22C: A Short Story

The technological boom of the early to mid-21st Century had many in demand of constant connection to the Cloud. The search for feasible integration to the Internet became of interest to many, resulting in corporations competing to win the market. A few research companies succeeded and fought to patent different methods. At the end of a long twelve month battle of markets and lawsuits, two companies emerged, Cyberos and Sutech.

The simple procedure of a single injection, produced by Cyberos, wields nanotechnology and implants a tiny device in the brain that links it to the Cloud. While Sutech, used contact lenses and simple brain pattern reading to control the content displayed. There were good and bad things about each procedure, it really depended if you were more of visual person or not. Some people used both, like my parents.

My mother works as a co-manager of a manufacturing company. She prefers a more visual connection to the employees, human and robot, and Sutech contact lenses can be taken out, so that she can “get away” from work. While Cyberos allows her to be connected to her friends and her loved ones, all at once. Of course, she only takes her contacts out, when she goes to bed. My 82-year-old grandmother always nags her and would tell “in her day” stories about how life was different and how they were never so connected or so constantly distracted. She still uses her old mobile phone, it’s old, slow, clunky, and required her to connected it to a docking station to charge it. But she would never give it up. I, myself, only have an old Sutech contact lens, one that still had a physical remote object that had to be carried around for it to run. My mother had upgraded and it was given to me about 2 years ago. At that time, I was still in high school and all my other classmates made fun of me for having to carry a physical object around to stay connected. Most of them had gotten the Cyberos shot, but my mother said it was still too expensive for me to get. Well that’s what she told me a few days ago, on Christmas day as her reason not to get me one. She does the family’s finances and always has to make sure there is enough money for all of us.

My family is considered established and more traditional. We still celebrate Christmas together, even though my father lives on the other side of the world. He attempts to come up with new robots that have different functionalities to help improve lives, even though I’m not sure what other functionalities could be filled. They stay emotionally connected with Cyberos.

There’s a fear of the 22C, the 22nd century. My grandmother go extra supplies of nutrition and water. She’s trying to cover up her slight fear, telling me stories of her mother’s time, when they worried about something called the “Y2K Millenium Bug”, which was thought to stop all computers from working and be the end of the world. I can tell that everybody is worried, my mother is forced to go into work on the eve of new years to make sure that production does not stop. There has been a threat placed out by an anonymous group stating that the 22C is a virus that will infect the Cloud. No one is sure what is going to happen, but that means all robots, Cyberos, and Sutech will be effected. Which also has the possibility of being the end of the world, chaos.

I think it’s just some hoax. It’ll probably just be like the “Y2K” scare. I have nothing to worry about. I’m pretty sure.

I’m staying home to countdown with my grandmother, then heading out to meet friends. We had a relatively quiet dinner, the slight nervousness from her left me feeling unsteady. We sat by her old television and watched a fuzzy picture of the countdown. If I had Cyberos, I’d be able to experience that like I was physically there. Next year, maybe I can save up for Cyberos.

“Logahn,” my grandmother smiles. Handing me a bottle of chilled bubbly, “If you could do the honours.”

She places two flutes in front of me. I press the stopper and pour into the flutes as the hosts on the screen begins to countdown from 10.

“10, 9, 8, …” we pick up the flutes.

“…, 7, 6, 5, …” we raise our glasses.

“…, 4, 3, 2, 1… HAPPY NEW YEAR!” we shout in unison and clink our glasses together.

“Happy new year, grandma,” I say as I place my arms around her and pull her into a hug. Then the television turns off, the lights go out, and my Sutech lenses goes blank.

We stand in complete silence and absolute darkness.

My eyes can’t seem to adjust and a weird ringing echoes in my ear.

“Grandma?” I ask, the only words that can leave my lips. I rub my ears, attempting to rid them of the high-pitch ringing.

“I’m right here, Logahn.” I hear some rustling and a small glow lights up the room. My grandmother holds up a green chemical glow stick and places it into my hands.

We both automatically assume that the 22C has taken effect and succeeded. I’m unsure of what to do in this situation.

“It’s okay, Logahn. It should be back up soon,” she settles herself down in a chair. “Growing up, we used to have blackouts all the time, before we switched off of fossil fuels. They couldn’t supply power to 8 billion people without straining the system. Nobody could predict when the blackouts would happen, so everything had battery power. The networks would go down and we’d have nothing to connect to for a while. Sometimes it would take hours for them to resolve the blackout. Blackouts were always my favourite time though. We’d come together as a household and we’d play games to pass the time. Everybody was so annoyed with the blackouts that there was a huge demand and fundraising to help resolve the problem. Cyberos was one of the companies involved in the research in the switch off of fossil fuels. My parents, your great-grandparents, never trusted large corporations. They were part of the open-source community that attempted to resolve the problem, but the corporations kept buying up their team members every time they had a small breakthrough. And in the end, the corporations won. Electricity went up in value and more than a quarter of the population couldn’t afford it.”

This was a story I’d never heard from her before. I knew she didn’t like Cyberos, but I hadn’t know that they had directly effected my family. A sadness could be seen on her face and the eerie green glow caused her frown lines to cast shadows on her face.

