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Everything seemed to be fine, but there was a piece of paper wedged in between some wires.
“Cash, we can’t allow Vision to sell these. There is something wrong. The machine seems to be re-writing it’s own code. I wake up and think things, awful things, and I know it’s the box. We have to stop them. –A”
I grabbed the edge of the counter to steady myself. This has to be a nightmare it can’t be real.
I pulled out my phone and dialed Amelia’s phone. One ring. Two rings. “Hiya this is Amelia leave a message!” Maybe her phone is in her purse. I dialed Simon’s number next.
“Hey man! How’s it going? Did you change your mind?”
Somehow he was less annoying over the phone.
“Simon, is Amelia with you?”
“Of course you’d be calling about her. No, Cash, she was mingling, dancing with investors last I saw her. Why?”
“She left… she just had said something about possibly leaving the party early, I wanted to know if she needed a ride.”
Maybe she hadn’t told Simon what she had told me.
“Leave early? No way man, she’s having a blast.”
He sounded distant, like he had already forgotten he was having a conversation with me.
“Well, um when you get a chance tell her to call me, alright?”
“Sure man, yeah, whatever.”
Before either of us had the chance to hang up there was a loud blast that came through the phone. The sound of crumbling cement and shattering glass filled my ears.
“Simon? What’s going on?”
The call was dropped before Simon could answer. I stood there starring at my phone. What? I walked around my counter and turned on the TV. Flipping through cartoons, and sitcoms, and porn I finally got to the news. The speakers broke out into shouting and sirens. The news anchor looked scared perched in front of the Metropolitan Opera House, saying things like “thirteen dead, thirty-two in critical condition” and “two explosions on either side of the building.” I froze. That is where the unveil party was. Amy.
I threw on my clothes and went to grab my jacket. There I saw the Muse Box sitting on the counter. I stepped outside and no one was on the street. No taxis, no pedestrians, no Richard. I walked back up to my apartment.
Before I reached my door my phone buzzed. It was Amelia.
“Aw, Cash. Did you get my note?”
She was the only person I didn’t mind calling me Cash. Maybe it was her accent. I opened my door and stepped into my apartment. That’s when I saw Amelia on my television.
“One of the suspects is believed to be Amelia Candor. Twenty-seven, white-Caucasian female, brunette, about 5’5, is said to have been on foot fleeing the area just before the bombs exploded. If you have any information about Candor’s whereabouts the proper information is on the bottom of the screen.”
“Right, well, Cash, you don’t seem much in the mood for chit chat so we will talk in the morning.”
Before I could interject she had hung up. I stood, with my phone to my ear watching the horrific scenes play out on my television screen. People being wheeled out on gurneys, and firemen trying to douse the flames. I swear I saw Simon in the back of an ambulance.
None of this makes sense. Amelia was one of the co-creators of Muse Box with Simon, and me why would she do this? She was an avid believer in the technology she was always the one to test it; she wore it to sleep every night for years. She wore it to sleep every night for years. God. It was my fault she did this.
2 weeks prior
It was slightly hard to watch. She sat there tossing and turning with a furrowed brow and beads of sweat forming about her face. I wanted so badly to reach out and grab her hand, maybe she would know I was there, that everything was okay. I wanted it so much so that my hand started moving towards her unconsciously. Thankfully Simon struck it from its intended path.
“Don’t touch her Cash. She’s tough, she knew what she was signing up for, and if you wake her now we won’t know how to proceed."
I knew he was right, this is what we were here for, but seeing Amelia fidget and fuss knowing I could make it stop was almost too much for me. I began to feel lightheaded.
“I’m going to grab a coffee, you want something?” The only reason I ever asked Simon if he wanted something was for the sheer possibility that I may be able to spit in it.
“No, no I’m fine, you go ahead.” He always said things with such an unrealistic, overenthusiastic smile.
I left the lead lined room, closing the heavy door behind me before sliding to the floor. I cupped my hands over my face and took deep breaths so as to not pass out. That would just be another thing for Simon to lord over me. I loved the technology, the thought of relieving people from things that haunt them in their sleep was all I wanted, but seeing Amelia struggle made me question if this was really the way to go about it. But we had to use humans for our tests. While some animals dream, there is no way to see whether or not the preferred dream outlined before sleep is the dream that occurs. With humans it’s very easy to adjust because they are able to let us know if the Muse Box achieved our goal. Amelia is the only reliable human we can test on at this time and that makes my job difficult.
“Cash are you alright?”
Her voice was as angelic as her appearance.
“Yeah I uh must have fallen asleep out here,” I said.
She gave me a look of curiosity, signaling she knew there was something I wasn’t telling her.
“Yeah, well I have good news,” she said.
Good is relative, I thought to myself. “Oh yeah?”
