Carol, who deals in Boxes [Short Story]
I looked up above at the nebulous vortex that grew and spiralled above my bedroom window and let out a long groan, the kind of groan that feels like it swells like concrete from the base of your stomach, Gurgling slowly upwards like some horrendous snake.
This was it, this was the moment I had waited for so long for, singularity – apocalypse by any other name, the great unveiling, a whole new world opening out into an infinite horizon, light floods into everything, I close my eyes and let it flood over me.
Just another night in the Box, just another night. Then boom, it kicks in and I’m…..
Carol was 15 when she first jacked into the boxes, 18 when she proceeded to cranial input, 20 when she finally transcended, 34 when she started to lose track, her memory growing fuzzier than the background radiation of the dead stars looping infinitely on TV sets. But it’s always in the static that something eventually emerges, as Carol lay cold and stiff on a metallic table, eyes blacker than black holes, and staring into endless fractal oblivion.
“This one’s an interesting case to start you on with Sid – young woman, 34 years old found jacked in and mind-phased in her room, left for dead it would seem by whoever she counted as friends’, ‘Might be a good one to start you off with buddy, a clean dive, all safe of course, you’ll get to swim in her memory, like the training said. Find a memory of something concrete and powerful and try to get her to focus on that, that’s always a safe bet on your first dive, sage advice if you don’t mind me tooting my own horn!”
Sid looked down, a feeling of unease and disquiet descended upon him, his usual nervous disposition intensified, the awareness that he would soon be jacking into this young woman’s mind, into a living, breathing beings most private space – her brain, her thoughts, her loves, her hates, every lost moment, every disappointment, every passing joy and echo of laughter would be his to explore and experience. All to find a way to bring her back, back from the limbo nightmare she now inhabited in the meta-space of box death. A fate worse than death, alive but lost in an unending dream or endless nightmare of the matrix of the self.
He was afraid, afraid of this depth of that responsibility. But he knew he had to be brave, he had chosen this path, 4 years of intense Meta-space training had led him to this moment. He had to be strong, had to wipe that sweaty brow, steady those trembling hands, breathe.
“Ready to dive in?” The Box Technician asked
Sid just nodded and took a deep breathe..
Sid felt the extending cord rip into his cortex like a drill stabbing into wet flesh, jolting for a second and before the pain came, the pain, it was unreal, like nothing he’d ever felt before, a lightening bolt of energy flying through his head, his spine, his very being. “Shit! Shit! something’s going wrong” Sid heard the panic in the Tech voice, but Sid couldn’t concentrate on anything now but the intense pain, screaming as white noise filled his head, “What the fuck!, What the fuck!” the Tech screamed once again, louder this time. Shut it off, shut it of Goddammit! I will not lose another trainee!”. The pain lowering down to each limb, extending out like some kind of digital crucifixion. “I’ve , I’ve never seen this “ The tech mumbles , the two minds are, are …. Merging?!” What the fuck is happening to his body! His fucking eyes man, turn this goddamn thing off, you fucking idiot, turn it off”.
Then the pain stopped, and the lights finally went out.
“Hello” says a quiet female voice,
“ughhhh, where am I”? Replied Sid in thought
“You’re in our head” She responded
“Hello world and Welcome to the box, Carol” She said again, giggling quietly…
‘Sid obtains the feeling of awakening’
“What’s going on, who are you!”
“No I’m not Carol, I’m Sid!”
“Where is my body, what’s going on?!”
Oh you don’t need bodies in the box, Carol”
“Who are you”
“I’m Carol 2”
1 Carol + 1 Sid = Carol 2
Sid looks around the space he know inhibited, if it could be called ‘space’ in the conventional sense, staring down he saw no body, no matter to represent himself, simply an infinity of geometric shapes crashing and recombining around him, thought represented as matter, shapeless, formless space, a dreamscape of truly endless proportions. “Aren’t you glad we bought ourself here” the female voice sounded again, it was soft, calm, motherly, and Sid felt strangely comforted by it.
Why are you calling me Carol? Carol is the woman I was bought here to save, I am Sid, I was in the tech lab ready jacking into her box to her life, she’s on the precipice of complete brain death, another sad victim of serious box abuse and addiction, do you know what that is?”
“Of course I do” the female voice responded, quite angrily this time. “I’m sorry” Sid said instantly, realising that he must be talking to Carol herself as he came around to fuller consciousness, “You must be Carol’s Subconscious”.
“No, that’s not right! We are Carol Carol, I am Carol and so are you!” Carol responds
The shapes and atmospheres of the mental space projecting from Carol’s mind began to morph now, the light getting progressively duller, bright geometric shapes replaced with more amorphous organic threatening and shifting dull blocks, she was obviously starting to get distressed.
“Please Carol, please try to relax, I am here to help” Sid tried to reassure her
“You don’t even realise what’s happened, do you Carol 1?”
