Sept sat cross-legged in the centre of an ordinary living room and pulled The World from his head one wire at a time. Blood ran down the pale skin on his back, staining the blue shorts that were the only clothes he wore, and spread across the wheat coloured carpet in a growing pool. The furniture, stylish, modern, tasteful, had been pushed into the corners. The screens were off. Pictures and paintings were turned to the wall. A small scattering of provisions and necessary tools surrounded Sept, everything else had been cast aside. He had prepared for this. He was ready.
He ignored the blood around him but every few minutes he had to stop to push back the flow of thick crimson that threatened to blind him. He didn’t need his eyes, he could finish this without them, but the stinging pain was distracting.
He ran a finger along his scalp until he felt the slight rise of skin that marked where a wire burrowed through and then he dug his long thumb nail (he’d grown specially for this moment) into the flesh sliding it forward until he felt the slight resistance that showed he’d hooked the wire.
He’d winced at first, each time he’d jammed the nail into his own scalp, but by now his head was dull, distant mass of pain and each new wound was barely noticed. The contents of the empty bottle of vodka at his feet had helped.
With his thumbnail under a wire, he’d follow it forward to the point where it met a connector and burrowed its way through his skull. Here Sept paused for a moment, closing his eyes, softly licking his lips, taking a longer breath, holding on to the moment of anticipation. And then he’d flick his thumb forward and there would be the slightest “pop!” as the wire was freed from its connector and a little bit of The World slipped away.
Sept could not let himself get distracted by this small step closer to freedom, for this was a moment of struggle. The wire, part-mechanical, part living thing was programmed to reattach itself and it would writhe with surprising energy. The thing wasn’t strong, but it was quick and Sept had to use both hands to shove it into the throbbing bundle that he’d corralled on the back of his neck with an old red rubber band.
And then the process began again. Working with his thumb, methodically from left to right, finding each wire, popping it free, tying it up and all the while the world slipped away. There were hundreds of wires, it was a slow job.
He paused. Reached for one of the bottles of water that he’d set out before him, took as sip, and then poured half the bottle over his head. He wasn’t worried about infection, but the blood on his head was clotting quickly, tangling his hair and forming a thick, crackling coating on his scalp that made finding the wires more difficult. Pink water sloshed across the floor, flowing up to the edge of a white rug and then ebbing, leaving behind stained woollen fibres.
Sept went back to removing The World.
Warning lights were flashing now, even when he closed his eyes. Screeds of system warnings scrolled up across his eyeline. He tried to blink them away, but the interface responses were sluggish. External links were powered down, but he kept having to deny emergency contacts to bring an engineer.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
The visual interface failed.
Sept sighed. The World was almost gone. Lights flickered as the system attempted to reroute. It came up for a second then crashed in a rainbow smear.
He grabbed the thick cord of writhing wires, following them to where they came together on his neck, at the top of his spine. Here The World box sat and whirred at the interface between body and mind.
Sept gave the wires a gentle, experimental tug.
This was the most dangerous moment. The wires from The World box threaded throughout the body. If he got this wrong, the stories said, he could expect paralysis or even instant death.
He paused for a moment.
Did he really want this?
Suddenly the effects of the vodka seemed to leave him. All at once he was aware of the steel-sharp pain that ripped at his scalp and the tepid fluids pooled uncomfortably around him and the chill smell of blood.
The World was gone.
He was all alone.
And he wasn’t afraid.
Sept gripped the wires that connected his brain to The World and he yanked.