In 2042, Wesley must escape digital slavery, find his real memories, & take down the Book, a sentient web interface in his vision. #PitProm
Moste Excellent Lordes & Ladyes of PitProm,
THE YEAR OF PERFECT SIGHT is adult science fiction, complete at 96,000 words, roughly Black Mirror in the vein of William Gibson.
In 2040s Manhattan, Wesley lives in constant fear of losing his memory. Like everyone who’s anyone, he depends on the Book—a sentient web interface in his vision—for video recordings of everything he’s ever done. But the Book crashes almost daily, leaving him with terrifying amnesia until it boots up again.
The rebel “nobookers” living in the tunnels under New York can help. Beyond the range of the Book’s signal, these radicals have their own memories. Turns out Wesley’s dependence on vids has caused his weak memory. With enough time off the Book, Wesley’s recollection may strengthen. The nobookers are working to kill the Book, which could end Wesley’s reliance on Book vids and bring back his real memories. Trouble is, the death of the Book will catapult him into his longest, most terrifying amnesia episode yet.
Still, a life off the Book might be worth the pain. Natalie, one of the rebel leaders, feels like a lost love, but she’s missing from Wesley’s vids. The Book is hiding something, and Wesley wants the truth, even if it’s devastating. To recover his past, he’ll have to help the nobookers hack the Book. But the Book is always listening, and it wants him to stay on—even if it means shattering Wesley’s reality.
My fiction has appeared in PANK and other venues. As a marketing writer at a software firm, I work with algorithms and content automation every day. I drew on this experience in writing the novel.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
First Ten Pages:
NEW YORK, 2042
Chapter 1 | Wesley
“Memory aid—Take a Year of Perfect Sight!”
The words leapt off the filthy tiles of the subway station. Wesley bent and scooped up the flyer, a scrap of red paper and shouting black letters. Just the thing he was looking for, but the crowd was coming and he couldn’t stop to read. The drone taxis were down, and so far, he was beating the rush to the train. He stuffed the paper in his pocket and set off.
His eyesight crackled with the interface of the Book. His whole life was there, pulsing in the graphics that floated in his vision. Notifications blinked over real life, calling him to things that mattered. The Book held it all and served him a personalized version, his own Book, through chips in his brain. Without it, he was nothing. The world’s conversations happened on Social. Everything lived there. His news, his money, his cat memes.
And his past. Without the infinite scroll of memory vids in his Daylog app, he would have no identity.
Trouble was, the random Book outages were happening more and more. When the interface went down for a few seconds, he was fine. When the outages stretched to two minutes, five, sometimes ten, he sank in a formless sea of amnesia.
Hence the flyer and his itching desire to read it.
He stepped out of the crowd into a little corner, a nowhere space beyond the flow of pedestrian traffic. Heart thrumming hard, he unfolded the paper.
Memory aid—Take a Year of Perfect Sight!(*)
Escape your Book videos. Find true memories, true self.
Q line into Brooklyn, Av H stop, follow signs.
(*Not for everyone!)
ThinkTank, his advisory app, circled the text in his sight and commented. <Escape your Book videos? Sounds a little extreme.>
He swiped the app into his sidebar with a flick of his eyes.
The drone taxis were down, another common occurrence, forcing him to take the train home. He was making for the L platform, third level underground. He checked Navigator—confirmed, he could catch the Q in this station as well.
He had sought a memory aid for some time now, ever since he’d first noticed the draining away of recollection whenever he had an outage. The pitch was tantalizing: Find true memories, true self. He almost changed his mind, almost asked Navigator to take him to the Q, but he didn’t. Most likely, the flyer was a bust, like every black-market memory pill he had tried at dubious Chinatown stalls. Besides, he was tired.
He stepped into the crowd again and followed Navigator’s blinking L icon, the trip still running in the app.
Shit—Navigator led him to another descending staircase. He had already gone down two levels underground and lost two bars on his signal. He’d heard of the horror in the deepest pits of the subway, the dead spots where the Book died in every eye. Fights broke out there. Murders happened there, all of it beyond the personal surveillance of his Daylog.
The arrow blinked over the staircase. <L Platform – This way. Next train in 3 minutes.>
All because the drone taxis were down. No choice, he had to get home. He took the stairs, his signal faltering from three bars to two.
Halfway down, his Book died.