We sat in silence for a while, waiting for something to happen, anything really. Lights to turn on, networks to reconnect, an announcement, or even someone to knock at our door. There didn’t seem to be any reactions to the blackout.

The ringing in my ears began to subside as I started getting used to the quietness. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored or isolated before. I fumble with my Sutech device, which is completely useless without a network connection.

“Why don’t I teach you a game?” my grandma breaks the silence. An hour has passed since the start of the blackout and still nothing. I nod and reposition myself to face her. I realize that I can’t remember the last time that I’ve actually looked at her directly. There was always something to do, something to read, or another person that I was connected with. I notice that she has started to look old, older than I remember. Her eyes look tired and her hair looks limp and dry. She had been born in 2017, I remind myself.

“I’m going to teach you thumb war,” she smiles. “Put your hand into mine, like this. We move our thumbs left and right counting up to ten. Then the match starts, and we have to wrestle with our thumbs, whoever can keep their opponents thumb down for 5 seconds. Ready?”

I nod and position my hand as directed, I’m slightly confused about this game. Her small hands are cold and slightly sweaty, but they have a strong grip onto my hand.

She begins to chant, “One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war; five, six, seven, eight, try to keep your thumb straight. nine, ten, let’s begin.” Her thumb moves quickly and had my thumb is pinned down in a second. I attempt to pull from underneath, but am unable to. She counts to 5. Where did she get all that strength?

We play a few more rounds, but out of all of them, I had only won once. Even then, I think she let me win that round.

“Do you think we should go out and see what’s happening?” I ask.

“Probably.”

She makes no gesture or indication that she is going to get up. This usually means that she wants to stay inside.

I make my way over to the door and since the power is out, it requires me to manually push the door open. The hallway is just as dark and as quiet. The green glow from my chemical stick only reaches a small distance down the hall. I slowly take a step to make sure I don’t hit anything. I hear a shuffling. The door to the household next to mine, swings open. I jump back. Standing there is a man, his eyes wide open. But I’ve seen him before. He’s the father of one of my old classmates.

“Error!” He yells at me.

My ears begin to ring again, “I’m sorry. I wanted to see what was happening.”

“I’m… I… uh… lu… ite!” He attempts to grab me. I jump out of his reach and slide pass him, I back away from his door and move quickly down the hall. He continues to follow me, but can’t seem to move any faster than a stiff walk. He can’t seem to form words either, maybe his Cyberos is having malfunctions because there’s no network.

As I pass another door, it also swings open. A woman with the same confused look stands inside the door frame. Her eyes stare in my direction and she begins to follow.

I continue to walk down the hall, gradually speeding up, but as I pass each door, they swing open and standing there is a person, who begins to follow me. At this point, I’m unable to get back to our house and the only option I have is to take the emergency stairs. I push through the door and lean on the other side to catch my breathe. There’s something wrong with them, why are they chasing me? There was banging on the door, and I decided to run down the stairs. Maybe I’ll go around on another floor and go back to grandma.

Running with the glow stick in hand, I ran on the floor below and up the other set of stairs. The same thing happened, door after door opened revealing another person, who starts to chase me as well. I make it back to the house and slam the door shut behind me.

“Grandma?” I gasp.

“Right here, Loghan.” She hadn’t moved from her spot on the chair, “Any news?”

“They’ve gone insane. Everybody was following me. I had to run around.”

“It must be Cyberos,” she states.

“Why were they following me? Because I don’t have Cyberos?”

“Maybe. It’s possible that it’s the glow stick? We’ve grown used to constant light and we are sitting in the dark. In the beginning, there were some rumours that Cyberos stopped your brain from developing because it would absorb all the information, pretty much replacing your brain. I guess those rumours were true after all.”

The lights begin to flicker. Is the network back on? I hear the familiar humming filling my ears and the lights turn on. My Sutech begins to connect to the network.

Text appears on my Sutech, “Announcement: The system is now up and running. We apologize for the inconvenience that has been caused to all citizens.”

Once connected, immediately call my mother.

“Hi, mom.”

“Loghan, how was new years with grandma?” she asks.

“Interesting. What did you do during the blackout?”

“What blackout?”


Bibliography

  1. de Souza e Silva, A. “From Cyber to Hybrid: Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces.” Space & Culture, 2006: 261-278.
  2. Johnson, Dexter. Implantable Device Melts into the Brain and Records Its Activity. May 5, 2010. http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/nanotechnology/implantable-device-melts-into-the-brain-and-records-its-activity.
  3. Roberts, Michelle. Bionic Contact Lens ‘to Project Emails before Eyes’. November 21, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15817316.
  4. Sherer, Kyle. The Human Battery: Turning Body Heat into Electric Power. August 5, 2007. http://www.gizmag.com/go/7731/.
  5. The Strange New World of Nanoscience, Narrated by Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry. Feburary 5, 2010. http://youtu.be/70ba1DByUmM.
  6. Waterworth, Eva L., and John A. Waterworth. “Mediated Presence in the Future.” Immersed in Media: Telepresence in Everyday Life, 2010.

About Cristal Sung

Cristal is a new media designer, who believes in the importance of feeding the soul with art, culture, and food. Her work focuses on themes of identity, sociopolitical problems and the concept of beauty. Cristal is from Hong Kong and studies in Toronto.

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