I thought it was sheer noise of the clicking that made me stop from continuously flipping through the channels. The segment however, caught my eye before the clicking was far too overwhelming. The tv showed five people who chorused, “Welcome to the revival.”
Intrigued, I continued to watch.
A man from the group stepped forward folding his hands and recited, “Struggling to survive?” as the words appeared across the bottom of the screen.
The big, bold, white words slowly faded from my CRT TV onto an empty black screen, along with the man’s voice. All that could be heard was the ticking from my gray clock.
“Our team has been working and created a new implantable device, the brain activator device. It will help you surpass your pain and gain power back into your life,” the nameless man said quite cheerfully.
The words the team spoke connected directly to those who were engulfed by their struggles, but they targeted us, all of us. They targeted me.
The team, which is what they called themselves, started to list some of the conditions the device would treat.
“Depression,” the man on the far left quoted.
“Anxiety,’ the woman on his right added.
The man on the far right mentioned, “post-partum depression.”
The woman on his left added, “sensory overload.”
The man from the beginning finished the list by stepping forward and stating, “post-traumatic stress disorder,” with a smile on his face.
The final words, “we can end your pain and find you peace of mind,” ended the commercial on a positive note. My tv screen turned black, with my vacant stare reflecting back at me.
This product had been up in the air for a couple years. We all heard about it. We all talked about it, but this was the first time it was publicly announced. I shut off my tv and went on my way to work.
It was cold. My daily drink kept me warm, being made up of twenty-five percent liquid energy and seventy-five percent liquid courage. They both burned the same on the way down, it’s just that my mixture could have possibly gotten me terminated. Others, however, kept warm by using all their energy to spew hate towards a month of love. I often wondered how warm the world would have been if we used our energy to show love over hate. We’re able to adapt to temperatures, hot and cold, but never to others’ peace and happiness.
My walk to work was shorter than normal, only because the wind pushed me two steps forward after every step. So, I put my headphones on and let the wind motivate me towards my destination.
As the doors to my office building went around, I hopped in, took off my headphones, and pushed myself into another work day. Thankful that those doors cut us off from the outside noises, but annoyed that my ears wouldn’t pop.
“Mark, hey Mark,” I heard Tom yell to me, while he ran from down the hall. “Did you write in this card for Angelia?”
“Angelia…what’s going on?” I asked, with one eyebrow raised.
Surprised, Tom said, “You don’t know? She got the B.A.D. implantation a couple days ago. We’re sending her a card to let her know that she’s in our thoughts after her surgery.”
“Oh, I didn’t know, but I will,” I replied.
Tom handed me a big, cream-white card. I looked down and noticed a huge rainbow plastered on the front.
“She loves rainbows,” Tom smiled.
I opened the card to sign and wondered why my co-workers felt the need to send a card. I mean, she wasn’t sick, and the surgery wasn’t life-threating. Looking back, I suppose she was, as was the surgery.
In the card, were notes from all the employees in this windowless office. The notes ranged from “Hope you’re doing well” to “I can’t wait to see the change, warm wishes” to “I’m proud of you for being so brave” to “Hang in there, better days are coming.”
I wrote “You’re in my thoughts, Mark”. I never really knew what to say when writing in a get-well card. “Get well soon” is too generic, but anything more than that would’ve seemed as if I knew her personally, which I didn’t. I figured something short and sweet would be best. Angelia was in my thoughts not because of her surgery, but why she had it. Also, I didn’t know her that much, besides the fact that she had her daily coffee at exactly 9 a.m., no later or earlier. She was always hogging the coffee machine. It was if she didn’t know there was a line behind her waiting to wake their tired bodies up, just like her.
“Thanks Mark,” Tom said while taking up the card from my anxious hands. He and I continued with our days.
