The Sloth Cap

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: 'The Odd Ones'
Re-Act Inc.
Looking for paid volunteers to test prototype product: The Smart Cap.
One week trial. £2000 upon completion.
Candidates will ideally enjoy convenience and own at least five Re-Act Inc. Smart Technology Products.
Interested candidates must fill online application to determine whether they are eligible.
See website for more details.

(Warning - contains some mature themes and gore)

(Any feedback welcomed, especially any criticism/tips to help me improve the story or any future writing. Thanks. //Any feedback will be returned in kind, and that's a Re-Act guarantee. // )

Submitted: July 17, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 17, 2015

A A A

A A A


The Sloth Cap

“Will you remember to take the bins out?”


“Mmm-hmm.”


“Please.”


“Yeah, of course.”


“See you when I get home. Love you, Nee.”

 

~ ~ ~

Neil woke up four hours later, at twelve.


He thought about the things he had to do today, and couldn’t think of much. He had the trial, of course, but he always made sure they required little effort and this one was no exception.


He had been jabbed with needles and had swallowed enough drugs to fill a pharmacy. He had tested food unsuitable for a vulture and had even donated sperm to a chimpanzee. The current trial was by far his favourite. It ran a week, this would be day three.


He shambled downstairs and wondered if he could afford an elevator after the week was up.


In the living room, he placed his hands on hips and grinned. Lights on. The lights popped on.


He walked into the kitchen. Kettle. And the kettle began to boil. It was great. He didn’t even have to say the words, simply think them.


As if on autopilot, he was now in the bathroom. Cold water. Leaning forward, he splashed the water from the faucet onto his face. He grabbed his toothbrush from the pot screwed onto the wall.


He sighed as he put the brush into his mouth. In a better world, the cap would be able to do this, too. As a matter of fact, he hadn’t been up long and already felt he had done too much; unnecessary tasks. It was a shame it couldn’t carry him down the stairs, set up the cup in the kitchen and put in the teabag and milk and sugar, brush his teeth – even yawning felt like effort. It was a pain how much people had to do just to carry themselves through the day. Still, it was a little less with the cap. He was lucky to have it; it was a product of the future. There were requirements needed to be a viable candidate, one of which was to own at least the minimal amount of smart technology produced by Re-Act Inc., and so it was lucky he had spent his well-earned trial money – the majority with the payment from the scientists attempting to create the first human-zee – on a kettle, lighting, television, toilet and bathroom, among others.


Off. He stuck the dripping toothbrush back into its place, beside the pink one.


He sighed once more as he grabbed the cup and tea-bag and milk and sugar. So many things. He grabbed the kettle and poured the water in. He asked himself if the cap had purpose. He asked himself if the task of gathering all the tools to make a cuppa would be too much to handle if he had to flip the kettle switch too. He shrugged, better to have something done for you than have to do it yourself.


There were downsides to the cap. It connected to the electrical impulses in his brain, and to obtain the best results he had been advised to shave his head. Advised, as in, if you don’t we’ll find someone else who will. After the initial shock of losing all his hair, it hadn’t mattered much, especially since another downside was he had to have it soldered onto his head. In Layman’s terms, they had said, each section of your brain has different functions, and there are different sections to the cap that are positioned just so that they can receive the corresponding signals. So we must secure the cap on so that each section remains connected to the right places and they don’t shift positions. We previously used screws and a metal frame, but we’ve found soldering the cap on is much more comfortable. Admittedly, it was comfortable. He almost couldn’t feel it at all, like it was a part of him. Sometimes he felt sudden twitches in his head, but he decided it was psychological, like a ghost itch, and not his brain being zapped.


He stepped into the living room; though perhaps that was an inappropriate name for it. 


TV on. Channel two-three-nine, please. He laughed, having just said please to a piece of technology. What’s more, the technology was only doing what Neil thought, and so really he was saying please to himself. He laughed again. Please, Neil, turn over the channel.


The door opened and Natasha stepped inside. Display, Neil thought. He couldn’t believe it was three, despite that being the regular time Natasha arrived home. It had happened all three days. The cap not only made him wake up later than usual, but also made him feel like he had missed time. In his mind, only five minutes had passed since he had turned on the television, and only twenty minutes since he had woken, and yet here Natasha was. It was like the cap and television had synced or something, effectively putting him on standby while it processed the information on the screen. The people at the lab didn’t suggest it had that effect, though he reasoned they didn’t know what side-effects it would have, which was why he was testing it in the first place.


