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by Richard Raymond
Category: Science Fiction
Description: The Near Future: A dizzy world of Mindseye implants, Maternosuppressor pills, Erotoroutines, Psychotrichology and notorious, vicious virospooks such as Sick Nick. And the Dreambox, the ultimate in electronic entertainment, harnessing the power of the human psyche to transport you to your personal paradise. As the morphomercials proclaim: The Only Limitation Is Your Own Imagination. For a hard-headed career woman like Sesha Roffey, all this lying around dreaming your life away is strictly for losers and nerds. And for a struggling young mother like Ruth Deitch, hooking up and tripping is hardly an option. Ruth's boyfriend, though, is hopelessly addicted. Except that Paulie Rayle is no ordinary dreambox junkie: he aims to dream into being a whole new reality--kinder, gentler and more real than this one. But like no-nonsense Sesha and down-to-earth Ruth, Paulie is in for some horrible shocks.
eBook Publisher: The Fiction Works, 2004 http://www.fictionworks.com
eBookwise Release Date: April 2004
10 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [321 KB]
Reading time: 189-265 min.
She'd gone right back to the McClinic and rescued her brain; you could do that free of charge under the statutory seven-day clause. At last her head felt hers again. No one could say she hadn't given it a chance. Some people couldn't handle Mindseye implants--that was the all-too-human fact of the matter, and she, Processia Roffey, just happened to be one of those unfortunates. It freaked her out, she couldn't cope, so back out the thing had come after barely a day. It would take a lot, a frucking lot, of getting used to at the best of times, having yourself chipped for incoming thoughtmail. And she'd complained about the shitfilters not doing their job, letting ads parade across her psyche all afternoon. One jingle in particular, the very height of whitebread powersoul retrokitsch, had taken up permanent residence, its smirky lyrics etched upon the inside of her skull. Even now, driving home up the Edgware Road and through Maida Vale, it continued to plague her:
SmarTampax for the twenty-first century gir-hirl...
Sma-har-Ta-a-a-a-am-pax for inside infor-ma-tion...
Of course, Mindseye was merely the first stage. Electrotelepathy was as yet in its infancy; you could only receive, like with early TV. The much-vaunted ThoughtNet remained a dream of tomorrow, along with cities on Mars, inoculations against envy, and men you could actually live with.
Her head ached like fruck. And little wonder, with a hole in it. Pain-free Mindseye removal? The analgesics were crap. Her brain, her eyes and her jaw, her back teeth, even--THROB THROB frucking THROB. She couldn't bear to wear her smartspecs, and to have to keep peering at the poky screen of her mobe was to court ocular peril. Serves me right, Sesha thought ruefully. Early adoption's a mug's game. They rush out all this fadgetry and use us as cost-cutting guinea pigs.
Needless to say, this would put her at a grave disadvantage, marketwise, in the event of her moving on from the Institute. If you couldn't wear a Mindseye--your ticket to the brave, brained-up world of the future--bosses, most bosses, soon wouldn't want to know. To quote that famous Bertrand Laurel soundbite: 'Commerce is combat.'
Not that Sesha would have been contemplating a move, ordinarily. She was happy working for Frances, quite content with the sweet deal all PsyTri employees enjoyed. And they weren't about to dismiss her on incap grounds, claiming a Mindseye as sine qua non. Frances wasn't a bloodshark. Frances Rayle valued people.
But Sesha had nevertheless felt the need for one or two career precautions. For the sake of her resume she had gone along the previous evening to the new McClinic in Bayswater, taking advantage of their special introductory limited-period low-cost implantation offer, having first okayed it with her stars.
Well, so much for frucking astrology. It had started out as an unpleasant rumour, that Frances had been undergoing anti-age telotherapy and had begun to show signs of that dreadful, dreadful side-effect, Angel Syndrome. And now today Ajit, the London chief, had confirmed it: Frances was being treated for AS at her hideaway in Spain. It was incredible bad luck; AS was so rare. And no one, so far, had recovered from it. How could you not worry?
And yet, perversely, from time to time Sesha still found herself wondering whether in, say, a decade or so, once the ageing process really went to town on her--and telotherapy was no longer so prohibitively expensive--she would herself turn to telothine to try and stablilize her cells' reparative powers. Probably. Even at the risk of AS? Probably, yes.
Rain coursed across the windscreen, great dirty inky clouds denying the city its sunset, as they had for most of this dull, wet February. The traffic, as ever, was horrendous. Sesha couldn't imagine what it must have been like before Backseat, although half the drivers out there, if surveys were to be believed, got their kicks from leaving it switched off and relying on their own reflexes. At least there were no more meetings to attend for the rest of the week. Renowned for her quirkiness, Frances insisted on a maximum of physprox and as little telepresence as possible, set great store by face-to-faceness. Which was wise, in all probability, but on a day as damp as this, simply disastrous for someone with Sesha's PsyTri profile. For the weather had, yet again, gone and put paid to her Psychotrichological Congruence. Her hair had fallen out of phase with its Quasiplatonic Ideal: that single, ultimate hairstyle maxoptimizing one's attractiveness, self-esteem and all-round wellbeing. Sesha's own QI had been defined as a glossy black helmet-like bob as worn by Louise Brooks, that old-time actress currently enjoying a giddy synthespic afterlife. Sesha's hair being by nature wavy, the requisite sleekness was a challenge to achieve, and rain--excessive humidity, even--was an absolute killer.
