A way through the crowd opened up. Issa kept her eyes up and stared straight ahead; she walked into the gap between the scrabbling, stinking bodies. If she didn’t get out soon, it would be too late. Lunch would end up on the shiny, slippery linoleum. Then there’d be a gap, wouldn’t there? Maybe she should go through the motions, see what happened. That was something she wouldn’t do because every face in the whole mall would turn towards her, would make sounds of derision, laugh or pity or … attract their attention.
No, keep going, get out into the wide spaces, where no opacity existed – not to her view. The people who walked the malls, who shopped ’til they dropped, who took up the air she needed with their perfumes and frowns – they stayed inside, in the cool, air-conditioned controlled environment while she needed to get outside to smell the dust, and the eucalypts, and the way home.
Each week the court-assigned counsellor exhorted her to go to somewhere that held these ‘others’ so Issa acclimatised. The escort took her into the concussive crush of people who had no mind open, no eyes to see what stood before them. People who consumed, but never became. Issa could have objected, she could have fought the control, but …
Their plans had yet to work on her. Issa hadn’t even touched the devices she’d been given; she wasn’t blind. She could see through them all, in the mall and in the offices, as if they were pieces of glass. The outer coverings, the layers of labels and colours and aromas didn’t cover up the inner core.
What lay inside each of the shells was an emptiness that lit up with a little spark of light only when the plastic card was offered to the line of AI. A tiny spark, but it was an addiction no other living soul seemed to see.
Issa couldn’t even touch the plastic. She felt the links it had into the very hearts of all these people in her community. Links that manipulated and pushed, that rallied to a cause – or not, that shone guilt or shame on some things and not others. The little pulses that created pleasure or pain – whatever floated the boat – for the shortest time.
How many people walked in the mall with their accessories glowing with a connection to that thing? No, wrong question – how many people did she see who weren’t connected to it?
Her eyes blazed along the lines in the air – millions of little zings of energy zapped through, in, around, over, under – she felt them on her skin when she had to walk through them – millions, even if there weren’t millions of people there were millions of connections. Never turned off. Never out from under the influence of the over-brain that no one knew existed.
And she was the last of the no one tribe, wasn’t she?
Copyright Karel Jaeger 2017.