Today someone remarked that I never write or talk about my future, I only document the past or analyze the present. It’s true. Fantasizing about the future only leads to disappointment when things don’t go according to plan, and the past and present can be disappointing enough. I got out of the habit of fantasizing about the future once I realized what brainwashing Disney was up to, and the only future scenarios I imagine are worst case ones out of practicality (ie: if we don’t fix X problem, Y horrible thing will happen). The person who made the initial observation told me that stance was unnecessarily negative, and said “if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know how to get there?” So I agreed to indulge her and detail how I imagine the rest of my life will play out in my fantasy future. For Ellyn:
It begins with leaving New York behind. It does not involve any practical concerns such as leases, storage, or goodbyes. Upon successfully concocting a way to fund a voyage over the Atlantic, I travel from country to country having only a vague trajectory in mind. My only goal is to be a cultural sponge, but I won’t be able to resist chasing stories around the globe. I explain in wonderfully vivid detail for you all on your favorite American publications. These publications easily enable me to accept payment by direct deposit so that I will never have to worry about work visas or who’s checking my snail mail.
I intend to be gone for one year, but in actuality it will work out to be more like five. I stumble into a story so important that I decide I need to document it every day of my life until the logical conclusion is reached. My subjects of interest will trust me and only me to document them. I will live as they do, forgetting all aspects of American life while I am suspended here in time, until one day when I encounter an American. Initially, minimal words are exchanged, in part due to me not trusting my ability to form coherent sentences in his presence and thus accidentally coming across as cold. But as the days go on, his path begins to cross mine in a way that could not possibly be attributable to chance and one breezy night when I’ve had three whiskeys and everyone is wearing linen and laughing, he strikes up a conversation.
Choose your own adventure! The man is either:
A) A journalist whose company caught wind of my documentarian intents via the grape vine and sent him to find me and scoop my story. We have a hot rivalry and ultimately he agrees to back off because he doesn’t have all the information and the story is to important to run in an incomplete manner.
B) An internet genius who became set for life when his pet project IPO’d and, instead of buying a yacht, used the opportunity to invest in humanitarian businesses, renewable energy and, coincidentally, the amazing thing that I’ve been there documenting. We fall in love and each try to convince the other to go with them, but we can’t give up our life’s work or figure out how to make them completely compatible, so we go our separate ways.
C) A secret agent from a private defense company who tries to thwart my documentation so an evil corporation can move in and control it. I seduce him to get the upper hand and expose the company’s plans in my story.
When I return to the US, I publish my story and win an award or two. With that money, I buy a hatchling African Grey parrot and hand feed him so he is friendly to everyone. He becomes a YouTube celebrity and I host a series of educational events in Manhattan and cocktail parties at my apartment in Bushwick, which I purchase. After a year in the city, I decide to take a job offer to be the president’s science adviser, so the parrot and I rent out my NYC apt and move to a suburb near D.C. I do this for a solid four years, totally owning it and making sure the best science is being taken into consideration throughout all levels of government.
During my time at the White House, I’m flying all over the country to confer with scientists, taking the parrot with me in his special plexiglass carrying case. Airport security doesn’t ever hassle me about this. If you picked option B in the Choose Your Own Adventure game, I run into this guy all the time here (accidentally on purpose) and we pick up where we left off. If you didn’t pick option B, we end up meeting anyways! He makes me happier than I ever thought possible and, even though both of our lives are hectic with traveling, we’re together when we’re together. He also loves the parrot.
After my stint as a political adviser, I go back to journalism, writing mostly about biotechnology. There’s been massive advances in the field of reproductive technology, which I want to cover for a big feature article. I’m 35 at this point, and I casually suggest I get pregnant so I can write about the new technology first-hand. The man is overjoyed, as he’s been dropping hints for years now but I’d been holding out. We have a healthy baby. I write an amazing article and win more awards. The parrot is skeptical of this new addition at first but ultimately approves. We get married when the baby is three and honeymoon all together in the place where we first met. The people working on the amazing thing I documented in my 20s are overjoyed. Their local economy is booming, in part because of the attention my coverage drew. When we return to the US, the man, the child, the parrot and I move somewhere serene and raise our nerd progeny together.
