And that would have ended it. If I would have just sliced two inches below my left knuckle. Just two inches. Digging into the crevice between my index finger and thumb, as the commanding officer braced me just two years back. Could you imagine what life would be like now? Yeah, that’s a good question. Ah, I can still recall the operational orders, the preparation of the subdermal injection, peeling of the plastic flesh of the container. He called it a blessing in disguise, an enchanting root back to the good old days–I can see it now. If, that is, I would have plucked it out. That certainly would have stopped the incessant throbbing, the eerie flow of translucent radio frequency urging me to go on. It told me to continue, to “embrace the suck,” while I felt my life crumpling like the infamous motto. I can feel it. I can hear it. I can see it. “You’ll be stronger, more powerful, more prepared to brave the enemy,” the new officer declared, giving his new ego a test at the embellished officer life. This would be his first briefing on some sort of technology he had no clue about. Gotta love the new guys and their polished look on life.
Colonel Burkmen paces around the beige musty classroom, pointing at an RFID diagram, the way an anatomy professor would glare at a slice of decaying human flesh under a microscope. The rice size spec of metal stares back at us from his superior throne, as if we were the humans bowing down to his power. “Radio frequency technology, gentlemen,” as Colonel Burkmen clamps onto a fresh batch of radio frequency transistor in between his fingertips. The light shines off the cold metal antenna. “I want you all to be familiar with this little guy, from the antenna to the inner core, understand we have been issued combative RFIDS and understand they will be implanted by 15:00 tomorrow- oh, and Smith you’ll be helping me on this mission, got it?” In all reality though, I can tell he’s just proud he was able to memorize a few parts of that glorified chip: the capacitor, the memory, the antenna. He’s really proud of the fact that he knows the difference between an active and passive device. Oh, and don’t get me started on all the glorious benefits- benefits my ass. Cheap production costs. In fact, he doesn’t realize I read about them in the wee hours of the night. For $200 an installation and connective test, we would be lucky enough to receive an insane bargain. Oh. Increase shot accuracy. Substantial focus. Reliable force support. Imperative security. It was practically a self- proclaimed infomercial at this point. But most importantly (this is when googly eyes really popped out of his tiny skull) Russian destruction. All of which were false, extremely false actually. He doesn’t know. Not one bit.
“Understood, Smith?” he shouts in a gradually increasing tone, while the vein perching above his baby face grew larger. Thirteen pairs of eyeballs snap sharply towards my direction, waiting for my monotone, metallic voice to adhere to their fake response about some brand new flakey technology. Back when “End of the Road” used to blare over the speakers, and flip phones filled our pockets, we didn’t have tiny microscopic villains throbbing inside our skin. No more buzz one: the preparatory command- aim. Or the sudden onset of buzz two- focus. Or the one that seems to linger more, after each reply- fire. With each command I am given, I begin to quiver and lose sense of my surroundings.
I wonder if they remember- if these men remember what it’s like to form an individual opinion? To move without mirroring the one in front of him and the one of front of him. To think without replying, or firing, or doing? My brain breaches every thought and impulse I want to make on my own. It’s the ringing, the ringing that you’re wrong. And it’s the ringing that clamors to disobey what your internal mind begs, but the group agrees your idea won’t suffice. Yet, this wouldn’t be an issue- or would it? I say if the war on technology would have been solved three years later, and Russia wouldn’t have advanced- and you and I would live happily ever after, right? The minor bug would have been solved, America would triumphantly trek back from Uzbekistan, people would respond to their own brain–not unforgiving responses of what appears to be hundreds of Alexa Echo responses. The implant’s voice comforts me, as if I were at home, practically as if I were at home. Will Burkmen ever rid me of this sin? Will he know I cheated the system?
