Miranda flapped her hand out of the warm bed covers, trying desperately to shut up her back-up alarm clock. The bright light glared 4:15am. Looks like she had overslept which was becoming the norm. Miranda had struggled over the last few weeks of winter to make her 4am start. She stumbled out of bed, fumbled around in the near-dark to get herself dressed and headed out the door of her first floor apartment.
Miranda walked the damp pavements of her beloved city, taking in a deep breath of fresh air and watched it puff out of her mouth, forming her own personal cloud for a brief second. She smiled as the wind picked up her red, frizzy hair and played with it gently. There was something about this time of morning. Most people don’t get to see it. They don’t get to feel the crisp freshness in the air, they don’t get to hear the birds coming out of their cozy nests to join their friends in the dawn chorus, they don’t get to see how the dew can make spiderwebs beautiful. Instead, everyone is still very much snuggled in their warm beds, oblivious to the outside world for just a few more hours.
Miranda arrived at her office, hopped in the lift up to the eighth floor where her neat and tidy desk awaited her. She set her bag down and headed towards the battered coffee machine.
“Good morning, Sunshine! And how is the Gremlin today?” Gail rounded the divider and flopped his arm over the top. He had a smile that stretched from ear to ear. It reminded Miranda of how much she envied his forcefully-straightened teeth.
“Not so great, I was fed after midnight last night.” She replied, going through the coffee making motions. “What’s gotten you into such a great mood?” Gail leaned over, almost pulling the divider down with him, closing the gap between them. A lock of blonde, gelled hair fell over his eyes, out of place.
“It’s top secret,” he whispered with a wink, “I’ve been given the biggest story of our generation. I’ve got that feeling, that butterflies in my stomach itching to bubble over, feeling. You know? Oh, wait. You wouldn’t know, seeing as you’ve never ever been given a story like this!” He jested, giving her a friendly nudge on the arm. He smoothed the lock back to join the rest of his thick hair.
“Woah! Look at you with yet another big headliner! How do you do it?” Miranda’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. Gail failed to notice as words tumbled out of his mouth. Miranda had stopped listening. She was fed up with getting the sloppy seconds next to her co-anchor, Gail. Why did he get those amazing headlines when all she got was the fluff pieces? She was just as good as Gail, just as attractive, just as animated, just as dedicated. They were well matched from the start, both wanting to scrabble their way to the top. For some reason, one is clearly favoured over the other by the higher-ups.
“Uh, Earth to Miranda!” A manicured hand waved frantically in front of her face. Gail was staring at her expectantly.
“Gosh, sorry. Need my morning coffee before I can socialise, you know that.”
“You should be wide awake from excitement! This is going to be huge!” Gail did his signature wink and headed off to get ready to go live.
“Good Morning and welcome to your favourite daily talk show, TalkTastic!” Gail boomed in his official host voice. “We have a shocker for you today so buckle up. Owl Technologies have announced, just an hour ago, that their new cybernetic implant is ready and available to the public! This implant is said to replace your mobile phones. It can send and receive messages, showing them as an overlay to what you can normally see. You can make and receive phone calls, with no external microphone or speaker needed! You can even keep up to date with your social media. This groundbreaking technology is the first of its kind to hit the shops and will change. Your. Life! There are stores starting to pop up in all major cities where you can get your free consultation.
Isn’t this amazing, Miranda? Your phone inside your own head!” Gail turned to see Miranda’s jaw practically on the table. “Miranda?”
“Uh, yes, Gail. That is fantastic,” Miranda said, snapping herself out of shock, “but what do our viewers think? Text us your thoughts to the number below and we’ll get this conversation going!”
From that day, the atmosphere changed in Miranda’s city. She would go through her usual morning routine but find that her bliss was interrupted as she bumped her way through pockets of people. They would start queuing at 4am and would wait for hours at the Owl Technologies pop-up stands to ensure they were booked in for their implant. Within a matter of days they would walk the streets, not really paying attention to what was in front of them. You could tell who had gotten an implant; their eyes have a glaze over them. They would bump into you and grunt from the inconvenience of it.
As the weeks drew on, more people flooded the streets. The preachers you would once find on street corners were now replaced by new faces with new teachings.
“They’re using this implant to brainwash us!”
“Our thoughts will no longer be our own!”
“They’ll take over our bodies!”
Most hurried past these new scaremongers, but others listened and nodded. Those listeners soon became passionate believers. They started to yell in agreement. These believers grew in such numbers that passersby would avoid eye contact and hurry past as quick as they could, Miranda included.
Soon, the new preachers no longer confined themselves to street corners. They marched with their new found army. They descended onto Owl Technologies stands and physically obstructed anyone else from signing up.
Gail had been pinned numerous times by these protesters as well as eager reporters, grilling him about what he knew of the implant. Accusing him of endorsing such a damaging technology. Miranda had since learned to hide her face to and from work.