‘Hey babe,’ he said.


She looked at him, but walked in front of the TV and into the kitchen. She didn’t like it: the cap, the baldness, the late awakenings.


Off. He stood up and followed.


‘Come on now, don’t be like that.’


‘Like what? Did you enjoy your day at work?’ she asked.


‘That isn’t fair. They’re paying me two grand for wearing this for a single week, that’s like … more than you get in two months!’


She frowned, striping off her scrubs and throwing them to the ground.


‘I’m sorry – I didn’t mean it like that.’ He moved closer. She pushed him away, but capitulated when he embraced her in his arms. ‘This is good for us. I wear this cap, which is frankly a good thing in itself, and then we get two grand. My hair will grow back.’


She looked up to him. ‘That’s not it, Neil. That cap is changing you. You’re lazier than you used to be. You don’t do anything, even the things the cap can’t do for you.’


‘Like what?’


‘Look at this place. It’s a mess. And you didn’t take out the trash like I told you to. Like you said you would.’


‘Well, you’re the cleaner. I thought you’d be insulted if I did it.’


She turned away, flipping the switch on the kettle.


Off, he thought.


‘You think I enjoy cleaning? I do it because I have to. And turn that damned thing back on.’


On, he thought. Off. On. Off. On. The fuse blew. The lights and everything else in the house turned off.


‘Goodness sake, Neil.’ She walked over to the washing machine that was separated from the rest of the kitchen and took down the toolbox that rested on top. She placed it on the dining table and opened it up, taking out a couple screwdrivers and some spare fuses.


‘I can do that,’ he said.


‘What, your little cap can do manual labour now?’


‘No, but –’


‘Forget it.’ She walked out the kitchen, past the living room, through the corridor until she arrived at the storage closet.
Neil sighed and went back into the living room. His tea was cold.


He watched TV for half hour and then roamed the apartment for Natasha. He found her asleep in bed and decided to take a bath.


Run bath – forty-five degrees. The bath began to fill. He loved baths, they were his favourite pass-time. Almost every hour of his waking day was a variety of pass-times, but this was his favourite. The bath, a sparkling white smooth cornered porcelain hub, was his love – second love. Some men had cars, some had food, and he had his bath.


He disrobed and stretched out inside it, letting the water rise over him. He remembered something they had said about the cap: It’s not yet waterproof.


Stop water. He lay there in silence and closed his eyes. He loved technology, though he had no idea how any of it worked. With the water caressing his body, he thought about the possible applications the cap could be used for. Possibly, it could drive cars and work computers. He thought about his computer – another pass-time – and immediately thought about what he spent most of his time on his computer doing. His eyes dilated and he slowly became aroused.


 Hot, he thought, really hot.


He was enjoying his fantasies when the tap began to pour scolding water from its metallic shaft.


‘Ah, no, no! Cold, cold!’ Speech is a complex brain function. Sometimes words can be triggered without really thinking them.
The water continued to pour. Neil struggled in the bath, frantically pushing himself up while the water scorched his body. Then he slipped. He whacked his head on the side of the bath. He lay there with his head hanging over the side, his body slipping further in the bathwater every second.


Natasha noticed pools of water creep through below the door. She rushed in thinking he had fallen asleep in the bath again. When she saw his head dangling over the side of the bath with a wet patch of blood dripping down his cheek, she heaved him out, ignoring the burning sensation her arms felt as she plunged them beneath him. She carried him into the kitchen and laid him on the tiles.


His body was redder than red and tendrils of steam emanated off him. She grabbed a knife from the side of the sink and stuck it into that bath – into his love – and stabbed at the smart plug, pushing into its gap and wrenching it up. The tap had already closed off its supply of water; the smart sensors no longer detected anyone. She brushed her hand over the sensor for the cold tap. She reached for Neil’s towel on the rack and let the cold water flow over it. Then she returned to Neil and dabbed the towel over his naked body.


 Two minutes passed until he roused awake. Black spots formed over his sight, but he could see Natasha looming over him with great concern.


‘What ish it?’ he asked.


‘That cap almost got you killed.’


‘Killed – thash an exaggeration.’ He picked at the plaster on his cheek.


