I know what you think is cool. At least, I know what most people you know think is cool.
As your reading this, there a couple dozen hipster bars downtown filled with every new age vegan, animal rights activist and yoga teacher in town. Meditate, don’t work too much, minimize your life as best you can. I bet that even if you aren’t vegetarian, you still felt a rush of guilt the last time you bit into a burger.
It’s all about wellness these days, isn’t it? Become the best version of yourself? Am I Right?
Of course I am.
But let me tell you something. This self-discovery, personal well-being craze is temporary. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I assure you, it’s just like all the other fads that have come and gone. Like all things, it will end.
Trust me, we’ve already been through it here. I live somewhere so far ahead of the curve that it makes Silicon Valley look like its barely crawling out of the Stone Age.
So what comes next you ask? I bet you’d like to know.
Here’s your answer. But understand, it may not be exactly what you want to hear.
The day will come where self-maintenance is nothing more than a memory of something people used to do. When that void gets filled, you’d be surprised just how different things become. A whole new world of worries comes in to take its place.
You think kids have it bad these days? Bullying follow them home over social media you say? Wait until they have to go through shit like I did. Wait until its literally coming at them from inside their own heads.
The sky was black and the air brisk (exactly four degrees Celsius to be precise). Few stars hung in the sky above scattered smoky clouds. I was the only one out in the streets that night. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.
It was late November and the warm summer vibes had long faded away. Winder was coming and you could feel it in your bones.
I folded my arms through the front pocket of my sweater and pressed my chin into my collar. I kept my eyes on the ground, counting every block of the sidewalk as I passed.
I wasn’t meant to be out so late. I was supposed to be tucked in bed and sleeping like the good boy my poor father thought I was.
Problem is that good boys seldom got late night invitations like the one I received. And it’s hard to say no to something you so rarely get your hands on.
Sneaking out through the little window of my bedroom basement proved both terrifying and exciting. A week before, I would have never imagined myself having a reason to move through the streets so late at night.
A notification came. I closed my eyes, ready to overanalyze every single word.
Sure enough, it was from my favourite sender.
You almost here?
I chose not to answer. Like I could possibly be the one playing hard to get.
She wouldn’t hear from me again until I was right on her doorstep. I was less than a block away and soon would be around the corner and over the hill, into the sightline of her house.
But what exactly was I going to say? I researched and turned a few topics over in my mind as I approached. Nothing stuck.
Her house came into view. It was massive by anyone’s standards. The neighbourhood was filled with custom houses, each one tailor-made for the members of the Elite American society who resided. But hers stood out from all the rest. Her family is especially high up.
I had no business being there. My dad and I had no business even being in town. We were easily one of the poorest ones, living at the furthest edges of the outskirts.
But everywhere needed someone to do the dirty work. Dad said that if I didn’t keep my head on straight and the transmissions coming through, I would end up as shit-poor as him.
Something rustled in the dark alley between her house and the one next to it.
The hairs on my arms stood up. But that was the only reaction I willing to expend. I didn’t have time to be startled by obscure noises. I was too focused on the task at hand.
I stopped at the edge of her driveway, where the mansion loomed over me. There weren’t any cars. Unless one was parked in the garage, what Vela told me must have been the truth. Her parents were really out of town for the night. Trusting her made me feel secure, and for a brief moment, I was calm.
Only two lights were on inside that I could see. The main foyer, behind the glass-trimming of the door, and one room on the second level.
I took a breath. I had come too far to let the opportunity slip. It was going to be a pivotal night, defining of my teenage years. Everything was in my hands. Was it going to be a night to remember? Or the grand low point of my loser high school career.
I scanned my vitals. There was a long delay. Something flickered inside my head and the results came through.
Accelerated heart rate, high blood pressure. Consider rest from high-level cardiovascular activity. That’s the last thing it advised me before it clicked off.
I started my walk towards the porch. Halfway there, the handle turned on its own and the door creaked open.
The most beautiful girl I knew poked her head out from behind it. The light reflected the golden colour of her hair. I was just close enough to make the features of her face out.
Vela sat on the bottom steps of the stairs opposite the main hall. She was dressed in a black t-shirt reading Need More Sleep! A tight pair of grey yoga pants constricted her lower half. Her bare feet rubbed against the tile floor.
I turned to close the door gently behind me. I pressed my hand and then forehead flat against it. I tried to quickly check my vitals again, but the process failed.
It seemed my technology had failed me at the most critical time.
I left faint sweat marks on the door as I separated and turned to her. The house fell painfully silent. Like no one was even there.
I tried to remember the conversation topics I researched on the way over. I should have decided which one I was going to use before I even left my house. Panic set in as my mouth started to dry.
