iSee: Pact with a Digital Devil

in hardforkseries •  2 years ago  (edited)

Why did I ever agree to the implant? I know, of course: Lacy’s medical bills. I couldn’t sit and watch my little girl suffer from VR sickness. Her uncle Gabe had offered to pay, naturally. That’s just the kind of guy my brother is.

I remember the day I watched the ad in the back of an Uber, on my way back from the hospital. A hyperactive and annoyingly chirpy salesbot rolled out its spiel: "Crypto short? At ImplADS we guarantee a regular income simply by accepting our free iSee implant. Benefits include free interpersonal communications, crypto wallet instant access, worldwide marketplace, Internet access, a shareable schedule and an AR appstore. All you have to do is watch carefully selected ads a few times a day!" It sounded too good to be true, but I was too tired and desperate to care.

I reprogrammed my destination and within ten minutes my auto Uber dropped me off at the nearest clinic. Sign up was quick and easy: I filled out a questionnaire, provided my crypto wallet address, signed the contract with a retina scan and was ushered into a small sterile room ready for my implant.

A too-young looking blond with a vapid smile introduced herself as Mae Jenkins and talked me through the procedure as she pushed my hair back and disinfected behind my ears. "Lie back and relax Ms. Rasmussen. We simply place your head in this brace, target the area just behind each ear and pop! Over in a flash. You may feel a slight discomfort, but it shouldn’t hurt…unless I select the wrong target." She gave a well practiced chuckle and a smile I wanted to slap from her face.

Instead, I indulged her humor by returning a half smile, clenching the arms of the cream leather chair as I braced myself for what I was sure to come. As it turned out, all I felt was a faint tingling. The real shock came when nurse Jenkins switched on the device. As the iSee synchronized with the network, my vision was filled with diagnostic and account sync messages accompanied by beeps and bells I’m sure only I could hear.

"You may experience a little dizziness as you acclimatise yourself to the iSee, but this usually passes within a few days. Feel free to contact ImplADS with any concerns."

The dizziness only lasted a day as I got used to navigating my wallet and schedule. I made my first iSee call to Gabe. His video feed hovered in a little window in front of me as I washed the dishes. He was anxious about my implant, but I explained that as I now had a regular income, the hospital was happy for their fees to be taken weekly from my crypto wallet, and Lacy was improving daily.

The first few ads popped into sight as I walked through the shopping district. As I looked at the various shops, relevant ads overlaid real life. They showed me the latest sale items, suggested similar stores or simply ran a featured ad. As long as I watched them all to the end, a little ping signified I got paid.

Within days though, their frequency increased until almost every five minutes or so I seemed to be getting ads. I looked at my kettle, I got coffee ads. I went to my wardrobe and clothing ads popped into my head. If I gazed into a mirror, a perfectly made up vision of myself would appear, advertising cosmetics. Of course, I could stop the ads, but when I did I would find my wallet going down in value. Lacy was still in hospital. I had to get her well enough to come home, but the ads were getting incessant.

Desperate to make it stop, I called Gabe. Not on the iSee, as I felt sure my calls were being monitored. My first attempts to call him had all been cut off as I explained the problem. I finally got him on my videophone.

"What’s wrong, Alice?"

"This motherfragging implant! It won’t shut up. I can’t turn it off and ads are keeping me awake throughout the night. The iSee seems like it’s picking up on my dreams. I dreamed of that little cove we used to visit as kids and ads for vacations woke me up last night."

"Have it removed. You owe them nothing. I said I would pay for Lacy’s treatment."

"No Gabe, I will pay. I just have to find something else."

Gabe looked distracted, lost in thought.

"What is it?"

He hesitated at first.

"Well, I have been looking into a new startup called Alterlife. It sounds promising."

"I’ve heard snippets. Aren’t they that fully immersive VR setup?"

"Yes. Another implant I’m afraid, but you can unplug at will. The more time you spend plugged in, the more you earn."

"But I don’t play games, Gabe. You know that."

"Not just games, sis. They need content creators. That’s right up your alley."

ImplADS claimed it was a glitch in my iSee and promised to replace it with a fully functional unit. I insisted on having it removed. They seemed to be spying on every facet of my life. The crypto was good, but it wasn’t worth losing my privacy over. After forcing me to sign a nondisclosure agreement, they eventually complied.

The next day Gabe took an Uber with me to Alterlife, where we were were both going to have our implants fitted. A likable fellow called Vince met us in the pristine foyer of white marble and clean lines. Gabe was taken in first, emerging just five minutes later.