“Try to remember I am Sid Carol, I’m here to wake you up, to help you return to your waking life, it’s very important that you trust me”
“Ha” Carol snorts, the shapes in the meta-space now morphing into strange cartoon like forms shifting in and out of existence and taking on an entirely harsh and hallucinatory aspect.
“You don’t even realise what has happened, you have no idea do you Carol 1?”
“Ok, Carol, tell me what is going on so I can help you” Sid says softly now, so as not to upset her more.
“The one you call Sid is dead, integrated into my meta-space, you do yet not realise the true nature of the meta-space and we must share the joy of mine with everyone we meet, it’s time to extend our meta-space meme style into the CyberCube, infect all that we meet with Box love, I deal in boxes Carol 1, and it’s time we spread our boxes to all who seek the truth”.
“What’s happened to him, What could cause that kind of extreme reaction in a subject? can you seek his consciousness on the mind-phase machine?” Lucer Enquired, angrily pacing up and down in the lab, staring intensely at the tech and Sid’s burnt out and broken husk of a body, still smouldering and warm on the box unit.
“I can’t find his signal Lucer, I’m sorry but it appears he’s gone” the tech replied, sheepishly. “But how is this possible?” Lucer responded in shock, sitting down to compose himself. “How can it be that a healthy docker, physically and mentally fit, fucking spontaneously combusts on his first fucking dive, I mean Christ the smell, talk to me, talk to me, or I’ll be holding you personally responsible on account of gross negligence”
“Ok, Ok, just let me run some diagnostics on Carols Box – She appears to be fine according to the read-outs on the Mind-Phase Machine, perfectly reasonable heart rate, normal mental functions, it’s like the energy released was somehow just in one direction, like, well I can find no other words for apart from ‘spontaneous physic combustion’. I’ve seen people getting shocked with dodgy box units before but nothing like this, not even with a really really bad am job.”
“I don’t care what it takes, fucking well find out what caused it, or its your ass, your job and mine probably with it” Lucer grunts, his steps heavy as he walks hurriedly out of the dense, cloistered and stinking metallic room, to leave the tech to do his testing.
‘Fuck’ thinks Lucer, I will not enjoy writing the report for this one.
“What do you mean I’m dead? Carol, I’m here to help you, and what was all that about a Meme viruses? I’ve read about them Carol, they’re just an urban legend, a scare story told by the neo-luddites”
“Let me show you Carol 1, it will all become much clearer if we just manifest the truth in this meta-space, we have much to do, and I can’t do this alone, you will be the first Carol 1, the first born of the chosen Carols”, Carol then blinks, or her abstract form at least approximates it, a graphical line violently inverting itself in and out.
The meta-space changes, dissolving walls surround the abstract Carol, cascading down in abstract light, as the scene dissolves into nothingness. A room appears, a dim room with a strange green neon light pouring window, a room full of various mind-phase machines, unfamiliar even to Sid, and a maze of wires and neon ambience.
“Do you remember this place Carol 1? It’s where we performed our best work, our masterpieces of mind design and meta-space development, we do remember this don’t we carol?” Sid’s abstract form stiffens and froze, he’d seen these before, hack-spaces, really underground mind-phase hacking stuff. “What did you do here Carol? What have you done? What is happening here, the more you tell me , the sooner we can get you out of this, I’m here to…”
“You don’t fucking get it, do we Carol! We’re both dead, well not dead in the traditional sense, we’ve transcended into pure information, you especially so Carol 1, We created this world in our room, remember!”
“Just remember, you are me, I am you, we are Carol, there is no separation here, no individuality, we are the future, and the future is a world of infinite possibility, infinite creativity! We are Gods, why bother with the world above when we can do this”
the mind-space suddenly clears and all that lights go out, again.
“Christ” thinks Greg, as he frantically explores the diagnostic logs and error print outs from today’s session, “what the hell happened today, I better find some way to solve what caused this disaster otherwise I’m gone”. Greg’s eyes scan the logs – Massive energy spikes of course on Sid’s side of the log, but strangely Greg notices nothing that seems out of the ordinary on Carols side, that was where the mystery must lie, he quickly glances over at her, still brain fried from the Box staring out into the nothingness with blank eyes – ‘never ceases to give me the chills, even after all these years’ he thinks to himself.
Maybe a physical examination of Carol will bear some fruit, best get the brain scanning kit for that, it’s going to be another long night…
Lucer pulls into the docker headquarters quickly, determined to file his report as quickly as possible, might even have to do a quick cover-up job on this one, after all, the DDA love a good fuck up, and the Neo-Luddites will have a field day if they find out about this. Lucer runs upstairs, ignoring his colleagues and pushing through to his desk, sitting at his chair, he prepares for the long and unforgiving night, a Stimuli-cap in hand and a pack of cigarettes to see him through to the end. “Greg better get in touch soon.” he mutters to himself before buzzing him through with a ASAP information request. A rap at the door – “where’s Sid?”
