by Roger Leatherwood
The swelling goes down after 60 to 90 days. Not just the space around the eye socket, but the surrounding tissue -- the skeleton structure also shifts as your face moves, smiling, turning or trying to eat or the other things you do with your head. Breath. Eat. Scream.
I had to wait and let the various parts of my head rest in static decay, adapting to the rude absence of that round object that didn't match its twin, tied as it has been to the tightly wound nylon-slick cord that ran deep into the chamber of my brain. It frayed a little during the recovery.
It is the last important one. The other pieces are on hold, recommended but not required, suspended in the feed and subject to arterial approval. The left femur and clavicle, still held by wiring. The lower spice nerves, coiling inside. The orgasmic response the sensors had jolted lately had been encouraging but still not ready to be engaged. With a woman, in person -- it was too much potential strain and a certain amount of spontaneity can bend, strain, and confound in the heat of ardor. Nothing is to be tested beyond normal laboratory limits.
For now I'm my own man.
I'm getting my final eye. The other has been working, an earlier model, since the year of the crash. Everyone needs some things more than others. Dr. Creighton mentioned one of these days replacing the replacement, but that was a doctor joke because there are too many people that need to get theirs first.
An artist will create with a canvas. Eyes are the windows to the soul and the texture can not be casually guessed at that doesn't match the rest of the implants. There are benchmarks for such things. The surface must be convincing, the interface true, the machineries in place and interfacing smooth. The computer readouts have been sent by infrared, they measure without the stings of electricity running through the cloth-wrapped wire. The heated circuitry of an ancient cybernetics, the injectable woven Rhesus electronics that pull my impulses to me rather than having them pushed in, are humming along nicely now.
It's automatic. Like cool water beading off of thick glass.
And the operators pull wiring like monocryl thread through my skin, sterile and organic under my subcutaneous layer, past the stratum basale to run along my Meissner's nerves. I don't feel it and I never did because I was always under.
Microbiological responses always increased the possibility of infection and I was in the lab for over five months. The eyes were the last to go and the first to be replaced.
The beauty of the trip is they replace your motor skills where the pain will be the deepest and the worst. After that, anything that happens you can feel but it doesn't affect you physically. There is only the dull ache. You know there is a deep trauma your body is experiencing but it's like you're underwater. Like a large object has hit the top of the surface and while you're safe at the bottom of the pool you can sense the pressure of the heaviness oppressing and blocking the light.
But the shockwave is dampened.
You stay at the bottom, protected, cocooned. You're theirs now and they don't want you to feel the shock that might move you to flee, or to fight. To thrash and run.
You're not quite numb but you smile. The talafidan does that and I like it. I drink it all day and the dull ache has become my friend. I know I'll see again.
Nine mouseclaw plugs fit in the seam of stiff hydrogel seated along my spine, running down to the backs of my calves. Even if there were another crash, no bridge would be able to break them. It bends like a palm tree.
The lines run the radiant antenna straight through. I used to have to train to get it to pick up my voice. Now I don't even have to know what I want.
The robots, also of hydrogel with a thin coat of styrene overlay, put everything away in my homehere.
I have started to wonder why they haven't programmed them to work with me on my orgasmic response. They are soft and would uncoil to my spice nerves. Actually know how close to get and adjust their own response accordingly. Increase or decrease the drip. Measure the talafidan mist so I didn't sleep and yet, my remaining muscles remaining in good enough shape to animate and motor the armatures protecting their woven mesh.
I know the early century laws against sex with anthropomorphic robotic devices but that's more ancient stigma than practical obligation at this point; they've only gotten better, we've only gotten more configured in an ever evolving environment, and it's not like my organic seedplants still have some fecund potential to co-mingle and commit some mechanical miscegenation.
I've missed the sunlight. The walks on the beach they filled the storyfilms with back when I was a kid. It would be nice to have known what it was like to place my skin on someone else's and feel the heat. Feel an electricity that wasn't being fed by silent generators. To know that everything you saw was all that there was, and that nothing else was out of sight, or hidden.
The sunlight didn't burn us anymore. The dome material permanently clouded its focus.
You know how eyes work. They work in unison, and one may be blurry or focused in close while the other one is far and opposite. One by one they don't resolve three dimensions, you have no depth perception, but together your brain can compute the two streams of information and mesh them into a unification that favors neither.
The new one is the final part of the reconfiguration. The information is pulled to me (rather than pushed in by a chemical drip that's programmed by people far off), and whatever I see is reported back in qwik hi-res.
The mouseclaw plugs measure it carefully and I am invisible to them.
The spark throbbed through the back of my head, down the seam. My eye placed perfectly (the pieces of my skull around it shift and are adjustable, they knew how to jigger and hone the fitting with laser tools imbedded in the gearbox behind my spine) to capture and report on my friends from the university.
The static came to life and the rescanning began, channel by channel. TheyÕre not interested in the drugs. TheyÕre not interested in the sex. The new eye starts to finally sync with the other components they had replaced since the crash, and the 1000s of pieces of date begins to make senses.
My homehere starts to talk back to me and stabilize its environment.
Focus sharpened, and deep background information collates with the streaming input to my final eye. Needs locked into place and the environment responds to the stimuli my other pieces report. Do people act differently if theyÕre being watched? If they know theyÕre being watched but donÕt see whoÕs watching, do they forget theyÕre being watched and begin to act natural again?
The routines have been waiting, paused in logic loops, since the first pieces were converted. Since my brain had been slotted for repair, and I accepted that first, digital eye.
I listened, in the way a man with no ears, with the tools a clockwork porpoise uses in the absence of sonar, in the way a receiver might pass on signals from a radiant station. Ordering was going on without me speaking, choosing, counting. Robots. Algorithms hummed in the deep heart of my soul.
I was doing good for the company. They weren't my friends anyway. They weren't interested in the books they were reading. My pupil irised and spun into a sharp pinpoint of observation, as the talafidan washed through my vessels like electricity through a resistor pan.
And there was no resistance. My final eye lit and I was whole.
Roger Leatherwood worked on the lower rungs of Hollywood in numerous capacities for 20 years before returning to print fiction. His work has appeared in Nefarious Ballerina, Thirteen Myna Birds, Circa Literary Review, Skive Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Surreal Grotesque, Infernal Ink, RazorDildo and others. In the opinion of this editor, Roger Leatherwood builds scaffoldings which ascend the future. I worked with him previously on the first issue of The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles.