The Conditioning

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 Brice Parker’s bedroom was quiet, aside from the faint hum of the pewter coated ceiling fan and occasional rustle of blankets. The only emission of light was from the LED alarm clock and charging light on his cell phone. Brice had just finished a series of long work days with many more to come, not to mention his four-hour round trip commute.

   His boss had given his team an escalated deadline that left little time for anything else. The social media project that he had been working on required a lot of computer data research, analysis, and attention to details. Brice had stared at his computer screen for many hours that particular day with very minimal breaks, leaving his eyes strained and exhausted.

   The constant flickers and distorted images of light, from his computer screen, remained imbedded even after closing his eyes more than 30 minutes prior. He thought they would soon dissipate and he could drift off to sleep like every previous night in his life before. Unfortunately for Brice the light flickers remained and even somewhat multiplied.

  Hours went by as Brice laid in his bed, watching the light show as he grimaced from exhaustion. After finally giving in to the flickering light induced insomnia, he couldn’t bare to look at his alarm clock. As his wake up time approached, Brice noticed that the flickering light he watched behind closed eyes began to take more substantial form and resemble words from articles he had read online. Brice knew he had been working long hours and perhaps that was contributing to his eye strain. He thought perhaps a visit to the doctor was in order, but he knew there was no time.

  Brice began his morning with his usual hard-boiled eggs, chased by a cup of green tea. Brice was very health conscious and rarely veered from his ketogenic diet. No sugar, no processed foods. If he did ingest carbohydrates, it was from raw whole foods.

 Amidst his commute to the office, Brice noticed that the images of light, articles, and such would become more prevalent each time he closed his eyes. In fact, during the two-hour commute, he would lose chunks of time. Sometimes fifteen minutes or so. When he arrived at the office, he could barely recall the commute at all. In fact he could recall more social media content than he could the ambulance, fire truck, or parade that he had passed.

  In a panic, Brice grabbed his Starbucks coffee cup from his car console and walked across the parking lot. On the way, as he gulped down the remainder of joe and realized that he didn’t remember purchasing it. In fact, he remembered that he didn’t even like coffee. Somewhat stunned by the sudden realization, he briefly sat on the bench next to the entrance and closed his eyes. Almost immediately, the lights and images began. First it was a Facebook post, then came twitter, and Instagram, etc… Brice began to rub his bloodshot eyes in an attempt to control the images. However, it only increased the speed and fluctuation. Brice placed his palms over his face and dropped his head between his knees as one of his coworkers walked by and noticed that Brice appeared to be having some distress.

  “Brice….you OK?”, said Charlie Simpson as he placed his hand on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. Brice looked up at Charlie and became immediately enraged. Brice quickly arose and grabbed Charlie by the shirt and shoved him to the ground.

  “Fuck you!” said Brice as he sat back down and replanted his face in his palms, closing his eyes and dreading the images.

   “Damn it, Brice! What is wrong with you! We’ve been friends since elementary school!”, said Charlie as he dusted himself off, offered his friend a gesture, and made his way into the building in order to not be late.

  As Brice sat back down, he recalled their friendship, but couldn’t recall exactly why he was so angry with Charlie. Each time he closed his eyes, the anger grew. He didn’t know why, but he felt compelled to kill him. In a rage, Brice sprang up and marched towards the entrance of the building. When he lifted his arm towards the microchip scanner, the doors opened and everything went dark.

  As he came to, Brice was once again lying in his bed, staring into closed eyelids viewing vast amounts of social media at enormous rates of speed. As each image of a post appeared, Brice’s emotions swung from anger, to sadness, to happiness, and all places in between. Feeling as though he was going insane, he went to his kitchen to clear his thoughts and maybe find something to eat. To his surprise, his cupboards were filled with all sorts of famous name brand snacks. His refrigerator was filled with the same. Brice had no recall of buying any of those things, but partook nonetheless. Soon after eating his third cupcake and soda, Brice passed out and fell to his kitchen floor.

  Twenty four hours had passed and Brice was once again making his commute to the office. He felt sluggish from all of the junk food, but the computer images, flickering lights, and social media posts had stopped. Brice thought that perhaps the insulin spike was maybe what he needed.

  As Brice sat down at his desk and booted up his computer to begin working on the project, everything once again went dark. When he awakened a few moments later, the computer images, flashes of light began. That time, he didn’t fight it. In fact, Brice was no longer in control of his own brain. He no longer had an identity. He felt compelled to do whatever the social media posts told him to do. As his mind scrolled through his Facebook page, he saw a post in which his friend Charlie Simpson had embraced the newly elected President’s actions on Twitter. Instantly Brice became angry. He stood up from his black leather office chair and walked over to Charlie’s cubicle, grabbing a pair of scissors along the way. Without blinking, Brice grabbed the back of Charlie’s head and drove the scissors through his temple. Charlie died instantly without much of a struggle.

  Six months had passed and Brice was eating lunch from his cell on death row. As he chewed his bologna sandwich, he smiled as the current memes regarding politics scrolled through his brain. Seconds later, he came upon one that made him angry. It was a Facebook post from Phil, the prison guard standing outside Brice’s cell. Phil, had posted a meme mocking the legalization of marijuana. Brice called to the guard to approach him as he slowly lowered the shank from his orange sleeve. Brice was no longer in control of his mind. Artificial intelligence had overtaken him. He not only had been working on the social media project, he was the project. The conditioning.



                                                    -The End-


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