They named him Thorax because they were hippies and the word sounded unique and interesting (at the time, it didn’t matter what it might mean to the person to be named after a body part). He preferred Thor, but that seemed a bit grandiose and he did not want to be the center of attention so he settled for Ted, Ted Pendergraf.  He was raised on “magic mushrooms” and organic food in a commune. His parents played psychedelic music on weekends in a local bar. Ted’s family was part of the first major shift in modern human consciousness, but his upbringing only induced fear and a longing for conventional, old fashioned values: McDonalds, television, fast cars, and conspicuous consumption. Ted settled for a standardized life and he was relatively happy. His laissez-faire parents supported his decisions resorting to the old adage, “live and let live,” even though they felt momentary pangs of pain and rejection. They even supported Ted’s lifestyle with money they inherited from wealthy relatives. Ted became a computer jockey in the customer service department at a high tech firm, Global Triad. His partner’s name was Desmond and they had two “In Vitro” children conceived to meet the requirements of their very high standards for beauty and intelligence. At his surprise party when he turned forty, Ted realized how much he enjoyed his life. Soon he would be eligible for retirement. He had more free time now that Desmond and the kids were enrolled in “Family Care,” the new application that re-engineered relationships and supported several time-saving sub-routines. Ted’s surprise party was held in the Cornucopia. He was enjoying drinks and canopies with several friends from work. He missed Desmond and his children, but they would see him when he returned home that evening. The cake was extraordinary and everyone sang “happy birthday” in fake falsetto. Ted sat at table # 9 in Cloud Mode where most activities were archived and saved. D’vid Nikles, Manager One, made a working toast to Ted, “On this most auspicious occasion you are noticed and remembered. Happy Birthday, Ted, may you never grow older than you are today.” It was the beginning of the second great shift in human consciousness.

Music (filtered through layers of ambient noise) purred in the recesses of Ted’s mind. There was always music — the sound was soothing as the work day moved along. Occasionally avatars appeared and they helped with chores and offered ideas to improve efficiency and apps to make life more enjoyable. Often, Ted felt displaced as the screen suddenly changed or a new layer appeared, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable sensation — it was more like a dream than anything else. His work shifted from customer relations to customer appropriations. He had to gain information on the people who used the company’s products. Information was the most valuable commodity. Privacy no longer existed; but, everyone agreed, privacy only isolated people from one another and restricted choices. Information could only be comprehensive if people were totally open. Private lives were now public and that helped the economy.  When Ted shifted to his home module, he immersed himself in virtual environments where he could experience the sensations of other people — he shared the reality of other connected-individuals. On every screen he was given options to purchase enhancement applications and improve the quality of life.  The apps could be expensive, but leasing arrangements made them easier to acquire. He had purchased Desmond with a lease and that turned out to be a great investment. Some sacrifices had to be made to acquire the children, but now he could never give them up for all the joy they brought into his life.

Turning forty was a major mile-stone for Ted. Events from his life appeared like a flash animation in high contrast. He wondered what happened to his parents and the commune they struggled to maintain after the economy tanked. Ted never stayed in contact — he used email and his parents never owned a computer. He couldn’t remember if they ever owned a phone. He never really wanted to stay in touch — they had nothing in common except some lingering physical characteristics. Ted wanted to become his own person, separate from his family. His memories were making him depressed so he decided to disconnect and leave the house. People rarely wandered the streets anymore. They stayed home, immersed in the entertainment matrix.

He saw a large, yellow box out of the corner of his eye. It didn’t fit so Ted avoided looking at the object. He found himself inside a dark bar sitting at a small, round table. He was talking to himself. He sat across from himself staring into his own face. People were singing happy birthday. the song was mixed with static, broadcast from an ancient radio. “Who are you,” he heard himself ask. The other Ted asked the same question. When he returned home, Desmond and the children were nowhere to be found; instead, a large arthropod sat at the dinner table. Ted could feel the edges of his mind start to slip and unravel. The large insect was eating leftovers: pieces left over from Desmond and the children. The computer screen went blank. Ted was compromised. His life was turned into an application, bought and sold. “I’m no one,” he heard himself answer, “Just code, computer code and nothing more.”

SLIP copy



  1. maxrandolph

    I like this one, Lee. It’s well written. I’ve told you before, your dry, almost flat Vonnegut-like style works well for you, especially w/ this sort of content. I might like to have seen you draw the ending out just a tad (for dramatic effect and so it isnt overshadowed by all the very effective imagery that precedes it), but as a piece of flash fiction this really works.


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