“Nah he’s alright, just give him a chance.”
“I think we’ve seen enough chances.“
Richard stared at the woman at the counter of the small perfume boutique. She was weird alright. Saying all those things to herself. She opened her eyes.
“Oh god! Sorry. I didn’t know you were there.”
“Um, just this,” said Richard, waving a small bottle of perfume. “For my wife.”
“I was just multi-threading. Thinking about whether to leave my husband or not. I’ve done that now though, he’s gone.”
“Of course,” Richard chuckled as if he knew what she meant. He didn’t though. He was aware of what multi-threading was, multiple minds running on the same brain-substrate, but it didn’t make sense to him. To be honest, it actually quite frightened him.
“Thirteen ninety nine please,” said the woman, her eyes twitching back and forth like she was trying to follow a greyhound race.
“And it won’t hurt?” he asked.
“Not a bit.” said the pleasant woman in a white coat at the lab. “It’s not actually a physical change. In fact what happens is that we use radiation to alter the state of-”
“Actually” he interrupted, feeling slightly ill, “could you just do it?”
She was right. It didn’t hurt a bit. He actually felt better. Lighter in a way. The procedure came with a brochure entitled, How to Make the Most of Your New Minds. It was disarmingly light. Perhaps the whole thing wasn’t such a big deal after all.
Depending on your package, your brain now contains between four to sixteen minds that operate independently. Multi-threading involves involuntary auditory emissions. This is how the minds in your brain maintain communication. Don’t be alarmed.
There was a logic puzzle on the next page. It invited the user to test out their new skills.
“He can’t be in the castle if the drawbridge is up.”
“If there are three guards inside, the outside guard can only see in one direction.”
The king is one of the guards! I knew it! I’d never have gotten that before the implant.
The next few days were joyful. Every little mental task in his job that took hours before now took minutes. If there was something stressing him out, he’d just delegate it to one of his other minds. It would toss and turn for a few hours while he just relaxed, then when the resolution came it would be announced through his mouth like a zen koan.
Sure it was a little bit odd to suddenly shout, “love is more important than work” during dinner on a date, but it was normal these days. Most of the time they’d just giggle and remark on how strange the modern world would look to someone from the past.
It was dating that became difficult eventually though. A lot of people get along with the setup just fine. People with healthy normal brains most probably. I didn’t feel like one of those. I’d always felt different. A little bit close to the edge.
I was in a shop when it first happened.
“Go on, punch her!” I shouted. The elderly woman behind the counter looked bemused. We were both used to random outbursts, but violence wasn’t part of multi-threading. It wasn’t how the minds were supposed to act. Not unless it was part of you. I smiled politely, grabbed my change and dashed out of the shop. I felt a bit sick, ashamed that people might think it was me saying that. But people knew now didn’t they?
I’d just go along to the implant centre and get it sorted out. I sat in the chair for hours, having tests done, being poked and prodded and asked questions about my mental history. In the end I was graciously shuffled out, told that the implant wasn’t at fault and that my warranty was now void. They also gave me a brochure with their terms and conditions.
It was worse after that. Much worse. I stopped leaving the house because the vocal output was just constant. I couldn’t even watch TV because all I could her was myself talking. The way it was supposed to work was that each mind had access to a temporary piece of my short term memory to store thoughts while it was processing things. But the minds became viruses, keeping hold of memory for long periods.
It got so bad that when I made some toast under the grill I couldn’t remember I’d done it 2 minutes later. I’d smell burning and panic then realise. Sometimes thoughts would ‘leak’ into my mind and I’d get a sense of what was going on. It made me afraid. Minds would take over me for a while with me fighting inside, trying to regain control of my thoughts and my muscles.
That was how I was living my life for some time. In a haze while a war went on inside me with my brain being held hostage. The voices became less distinct after a while, with just a few dominant ones still remaining. Everything got quieter and quieter until one day everything just stopped. I never spoke anymore. Just silence. They’re all gone now. Killed off somehow. The only problem is, I don’t know which mind stayed alive.