Crossing The Void
The Bridge Between Connection and Simulation
His hands trembled as he held the letter, his mind racing as it tried to process the words:
You have a daughter.
"What the hell? How long..? When could this have..? Why’d she keep her from me?" These questions flew through Drew's mind in a flurry of confusion.
So many questions and feelings rushing through his mind and body at once. It was too much. He felt a sense of shock and his stomach sank as the realization of time lost with his child began to fill his mind. The thought of having a child and her experiencing life without him hurt his heart.
He gathered himself enough to read on:
Her name is Maykia and she’s amazing. She was born with partial hearing loss. She received a cochlear chip when she was ten, which completely restored her hearing. It was a long road for her but she learned sign language and started speaking again at 14, four years after the accident. Her sign language teacher, Mr. Lang, was hit by a drone shuttle and killed. Only ten years old at the time, Maykia witnessed the entire event.
"Hearing loss? She’s fourteen? Trauma?" He was still in complete shock.
As Drew continued reading the letter from Maya, the spectrum of emotions felt like waves crashing against his body. Trying to read. Stopping to absorb what he just read. Feeling what he felt. Time seemed to stop and his train of thought became scattered.
Drew and Maya had met at a sorority party in their first year of college. They were drunk both times they were together. Now, years later, he was holding a handwritten letter delivered by her executor. Although he didn’t know Maya well, he felt heartbroken to learn about her passing. This feeling was only shadowed by his shock that they had a daughter together. The letter was dated April 1, 2095. Six years ago. That meant Maykia was now twenty years old.
She was an adult. She experienced all of her life and childhood without him. Did she know about him? Would she even want to meet him? Did she get a letter from Maya too?
He fell into his chair, rubbing the back of his neck nervously, and wondered what to do next. He knew he had to meet her. The thought of spending another moment away from her tore at his heart. She needed to know she wasn’t alone and, even though he hadn’t met her, he would do anything for her. His career as a therapist was based on guiding those who were navigating the twists and turns of life, and now he desperately needed guidance.
As he looked into his reflection peering up at him from his drink, he thought to himself: “She’s a part of me and I’m a part of her. Whatever happens, I will find her and let her know I’m here for her, even if she doesn’t want me in her life. I just need to meet her and share my heart with her, as her father.” As he unfolded the rest of the letter, a location card fell out onto the floor. It was Maykia’s last known address…
“Maykia!” Ezri shouted as she glided and parked her Sphair* next to her friend.
* Sphairs were spherical shaped flying vehicles, resembling nap pods from the early 21st century. They operated on a combination of magnetic and air propulsion systems. They were piloted by one person through a glove-like steering system.
“Let’s go watch the Northern lights tonight. I know it always helps you feel good.” Ezri said as she hugged Maykia.
“Thank you. I really appreciate that. I just need someone to spend time with and it doesn’t matter where we go.” said Maykia with a grateful smile.
She and Ezri had been best friends since they were five, having met at Mr. Lang’s office for sign language classes. They helped each other practice and study. They were there for each other in moments of need and sadness. Their connection grew even stronger as much of the world started receiving the NeuroLink implants. Both of them avoided it, instead, choosing to use their voices and sign language to communicate with each other.
The Neurolink, developed in 2021 and made public in 2031, enhanced the human brain in many ways, among these were enhanced mental and physical abilities, including the ability to speak telepathically. It allowed people to evolve past certain issues which had plagued society for centuries: Food was no longer scarce as new farming techniques were developed, people spent more time focusing on creating and developing technologies versus petty disputes and disagreements. This technology, like most, also presented challenges and unforeseen consequences. People with the link stopped speaking and their throat muscles began to atrophy. They also became more divided in terms of those who had the link installed and those who either didn’t have it or chose not to have it. They would enter into relationships or leave them based on whether or not a person had the link. It has created a major divide in society.
In order to get the link, you must be 21 years of age or older. If you were under 21, you needed a parent or guardian to authorize its installation. The installation of the NeuroLink was a completely free process, which enticed many people to get it. However, pricey upgrades become available once it’s installed.
