DISCONNECTED / Risako Tominaga

On November 1st, the CEO of Malus Inc., Samantha Johnson will announce a new sensational device called “Hand-E.” Tokyo Technology Center is full of journalists and photographers from around the world. The stage is covered in black, and only the famous image of the silver silhouette of the long-hair woman holding an apple is blinking, which at the same time accelerates other guests’ expectations. I guess that woman is now seen in towns more frequently than the woman in the green circle printed on the coffee cups near each station.  Some of them had already began to live with video cameras and good-looking reporters speaking various languages, in contrast with me waiting for the opening speech, not knowing what I was supposed to report in advance. It was about a week before the event when I was assigned to the technology section of the 100-year-old weekly magazine, Tokyo Today which is often called TT. The only reason I was chosen was that I was the youngest of the editors of the magazine although I was not familiar with technological fields. “Alex, you don’t look like other young people in their twenties who quickly adopt all the new stuff. Just try it and you will see.” What my boss, Josh said to me was right. I had been an analog person. I always liked to read hardcover books and paper magazines while my friends would read on their phones with the iconic woman’s image on the back surface. Now the symbol of this company, a silhouette of a woman with long hair holding an apple, is seen everywhere. That was one of the reasons that made me apply for this publishing company. My parents and professors opposed my choice with the depression of the print industry, but I was proud of what I was doing. My friends all got jobs at IT companies where they were guaranteed to make more money than I would. When the venue was covered with flashes and applauses, the long-awaited event finally started.

November 7th, 20XX

MALUS INC. FINALLY INTRODUCED INTO HUMAN BODY

Malus Inc. brought the world another sensation. Following the company’s last announcement of “E-phone”, “Hand-E” was presented at the Tokyo Technology Center on November 1st, 20XX. On arriving in a white suit, the CEO S. Johnson surprised the audience with her hand alternated into a screen. The product can be embedded into a person’s hands, and so their whole hand will become a screen within seconds of an injection. The battery can be charged by exercising, speaking, sleeping, and any movement that people produce, which breakthroughs people’s eternal concern about decreasing batteries. Its functions are the same as the previously launched phone; people can call, e-mail, use apps, and update the functions as well. Moreover, it is waterproof and unbreakable. It is proven by karate players used during training, swimming for more than two hours by world-class divers. Doctors around the world have admitted that it does not have any harm for human bodies. An emeritus professor of California Medicine University, Dr. Suzuki, mentions “I cannot believe that technology has gone beyond biology and medical science. It is 100% guaranteed that the components of ‘Hand-E’ will not infect the user. I am excited to do new research using this device. There is a possibility that we can invent new remedies that can be operated with it in the future. A reminder is that once it is introduced into hands, it can never be removed.” Johnson commented, “We are very proud of starting this phone-less era. Smartphones are last era’s devices,” and concluded the ceremony. “Thank you for making history with us today.” The acceleration of Malus Inc. cannot be stopped.

“I couldn’t believe what was going on there. I’m so proud I saw the boundary to the new era,” said the photographer, Katy, the following day. I somehow could not sympathize with his feeling. A phone inside of a human body? Is it serious that people are admired for this? Reaching my desk, the boss excitedly told me “That’s a huge job, Alex. The whole world is gonna’ read your text!” I understood that. Tokyo Today is such an influential magazine in the world. The reliable information based on our professional journalists placed all over the globe and truthful description of what is going on around the world from here in Tokyo, have been prized by thousands of readers since its first publication. I must tell the truth even when I feel against the idea of the continuous innovation of the world.

“You have to be careful of your word choice.” Mikayla is the chief editor of the politics section. I have hardly talked with her before, so this warning was unexpected.

“You wrote the article about ‘E-hand’, right?”

“Yes. Thanks for reading. What did you think?” I asked with a bit of confidence.

“I was surprised you mentioned that it could never be removed from the hand once it’s implanted. Readers will be afraid to introduce the device to their body. Didn’t you think about that?” It was completely my intention. Who would promote such a weapon from this widely-influential publishing company?

“I’m sorry if I made a mistake, but I got terrified at the event, and I just reported as I felt.” It’s killing the society. That was my first impression when I saw Johnson’s hand. People will lose their bodies that are gifts from their parents.

“Readers don’t want to read what you are thinking. They want facts. You have to know that Tokyo Today is not a column magazine, right?” She turned and left, “Anyways.”

In the crowded train home, looking at the town with blinking lights everywhere from the window, I was thinking that in this large world, hundreds of commuters are squeezed together. Everyone on the seats sitting in front of me were into their smartphone screens, spending their lifetime in the fictional world called “the Internet” while our train was going into the outskirts of Tokyo where nightfall is approaching the ridgeline with a mixture of orange, blue, and purple. If the E-hand is introduced into human bodies like this, the boundary between humans and electronic devices will be erased. They will always have access to people on the other side of the planet, and their access is always inside of them. Will they be termed “human” still?

My wife, Maria, and our new born daughter were waiting at home as always. “The doctor told me something interesting at today’s checkup.” She continued, “They have this new additional plan to introduce E-hands to newborn babies.” I felt my heartbeat accelerate. “Isn’t it so fascinating?”

“Are you serious?”

She looked surprised.

I took a breath and continued, “Maria, I want my child to grow up as an ordinary human being—live a slow and calm life. What would happen if our baby has such trash in her body?”

“But it takes care of her health by measuring blood pressure, heart rate and everything. I wouldn’t be interested if she were as healthy as other babies. That’s for her. We should be okay.”

I could not find words. Our baby’s growth disease became apparent at the end of summer. The doctor said she might be born smaller than other babies. It was natural that my wife was persuaded. But my kid would be ignorant of what her own human body is. Are we allowed to make my baby so? No way. “I’ll go to bed.” I needed time to find where I stood.

Next morning on the way to work, I witnessed a man swiping the screen spread over his hand. People surrounding them were glancing at it jealously. “Look what I’ve got in my hand!” I was shocked to see some of my colleague’s hands. I had no choice but to admit that E-hand infectiously emerged in parts of my life; into the commuters I see in the morning, strangers, servers of the nearby café, my colleagues, and my dearest family. Maria and our long-waited hope. I had been thinking what I can do to stop this as a journalist for a while. Next morning, I found myself standing in front of the gate of Johnson Tower where Malus Inc. occupies the whole building as its head office with a camera and recorder.

At 1:33 a.m., Johnson, walking with brisk steps on high-heels, came out with her secretary. Hiding behind the vending machine besides the gate, I had my equipment turned on. “That’s why I warned you!” She looked frustrated and very different from the calm and confident woman I saw at the event. “That’s something the engineering department cannot address but they can’t easily ask doctors either because that will expose this problem,” the secretary anxiously said.

“So, when did this woman called the consumer department?”

“Two hours ago, and another man half an hour ago.”

“This is crazy! Fix it before the media finds it out.” The two got in the car and left. I had no doubt that what I heard was an omen of something terrible. I did not know what the complaints were on the phone or what Johnson was reluctant to ask doctors about. I could at least figure out that there was a big scoop that could reveal the darker side of this technology.

I could only stare at the lights through the windows, looking above from the main gate of the tall building. Because I came here unofficially, the officers will be suspicious. The gate is locked with an ID censor, and two officers were monitoring who came in. When I decided to get a can of coffee at the vending machine, a man with E-hand was buying a drink touching the palm of his hand onto the censor. Soon after he left, he collapsed on the ground, groaning and slamming his hand on the concrete ground. “Hey! Are you OK!?” The man kept moaning with pain, and I could see the corner of his E-hand was smoking. Calling 911 with a little panic, I got an ice water bottle from the vending machine and cooled down his hand. The smoke went out, and he stopped screaming. “Thank you,” the man said, his hand turned red. “You should be all right, but this E-hand is such trash. It’s killing you.”

“This happened last night too. I want to go inside of this company and show them my burning hand. I’m Roy by the way.”

