A Nick in the Neck

On April 9th, 2018, Voices published a story about Swarthmore's very first "Sci-Fi for Social Change" event, organized by faculty with the help of the Andrew W. Mellon grant for the arts and humanities. This event included a short story contest with four student winners. The following story won second place along with 'Nick in Neck'. The first place winner will be published in Voices later this week. 

When they announce the chips, they use words like safety and accountability and peace of mind, and your friends say well and unavoidable and convenient, but all you hear is location tracking, trapping, trapped. 

Protests ripple across the country, spawning funny signs and nothing else because the government points out that the only people who would mind their actions and locations being tracked are the people who are going to be in places they shouldn’t be.  And your white friends and the newscasters nod along, and you’re glad you and Moira wore masks at the protests. 

It doesn’t hurt when they put it in, just like they promised it wouldn’t.  You’d imagined it would go in your ear, had entertained fantasies of cutting it out, carrying a piece of ear around with you until you needed to be somewhere the chip wasn’t, but they put it in your neck, and when the doctor puts his pale gloved fingers on your throat, you think you stop breathing, but it’s fine, you’re fine, and it didn’t even hurt. 

Crime rates go down as incarceration rates go up.  Someone burns a data warehouse down, but they catch him because his info was in one of the other hundreds of warehouses.  One day, Moira meets you for lunch with a pink scarf around her neck, tied delicately in front of a bandage, and says she’s running to Canada, and she hands you a small metal box, the kind that holds mints, and you look at it, close your fingers around its cold corners.  It smells like antiseptic, and you know what’s in it, and your hands shake so hard you almost drop it. 

“Keep this safe for me,” she says.  “I applied to live with you, and I’m on file as self-employed, so if you just stick it in the living room, it’ll give me time.” 

You know what the punishments are, but you bite your lip and nod at her, and she hugs you before she leaves, her scarf tickling your neck.  You stare at the box the whole drive home, and you sit in the car a good ten minutes after you park in front of your apartment.  You wonder if that looks weird to whatever FBI agent is watching your tiny dot on a map.  Maybe.  Not arrestable weird, though.  Not yet. 

You take the car out of park, drive to the police station, almost turn in, don’t.  You take deep, shaking breaths and imagine you can feel something jagged in your throat.  You do a U-turn at the next corner.  You put the box in your living room and go to sleep.



Ana Curtis (she/her) is a junior studying English Lit, Economics, and Chinese. She likes writing about people she would hate in real life.