It's a MAD World

Anders felt his grogginess lifting before the coffee cup had even reached his lips. It was that smell—the biting combination of warmth and bitterness—that energized his mind with each inhalation as he prepared to sip the drink.

“Kettle on?” Sophie wheeled in, making a beeline for the stove. “Good morning to you too, Soph,” Anders teased. He tossed her a peppermint tea bag from the shelf. She swirled the tea bag idly, watching the translucence tinge a light green. Most people at the office preferred coffee like Anders, but Sophie responded better to the sharp sweetness of peppermint. “You going anywhere this weekend?”

“Just staying home and celebrating with Darya. She just graduated from Elementary Mental Functions and is getting her MAD today. I warned her it might take some getting used to, but she’s so excited to test it out. Keeps saying she wants to be a Router someday like me,” he blushed. He too had looked forward to having his Mental Amplification Device implanted back in the day, dreamed of accessing all that information.

Sophie smiled. “Toby’s still a couple years out from finishing EMF, but I know what you mean. He told me he can’t wait to get the news before I do,” she chuckled.

It was ironic, Anders thought, that Sophie and the rest of the News crew were in charge of processing and transmitting news data but the last to become aware of it. It was a safeguard put in place when the government first instituted the Mental Communications Agency. Those working in the Zone of Absorption, or the Zorp as people had taken to calling it, had access to all information—regional data uploaded by local partners, national information uploaded from Headquarters, and transmissions from international communication centers. To avoid abuse of this knowledge, this power over information, the agency programmed all Routers’ MADs to erase memory of all information accessed in the Zorp upon their return to reality.

While this measure protected people’s privacy in communications, it also meant that those facilitating data transmission lost the information they processed unless, in the case of the news, it was shared publicly.

"Give her my congratulations and tell her I hope to see her working here someday." With that, Sophie smiled and wheeled her chair out the breakroom door.

As Anders made his way to the Mailroom, coffee in hand, his thoughts turned once more to Darya. He liked to imagine she would one day join the research efforts to develop what they were calling “tele-technesis,” the application of Mental Amplification to the physical world. He could just see Darya making breakthroughs in the field, queueing up the coffee machine with her mind, enabling Sophie to navigate her electric wheelchair with sheer mental power.

It’s amazing what the mind can do these days.

BREAK--For the curious/confused reader: A brief history of MADs

Anders waved to his fellow so-called “Mailmen,” a colloquialism leftover from the old days of communication. Making his way to the floor-to-ceiling windows on the far side of the room, he settled into his white leather arm chair, pushing back into the cloudlike cushions and placing his coffee cup on the table beside him. He stared out at the greenery fondly.

Most Routers preferred to do their work in the presence of nature. Much like coffee and tea, it both relaxed and engaged the mind. Taking several deep breaths, Anders leaned back and closed his eyes, the image of pines seemingly imprinted on their lids.

Even after years of training, Anders had never fully adjusted to the feeling of entering the Zorp. It began with concentration on something just beyond the reach of his cognizance, a rippling around the edges of his thoughts.

Then came the sensation of his mind stretching, expanding outward to encompass everything around him.

Feeling overcame his other senses, the sensation of information pulsing around him rhythmically, data rife with energy absorbed into his being.

The correspondence came racing in, filling his mind with thoughts and messages that weren’t his own.

Cal, I so enjoyed our date and hope to see you again. This Saturday night? I’ll book a reservation at that place you love…

Mom, Michael has the flu. Need you to pick him up from school. Swamped here with work and…

URGENT: Secretary Bloom, we need your support for our agency’s tele-technesis research…

Anders lost himself in flow of information, his brain working tirelessly to locate the data’s address, seeking the sensation that matched the message’s energy and channeling that energy toward the Zorp portal of the intended recipient.

It was an instinctive process—his mind abuzz with a continuous stream of energies beaming from one destination to the next, sometimes in the form of language, other times images. All sense of time and place was lost, replaced by the pure momentum of communication.

Rajeet, the deal is going to fall through unless you can convince the client to give us a few more weeks…

Happy 12th birthday, Mira!! Pops and Nana are so proud of and can’t wait to see you this weekend xoxoxo…

And then:

Dad…finally got the MAD and am…trying to send my first message to you…can’t wait for you to see this!! Love you…see you soon, Darya...

Exiting the Zorp felt like slipping from white noise into a strange, quiet world. Coming down from that heightened state, relinquishing the energy, often left Anders feeling drained and somewhat disoriented. Those hours seemingly disappeared from his day, replaced by a wearying nothingness.

This time, however, a peculiar sense of peace settled over Anders—a feeling he couldn’t quite understand. He found himself smiling into sips of cold coffee, whistling softly to himself as walked to meet the team for lunch.

It’s amazing what the mind can do these days.

My name's Shelby Slotter, and I'm a second year student at the University of Viginia. I hope you enjoyed my short piece of science fiction! Read more stories here: MDST 3500 Homepage