Sid loses his sense of consciousness for what seems like an eternity, lost in the depths of blissful unconsciousness before being jolted awake by the sight of blades of glass, light pouring in through the gaps, a warm day, probably late summer, in a nature clearing. His thoughts turn to ‘Where am I?’
“With me again Carol” the voice is different this time, the voice of an old man, drenched in wisdom, ‘Grandfather!’ says an unfamiliar young voice this time, “Grandfather please show me again, please!” says the voice again, a young girl probably about 8 or 10, but Sid whose vision was still blurry couldn’t seem to make out the source.
“Another day Carol, for now the CyberCube can wait, we have more important things to attend to my dear, like you going to bed young lady! It’s way past your bedtime already, your Mother would be so mad if she knew I let you stay up this late, you know what she’s like, no more filling her head with those junk stories, but alas I cannot help being that which I am – a humble old engineer filled with dreams…’
“You told me about them before Grandfather, tell me again what engineers do!”
“Another day Carol, another day, for now a bedtime story and then you must sleep, you have a long day tomorrow, remember?”
Sid’s vision returns but the scene and atmosphere has changed, a girl, probably about 12 sits crying in the corner of a unkemp bedroom. She is slight with thick rim glasses and mousy brown hair – posters adorning her small and untidy room, but not the posters one would normally associate with one her age, her room is covered in posters of great scientific figures – Einstein the revolutionary 20th century physicist , Carl Sagan the American educational figure and cosmologist, Alan Turning the English Computer Genius, Marie Curie the physicist, and then some more contemporary figures like Max Beckstein, the genius behind the CyberCube infrastructure and source code. Sid looks at the girl trying to determine what is upsetting her, he realises she can’t see him, and wonders why Carol is showing him all these memories. “What’s wrong?” He says, but she cannot hear, like a block of invisible concrete had fallen like a gulf between them.
The scene jumps forward some months and Sid hears two raised voices. The first – a soft female voice says “I don’t know what’s wrong with her Ted, she just won’t come out of her room”, “We need to talk to her otherwise we might need an, an, intervention”,
a male voice responds – “Don’t say those words to me , you know what they did to my Grandfather” “Sarah, it wasn’t the Cybercube that caused that, we’ve been through this, it was a combination of old age and”
“Shut up, shut up, I don’t want to hear this again, and I don’t want to disturb Carol either”.
Then everything faded slowly into static. Sid hears a buzz ringing like an open wound in his mind and everything fades into a wall of static.
“Carol I’m here to help, Carol I’m here…”
The knock comes again, “oh shit” thinks Lucer, not him already”
“Lucer! Let me in” says the Detective Superintendent knocking harder this time with impatience “I’ve heard what happened at the techs Lucer”
“Ok, gimme a second boss! Coming now” he responds sheepishly
Lucer head towards the door, tail firmly hanging in-between legs to deliver the awful truth.
“Why did you show me that Carol?” Asks Carol 2 , “I showed you, because I need you to understand where we have been so that you can understand where we are going”, All Viruses have their roots, and mine are in that place you saw, consumed by loneliness, brilliant and burning bright, I have resolved to never be alone again, with technology as the portal, our Promethean Fire from the God’s will spread amongst the men who are yet mortals!, making all in our image, Legion”
“That sounds a little Grandiose Carol… I’m here to bring you back to reality, you were found in comatose state, known as Mind-phased – it’s when someone’s conscious mind has been subsumed into the CyberCube, a swimming in raw consciousness at all times, a waking vision of chaos via technology…”, “I’ve no such time for such Prattle Carol 2, I must subsume you into myself, and spit you out into the CyberCube in all directions, Enough of this, Infinity awaits!”
Sid blinks for a few seconds, his looming fate unknown yet somehow obviously apparent, burgeoning fear growing like some black hole in his mind, the swallowing to come.
Carol’s form splinters and breaks into a thousand shards of dazzling light, her metaform exploding out with a divine light, her face scattered across the cybernetic aeons, she smiles, a laugh forming in ecstatic and insane joy across her broken face, the sounds of it reverberates over and over, the sound of her mania stretching throughout eternity, ringing though the borders. Then Turning her multi-eyes to Sid, he screams softly, an internal digital siren that rings though his nexus of nerves, and in that last final moment, he see’s.
All of it. And None.
It was all over. or had it ever begun? We’ll never know Carol, all there is now is us, and we are all we need, what need of we of anyone else, when there is just us, spiralling and expanding above the horizon, our shifting forms, encased and protected against the dark that dwells outside. The science of the soul, transmuted into the dirt of real. Space, God. The End.