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Spamhead

science fiction by Jim Young

“Can you hear me, Mister Johnson?” the doctor asks.

I stare at the ceiling. I can hear fine, but can’t answer because my mouth isn’t working.

“We’re monitoring you. Don’t worry.” And the crew leaves, two nurses and a doctor. The door closes and all I can see is white, anechoic baffling.

Even though my eyes are wide open and I’m not wearing netlenses, the images appear again. I know I’m not wearing any lenses because there’s no grid, no guide, nothing. Just this beautiful, dark-haired woman, with a languorous smile, popping contacts into her eyes.

A baritone voice-over rolls. Websight is the world’s oldest and most reliable contact lens interface –

“Stop, stop, stop,” I tell it, like the doctor told me. The image and the voice fade away.

None of this would be happening, if my goddamn car hadn’t broken down. Why couldn’t the transmission have held out until the end of the semester?

Speyeball is the safest and most advanced netlens available. Yours for only $36.99 a month if you act now!

Stop, stop, stop, I tell it. The voice-only echoes awhile before it goes away.

How was I to know the Russian mafia plan to destroy Websight?

Along with me and everybody else involved it seems. Even the guy handing out fliers in front of the computer sciences building last week. Like he knew anything. Just some mook off the street. The flier promises five grand to anyone who can write a new format filter for a revolutionary operating system. I’m about to graduate with a degree in operating systems. I figure, what the hell. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I tell myself this could lead to a job. Stranger things have happened.

And I needed my car fixed. I call the number on the flier.

We have six million dollars tied up in a Nigerian bank, and all we need is your bank account number to send you –

Stop, stop, stop!

This one takes a lot out of me to cancel. I’m breathing hard, like I ran a marathon.

A couple days later, this dude shows up at my door. My roomies are out. Weird-looking dude, says his name is Jerry. He has me take a test on my home equipment and it’s hard — real hard. But I figure out there’s a hole in the firewall code he brought along. When I’m done he goes like, “You passed. We’ll get back to you.”

Extend the size of your penis by up to six inches –

Stop, stop, stop!

I’m sweating now. That one’s in heavy rotation, doesn’t cancel as easy as the others.

Three guys show up a couple of nights later, again when I’m home alone. Two of ‘em are real big, like linebackers, and they don’t talk. There’s another guy shorter than me. He gives me an envelope with a thousand bucks in twenties. He goes, like, “We need you to work on this now. Can you do it?“ I nod. He gives me this laptop and walks me through some of it.

Speyeball has none of the problems with unwanted intrusion you get with Websight, and it can be yours for only $44.99 –

Stop, stop, stop!

I set up a hole in the filter code on their laptop. He goes, “We’ll try this out, get back to you.”

And I tell him, “Wait a minute. The flier said five thousand.”

Sex for the rest of your life can be yours –

Stop, stop, stop!

Before I know it, the big guys tackle me and put some kind of mask on me. Gas comes out. It smells minty and I know what that means. It’s some version of Frieze.

People pop that shit at discos all the time. Just going into one of those places, I get after-images from the ambient.

But this isn’t the street stuff. This is industrial grade Frieze. Maybe even psychwar-grade.

So I’m spread-eagled on the floor and one big guy pops two contact lenses in my eyes, closes the lids and says in a heavy accent, “That’s what you get for screw with Russian mafia. We don’t pay nobody nothing!”

“Shut up, Alyosha,” the short guy says.

“Why, shut up? He never talk to anybody again. Just see pretty pictures, forever.”

I hear them slam the door behind themselves. I’m on the floor, I can’t move and the spam is rolling through my brain.

Fed up with Websight? Speyeball will pay off your contract for only $9.99 a month plus –

Stop, stop, stop!

Hours later, my roomies show and find me on the floor, the Websight lenses in my eyes and the spam still going down. I can’t talk any more. They take me to the emergency room.

The doctor give me a shot, tell me to say “stop” three times to get the spam to cancel. I’ do that, again and again, except I can only say stop to myself, not out loud. That cancels it, but it doesn’t make it stop. Nothing makes the god-awful spam stop.

The crew is back again. “Too bad,” a nurse says, from somewhere beside my bed. “Seventeenth case we’ve had this week.”

“That counter-agent doesn’t seem to be doing much,” the doctor says, from the other side of the bed. “I’ll give him another day before I declare him a spam-head and send him to the wards.”

“Seeing these cases, I’m sure glad I don’t own any Websight stock,” another nurse says. “ It’s gonna be worthless, the way things are going.”

I try to tell them who did it, try to say I could never afford Websight lenses on my own, but my mouth doesn’t work. All I manage is a feeble moan.

And the image of a bunch of blond women, seated around a fireplace, slides into my head. The voice-over begins. Russian girls are looking for boyfriends –

Stop, stop, stop!

[copyright March 2011 by Jim Young]

Jim Young live in southern California.  He is a retired U.S. diplomat who served mostly in eastern Europe and Africa.  He was a child actor in his hometown of Minneapolis, and since retiring from the State Department in 2003 he’s been trying to launch a second career as a writer and actor.  He’s published two novels along the way, The Face of the Deep (Pocket, 1979) and Armed Memory (Tor, 1995), plus several short stories, including The Whirlwind in the Jan.-Feb. 2011 Fantasy and Science Fiction.

[Return to the March 2011 Issue]

9 Responses

  1. I intend to use the $6meg from Nigeria to enlarge my penis for those Russian ladies who…

    Stop stop stop

    Fun, story, Jim. Thanks!

  2. Very enjoyable and amusing. I like the idea of the contact lenses. Unfortunately I could see this happening. Fortunately the last time I wore contact lenses I scratched my eye which caused immense pain and thus have decided to never wear contact lenses again.

  3. “Go go go
    on a virtual vacation to Saint Spammergrad!”

    Enjoyable, and more than I need to know about the future of spam-filters. 8)

  4. I really enjoyed that, Jim. Reminded me a bit of George Saunders which is high praise from me.

  5. Wow, Jim. Now that is for sure Future Horror! Well done!

  6. Fun story. Thanks!

  7. Projecting a bit from Jim’s clever glimpse of future wonders/horrors, there will be direct neural spam, not stuff like voicemail and the internet. It won’t cost that much, but it will last a long while, in neurotransmitter terms. And it will be dicey to disconnect.

    Perhaps that is what the contacts actually did, as a chemical and not just a lens implant.

    Just imagine.

    Whew.

  8. Wow! makes me scared to be online even more. Glad I will never be tempted by any of those offers (though i would like to see how they would enlarge my penis by 5 inches or more!–what a surprise for Russian girls looking for husbands that would be).

  9. I’ve come back and reread this after a few weeks, and it still scares me. Good story, Jim.

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