“Take your seat, at ease”, as Burkmen tries to tidy up his apparent mess of a desk. Classified documents line the entire desk. Poorly written Commander reports line the entire surface of the desk, sketched out in dismissible ink. Yep, that’s another typo. Delete the comma there. What even- is that a word? Upside down papers. Please don’t try and hide the coffee stain on that stack, sir. Could you imagine what the civilians think of the Special Forces? Underneath the dozen shred pile papers, in the top right corner of the once desk, he easily manages to find a plastic sealed envelope. Mark this day down in history everyone. He hands me over the thick government packet, waiting for my hands to open its overly sealed packaging. It is as if they purposely are reading my mind. Do you think our own military hacked my pre-implanted chip? I mean I know this is shady and partially illegal, but would you want to know your family is protected? Wouldn’t you want to be taken back to the times of peace, times of live, times of less advanced technology? They probably know Jen and I already placed our own implants in way before the war began… I can sleep at night knowing I heard my children giggle over the frequency, or I can rest easy knowing life at home may actually be dandy. But the government will never know of my intentions. We shall keep it this way, okay? Now. Shhh…
He finally reaches over the assortment of papers on his desk and hands me a crisp white envelope, “CLASSIFIED: HUMAN RADIO FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION”. The excessively bold print grabs my attention. What grabs my attention even more is the package! The right bicep vein on my right forearm pops out a bit more, just trying to hold the materials- the joy of overt government security, right? But I suppose it ought to be that way. The amount of increased border security, base security, security, security, security… flourished after the brief declaration on WWIII just two years back. Russia would deem itself to be the dominating force over the United States ever since the unloved dictator (dating back from 2018, the deliberate joint of Russian arms) would side with the enemy. Here I am still struggling with my own enemies- but you got to give the people what they want, right? Without thinking, without knowing he sold us to the wayside. Thus, the implantation of voices transported into our bodies. I had to put the implant in myself, I need to contact my family. But I know Burkmen is up to no good. It’s for evil I tell you. He’s going to come in, realize I am communicating with my wife and family back at home (which is clearly against operational orders) and robot me. Yes, robot me. For all you civilians, basically he’ll program me to kill. To live with a life of buzzing or to die on my own? Is this the PTSD causing me pain or the buzz after buzz each day? Thus, the reasons why I tremor in pain at night, thus the reason why images of fond family time emerge in my dreams. And as much as I try to control the beeps, the relentless voices, the urging voices telling me my every move, I cannot any longer. I succumb to the idea that I am more machine than I am human. More cognizant of voices. Desensitized to any emotion. Could you imagine what Jen would think of me now? I can tell they will find out. I can tell.
Thank God my commanding officer can’t hear my thoughts, not that he would think I am crazy, but yeah maybe I am. Not using his lessons in situational awareness (I’m assuming he also fell asleep during this briefing) he knocked over his slightly chipped camo mug. Sealed inside the adhesive gel, lines a durable double zippered pouch with Burkmen’s new pride and joy. The roughly 3-millimeter antenna protrudes on the chip’s end, also conveniently wrapped in another layer of unnecessary bubble wrap, duct tape, gel adhesive, and a thin layer of StayPut. Simultaneously, a voice appears. The programmed voice utters off the piece of metal into tiny photos desiccating into existence. “Hello Eric, what can I do for you?” She’s good with her pronunciation, not overly emphasizing the ‘I’ in Eric, nor stumbling over the transitions in between each word. Jen? Jen, honey? No pauses, either. Quite refreshing. She’s gotten much better from the first Google 2017 version. More human like. More realistic. She calls to me like those old school Alexa’s used to. Cracking jokes on the kitchen table. Wake up calls at 0530, telling me it’s time to wake up for my all-time favorite WOD: Cindy. Nightly trivia games with Jennifer, while she was pregnant with our first child Patriot. The RFID still embedded in the box knows me, funny how I thought I used to know me better. But I can’t blame him the US technology and the familiar bond we now share. And Jen! I wonder what Jen would say right now? Can she hear this over the frequency? Has the nightly routine of trivia been amassed for over the past 7 years? Does Pat babble the words back to that old Alexa model? Da-ddy. Safe-ty. Cam-o. Oh man, his vocabulary must be much more diverse now. Does he still dress up in those same GI Joe costumes? I wonder if he wants to be like his daddy one day.
The connection seems to be impaired.
And it’s broken.
As much as the technology has drawn me further away from my own human roots, I must admit its drawing me closer and closer to a new familiar happiness—the happiness of home. Can I carry on without them communicating to me? Will I be able to go on without the? Hmm. Maybe I don’t even want to contact my family. Maybe it’s better off that way. Did they even like contacting me? Stop it head. Stop thinking.
