Betamorphosis

Adam woke from a deep sleep to the noise of his alarm echoing through his apartment. It was the serene sound of expensive bottled mineral water being poured over a smooth rock in rural Japan; just one of eight billion alarm and alert sound options available. He lazily fished his iThimble from his pyjama pocket and swiped the air above his head from left to right, stopping the alarm just at the good part where the water goes ‘shhhhlllllooop’ in an incredibly peaceful and contemplative way.

He sat up in bed and with another flick of his finger opened the blinds. The sun was creeping over the city’s skyline, glinting alluringly on the chrome surface of an enormous fruit-shaped colossus in the heart of the sprawling metropolis. Adam grinned to himself as he clicked his fingers to initiate his iWall.

The giant figures appeared instantaneously beside the window; gleaming white lettering in a familiar font that was at once playful yet professional, like a dog wearing a necktie. The display told Adam it was just after 7:30, on September 1st 2024. The wall also told him that the temperature outside was a crisp nine degrees Celsius, that the Japanese markets had taken a six-point hit overnight, and that today was Jessica Biel’s cat’s birthday (Swipe left to send e-card).

Adam wiped the sleep from his eyes and smiled languidly at the tiny black orifice at the centre of the wall. He held his finger aloft and pushed it down in a clicking motion, eliciting a brief flash from the other side of the room.

“Post to all media,” Adam spoke aloud to the room, “with caption: Big day today. Exclamation mark.”

Climbing out of bed, he continued,

“Bring up Facebook feed.”

The wall shimmered into bluish life as the text appeared in front of him. He saw instantly at the top of the wall the picture he had taken seconds earlier, underneath which was written,

“Big gay today!”

“Christ,” he muttered, “you need to sort out that bug.”

The screen shimmered once more into a garish flashing advertisement for insect repellent. Adam shook his head and headed for the shower.

After catching up on Tweets over breakfast (seven of his followers were eating muesli too), Adam headed for his garage. He tapped the thimble lightly with his thumb and the door of his iCar slid open noiselessly.

“Apple Headquarters,” Adam intoned to the car’s interior as he sat back into the ergonomic seat. The machine purred to life and rolled out of the garage into a streaming line of identical white monoliths, sleekly gliding their way along the road. Suddenly a black blur zoomed by in the outside lane, causing Adam’s car to shake violently in its wake. Adam swore under his breath.

“Typical Android driver.”

At around 9 a.m., after a brief detour via the headquarters of an MMA gym chain called Grapple, Adam arrived at his destination and rolled into a parking bay. As he got out and swiped the alarm on, he craned his neck to look up at the giant apple-shaped complex that dwarfed the surrounding buildings. He took a deep breath and headed for the front door, swiping his hand left as he walked straight into the polished glass. Staggering backwards he sighed to himself as he swiped right and gingerly walked into the cavernous interior.

The building was a bustling hive of activity. Workers in identical black turtlenecks swarmed and scurried to and fro. Some carried tablets and phones; some were wearing the new iGlove; some even had an ocular device fitted, the iEye Patch, that hadn’t been officially released yet. Adam approached the vast chrome tablet that served as the reception desk and placed his thimble on top. His photo appeared on the screen, along with his personal details and Apple purchase history. A mellifluous voice issued from the display.

“Good morning Adam. Please proceed to the iLab. Follow the ambient blue lights.”

Adam looked down at the floor to see a gleaming network of differently coloured tracks, and with a brief gulp of trepidation set out on the blue path.

When he stepped out of the elevator onto the iLab floor he realised he was at the very top of the enormous structure, inside the precipitous leaf of the apple which looked out over the entire cityscape. This vertiginous position did nothing to calm his nerves, and he walked straight ahead, trying not to gaze out through the clear glass walls that enclosed him. He recognised the iDoc sitting at the desk as the man who had handled his application procedures.

“Good morning, Adam,” the man beamed at him as he approached. He smiled knowingly at him, “Don’t worry about the nerves, it’s normal. You’re in good hands.”

Adam nodded silently.

“Well, if you’re ready we can begin straight away,” the doc continued, gesturing towards a chrome door with iTheatre printed on it. Adam took one last look down at himself, as if storing a mental image, then nodded once more and followed the man through the door.

~

When Adam emerged from sleep for the second time that day it was not an alarm that woke him, but an uncomfortable feeling of dull pain that throbbed throughout his entire body. He groggily surveyed the white walls and shining surfaces that surrounded him as he came to his senses. Just then the doc entered the room, his smile even broader than before. Instantly text began to appear beside him: details of his professional history at the company, links to his social media profiles, lists of recently consumed iMeals and the last iBooks he had read. Adam blinked and shook his head but the text remained.

