One in a Million (or Those who can’t connect)
Tiff is a very special girl. One in a million, her mother always reminds her. These days she doesn’t feel special, just different. And lonely.
Tiff sits in her living room with her family. As always they are all wearing their VR goggles and are plugged to the Grid. Her mother, father, brother. Even her dog Sparky has implants.
Tiff puts on her goggles but she can’t make sense of what she sees. The family watches the vids together and laughs at something that Tiff can’t comprehend. Even Sparky is barking now.
Her mother takes the time to explain to Tiff what they are looking at but it makes no sense to her. When her brother sends her an image, Tiff doesn’t respond.
Lately Tiff noticed that her family have their goggles on all the time. There was a time when her mother and father would disconnect to play with her and tell her stories. But once her younger brother connected, they started playing with him in the Grid, and forgot to unplug for Tiff.
Or maybe they didn’t forget.
Tiff’s parents took her to the Health Network for a physical. The diagnosis was clear. Tiff’s brain receptors are dull to synthetic anchors. Something in the nerve endings is interfering with the signals from the VR. She can get data, but by the time it reaches her brain it’s all scrambled. No way to make sense of it.
Her mother thinks is a mistake and insists that she keeps using the VR goggles, even though Tiff complains it hurts her head and makes her dizzy.
“Try to concentrate, sweetie,” her mother says. “Do you see a horse there? What color is this house, honey?”
“What horse? What house?” asks Tiff.
Sometimes, when Tiff’s parents are really focused on the Grid, she takes off her goggles. They never notice. That gives her brain a rest. She opens a window, pulls a chair, and climbs to look out at the street.
There are people down below. They all wear their goggles, of course. There is a dog in the street. It’s not like Sparky. That dog has no implants. It’s not connected to the Grid. The dog follows the people around, looking for attention, food, love.
Tiff waits to see if anybody stops. Nobody does. A car passes inches away from the dog and it runs away scared. Tiff has never seen a dog like that. She wonders how the dog finds its food.
That must be a very special dog, she thinks. One dog in a million.