It wasn’t awful working at desk for the last 10 years, in the same small cubby, with no warm sunlight to provide me with Vitamin D, along with the blue light that shined from my computer screen ruining my eyesight. Infinite Gates, the business I worked for, did provide us a lamp that emits light similar to the sun. Except, it wasn’t the real ball of light we needed, but a plug-in lamp we used so we didn’t go crazy during winter. I was able to use my headphones during work hours if the office world got too loud. I had time to lurk around on different social media platforms. I guess that technically was my job, with a little fibbing. I knew I was a good graphic designer. I did design a logo for Moments after all. Working for a big named corporation has its perks, your work being shared publicly, along with its downfalls, them stealing your credit and your name.
The walk home that night was distressing. The bright yellow taxies kept blaring their horns because the taxies in front weren’t moving fast enough. Living in a big city wasn’t easy. There was no room to walk, drive, or stand without being in someone’s way. The billboards were continuously flashing advertisements for different products: “Do you want a thicker head of hair?” “Yes” I thought every time. Flip. “Ready to quit smoking?” “No” I knew. Flip. “This new Brain Activator Device will change your life, are you prepared?” “No” I thought. I wasn’t ready for yet another device to control my life, my computer did just fine.
Two weeks later, an 8 a.m. work meeting. The head of our office waved us to sit, “Attention everybody, I know that everyone is really excited and anxious for our next big project. A new company, which most of you already know, asked us to design a logo and website layout for their business. The team who created B.A.D. has asked us for our help. Anyone working on this project, will have the chance to meet with the team and create a design that will draw society’s attention. Angelia is willing to tell you her personal story, so far, with her implantation, so you could get a deeper emotion for this project. Also, those who are looking into getting the team’s new device, can speak directly with them and they can help transition you into the B.A.D.’s lifestyle. That is all, enjoy.”
New projects were exhilarating, they gave me an opportunity to get my work out into the world for everyone to see.
Tom stopped me, “Aren’t you excited to be working for such a new rising company? I know I am.”
Tom never gave me a chance to speak.
He continued without taking a breath, “I’m going to take advantage of speaking with the team, in hopes that they can help set me up with this new life reconstruction. Aren’t you?”
I replied, “Working on new art is exciting, but I haven’t felt a reason to need or want the implantation. I’m perfectly fine living under my own control.”
Slowly tom muttered out, “Yeah… I guess I get that, but there isn’t any shame in getting some extra help.”
It’s not the shame of getting help, but needing it.
The walk home was overwhelming, to say the least. The lights were blazing. The advertisements for B.A.D. were everywhere. Posters and billboards were plastered all over the city. That was more brain controlling than the device itself.
I’m not sure if it was the striking amount of advertisements that led me there, or that I had an actual issue. Either way I decided to get the same treatments as those with severe mental health issues.
The building, tall and grey, greeted me with its noiseless waiting room. The structure seemed as if it was plucked out of retro-futuristic TV show, and that’s when I should have realized I was sentenced to failure. Nothing good can come from pushing the future upon us.
Patients were given numbers. It wasn’t long after until I realized that these were our individualized numbers. I, number 3674322, realized that I was the 3,674,322nd anxious person to be sitting in this spot, waiting for a change. “Number 3674322, room 4 is ready for your visit with the team,” rang over the intercom. Not even a person to tell or show me the way.
I entered the poorly lit room, not ready for the questioning and its unbelievably claustrophobic size. The room was dark, with a long rectangular table and five seats, along with a TV bolted on the wall.
“Welcome” the team smiled. “Before we begin, you must fill out this paperwork.”
The questions ranged from “Reason for implantation?” to “What are some day-to-day issues that challenge you?” The last question being “Are you okay with the implantation never being able to be removed?” After filling out the questions, I was given a packet where I signed my life away. It felt more like a will than a liability wavier and questionnaire.
“Any questions?” asked the team.
I muttered concerningly, “Why is it not able to be taken out?”
“The danger relies on removing it from the brain. This device becomes part of it. Removing it can cause neurological complications that may be life threating,” they mentioned sternly, while picking up my papers. “We make sure to make it known that this is a life commitment,” the team added. “Is this something you’re willing to be fully committed to?”
