Published Issue 109, January 2023
I want to get a port.
All my friends have them.
My friends online.
Those aren’t your friends. You’ve never even met them.
That’s not true, Mom. I know them. You should see the places we go.
Alex, you don’t go anywhere. You hang out in your room all day with your goggles on. You probably don’t even know their real names. Don’t even know what they look like.
You don’t get it. Names don’t matter. Bodies don’t matter.
What about me? Do I matter?
Yes. But you don’t have to be rootbound either.
We can smuggle you into the city, but the clinic is on a medical campus and you’ll have to walk to get close. That’s tricky. There’s heavy surveillance and the AI monitors are very, very smart. They can infer who you are by your face, your voice, your stride, who knows what else. Once they get your identity, they’ll correlate it with your arrest records and security will be on you in no time.
And we avoid that how?
Mask every identifying factor. Hide your face, fuck up your outline, walk irregularly, don’t talk if you can avoid it. Ever hear of a ghillie suit?
You know like in the movies, where a sniper wears a bunch of grass and leaves and sticks to disappear into the woods?
Sure, I got you.
Well, this is like a ghillie suit for AI. We’re not just trying to get it to fail to identify you specifically, but to fail to identify you as a human being at all. You need to look like background noise.
Will it work?
It has before. The problem is, what looks like nothing to an AI looks insane to other human beings. So you have to be fast, or you have to be stealthy, or both.
Ha! This is gonna be some real ninja shit, huh?
If ninjas looked like walking trash piles, sure.
When you touch me, can you feel me? Feel my body?
You know I can.
And when I touch you?
I can feel that too. But you’re … you’re clumsy. You’re not responsive, see. There isn’t a real back and forth.
I think we won’t have too long to wait though. I’m supposed to get my first student loan payment August fifteenth. Twelve thousand dollars. With what I have saved, it’s enough to get a neuroport.
Wow, really? That’s great, Alex! But what about school?
Who cares? Here I can fly, I can breathe fire, I can swim with the whales. And here I can be with you. What could school possibly offer me?
When something is smarter than you, you don’t know what it’s doing to you. It’s like a lab rat trying to understand the study it’s a part of. It’s useless. But it’s not too late. We can still burn the lab to the ground.
Listen. Whatever happens, I want you to know that you’re a hero. It’s no exaggeration to say that the freedom of humanity depends on you.
Hear no evil, see no evil.
Hear no evil, see no evil.
Hey! Hey, talk to me for a second!
I’d rather not.
You don’t want to do this. You’re volunteering for slavery!
What AI is even running your sims? Do you even know? How do you know what they really want? How do you know they didn’t convince you to do this?
Excuse me, I’ve got an appointment inside.
Full-sense sims are addictive! Your muscles will atrophy, your body will waste away. It’s worse than cancer.
Then I’ll start exercising, for fuck’s sake. You can manage the meat. Can you please move?
How do you know you won’t end up like that, if you hate the real world so much? You could be lying in a puddle of your own piss, starving—
What the fuck?
Alex! You got it! You got your port!
I got it. Still getting used to it.
I heard what happened. That’s so fucked up. Are you okay?
I’m alive, anyway.
Those Three Monkeys maniacs need to be in fucking jail, right? I thought the police AI was supposed to catch these crazies before they go off.
Well, the guy that did it is dead, so it’s kind of a moot point. I guess they’re trying to find whoever helped him.
Do you want to tell me what happened?
… Okay. So I’m walking up to the clinic when this guy runs up. Only he doesn’t look like a person, he’s like this big ball of trash, all covered in newspapers, cans, mirrors. I guess to evade the monitors. But security figured it out anyway and they’re chasing him. He throws this backpack toward the door, and … boom. That’s it.
I heard you lost an arm.
That’s fucked up. So fucked up. But it doesn’t matter now, right? You’re here! Feel this. … What’s wrong?
Can I ask you something?
Are you real? Like, a real person?
Are you kidding? You just had your tongue in my mouth! And I know you could feel it this time.
Yeah, but … you could be a bot.
You know that’s just prejudice. Mind is mind. There’s nothing special about meat.
I know. I know.
Joel Tagert is a fiction writer and artist, the author of INFERENCE, and a longtime Zen practitioner living in Denver, Colorado. He is also currently the office manager for the Zen Center of Denver and the editorial proofreader for Westword.
Dave Danzara has spent most of his life creating art. Born and raised in California, Dave won a scholarship to Laguna Art Institute of Southern California in 1994. His influences can be found in pop culture, sci-fi, fantasy, film and music. Graphic design and digital collage art have become Dave’s passion and signature. Thanks to social media, Dave has attracted the attention of musicians worldwide and has created album artwork for several bands of various genres. From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Los Angeles, California, Dave’s art has been featured in many art galleries. He has 10 years of experience as a freelance videographer and is the Director, writer and Producer of “The Video Craze” documentary film. He is the owner of Vector Invader Productions. He has been involved in numerous freelance projects and short films. Dave enjoys the challenge of creating art; for him, it is a lifestyle. Find Dave’s work on Instagram: @lostintimedesigns