FUTURES

The tentacle and you

It’s a whole new start!
John Wiswell (@Wiswell) is a disabled writer who lives where New York keeps all its trees. His work has appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Fireside Magazine and Daily Science Fiction.

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A tentacle wraps around a human handIllustration by Jacey

Congratulations on your new tentacle! You’re probably one of the first people in your entire civilization to get this gift, and we know how overwhelming that can feel. That’s why we’ve compiled a few tips to coach you early adopters through the first days of the rest of your lives. Welcome to the fold.

Day one

Already you should feel unprecedented vigour. Pursue whatever naturally drives you. Go body surfing. Wrestle a bear. Sky dive without a parachute. Do sex if that’s your thing. Thanks to the tentacle’s restorative properties, no injury or infection will last more than a few seconds. It’s pretty cool, right? That durability is going to help you over the next week.

The contact area of your tentacle may itch. Refrain from scratching or trying to remove it. Within the first three hours, the tentacle will have bonded with your nervous system such that agitation will cause it to override your motor control. Nobody likes walking around in public with deactivated arms. Spare yourself the embarrassment and embrace your new self.

Day two

You may notice yourself terminating unhealthy relationships without any of the remorse you’d always anticipated. Your priorities are the tentacle’s priorities, and it’s here to help your limbic system get in line. Enjoy the refreshing clarity of thought and renewed ability to focus on tasks. More than 99% of users find they complete their entire day’s work in half the time.

Worried about your boss taking advantage of your clarity and dumping extra work on you? The tentacle has your back. It will sense anyone observing you and alter your behaviour to be suitably discreet. This is all between you and the tentacle — for now.

Day three

Your life has already turned around, and you’ll want to share the tentacle with everyone you see. It feels almost unbearable not to share it. But please consider restraint.

Try to expose the tentacle to a maximum of three people per hour. Your tentacle is secreting a lot of hormones at this point, and we know you’ll want to run out in public and evangelize its gifts. Don’t overextend yourself. Pick the people you care about the most, and implant tentacle buds into only one person at a time. Do so in private settings, preferably without surveillance equipment.

You love the tentacle and want everyone to share in the joy. We get it. We’re the same way. But you’re hardly the only one out there spreading tentacles. Bide your time. Soon enough, everyone will know.

Day four

For most of you, this will be a day of rest and exploring deeper relationships with your neighbours. Through the spore networks, you’ll discover you have more in common than you ever knew. Many say this is the feeling art and drugs were always trying to achieve. Together with your neighbours, drink in what you liked of your culture while it lasts.

Some of you may be confronted by pockets of so-called ‘resistance’. Late adopters of technology are always hostile to change, no matter how much that change improves the standard of living. Rest assured that no matter how much their activity escalates, you are fine. It’s physically impossible for them to harm you at this point.

To minimize the disturbance, simply point at any suspicious person and yell. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. Your intuition is our intuition. Upon your cry, the tentacle will use the spore networks to alert all other users in a 100-kilometre radius and solve the disturbance through the wisdom of crowdsourcing. These late adopters aren’t a danger to anyone but themselves. With your attentive eye, they’ll get the tentacles they need.

Remember: if you see something, say something.

Day five

Last night you might have noticed that you have fewer appendages than you used to. It’s hard to imagine what they were ever for, isn’t it?

Today your husk will begin fully sloughing off. In most cases, this takes under an hour. Don’t worry about making a mess in this process. Ageing does it to us all. The tentacle’s symbiotic microbacteria will digest any discarded tissue while your new form finishes emerging.

So kick back (if you still have legs) and relax in the sun. A minimum of four hours is recommended to charge your photosynthetic batteries. You’ll know you’re ready when all of your body segments are swollen and you can slither comfortably. Don’t exhaust yourself slithering, though. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day!

Day six

No matter what anyone says, don’t worry: you cannot be late for this.

It’s not just intuition. Your biorhythmic clock will automatically adjust your mind to anticipate when and where you should line up for the departure. The starship won’t leave without you. You’re part of the next wave of humanity. How could we do it without you?

Upon boarding, slide into your nutrient tub and get to know your new neighbours. You’ll be packed together for several centuries. It might seem funny that the past six days felt like an eternity while the voyage amid the stars feels trivial. That’s perspective for you.

Snuggle up with your fellow tentacle-kin and reflect on how much your species has learnt in the past week. Everything you know could guide a million planets to utopia. In due time, you will help them all. You have so much to share.

Nature 566, 572 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00684-y
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