“I’m Alex.” We shook hands. He manipulated the heated E-hand with his thick thumb. The screened hand became white, and the logo―the long-hair woman with the apple― showed up. I was filled up with an impulse to kill her. “It’s not broken yet.” The man’s hand looked painful, and yet he was more worried about the device’s life. A clock with a starry background image showed up. He was relieved, and said, “My wife called the consumer center last night, but they just said they can’t handle medical problems.”

“What?”

“I bought an insurance package which would offer free repairs, which they explained they cannot offer treatment, but only have it replaced by tech people inside of Malus. Nobody told us.”

“That’s awful…” While losing my words, the ambulance came.

“Thanks a lot.” The man went into the car, and the red light reflected on the building caused attention to workers through the windows. The siren haunted in the deep dark of the city.

After the silence came back and the watchers of Malus went back to work, I realized my voice recorder was on. I turned it on before Johnson came out and met the man. It did not take a long time for me to come up with an idea. On the next day, I ran into the editorial department in the hopes that they could replace the article. They said they were about to finish the final check of next week’s issue. “My team decided to publish the article I’ve sent next month instead of next week. I’m sorry that’s my fault, and this should be out next week.” I’ve done such a mess. All the values that Tokyo Today had earned would disappear by this selfish decision. Of course, I would lose my job. My wife would be mad. She might decide to divorce me. But I had only one option for the future.

November 21, 20XX

E-HAND IS HACKING OUR BODIES

During the two weeks after the groundbreaking announcement of E-Hand from Malus Inc., defects have been detected despite the rapidly increasing number of users. Tokyo Today witnessed a striking moment of an accident that E-Hand could cause. “That’s why I warned you!” Samantha Johnson’s voice echoed at the entrance of Johnson Tower as she came out with her secretary during the midnight of November 18. She was complaining about the unsolved problem of E-Hand that was told to its customer center. “This is crazy! Fix it before the media will find it out.” It took only half an hour for TT to find out one of the problems Malus was trying to hide, which was that E-Hand may emit heat that humans could hardly bear. One of the TT staff encountered a man who installed E-Hand inside of his right hand, falling on the ground with irresistible pain and heat that gave his hand as smoke was slightly coming out from his device. He testified that the same breakdown occurred the night before, and he called the customer center, only to find that the insurance package he purchased with the product would not cover the repair since few doctors are able to handle the technical problem newly embedded in human bodies. The witness cooled his hand down with an icy bottled water till an ambulance came. Much is left to be concerned about E-Hand. The fact that the company consequently has unsolved problems is a serious issue that will hack the future of our bodies. Medical and insurance matters of this case are just the first examples of these problems. If you are planning to purchase one, take a moment and think about what could happen.

On the next day, people on my floor were working as usual. I was pleased to see the article was replaced without my bosses finding out, and a bit shocked at the same time when I found it at the nearby convenience store. I never thought it would go so easily. I was relieved to see the picky Mikayla talking to other people, but I was determined. Walking into Josh’s office, I was ready to apologize and eventually to be fired. “Good morning. I…”

When I started to explain what I did, my boss intervened, “Alex…” He calmly continued, “We sometimes have peculiar people like you. What you did won’t be forgiven. It was very irresponsible and disrespectful as a worker of this company. But your article will mean a lot to the public. I am the one who is to be blamed when everybody criticizes and debates what you wrote.”

“Yes, I am very sorry.”

“Yeah that’s the only grudge I’m holding.” He smiled. “But you know what, I think that what you did is what the media is for. I guess you are ready to be resigned today but you’ll be stuck to this company in your previous department.” My eyes opened widely. “Never do such a foolish thing again. You’ve grown up, but next time you’ll be really fired.” He winked and went out for a meeting.

I thought he was crazy. So is this whole company. I believed that November 23rd would be my last day at Tokyo Today. Strangely, less and less people were interested in introducing E-Hands after my article was published and the turbulent criticism and additional work that the department of technology section did. I was moved back to the culture section, and now I oversee the section. While some other publication companies publish E-Hand versions, this company remains the only one which specializes in paper magazines and books. Even if people chose to live in the E-world and did not buy paper media, Tokyo Today would continue being published for the future generations.

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