“It’ll take a while to get used to, I know,” said the doc reassuringly.

“Can I see a mirror?”

“You can do one better than that. Just activate your camera and take a selfie.”

Adam had no sooner heard the word and begun to think of a command when a tiny camera buzzed into sight from his right shoulder and whirred into life. Instantly a picture appeared in Adam’s view, shimmering in front of the doc as if it were imprinted in Adam’s very eyes.

Adam sat perfectly still, mouth open, as he inspected the high-quality image of himself he had just taken. Beside him the doc droned on, “…world’s first iHuman…revolutionary optical interface…the luckiest man alive…” but Adam wasn’t listening. He was transfixed by the image that still occluded his view, and struggled to recognise the person depicted in its flickering pixels. His torso was now a gleaming black surface, illuminated with a soft white light. His hands had been replaced by advanced iGloves, covered in sensory nodes and fixed with their own small screens. His face was a gleaming mass of chrome, a slim black screen covering his eyes. As Adam’s head fell to the pillow as he fainted into unconsciousness, he thought he could hear a voice in his head warning him about low battery.

~

The next few weeks went by in a dreamlike blur. Adam spent a few days with Apple technicians learning the nuances of his iOS and troubleshooting some technical difficulties. There were problems with the Angry Birds holograms that had to be ironed out, his battery had to be replaced after a leak, and there was a hardware issue that caused the pre-loaded U2 album to play continuously in his head for six hours.

After this came a whirlwind tour of the media circuit, during which Adam was dragged from talk show to podcast, performing tasks on demand to the amazement of onlookers. All of his public appearances began with the same act: he would be encased in a sleek white box, and would break out of it and stand for photographs, after which he would be induced to play YouTube videos and take selfies with fans for hours at a time. The battery fitted to his back was so heavy that staying on his feet for any extended period of time amounted to torture.

By the time three weeks had gone by most people had lost interest. A Sony team in Japan had used lasers to turn the moon into a giant Twitter feed, and the tech journalists soon lost interest in Adam. People would point and laugh at him in the street as he trudged along, updating their feeds with pictures of him dragging behind him his worn cables that already needed to be replaced.

Facebook campaigns began to see who could be the first person to crack his screen. His Twitter page was swamped with abusive messages. He couldn’t walk anywhere without blaring personalised advertisements at passers-by, a term stipulated by his contract. One afternoon he was badly beaten by a group of dock-workers to whom he had advertised an erectile dysfunction remedy based on their internet search history.

It was a month to the day after the procedure that Adam sat in his darkened apartment, wondering what he had been thinking to have embarked on such a foolish endeavour. He ran his digital hands over the top of his head, feeling the cold metal of the speaker jack that was embedded there. He looked down at the giant cable that was presently charging his battery, entering his body through what the iDoc had described as “the only orifice that it was practical to use for the charging port”. As Adam sat and watched the battery life seep into him, he felt utterly hopeless. There was only one thing to do.

~

The next morning Adam returned to the Apple Headquarters and met with the iDoc. The doc frowned as he listened to Adam’s request.

“You know Adam, I only ever mentioned this as a last resort. It’s entirely theoretical, we have no idea if it will work.”

Adam was resolute, “I don’t care, I can’t take it anymore. Just do it.”

The doc nodded with resignation and looked forlornly at Adam. He balled up his face and hid it with his hands as tears glistened in his eyes.

“I always wanted to be a father,” he whispered breathlessly as he got up and walked disconsolately from the room.

~

This time there was no pain when Adam became aware of his consciousness. He felt a euphoric sensation as he quickly assimilated his surroundings and adapted to them. He felt as if he were floating in an ether, a dense fog of data that enveloped and embraced him. He needed only to think of a web address, and he was there. He drifted through the bytes and pixels, gliding from one page to another, feeling as one with all of the information that it was possible to consume. He could not look down at himself, for he had left his earthly body. He was now pure data, moving with the ebb and flow of the internet itself as part of the cloud he inhabited. It was an indescribable feeling of liberation, and one that he immediately felt like sharing. His consciousness coasted through a shining blue tunnel and arrived at Facebook, and he began to type.

~

The doc sat at his desk in front of his glowing laptop, smiling sadly as he closed his Facebook page. He opened another window that brought up a map of a huge Apple facility in San Diego; a giant warehouse used for cloud storage. As the building came into view the doc raised his hand to the screen and trailed his fingers down the image.

He paused for a moment, then closed his laptop and walked out into the starry California night. He walked for what seemed like hours, until he came to a bridge over the bay. He looked up at the sky and took a deep breath. He tore his Apple name badge from his immaculate white lab coat and threw it into the water, then turned and walked purposefully away, a wry smile fixed on his face as the moon shone down on the rippling waters of the bay.

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