4

Dear friend,

The last two days have been rather interesting. In fact, I think I can gladly say they have been the best days of my life. Can you believe that? It all started at that party at Julian's house. I arrived late, as I always do to these sort of things. I exited my 2068 Nissan Cruiser and almost dropped one of the bottles of wine I had brought. You just recently hired me as a cortex programmer. It was the best possible job I could have hoped for as a recent graduate. The wine was a thank you for hiring me when no one else would have. When I heard you were going to be at this party I knew I had to bring something.

After taking a few deep breaths I rang the doorbell. In the few seconds it took for someone to open the door my mind raced. Is this the right house? Am I dressed correctly? Are you going to like the wine? I rocked slightly on the soles of my shoes in anticipation.

The door opened and a man in suit welcomed me in. A suit! In my button down shirt and nice jeans it was obvious I had misjudged the dress code. Not only was he far bettered dressed than I but on the side of his head he had the latest cortex processor. I know I don't have to explain how fast this particular model could retrieve information or how seamlessly it integrated that information into the retina, after all you made it, but I was in awe of it. The man introduced himself as the butler and asked if I would like him to take my hat. Hesitantly, but politely, I said no thanks. Last thing I needed was for everyone to see the outdated cortex model under my hat.

"Ah James, you decided to come after all!" I heard Julian's voice and my processor immediately scanned the room for him. In front of me was a large ballroom and on either side there was a staircase leading to a second floor balcony. The walls were photo-responsive and emotion-reflective. As people walked near a wall it represented their emotional state with a display of colors. This was, of course, usual of this kind of party. It created a very beautiful environment of dynamic color while allowing the host to keep an eye on the overall feel of the party. Even though I knew the technology well I was still taken aback by the beauty of it. My processor placed a red square around each face in the room as it tried to locate Julian, but before it was able to find him I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to my right and saw his face staring at me through a bright green square.

"Hello. Yeah. I mean, yes, I decided to stop by." Next to his head a whole bio page littered my view. Date of birth, profession, favorite book, it was all displayed for me. The square faded away and I shook his hand.

Julian smiled and gestured at a table behind him. "Well I'm glad to see you, help yourself to anything you'd like." I opened my mouth to respond but he immediately turned towards someone else and thanked them for coming.

While trying to balance the three bottles in my arms I made my way to the table behind me. On the table there was a buffet's worth of food and many tall glasses of champagne. In the center was a ring of shrimp scattered with slices of lemon that circled a red sauce of some kind. I placed the wine on the table and grabbed a plate, which I loaded with the shrimp.

As I took my first bite my processor beeped, signaling that it had synced with something. I saw the wall behind the table turn from grey to beige. I raised an eyebrow at it.

"It means you're uncomfortable." A woman approached the table holding an empty glass in her hand. She was wearing a long translucent purple dress that had a blue fluid cloud flowing through it. With every move she made the blue liquid smoke moved and changed direction. At the time I had no idea who she was, but of course you know very well. I looked at her and behind me the wall became even more beige. She laughed.

"Oh. Well this is my first fancy party." I forced a laugh in response. " I'm James Braxton. I was just hired a week ago."

She looked at my outstretched hand and back at me. "I don't work for this company." She picked up a full glass of champagne. "I'm just here for the booze, and by the looks of it so are you."

I looked over at the three bottles of wine in front of me. "Oh, no. You see those are a gift for someone."

"A gift? Who brings three bottles of wine as a gift?" She laughed again.

"It's a gift for my boss, I didn't know what he liked so…" My section of the wall shifted to the pinkish-red color of embarrassment.

She noticed the color almost immediately and finally stuck out her hand; "I'm Verona."

We shook hands and she ran her other hand through her hair. For a moment I saw that the side of her head, under her hair, was bare. She didn't have a cortex processor; which, at a party of programmers, seemed odd. "You don't have a…"

"No, I don't." She cut me off.

"If you don't mind me asking, why not?"

She rotated her body towards the table and started loading up a plate with food. "I don't trust them. Something about having a machine in my brain just doesn't sit well with me. What if it changed you? I mean our minds are nothing but a machine, so adding another machine to it, to operate inside of it, is unnerving."

"I can understand that." I lied. Studying cortex processors was what I did for the last six years. They have been proven to be perfectly safe and pose no threat to the user, but of course, as a leader in cortex design, you know that.

