Sherman had heard about going analog from Katie rainbows. Katie rainbows had the most annoying reality augmentation settings in her flat. The cartoon character pixies in the flower pots, the happy faces on the furniture that made you feel like you were in a cartoon, she even had dolphins swimming in her toilet. Sherman was glad he did not have to use the dolphin toilet but would watch them in the toilet splashing and jumping as he would pop the thirty or forty pills out of the of the pillow packs and then inject the iv mix into his wrist port while resetting his headset. He would buy his Pro-drugs from Katie, go into the bathroom immediately and watch the dolphins splash in the toilet.
He would buy his Pro-drugs exclusively from Katie, and occasionally when he was looking through her memory Hits he would find one he liked. Kate knew one guy who worked at the memory implant and nail salon in front of the Howard Johnson who she bought her memories from and like the augmented decor, the memories were different than your usual drug dealers offerings.
Sherman stayed away from the mix of active programed RNA with the peptides and neurotransmitter boosters that most of the dealers sold. Single hit memories. People liked Sex and they liked violence, so most of the dealers specialized in black market memories. The thrill of a few fragments of an orgy, or the instant adrenaline rush of cold-blooded murder, if you think you can handle it. Sherman had worked with a guy, who was told he was getting a chunk of a crime mystery who ended up getting just the memory of strangling someone to death. He went off the deep end. The kid broke down and actually confessed the crime and gave details and everything. Most people agree that while memory implants were legal and had no dangerous implications that chunks out of context could cause major cognitive dissonance and were probably responsible for most of the system crashes that people were having.
The memories that Katie got were always so random, the clientele of the of the memory emporium was elderly because most people who went to the Howard Johnson were old enough to give up on life. Memory implants were still expensive but people put money aside for how they wanted to remember their lives before they checked into the Howard Johnson, and out of the world. That nail salon did more volume than most of the sleek new branded memory emporiums where even without the return customers that other outlets depended on.
The nighttime memory tech while doing his nightly memory implant production would take about 3 to four minutes of the bio-programed sequence. Mix it with a high quantity of the anesthesia drugs used to induce memory implantation vial it up, then sell them for 40 bucks a piece as a single serving memory. Or I guess you could always just trade them for your pro-drugs. It was clear from the sheer volume of memory hits in Katies file that the technician had a problem.
Sherman had gotten to see the market change over to pro-drugs almost overnight. Cameras, facial recognition, and those health implants had made owning and selling illegal substances impossible. He had reluctantly made the switch from heroin to pharmaceutical opiates to RECeptor. Anyone could buy own or handle RECeptor, RECeptor was just really a bunch of enzymes and peptides and beta blockers that were modified using CRISPR to change the way they processed a common and readily available diarrhea medication into a rocky analog of morphine sulfate. So the drug itself is manufactured completely legally inside the body.
The problem with pro-drugs is that rush that Sherman remembered was gone. The time it took the enzymes to process the loperamide and branch chain amino acids into the drug was varied and slow sometimes. The rush from his childhood was gone, all that was left were slow existential lulls of sickness and a return to wellness. He was explaining this to Katie Rainbows as he looked through her tray of memory hits. There were all in coulombs with one-word labels and brief descriptions.
She begins to tell him about going analog. “OH my god, I can’t believe you haven’t done it you get sooooo high! You take your normal dose of RECeptor first, then you put your cellular data provider on spacecraft mode than You mix two of these memories, one from column 2, one from column 12 here. Then you turn the augment settings all the way up on your ear bullets and take out your contacts and bam, you’re higher than you have ever been in your life! Just don’t open your eyes because, it like, kills the high! Big time.”
Sherman looked down at the labeled columns, the #2 column was labeled birth memories and the #12 column was titled memories of death.
“Explain this whole thing again why does it get you higher?” Sherman said as he grabbed the memory hits out of the two columns along with six doses of RECeptor.
“Well, what I was told is that your brain uses allot of its biotech interface just to support allot of the standard functions of augmentation, defaults, body temperature control, texture simulation, web interface, and so on even when you disconnect you’re still using like most of your brain. I guess the mix of two memories overloads the circuits or something and shuts down all interfaces completely. for as long as the shortest of the two memory lasts. Like all of your brain goes to just feeling the pro-drugs it’s as High as I’ve ever been!” Katie rainbows laughed menacing, the oversized cartoon glasses covering her eyes as the anime pink on her cheeks hovered an inch off her face.
