Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean,Needs not the painted flourish of your praise:Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues.Love's Labours Lost -ShakespeareHe watched her figure through a break of light between his crumbled blankets, careful to avoid direct eye contact. After she brought in a package, she checked the HealthMon screen on the wall next to their bed. His wife, Carolina, bent over and he closed his eyes as she kissed his head. He heard her walk away and then watched as she waved her hand over the switch. Thankfully, the room went dark in an instant. In the safety of shadow, he slightly tugged the blankets down from his face and lifted his head from the soggy pillow that failed to smother his new reality.“Sorry my dear. Where did you say you put my new contacts, my lovely?”He cocked his ear and closed his eyes in case she turned the light on again to respond. She must have hesitated; perhaps she was annoyed, for it took her two seconds to repeat what she whispered.“With the others. In your drawer. Under the sink and with your others. Now – go back to sleep, my handsome Guivani.”“Yes. Yes I will, my beautiful; my sleek ocēlōtl.”He listened for the door to close; to hear it shut, with a solid click of the magnetic lock. He did not hear the click. He pulled the blankets down and sat up in bed, tried to see if the door was closed. Slightly ajar! Quietly, he slid off the bed and then swiftly calmed the HealthMon’s annoying wail. He shut the door, careful to not look out directly into the hall in the case his lovely Carolina had returned thanks to the panicked monitor. He felt a sudden easing of his worry when the door lock clicked and the home security pad near the switch blinked and updated the system. Now, he needed to update his system. He peered into the darkness towards the corner where the bathroom held his new HomCulus. Jesus suddenly appeared on the cross outlined by the six-panel door. The Savior was lit up, and His brown robe blew wildly in the desert gusts. The scene was vivid; too vivid. The Savior was near death, and His blood from His swollen hands darkened and dried in clumps of windblown grains of sand.Another damn Savior perception, he cursed in his mind, and then rubbed away the slight pain on the backs of his own hands. The HealthMon lit up, and he glanced at its screen momentarily. Excite: Pulse increase, it read; Anger granulation of the dentate gyrus, it measured; possible nightmares or thoughts of harmful behavior, it deduced.Nightmares? He asked himself. Indeed. Nightmares, he thought. Daymares, too. He then fixed his eyes on the bathroom door until the Jesus disappeared. Time to kill this new reality!He ran into the bathroom. The light over the sink lit up as he yanked open the drawer. There it was, next to the other ones; the other ones that failed to work with his sensory implant…his old, finicky, outdated CulusPlate. He looked at his reflection in the mirror; not willingly either, because he was surprised to witness seeing his own eyes staring back at him. He was old. His face -- a face of a stranger's! He was old and he was falling behind. Too outdated for today’s innovative technology.
Of course, millions of people the same age as he have had the same issues. The sensory implants of his old generation were the first of its kind and couldn't be blamed for the glitches created when adapting to new software created by these new generations. Everyone complained, with every software update…and the double -- even triple visions…and the glitches not only with actual perceptions, but with imagined ones, too! And exchanging the old CulusPlate hardware with new had failed miserably and had even caused quite a few to go mad. Even pushed some to commit… Damn it!Can’t keep up with society’s latest demands of social norms…today’s new fads and exotic traditions and sense of beauty.“Damn it!” He muttered to his reflection -- his real, true to life reflection – as he witnessed Jesus appearing behind him in the ocean wave graphics of the shower curtain. Jesus was at the stern of a boat, surrounded by several men. He then waved His hands over the ocean, and the waves quickly died down. The men then fell to their knees in prayer.This damn HomCulus, he wanted to curse. Yet, strangely, he felt an unexpected easing in his chest after he witnessed the vision. “Whatever this is," He said to shower curtain, "I don’t have time for this.”He grabbed the new HomCulus and pried open the plastic casing with his fingernails.An audio from a chip inside the package warned, “You must submit to an eye scan before you utilize this device.” She repeated it in Russian.Shut up.He looked for the seal...the model number. Ukraine. That model number splayed across the news and the digital audio and visual feeds at all the government facilities as a warning. He could barely see the number printed on the inside covering: Ukraine_0…
He squinted, held the covering closer to the light: Ukraine_0300. Yes! Yes! His hands started to shake. Easy. Easy, Guivani.
