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Science Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Note: This story contains brief references to mental health (intrusive thoughts), death, and self-harm.

On the day of Raven’s fifteenth birthday, the monitor was installed in her right arm. It was standard procedure, and it had been in place for as long as anyone could remember. Even those who were part of the upper class, such as Raven, were unable to avoid the augmentation. Fifteen for less than a day, Raven sat in her chair and watched the monitor move under her skin. It provided a constant pain, one she had been told would never truly stop.

“Will I get used to it?” she asked the man with a mask hiding his face, a government worker whose identity was known only to himself. And, of course, the government.

The man turned to her, black mask glinting in the hospital lights. His response, “yes,” was said in a deep and technological voice that would be unable to trace.

Why’d you have to stick this metal thing in my arm? This hurts so bad, Raven thought to herself. She knew better than to ask why the augmentation had been done. She didn’t understand why; everyone seemed to just accept it. All the members of this society were expected to comply, and if not they were forced to. It would be only hours before the monitor would begin to read things other than her heartbeat and body temperature. It would soon be able to read–and control, if necessary–her thoughts.

The faceless man finished putting away the tools he had used to slice through Raven’s skin, and the girl stood from the hard hospital chair. She did not thank the man as she followed him out the door and left him for another government worker, this one standing at a front desk of sorts.

“Raven Kira Whittaker?” asked the worker in the same untraceable voice.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Happy fifteenth birthday.” the worker was paying more attention to the monitor between them.

Did my parents pay you to say that? What a waste of money. Revan thought.

“You know how to take care of your new implant?” asked the worker.

“Yes, I have seen my parents take the necessary medications at the necessary times.”

“And you know what happens if you don’t?”

“I die. No second chances.”

“Yes. Now, let’s get you to your parents.” said the worker, standing to lead Raven to where her parents were awaiting her arrival. When the worker opened the door, Raven saw her mother and father, both standing with eerily placid looks on their faces.

“Mr. and Mrs. Whittaker, your daughter is here,” said the worker.

Raven’s parents snapped out of their controlled trance, made possible by their own monitors, and both looked at their daughter.

“Oh good, you’re alive. You know, some children don’t make it.” said Mr. Whittaker.

“Oh, yes, I’ve heard something about this allergy that some are developing against the new metal they’re using. Such a shame, really,” said Mrs. Whittaker.

While Raven had the same long, dark hair as her mother, and the same pale skin as her father, that was where the similarities ended. Her parents often talked too much for her liking, and neither of them could make sense of her snarky sense of humor or why she could ever possibly have any distaste for their government. It was the same with all others who had monitors living inside them. She suspected that her existence was just a by-product of the breeding program made so that the human population would not fluctuate too greatly, but her parents took care in making sure she was fed and clothed, so she kept her mouth shut, allowing her thoughts to wander.

That can’t happen for much longer. She worriedly thought.

“May we go home, now?” Raven asked, even though no one had spoken to her. “My augmentation seems to be acting up and I wish to rest.”

“One moment, dear.” Mrs. Whittaker put a hand on her daughter’s arm, unintentionally right where it hurt, and Raven had to bite her lip to keep from recoiling in pain.

“About when will it be fully installed?” Mr. Whittaker asked the government worker.

“Only a few hours, as I’m sure you know. For this girl, judging by her weight, it will be at around four pm, at most.” replied the worker.

“Thank you,” Mr. Whittaker said, pulling up his sleeve and holding it out for the worker. “You may take up to six thousand dollars.”

The worker, like Raven’s father, pulled up his own sleeve and let his monitor scan Mr. Whittaker’s. The blue light illuminated both men’s arms, and the sound of a transaction confirmed that the worker, as always, had taken the maximum amount of money that Mr. Whittaker had allowed him to. That was how he gained favor with the workers, and why his family was higher in class.

If you keep doing such things, you’ll go broke. Raven couldn’t help but think. A quick glance at the digital clock on the whitewashed wall told her it was nearing two. She had around three more hours left to be human.

Mr. Whittaker rolled down his sleeve and the Whittaker family left the augmentation hospital. Outside, their car waited. They stepped inside and Raven looked out the windows at the grey sky and landscape as her father drove.

This is so dumb. Why hasn’t anybody done anything to stop this? I can’t believe some guy just shoved a piece of metal into my arm and everyone’s okay with it. As if this is a totally normal thing that should be happening.

They passed a billboard advertising propaganda convincing the new generation to apply for a job that will “pay well and give you the opportunity to help others”. The words were surrounded by faceless men and women who were in scenes helping people.