The same thing began to happen with children. They tended to gravitate to others who shared their experience of either having the link or not having it. This division became even wider during the coming decades. People began to only see and acknowledge those who shared their reality. You were either Neuro or Natural, interacting with your own, and those who weren’t like you essentially became like ghosts.
Maykia and Ezri both understood the benefits of technology, having both received cochlear chips to restore their hearing. They also understood the benefits of speaking, hearing each other’s voices, singing together, and being able to eat whatever they wanted. They also shared the ability to communicate with sign language. For them, it was about the experience of using their ears to really listen and hear each other now that they had that ability restored.
They both merged with their Sphairs and headed toward Fairbanks. Over the next hour, they shared different playlists with each other. They talked about Maya’s funeral and the influence she had on both of their lives. They watched Maya’s dance virtuals from her childhood, they cried and laughed until they, eventually, reached their destination.
The sky, filled with pale green dancing waves, flashed and reflected the beautiful flutters of light as far as the eye could see. The reflecting lights and colors in the sky were mirrored on the still lake water below them. They felt as though they were living inside an emerald. Time seemed to stop and it felt like every worry or fear was melting away. Maykia could breathe and just existing in this moment was purely a miracle.
“How many people do you think have seen this?” Ezri asked.
“I’m sure more of them have now, than ever before, thanks to technology.” Replied Maykia.
“How many people have really seen this though? I mean really took the time to appreciate it, and sit in the moment, to take in the beauty? You know what I mean?” Sighed Ezri.
“I wonder how many people really feel seen, or even understood.” Maykia curiously replied.
She was so grateful for what her mother had instilled in her throughout her life. A sense of curiosity, objectivity, and wonder for life and the world around her. Maykia had always had the gift to connect with anyone she met. She made people feel safe and seen. They knew she cared and felt a stronger sense of worth because of how she saw them. She was drawn towards people and people were drawn to her. As a result, she became very influential and famous throughout the world. She was a light and source of hope in the face of despair. She could break down walls and construct healing bridges simply by helping people feel noticed and accepted. It was a gift she shared since she could walk, which is why her mother gave her this name.
“Let’s go get tattoos!” Ezri suddenly shouted.
“Wait? What?” Maykia stammered in surprise.
As Maykia and Ezri returned home, they continued to discuss their tattoo designs with each other well into the night. The next morning, they sat together eating breakfast and enjoying the sunrise. The wall panel suddenly chimed. Someone was at their door.
“Who’s there?” Ezri asked.
“Hi. I…Uh. I’m looking for Maykia Swayton.” The man’s voice on the wall panel sheepishly replied.
The two girls looked at each other. “That guy sounds too old to be your new boyfriend and too young to be your parole officer.” Snapped Ezri, as she laughed.
“May I ask what this is concerning or why you’re looking for her?” Ezri skeptically asked.
“My name is Drew Ellington. And…I don’t know how else to say it, but I just found out that I’m her father.”
Maykia’s coffee mug slipped from her grasp and bounced off the floor…
She ran to the wall panel and nervously asked, “If you’re my dad, where did you and my mom meet, and what happened when you met her?”
Drew quickly replied, “It was a sorority party, as freshmen, and she would tell me not to mention the fact we had been drinking to others. Knowing her, she would tell her children to avoid meeting people at parties, especially, if drinking was involved. She had this thing she would always say, ‘Live for today, love for tomorrow, and never…’”
“Regret yesterday!” Maykia instinctively interjected.
She cautiously walked to the door of their apartment and opened it slowly. She looked up at Drew and they both smiled, immediately recognizing the mirrored features in each other.
“You have Maya’s hair and her smile.” Drew said lovingly as his eyes began to well with tears.
“I have your nose and cheeks…and eyebrows too.” She replied.
“Sorry about that. I trim my eyebrows more often than my beard.” Drew apologetically answered.
