issue 8

Where Are You Right Now? by Rodrigo Culagovski

The meeting was held in one of the bomb shelters left over from the water wars.

Since everyone attending had signed similar NDAs when they were downsized, the hand-painted sign didn’t reference any specific companies or augment technology.


Open To All!

free donuts while supplies last

but please just take one 🙂

I’d just arrived in Yellowknife, escaping the heatwaves in Saskatchewan, and had looked up a local meeting to attend. I guess I was lonely.

I was new so I had to talk. “Hi, I’m Uma. I used to be augmented.”

I heard a chorus of “Hi, Uma” around the room.

“I had twenty-seven real-time hyper senses before being downsized five years ago. Global market trends, climate data, social-network buzz, all the inputs they wired into analysts’ heads before they were declared illegal and got ripped out of us.” That got a sympathetic groan.

“I got lucky, though. I can still make out some satellite IR ghost images. I pick up work as a farming consultant, helping people decide what to plant. I never let on I have this remaining sense. I just tell them a story about being a seventh-generation-born farmer.”

This got some murmurs from the audience. A striking-looking woman lifted her hand and said, “Hi, Uma, I’m Soledad, I used to be augmented. Please don’t take this as some kind of gatekeeping, but can you tell us why you came to the meeting? It sounds like you have a better life than most of us.”

I took a breath. “The ‘self’, the thing that you feel is you, is a kind of illusion, a result of all our senses, of each part of our brain and nervous system interacting with each other part, you follow? So, if I ask you to pinpoint where you are, it’s like a spot between your eyes and your ears, right?”

Soledad nodded at me. Her long, shiny black hair swayed in a way that made it hard to focus on my story. I soldiered on, anyway.

“Something about getting all these extra inputs, and then having them ripped out broke my balance. I don’t feel like my me is in my head or behind my eyes. I feel like I’m somewhere around here,” I said, placing my hand thirty centimeters to the right of my head and twenty centimeters above it.

A serious, bearded man raised his hand and said, “Excuse me. I’m Max, I used to be augmented. I’m a psychologist, and what you describe is called depersonalization and it happens to all kinds of people and does not correlate with having had augments.”

“Hi, Max. I’ve read about depersonalization; psychologists don’t really know what it is or why it happens. It’s just a name they put on a bunch of symptoms.”

Max’s pout told me he didn’t appreciate my criticism of his discipline’s right to name things. He started to say, “Well, that’s your point of view, but the literature clearly—”

Soledad interrupted him. “Max, this is Uma’s first time here, so we should respect her story and her right to share it.”

“Sorry, you’re right. I’m not even really a psychologist anymore.”

I really wasn’t in the mood for an argument. I said, “That’s fine. Thanks all for listening,” and stepped down quickly. I was frustrated that even here among “my” people, I wasn’t really believed, not even this watered-down version of my story.

Other people stepped up to tell their stories—the usual tales of lost jobs, families, depression, and spending your life feeling isolated in a sea of people who were literally incapable of understanding your loss. It helped me to hear them talk, the way it always did.

Afterward, I took advantage of my newcomer status to take two donuts instead of one—they weren’t bad for food made out of soy and seaweed—while I wondered when it would be polite to leave. The idea of going back to my motel without having found a single person to connect to seemed more depressing than it should have. At least Soledad had stepped up to defend me, but after years on the road, alone, I was out of practice in how to approach and talk to her and would rather not even make an attempt than have it shot down.

Soledad solved my problem by walking over to my side.

“Hey, Uma?”

I gulped down a bite of donut as gracefully as I could and said, “Uh, hey, Soledad. Thanks for sticking up for me back there.”

“Don’t worry about it. Max is cool, but he can be too judgemental of other people’s experiences sometimes.” She stopped and looked at me for a second with her head tilted sideways. “Can I ask you a question and get an honest answer?”

“Of course. That’s why we come to meetings, no?”

She smiled at this, and said, “Where are you right now?”

“Here, in this bomb shelter. How crazy do you think I am?” I grinned at her. She didn’t return it.

“We don’t use that word here. And that’s not what I mean. Where’s your self, what you were talking about before?”

“Oh. Like I said, somewhere around here,” and I placed my hand in the same position as when I was at the podium.

She looked disappointed. “I asked you to be honest with me, Uma.”

I was quiet for a beat, noticing the intense way she was looking at me, then said in a low voice, “Somewhere across the lake, over a town called Fort Resolution.”

“About a hundred and forty kilometers away?”


“Why didn’t you tell that to Max when he got on your case?”

“Because people, even people like us, look at you like you’re crazy, sorry, like you’re unwell if you tell them that your mind is a few hundred kilometers from where your body is.”

“Can you see Fort Resolution now?”

“A bit; there’s a motorcycle convoy moving through it. Not tourists, maybe seasonal workers?”

“Those would be the pickers coming up for the olive harvest,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter if I can see it or not, just like when you close your eyes you don’t all of a sudden feel like you’re not there anymore.”

“I understand. Thank you.”

She stopped talking but kept looking at me as if she was expecting something more. The silence made me nervous, so I asked, “How did you figure me out? Nobody’s ever guessed it on their own.”

She smiled slightly. “How do you think, Uma? Look at me.”

I’d been looking at her all evening, but I’d been doing it wrong, focusing on her hair and her smile and her shoulders. I should have noticed her eyes—they were like two far-away mirrors.

“Where are you right now?” I asked in a low voice.

She paused and widened her smile before answering. “Closer than you. Out over the airport. I like to watch the planes.”

“You can control it?”

“Yes. Be quiet for a second.”

This seemed rude, but I was too stunned to argue.

Then I felt her. Over Fort Resolution. Next to me.

“Hi,” she said and took my hand in the bomb shelter in Yellowknife and also two hundred meters in the sky over a small town in the Northwest Territories of the country that used to be called Canada.

Rodrigo Culagovski is a Chilean architect, designer, and web developer. He currently heads a web development agency and is a researcher and professor at Universidad Católica in Chile. He has published in Solarpunk Magazine and Future Science Fiction Digest. On mastodon as He misses his Commodore 64. Pronouns he/him/él.

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