Over the next five years, I work on a book about cyborgs and virtual reality while the man works out how to stabilize most of the arms of his business empire without having to travel everywhere himself. I like it that he travels sometimes though. It’s good to miss people, and it gives me time to write. When he’s away for too long, I fly my old friends out to visit me and the child. We get wine drunk until the AM and reminisce on what a godawful struggle our 20s in New York was.
Sometimes the child and I travel with the man. I interview cyborgs around the world, and eventually become one. Some vanity enhancements at first—subdermal internet browsers and typing enhancers. In my 50s I acquire an implant that allows me to input text directly into the internet using only my brain. At first the man objects. My cyborgification desires are becoming problematic because he worries it will create a rift in our human experiences. I tell him it’s what I need to do, and if ever we separate from each other, mentally, I’m confident we’ll come back together eventually like we have time and time again.
By the time the child graduates from high school, I’ve had the implant for three years and it’s the logical point to decide if the man and I will evolve together. We decide to separate and he goes to work overseas establishing his company’s foundation in a new sector. I ask him to take the parrot, and he does. This act confused him more than anything I’ve ever done before.
I join up with a tribe of body hackers who have transformed an entire 12-story warehouse into a virtual reality exploratorium where we live, eat and push the boundaries of our cyborg implants, then sell our research to the companies developing the next versions. We sleep in pods and engage in intellectual and sexual acts of pure energy, abandoning our bodies and existing purely on the virtual plane for days, sometimes weeks at a time. I find myself returning to my old tendencies of sensation seeking to distract myself from emotional turmoil, and eventually I fall into a depression because I miss the man so much. After I spend a month in a VR pod suspended in a low-energy state of cybernetic bliss, one of the cyborg elders overrides my preferences and initiates a rehabilitation sequence that will gently bring me back to the flesh version of humanity. I deactivate my implant and stay offline for the next six months writing a book by hand detailing the experience.
I see the man at our child’s college graduation, and I question my ability to form cogent words just like the first time I saw him. Experiencing love and real flesh bonds after such intense cyborg experimentation makes it all seem cheap. I realize that I went into that electrical lull because, novelty aside, nothing virtual could replicate that carnal bond. We decide to give it another go and return to his overseas abode where the parrot has been maintained by Roomba cleaners and feeders with various modes of touch-screen entertainment. At this point, thanks to the research of the team in the VR facility, implants have become as mainstream as iPods. The man gets a top-of-the-line mainstream version, and I upgrade my version to match his. I ease him into technological bliss and we reach levels of euphoria I’d never achieved while alone in the pod. We become the world’s most famous cyborg power couple.
In our 70s and 80s, various organs and bodily systems start to fail and degrade. We replace them with new ones crafted from our own stem cells as needed. Our child has become the one of the world’s leading biomedical engineers, having had an edge because of the prenatal enhancements I explored back when the technology was in the experimental phase. The child makes sure we get the best medical attention through all of our ailments. When I’m 90, the parrot dies after a long and healthy life, and the man and I decide to retire to homeostasis, resting in pods much like the primitive version I ODd in in my 50s, which seems so silly in retrospect! It’s unbelievable how unregulated things were back then. We preserve the state of our elderly, mechanistic bodies while frolicking together in a virtual reality landscape that allows us to move about freely and continue with our crafts. From time to time, we have our pods shipped to exotic locations, where we log off long enough to walk out to the beach together and hold each other for a while.
We die almost simultaneously in our pods, me at 130 and the man at 133. I reach out for him with my mind, and in the fraction of a second it takes to detect the lack of input on the other side, I know what’s happened and I let myself turn off.