When Sherman got home he looked around his depressing and very cheaply augmented home. He kept all of his settings on default or bought the cheapest licensing for designs to use.
Every once and awhile when getting out of bed was giving him difficulty he would up the clean and bright setting but they would fade so quickly and he felt like paying for the clean and bright services was a rip-off because he was never home. But still, that was money he would rather just spend on the pro-drugs.
Katie Rainbows, as loud and cartoony as she was lived in a nice area of town. The only difference really between the nice area of town and the not so nice areas was the amount of advertising Sherman saw. In Katie’s neighborhood higher up he had seen two ads altogether. One was for RECeptor and one had said “YOU can advertise Here” one was at eye level and one was higher. Sleekly designed and noticeable. It seemed like the less money you had the more ads you saw. Not only did you see the same ads but you saw them over and over. On Sherman’s way home he had seen a bundle of fifteen ads and half of them were for Imodium SD and half of them were ads to advertise. It made no sense to a pro-druggy like him that he would have to see commercials all the time. On the other hand, Katie was a walking billboard for every product in the world with tons of money to spend and he hadn’t seen a single add in her entire building.
He got home as soon as he entered the door the four banner ads that seemed to have minds of their owns brightened and flashed. He had blocked out what they were advertising for so long ago, he barely noticed their presence. He walked through the dim room to the screen on his fridge. He turned on the music on low. Katie Had shown him an app that with this omnipotence algorithm software that compiled and searched the world for live real-time recordings of sounds and used this ever-changing keyboard of live sound to play classical songs. His favorite stations were Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring through the NY alley chatter /heavy traffic Settings. He also liked The enigma variations through Japanese lounge bars/Sneakers squeaks. He also loved the Ludwig van B. on any setting he could find.
Tonight was Rites of spring. He went over to his refrigerator and pulled out his carton of 32 eggs and brought it to the table. He tapped the top of each egg in a sequence and six of the eggs opened he pulled his equipment out His portal plunger. His jailbreaker. He used the old one, the dangerous kind that you had to tape or hold on your neck over the chip. Most of the jailbreakers were wireless these days. Going through his pockets he pulled out the RECeptor and the memory veils that he from he got from Katie Rainbows. “Crazy people have good drugs” a friend his guy from work had told him ironically, a few weeks before he went off the deep end.
He had his normal ritual, a dimming of all of the settings the wifi off. He normally he took off his contacts anyway. The implants did most of the base level augmentations color, shade, depth style. Without the contacts, it was just jumpy and you would get these flashes of light green. He liked the shows and green flashes when his eyes rolled back in his head after his ritual.
The music was reaching the second act. Sherman set himself up for the next forty-five minutes of adjusting settings and exiting out of protocols till the waves were peaking just right. Messing with the settings to him was a part of the thrill, that and they were really the only thing he had to play with. In his damp empty apartment.
Laid out in front of him were eight items all promising in their own way to get him High or little higher. He always loaded once at Katie’s bathroom to just get better, but the bio-regulating program prevented so much of his biology to make it through the interface.
First, he took his receptor upregulation blocking protocol it helped with the comedown but he only took it when he had a decent quantity of RECeptor to take. The withdrawals from prodrugs branched and had many phases. When you pushed it your hurt. This first device was primarily code and electrical stimulation. He pushed a button on a device and he could feel the implant pulse out electrical signals that would prevent upregulation of all synapses for the next few hours. Second two devices were also code based and temporarily blocked the biomonitoring function and his brainwave regulation. He had to do them before he adjusted any settings. He’d messed up the order before and wasted eight hours of feeling the drugs in his system. He attached the Receptor to his bio-port and took the hand full of Imodium that was in the pile in front of him chewing them and swallowing them down the taste was bitter but the water was so expensive he never had it around and he let his saliva take care of the taste. The sixth item was the blood-brain barrier blocker, it was already in the Receptors mix but the ratio was off it never lasted long enough. Quickly it went in the bioport. Immediately after he placed the jailbreak device over the chip in his neck. Everything went full default the room became a dull gray with a rough texture. It felt like a prison the chair he was relaxing on became as stiff as cement. The Four ads were still there just they had been reduced to plain text advertisements. The word Receptor in a plain typeface and white box with the yellow code was flashing at the bottom in front of him. it was moving toward him across the counter. The ads make the rent cheaper the landlord had told him. But with his minimalist Decor, the ads really stood out. Even now as he felt the warm waves of the prodrug being produced in the dim cell. Those white advertisement boxes felt out of place and distracted from the high.