After that we talked about a number of things. She drank a few more glasses of champagne. The party went on around us, and in all that time we didn't move. The wall around the table swirled like a rainbow as different party guests came and went. After an hour or so we were alone at the table again and the wall next to me had darkened to a bright vibrant red. She glanced at it from the corner of her eye and a blush formed on her cheeks to match.

The rest of that night is a blur. Eventually she whispered in my ear, asking me to follow her. I did, of course. I'm sure you understand, after all you know how she can be. We walked up the left staircase up to the second floor balcony. In all the excitement I had left your bottles of wine on the table. As she led me up the stairs, my hand in hers, I looked back at the bottles. The partygoers had promptly emptied them for me. I turned my head back towards her, and across the room on the adjacent staircase I caught a glimpse of you. Surely you remember because you were staring right at me. For a second, before Verona pulled me around a corner at the top of the stairs, our eyes locked. In that split second I could've sworn that the light blue on the wall behind you swirled and darkened to black.

It was of course after the party that Verona told me she was your wife. The next day, back at my apartment, I paced back and forth and tried to think of something I could do or say to convince you not to fire me. This was the best job I had ever had, and I wasn't about to lose it without a fight. As I rehearsed my apology in the mirror for the thirtieth time there was a knock at my door.

I grabbed the door handle and expected the worst. It could be someone here to fire me, or worse, someone here to kill me, or worse, you. I flung the door open and nothing. There was no one there. I looked back and forth down my apartment's hallway and there was no one in view. It was a few seconds before I noticed it, but at my feet was a package. I didn't remember ordering anything but surely enough it was addressed to me. The package was about the size of a toaster but not very heavy.

Cautiously, I brought it inside and set it down. It was a first class package; it had been rushed to my house on a special order. Under return address it had your name! This package was from you. I took my house key and slid it along the tape to open it. I reached in and a few packing peanuts fell out. What I saw, nothing could have prepared me for. Inside the box was the newest Cortex Processor. This model hadn't even hit the market shelves yet. It was clear, made of glass, with small gaseous lights inside that seemed to move like smoke. On the end of it was a white card attached by a piece of thread. It slowly spun as it hung there and I saw letters drawn on it with black marker. It said: No Hard Feelings.

I ripped the card off. I didn't know what to think. Why would you have sent this? Maybe you had forgiven me. My mind raced with excitement and I did the only thing I could think to do. I removed my Processor and felt the dizziness of my own naked mind for a moment, and then I tried it on. As soon as it connected with my dock my vision exploded with sensory information. It was so fast, so vivid. I could bring up maps of the city, work material, or anything I desired merely by thinking. I sat down on my couch and gazed at my wall as I experienced everything it could do.

After a few hours of sitting on my couch, I felt something. Deep inside of me a feeling was building. It was, for lack of a better word, joy. My life, which was only a few hours earlier falling apart, now felt perfect. This feeling grew and grew as I sat there. Soon the feeling began to change into an urge. I wanted to see her again. I needed to see her again.

I got up and hurried to my Nissan Cruiser. I drove towards the return address on the package and hoped that she would be there. On the way I saw a gas station and felt like I had to stop. I pulled in and instinctively bought three gas cans and filled them all to the brim: one with regular, one with premium and one with diesel.

I arrived at your house late that night and ran to the door holding the three gas cans. I placed two of the cans down and rang the doorbell. It took a few seconds for someone to open the door and my mind raced. Would she be home? Would she be surprised? Finally the door opened, and it was her! Verona looked at me for a moment and opened her mouth to say something. Before she was able to say a word I splashed some gas into her eyes. I felt a feeling in me like butterflies spinning . She fell to the floor and screamed from the sting of the gas. I emptied the first can on her back. The gasoline dripped from her hair and it made me so very happy. I began to unscrew the second gas can as she yelled at me. Why was she yelling? Soon her yelling was replaced by coughs as I splashed the second can in her face. After all three cans were emptied I lit a match.

As I tossed it onto her I could hear a faint laughter in the distance. That's why I'm writing to you from Northgate prison, the processor is stuck in my head and the laughter has not stopped. I tried to send you an email but it seems that the processor has ceased to work correctly. The doctors here think I've lost my mind because I'm always smiling, but they just don't understand how great she was, do they? These days have been the best of my life, and I wanted to thank you. Now if only the laughter would stop…

Sincerely,

James Braxton