– Or Holy Deus Ex, Batman! –
The plan is simple; write a short story based on Deus Ex, then kill the Batman. Also, this is based on a theoretical future, in which human augmentation with technology is possible and common. Danny is entirely fictional. The initial-ed people are all real people, but I’m not putting their real names here.
Name: Emily Milner
Family: Spouse (Male, 36), Children ( Male and Female, 5)
Known Occupation: Author, Publishing Writer/Editor
Active Augs: Enhanced Rebreather, Enhanced Legs, Icarus Landing System, Smart Vision, Social Enhancer
Status: Under Surveillance
It’s raining. Again. It’s been raining a lot in Chicago lately, not that I’m complaining. It’s the wind that gets me…and the cold, but I took that risk when I moved to Chicago with Danny seven years ago. The midwest is only ever cold. So much for global warming.
The kids are in bed still; I don’t know when in hell I picked up a 6:30 wake up time. El would be horrified. I’ll need to be quiet if I’m going to go out now – Danny’ll be up in fifteen, so the kids’ll be fine. I just need to get out of the house for a bit. Maybe call D or El or H. Just…out of the apartment. Not enough space here.
I throw a glance over at the wall. It takes a second, but I can see Kay and Neil’s sleeping forms through the wall. Still throws me off, these Eye-Know augs; seems like yesterday EL, D, and I were casually freaking out about this sort of thing in the lounge back in Blacksburg, and now…well, now we have them. Last I checked, D got the “lungs” he needed a few weeks ago. Haven’t heard from him since, but that’s normal for D.
Ah, there it is – aug use head ache. Completely expected, and not at all pleasant. I need the reminder sometimes, though, that these augs don’t fix everything – the pulse thrumming against my forehead is a decent enough memory jog. I’ll need to see my doctor about those tomorrow.
I reach the stairs in a matter of minutes and look down -no one appears to be around or up; time to have a bit of fun. Our apartment is on the fifth floor, and I can totally make that jump. The orange glow of the Icarus landing system is…weird, but I suppose it gets the job done. Slows everything down a bit, though I think that could just be some weird psychological thing. I am essentially free falling to the first floor and slowing my decent down enough to prevent damage. I land as silently as possible, what with all the goddamned noise this system makes. The lady at the front desk looks a little alarmed, but that’s normal. Most things alarm her.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Milner,” she says, her voice shaking a bit. “You’re up early.”
“Just going on a walk, Amy, chill.” I smile wanly, and she manages a polite, fake smile in return. I really should try to talk to her sometime, because you would think she’d be used to my ridiculousness after three months. It may require the Social Enhancer, though, which is what holds me back. I try to reserve that for working book deals and contracts. Outside of the office, it shouldn’t be necessary. Amy watches me walk quietly through the doors, which is totally not weird at all. I pull my flannel tighter around my torso. It’s cold, and the rain has been reduced to a drizzle. There’s a balcony in front of my building, which looks over a sort of park. I lean over the rail and watch the drizzle hit the fountain in the center of the park.
The city looks ridiculous from here, a forest of concrete, steel, and light. I haven’t see the stars since we took the kids out to see them a year ago. That’s ludicrous – taking a vacation to see the goddamned stars. We had to go pretty far to see them, too; about 50 miles out to reduce the light pollution enough to see anything.
I pull out a compact mirror from my back jean pocket, and just…look at myself. Objectively, I suppose nothing much has changed, out side of the scars. My hair is still short, close cropped, and light brown. My eyebrows are still wildly unkempt. Eyes remain brown, despite the augmentations. Nose still looks like a beak.
What gets me is the scarring. The strange web starts at my forehead and spreads down to my left eye. There’s a nasty line on the right side of my mouth from a fight I got into two years back. There’re scars on my lower back from Icarus, on my hips from the legs (sleek, white metal legs), and across my chest from the rebreather. Nothing and everything has changed about me in the last three years.
It bothers me, I suppose, as much as the light pollution of Chicago does. Enough to register, but not enough for me to worry about it constantly. It’s bothering me now, in the early hours of the morning, when I used to worry about things in college. It’s causing my chest to contract uncomfortable ways; panic attack, or the beginnings of one. God, I need a drink.
“Oi, Emily.” My info link knocks me out of my self-indulgent reverie. It’s EL. What the hell is she doing up?
“EL? How’d you get this frequency?” I answer, smirking at the inside joke.