I was already blowing it.
“Thought you weren’t going to show,” she finally said. Her voice was so comforting. Like she empathized with my struggling and wanted to save me.
But still, I didn’t know what to say. This was something I had never done before. I was unfamiliar with the etiquette. I wasn’t capable broadcasting confidence or faking the impression that this was just a routine late-night visit to a hot girl’s house.
“No. Just got out to a late start. Waited til I was sure my dad was asleep,” I said as I started to untie my shoe.
“Well at least you made it one piece,” she said, chuckling. “Can I get you something to drink?”
I shook my head no as I started to untie the other shoe. I used to the wall for support as I did.
She shrugged her shoulders and stood up. Clearly, something about my presence in the house amused her.
“Alright then. Whenever you’re done here in the hall, I’ll be up in my room. Turn off the light down here before you head up, please.”
The butterflies fluttered in my gut. I hadn’t expected her to cut to the chase so quickly. The hours of thinking about all the small-talk I was going to make leading up the grand finale were out the window.
She accelerated us to the second stage already. I wasn’t even ready for phase one.
Her hips swayed from side-to-side as the climbed the stairs. She ascended with steps that were calculated to be both elegant and efficient. The pants were right against her, perfectly displaying her curves.
I held my breath I stared at her wide-eyed the whole time.
Like all the other girls, she looked lost in age somehow. She had some combination of youthful freshness and older maturity. Everything inside her was balanced and regulated to perfection. She stood out from all the other rich girls in town.
I tried to get an estimate on my chance of success. But was quickly reminded my Hivemind wasn’t working. Not that the old piece-of-shit would produce an accurate prediction anyways.
She finished the last steps and disappeared down the hallway at the top. The house fell quiet again and only smell of her perfume lingered in the foyer.
The light switch was just shy of the first step. I flipped it off and started to climb. I tried to keep my steps as steady as possible. I feared that if I went too quickly or slowly, she would detect them. Instantly she would run an analysis and determine that I was nervously out of control.
The shuffling from outside came again. But it seemed the exact spot had changed. Perhaps it then came from the backyard. I stopped where I was and anxiously listened for it again.
In the dark emptiness, I realized just how big the space around me really was. There were seven different pitch-black rooms or hallways you could enter to from the main landing. I gripped the railing and looked back down into the black. My eyes darted to every space around me, trying desperately to make something out.
It took every ounce of discipline from within me to climb the rest of the stairs at a normal pace. I don’t think she picked anything up.
Only one of the doors on the second level was open. Faded Blue light from a computer screen shined behind it.
My socks slid along the hardwood floor. My hands were out to my sides, fingers gliding along the walls, just below the rows of hanging family pictures.
I pushed the door open and stepped inside. The shag carpet was plush. The softness alone, that I could feel through the fabric of my cotton socks, was enough to tell me that it was purchased at some high-end specialty store. Probably just like everything else in the giant house I still couldn’t believe I was in.
Vela lay motionless in bed. The pressed white cover went all the way up to her neck. Her hair was neatly resting over her shoulders and disappeared under the blanket. Her head was tilted to the side, watching the giant screen projected on the opposite wall.
“How long are you going to stand there and stare for? I’ve been in bed alone for exactly three minutes and twenty-three seconds now,” she said as she turned her head to me.
Her words took me out of the trance. I could have just stayed that way forever. Just watching her was enough.
“J-just a sec,” I said.
It was the best I could think of off the top of my head. I wasn’t used to having to think totally on my own.
She laughed. Again, it was the innocent laugh that said I’m amused by you, not – I can’t take you seriously.
“Do you need some motivation?” she asked as she brought her torso up, supported on her elbows.
The blankets started to slide down. She didn’t look concerned over stopping it from happening.
I felt something move the moment I saw she wasn’t wearing anything on her upper half. I was treated to a sight I had fantasized about in bed many times before. And they were even better than I ever imagined.
My lower lip fell open. I rubbed a sweaty hand over my forehead and then back through my hair.
“Do you like them?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered as I loosened the buckle of my belt.
“Do you want to feel?”
Something moved again. I decided not to answer her. I’m not sure I could have found the words if I tried.
My jeans dropped around my ankles and my shirt flew to the corner of the room. I fell forward onto the bed. I brought my bony legs up and began to crawl towards her.
She held herself higher than she did before. Her back arched and her chest shot out closer towards me.
My shaking hand stilled as soon as it felt the flesh. At first, it was the softest and most pleasant thing I had ever touched. Then, I felt the Goosebumps start to form. Maybe she was cold. Or maybe she was just as nervous as I was.
One last time, something moved below my waist.
