Ergo Sum: A Neuro-Noir Novel


You don't remember falling asleep, but you do remember waking up. When the Morpheus implant kicks in, your conscious mind gets kicked the curb, and the neural operating system gets faster. You become smarter because your brain doesn't need to waste neurons on introspection. You get more creative because the conscious mind doesn't repress ideas. You get more decisive, since you no longer possess the illusion of free will. You get faster, since you no longer have that split second delay the conscious mind adds to every thought. You get to be something more and less human than the rest of them. Now, I'm Vincent Thorndike. When Morpheus comes on, I'm just a creature sleepwalking through life.

With all the problems consciousness brings, it's a fucking miracle we made it as far as we did. Every success that Homo sapiens chalks up to its ingenuity, it fails to account for the obvious. Every fucking late civilization from the Sumerians to the Romans to the British to the Americans failed to take human nature into account. Or if they do, good old myopia and tribalism fuck it up until it's sinking faster than the fucking Titanic.

I perched on the corpse of a strip mall, once part of a cookie-cutter suburb built after World War II. All the homes around me are boarded up or decaying, occupied by derelicts, gangs, desperate holdouts, or worse. The whole town these ruins used to be is owned by an automated banking algorithm that practices its own brand of necromancy, trading stocks in zombie corporations in long-devalued currencies. While the program is barely smarter than an Old Net spambot, it still managed to drive the human-run corporations to extinction.

I heard a rumbling as something heavy pulled around the corner. I engaged my suit's active camo, becoming the color of water and radiating my body heat into the background radiation. I laid prone on that rooftop, aiming down the scope of a high-tech bullpup rifle. I saw an armored car with a cruiser full of Homefront goons behind them, all wearing the eagle-headed insignia of the New Columbian Commonwealth. A flock of electronic jammer drones flitted around the armored car and its escort, preventing most digital device from recording the prisoners in its belly.

I had seen enough New Columbian patrols to know where these vans go is typically not a happy place. Nonetheless, I decided to follow, being unfamiliar with Commonwealth operations in this region. Wherever the black vans and corporate enforcers go, there's typically a blood-soaked bounty of some kind, most often more grisly human experimentation (of which I was one fortunate survivor of).

As tempting as it was to open fire on the bastards, I did not need my smarter subconsciousness to tell me it was a gunfight I could not win. Even though I loathe the idea of killing, sometimes, my impulsive primate mind almost gets the better of me. I've seen enough mass graves fed with victims of sick experiments, massacres by ruthless mobs, and worse to make me never want to do it. I'd rather not have a legacy measured solely by bodycount.

I fired a grappling line from my under-barrel launcher onto an adjacent rooftop. I clutched my rifle as it pulled me forward at blinding speed. I reached the end of the line, and rolled to dissipate the momentum. I eventually came to a stop, but my skin felt like it had rug-burn from hell. Luckily, I had stopped close enough to be in range of their wireless.

I looked down at the armored car and escort cruiser, hacking them on a frequency that was not jammed. I found their destination and area maps, and decided to take a shortcut. I knew that I would not have the time to consciously to decide on the best route, so I went hypercog. Morpheus engaged, and my conscious mind was banished to the neural hinterlands. I was now a bystander in my own body, observing as the Sleepwalker emerged from my subconscious mind. I had no way of knowing what lay ahead, but what I found there would cause even me to run screaming. The beast inside your own brain, the real you, is a fuckton scarier than that human being your conscious mind pretends it is. Some of us are just better at realizing it.