I thought to myself that maybe this wasn’t the best option, considering I wasn’t completely sure why I was even here getting this implantation anyway. I was here though, I was clearly here for a reason, even if that reason wasn’t entirely known.
My mouth spilled out “Yes,” as water leaking from a cracked glass vase.
“Okay, let’s begin,” the team said, while I looked around at the team members. “We will play a short video on how this procedure will go and what will change after surgery,” the team explained while turning off the floor lamp.
The video was short, much shorter than I expected. It seemed as if the video was made short, because they weren’t even truly certain what this device was able to control and change.
When the video ended, they led me to a small room, where I was directed to lie down and focus on the yellow light.
“Focus on the light, we will take care of what’s next. You’re in good hands” the one team member said bending down and hovering next to my head. The team’s words, “We are going to be,” faded away slowly at first, “putting you into…” then all at once, due to the anesthesia being induced.
I woke up. I couldn’t feel my head. It was numb. I was numb. It was a two-day-two-night stay at this facility, just to make sure that everything went fine post-surgery. It did.
When I walked out of the building after the required stay, the world was much quieter. I didn’t feel any need to wear my headphones. I was ready to walk home admiring the world, without the pain of a thousand sounds it created. It was nice to walk home.
It was nice for a while. I walked to work for about two months without needing any headphones. I walked everywhere. I mean, I walked everywhere no matter what, that’s one of the downsides of living in a big city. It wasn’t a disadvantage anymore, it was a perk. I could walk without pain, and with freedom.
The team wasn’t wrong. It maintained its purpose. I did notice neighbors who seemed to be working towards living a better life. My neighbor, Jennifer, who had recently given birth was struggling. Who wouldn’t after delivering a new screaming infant into an already loud world. When walking to work one day, I noticed that she was smiling, truly smiling. The baby was sleeping peacefully in its carriage, with a pink blanket covering everything but its head.
She stopped me, “Hello,” she waved, “How are you Mark?”
“Hi, I’m well, how are you?”
“I feel much better. Isn’t she lovely?” she smiled, while pushing the carriage back and forth.
I grinned, “I am glad to see that you’re doing better. She’s stunning”
Jenn focused all of her attention onto her baby and gently smiled, “I should get going, I’m happy to hear you’re well. Don’t be a stranger anymore. You’re welcome to swing by anytime you’d like. Take care.”
“You too Jenn, glad to see Scarlet is brining you joy,” I said looking at Jenn, who never took her eyes off Scarlet.
On my walk to work one Thursday morning, I tripped. I tripped the system and lost control. As I got up from the ground, I heard ringing inside my ears. I looked around. The world was silent, but cars were moving, people were talking, but I couldn’t hear any of it. Then after being jerked by a teenager running down the street, I fell to my knees from the enormous wave of noise that rang straight through my ears. The world got louder and brighter. For a second, I could see what the world really looked like, grey, cold, and loud from the people walking, talking, and hitching rides from taxies. That sight disappeared and went back to the world being full of color, warm, and silent. That happened from time-to-time. I realized it was an issue, but every time I noticed it was an issue, the device took over and made the world look like a better place.
With the winter came snow and agony. In late December, I spotted my neighbor walking down the street. One second she appeared to be wearing an army green jacket with black ripped jeans and dark brown combat boots, staring at the non-existent sun. A moment later, I could truly see her shaking and shivering while wearing a black t-shirt and shorts, trying to walk. She was freezing to death without even knowing it. I walked up to her.
“Anne, how are you?” I muttered concerned.
“I’m great Mark, I’ve never felt better. The sun is radiant. My sleeping schedule has gotten much better. I’ve been going to the gym. My life has been changed. Have you gotten it? Of course, you have. Everyone has. It’s a life changer.”