She grabbed me by the shirt and yanked me towards her. Her mouth was already open when our faces pressed against each other. It was violent. Like she was trying to suck my soul out through my mouth and into hers.
I just went for it. I pushed myself through all the nerves and hormones of my confused teen body that found itself in a situation that only existed in a dream. I was numb.
Suddenly she pulled away and glared into my eyes.
“Have you done this before?” she whispered softly.
“No,” I said. And perhaps that was the first truth I had told all night.
She looked down and paused. She did something with her Hivemind, but I wasn’t sure exactly.
She pulled the blanket up beside her and gestured for me to crawl under in the empty space.
I did as she instructed. For a moment I wonder if I should slip my boxers off right away or if I should wait.
She made the choice for me. She pulled them all the way down and over my feet. She tossed them across the room and they landed just next to where my jeans were on the floor.
I was trembling then. It was actually going to happen. I needed to be ready, but I didn’t feel the movement below my waist any longer. Just more numbness.
My naked hip was against hers. She took hold of my shoulders and pulled me over her.
“Be gentle,” she said as she pressed her lower half against mine.
But something was wrong. My body wasn’t responding as it was meant to. I sent to the command to my Hivemind over and over again. It just kept not responding. My body needed to regulate itself. I had never done that before.
Vela looked puzzled.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Just a second,” I said as my hand worked as hard as it possibly could.
“The Hivemind should regulate that for you. I had mine regulate before you even come upstairs. I’ve been ready for you the whole time.”
“Just a second.”
“Wait, you mean what everyone is saying at school is true? You don’t have a Hivemind do you.”
“Yes, I do. I just don’t like to use it.”
“Thought this was your first time?”
“Err… Yes, it is.”
“So have your Hivemind dictate the blood flow.”
My hand moved violently below the covers. It was a feeble attempt at a manual function I had only seen in textbooks or on videos I wasn’t supposed to be watching.
It was so painful. I couldn’t understand how people did it on their own without their Hivemind just taking over the process.
Vela started to laugh.
“Do you even have anything in your head?”
“What is it, the first generation?” she asked mockingly. “The others weren’t kidding, were they?”
“No it isn’t. It’s one of the new ones,” I lied with desperation in my voice matching the desperation of my hand’s movements. Because what she said was exactly correct. My Hivemind was first generation. A hand-me-down as well.
But it was too late by then. She had already sprawled to the side, laughing uncontrollably.
“You’re not going to tell anyone,” I said desperately as I jumped out of the bed and over to where my boxers were on the floor.
“I won’t need to,” she answered. “Everyone at school was tuned in the entire time. It was all part of the dare. Why don’t you say hi before you go?”
“You seriously think I invited you over here just because? C’mon now Isaac, you’re smarter than that.”
But by that time I was already sprinting down the hall on my out of the house. And as I ran out over her front lawn and onto the street, I saw the source of the shuffling I had heard outside earlier. A group of Vela’s friends was huddled outside the house, laughing just as hard as I imagine Vela still was in her bed.
We’re coming for you pussy.
The message came through the moment I walked in through the school doors. At least my Hivemind was working again.
I already knew it was set to be the worst day of my life. But the sender it came from, there couldn’t be anyone worse than him.
That was Vela’s EX. They had been broken up for over a month before she invited me over. At least that’s what she told me.
I deleted the message and my Hivemind was blank again. I added him to my mental list of people to avoid all day. Exactly thirty-three people were on it in the morning. Probably the whole school would be on it by the end.
I showed up extra early for first-period calculus. I took an empty seat on the farthest part of the room. I locked my eyes forward on the plasma smart board.
I tried to check my Hivemind for notes from the previous class, anything to get my mind off what had happened the night before. But the focus was temporary as Vela’s perfume invaded my nostrils. I heard her and few others giggling as they came into the room.
Greg Stanton sent another message.
Shoulda made it count when you had the chance limp dick. Seriously think you’re going to fuck my girl and get away with it?
I deleted the message immediately and turned back to the skimp math notes I had from the day before. I tried to avoid thinking about the seats filling up around me.
Greg sent another message. This one wasn’t just to me. It was on the public server. Everyone could see it inside their heads. The laughter started to pop up over the room.
10 bucks for whoever brings Isaac to the cafeteria right now. Don’t worry, his Hivemind is shit, he won’t even know you’re coming.
Mrs. Ryan noticed it and deleted it right away, but it was too late. Everyone in class and probably the whole school had seen it already.
I got up and ran out of the classroom. Most students still had their eyes half-open, indulging in Greg’s message and anything else that was floating through the public server. They didn’t even notice that I left.
