Instructor: Jennifer Seward
December 3, 2048. I remember it like it was yesterday. We didn't know the terrifying future that was to come, but they did. They knew it all. I stood up from my couch, walking over to the large glass window overlooking the flooded streets of New York. I watched as naive citizens scurried to the nearest displays. Mothers held their children's hands in fear of the crowds rushing through the streets. SPECIAL GOVERNMENT BROADCAST. The words screamed at you. Everyone's eyes were glued to a screen, not a single soul looking away. I don't blame everyone who fell into their trap. I don't blame myself for falling into their trap. How would we know the horrors soon to come? People shoved through crowds to get a look, everyone desperate to know what was going on. I remember looking down at my phone screen, reading "Special Government Broadcast. Please direct your attention toward your devices." So I did. I opened the broadcast on my phone, setting it up to display a hologram.
Citizens of America. Thank you for joining us today for this important announcement. A recent incident at a factory in Washington DC caused an explosion and has killed thousands due to a lack of sleep amongst the workers. On top of this, we have received countless reports of illnesses and deaths inflicted upon our country daily, all linked to sleep deprivation. Our country can no longer endure this. A lack of sleep has plagued us all, and thanks to modern technology, we have a fix. Ladies and gentlemen, behold, The Chip.
"Potato chips." my younger sister snickered. She was sitting beside me with her legs kicked up on the arm rest of the couch. I flashed a smile at her, then directed my attention back to the hologram.
The Chip will be a small implant that can be inserted into the human brain, located near the hypothalamus. This implant will help to regulate and monitor the human body's sleep system. However, it will have a special feature that tracks your hours of sleep and sends them to your local government system. Each hour of sleep will cost you 10 dollars. You are required to receive a sufficient amount of sleep (minimum of seven hours per night).
The cumulative cost nightly should not exceed 120 dollars, and should not fall below 70 dollars. You don't sleep, you pay. If you don't pay...you'll certainly pay the price of consequence. If you do not receive the required hours, you will be removed from your home, regardless of your living circumstances, age, or identity, and will be placed in the Center for the Sleep Deprived. The Sleep-Center is a home for those who do not follow the rules of the chip. At the center, you will be required to receive strictly 11 hours of sleep per night, one meal and one snack a day, and no contact with anyone outside of the center whatsoever. All proceeds collected from citizens' chips will be put towards funding the Sleep Center. This new system will be put into action within the next week. All American residents are required to have the chip implanted by December 10. For more information or any inquiries, please visit www.thechip.gov. Together, we can heal. We can fix this. Thank you for your cooperation.
Seriously? Some kind of twisted asylum to solve sleep deprivation? I looked over at my younger sister. Tears welled in her wide eyes as she sat next to me, trembling. "I don't want to leave home. I want to be with you, Lyn." A mixed look of shock and sadness painted her young visage. I couldn't comfort her. I couldn't even comfort myself. I simply put my arm around her and wiped a single tear off her cheek. It'll be okay, Lia, I said. It would never happen to either of us. I'll make sure of it. I'll take care of you.
January 3, 2049. One month after the announcement. Both of us had gone through the chip installation. Lia and I were living in peace, or so we thought. I was making Lia her favorite food, chicken parmesan. It would always make her happy after a bad day. She sat at the kitchen table, setting out utensils. Several minutes later, a fork slid off as violent knocking shook the room. Stay here, I gestured at Lia. I remember tip-toeing over to the door. "Who is it?" I asked. More knocking. "I said, who is it?" I was nearly screaming. I fumbled with the lock and pulled the door open. A tall man barged into the room, presenting a government badge.
"Lia Aerona," his voice boomed. "Female, age 11. Overdue fines - 70 dollars. You have neglected to pay last night's charge." He stepped toward her, pulling handcuffs out of his pocket.
"No! I'll pay extra. Please let her be." I begged the man. "She can't live on her own. She's only a child."
"I'm sorry, but it's the law. She'll be in good hands," he said, emotionless.
But when will I see her again? She'll have to live with strangers in what seems to be an asylum. She'll be neglected simply because she didn't get a certain amount of sleep hours? Because she didn't pay for those hours of sleep? I'll have no contact with her. She'll be locked away from the outside world. Thoughts swarmed my panicked mind.
I locked eyes with Lia's tired face. She smiled sadly. You'll be okay. I love you. Her soft lips spelled out in a whisper-like manner. The man swung handcuffs around each of her thin wrists, proceeding to lead her out to a large van. I watched her wispy, blonde hair sway back and forth as she disappeared out the door frame and into the van. My Lia. Gone.
Good evening, Lyn. It is 6:38 pm. You have one overdue fund. Please pay before your next sleep to avoid consequences. A monotone voice speaks. The latest update - a speaking implant to remind you when you have to pay! Great. Overdue payment pending - 70 dollars. Please pay the remaining funds. I jammed my fingers in my ears in a desperate attempt to block out the noise. You have until midnight to pay off the debt. Please enter sufficient funds. Consequences will occur after the five-hour period is up. Please enter funds. Please enter funds. Please enter funds. "Shut up!" I yelled. As if anyone would hear me. Without Lia, I was left all alone. I slammed the palm of my hand against my head, trying to mess up the implant. I need to get rid of it. Fully discard of this stupid chip. What if I just rip it out? I don't care if they find out. The only damage would be a slight head injury, which would be far better than keeping the chip. My silent plotting is interrupted by the burst of another message. Please pay the remaining 70 dollars for your eight overdue hours of sleep. If I don't pay it, they'll take me. I don't want to give them my money. I've already given them my free will. I'm running extremely low on money, and I know for a fact that I won't be able to pay the overdue funds.
11:09 pm. I stood up from my bed and walked downstairs to the kitchen. Opening the fridge, I searched for something to eat. On the top shelf was a small container of leftover chicken, a jar of marinara sauce, and a pouch of parmesan cheese. Lia's favorite. I took the chicken and placed it in the oven. Forty-minute cook time. Fifty-one minutes until midnight.
Ding! The oven went off announcing the finish of my chicken. 11:49 pm. I pulled it out and placed it on a paper plate. I dumped marinara over the chicken and sprinkled parmesan cheese on it, then began to lay out utensils on the table. I slumped into a chair as the burning sensation of when you're about to cry filled my face. Stabbing the chicken and scooping little pieces into my mouth, a single tear rolled down my cheek. 11:57 pm. Three minutes. I scooped up another bite. Another tear. 11:58 pm.
Two minutes later, the table shook. The sound of violent knocking filled the room. I guess this is the end for me. I walked over to the door and unlocked it. A tall man holding a government badge stood in the door frame.
"Lyn Aerona. Female, age 20. Overdue fines - 80 dollars. You have neglected to pay last night's charge." The man took a deep breath as he wrapped handcuffs around my wrists. It was almost as if he felt some remorse. As if the government actually cared about us. As if I wasn't about to be completely revoked of my privilege to live my own life, giving away my free will.
At least I'd be with Lia again.