Fruck it anyway, Sesha thought, feeling victimized, horribly victimized, being cursed with wavy hair when you were a psychotrichological straightie. Who was that in the mirror? Medusa? She didn't know what she would have done without her mobe. If it found her in this state upon receipt of a vidcall its PhonePhace function would automatically smarten-up her screen image. Mobes were the only friends some people had. Sesha wouldn't place herself in that sad category, quite, but she'd been pretty cut up when her last mobe had haywired.
She had a bedboy coming round at nine but the mood wasn't there, what with the head, eye, and jaw ache, and now acute hair depression to boot. She would reschedule the session, take a good long shower instead, fruck the water meter, take two McSnooze and say good riddance to a bitch of a day. And then, tomorrow, she'd arrange a reconsultation. For it was possible that she had been misdefined. It wasn't unknown--there had been rare cases: the odd erroneously prescribed fringe, cinnabar tints that had proven unquasiplatonic, one or two ill-advised headshaves. The Institute of Psychotrichology had never claimed infallibility; Frances was far too humble to allow that.
The Kilburn High Road, as usual, confined her progress to tiny mad sprints with snail's-pace interludes. And to make matters worse, they'd got rid of that ad for Dial-a-Dong, the bedboy agency. She would miss the familiar vidclip of that guy, Italianate and doubledropdead gorg, boogieing away with a big stiffie bulging out through his lime Lycra kilt. Instead, almost every single roadscreen now proclaimed:
DREAMBOX--THE ONLY LIMITATION IS YOUR OWN IMAGINATION
It was everywhere, now, that slick, mantraic slogan. Mags, NeTV, e-shots puppeting your mobe, hardmail on your doormat. On buses, advertaxis, on the Cricklewood railway bridge wall when you slowed at the traffic lights. Rapped out on the radio. You could even win a Dreambox--or, if you preferred, a genuine original 1975 Texas Instruments vintage pocket calculator--by sending in a snapshot to the Roody Noody Breakfast Competiton, so the tinny tones of her muesli box would remind her every time she filled her bowl.
That would, no doubt, be the next big move after Mindseyes: they'd be expecting you to box up and put in extra hours under chronocompression. Already it was being tried by hardcore workos, cutting-edgers shooting through a whole week of brain toil in one single twelve-hour box binge. But it tended to backfire on the employers, so Sesha had heard. Dreambox use was so addictive that even the most zealous careerists were dropping out like twentieth-century hippies, lost in their personal boxworlds. Sesha wasn't too clued up on Dreamboxes, the finer details of how they worked, although the onslaught of ads had left her vaguely aware that the box used the immense amount of inf available on the Net, plus the brain's own, no less considerable resources, to construct and store a facsim of the real world, a total artificial environment which, when subjected to the Berkeley Effect--whatever the fruck that might be--became a playground for the box user's psyche. Apparently, the human mind found this freedom quite frightening, and fought tooth and nail to keep control, sticking all kinds of barriers in the way of facile wish-fulfilment. Weird. Sesha wondered if she would turn out to be allergic to Dreamboxes also. Well if so, then so be it, fruck it. Too much, it was, even with all her FuShok training. A desert island, she thought desperately. A mud hut. A warm sun. A grass skirt.
"Soon be home," sang her car, its dodgy seat sensors for once reading Sesha's stress level with accuracy.
"Soon be home," echoed her mobe.
"Soon," Sesha agreed.
"Sesha?" Her mobe--a cool little sixth-gen Hitachi in the style of a 1950s shocking-pink powder compact--knew all about tone of voice, how best to go about troubling her for decisions. Its vocal pattern was that of rock god Janko Brauch, her all-time crush; although the mobe concerned itself with banalities any self-obsessed superstar like Janko would never have given a flying fruck about."Sesha, your WARMGLOW debit expires this month ... you wish to continue?"
"Yes please," she said.
Every month Sesha donated a fraction of her salary to WARMGLOW, that convenient, conscience-salving blanket answer to all your charitable impulses. WARMGLOW took the hassle out of doing good. No need to notice street beggars; you'd already done your bit by giving to WARMGLOW. You were told where your money went, although Sesha never got round to perusing the bi-monthly newsbursts. It was the same story with the weekly bulletins from her bookjuicer, tirelessly combing text libraries, extracting kernels of wisdom, key insights. When had she last found the mindtime for an update? But then, didn't that go for everyone?
"Oh, and Sesh ... shall I renew your McCops contract?"
She had taken out the extra protection a year ago, after her mobe had alerted her to a local newsbite: her next-door neighbour had been attacked in the underground car park, and said she probably owed her life to their building's McCop. Sesha knew the 'neighbour' scam to be a common advertactic, but better a safe stupe than a sorry cynic. So she'd gone out and bought a Heartmonitor Alarm Bra (in Funky Fuchsia) and one of those Pepperspray bodyguard bracelets. But she'd decided against image-grabbing contact lenses, being more concerned with preventing rape than recording it.