I ran as hard as I could down the hall. My worthless Hivemind sent a signal saying that my heart rate was getting to high and that I should consider resting.
I took refuge inside the bathroom. I ran to the last stall and locked it behind me. I huddled there, wondering exactly what it was I was going to do. How foolish could I have been to think that Vela had actually wanted me to come over the night before?
Another message came in. I tried to delete it, but it stuck there. His Hivemind must have allowed him some kind of coding to lock it there and open itself.
He had literally gotten inside my head.
You think you could hide from us in the bathroom? C’mon now Isaac, we’ve been tracking you since last night. See ya real soon.
I heard sets of footsteps come into the bathroom. Shortly after, I heard the electronic lock of the door behind them.
I pressed my weight against the feeble stall door in front of me, like it was actually going to make some kind of difference.
Hands bigger than my own reached over and rattled the door. Another message opened up inside my head as I braced myself against it.
Open up, Isaac.
A great force came against the door that knocked me back against the toilet. Pain splintered through my body as my spine smashed against it.
Another thump sounded and the door flew off its hinges. Greg’s outstretched leg was in the empty space after it fell to the floor. He had three of his buddies with him. The messages started to flood into my head.
One stood out from all the rest. It was from Vela.
I’m sorry Isaac. I didn’t mean for it to go this far.
Greg and his friends didn’t say anything. The just stood there silently as I cowered before them. It was so much easier to just send messages through the Hivemind than form the threats with their mouths.
“No, not that. Anything but that,” I pleaded as I raised my arms out in front of me.
They still didn’t say anything. Greg stepped forward and grabbed me by the hair. With a simple twist of his arm, he was able to flip me over and press me against the toiled.
I saw the glint of silver in his other hand as the blade came out of his pocket.
“Please, I begged him. Don’t take it out.”
But he had already started. He pressed the blade into the skin at the base of my skull. Then he started digging.
It’s been a year since all of that happened.
Things have mostly blown over since the incident. Party due to the passing of time, and partly due to the school flagging and suspending anyone messaging about it on the servers at school. I’m sure it’s still messaged about in private from time to time, however.
I wouldn’t know though. Pops don’t have enough money to replace the old one Greg dug from out of my skin and flushed down the toilet. Only have a layered scar to enjoy back there now.
Poor rich-kid Greg had to withstand a little slap on the wrist for the whole incident.
I can’t wait until I graduate. Think I’ll move out and go somewhere where no one knows my name. Where nobody even knows what a Hivemind even is. I’ll be the one ahead of the game when I move into your town.
Vela hadn’t been to school for over a month. Before that, she was acting kind of strange as well, wearing different clothing and not talking too much. I heard whispers that she gave up drinking and partying altogether.
Not that I really wanted to know too much about what she was doing anyways.
But she did finally come in today. Greg’s arm was draped around her shoulder as she walked in with her little bundle of joy. Apparently, they had gotten back together a little while after out incident.
“Everyone,” she announced to the class, the smile wide on her face. “Greg and I have some wonderful news for you. Last night we became loving parents of our newest family member, Ricardo.”
She held the baby out in front of her.
Two demented, misshaped legs dangled in the open air. One arm looked smaller than the other and was pressed tightly against its bony frame. Its face was twisted. One eye shut, the other glaring big with a dilated pupil and taking in the new surroundings of the classroom.
“Doctor says he’s the first baby to be born of two parents with Hiveminds implanted. He thinks the frequency coming from them affected him in the zygote. Isn’t he beautiful?”
Mrs. Ryan held her arms out like a cradle and smiled.
“Thank you so much for bringing him in, Vela and Greg. He’s adorable. I’m so happy for you two.”
Vela took the hint. She set baby Ricardo down gently in our teacher’s open arms. He reacted to the change. He started to squirm, he called out a wet twisted squeal of a suffering animal.
Mrs. Ryan struggled to hang on to him. She brought him close her chest to try and hold him there. The baby reached up and pulled at her ears and hair. He was gunning for the back of her neck.
“Quite energetic,” Mrs. Ryan said.
“It’s the frequency,” said Vela. “He can feel the waves from your Hivemind. He’s already dependent, he craves to connect.”
“Oh dear. And what do you intend to do?”
“Doctor said we only had one option. We have to get him his own. He will only suffer until it gets it in there. He will have a Hivemind nearly half the size of his own brain implanted next week. Brand new version too. He’s going to be youngest ever to get it.”
Mrs. Ryan smiled as the baby kept trying to climb up over her shoulder. One demented arm clawing at the back of her neck.
Vela brought both hands to her mouth like she felt she had to reign her smile in.
“Can’t wait for his first word. Hopefully, he’ll send it to the server.”