25 February 2011

"That's Entertainment"

By Curtis C. Chen

Kimberley wasn't expecting to see anyone in the observation lounge at the end of the hallway. She always came here to eat her lunch, secluded and safe from the constant barrage of requests she received at her desk.

Her producer, Dawna, sat in front of the one-way mirror that looked into the faux living room, where a viewer sat in front of a tabula, wearing some kind of wire-studded helmet.

"Sorry," Kimberley whispered.

Dawna waved her inside. "It's okay! Come here. You might as well see this now."

Kimberley closed the door and sat down. The display on Dawna's netpad pulsed in sync with the lights on the viewer's helmet. The tabula surface showed a swirl of colors—leakage from the alien energy impulses that the coupled viewer perceived as a coherent vision, showing him whatever he wanted to see and hear.

"What's he watching?" Kimberley asked.

"Next episode of Atlanta Knights," Dawna said.

"Didn't we already focus that?"

"Not with the helmet."

"Yeah, what is that thing, anyway?"

Dawna smiled and touched her netpad. The instrument readouts disappeared, replaced by a dreamlike scene of two police detectives running down a dark street, chasing a hoodlum.

Kimberley's eyes widened. "Is that his show?"

Dawna nodded. "The helmet's reading his brain waves and reconstructing what his visual cortex is processing. We can see the exact vision he's getting from the tabula. And we can record it. No more sub-literate show summaries written by Joe Six-Pack!"

"That's—that's amazing." Kimberley's pulse quickened. "Where did you get the helmet? I've never even heard of this tech."

"My brother-in-law, Elliott. He's a neurologist," Dawna said. "And that's my cousin in the chair. The helmet is a prototype. Elliott's company is trying to get FDA approval for diagnostic use—actually seeing a patient's hallucinations, stuff like that.

"But we don't need approval to use it for non-medical purposes. We just need a waiver. And you know I can get a schmuck to sign a contract."

Kimberley's heart sank. "I guess I should update my resume."

"Are you kidding, Hollywood?" Kimberley hated that nickname. "I'm not watching all this crap myself. Somebody has to write the coverage. And you can actually spell."

The images on the netpad shifted to a new scene. One of the detectives pulled his gun, shot the hoodlum dead, then turned the gun on his partner, who inexplicably started taking off his clothes. Kimberley waved a hand to get Dawna's attention.

"Um, Dawna?"

"What?" Dawna looked down at the netpad and grimaced. "Oh, Jesus. You see what I mean? Most people's fantasies are completely fucked up." She shook her head and stood up. "Call me when he's done watching. I promised my aunt I'd take Dirty Harry to lunch at the Grove."

After she left, Kimberley put her earpiece back in and made a phone call, trembling and smiling.

"Hey, Geoff? Kimberley. Listen, I've got something you're gonna love. Yeah. You can fire all your so-called actresses. This thing is going to revolutionize porn."


Photo: atlanta sunset by Ed Schipul, May, 2010