His chest tightened. He saw nothing but real life, the grimy walls of the station, the other commuters ashen-faced with their mouths set against anxiety. Electric terror hung in the air, Books dead in every eye. He wasn’t alone in that regard, but without the interface, the strangers around him receded to an infinite distance, another kind of loneliness. The blood went thrum-thrum in his head and his hands shook.
Any moment now, the memories would start to slip.
He could still imagine his profile picture. Less than halfway handsome, messy hair, a guy totally unremarkable on the street. “Wesley Bennett,” he said to himself. His name, his image.
Where was he? The deepest pit of Union Square station, waiting for a train.
Where was he going? Home. Via the goddammned L, because the drone taxis were down.
What did he do for a living? He owned Vidbrander, the marketing software that tweaked people’s Book vids for subtle marketing messages.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
A woman and a man came down the stairs, brushed past him, found a spot on the platform. He knew them—Ann Hayden and Mory Gaspar, two old friends he hadn’t seen in years. Ann was his age, dressed like a young professional, her dark hair cropped close. Mory was older, looking grubby now, thrift store clothes nearly falling off him.
They hadn’t seen him, but he watched them, rehearsing their names. He couldn’t bear to lose it all again, even though his knowledge would come back whenever the L train climbed out of the bowels of New York. Then his Book would turn on and he would get his memory vids again.
Rehearse, rehearse. Ann Hayden and Mory Gaspar. Two old friends. Ann Hayden…
The train came, clattering slowing.
What train? Navigator was dead with the rest of his Book, and the name wasn’t blinking over the tracks. It certainly wasn’t printed on the cars anymore.
What station? Anywhere in New York. He never took the train. At least he knew the city where he lived. Checking—still knew himself, Wesley Bennett, though he couldn’t imagine his profile pic anymore.
And he’d lost their names. Now they were just a woman and her companion, two old friends whom he couldn’t place. Any moment, that knowledge would die, too. He would call them total strangers, never seen ’em before.
He couldn’t get on that train, not with the waters of amnesia rising around him and two old friends standing right there.
He whipped out the flyer, tore it open.
Memory aid—take a Year of Perfect Sight!(*)
Escape your Book videos. Find true memories, true self.
Q line into Brooklyn, Av H stop, follow signs.
(*Not for everyone!)
The doors to the train opened. The crowd pushed past him and found their way in. His old friends boarded in the rush. <Stand clear of the closing doors!> blinked softly in his vision.
The woman turned back, caught his eye, stared in shock.
The man glanced after her, recognized him, turned away. Something terrible hung between them, something unspeakable.
The doors closed. The woman watched Wesley through the glass while the man looked elsewhere. The train began to move, faster and faster. The woman’s eyes tracked Wesley, the last glance, the unspeakable linking of two souls, until the tunnel swallowed her up forever.
He glanced down at the flyer. “Q line into Brooklyn.” The only way out was up the stairs. His Book would turn on and Navigator would lead him to the right train. That, at least, he remembered—his mind always faded in pieces, each fragment snuffed out in its own time.
“Find true memories, true self,” the flyer said.
He bounded up the stairs and pushed off the top step. Like magic, his vision bloomed and his Book resurrected, a sleepless interface filling his sight. He was living again, live again. Social loaded with 57 notifications. His apps loaded, banking, health, stocks. The SocialWear of the moving crowds lit up like Christmas. Their jackets scrolled with comments, pics, heart emojis. Ads flowered on all the station walls, rendered in his sight alone, part of his personal interface. The false graffiti on the walls loaded, too, great looping scrawls of FUCK NOBOOKER TRASH. On top of actual, on top of real life, the Book surpassed reality with itself.
<You’re lucky nothing happened while you were offline,> his ThinkTank advisory app messaged him. <You lost 4 minutes and 4 seconds, but you’re on the Book again.>
He crossed the terminal and caught the Q. Whether it was stupid or smart, he was following the flyer, going to Brooklyn. He needed help.
The stops blinked in Navigator, even under minimize, but he hadn’t set a destination, as the app reminded him with a pulsing warning. He was doing this himself, trusting a piece of red paper.
Foolish. He would fail.
Before he could stop himself, his eyes jittered and he pulled up Social for a quick buzz. He let the content wash over him, let it whisper love to him. His chest released and he stopped holding his breath. Dopamine kicked in. Here it was, the noise, the symphony of everyone he’d ever known babbling in vids and chats and memes. He couldn’t live without this. He swiped farther and farther and let infinite scroll reach up from below to swallow him.
Then he saw the Navigator notification.