“It’s ok. I appreciate distinctive features. I...Can’t believe…You’re alive and here!”
She embraced him and took in the moment as she hugged him.
“I still can’t believe I have a daughter…and she’s an adult now.” Drew said incredulously.
She invited him into the apartment and all of them sat down to process what was happening. They talked about their lives, what they had experienced and what they enjoyed, along with the amazing woman they both knew and loved, Maya. Above all, they were grateful for this moment, to be together, finally.
As Drew held Maykia’s hand, he began sharing his heart with her:
"I’m so grateful I’m here with you now. As soon as I found out about you, I did everything I could to find you and see you with my own eyes. I didn’t understand why Maya never told me about you until I read the letter she sent me. I felt horrible that she kept you from me just to protect me from letting go of my education, career, and my dreams. I know she felt she was doing the right thing. She knew how important my education was for me and my family, but nothing’s more important than family."
"It hurts to think that she made such a pivotal assumption about me. We really didn’t know each other very well. We met at the party and, really, only saw each other a couple more times. All this time, I thought she wasn’t interested in me because she became so distant, so quickly. It all makes sense now. Once she knew she was pregnant, she pushed me away to protect me. My heart hurts for her. Thinking about making such a terrible decision, leaving herself to raise you alone, knowing the truth all along."
Maykia sensed her father’s sincerity and genuine concern for her. It felt comforting to have another parent who cared for her and would be there to support her through life again. They continued talking, laughing and occasionally crying together. It was an amazingly strange and beautiful moment for each of them.
“So why did you become a therapist?” Maykia asked.
"I grew up in a time where people were becoming more and more disconnected. As the technologies around us improved, many designed to enhance our lives, they also pushed us further apart. I knew I wanted to be a source for connection, and reconnecting, in this world."
"Connection is inherent with being human. We need each other. It’s not good to feel alone or isolated. I wanted to help bridge the gap between the pieces people felt were broken within themselves. As people become more connected with themselves, they also do the same for each other. It’s a beautiful thing and a big part of what, I believe, life is all about. Without it, we become isolated and more distant. We also allow distorted thoughts and thinking to enter our minds. We become disillusioned with each other and the world around us. We begin to separate into groups of “Us” and “Them”. The NeuroLink has now made my belief become a reality. Society is more divided than it ever has been."
“Neuro’s and Natural’s.” Replied Maykia. "We put labels on people and it quickly allows us to dehumanize each other. It’s horrible."
Drew thoughtfully inquired, “So what about you? Why do you want to be an anthropologist?”
“It’s a lot like your reasons for becoming a therapist, I guess.” She replied.
As she thought more about it, Maykia shared with her dad her reasons:
"I entered this world unable to sense it fully, with partial hearing loss. I had to learn to adapt to my surroundings, not knowing if I would ever completely hear and experience the world around me. I felt isolated, alone, and misunderstood. I wondered if I was the only person who felt like I did. Then, I met Mr. Lang and attended his school for the hearing impaired. I saw other people with similar abilities, sharing this experience together. It was so meaningful and healing for me. I met Ezri and we became instant friends. I wasn’t alone anymore and I learned the significance of human connection."
"Since then, I have been fascinated with how humans interact with each other and form societies, developing their cultures along the way. I know the key to living a full life as a human being involves connection with each other, and like you said, we must first reconnect with ourselves. My experience at Mr. Lang’s school helped me learn and understand this essential life lesson."
"His death was the most tragic thing I have ever experienced. As he stepped out into the crosswalk, he stopped to wave at me after I called out his name, which is when he was struck by the shuttle. For years, I blamed myself for his death and lost the desire to speak or connect with anyone. It was only through the love and support of my mom and Ezri that I found my voice again, reconnecting to my heart in the process."
"I believe, like you, we are here to help and support each other, despite our unique situations or experiences. Technology has helped me live a more enhanced life, and my experience, prior to the technology, helped me live it more fully. The key to improving life isn’t through technology alone. It’s a combination of embracing science while preserving our individual humanity in the process."
