A gust of wind slaps my freshly shaved head as a metal door swings back to release me. Suddenly the world feels aggressive and alien. The lights are too bright yet the shade is too dark, the air is too harsh. It’s only because the wound is so fresh, I remind myself. I will adjust, I know.
A fool on the hill is muttering something about quantum theory only existing since we admitted to killing our own god. “You are living on waves of decay!” He rants, furious that no one is listening to him.
It has been years since these streets were packed full of commuters and consumers. A pang of nostalgia hits me whenever I think of the days when human contact was a near constant occurrence; such a juxtaposition to the desolate state of modernity.
With my fingertips I feel the row of stitches that hold the crack in my head together. The shock of it makes me grow fiery and I hurl the contents of my stomach into a waste bin. It will be worth it. Just two days, the doctor said, then I can turn it on. If I do it any sooner it is likely my brain won’t be able to adapt and I will be lost.
“God is dead and you want to rub your face in his ashes!” The fool accuses, addressing me directly now. “You can still turn back you know, we can resurrect him!”
I’m only half listening. I’m remembering my smart phone, and social media, and the way we used to interact with technology without the need to become it. I’m remembering the photos of me and my friends, taken on wild nights out and lazy days in. My eyes fill with tears. I want so desperately for this to mean I can see them again. And, for them to want to see me, despite it taking me so long to get with the times and have the HOPE operation.
HOPE stands for Huge Open Possibility Eschaton. By connecting our outmoded nervous system to a quantum computer chip, we are no longer confined to the here and now. We can choose the dimension we live in, we can stretch time, we can become one with the very fabric of consciousness. We can become irreversibly connected to one another mentally, but for as long as the body survives we maintain separate drives and essences to keep the waves moving.
I don’t know what it will be like. I’m scared. They showed me a virtual reality simulation of HOPE before I committed to the surgery. It was all colours and movements with very little focus, much like a dream, but I was promised that coherence would improve with practice. It takes about a month, apparently, to start recognising people you know from Old Earth, and soon after that the only limit is your imagination.
Sometimes people come back to Old Earth: usually just for a holiday, or to help round up the stragglers like me. But mostly, once someone has had the operation and switched on the chip, you don’t see them again in this reality. Their original bodies stay in their apartments, hooked up to the mainframe liquid food source that pumps them with the vitamins and energy they need to stay alive. It’s in the instructions but I don’t know how necessary it really is. I suppose it’s a sort of insurance in case the chips malfunction and you need to ‘return to factory settings’ as it were.
There are those who say they will never succumb, who remain attached to the way things used to be, but they are fewer and fewer all the time. I was one of them of course, until I could no longer bear the bite of the utter loneliness. There is no treatment for sickness anymore, there is no schooling, there is no work to be done. It would have been looked upon as freedom once upon a time, but now it is torture. “It’s only a matter of time for all of us,” the doctor said, “like it or not we are a race that evolves as one.”