art by Liz Clarke
by Alex Shvartsman
I move through the aisles slowly, with the casual gait of a bored shopper who's there to kill fifteen minutes while his spouse is trying on shoes across the street. Someone not likely to make an actual purchase and, therefore, ignored by the salespeople. I disregard the flashy displays of electronics piled up high and the enticing discounts. Instead, I study the cameras, the location of the clerks, and the security tag detector equipment by the exit.
It helps to think of something else when you're in a high-stress situation, keep one's mind occupied so as not to get overwhelmed by anxiety. I choose to concentrate on how much I hate Charlie Tan.
Back in the day, I used to be an actor. Not a big Hollywood star, but someone with a string of small credits, perhaps on the verge of a real break. Along comes Tan with his invention--a way to record and share memories like you would a digital photo. Tan gets a Nobel Prize and many longwinded editorials about how he changed the world, and I get my career yanked out from under me.
I walk over to the shelf housing the RealFeel players. They're packaged in small boxes, each the size of a hardcover book. RFs with the record option, like the one I'm wearing, are much more expensive and kept behind glass. The basic player models are out in the open, perfect for what I need, and somehow fitting.
When it comes to home entertainment, RealFeel is impossible to beat. Take a guy who's climbing Mount Everest, and have him wear an RF recorder. It will capture everything--the smell of crisp, fresh mountain air, the excitement and danger of the long climb, the camaraderie of your fellow adventurers and, finally, the thrill of reaching the summit. Then an experienced editor will take out the inconvenient parts--the frostbite, the muscle aches, and the fear. Just like that, you've got a blockbuster memory that any couch potato can experience for the price of a pack of smokes. Who would bother to watch another movie or play, after that? And what's an unemployed actor to do?
I slide a pair of slim RealFeel packages into the outer pockets of my coat. They're spacious pockets, and their sides are lined with material that blocks the signal from the RFID security tags. No one seems to have noticed. So far, so good. I make my way toward an exit, walking slower than I would like. My heart is racing. To my knowledge, I've never done this before.