He wasn’t sure if he could get any higher than he was right there. When he did it right it was the more the thrill of the safecracking and cryptography that went into finding the feeling than it was the feeling itself. but he was in his happy spot, a warm pool of painless memories. He looked down at the two Memory hits in front of him.
The memory hits he had taken before were a 5th birthday party, Rollercoaster end, Commencement Speech, and NY fall park kiss on the bench with strangers. All fragments were stolen out of someone’s intended storyline. The billboard advertised “How do you want to remember your life” the people paid money to have their memories made and a dark editor had stolen a piece no one would miss. Then traded it as a technically legal commodity. He liked the quirky and obscure nature of the unmissed and forgotten scenes. He might have gotten hooked on the strange memories if it hadn’t been for his favorite one. Park bench stranger kiss, the leaves were so vivid but the kiss with the taste of beer on his lips was just altogether pleasant until he realized that the perspective was female. Sherman was dedicated to being the nonpracticing heterosexual that he was. Most of The PRO-DRUGGY friends stood in a unified front against the modern culture’s efforts to bury the old ways. Sherman did not want to have children but he liked the idea of reproduction. So heterosexual he was, although apart from that weird purchased memory he had never been kissed. He like many people in his class had the fear of being touched that epidemiology has called the new laughing disease whatever that had meant.
The add that said “advertise here” hovered above the two memory vials. He poured them together into the large plunger and ported them into his wrist jack. His ear bullets were already all the way blasting Stravinsky in loud traffic-horn timpani drums. He sat down and waited for a minute almost falling asleep. He had never mixed memories and everyone he talked to who said they did it were complete nutjobs. But he trusted Katie and he missed the good old days of addiction before he had to hack his own body to get high.
Sherman was so calculated with the risks he took, He knew sanity was fragile, it surprised him that all it took to get him to compromise his personal commitments was a good dose of nostalgia. He was a fan of nostalgia, the word Analog was a term that meant nostalgic or vintage, it was an impossible concept that meant completely unplugged from access and illusion at the same time. Analog Stores sold box televisions with wires hanging off them to people who had no way of plugging in. They sold old keyboards that had no way of making music or notes for people to hang on their walls. It was probably the term analog that sold the idea to him. Sherman wondered if Katie had just known him well enough to sell him a couple of overpriced memory hits out of her surplus.
The first memory started to hit him. It was the death memory he remembered instantly laying in a hospital bed in old age as a wife held his hand with a heart monitor beating in the background. Suddenly there was a wet dark memory with noise and a glow then his mind went completely black.
His head was pounding, his ears were ringing but all he could feel was the symphony of pure real feeling. This was how he remembered Highs feeling when was a teenager; uninterrupted. He opened his eyes and looked around the room it was green looked to be covered in a translucent foam. He looked at the corner of the room and his eyes grasped at the corner of the room. His vision was completely blurry. His eyes worked extra hard to focus. He could still see the four adds like big blurs In the green room one was grey, one was, orange, one was black, and one was white. Sherman looked at the only thing that wasn’t green foam in the room the projecting light above him shone with an ultraviolet hue and mesmerized him for a minute. This pink glowing light filled him with some strange understanding. Sherman knew that the memory would be over and the systems would boot soon. But he still jumped up and ran to his bathroom to grab the eyedrops he used when he took his contacts out. He did take his contacts out more than he was supposed to and was addicted to the drops because of it.
After the drops were in his eyes began to focus. Feeling higher than he had ever been he looked across the room and noticed it. The rectangular advertisements had turned into blurs, and the blurs turned to fur, and the fur turned into cats. All four of cats were looking at him. He wasn’t sure if they were real so he reached out and touched the grey one. It started to purr. Then were cats looking at him as if they had always known him in an eerie and loving way. He only knew about cats from watching old movies. He thought they were very convincing and even though every other augmentation was disabled he thought of them as a program not grasping their reality. He then had the memory of crying and felt huge hands handling him and passing him to a breast where he suckled. He became a twitch at the controls. Swerving the cat. Googled and muzzled. He could not see the land as it was, he could not smell the land as it smelled, but there as a cloudish clod he felt the warmth and power in that memory of suckling like a pig.
