"Can you get it out?" this Johnny asked. He was an old customer, commissioned a few tattooes back a decade or so. He was the kind of customer who made sure they were hidden behind clothes. He wasn't trying to hide his freak; his tattooes were totally tame if recall correctly...just sort of a more conservative guy who did accountancy or something else boringly respectable. To be fair, I had a few accountants who were total freaks, totally covered with wild shit and multiple peircings, god bless them. Love those customers. We have a BBQ every year for the best customers. Anyway this Johnny guy was something desperate.
"Dude I dunno," I said. I was trying to close up for the evening. It's not like I encounter a lot of emergency situations or anything. Mainly it's just infections because the customer was an idiot and wasn't clean. I give clear instructions on aftercare.
"I'm desperate man!" See, he was desperate.
"Can't you come back tomorrow? I've got stuff I need to do." I didn't, but I wasn't all that invested in this guy's plight. I didn't give him the implants. This was a corporate job. I was suprised he didn't want a refund from them.
"No, I need it out yesterday." Then he shoved his VISA credit card in my face. "I'll pay anything you want."
"What is that your company card?"
I rolled my eyes. I have a reputation to uphold, not to mention my 4.9 rating to keep.
"Why are you willing to commit fraud to get this removed?"
"My company put it in. They can pay to take it out."
"Look, dude, chill. I'll charge my regular fee for removals, three hundred, but you've got to promise to take care of the wound, cause it will cost you more for antibiotic prescriptions, not to mention any extra cosmetic work you might want me to do."
"Yes, yes. You'll take it out now?"
"Ugh," I debated. I can always use the money for the business, but my time is also precious. People can get so demandy. Especially these entitled types who really haven't done any real work in their entire adulthood. "Only if you use your own money. Ask for a reimbursement from them for all I care. I don't want to end up with a billing issue."
"Alright, come on in." I showed him to my back room. I finished cleaning up from the last customer, and got out a new set of tools. I passed Johnny a mask, put one on myself, then washed and gloved my hands (love that snap. Makes the customers nervy). I sat down next to the arm and examined the implanted device.
"Can you turn it off?" I asked. "I don't know if there will be nerve damage if it's powered up.
"That's part of the problem. I can't turn it off."
"It's defective? You should definitely go back to the manufacturer.
"No, that's what it's supposed to be like. Uses some sort of new battery technology, but it also taps into me for energy, apparently. "
"Really?" I hadn't been keeping up with the latest devices. It was such a capitalist grind to go through a new device every year when the old ones still worked just fine. My current phone is a decade old and I'm not parting with it anytime soon. Things seem to have really moved forward, even since the advent of implanted phones two years ago. One of the big companies wanted to recruit me as one of their outpatient installers but the pay was pathetic. They must have been getting real hacks and surgical students with that pay.
I gently twisted his arm around to see the extent if. Thin white lines spiralled around his wrist and forearm, just under the skin.
"How did they implant these wires? They go all the way around," I asked.
"What do you mean they didn't?"
"Wow." Okay. This was definitely new. I should have been keeping up. No wonder this dude was so freaked out. I wouldn't want something growing inside me like a parasite, let along a non-organic parasite.
"Is it supposed to do that? Grow?" I asked.
"Man, you really haven't been keeping up with current events. This technology, it's turned into a whole thing."
"No I guess not." I was feeling bad for the guy. I brief discussed between my braincells whether to waive my fee for this little nightmare, but the majority consensus was that my time was more valuable than my charity. C'est la vie.
"Like I was fine with it at first, even the growth. It was so helpful, but then it got...invasive."
"More than a regular phone is invasive?"
"Yeah," he nodded, with a wild look in his eye. I made a note to watch the news later. "Like it's hard to describe, but I got so focused on work. I got so much down. And then I realised how weird that was. Like I feel good when I'm productive, but it was getting a bit much. I haven't been sleeping right in ages. Normally when I'm productive, I sleep better."
"Yeah I get that too," I said.
"Anyway, I want this thing out. Can you start or what?"
"Yeah, yeah." I picked up the anaesthetic needle and squirted out a tiny bit. "This is just a bit of numbing so you don't feel my scapel cutting in."
"Can I watch it?" Oh, so maybe this guy was a bit of a freak after all. Respect.
"If you like."
I timed down the anaesthetic then pinched his skin with my fingers. He didn't feel it, I quickly shaved his arm and then I wiped down the skin with iodine, then wiped it away. I felt around the bulk of the device which was at most an inch wide, but wafer thin and flexible. It's little display glowed. I found the old scar where it was inserted, and cut through that. No need for butchering the guy more than necessary. Blood seeped out of the wound and I sopped it up with a small sponge. I took my tweezers and found the edge of the device then pulled. The body popped out quite easily, but the wires were well embedded. I wrapped my fingers around the body and pulled with a better grip. There was more than resistance, it pulled back. Johnny screamed out and I stopped pulling.
