew that our privacy settings were as sturdy as tissue paper in a hurricane. MindMeld underplayed the extent of the breaches—isolated incidents, insufficient caution on the part of the user. We believed it. We didn’t know how to live without the constant, instant exchange of information, thoughts, feelings. The first hackers took the basics—bank information, nude photos, government secrets. Then came the Miners. They took memories, experiences—your fifth birthday, the way a first kiss felt, the sound of your grandmother’s voice. At first they asked ransoms—how much was your memory worth to you? But, once the door was opened, there was no stopping it. They took weeks, months, and years. They took your power of speech, your sense of smell, the ability to see color, and MindMarket was born. Don’t like your past? Change it. Want to replace bad memories with good? Switch them. Memories themselves became currency.


Caleb and I updated passwords, paid for extra firewalls, but with the same attitude you put up a “Beware of Dog” sign when you only own a cat. We believed that as long as we took the recommended precautions, it wouldn’t happen to us. We enjoyed the ability to communicate just how much we loved each other without words. He loved me like the sunset we’d watched together in Mikonos. I loved him like the feeling of waking up on a Saturday morning with the sunlight streaming.

Have you ever dreamed that someone you loved had amnesia? That they looked at you with blank eyes and had no memory of the years you spent together? When you wake from your nightmare you shake them until their eyes open and, even blurred with sleep, you can see that they know you. Until it takes them a minute to remember you, then ten, then—nothing. This is what happened when the Miners wormed their way in.


It took a month to reduce Caleb to the wide-eyed, slack mouthed shell of the man I loved. He had been “mined”—everything that made him Caleb was gone, lost forever. We were in agreement about what to do if it happened to either one of us. It was easier than I thought to let his body go. I’d already said goodbye to his mind.


The man in the chair deserved no such release. The Carers thought I was a doting relative or a good friend—the way I sat by him day after day. I needed to know he was still breathing. I needed to know he was still suffering. The tubes and wires that pumped nutrients into his body did their job well. He had standing orders to keep his body alive no matter the circumstances—waiting for his mind to be restored. He was the inventor of the original MindMeld, which he aptly called HiveMind. He was fully aware of its destructive potential from the very beginning. His fingers twitched on the chair and a nearly inaudible groan escaped his lips.

The upload was a simple one, started at the beginning of my visit when I activated the MindDrive in my purse. Caleb is gone; the memory we used to share is no longer coherent. But the new memories I gave to the man in the chair were clear. I’d searched for the most excruciating sensations for years. I had burned, drowned, been torn to pieces, and suffocated. I had felt every way there was to die and none of them hurt as badly as watching the life fade from Caleb’s eyes. As I left the room, I knew the upload was successful. From the sound of his screams, he was living out the hell I’d created just for him.

*”The memory we used to share is no longer coherent”

An Ode to Apple and Microsoft, in the Tradition of Romeo and Juliet

Two companies, both alike in dignity,

In fair Silicon Valley where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where different operating systems make people want to scream.

From forth the grinding gears of these two foes

A pair of star-crossed softwares take your files;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows,

Do with their glitches bury your smiles.

The fearful passage of their glitch-marked love,

And the continuance of their consumers’ rage,

Which, but competition’s end nought could remove,

Is now the endless traffic of life’s stage.

The which if you with patient ears attend,

A customer service rep in the middle of nowhere shall strive to mend.


This is dedicated to my sister, R, without whose Google Chat conversations, this never would have been written.

*It’s not in Iambic Pentameter. Take it up with my legal counsel, the firm of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern*

Thursday Thoughts on Social Media

Social media can be very tricky. Those of us that use it in its various forms want our ideas/thoughts/photos/rants to be read and sometimes there is the safety of anonymity. But what happens when everything becomes linked? Your Facebook friends are your Twitter followers and also read your blog, your grandmother is friends with you on Facebook and your friends’ parents are your “connections” on LinkedIn. You follow high school teachers on Pinterest and some kid you sat next to in Driver’s Ed follows you on Instagram. Thinking about things like this makes me realize how big the generation gap has become. When we try to explain Instagram to our parents: “Well… It’s like Twitter…but with pictures. Get it?” I’m fairly certain that my Mom thinks Pinterest is just my way of feeding my unrealistic imagination/expectations of what the future might hold.

I don’t know what it is about our generation that makes us want to share EVERYTHING we do or think with the world, whether it is some sick voyeuristic need to know what others are doing, or a desire for attention or whether it is an effort to connect to people in a world where everything has become so automated and  impersonal. It is strange to be someone who enjoys Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram–the mindless, time-consuming Internet black holes–and someone who also thoroughly enjoys the meaningless chats I have with the cashiers at the grocery store or at a boutique.

I think the danger in becoming engrossed in social media exists when electronic interaction takes over our need and desire for real, human interaction.There is also the danger in feeding the collective ego of a generation who already considers ourselves to be entitled and destined for success. Maybe it was our parents telling us to dream big or all those little league teams giving trophies to EVERYONE. Maybe it was the fact that Barbie could be a housewife, a doctor, AND an astronaut all a change of clothes and some ridiculous stiletto heels (what astronaut wears silver pumps??). Maybe it’s just that we grew up (until now) in a time of prosperity, so far removed from the Great Depression and the World Wars that we couldn’t help but be optimistic about our futures. I don’t pretend to have any of those answers.

Which, perhaps, is another reason we cling to the connections that we gain through social media, through the immediate gratification of information that exists right at our fingertips. If we don’t have the answer or even AN answer, maybe someone else will. Although based on the grammar and spelling contained in many of the Twitter/Pinterest/Facebook posts I see, I highly doubt it. People who lack the ability to use the correct forms of there/their/they’re cannot possibly have the answers to the deep existential questions our generation seems so determined to unravel. Maybe I’ll just Tweet some good song lyrics and Pin an inspiring quote. That’ll solve everything. Right?