Ultramodern Love Or, Romance Near the Singularity

[fiction]

After placing a bottle of consciousness decoherent in my basket, I look up and find myself locking gazes with a shopper at the opposite end of the recreational delirium aisle. Instantly, I am enchanted by her augmented eyes. Which themselves aren’t an uncommon enhancement, but her modified irises are clearly a bespoke customization. They give her an incisive look, even though I know the violet nanocrystals glimmering around her pupils are simply a mechanism for dynamically directing light toward or away from her retinas in response to ambient conditions.

Of course, it’s not surprising that my ancestral human nature (i.e., wetware psychology) finds this charming. With the critical role vision has long played for our species, there’s little choice but to have my attention piqued by seemingly acute eyes. And why not go along with it?

So I walk over and ask if she’d like to get together sometime, to try the deliciously maddening botanicals I’ve picked out. Her eyes glint all the more beguilingly as she smiles kindly—probably to soften the blow she’s about to verbally deal, having no doubt read the increased blood flow in my facial capillaries.

“Sorry, I’m not looking for anything biological right now,” she says.

I’m about to bounce back with, “No problem. I’m game for some intellectual discourse—or even avant-garde cinema,” but she’s already saying, “No guarantees, but I’ll put you on my list of potential liaisons. For now, here are my psychometrics so you can run some simulations.”

She beams the info to me. Eagerly, I accept the surprisingly large dataset, appreciative of the opportunity to get acquainted with a virtual version of her that has all the key elements of her personality.

“Thanks, I’ll compile the compatibility scores,” I say.

“OK, but I didn’t mean that kind of simulation. I just gave you a full cognitive inventory—with no restrictions.”

“Oh. Well, that’s rather… generous of you.”

“For a second, I thought you were going to say egotistical. But you’re right. I am trying to be generous. Why not offer the essence of ourselves when others take an interest in us? Nowadays, it’s virtually impossible to spread ourselves thin, when it comes to our identities.”

I nod along, intrigued but dubious. Is this what we’re heading for, magnanimity of self? To be knowable to everyone whose fancy we catch? An oversharing of ourselves renormalized into routine psychological promiscuity? Though I should offer to reciprocate, I cling to the privacy of my selfhood.

She must sense my reservations and says, “It’s OK if you prefer to take things more gradually. Get those compatibility scores, then decide for yourself.”

She smiles again, then turning to leave, adds, “You’ll know how to find me.”

And I will have to find her. I owe her now. The only question is what exactly. Maybe some nootropics in aisle three can help me figure that out during a mixed reality session with her data. Or is some other product here in the psychotropics shop better suited for the task?

So, it’s back to browsing the shelves.

Soramimi Hanarejima is the author of the neuropunk story collection Literary Devices for Coping (Rebel Satori Press, 2021). Soramimi’s recent work can be found in AMBIT, Pulp Literature, Constellations and Vestal Review.