The new RFID still remains in the compact carrier, smiling back at me, waiting to be discovered. I bet he’ll discover the old one. Burkmen even catches a quick glimpse of our moment together, the memories come back now. “Hey, take a look at this and let me know what you think,” as he holds out another funky mystical machine. The reader, I’m guessing. My reflection stares back at me in this toaster sized contraption. Hi again. Remember me? Those wrinkles were mere lines before, more manageable of course. Spurts of grey must have appeared on my dry scalp, not too long ago either. Looks like mom can’t use the buzz cutters on number 4 anymore- wherever she is. Two parallel lines must have been the extent seven years ago, now a war broke out my face. She always told me how smooth my skin was despite everything I “put up with”. Dark circles. Criss cross craters are now forever ingrained in my forehead. And the two comma shaped ones bridging near my once smile- gone, but never forgotten. Her smile’s long gone now. Hey. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to that, don’t you say? There’s so many reasons as to why I should decline right now, harboring mind control to an already distorted mind is terrific. I suppose. I suppose the tugging of myself in one direction, and then one in the other is normal too. It’s the feeling of sacrificing yourself for the good of others, without putting your own emotions at the forefront of the world. That describes the nightly terrors of men shuttering with PTSD symptoms, the surge of cold budding within every inch of your human flesh trenched deep in snow at 0350 am. To think about the innumerous counseling sessions, the startled terrors in the night over gun shots continues to feud inside me I know it’s the worst, but I can’t help but yearn for the best. Maybe the magical computerized controllers will aid me- I’ll speak to them again through the brand new one. We will be okay. We will be okay.
I keep having the electrical impulses of the old RFID chip rattle through my body, even though I thought it died. Jen’s voice appears once more. The pauses in her words grow stagnant now. It’s not the old, familiar version I was aware with. Not anymore. She doesn’t light up with that preprogrammed buzz, the way she distinctly waits to respond before helping you. Stop it mind. Stop it. She is always aware. Always the voice of reason, my reason before the world went numb, before technology had to be encoded in your body. Ticking and ticking and signaling by a frequency some several miles away. Until they deceived us, situating tags in our own bases, our own living quarters, our own homes, miles and miles away. Scan me like a bar-code at the old fashioned grocery stores. All before you and I were pre-programmed. But you didn’t notice that did you?
Burkmen places the new hardware within inches of my eyes, as if he were a bushi bowing before his final match. His intentions are known for once, acting in spite of his disastrous ways. Impressive. The sharp LED lights hanging squarely above his desk, bounce off his uncaged eyes. His box of “goodies”: the connector, the plug in, the radio frequency detector mimics his moves. Aware of their fate, but unaware of mine. They face me in a line, as if they were waiting to be chosen, which weapon will do its job the best. “Pick me”, “Hey- no! Pick me!” Their faces appear like a distant memory, calling like a distant memory. It’s the birth of a child. The warm glow of the sun, sitting upon your shoulders, like your son’s most favorite piggy back ride. A floating woman now is in full view, with wispy waves of twirly brown curls brimming the nape of her neck. A soft, yet distinct subtle response reassures me. Her strong embrace enthralls me, begging me to stay as I leave for my second deployment. A brave young boy embracing the military brat lifestyle is entranced in his father’s ways. He’s aware of the unknown, but appreciative for his new lifestyle he has yet to embrace.
Burkmen sturdily grips the handles on his chair, lunging out of his desk before I could resort to a punch to his left and a jab to the right. Is this what the 24-day training taught me? Two C.O.’s strap me in, preparing me for the worst. The injector giggles back at me, like Jennifer would when I told her a cheesy joke, or the Alexa trying to quiz me on a random topic. The old circuit is cut. I can tell. No more old memories. No more of the past stories. No more, no more. The twists occur there and pulling at the thin layer of skin underneath my skin begins to end. Could everything that seems so wrong, inevitably go right? He confidently responds in that familiar tone, making sure nothing goes wrong for the future. That lovely lingering tone hovers over me drawing closer and closer.
As he places the new implantation in, aware of my old one, even though it is dead, he knows. He can already tell I’ve been crossing the government’s plans even before the mass impanation occurred. Jen’s voice–yes my wife–surges in my body telling me to go, urging me to seek refuge, away from Burkmen’s technological wrath. If you want to know a secret, we hacked the database and installed our own products way before the military told me so.
He takes out the old and places the new one in.
He glances at my wrist and already knows what I’ve done. I’ve done a very bad thing, we’ve done a very bad thing. The new RFID whizzes and whirls, shocking my body all over again.
“Hello, Eric, what can I do for you,” that familiar voice appears again.
And I’m home.