BILLIE GAZED AT THE STUMP where her hand used to be. It was an old wound, yet it still ached when it caught her eye. Her memories tended to blur together, but not this one. The horror story behind the loss made it seem fresh and painful, a trauma that refused to heal, even with therapy sessions and several daily shots of Jonny, of which Billie was sitting at her table slamming back now … with her left hand. The warm liquid was giving her a nice little buzz.
Missing a hand was like missing an old friend, one that left long ago, and would drift in and out of memory forevermore. Maybe it was the difficulty in the everyday task of kneading dough the way she once did, with two strong hands, taking for granted the punching and pushing, the simple strength of forcing something soft to soften even further under pressure. She made bread with one hand now, like many others went about their day attempting to complete tasks to the same degree at which they used to, and never quite getting there. The postman and taxi drivers who learned to drive, teachers and students learning to type one-handed like they did in primary school, lawyers, stockbrokers, supermarket check-out-chicks, all a little more encumbered and heavy with the burden of life. Then there were those who had dared to purchase tech to replace their hands. Craziness.
It was far too easy to play victim, and she was doing it again right now. Billie Rose Georgia Freemont, a ridiculously long name even for a country girl, lifted herself up from the kitchen table and heaved a sigh. She gazed out the grease-covered window at the placement of the sun in the sky and guessed it was about 3PM. There was no clock to go by, and she preferred it that way. There were no gadgets or gizmos in this household, thank you very much – no television, or computers, not even an oven. She cooked her food on a hearth; fire was safer. Safer than God Damn tech.
This place, Billie’s home, was a world away from the city. The city, where dreams came true more often than in the country. The city with its tall, glass buildings boasting signs to buy this, to be that. The city, where you could have anything and everything. Where every new invention was accessible, affordable, and made your life
Oh so easy.
And boyo boy, did the young version of Billie love the oh so easys. Her full-wall, inbuilt flat screen with curved sides for panoramic views, her Robosimaid wall-to-wall bathroom cleaner that saved her hours of scrubbing mouldy showers. The young Billie, the naïve – yes, sir, I’ll take one of those, Billie – loved her gadgets almost as much as she loved people.
And nothing beat The Cell Tech 2040.
It was genius. And everyone was getting one. She remembered watching an ad during her favourite sitcom … an ad with a young mother who was carrying a baby in one arm while speaking to her other hand, followed by a surfer emerging from the ocean with his board, shaking the water off and answering his ringing anatomy.
Ever lose your cell phone? Ever dropped it down the loo, or over the side of your catamaran? Well, look no farther, the 2040 Hand Implant will ensure you never lose your phone again. In fact, you’ll have it ON HAND at all times.
The operation took under thirty minutes and the only drawback was that you couldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery for the rest of the day. The Cell Phone 2040 Hand Implant was revolutionary. People had ID chips put in at the age of nine, so it wasn’t such a big deal to cut your body open and stick tech in there.
A cheesy ad man stood talking to his hand, with the alleged phone inside, as the words ‘ten easy payments of 45 dollars’ flashed up on the screen. Billie had to have it.
It was 4 years before anything went wrong, when in the spring of 2044 a free Handtech upgrade became available. The upgrades had happened a few times prior, and Billie was used to them. In and out of a cupboard sized tech shop in less than 5 minutes, with your friendly phone technician. She was in an elevator when the shit went down.
There was a small burning sensation, and then an itch. The implant quickly became uncomfortable and Billie recalled the exact moment, while making toast in her small city apartment, when she got an electric shock. But she hadn’t touched anything. And that was when she screamed. But she wasn’t the only one screaming. She could hear others, too – down on the street below, in the apartments nearby – they were screaming as well. The pain in her hand became agonising and she put her phone up to her ear.
‘Call …’ she didn’t know who. An ambulance? A shrill beeping came from her hand and that’s when the real burning started. An internal fire in her palm brought Billie to her knees. The burning shot up her arm and into her chest. That was when her hand moved. This would be a perfectly normal thing to have happen, except that no part of her brain had told it to. Her hand grabbed her by the hair and gave an almighty yank, pulling Billie to the floor, where she whacked her head on the tiles. A smear of blood was left on the white when she sat herself up in a daze. Her hand came at her again, this time grabbing her cheek and squeezing. Her own nails dug into her face and Billie screamed, clawing at herself with her left hand, her sane hand, her hand that hadn’t been taken over by some awful force. The tug of war threw her around the room. She fell over the furniture trying to gain control of herself. And when her roommate returned to the trashed house, she found Billie in the centre of the wreckage with a knife, and one hand completely mangled, and pouring with blood.
They couldn’t save it.
They couldn’t save anyone’s.
Some had destroyed the device themselves, or had to have others do it for them. Some had no choice and their hands had blown up or melted from the inside out. Some had killed themselves.
Billie was lucky in a lot of ways, though. The free Handtech upgrade had also come with an extra special feature that made things oh so easy. An expensive implant put into the eye and connected to the brain, allowing you to SEE any person on the other end of the line. Billie hadn’t been able to afford it at the time. Others hadn’t been so lucky. It was all well and good to save yourself from the deadly take-over of a hand gone mental, but the brain was a whole other story.