Stupid propaganda.

“Are you feeling up for some ice cream?” Mrs. Whittaker asked Raven as the car drove into the grey parking lot that accompanied their apartment building. “When I had my procedure, my mother took me home and I ate a whole quart of it. She said it made the pain more bearable, and it did.”

Raven, who had been examining the bump in her arm where her metallic implant rested under her skin, snapped back to reality.

“No, thank you. I prefer to rest. I feel fine.” she lied. What she mentally added was: and I need the remaining time that I have free will to sort all of this out.

The family walked from their parked cat to the apartment complex, from the complex to the elevator, and from the elevator to their apartment. Most people who were upper class preferred to live in private houses, but the Whittaker family couldn’t afford to live in one due to Mr. Whittaker’s generous tipping that gained him favor with the government. There was more than one way to gain favor, and once a person fell under the government’s good graces, it was hard for them to fall out of it. That being said, the family’s apartment was large and luxurious, if lacking color.

Raven rushed to her room and checked the time. Two thirty-seven. The drive from the augmentation hospital had taken longer than she had anticipated. She had less than an hour and a half to figure out what to do.

I can’t believe I was this stupid. I should have been thinking about this day since I knew it was going to happen. How do I control my thoughts? What if I cut out the monitor? No, that’s a bad idea. I’d bleed out. Shut up, intrusive thoughts. Wait, what if I can’t control my thoughts?

Raven nervously tugged at her hair and wrapped her arm. The long black strands covered up her skin everywhere except for where the monitor was, right below her wrist. Even though it hurt, she tried to squeeze the monitor out of the hole where it had entered, but it was no use. She just ended up nearly passing out due to the sheer amount of pain and exertion, and any hope of removing the augmentation faded as she gasped for air.

Okay, I really should have thought this through. What if I can’t do this? What if I end up like Josh?

Josh was the only friend Raven had ever had. She knew that his views were extreme–especially the one about overthrowing the government, or his theory about how no one saw the leader because he never actually existed–but he was also the only person at school who was ever nice to her. His birthday was in early September, though, and the day he came in with his new monitor, he was a different person. He stuttered when he spoke, and the constant pain he suffered through was visible in his eyes. About a month after he turned fifteen, it was a normal day at school for Raven until she had gotten a note from Josh to meet him. Confused and concerned, she met him in the quiet corridor during class, feigning an upset stomach. He wore a red shirt and blue jeans, and at this, she smiled a little. Josh was the only person she knew who wore actual colors on a daily basis. She wore ashy greys and blacks to blend into the background, and others wore dark colors because of fashion trends.

“What is it?” she had asked.

“Raven, I gotta say something. Don’t get the monitor when you turn fifteen. Whatever you do, don’t do it.” he had said between gasps. “It’ll drive you mad.”

“But my parents, your parents, everyone in the world who is over fifteen, have gotten the implant. They’re fine.”

Josh’s voice was raspy and strained as he spoke. “You’ve been my only friend, and I hope you consider me a friend. I’m saying goodbye.”

“What?!” Raven had hissed. “Don’t do something stupid.”

“We got a note. A government worker came over when I was home alone yesterday. I locked myself in the bathroom and pretended no one was home. It worked, but it’s not going to work for long. My parents were at work yesterday, but they’ll be home today. They’re all mindless zombies. I don’t have much longer, and I think they’re gonna send me to a place to get conditioned. That’s what the note said.”

Raven had just stood there, dumbfounded.

“Thank you, Raven.” he said, and then ran.

Raven’s head was swimming in that moment, and she had difficulty trying to make sense of what had just happened. The encounter filled her with a strange feeling of melancholic loss, one that she had blocked off from her memory and tried to forget. She never saw him again, and she tried not to think about it after. It had worked. Until now.

They’ll take me away. She thought, shuddering. They’ll take me away if I can’t get a grip. He told me to not get a monitor, but that can't be helped. They said that his monitor was broken anyway. Maybe that’s why he is… was…. I’ll be fine. The pain will get better.

Raven stood from where she sat on her grey floor and walked from her room to the kitchen. Mrs. Whittaker sat at the table reading an article. 

“Mother, may I have some ice cream please?” asked Raven.

“It’s in the freezer. Take what you would like.” Mrs. Whittaker responded, not looking up from her task.