Suddenly he felt a strong headache hit him and all of his senses went black. When he awoke he felt nothing in his system, no prodrugs no strange code, his mind was in a place that felt green, he looked around and the defaults to everything had been reset. There were little cartoon paperclips on everything, he had hours of setup before his home would even be able to materialize a meal. He got up and went to his kit. All his tools were blocked, they were bright red. This had happened to him before a few years ago. The ministry of health would be by to scan him within a few hours. His front door was locked he wasn’t going anywhere and the government would be taking over his security codes for 30 days. Everything in his apartment was glowing red and frozen. Except the Immodium and the RECeptor that he had left. He went ahead and took it all. There was no change which meant the government had already taken over his neurotransmitter production. But he knew as soon as the ministry of health put him in the treatment protocol and his data was shipped off to NEW PATHWAYS or NEW CHOICES or NEW HORIZON. He knew that within an hour he would be in an unmonitored cell and that he would get one last high out of the prodrugs before the re-programming.
The moral debt industry was an industry that the government still subsidized and Sherman knew that after the ministry of health handed off their paperwork to the ministry of social externalities. He would instantaneously be labeled as a moral debt and be purchased by a recovery subsidiary. He would be put under house arrest until he was listed as an asset. Sherman knew he would never see any of the items in his home again. He knew he crossed that imaginary line and no longer belonged to himself. He was a pro-druggy and a very low-level bio-hacker, he had been thought the programming before he would take the rooftop gardening lessons and the cultural apologetics discussion group. Sherman knew he would sit by the coffee pot laughing with the new intakes. “Drink some of this, it will put some color in your cheeks” he would say to the newbies. Gesturing to the coffee pot. The sunken-eyed and tired possessions of moral repurposing would laugh. Whether or not they got the reference to the COLOR IN YOUR CHEEKS anti pro-drug campaign from 4 years ago. That was advertised everywhere. He hoped the Ministry would be here soon. He knew his sickness would just grow and reverberate until he was in the cell, and he was no longer responsible for his own custody. All the blocks would stop and he would feel the remainder of any of the product that was being manufactured in his system. He was sweating and his entire body felt spent and exhausted from the immediate withdrawal that came when his account was flagged. He could feel the chip in his head taking control of his analgesic response system. The regulated amount was just not enough. Sherman fell to the floor and wrenched in a seizure. He then got up and in a moment of total clarity walked over to the ad for Imodium and picked it up like he was holding a small animal. He walked to the corner of his room holding the advertisement. It felt somewhere between rubber and painted metal in his hands. He curdled in the corner holding the advertisement in a sweaty grasp his eyes closed as his body simultaneously begged to vomit and diarrhea.
In the deep delusion and incoherency of his morally condemnable and technically legal and still imprisonable offense, he could feel something deeper than the augmentation in his hands he could feel the fur. He could feel a vibration. He could feel the purr of the life.
When he came to he was in a cell he looked out the cage and on the wall saw in bold letters on the wall NEW DECISIONS. He was no longer being monitored by an algorithm and was once again the property of a corporation that received government contracts. He could feel the enzymes return to the task of breaking down the pills in his stomach, over the next four days he would experience the long slow natural taper of the Prodrugs release. He would then meet a general population of recovery interments. He would farm vegetables, sing songs, work a mortar and pestle for 8-hour shifts. Sleep in 48-hour shifts and watch reprogramming videos.
A month after he had been at new decisions Katie rainbows showed up. She looked plain and tired without her augmentation. She told him there was a RECeptor recall and she ended up getting sick and going to a darknet bar and buying some old school narc. She told him she was in an alley when she went analog and saw a package of advertisements turn into cats. She told Sherman she had been processed a thousand times and never heard of NEW DECISIONS. Sherman just smiled, he had been hearing stories about the cats from everyone. NEW DECISIONS was different than the other moral internment camps because instead of being given goals and days left in the program they all just waited around hoping for the morning announcement to announce a few random names as program graduates. Some releases were in for two days some who had been in for years suddenly were let go. no one knew the parameters of the program and many joked that their release was at the discretion of a strange algorithm. Katie joked that it was probably a room filled with cats that randomly chose the day’s graduates. Sherman prayed every day that the cats would choose to press the button with his name on it. He knew that as soon as he got out he would get the prodrugs find a bunch of ads and go analog again. He just wanted to feel the purring one more time.