Augmentia (Chapter 1)
After struggling inventor Ellen Brooks' augmented-reality glasses glitch, she descends into madness | Read the dark comedy about our oncoming tech dystopia.
The crowd is restless. A sea of shoulder bags, button down shirts, and obnoxious smirks. They’re all waiting for you. Waiting to stare you down and sum you up. Waiting to judge the thing you’ve worked tirelessly on for the majority of your pathetic life. Waiting to drown you.
You take the stage one reluctant foot at a time. Each step fills you with more regret. Maybe you’ll slip on the top step and crack your skull on the concrete. They’ll rush you off stage and take you to the emergency room; crying mother at your side. She can die happy knowing her daughter was still her special little girl.
“My Ellie was going to change the world,” she’d announce to all her friends. But now she’ll have to face reality: Her daughter is a failure. A global embarrassment.
Oh shut up already. Why are you so nervous? You’ve done this sort of thing before, right? Never with this much riding on it. The fate of your future is staring you in the face, as is a little black stool and a glass of water. It’s half empty of course. Hopefully you’ll choke on the first gulp and die before you utter a single word. That’d be a good show.
You walk on stage and go numb at a thousand faces staring back. You smile really wide. Too wide, it could never be sincere. You take a sip of water. Too small a sip, it probably seems forced. You’re so self-conscious right now; better start talking.
“Hello. My name is Ellen Brooks and what you’re about to see will change everything you thought you knew about human interaction.”
Go bold or go home. Your mentor once told you that. Confidence is everything in the tech space. But your mentor was your high school history teacher. He failed at his original pursuits, so he decided to mold younger people’s minds with the bitter thoughts that had developed by being the self-proclaimed smartest person in the teachers’ lounge. I was one of those unlucky minds.
You keep talking, but your thinking is elsewhere. You have a mini out-of-body experience and for a moment you can’t believe the flurry of buzz words coming out of your mouth. Salesy talk never worked for you. It doesn’t sound right when you say it. You’re Wozniak; stop trying to be Jobs.
Just shut up already and get to the point.
“Human interaction,” you mutter out a second time as if you’re a goddamn reverb preset.
You reach into the right side pocket of your dark blue blazer and take out a pair of steel frame glasses. You raise them over your head, and then you say, “Meet OcuTron Eyewear. The future of augmented reality.”
Total silence from the crowd. Not a peep. You slowly rotate the glasses like a goddamn price-is-right model so everyone can get a good look. You feel stupid.
The glasses have a bulky silver frame, oversized lenses and visible circuits running down the temples. Yes, they’re still a prototype but you like the unfinished look. They’re like something out of a 1980’s science-fiction movie. A gadget out of Dr. Brown’s garage.
You flick the switch on the side and the glasses power on with a zapping noise. They light up like a Christmas tree. “Today I’ll be showcasing the many capabil--” Oh no. What’s wrong? An electrical current rattles the glasses. They slip out of your hand, and for a split second, your whole fucking life flashes before you as you watch them fall. The audience’s bloodthirsty faces reflect in the glass as they make contact with the floor.
They shatter on impact. Pieces fly everywhere. This can’t be happening.
Dead silence from the crowd. A three second countdown. Then, as if on cue, the audience erupts in over-the-top laughter. The first wave is low murmur of snickering slowing getting louder until it is a cacophony of guffaws. Its a brouhaha of mean-spirited shitheads.
“Boo,” yells the crowd. “Get off the stage!”
A wave of embarrassment rushes over you. You don’t know how to react. If only you held on a little tighter. If only you waited a little longer. If only you delayed the product reveal another year. If only you chose a different career. If only you stayed in your mother’s womb.
You start picking up the broken pieces of your OcuTron glasses like a soldier on D-Day scrambling to re-attach his severed arm. But this isn’t D-Day. This isn’t a fucking Spielberg movie. This is your life and it’s ending as we speak.
“One moment please,” you stutter.
A big gulp of soda hits you in the head. Sticky sugar water drenches you. The crowd has begun throwing things at you. Everything they have in their possession. You no longer know if you’re at a Ted Talk or an inner-city high school.
That’s when you break down. Your face turns bright red. Your eyes well up and tears stream down your cheek, mixing in with the sugar water.
You stand up and suddenly you’re naked. Your pale skin glows in the spotlight and your uneven breasts flop around. The crowd laughs even louder and you cover your private parts in horror. These are big belly laughs. Some fuckers even stand up and cheer.
That’s when you wake up.