"I really feel like my life experience has shown me there can be a healthy bridge between technology and humanity, without sacrificing one or the other in the process."
“Amazing! Beautifully said!” Drew proudly replied. “I feel so proud of who you are but I’m not sure I should, given I’ve had no influence on your life whatsoever.”
“Yes, you have!” Maykia sharply retorted. “After I stopped talking, mom decided to tell me about you each night before bedtime. She would tell me about how passionate you were about making a difference and helping people. She told me about how kind and respectful you were to her and the people around you. Hearing about the type of person you were, and are, inspired and motivated me to be a little better each day. It was a part of the reason I started talking again. I didn’t even know you and I wanted to be more like you!”
Drew squeezed her hand and hugged her. “Thank you for sharing that, and for who you are. You are the biggest difference Maya and I have made in this world!”
The next morning, they all met downstairs for breakfast. “How was the stasis bed?” Asked Maykia.
“Surprisingly comfortable. Thank you!” Replied Drew. “I’ve never actually slept in one before and I was a little anxious about it.”
“Our apartment came with it and I’m happy it worked for you. Well, I don’t work until tomorrow. What did you want to do today?” Asked Maykia in anticipation.
“I’m not sure. I need to talk to you about something.” Drew cautiously replied.
“Oh. Okay. Is everything alright?” Maykia nervously waited to hear his reply.
“I’ve been doing research on the effects of the NeuroLink on our society. My reports have caught the attention of many people. Some support what I’ve said, others feel threatened by it.”
“Are you in danger?” She anxiously responded.
Drew tried to comfort her:
"No. Not that I’m aware of. Although, I have received some litigious letters from NeuroLink, threatening to sue me because of what I have shared. It’s amazing how people can feel so threatened if someone poses an alternative viewpoint or attempts objective reviews about their products. My research is based on the impact of what I’m seeing in my clients, as a result of the NeuroLink technology. People who have it tend to feel “better than” or “enhanced” compared to those who don’t. You even mentioned the terms they refer to each other with now: Neuro and Natural."
"I don’t know how anyone could miss the rift it’s causing in our society. People treat each other with such ignorance, looking past another human like they don’t even exist. It’s only going to get worse and it’s become such a generational thing, like how racism was half a century ago, before it disappeared and died off with the last of that ignorant generation of leaders."
"Something you said yesterday really spoke to me. When you talked about your experience, seeing the benefits of technology paired with the significance of humanity. Bridging the gap and coexisting. I need your help Maykia. I believe you and I are bound to each other for a reason. The fact that we came into each other’s lives at this moment, when you are pursuing Anthropology and I’m doing this research, with society at this point. It all makes sense to me."
I also keep having a recurring dream about this symbol. I don’t know why either. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It started after I read the letter from Maya."
Just then, Ezri walked back into the room, holding a screen saying, “Maykia! You’re tattoo design slaps! What does it mean?”
Drew almost choked on his food. “That’s it! That’s the symbol in my dream!”
The room was awkwardly silent for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, Maykia spoke up and tried to explain it:
"The two, longer center lines that bend outward at the bottom represent two hands coming together, like in prayer and the symbol for “Namaste”, which means, “The light in me honors and acknowledges the light in you.” The other symbols around the two lines are actually numbers. It’s the number 108, which occurs in nature, science, and ancient architecture. The 1 represents “Truth”, the 0 represents “Void”, and the 8 represents “Infinity”. The 0 is in between the praying hands because it represents the void or imagined separation of human truth and infinite humanity."
“Oh my God. How is this even possible?” Shouted Drew. Everyone looked down at their arms which were covered in goosebumps.
Suddenly, the wall panel chimed. “Who’s there?” A startled Ezri asked.
“This is Officer Forsch with Federation Affairs. Do you know a Drew Ellington?”
They all looked at each other. Drew whispered, “I may have shared my research results with the Federation Council too.” He winced as he told them new information.
“We believe both of your lives are at risk.” Officer Forsch firmly stated.