“Ancient chinese secret. Now listen.” I can hear the sleep deprived delirium in her voice. She’s been up researching, or perhaps surfing the internet instead of sleeping. Typical.
“Haven’t gone to bed yet, eh?” I smile. “What is it now, uranium or new transhumanism things?”
“Oh, new Augs.” She says. “I researched new eye enhancements all night. Been running on…four hours of sleep today. Hey, what time is it?”
“My time? 6:30.” I say.
I roll my eyes. “Scream at me about the new augs around 3 p.m. my time, I’ll be back from work around then.”
“Alright, fine.” El sighs. “Just know you’re encouraging me to stay up until midnight. Have you heard from A or D in a while?”
“Nah. D is just on radio silence, and A is probably out doing something…questionable.” I huff out a laugh. “How’s H?”
“Oh, she’s good. She’s coming to visit soon, so we can have story conversations.”
I smile. “Sounds great. Heard from N?”
“Isn’t he doing…confidential stuff? Something with robots, I think.”
“Well, that’s specific.” I snort. “Last I talked to him, he said airplanes. Just airplanes. I don’t know what that’s supposed to tell me.”
“Yeah, well, that’s N for you.” El says. “How are you doing, then?”
“Oh, you know, hanging in there.” I sigh. “Still getting used to my augs, and it’s proving…weird.”
“Well, talk to me if you need anything, Kay?” El pauses for a second. “I can ship you tea and hugs!”
I laugh a bit and push off from the rail. “Thanks, El.” I turn and walk back into the apartment building. “Promise me you’ll sleep tonight, kay? Sleep deprivation is not helpful.”
“Your mom’s not helpful.”
El disconnects. I’m still uncomfortable with my lot in life, but it’ll get better. It has to. I can get through these worries with my friends and Danny. Now, the kids should be up in half an hour, and I need to make breakfast.
November 5, 2013
Find My Way
emigee93 friendships, music, nine inch nails, self, self diagnostic, self doubt Self 1 Comment
-Or … –Note: This entry is long and makes little sense. If you read even a little, thanks. You are a champion. Signed: E
The roar of the crowd was unreal, and for a moment there I felt like a part of it.
The reason I say for a moment” is because that moment was shattered about one song later when I realized that I really should have spent the last 17 days of October listening through my entire backlog of Nine Inch Nails that had been given to me a year prior. Granted, I didn’t have everything – not even El or D could claim that – but I was lost enough that it gave me some time to think.
Amidst the lights and the noise and the beer, I was possibly having an existential crisis. At a concert. Oh what fun.
But let’s back track, because this is a Creative Non-Fiction piece, and I do have to provide you some anchoring details so that you don’t get lost.
I suppose the relevant background information includes the following; I have anxiety and what I would call mid-range panic. Mid-range panic is a term El coined to mean “a sustained state of panic that lasts for more than a few hours.” This is an issue that, if I am honest with myself, probably started in middle school or early high school, and I am only just now getting help with.
Around October 18th, the day I went to this concert with El and D, I was undergoing a two week long self-diagnostic, because a friend of mine had pointed out that “[I] seemed sad lately,” and, though I thought I was fine, I decided it would be best if I took a look at my ‘standard fear.’ (Standard Fear is the buzzing of anxiety that always exists in the background of my life.) On the whole, I hadn’t found anything new – I had anxiety and it was being it’s standard, anxious self. In fact, for the most part, I felt comfortable in my own skin, which is not a feeling I experience very often.
For example, while driving up to Northern Virginia, I didn’t feel the usual clawing feeling in my chest, most probably because, on the tree-lined promenade that is interstate 81, I felt excitement. I was going to a concert with two of my closest friends, and we were singing duets to old, pseudo-metal songs and ghost story ballads, watching the fall-clothed mountains give way to overdeveloped XBurbia.
But, as the day wore on, I felt this strange disconnect with everything that was happening. As we walked through the new mammal exhibits at the Natural History Museum to kill time, I felt like I was walking in isolation, watching a pair of people I knew once make conversation. I felt like I had run out of things to say and, simultaneously, like what I had to say didn’t matter.
This feeling eased as we sat down for dinner at Teaism on 8th street in the Penn Quarter. The cozy basement dining room was filled to the brim with people. D, El, and I began chatting idly about our excitement and the food we had ordered. D had accidentally ordered something other than what he had intended to, so there was much trading of food between the three of us (though I didn’t share as much of mine because I had ordered a soup). We left after about half an hour (after lamenting the loss of the table next to us, who had been talking about D&D) and emerged into the distinctly warm DC air.
