Guest Post: Kill Switch - A Horror Anthology | Edited by Emerian Rich & Dan Shaurette

As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future? 

Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time?

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A sneak peek inside…

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

DAPHNE STRASERT

THE IMPLANT WAS a breeze. Daemon had ordered the Iriz online, agonizing over each feature, then shipped it directly to his doctor.

“Shouldn’t a doctor be here for this?” Daemon asked the nurse as she swabbed around his eye with a medicinal cotton ball which burned his nose.

The older woman chuckled, causing the nametag pinned over her breast—reading Denise—to jiggle.

“Honey, if the doctor had to be here for the whole of every Iriz implant, he wouldn’t have time for anything else.” Denise set aside the cotton ball, then soaked another and continued swabbing. “He’ll be in when he’s needed. Don’t you worry. It’s routine.”

Routine. Of course.

It seemed like everyone had an Iriz these days. Daemon couldn’t blame them. The things were damned useful. They could answer messages, set appointment reminders, take pictures, give directions, and remember coworkers’ names, all in the blink of an eye. Literally.

The electronic prosthetic connected directly to the optic nerve. Control was seamless. No voice commands or hand signals required. Of course, the buyer had to be willing to lose an eye first. But what was an eyeball, anyway? Just a meaty bit of flesh. Sure, it was a wonder of evolution and biology, but the Iriz had built in wireless internet.

As Denise filled syringes with a clear liquid, Daemon saw the iris of her right eye contract and whirr.

“How long have you had yours?” he asked.

She smiled but didn’t look back at him. “About a year. The hospital paid for the staff to get them. Though I gotta say, I use it for a whole lot more than work.”

“Who doesn’t?”

Iriz had apps for everything: news articles, exercise plans, games, scheduling, movies, and books. There were Iriz alarm clocks, Iriz step counters, and Iriz life coaches. The direct brain mapping meant everything the user looked at stayed in the privacy of their own mind. Apps captured real-time images of the users’ days and stored them on the Cloud so they could go back and save any important memories they didn’t want to miss. The Iriz did everything but live the person’s life for them. And increasingly, it seemed users even wanted it to do that.

Denise tapped the syringe a few times, then approached Daemon, pointy end first.

“Hold still, this will poke for just a second.” Daemon winced when the needle punctured the skin near his left eye socket, though he didn’t mean to. Almost as soon as the pain registered, the nurse pulled back and it was gone. She set the syringe aside. “I hope you read all the fine print. I don’t think most people do.”

“It’s not a problem,” Daemon assured her. “I know it pretty well.”

“That so?” Denise asked, arranging the tools on the tray rather than looking at him, giving Daemon the impression she registered his voice but not what he’d said.

“Sure. I designed it.”

For the first time since stepping in the room, the nurse stopped what she was doing and looked at Daemon, really looked at him.

Daemon shifted in his seat and glanced down. He knew he didn’t exactly look like the business guy type with his beat up sneakers, unkempt hair, and acne scars. He was the brains behind Iriz, not the money.

Daemon had developed the technology, he and his team of scientists, engineers, and programmers. Everyone played their part, but Daemon knew the Iriz like a surgeon knew the back of a scalpel as it sliced through human viscera. He had stayed through every sleepless night of development from drawing the initial specs to running the final quality control check.

“Well,” said the nurse. “You’re all ready to go, Mr. Iriz Creator. The doctor will be here as soon as that anesthetic has time to set in.”

The procedure was over before Daemon had the time to work up any real nerves about it. The doctor blew in and shook his hand, then there was a little pop, a little snip, a little crimp, and voila! A brand new eye, better than the one he’d had before.

Daemon drove slowly on the way home, adjusting to the constant stream of information fed through the Iriz. With its high-speed connection to the near-unlimited data of the Iriz network, information presented itself before he even consciously thought to ask for it: GPS directions, real-time traffic updates, song lyrics, even the relationship status of the gorgeous woman in the convertible next to him.

It was strange to see programs he had worked on for years actually operating in front of him. He’d poured years of his life into Iriz, so he was a little proud…and a little disappointed too. Watching as his Iriz neatly remapped his route home to avoid an accident on the highway, he couldn’t help but feel the whole thing was a little…trite. Iriz had amazing capabilities, but almost none of them were feature ready yet. Most just sat in his apartment, waiting to be presented, then rejected by the Iriz upper management.

Once Daemon got home, he could add a few professional modifications, some programs of his own design. Not all personal data was accessible to every member of the Iriz network, but with a little creative coding, there wasn’t anything Daemon couldn’t know, whether it was a credit score or a person’s sexual preferences.

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EDITED BY:

DAN SHAURETTE

& EMERIAN RICH

STORIES BY:

H.E. ROULO, TIM O’NEAL, JERRY J. DAVIS, EMERIAN RICH, BILL DAVIDSON,

DANA HAMMER, NACHING T. KASSA, GARRETT ROWLAN, DAPHNE STRASERT

PHILLIP T. STEVENS, LAUREL ANNE HILL, CHANTAL BOUDREAU, GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ

Available now on Amazon! 

E.M. Markoff is the award-winning Latinx author of stories about damaged heroes and imperfect villains. Her works include To Nurture & Kill and The Deadbringer, which Booklist described as "A fantastic action-adventure, tinged with Mexican folklore, that will appeal to fans of A Game of Thrones."