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News & Features » April 2019 » “Implant 6428007891” by Philip Quinn

“Implant 6428007891” by Philip Quinn

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, Philip Quinn shows us a consultation between a doctor and his patient, who is hearing unsettling voices . . .

Implant 6428007891
by Philip Quinn
Earth, 2031

Saw Dr. Vaughn Romo yesterday. My second consult. We discussed the various options again. The consult was free this time, but not of arrogance . . .

ME: “You remember my situation?” 

ROMO: “Not really. I see fifty people a day. Let me scan your file while you fill me in.”

ME: “Too many cellular random voices though one voice, I think it’s some kind of Russian bot speaking perfect English, dominates the others, wants me to shoot the president. I mean, it isn’t even in the same country, just in my head. It’s the implant . . . something’s gone wrong.”

ROMO: “Yes, according to your file you have the Broca 6428007891, good for its time but now you’ve had too many adjustments . . . too overresected, needs to be reengineered or discarded. But then you could do nothing, too, take the latest drug neutralizers; this eliminates the risk of further surgeries.”

He grabs a magic marker, taps my chest with it.

ROMO: “We also need to address this at some point.”

 ME: “My artificial? I mean, I think it’s too wide, too loud. It constricts my breathing, especially at night. But what do you think?”

ROMO: “It’s the Barnard model, right? We have to ensure it syncs up with whatever we do.” 

He begins tracing the outlines of the implant in my forehead. He hands me a tray with various colored neurals.

ROMO: “That purple one is the corpus callosum neuroactive and the pink one’s a mechanical bride augmentation . . . but they’re sometimes so unpredictable, unreliable. The oversight’s gone, too much push for instant results. Your implant, the Broca, falls somewhere in between, good but not perfect. That’s why I dropped out of the government project, deal strictly now with the private sector, small start-ups funded by the European universities.”

He touches my right temple, rubs the scar tissue with his thumb.

ROMO: “We won’t go in there; instead, up through your nasal cavity. No additional scarring, the stigma of that. I’ll use a nanorasp on your implant, it still has value, allow a little ego to squeeze through, that would stop some of the voices, and then I’d squeeze it a bit too, encase it with some synaptic polymers so it’s not so prone to probing frequencies.”

ME: “But didn’t you say it’s best not to do anything?”

ROMO: “No. What I’m saying is, can it be better? Yeah. But do the risks outweigh the rewards? That’s your decision. You can stick with the drugs.”

ME: “I mean, what’s the likelihood I end up worse?”

ROMO: “What do you want me to say?”

ME: “How many of these revisions have you done?”

ROMO: “I’m a doctor! I’ve done everything and seen everything! That’s why I’m the best! You’re coming to me after many failed operations. You’re a mess. AI surgery, even done with robotic assistance, is always risky.”

ME: “I have a numb sensation on my left side.”

ROMO: “Here.”

He unsheathes an old-fashioned scalpel from its casing and tosses it at me. I try to block it with the sleeve of my leather jacket, but I can’t raise my left arm quick enough, so it pricks me on the chest before it jangles down hard on the linoleum floor.

ROMO: “That’s gone. It’s the nerves there. Circulation is fine. Anyway, you won’t know until eighteen months post-op if some of that will return.” 

ME: “So I probably should think this through . . . A few months won’t make any difference?”

He picks up the scalpel.

ROMO: “Yeah. Stuttgart says they’re working on a breakthrough upgrade to the Broca, but it’s likely six months away, and you still won’t know exactly how it will mesh with the old one, plus all the damaged neurons from the previous operations . . . they can begin to ghost . . . create recurring events, a loop that you can never quite escape . . . that voice, for example.”

ME: “So wait?”

ROMO: “Your choice. I’ve done thousands of these neuropathic revisions. I’m the preeminent surgeon. If we need to replace the Broca with an entirely new implant and you develop a problem with it, not my fault. Go after the government that approved it . . . Good luck with the Chinese though.” 

ME: “Alright, thanks.”

We shake hands. He’s off. His receptionist, Michael, who’s interested in stand-up comedy, gives me the final kiss off.

“If you have any follow-up questions . . . text them to me.”

ME: “Okay. I will.”

I stand in the hallway, holding my breath before descending the stairs. That voice starts up again, orders me . . .


PHILIP QUINN lives in Toronto and online at www.philipquinn.ca. His published work includes: Dis Location, Stories After the Flood, the novels The Double and The Skeleton Dance; poetry The SubWay and Fingers Leak Their Way to the Heart. The writer and editor Mark McCawley wrote in the publication Sensitive Skin: “Whenever anyone asks me who my top transgressive Canadian writers happen to be, Philip Quinn is always at the top of that list. Hamilton-born, Quinn’s writing takes the familiar and makes it strange; then takes the strange and makes it quotidian.”


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 19, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,