At this point, I had staved off full panic (regarding my disconnect) by reminding myself that I would not have been invited on this trip, yea those many months ago, if I had not been wanted on this trip.
During the wait for the opening band (God Speed You Black Emperor, or ‘trance-industrial-lullabye’) the feeling of disconnect came back. D and El, for excellent and understandable reasons, had become much closer over the course of the semester, and spent most of the wait wrapped in their own conversation, with their own inside jokes, and I…sat in silence. I recognize now that this was not the correct way to handle things, but I felt that, if I interrupted, it would be akin to a child whining “Pay attention to me, you are supposed to be paying attention to me!!!” I made a few jokes, which fell flat as my jokes usually do, and so I resigned myself to the ‘Auxiliary Friend’ role.
It would be prudent to point out here that I did, in fact, talk to D and El, it’s just that, in my memory, everything I said was stupid and not worth remembering.
This feeling (of being-left-out-but-understanding-why, which is a tad rough) continued through what I would describe as a 45-minute outro, or the soundtrack to the end of your sad, institutionalized life. The excitement of seeing Nine Inch Nails, however, slowly crept back into us, and I pushed my discomfort to the deep, dark hole where I push most of my problems.
The lights went down again and the first few notes of Copy of A hit our ears. The roar of the crowd was unreal, and for a moment there I felt like a part of it. I sang along, begrudgingly sitting because we were in a section of we-shall-not-stand fans, and got pumped.
And then, they played 1,000,000 – a fact that, at the time, was yelled at me by D – and I lost everything. I lost the feeling of belonging in the crowd, I lost the connection with El and D, I lost hold of the one thing that was keeping me from falling to that previously mentioned deep, dark hole. Amidst the lights and the noise and the beer, I was most definitely having an existential crisis.
I eventually figured out the chorus, and sang along, which calmed me down quite a bit. I had moments of connection, like when El and I shouted the All Time Low lyrics at each other, or when we jumped up for Hand That Feeds. I felt adrenaline and excitement and joy, but I didn’t feel that usual sense of ‘yes, this is where I should be’ that I get at concerts.
The concert ended, I sat awkwardly next to a lady on the train who had clearly been hoping I would sit somewhere else, and for the rest of the weekend I felt wrong. Out of place. We drove home and it felt wrong. A Creeping Fear had seized me, and I stared it in the face.
“You are useless,” it said. “You are useless and unwanted.”
I lived with this fear for a week and a half, though I was loathed to outwardly express it. I just sat back, put a Nine Inch Nails playlist on repeat, and tried to find my lost-connection with my friends. There were lovely moments in the mix, too, like laughing into the night with El over our ‘hello-there-freaky’ attitude towards the NIN tag on Tumblr. But, towards the end of Tuesday the following week, I hit an emotional wall, and I was confused.
I hit an emotional wall because of that moment at the concert. Lights were flashing, the music was loud, NIN was amazing, and I watched my friendships (or, at least, my hold on those friendships) slip from my grasp. I was floating in a massive crowd of noise and light and I was losing my friends and I could not understand why I felt that way. I felt myself retreat into myself (frightening how easy that is for me).
So I did something I do not usually do; I reached out, caught someone (El) by the arm and asked if I could talk to them. They told me that I mattered, and that they cared for me and I didn’t know what to do with that.
An Important Quote: ” I’ve always said that what Trent really needs is a blanky and a hot chocolate with marshmallows. He doesn’t need another hole to crawl into. I think somebody should give him one of those little hard hats with a miner’s light on it, so when he gets lost in a dark hole, he can find his way out.”
-Tori Amos on Trent Reznor
The thing is that I knew El meant what she said, I just could not process it. The knowledge that she cared, however, made me feel a bit more secure. I have the words she gave me (because that is how I think of compliments) written down in one of my notebooks, there for when I need it. I am writing this story down, too, so it is there when I need it.
This long, ridiculous blog post, is an attempt to get at the heart of that initial conversation, because I think better when I write and, honestly, I am intimidated by the idea of telling people this. Sometimes I can work through this on my own, but most of the time I can’t, and I think being open and honest about it, even if it’s just in writing, is a step towards helping me get better.
And there is no witty one-liner I can end this on, really, no silver lining except that I am getting help. I’m starting to pick up the pieces and start over.