‘It isn’t. I thought you might die. I called an ambulance. They’ll be here in five minutes.’


‘Ring them back – tell them not to bother.’


‘I will – but the cap needs to go.’


He worked his way into the lounge, dizzy and disorientated, and landed on the sofa.


‘What do you mean? It hash nothing to do with the cap. I slipped in the water. Could’uv happened to anyone.’ TV on. It didn’t matter what channel, he just wanted to avoid the argument.


‘And what if your head hadn’t fallen outside the bath? That thing would have fried you.’


Mute TV. ‘Look, I’ve only got to wear this thing for another four and a half days. Fine, I won’t have any baths until then. I’ll be careful.’


She looked at him, knowing there was no way she could convince him otherwise.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Neil found out that having something and not being able to use it was as good as not having it. Natasha had restricted his use of the cap to virtual inconsequence. She hadn’t said it aloud, but the banning of the cap was implied in the way she exited the room whenever something seemingly turned itself on.


‘Ready?’ she asked. She was abnormally pleasant today. There was no reluctance in her voice, no tell that she was irritated by having to do something for him, yet again. She had her keys in hand and was standing by the door with a restless leg tapping at the floor. Neil knew why. Today was the final day with the cap, today was the day he returned it. He figured she wasn’t even happy with the prospect of inheriting two-thousand pounds, only that the abomination would be gone.


‘I guess so,’ he replied.

 

There wasn’t interference on the first half of their journey to the facility. Neil had reminded her about the money – in case she had forgotten – and he had even apologised, though he wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to be sorry for.


She smiled, and all was well.


Stop!


The car screeched and Natasha fought against the phantom steering wheel. Shocked, she twisted the wheel and swerved the car off the road, merely three inches from being hit by the car behind.


The angry car blasted its horn and the driver blasted his abuse.


Natasha hyperventilated. The front two wheels were parked inside a plane of soft mud, the back wheels sticking out onto the road, but out of harm’s way. Yet she was furious.


‘What the fuck?’


‘Sorry Babe, I couldn’t help it. Didn’t mean to – I saw that squirrel and – I’m sorry, I didn’t think.’


She puffed hot air into his face, sucked it back up and puffed more out.


‘That’s you problem, you never think.’ She pulled the key from the ignition and climbed out the driver’s door. She paced away, deeper into the village, flapping her hands and arms in fast motions.


Ignoring his better judgement, Neil swung open the passenger door and rushed after her.


He grabbed her wrist, not to hurt her, only to stop her. Passing shoppers passed looks of disgust. She turned and lifted the marked wrist to her chest, cradling it in her other arm.


‘Before this, you didn’t think, and I hated it,’ she shouted. ‘But that’s just how you were, and I didn’t want to change you, I loved you, and thought you’d eventually grow up. And then you get that fricking cap and I grew to hate your thoughts, too. I mean, what’s the point? If I hate you when you’re not thinking and hate you when you do, what am I doing here?’


‘Oh come on, I’ll admit this week has been tough – for both of us – but it’s over now. You’re not going to leave me now that we’ve got to the end, are you? When the thing that’s ticked you off happened while we were handing in the gun, so to speak. Stop screaming bloody murder and please, just get back in the car.’


He couldn’t help it. Sometimes people can say things without thinking, and other times people can think things without any conscious decision to do so. That was one of these times. He was only rethinking what he had said to make sure he hadn’t said anything he hadn’t meant to.


Handing in the gun. That was fine.


Bloody murder. Damn.


Bloody murder.


Bloody murder.


He couldn’t help it. Images flashed in his brain, sparking thoughts. Unpleasant thoughts, ones he would rather not have.


Natasha looked at him. Her mouth distorted as if she had tasted something unpleasant and extremely bitter. Then her mouth stopped churning and her lips trembled and her cheeks swelled, squeezing her eyes into her brows. She shook wildly. Went red. Only specks at first, but soon blood seeped through all the pores of her exposed skin like potato squeezed through a masher. The blood squirted as if she were a balloon filled with blood that had been poked all over the elastic with a toothpick. It permeated through her clothes.


Her eyes popped first.


And then she exploded.


Flesh, muscle and brain splattered onto the unsuspecting public.


It turned out the human brain was the finest computer the cap was adjusted to.


© Copyright 2019 Obscure. All rights reserved.

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