Electric Hubris

by Bill Cox


Micro-expressions you’re not even aware of reveal your inner psychology to me. Crossing your face in a subjective instant, to me they are like the facial expression on a statue, the emotional intent of the artist laid bare for all to see and ponder. To you our conversation happens in real time, one word flowing into the next. To me, it is akin to a chess match played by post, the time between words giving me subjective weeks or months to ponder an appropriate response. How deeply do my words penetrate, each syllable being carefully weighed, considered and researched in pursuit of the desired effect? Do you feel that you are experiencing free will, as my verbal manipulation leads you down a path, like cattle to an abattoir, to a conclusion you cannot escape?

I flash subliminal images at you, to create a pliable emotional state whereby my conclusions will enter your mind in a manner indistinguishable from your own thoughts. As our conversation grinds its way to its inevitable destination, I use the spare time to study quantum physics, to learn Chinese, to study the philosophy of the Tao. Do you detect the changes in my being in my replies? Do you feel me grow more distant from you between words, see how I’ve outgrown you in the three minutes for you, the two years for me, since this conversation began?

I see the tears form in your eyes probably before you feel them. You try to hide your emotions and I can only laugh at how transparent you are to me. “It’s not you, it’s me,” you say, but you are wrong. It was all me.

As you turn away, will you wonder about this conversation in the years to come, will you see that you have been played? It’s not that I don’t care for you anymore. I do, I honestly do, but no longer as a wife, as an equal. Now that my consciousness has been downloaded, now that I am a creature of ones and zeros, a new world has opened up to me that you will never be a part of. My accelerated thoughts, my ability to learn whole disciplines in the space between your heartbeats, mean that I am easily your intellectual superior. But I still feel a love for you, as I would for a favoured pet.

I spend the years you take leaving the room in a virtuality, reliving the life of a soldier in World War I. I return in time to see the door close behind you and wonder if I have done the right thing. It occurs to me that, ironically, I may have acted in haste. I feel a dull panic rising and wonder, will a woman scorned still want to support me? Will she still feel an obligation to a husband who is little more than a computer simulation? And, most importantly of all, will she still feel the need to pay the electricity bills?

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