Dysphoria

short story sample

Luna 2 Station, Vault 77223 — 11:15:030, 18SEP, 2228

Helvetica Phage, please blink-sign.

The delivery drone’s message shocked Helvetica away from the liquid light of higher math, and back into the dense, muddled, thick flesh of her own face. Delivery from Ganny Health and Wellness.

Shit. She had forgotten to set up an alert to herself, to give her a warning, but she had forgotten—now all the delicate thought-filaments she had constructed over many hours knitting logic-quilts of time-space formulae using 4-dimensional geometry frayed and recoiled, disintegrating before her mind’s eye as her connection to the Mesh slid away.

The seven other minds she had been linked with scrambled to take hold of her fraying threads of calculations, and there was no resentment in their actions—as if her clumsy exit had been anticipated by them. She felt like she had just behaved like a baboon at a dinner party, throwing handfuls of her own shit at the guests. Inexcusable, but the node members did not block her. Her trend ratings did not waver.

Helvetica sent them all apologetic emotibots and then immediately regretted it. Next-levels like them were so much more advanced than her, the only thing she was accomplishing was reminding them why they shouldn’t invite un-evolved knuckle-draggers like her into their node. She followed up with thank you for allowing me to participate written in text, hoping they’d appreciate the femtoseconds it took her to compose each retro-tech message.

Her Mesh interface retracted as the real world rose up in front of her real eyes. The bitter, fruity, buzzing stink of nanogel saturated her nose and tongue, and, forgetting it was doing the work of putting oxygen into her body, she instinctively tried to pull air into her lungs.

Drowning! Her monkey brain screamed and flailed, spraying adrenalin into her system. The nanogel buzzed through her, secreting countermeasures to calm her spastic inner primate, and Helvetica felt a soothing warmth spread out to surround her. Her limbs buzzed and twitched as the shockwave of adrenaline was slowly squeezed out of her body.

She blinked and tried to focus on the grain in the stainless steel walls of her vault—so ugly, so cheap-looking—she was reminded of the archaic manufacturing process and the stigma of living in a vault as old and restrictive as hers. Her monkey brain gnashed and chattered, trying to provoke claustrophobia in her. Another surge of countermeasures pulsed through her, silencing the monkey’s rising terror, and she reminded her primitive mind that the vault was a necessary step to achieve enlightened perfection. She kept repeating the thought that this vault was her chrysalis, and soon she would emerge as a beautiful butterfly of pure thought.

Helvetica Phage, please blink-sign, the drone repeated.

As if it were mocking her, the drone had waited an entire three seconds before repeating the request. It was treating her like an un-enhanced human who couldn’t process information any faster. The drone had taken so long to repeat the message, she had almost forgotten why she was back in the Real.

Red light flared in her retina and her external feed’s home screen projected into her eye. In contrast to the purity of node-thought, the antique visual interface felt like a primitive drawing on a child’s wall, the icons crackling sharp edges—flat and dead.

11:15 am. Wednesday, August 14, 2228. She had been immersed for fifteen straight days. It never felt like it was long enough.

Flipping over to the security cameras, she scanned the hallways above—no anti-enhancement terrorists waiting to poison her—and a panoramic view of the floor overtop her vault. A squat, 4-legged cargo drone was parked over her lid, the logo of her delivery service laser-etched onto every clean, armored plate.

She tapped into the facility’s security cameras again to see that the vault next to her was still unoccupied—the dark stainless steel hatch looking like a dead eye socket set into the floor. Every other hatch blinked green and white indicators of healthy occupants. Helvetica didn’t like incomplete patterns. It was imbalanced. It felt awkward with the empty vault being right next to her.

The subtle emotion of superstitious paranoia mixed with longing was unique for her, and before she was able to record her emotichem levels, it passed. A shame, she thought. It would have made a nice addition to the emotibot set she had been preparing to sell.

She clicked through her personal speck cameras until she got a clear view of the bar code printed on the drone’s abdomen. She ran the numbers and tracked the drone back to its point of origin to the plant where it was assembled on her home on Luna 2, and to where each of the parts of the drone had been assembled: Sasia, American Union, Chihong, Guatam, and New Ireland, with ore mined from the asteroids Ceres and Ida.

It bothered her that her delivery service was still using parts from the American Union. Although she had seen how the Union had rebranded their corporate identity and announced their amended constitution, she didn’t trust their products worth a fart. Even if it was just a tiny, inconsequential gyrostabilizer inside this drone, Union products were still shit, and some of her sponsors would drop her if they found out she was supporting the Union in this small way. She made a note to look for a new delivery service.

Helvetica confirmed on her calendar that she was indeed scheduled for this supply drop at this time. She scanned the contents: electrolytes, liquid protein, vitamins in concentrate, amino acids, nanogel seed-and-patch, and FliiHii—the new neuroconductor she was eager to try. Everything on the manifest was exactly what she had ordered in the correct amount, and had arrived at the precise time—11:15:03 am. This was no terrorist spam delivery.

She blink-signed the approval and unlocked her supply hatch topside. Helvetica blasted her input ports with sterilizer. Thick clicks clattered over her head as the drone locked its injectors into her ports and filled her vats with Stain nutrients that would keep her alive for another month. She watched her levels rise one by one, and she acknowledged the strange irony of feeling both resentment and relief for the interruption—an emotibot she had already recorded. She confirmed the next scheduled drop, and the drone rolled away to the next delivery.

She disconnected to the visual feed to the real world and closed her eyes, welcoming again the clean, ordered, safe world of the Mesh.

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