“You must then submit to a license scan with a valid physicians or certified operator ID.” She repeated it in Russian.Shut up. “Please shove it down your precious throat, my dear.”He carefully laid the HomCulus on the sink counter and then searched for a pair of forceps in the drawer. With the forceps shifting back and forth between his fingers, he had to calm himself before he carefully lifted the thin film covering off the HomCulus.“Warning. This device will be rendered inoperable in two minutes.” She then repeated in –“Damn it!” He remembered what the Systems Engineer at University had told him to get around the licensing requirement. He must scan the new HomCulus with –“Warning. This device will be rendered inoperable in – “He ran out the bathroom to his bedside searching frantically for his cell adapter. He returned to the sink, watched his reflection place the cell adapter to his temple and slide it up and down and sideways until his cell phone screen appeared in the air between him and the mirror. A blurry, red ‘X’ popped up. He must have grabbed Carolina’s adapter by mistake!“Warning. This device – “He returned to his bed, felt through the blankets and even whimpered as he felt the precious seconds eroding away.“Ah!” He screamed; held his hand over his mouth as he felt his lips turn up into a smile against his sweaty palm. He had felt the imprint of the adapter under one of the blankets. Thank God!He returned to the sink, placed the adapter against his temple and then searched the internet with his thoughts, with the code word ‘Baba Yaga 2046’. A website popped up and began flashing a series of coded numbers and wavelengths. He carefully looked down at the HomCulus, aimed his screen over it.“Warning. This device will be rendered – Ukraine_0300 by Obraz International has been successfully activated. English or other language to continue?"“English. English pl-““English. Please note that Ukraine_0300 will only function with CulusPlate Generations 1, 2, 3, and 6. Would you like me to scan your eye print to match?"“Yes. Yes, please do my lovely lady!”“Okay. Please hold while Obraz International performs an eye scan. Got it. You are equipped with CulusPlate Generation 1. Before preparing Ukraine_0300 implanting, please allow for the device to load the latest software and operational updates. Updates may take up to one minute."He nodded, as if the voice could see him. But who knew what they could see…or what they could know. The government took his original Ukraine_0300 HomCulus away because of alleged spyware. He didn’t know if it was true. Frankly, he didn’t care! The Ukrainians weren’t only the first to develop the HomCulus, they were the best at making them. Oh, what a wonderful device! Everyone became beautiful, and instantly! Colors were vivid and the light; it was so much more illuminating! Even dark was a more vividly dark! An entire generation – and all around the world; millions of people had the same implant, the same realities, the same eye for what was normal and what was beautiful and what was socially –“Updates are taking longer than expected. Please hold.”And that’s why millions of people just like him were on the brink of insanity! Governing bodies all over the free world colluded to have the Ukrainian implants removed and for their generic versions to be inserted, their horridly inadequate and boring and stupid versions that were chock full of propaganda and even commercial advertising! Sure, people were given a choice of which government-sanctioned HomCulus they could have shoved behind their eyes…“But they’re all terrible!” He exclaimed to his reflection as his horribly misshaped teeth snarled back at him.And none of the new versions worked well with his Generation’s CulusPlate. The People of Retirement Association’s model, for example, harped on how similar their chip was to the Ukraine_0300. Fools! Their HomCulus was slower than molasses and rated the worst of all time in real-time scanning – a fact he learned the day after he had it implanted. He’d seen an old lady at the grocery picking out avocados. She turned towards him and he was greeted with a hideous green and bumpy head under a sun hat while the pile of avocados stared back at him with pink blush, berry red lipstick, and grasshopper leg-shaped eyebrows!“It even said Ola to me!” He shook his head, reliving the frightful experience.And the other HomCulus implant – the one from Horizon Cell Specialists. “Oh María, Madre bendita!” It made him perceive a more youthful world – that was for sure. But everyone was plastic in their expressions and looked like cartoon characters.
Jesus! “When did the world suddenly become an Anime production?”And worse than all of them was this new Vatican-approved HomCulus: Blessed_R_U_1.“Update complete. Implantation may proceed by the licensed operator.”He shook his head, lost in his fog of resentment. The Catholic model did not allow for physical alterations in perception except for the bare minimum in skin smoothing.
“We must accept our identity. What crap!”
And though it did a superb job with bright field alterations, it allowed for ‘visions’ and even faint stimuli to be realized based on the wearer’s mood. Happy thoughts? You might see a vision of Mary in the cream swirls of your pumpkin soup. She’s bending over the hearth stirring a pot of vegetables. Feeling sorry for yourself? Then there is a good chance you’ll see Jesus carrying His cross along a gravel-strewn road. And you might even feel the sharp stabs on your soles or the snap of whips against the middle of your spine!"Oh! What delight!"