Throughout the conversation, my sight of Anne switched back and forth from seeing her wearing her green jacket to her wearing a black t-shirt.
I ran home after talking with Anne, so overwhelmed and nervous from what my eyes had been seeing and what this device had been deceiving me to see. While running to my house, I slowed down, because I noticed Jenn, red faced and smoking a cigarette.
“Jenn,” I cried out.
“Mark, how lovely to see you,” she said with sweet, somber tone.
I noticed Scarlet was pale and screaming for a mother’s help. Jenn looked skinny, smoking her cigarette. Her eyes were crimson, bloodshot, and puffy, like the clouds. I turned my head, rather quickly, and it altered my perception. Jenn was now holding a pencil to write in her notes, with her clear, blue-sky eyes, rocking her baby’s carriage. Scarlet was sleeping, peacefully.
I ran. I left. I didn’t know what else to do. My body was shaking as if on vibrate. I ran straight to that dreadful tall, grey building that hid those who promised change, a good change. There were a few of us standing outside the building, banging on the doors.
One of the men standing here, waiting to see the team, turned to me and asked, “What happened?”
“I fell, what happened with you?” I questioned pulling my hand away from the door.
“Slipped on some soap in the shower. Crazy isn’t it?” he replied.
“Yeah,” I muttered, raising my fist back to bang on the door.
The news turned on from a tv inside the building. The livestream being broadcasted showed a young reporter, inside the building, stating that a mass suicide had taken place. The team couldn’t handle the failure of themselves and their product.
We stood and waited for help that never showed. No one came out to face the crowd. No employees, police, nor any other emergency services ever showed up. That could have been due to the device that altered everyone’s perception, except us who suffered while the device glitched. One by one, as sunlight faded to moonlight, we went home. I, being one of the last to leave, worried what would happen now.
It seemed to have become a trend to get the B.A.D., just like the newest iPhone. Why do we only want products simply because others have them? Is that our downfall? It seems to have been that way, in this case. People started to get the implantation not just because they struggled, but because everyone was speaking about how their life has drastically changed in a positive way. They didn’t though. The device started as a “fix” to your main problem, which was the reason why you got the implantation. Then it started to fix other problems. It found new problems that we all individually had. This device has a mind of its own.
I wasn’t the only one who had problems with the device. We are all here. We all are struggling to survive, because of a device that was supposed to fix us. It shouldn’t have taken catastrophe to be grateful to hear 1,000 sounds of the world. Silence can be deafening.
“Men Against Fire” Black Mirror, season 3, episode 5, Zeppotron and House of Tomorrow, 21 October 2016.
This episode of Black Mirrors helped me gain a perspective on how the device, in this show, changed the appearance of certain people. It was a good episode to pick for my story, because at the end of the episode it shows what the person with the implantation would see without the device. That correlates with my story, because the main character, along with other patients of B.A.D., start to get technical glitches with their implantation just like the main character of “Men Against Fire”. This episode also shows the same ringing sound that Mark, in my story, hears when he is hit and his implantation starts to glitch.
Patrick Somerville, creator. Maniac. Parliament of Owls, Rubicon TV, Anonymous Content, and Paramount Television, 2018.
I watched this tv show series to see how they designed their buildings. I felt that they way they designed their buildings, in a retro-futuristic style, was exactly the same style of building I am trying to present in my story.
Steve Golin and Anthony Bregman (Producers), & Michel Gondry (Director). 2004. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. United States: Anonymous Content and This is That.
I watched this movie to get a sense of information on the way their backgrounds and office buildings were laid out. I didn’t find that the way these movies scenes presented were the right fit for my story. The movie’s office building, where the patients would talk about why they wanted their memory erased, seemed more simplistic than what I am trying to create in my story.
Leah Malarkey is an Early Childhood and Elementary Education major and a reading minor at Wilkes University. She graduated with an Associate degree from Luzerne County Community College. Leah volunteers at various peace camps during the summer. She hopes to become a successful author and educator.