"Sis, you’re not going to believe it! The implant was painless, but when you’re in? Oh my God! It’s so real. I spent the afternoon relaxing on a beach. I could smell the sea air, feel the breeze cooling my sun blasted body. I was…there!"

"But, you’ve only been gone five minutes."

"That’s what’s so great! It felt like hours. When I came out, I had no idea only minutes had passed. You will have the time to spend with Lacy when she is all better."

Vince, wiping his hands, emerged just then wearing a satisfied look.

"Are you ready, Alice?".

"Lead the way, Vince."

The procedure was similar to ImplADS, only this one attached into the base of my skull. Vince numbed the area with local anesthetic, placed a device on the back of my neck and, with a hiss, my implant was embedded in place. He tapped a few keys on the console before asking me if I was ready. I nodded and as he flicked a few more switches my reality shifted when Vince dissolved before my eyes, replaced by the same beach scene Gabe had spoken about.

Gulls flew lazily above the undulating sea. My sense of smell felt highly tuned as I tasted the sea air. The sand beneath my feet was warm as I wiggled my toes.

I heard someone shuffling across the sand behind me. Turning to look, a creature with the body of a man and the head of a dog approached.

"Hello Alice. I am here to welcome you to Alterlife. My name is Sobek and this is my avatar. Don’t let it alarm you."

Oh frag! I guess I’m not in Kansas any more.

This contest entry serves as a bit of a backstory to my Virtual Mortality sci-fi series. Click HERE to read more.

A huge thanks to the folk at The Writers' Block for the critique on this.

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This is truly phenomenal! Thanks!

Thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

Love this, @GMuxx. Your mind--the things you come up with--just genius. :-)

Coming from you, that is indeed an honor.

She's right. She's not just saying it to be nice.

What a cracker Muxxy!
You're turning into a great 'fictioneer' my freind.

Thanks dude.

Congratulations! This story has been curated by The SFT. :-) A small SBD reward has been transferred to your wallet.

It has been added to the Science Fiction Reading Room at the SFT Library.

"Not a writer," you claimed when we first met you at Discord. Ha. What are you, some computer whiz who takes dictation from a Muse?
FANTASTIC story - pithy, witty, well written, as always - and I love the suprise twist at the end. Well done!

I love you Carol.

That was a really good story. The fact that it could be true someday makes it absolutely chilling. Thanks for this glimpse into a possible future of mankind.

Thank you. I see Google's future in this.

I look at how far technology has advanced in the past two decades and I see in this story a very real possibility in the next two decades. It won't be long before there is no more science fiction.

Yes, total agreement here.

Awesome story Muxxy!
You are doing a great job with The Writers Block.

Thank you.

That was incredible

Thank you, very kind of you to say so.

Of course anytime sir 💖

Ok now where is the rest of the story you just got me hooked on to finish?

It ties in to my Sci-fi series called Virtual Mortality.

ah ok

Awesome story @gmuxx! It amazes me how closely this meshes with something I've been working on. Absolute joy to read this.

It does? Sorry, is it in the queue?

not yet - it's a longer piece, hopefully a novel.

Your prose rolls off the page and into my brain. Vivid and visual - I guess I should expect that in a story about VR images. Well done muxxy!

Thanks a lot @geke!

There are no words for the joy I felt when I woke up this morning and found this in the workshop queue. It is just brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

This warms me no end. Happy to be back to writing. Thank you for your help and support.

Oh my gosh, this is amazing! I am completely hooked! Wonderful work!!

Wow, thank you very much, glad you enjoyed it.

This is truly phenomenal! Thanks! for sharing..

Wow, thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

An awesome read, @gmuxx! The final version is even more awesome. But that does it. I'm absolutely refusing all future offers of implants.

Great story @gmuxx! Looks like the future to me! :D

Thank you very much, glad you enjoyed it.

Lovely piece, foreshadowning mankind's future. VR holds almost as much risk as AI and we do well to explore its implications.
Good luck, sir!

Thanks John.

Great piece! Now I'm hoping there is a follow up?

Thank you! This fits into a backstory of my Virtual Mortality series. See my steemshelf, linked in my profile.

Thanks, will check it out right now.

Dude, this is great, I was totally immersed, inthinknyiu are in to something, lets have more back story ...uh ... Just picked up some VR for muh boys for Christmas... feels his head for any missed or new bumps that were not there before

Thank you.

Hi, @gmuxx,

I enjoyed reading this in the queue, and now (finally!) here.

Brain implant technology? What could possibly go wrong! :O

All I have to say about it is, You go first.

Thanks for the happy ending... ;)




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I can see why you won! The insight is refreshing and your prose is very engaging. Great work!

Thank you very much

You're welcome very much! :D