“The box worked this time, almost perfectly even. There was a slight misstep when I asked Sir Paul McCartney what his inspiration was behind "Yesterday," but I think that is just because we have more information to upload. I was just surprised it didn’t use the info from my brain, he was inspired by a dream, I knew that, but somehow the machine didn’t. Maybe that’s best though, that it stays out of my thoughts.”
She smiled. Normally this would’ve made me laugh.
“Well, I don’t think users would enjoy a machine reading their thoughts, even though they spew their streams of consciousness on social media.” This made her laugh.
“For inventing life changing technology, you are the biggest technophobe I’ve ever met.”
“I like to think I’m the one keeping all of us from a Terminator apocalypse.” She let out another laugh at this. I loved making her laugh.
“Well, we should probably head back in. Simon is excited to get back to work.”
Simon wanting to work, that was worth a laugh.
“Welcome back! How was your coffee?”
He was such a smug bastard.
“It was delightful, Cash let me have the rest.”
That shut Simon up.
“Where are we with the box?” I asked him.
“Oh! Amy said it worked perfectly, nailed every detail. She thinks a few more test runs, another information upload, and we’ll be ready for this thing to hit the market!”
This was pretty exciting to hear. To think that it had only been three years since the idea for the Muse Box first came to me, and here we are about to polish the machine and send it out to be sold. Simon was only in it for the money, but Vision executives insisted we needed him to keep us on track. It’ll be interesting to see his reaction when we tell him we’re giving away the first thousand for free.
“So we’re going to give Amy a box to take home, she’s going to use it for a week, without coming to the office, but taking a careful journal of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and she’ll report back to us. We just have to wait and go from there.”
He patted me on the back.
“This is pretty incredible, Cash.” He picked up his suit jacket and left the room, only to start flirting with a technician just outside. I looked at Amelia, her expression was dark, until she saw I was looking and then it was like a light switch flipping on.
“So, Cash, this is pretty exciting for you. Everything is coming together so well, better than expected.”
“It really is incredible.”
I looked at her and then through the glass pain in the door, the technician slipped Simon a card and he stuffed it in his shirt pocket.
“Well, I really should get going. Simon absolutely detests when I keep him waiting. I’ll see you in a week, Cash.”
Her smile was so convincing I think she even tricked herself into thinking she was happy.
“I’m counting down the days, Amelia.” I gave her a short hug and she was out the door.
I walked over to the bench she had just been sleeping on, the perfect outline of her body had formed on the sheet from her sweat. If she really was speaking to Paul McCartney about his inspirations behind songs there is no way her body would be reacting the way is was.
She loved The Beatles, excluding Ringo; she said he gave her the creeps. Why would she say the box was ready? I sat down at the computer to look through the scans taken of Amelia as she slept. They all start out normal, with pleasure receptors being the most active, and then it switched suddenly to fear. I would have to wait to say anything until next week though; maybe the journal Amelia keeps will reflect different results.
I grabbed my sweater from the chair back and shut down all the machines before turning off the light and walking out. Our lab was in the basement of the Vision building, I felt like an IT guy, having to take the elevator six floors up before getting to ground level where I could actually access the street. The buildings upper floors were dedicated to stock sales and business meetings and there was even one floor that was completely devoted to a candy shop. Businessmen love their gummy bears I guess. But all of these were clearly more important and more accepted practices for the public to access. Our floor however, was under lock and key, to the point that they had just installed retinal scanners last year. So while I felt unappreciated as I imagine IT feels, I also had a spy complex where everything I did was so important no one could know about it. Top secret. Classified.
I stepped out of the building into the see of rioters the always canvased our sidewalks. “The game of capitalism breeds dishonest men.—De La Vega” This was the most popular sign, and often times the quote was graffitied to the side of the building. I tried to hail a taxi but to no avail.
I walked a few blocks and turned right. There is a small hole in the wall Cuban restaurant a few streets over, might as well grab a bite before trying to get home. I passed a few homeless people on the way to the restaurant holding signs that read, “Need money for food” and “dog needs food” and my personal favorite “need weed money.” I like honesty. I drop a few bucks in each person’s piggy bank as I moved by. Each one was extremely polite and thanked me for my donation.
I got to the Cuban shop and realized I had no more cash, and Anton refused to take cards. I stuck my hand in the air and whistled like a true New Yorker and finally got a cab to stop. Hopped in, said I didn’t have cash and told the driver the address to the apartment building a block from mine. He seemed nice enough, but definitely was giving me a sob story about how his nine children back home have to work and miss school because their mother died and he was the only source of income now. I’m sure it’s true. I hopped out as he ran my card, and I gave him a sizable tip. The look on his face was priceless and he gave me his card.
“If you ever need a ride Mr. Cash, I mean EVER you give Sanjay a call and I’ll be here.”
“Thanks Sanjay, take the kids for ice cream or something eh?”
The puzzled look confirmed his whole story was a crock of something. It didn’t bother me though. What was I going to use that $50 dollars for anyway?