<This is Av H. The next stop is Av J.>
<Stand clear of the closing doors, please!>
He vaulted through the doors onto the empty elevated platform. ThinkTank gave him an idiot warning.
<Don’t do that! Not only is it dangerous, but it slows down the train for everyone else.>
He grabbed the action box and thought words into it.
Dusk was falling and the low brick buildings throbbed with mapped ads on his Book. But for a woman smiling into a hand mirror and heading for the stairs, he was alone, lost in Brooklyn on a fool’s errand. He opened the flyer again.
Av H stop, follow signs.
No address, nothing he could load into Navigator. He’d been duped. The hunt was hopeless.
Then he saw the rag of red paper fluttering by the stairs, taped to the wall under weary lamps, letters printed in the same heavy black type.
Memory aid, this way ↓↓↓
He took the stairs under a sickly greenish light and stumbled through the turnstiles into the quiet street. He was getting closer, though the neighborhood was dicey, the tang of garbage creeping through the night. He was so exhausted, he could barely walk.
That was another problem: day after day, he couldn’t stop scrolling but lay in his recliner for twenty-four hours or more, swiping deeper and deeper into memory vids on Social. Those were the bad days, when his body went numb, his eyes achy and twitchy, his breathing compressed to shallow huffs. He was a wreck physically, flat out of calories tonight, as his healthcare app from NHI, Inc. informed him. The search for the memory aid was fast turning into a bust. Unless he missed them in the dark, there were no more signs. Any moment, he would faint.
He stopped in front of a corner bodega. As he turned to head back to the station, he spotted a full sheet of red paper taped to the filthy glass door.
TAKE A YEAR OF PERFECT SIGHT
Memory Aid / Escape Yr Book Vids*
*Not for everyone!!!
He couldn’t catch his breath. ThinkTank spat out all kinds of flashing text. Something about the type of establishment—print your photos here, buy liquor, open twenty-four hours, cash only, frequented by dangerous nobookers.
Don’t do this, Wesley.
Last robbery at gunpoint—ten days ago.
But his memory vids were a crutch. The outages were happening more and more, and he needed new strength to stave off the amnesia in those moments. One day, if he didn’t get help, he would do himself real harm while the Book scrambled to restore itself.
He pushed the grinding door open.
The clerk stared at him with a sad, steady gaze, his body emaciated under a stained polo. That face showed no twitching of the eyes, no veiling or self-absorption, just two holes falling straight into the abyss. Only nobookers revealed their souls like that. Swipe, swipe, swipe, Wesley covered the man’s eyes with apps and windows.
Social circled the clerk’s face. No use trying to connect—he’s not on the Book. Social loaded some nobooker trash memes, but Wesley swiped them away in shame. Never should’ve given those a laugh emoji—the memes had never stopped loading after his foolish click.
Now he met the man’s gaze but couldn’t hold it. His eyes narrowed, eyelids fluttering like wings as he clicked notifications, pulled up Social comments. Anything to keep the man out, to kill the contact.
No. The road to a better self started now. He minimized all windows and met the man’s eyes. “Here for the… memory aid?”
The man pointed toward a black door in the wall. Red letters, white board, EMPLOYEES ONLY.
“No, no… memory aid, see…” He held out the leaflet, gesturing.
“Hey buddy, I speak English.” No accent except a little Queens color. “You narcies.”
“Come on, you’re a narcie. You know, a narcissist? Stuck in yourself, in your eyes.”
“I’m not stuck in my—”
“Hey, buddy. Just go through that door and up the stairs.”
How shameful, his long fall from relatability. He heaved the door open and snagged his foot on a step.
“Don’t trip, ya damn fluttereyes.”
The nobooker slur had never hurt before, but it sure did now. Tears came, clouding the distant horizon of real life.
Swaying and spinning, he climbed the stairs to a narrow hall, badly lit, with doors on either side. The first one on the right was ajar, shapeless under years of black paint. A white plaque with red letters hung there.
He grasped the knob but leaned on the doorpost to catch his breath. A memory vid loaded, footage of seven years ago, 2035, shot within his sight.
The same door, the same lettering spelling out THE DARK. He had come to the bodega before.
Still holding the knob, he played the old vid. In the archival footage, his hand pushed the door open to reveal a room with no light. The darkness filled the frame as he stepped inside. The audio gave him nothing until he slammed the door, when the vid ended in a blast of static.
Welcome to the final round of pitches!
Agents and Publishers,