Wet Chip 1.5

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 7 Feb 2023



In my next waking moments one evening I was jolted, shocked, zapped by a revelation as I lay in bed, because it was exactly that, electricity.  The context of that word had come back to me, the memory of what John Chambers had told me secretly long ago, electricity could kill the beast in our heads.

I was able to sit up and act upon this theory.  There was a dim LED lamp at my bedside and it had just turned on with its photocell.  I recalled one other scene from long ago.  A close friend of mine from college days was asked to show some immediate act of bravery by a group of sitting frat boys if he wanted to gain admittance to their fraternity.  He stepped up on a chair and stuck his tongue in a light socket and lived.  I unscrewed my bulb and protruded my tongue straight into the socket, which delivered a mighty jolt through my head for the two or three seconds.  I was able to hold it there.  It stung quite a bit but my mind cleared, like a fog dissipating, and the room before me was again in all its sordid and stark reality.  I rose up with a clear mind and a sensation of my body so pronounced I knew it was going to last a long time  No more tying up thumbs and hurting myself for a few minutes of reality.  I realized this was an epiphany, a tool, and that I might even be able to liberate Mary.  I was delirious with joy.

Now you might think this act was suicidal, but it wasn't.  I knew it was safe.  It was only twenty four volts of alternating current and nothing under fifty volts could kill you.  I used to be an engineer.  There was no one hundred and twenty volts in our living units.  There was no need.  There were no refrigerators anymore, no ovens, no appliances, no big screens.  They were all in our heads.  Our apartment was a perfect self-contained unit, with a solar array on the flat roof providing an endless supply for the few LED lights, a few smoke detectors and alarm bells and our one appliance, the 'food cube' as we called it, the size of a refrigerator and sitting in our kitchen.

It too was energy efficient, sustaining us with nourishment, lab grown protein in petri dishes, cell cultivation, all done automatically in its own guts.  You hit the button and out popped two white cubes, one for each of us, about the size and weight and even the texture of a boiled egg, without the shell that is, which you ingested in a few bites and you were good for another day with all the proteins and nutrients and vitamins your body required for its mostly sedentary existence.

Our only other necessity was water, for hydration and evacuation.  But that simple need had been settled a hundred years ago and our building, our whole city, enjoyed a streamlined sewer and plumbing system, maintenance free, the only improvement being two tubes of filtered water by our nightstands from which we could simply roll over and suck, without the indignity of having to get up and walk to the kitchen for a glass of water during our twenty hour stays in bed.

I must have paced the floor for an hour thinking of all the implications of this discovery.  During this time Mary had risen from our bed and oblivious to me, just a few feet away, was doing her exercises, clumsy pirouettes, her arms flailing in the air to who knows what music and scenes in her head.  She was kicking the trash about on the floor as if it didn't exist, like a teenager, like some child from a decade ago with a V.R. headset on, dodging bullets or fighting imaginary dragons.  I let it be.  She would soon stumble silently to the bathroom in her REM state, then to the kitchen for her cube then back to bed for another twenty two hours.  I wouldn't interrupt this brief span of exercise, performed in her underwear, because her emaciated limbs needed it so badly.  This was our reality, and I detested it.   

Another realization came to mind.  With my head clear recollections of the real world came flooding back.  I recalled an analogous event.  In the first days of our reallocation to this unit, when our dreams were far less deep than now, I awoke one night and was bothered to no end by the blinking of the red LED in the smoke detector above us.  The next day, being an engineer and not simply covering up the little bulb with a piece of electrical tape, like any sane human would have done, I decided to tamper with the tamperproof device standing on the bed, breaking a piece of plastic and sliding off the cover, with the goal of disconnecting the wire to the LED.  It was wired to the same twenty four volt system throughout our building and I remember getting a good jolt as I clumsily tore at the wires with my fingers.  This might answer why my chip was sometimes defective, why I wasn't buried like everyone else in a perfect Elysium.  I thought I might be the only one and this inclined me to take some action, though I didn't know what, to save the human race.


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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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