p, li { white-space: pre-wrap; }

What I do is, I reach into my face and pry loose a thread of thought. I draw it forth or I stretch it until it snaps. I roll that thought between my fingers until it is clammy and pliable. I blow a bubble of it. I hold it before me, reflecting upon my own warped appearance for a moment.

Then I open a pocket in spacetime and stuff a SCIOPS down its throat.

That pocket is not my own, of course. It’s yours – all of you. It’s a shared realm made of light and language. It’s a microdimension with unlimited doors but a single room. The instant I send this letter, it will be available around the world. My mom down the street will get it at the same time as a cosmic anthropologist in Australia. Lightspeed is a fucked up thing for the human brain to deal with.

On the other hand, you can read this whenever you want. It might be an hour, a day, a century between my writing this and your reading it. The letter is still, thankfully, an asynchronous medium. I do not await your response. I do not demand your urgent attention.

Earlier this week I spent a whole evening just texting. Not casually, like every other evening, picking up the phone between every chapter of a book or episode of a show, but rapidly thumbing for hours. Paralyzed on the couch, batting away with frustration the loving attentions of my cat. I lost awareness of my physical body and location and became a floating consciousness, a freaky jellyfish with thrashing tentacles of temper and ego.

I was trapped in a loop. I had two conversations going at once: a heated personal discussion with a dramatic individual, and a group chat about some brilliant cutting-edge tech projects. Between the one person’s inflammatory walls of text and the group’s back-and-forth excitement, I never didn’t have a notification. It was all I could do to keep up. Any time the one slowed down, I would switch to the other. I had the thought I should get up repeatedly, but each time the motor function would get hijacked and I would switch tabs instead.

I could have just called the person with the drama. But I didn’t want to, because the tech convo was one I’d been waiting years for and it was happening right now . I needed to be a part of it. But neither could I ignore the emotion-drenched messages they sent. My limbic system needed to solve that person’s feelings, to assert my innocence and righteousness and make the situation better. I was torn between my head and my gut.

I wish I could claim I was drunk and my guard was down, but after the first beer I couldn’t even make the short walk back to the fridge. I was hacked by my own friends.

Or rather, we were all hacked, by the instantaneous transmission of our momentary thoughts. The dissolution of space and time is too magical for our primate brains.

We evolved to deal with small amounts of humans at a time, always in context and in presence. If you saw a stranger on the horizon, you knew how long it would take that person to walk toward you. Same as it would take for you to walk to them. You knew how far away you would have to be to shout greetings.

If a person whispered in your ear from that distance. it wouldn’t be a good feeling. You would think them some sort of brujo and protect yourself. Even if it were your loved ones doing it, you might not want them to. Would Penelope have been better off if she could videochat with Odysseus?

Your phone is a rip torn in spacetime. It’s a doorway to another dimension, where intentions take on a life of their own. Space and time work differently there. The beasts in those deeps can mutate and multiply at staggering speeds unimaginable to your monkey mind. Only the most powerful of wizards can navigate that realm. Only the most hubristic think they can.

Every time that screen lights up, some infernal creature slips into our world. Every time you touch it your fingers bleed attention. It absorbs your feelings and thoughts. Where do they go?

Each app, each chat group, each newsletter subscription, is a new target you’ve painted on your mind. I send you this thought bubble with the best of intentions, of course. You can trust me, because I’m too sad and broken to bother with dark arts anymore. But when you close this letter, what will you open?

Will you return to browsing your inbox, or your tabs, or your notifications? Will you send me a reply, a bubble of your own, to infiltrate my mind through this two-way connection? Or will you close the portal, banish the thoughts of others from your mind, and find yourself alive on a planet?

You always have the choice.

Thanks for reading,

– Max


###### SCIOPS is a weekly letter about lightspeed and other stuff. Feel free to forward it, or share it on your social profiling media. You can find a web version of the latest letter here , or view the archive here .

If you have thoughts, questions, or criticism, just respond to this email. Or, contact me securely at permafuture@protonmail.com

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Sent from my eyePhone