The Stream

The doctor pressed his finger against the flesh of her temple, searching for something. He was a kind, older man, on the verge of retirement, maybe, but with eyes as sharp as hers. Maybe even sharper, with all the things they’ve seen. Veronica had been meaning to interview him for her college newspaper, and ask him what it had been like to live through the Technological Revolution. To think he had been born before the creation of the internet, and the invention of touchscreens, and the actualization of portable VR; he was older than today’s society itself.

Veronica could feel when he brushed against an unnatural hard lump. He frowned, slightly, but large wrinkles still rippled across his face. There were deep crows feet around his eyes–laughter lines, she hoped–and heavy bags under them. His skin was densely freckled and dotted, and she could see the beginnings of heavyset jowls around his cheeks. Heavy earlobes, loose skin around his neck. In terms of functionality, 70 may be the new 50, but 70 years is still a long time, and he has lived through much.

He scratched quick notes seemingly into the air before looking at her. “So,” he said, “you want to remove the implant.”

“Yes. I want what you have, the lenses.” If she looked carefully into his brown eyes, she could see an unnatural flickering, blue shimmer on top of them.

He looked around the room, at nothing in particular, it seemed to her. It was an unsettlingly monotonous hospital room: everything was an off-white, cream color, from the walls to the drawers, the chair she sat on and even the doctor’s stool. There was a large, faded stain on the doctor’s off-white smock, and some dirt on his off-white shoes, but his pants were, for some unfathomable reason, an unflattering red and green tartan pattern. To make matters stranger, the doctor himself was staring intently at the air, and then at his flattened hand, and then again somewhere else in the distance. There were no paintings on the walls, no magazines, nothing to do or look at. Veronica stared awkwardly at her hands, and her empty palms.

After minutes of silence, he looked back up at her. “Ah, sorry, I forgot you were disconnected. Here, let me just–“ and he stood up and walked out of the room, and returned with several books. They were older, from his generation, now classics: 1984SapiensHarry Potter. He looked fondly at her uncomfortably holding the worn books. “You know, when I was your age, all doctor’s offices would just have books and magazines lying around. Or an iPad, with pre-downloaded games. Or some of them had old arcade games, to keep you busy while you waited. Not really needed anymore, now, however.”

The books felt odd in her hands. It had been a while since she’d held one, but there was a satisfying, if not inconvenient, heft to them. The pages felt worryingly thin, and they had a musty, comforting smell. She passed the time by flipping through the pages, just to feel the paper against her skin, without reading a word.

“So, Veronica,” he said hesitantly, “it is possible to give you the lenses. Just to be clear, you do know the procedure for implanting them?”

“Yes, the lenses go under then cornea and–“

“Yes, under the cornea. While it does mean you will be permanently connected to the Stream, it is a permanent procedure. Once they’re implanted, you will not be able to see without them.”

“And I understand that, Dr. Sebald. I’ve already talked this over with my friends and family, and researched it myself. But I’m planning on becoming an interior decorator, so I need the constant connectivity.”

He wasn’t looking at her anymore, but reading something somewhere near her face. Veronica wished she could join the Stream right now; it felt like they were in two different worlds.

“Okay then, if you’re certain. I’ll start getting the paperwork done. There is a mandatory two week consideration period before the procedure can be carried out, just to give you a little extra time to think. If you’re still interested by then, contact my practice to schedule an appointment. Best of luck, Veronica.”

He handed her back her Visor, a sleek, curved metal wire. It wrapped around the back of her head, with little indents to rest on her ears. It curved again slightly to press against her cheeks, right below her eyes.

Veronica felt around for the metal connector in her temple, and with an audible click she reaccessed the Stream. The room completely changed: the walls were a light blue color, the drawers looked like they were made from a dark stained wood. There was a picture of a smiling child throwing a red ball for a panting puppy, and the doctor’s clothes were unstained, ironed, and professional, and his pants were an inoffensive brown.

As Dr. Sebald left the room, Veronica saw him as she normally did. Same height and weight, same silhouette as before; however, there were less wrinkles in his face, and his cheeks were not as heavy. His skin was clear and spotless, and his eyes were not as sunken in. His eyes! They were a very clear brown. While he was using a very natural filter, which most professionals used, there was a little extravagance in the clarity of his irises. While it seemed unnatural at first, Veronica quickly reacclimatized. This was her world, and after she got the lenses, she would never not be a part of it.

“Ah, Dr. Sebald, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to interview you for my college newspaper. I’m writing a piece about the introduction of the Stream into society, and its impacts, and I think you could provide an interesting perspective.”

He glanced quickly at the time, which was at the top right of his vision. “That sounds great Veronica, I’d love to. However, I do have another appointment at the moment. Message me about a meeting and we can work from there.”

She opened up her hand, and a small screen appeared on her palm. She scrolled for her Notes app, before writing a quick reminder. She ripped out the virtual note and pinned it to the top left of her vision, where it became partially translucent.

For a split second, her connection to the Stream wavered and she was once again in the bleak, foreign doctor’s office, and Dr. Sebald looked strange and old and unnaturally tired.

“I can’t wait for the lenses,” she muttered to herself, before putting on her coat. She really liked the Design attached to it, which made it so a small trail of stars followed her when she walked with it on. While she knew there was a world where without the Stream, she could not imagine living in it. And soon she would never have to.

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