Random acts of carelessness can have far-reaching consequences. Consider the father who leaves his rifle unlocked for a few minutes, inadvertently dooming himself to a lifetime of grief and guilt and a nation to renewed discussion of firearm legislation; consider the policeman whose cursory glance through a paper file invalidates critical fingerprint evidence; consider the pianist whose ring finger slips, striking a flattened fifth and inventing a new colour of music.

For me, it was misjudging the momentum of a laptop that irreversibly altered my direction, although all I knew as its corner struck my sternum was that I would have a bruise the next morning. Indeed I did; a nagging reminder of my stupidity whenever I slung a bag across my chest. But the pain did not subside as the days passed: rather, it became incessant, and seemed to spread inwards. Sleep came less easily, and I grew weaker and light-headed. I ascribed it to the freezing weather, denying that anything was amiss, until the moment I tried to take a step and found myself clutching at thin air as the pavement rushed towards me and…

…brief snatches of light and sound punctuated the darkness. The sound of sirens; the plastic interior of a man-sized cylinder; desperate voices, theatre lighting, the glint of scalpels and whir of pumps; “his bag! find his bag!”; a thin contralto, enunciating a single word: “Yinsenā€¯. A place? A procedure? A prayer in some unknown tongue? My fragmented consciousness struggled to hold onto these syllables, searching for meaning. Then, a moment of intense heat/cold/light/white noise/joy/despair

I open my eyes. Nothing. My mouth is dry, my breathing ragged. Blink. Nothing. No feeling in my limbs. I hear a faint whir; the slight resonance suggests I am in a small, metal chamber. Blink. A faint ambient glow.

Do not be concerned,” says a voice beside my head, startling me. “Your sight will recover quickly.” And as if on cue, an outline becomes apparent in my peripheral vision, presumably the owner of this voice. “You've been out a long time.”

Where am I? What happened to me?” I croak through parched lips.

“You are in vn.mil.med.fe10a9.c3. You suffered a grave injury, and were brought to me as your last hope. The only option was to suspend your consciousness and preserve your physical form until the necessary research was complete.” I feel sensation returning to my torso; the agony has been replaced by a dull ache. “Your body had turned to its assailant for support, spurning your own tissues. After decades of study, I performed the bonding procedure successfully; I tried to keep the changes to a minimum, but I am afraid that this is the best that could be done.”

I strain to tense my neck, lifting my head away from the cold ceramic, and turn my eyes down. Where I struck my chest, there is no bruise. Indeed, there is no flesh, no organic matter. In its place, I see matte black plastic; a small red protrusion surrounded by labelled keys; three trapezoid levers. I am a hybrid, sustained by rotation, not contractions.

“Other parts are elsewhere, but out of your current line of sight. We have sited the battery in the left of your rib cage, and the spotlight in the palm of your right hand. These components sustain you now, and you them. Your minds, too, have melded: you possess computational ability far beyond that of your former peers.”

Shakily, I raise myself to my feet. Bare skin and polymer, I examine my collocutor: an unimposing, greying figure. He takes my hand, looks me in the eye, and pronounces: “We shall not meet again. Do not waste your life.” Then he is gone.

Exercising newly-fashioned neurons, I grasp a mesh network, and spawn a thread to get up to speed on the state of society. Then I don the crisp, monochrome suit hanging behind the door, and step out into a new age.


SciFiQuest 9999. Based on a true story!

Recently, there's been a plague of flies in your home. You've tried sprays, sticky paper, and even just letting the spiders move in, but no matter what you do, they never seem to leave. Finally at your wits end, you call an exterminator to settle the matter once and for all.

He arrives the next day and has a look around the house. After a cursory search, he tells you that something in your basement is attracting the pests. You both go down to investigate.

The rank odor you had long ago adjusted to and all but forgot suddenly becomes a hundred times stronger as you both go down the steps. The source of the smell becomes apparent halfway down.

It is a body. Its limbs are twisted at odd angles, and it is swarming with maggots. It is at least several weeks old.

The exterminator turns and runs up the stairs, obviously trying not to vomit. A moment later you can hear him dialing the phone, calling the police, but you can't bring yourself to care. Staring down at the corpse, you suddenly feel very far away. The last coherent thought you have before fading into nothingness is;

I can't believe I forgot.

You'd think that falling down the stairs would be something you'd remember.

It really was careless of you.

Care"less*ness, n.

The quality or state of being careless; heedlessness; negligenece; inattention.

 

© Webster 1913.

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