It was not a long commute from Max’s apartment to his office. He rode the internal rail system across to the vertical and took the first elevator heading down. That morning had been one long, excruciating effort to keep his mind clear.
What was he supposed to do? How could he trust himself to think anything when each thought, random or planned, would be overheard by a woman he had never met before. It had been all he could do not to choke on his cereal.
“This must be pretty stressful for you.”
“How do you mean?”
The people sitting around him in the elevator turned to see who he was talking to. Max pointed to the sleek chrome implant attached above his right ear. There were gasps and excited words whispered behind shielding hands.
“You know what? I’ve had an idea. Of course, I know exactly how this all seems to you. I’m inside your head. Why don’t I let you have a peek inside mine?”
“You can do that?” Max asked, giving his fellow passengers an apologetic smile.
“Not literally, but I can tell you. Since we woke up this morning I’ve had another set of thoughts inside my head. It’s like I’m thinking twice in each moment and those two thoughts can be utterly unrelated. I can hear your voice as well, an internal monologue mumbling away in symphony with my own. ‘I can’t let her know that. I can’t think about that. Quiet. Quiet. Stop.’ I’m worried you might drive yourself crazy.”
“Yeah, you’re right, it’s pretty stressful.”
There was a long pause, a stream of silence that ran on through his mind. It was like taking a breath of fresh air after spending weeks underground. Just able to hear his own inner voice. What was it like for her? She had to listen to his thoughts as well.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as all that.”
“Really?” he asked, not sure whether he should believe her.
“I don’t know. I find it almost soothing, like having white noise playing in the back of my head.”
A buzzer sounded and Max looked up at the doors. They lit up with a flashing green number telling him that he had reached sub-level ten. He stood and waited for the elevator to open, preparing his mind for the working day ahead of him.
When had that lady gotten on? He didn’t remember seeing her at his floor. She looked incredible. Long, slender legs and dark chestnut hair stretched back over her scalp. He didn’t usually think much of people with small noses, but hers looked cute where it turned up slightly at the tip.
“Do you like her?” the voice in his head asked. Why did he have to be such an idiot? All it had taken was seeing a pretty girl and he had forgotten that he had a visitor tagging along in his mind. The voice became more playful, almost mischievous. “Why not talk to her if you think she’s cute? I can tell you what to say.”
There was no way he could just talk to her. She was not the kind of person he found it easy to just strike up a conversation with. The issue was, whatever was wrong with her, he could not see it. She had a trim figure, a great bust from what he could see and a face that was pretty, if not supermodel-beautiful. An image floated through his mind making him look away and fight not to blush.
But normally there was a small thing to make a woman approachable for him. Maybe it was a pimple, a mole or a bad hair day. This lady had none of it. There was nothing wrong with her at all, no matter how hard he ran his eyes over her. The doors slid open and he hesitated in front of them.
“Wow, that was pretty intense. I feel like I’ve just watched a frog being dissected. I think I’m going to check out for a while. Sorry, I know that must be normal for you, but that was too intense. I think I’ll go have a shower.”
‘Don’t do it, Max.’ he warned himself. ‘Do not even start imagining that.’ It was too late, the voice had a body and he could suddenly see all of it.
“Wow, I’m flattered.”
Was that irony? He could not tell and the voice had disappeared.