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Engineering Psychology

Flash in the Pan| Views: 221

Finally, after weeks of toil, fitful with setbacks and hang-ups, she hits her stride and is on her way to prototyping technology capable of inducing subjective time dilation. To improve her chances of keeping up the hard-won progress, she decides it necessary to guard against a distraction she has yet to master, the one that could be the most disastrously disruptive: infatuation. So, she rigs up a transdermal hormone delivery system that will hit her endocrine and nervous systems with a custom combo of dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin to engender a romantic attraction to her best friend.

Whenever she is around him, she triggers this system to release a burst of hormones—multiple times if they’re having an especially jaunty conversation or enjoying themselves in a jazz lounge or comedy club. She loves the fresh affection that twirls through her after each dose, every little twist of exhilarating fondness reassuring – visceral confirmation that should some unwanted crush start up, the one she has created will be strong enough to quash it.

She doesn’t mind feeling this way towards him. He’s the kind of person she should be attracted to, and in the past, she has successfully remained detached in the face of attractions to people she should be attracted to. This time appears to be no different. She can easily dismiss the occasional, adoring daydreams about him; those spontaneous, endearing little fantasies seem a modest price to pay for gaining control over time perception. And when she gets her prototype tech to reliably make minutes feel 10% longer, and an hour 3% longer, that price is more like a bargain.

For a good month and a half, this arrangement goes swimmingly—her work advancing steadily and satisfactorily with no undesirable desire arising, no problematic preoccupations, no complications. Until, in the middle of brunch one Saturday, he asks her to be his date to a childhood friend’s wedding—just out of nowhere, with no segue or prelude whatsoever.

Stunned by this unprecedented turn in their leisurely mealtime conversation, she lowers her fork to her plate as her gaze lifts over the diner table between them to find his bright, expectant eyes.

“Um, sure,” she answers before she can stop herself, made amenable to his request by the psychological state she’s engineered.

You mean, as friends? she wants to add, but her hormonally heightened sensitivity blockades the question with the concern that seeking this clarification may be inconsiderate.

“Great! Set aside the last weekend of May on your calendar,” he says. “We’ll fly out on Friday. That way travel will be less stressful, and we can enjoy some of the area’s delights. I’ll take you to dinner the night before the wedding. There’s an amazing farm-to-table restaurant I think you’ll like.”

“Sounds nice,” she murmurs while parsing what he said for subtext.

A whole weekend away together? Is this an attempt to take our friendship in a romantic direction? she wonders. Have I been unwittingly behaving in some suggestive way around him while under the influence of these hormones? Could that influence be a liability during the wedding weekend?

The last question launches her into a mental calculation, her mind quickly setting up the multiplication of her typical dosage with clearance rates reported in the studies she read when setting up the hormone delivery system.

Carrying out the arithmetic in her head, she just barely hears him say, “I’ll make all the arrangements, so don’t worry about the logistics. And I’ll of course run the plans by you.”

A moment later, she has the result: if she stops administering the hormones within two weeks, they will be eliminated from her physiology well before the wedding. Relieved, she smiles. There’s no danger that her biohacking will render her prone to behaving with romantic zeal that weekend, leaving only the matter of how her unaltered physiology and psychology will react to whatever happens during the trip, whatever he—

Abruptly, her attention shifts, her gaze going to the tabletop as he reaches across it, toward her hand resting beside the plate of hash browns.

Clasping her hand in both of his, he says, “This will be fantastic,” and a rush of warmth goes through her.

Maybe it will be, she muses.

Though she may feel differently tomorrow, the weekend trip strikes her as a worthwhile distraction—an intriguing deviation. And, however things turn out that weekend, she should at that point have the cognitech to speed up or slow down the passage of the days after their trip, possess the means to fast-forward through awkwardness or draw out delight.

With worry now supplanted by confidence, she feels her heart tingling with a giddy calm, like a promise she could not bring herself to break.

Soramimi Hanarejima is a writer of innovative fiction and the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium, a fanciful story collection that Jack Cheng said, “captures moonlight in Ziploc bags.” Soramimi’s recent work can be found in [PANK], Every Day Fiction, Firewords and Tahoma Literary Review

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