So, for the first time in his life, he had no choice in the matter. The Blessed_R_U_1 was the most popular among his Generation…which meant that he would fit in better…and he would see the world as others among his people would see the world. And besides all that, his lovely Carolina insisted on it. "Come see the world as we all will."What a great, great…terrible sacrifice he had to make! He had to see people for how they were born? Their true attributes, either good or bad? And when he got home….“Oh María, Madre bendita!” He mumbled and closed his eyes. “What have I done to deserve this?”He relived the scene, as he had done many times since. He saw his lovely Carolina's earthly attributes for the first time in their marriage. She was setting up the table with their dinner. Her favorite Mariachi stream was playing. She leaned over the bowl of green beans she had just set. He saw nothing but a hideous animal – a terrible lizard-like bird with a toucan-like reptilian-skinned beak hovering over steaming shreds of some freshly killed green carcass! And the thing was staring up at him…and the thing was smiling up at him…and the thing was nodding to the beat of Mariachi!“Oh, dear, dearest Jesus.” He held his face in his trembling hands.Such a terrible, terrible…realization! His entire world, his… Everything he thought was real suddenly and forevermore became…real! He remembered he had excused himself immediately. Said he was not well. Said he was woozy after the Blessed_R_U_1 implant. He had been bedridden ever since, faking illness, but searching the web for answers…for advice…for another Ukraine_0300 on the black market. And, with the grace of God, he found someone who was willing to deal! The Systems Engineer. Oh, it cost him dearly; $8,600 and a risk of Federal fines up to $150,000 plus five years’ jail time. But, it didn’t matter. Oh, how nothing mattered anymore! Ukraine spyware?“Like that would be a problem -how?” He asked his reflection, its ears much larger than he realized and even sticking out a bit like a chimpanzee’s. “Spyware? Really? Like it is a comparable threat? Ha!”He collected his thoughts. He pulled out from the drawer a little box that held the HomCulus surgical device. The black-market value was astronomical, so he was renting it from the young Systems Engineer at University. That little shit...he thought. He's making a killing off of us old Gens! Oh, but no, no, no. He must be grateful. Grateful!He was careful not to damage the lasers and to keep it safe, although he almost dropped it once when Carolina went to bed early the other night. With a steadier hand than usual, he initialized the device’s sterilization procedure. He then set it to ‘Extraction’. He rolled his eyes up as far as he could and placed the warmed end of the device against his left eyeball. Within ten seconds, the Blessed_R_U_1 was detached from its CulusPlate dock and removed through the slits made by the lasers. He felt no pain, but he knew he would later. He did the same to his right eye. Quickly, he set the device to ‘Insertion’ and impatiently attached one of the Ukraine_0300 HomCulus chips onto the device. With some effort and multiple tries, he successfully inserted them. Obraz International picked up on the dockings.“Please note your device may be turned off at will or when under direction of medical personnel. Your device will not function during specific activities such as while operating machinery, extreme physical activity, or while under drug impairment based on measurable factors both of biological and GPS telemetry data uploaded legally from government-approved monitoring devices…”“Spyware, returned! Ha! Welcome home, Comrade. I mean,” He said to himself while the Obraz International operator's manual went on and on about device usage rules, “What would they have me do?” He sat down on the toilet, crossing his legs and absentmindedly counted the peaks of the waves on the shower curtain. “Would they direct me to shoot the President?” Eight, nine, ten… “Or blow up a chocolate factory in South Bend, Indiana?” Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen... No, he thought. Fifteen.“…As well as by other measurable factors," Obraz International continued, "protected by the Individual Act of 2045, and the…”He then told his cell to open his graphics folder again. “Ah…” He sighed, relieved to see his lovely Carolina sunbathing at the shore of Lake Michigan. Such a beautiful woman, he thought. “And always so.”“Obraz International reserves the right to disengage sensory if intoxication or medical conditions such as fever, blood loss, and sudden lowering of oxygen levels in the blood or increasing of carbon dioxide in the blood are detected.”“Yes.” He exclaimed and grinned as he magnified the picture on the perfectly thin, slightly upturned nose of his most beautiful wife of thirty years. “Everyone hates a sinus infection.” She was the one to have, and he was lucky -so lucky to have this lovely and perfect woman. His sleek, “My sleek ocēlōtl!”---------
Carolina curled up on the sofa, wondered when Guivani would find the courage to come out of his bedroom and …face her. Anyway, he didn’t have to lie. She knew what he was having delivered to the apartment. They were not contacts. He had perfect vision. Everyone had perfect vision thanks to the Federal government’s ‘Right to See Right’ push.Sure. It was only a superficial program. Everyone’s vision was corrected, but everyone knew it was to remove the defective models – those Russian spying HomCuli. Or were they from the Ukraine?Like the ones her parents had implanted when she was just a baby. Like the ones she had to have taken out.Whatever HomCulus he would finally choose didn’t matter to her. She wanted him to be happy again. She clasped her hands, nodding to herself. It will come. She had faith. He will finally find a model that worked with his outdated CulusPlate. She had the same CulusPlate as him. And this new HomCulus she had put in... Well, it had its share of issues. She had to get used to it, just the same. Guivani, for one thing, was not quite as attractive as he used to be.She grimaced; felt guilty admitting such. She sighed and unclasped her hands, only find herself doing so again. Honestly, though, he was fine enough. His teeth needed... And his bulbous eyes were... He was balder than she thought, and his ears were… He was fine, though. A good man.Things could be worse. This new HomCulus was an improvement overall. People were natural, true, and people were not naturally beautiful; but everything else in the world was clearer and more…crisper than the old Russian one. Really, she felt a new energy in all the life around her that just made her want to get up and do things. She could have no real complaints. No. No real ones.Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a bright light appear in the gloom of the living room. She slid across the couch to get a better look. Jesus was standing on the lampshade. He was talking to an unseen crowd around Him, somewhere on the end table and next to the stack of Cajeta wafers.Carolina smiled, tried to hear what her Savior was saying. A warm tingle swelled from the middle of her chest. What a lovely perception…such a lovely scene to have witnessed. To see Jesus standing on her lampshade!