Desperate to find an oasis in her busying city, Miranda headed to her friends house. Without forgetting to stop at their favourite bakery to pick up the essential offering.
“Hey, you! Long time no see, come on in!” Sadie beamed as she opened her front door.
“Oh, I’m sorry, is three days too long?” Miranda asked sarcastically, letting herself in and wandering through the short hallway to the kitchen.
“Too right it’s too long! You know what you owe me, right?”
“What do you think is in this box?” Miranda waved the box of doughnuts around.
“Ahh beautiful. Feed them to me!” Sadie swept her arms out wide in fake desperation.
“Pah! Fat chance!”
“Oh, that reminds me, I have a surprise for you! You’re never going to guess it.” Sadie said with excitement lighting up her face.
“Oh dear, what have you gone and done now?” Miranda smiled. Sadie stood side on in front of her friend and tucked her sleeky black hair behind her left ear. Poking out from just under her ear was a circular piece of plastic with a green light. Miranda’s eyes widened in realisation. “No way! Did you get the implant? Why didn’t you tell me?!”
“I didn’t want you to tell me not to, so I went ahead and did it! What do you think? Barely noticeable, right? You should definitely get one.”
“Did it hurt? Is it really annoying having things pop up in front of your eyes? Can you control it?”
“Well why don’t you get one and find out, huh? Or are you scared?” Sadie drawled out that last word like she was challenging a ten year old.
“I’m not scared!” Miranda replied, a little too defensively. “I just want to see what other people think of it first.” She wrapped her arms around herself.
“It’s really cool. I’m still getting used to things just popping up in my vision but I kind of love it already. Oh, text me! I want to see if it comes up!”
“Ok,” Miranda took her battered old Blackberry out of her jean pocket and tapped away at the keys. “Done.” Miranda waited, searching for any sign that her message had come through. Would Sadie ‘beep’ like a normal phone? Would Miranda be able to see the message too?
“Got it! Oh, that is so cool. Keep texting me, I want to try it out some more!”
“Uh, ok?” Miranda proceeded to text Sadie about her day, via text message. There was no indication when Sadie received the messages, simply that her eyes would glaze over. She might briefly smile or sharply exhale out of her nose at things that Miranda had told her about, then replied using the implant. It all felt a little strange to Miranda. They were in the same room, not really talking to each other but acting as if they were. She guessed Sadie was getting the novelty out of her system, which she could understand. After hours of entertaining her friend with jilted conversations, she headed home.
Miranda sighed as she had finally fought her way home through the growing crowds. What a day, she thought to herself. She kicked off her polished black boots, slung her trench coat on a hook and headed straight for the wine. With a glass in hand, she felt like something was missing…
“Hey, Sadie!" Miranda almost yelled down the phone in excitement of her friend being on the other end. "I can’t bear to walk over to yours right now, it’s crazy out there! But I’m having a glass of red, trying to wash away the stories from today. Were you watching earlier? Did you hear the reports?”
“Wow, word vomiting much! I’m fine, by the way. No, I didn’t watch today, what happened?”
“So it’s been, what, a few months since the implant came out, right? There are hundreds of reports of loneliness spiking through the population right now. And they’re blaming the implant. Apparently people are so wrapped up in communicating via the implant they’re now ignoring anyone they see in person! Or the face-to-face conversations are so stop and start because someone with an implant will carry on other conversations virtually. Some are saying that attention spans are drastically changing too. There are even support groups for those who have not wanted to get the implant but feel like they have been left behind.” Miranda bumbled out.
“Gosh, that sounds terrible. But how true can that really be? Surely people are way better connected now than ever? Maybe it’s the conspiracy theorists trying to put off those who haven’t got the implant, cough-Miranda-cough, and they’re using any tactic they can do.” Sadie reasoned.
“I don’t think it’s conspiracy theorists, I think these reports are true. I mean, look at us…”
“What? What are you on about? We’re talking right now, silly!”
“Yeah, Sade, for the first time in weeks. You’ve been distant ever since getting this. You don’t care if we go days, even weeks without seeing each other! Sure, there might be the odd text here and there but it’s not the same. I want to see you and I want you to actually see me. We’ve been the inseparable pair throughout the entire ten years of our friendship! I don’t want that to change...” Miranda wrapped an arm around herself at this admission.
“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t changed.” Sadie folded her arms and shrugged her shoulder. Her indifference felt like a slap to Miranda’s face.
“Wow. Ok, then. I guess we’ll carry on as we are.” Miranda said with ice cutting through her voice.
“Yeah, ok.” Sadie replied, unsure of herself now.
“We’ll see how long we stay friends for, shall we?” With that, Miranda hung up. That conversation had made her recognise this emptiness she was feeling, one that she had become so accustomed too. She was lonely.
After a few glasses of wine, Miranda found herself on a webpage for one of the new support groups for those that have been left behind.
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im...radioactive. great story
Thank you for your comment! And more importantly - glad you got the reference!