Raven opened the Neapolitan ice cream container, and then liberally applied caramel at the top. She looked out the window as she ate her colorful ice cream, noticing how the brightest thing in the house was probably the dull pink strawberry part of her ice cream. There was no sun visible through the windows in the May sky, just grey clouds.

“Are you feeling any better?” asked Mr. Whittaker when he walked into the kitchen to see Raven eating.

“Yes, thank you.” replied his daughter. “What are we having for dinner?”

“How does lasagna sound?” asked Mrs. Whittaker. “I know it’s your favorite, and it’s your fifteenth birthday. It must be so exciting, with your new implant and all.”

I wish I was excited about this piece of junk, thought Raven, eyeing the bump in her arm.

“That sounds good.” she replied. “When were we planning on eating?”

“How about five?” her mother asked.

“You’re the boss.” Revan shrugged. “What time is it?”

“Three twenty.”

Revan felt a sinking feeling in her stomach, but it was accompanied by a pain in her arm. The masked man had said that the implant would take full effect at “four pm, at most”, and it seemed to be working fully sooner than expected.

This is not good. Now all my thoughts are probably being transmitted to some supercomputer somewhere, for real. Can I test out the censorship? How will I know when the monitor is in full effect? Will I just know?

“Are you okay, Raven?” asked her mother. “Your face just got very pale.”

“I…” started Raven, bringing a hand to her face. “I’ll be fine. I think it’s just the excitement and all. It is, after all, a very exciting day for me.” she lied.

I’m not okay. I’m gonna end up like Josh and then I’ll die. And then I’ll be dead. Either dead or a–

Raven felt a  sharp pain in her head. She tried to think the rest of her thought, but it just wouldn’t come. The harder she tried, the more pain she felt.

“Honey, are you sure you are all right?” asked Mrs. Whittaker.

“Yes,” Revan spoke the falsehood like it was a fact. “I’m perfectly fine. I should just rest.”

The girl stood from the kitchen table, put her remaining ice cream back in the freezer, and then retreated to her room. There, she lay on the floor, staring at her grey ceiling.

Why can’t I think what I want to think? I don’t even know what I want to think. This ****** monitor is controlling me. Wait, why did it censor my thought? It wasn’t a swear, that I know, but what was it?

Raven tried to think, which resulted in her finding a word that sounded like stew-peed. Synonymous with words such as “ignorant”, “unintelligent”, and “dumb”.

Why would the government ever be unintelligent? Revan thought, and then she gasped in shock. She somehow knew the thought that had just crossed her mind was not hers.

But how could it not be mine? It came from my brain, didn’t it? She tried to argue with herself, but somehow she knew that she was wrong in justifying the thought. Her brain hurt. The worst migraine she’d ever had, and she knew medicine would do nothing. She tried to think, but she simply could not. The effort strained her, and she soon found darkness closing in at the edges of her vision. Whether it was from her new implant or the effort of thinking, she could not tell.

“Dinner’s ready, Raven.” called Mr. Whittaker.

Raven woke to this, and she quickly sat up. Her hands had marks where her nails had dug in, and she could taste blood. A thin line of red ran down the side of her face and stopped at her ear, for the blood from her lip had been pulled down as she had lain on her side. She was in pretty poor shape. Looking in her mirror, she saw that her hair was messy and she looked to be in an overall disheveled state.

“Coming,” she called back. “Give me a moment.”

Revan brushed her fingers through her hair and wiped the blood off her lip, trying her best to make her appearance presentable.

The government is wonderful. It will take care of me; if I comply, I will remain safe from any harm. Why would anyone ever hate the government?

Raven’s thoughts felt fake to her. As if she had some doubt about their authenticity, even though they were true. Why wouldn’t they be? She had been in a bad place, and the government had come to protect her. Why else would she be so disheveled, her hair and appearance amiss?

Revan stood and walked out of her room. Her appearance had much improved from her previous state, and she silently thanked the government for the grey comb it had provided her.

“Thank you,” she said when she sat at the table, lasagna steaming in front of her.

“For what?” her father asked.

“Taking me to get the monitor. I know our wonderful government requires us to receive the implants, but I don’t know how I’ve gone on so long without it. It feels like a breath of fresh air.” Revan smiled, ignoring the faint knocking of a thought in the back of her mind.

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January 28, 2023 03:54

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1 comment

Graham Kinross
02:07 Feb 02, 2023

This should be titled, How I Learned to Stop Resisting and Love the Implant. Feels like the symbiotes from Star Gate and the Big Brother style monitoring from 1984. Very grim but I like how the end plays as if its a happy ending. Wow.


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