"Are you okay dude?" I asked.
He was wincing and grimacing but he nodded.
"Please continue," he said. Quite polite for the situation. I would have been swearing.
I pulled some more and it budged a bit more. Johnny's eyes were watering and he was squirming.
"You want some more anaesthetic?"
"It's not my arm. It's all over. It's in me all over. Pull it out. Just pull it out!"
Well this was a disturbing turn. Were these companies really implanting devices that colonised people's bodies? Was this intentional? Did they know what they were doing or was this a side effect? I suddenly had lots more questions like that.
I pulled, and pulled, and it pulled back and Johnny screamed. The neighbours might be starting to wonder, but hopefully most of the shops had already closed up. I put my knee on the chair and my other hand on his hand, got over him for some better leverage, like a dentist pulling out some recalcitrant wisdom teeth. I pulled some more grunting with the effort and it came out a full foot, and I swear the body was making a whining noise. It was also heating up under my glove. Was that a real thing? Like a self-defense thing? Johnny looked like he had fainted, so pulled some more, with event more force. It slipped out further, and I could see the wires were not quite wires, they didn't look like metal, more like a translucent plastic and they pulsed with light. They were also squirming like they had muscles inside.
It was out by about three feet now, and unbelievably it was still stuck in. How much more of this was there? I pulled some more and could see that the arms of the thing had bifurcated and into dozens of fine tendrils, all tinged pink with blood. I pulled again, and Johnny's whole body writhed involuntarily. I nearly lost my grip on the thing with the oh-holy-hell fright of it.
Finally Johnny's body settled and...sighed...and the rest of the thing slithered out and fell to the floor. Blood was flowing freely from his wound and I could see bruises forming all over his skin. I wanted to attend to him, but the devices was trying to wrap around me and even pulled my glasses off trying to get at my eyes. I quickly bundled up the wires, or arms or whatever, into a tight mass and threw it in to the hazardous waste container, where it started juddering around, trying to lift the lid. Thankfully it didn't have a lot of pushing force.
I checked Johnny's breathing and there was nothing.
Blood was welling up under the skin everywhere I could see. Did that mean his heart was still working, or was it just osmosis? Should I try CPR? Was it just compressions now, or was the mouth to mouth thing still a thing. I vaguely recalled something about that, but my training was shamefully well out-of-date.
Before I could wrestle him out of the chair and onto the ground and before I could get at my phone for an ambulance, there was loud thudding at the front doors. They were locked and somebody wanted in.
"We're closed!" I shouted, but maybe, thinking back on this horrible episode, maybe I should have been silent.
"We've got a report of an illegal removal of one of our devices. Open up!" 'Our devices'? And since when was this illegal? "This crime is punishable by up to 30 years in prison." What?! When did all this ridiculous legislating happen? Suddenly my life had developed unwanted complications. I had to think fast. I pulled off my gloves as the doors continued to rattle, threw my apron to the ground, checked for my wallet, phone, and keys in my pockets, then grabbed the device out of the hazardous container and shoved it into a clean glove, hopefully breaking some of those wires in the process. I tied off the top of the glove on itself. Then I slipped out door into the main office. It was big and dark so I don't think the people outside the front doors saw me. I grabbed my coat and the baseball bat I kept in the closet for the customer coats. I quietly snuck down the hall towards the back door, and managed to open it, slip through, and lock it, before I heard the glass from the front doors shattered.
There was an alleyway with dumpsters out back, and I walked calmly down it in case they had anyone posted out back. I couldn't believe I was thinking like this all of a sudden. There was an intersecting alleyway that went in the opposite direction and a took that out onto the next street behind from my shop. It wasn't very busy and led towards a more residential area. The streetlights were beginning to come on, and people were in their houses eating dinner. Hopefully no one saw me walking with the bat. It didn't seem that anyone was following me, but the device was still moving in the glove, now in my jacket pocket, albeit with less vigour.
I took the next intersecting road as it lead to a little wooded park area. There was a drug dealer sitting on swing but he just nodded at me as I passed with determination and the bat and into the woods. Respect. I walked a few minutes in before I took out the device and put in on the top of a waist high rock. It was still moving and twitching. If it was giving off a single it was about to stop. I wacked at again and again with cracks that rang out against the trees, unsettling birds and small mammals.
I took out an old envelop out of the the depths of my many-pocketed coat and set it under the remains of the device. I got my lighter and lit that little fucker up. I added some dead leaves for good measure. The bits of arm curled up into tight circles and something made a lengthened sizzling sigh. The flames died down soon enough, and the adrenaline releasing into my body started to slow its damn flow.
I didn't know what to do, other than to take out my trusty phone and turn it off. I had some serious rethinking to do about its relationship with my life. I dropped the bat, and walked north to the other edge of the park, and found a bus that took me away. I didn't have a destination just then. I wasn't going to go to prison for 30 years for some corporation's dumb shit.
Poor Johnny though.