Friday, 5 February 2010

C-DIG By James Hilton

Jim has seen the future, and the future is Noir....


I was born on millennium night.

The big zero.

While the rest of the world watched the celebratory fireworks, my mother was squeezing for all she was worth. Seventeen hours in labour, but well worth it, if I say so myself.

My mother used to tell me stories of how the egg heads were convinced that all of the computers in the world were going to shut down at the stroke of midnight; December thirty first-nineteen ninety nine.

Yeah? ‘Nil-poi’ for the mind monkeys there!

Yet Fifty seven years later, the world’s still turning. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing.

Why am I telling you all this? Well I’m not really. About two years ago the same brain fiddlers that were shitting their corduroys at the turn of the century invented a device for downloading real human memories onto a hard drive. Then a computer-construct program re-assembled the information and produced a virtual animation of the said memory.

It worked like a cerebral camcorder. You could relive every minute of that honeymoon in Maui. Shiny!

They say the mind works just like a hard drive; that you never really forget anything, you just have to locate the memory file in that big gray sponge. The C-DIG (Cerebral-Digital Interface Group) Neurorecorder did just that.

Sounds cool right?

No – WRONG. Mucho wrongo.

At first people used the C-Digs for recreation, showing the kids how their loving parents met, yay. How they looked taking their first steps. Aw.

Then the mental mechanics came up with a new use. Instead of recreational downloading, the governments of the world enforced compulsory brain-scans on every living private citizen. Every dirty secret you had was downloaded into the thousands of super-computers scattered around the globe.

Of course if you had enough money and influence you could buy an exemption licence. This effectively meant that the guys with the biggest secrets didn’t get mind-fucked.

Another application of the golden rule; those with all the gold make the rules.

Thankfully it was a slow process. At the end of the day there are a shit lot of people in the world to get through.

The recordings were made legal in the world courts and convictions escalated ten-fold. Any individual convicted of a violent or political crime was removed from his country immediately.

In response to this, colossal penal colonies were established on every continent. Thousands of convicts were brain chipped and controlled by the twelve mega corporations.

Big business, the same businesses that had pushed the brain-tap laws now had a virtually infinite labour force. The mortality rate in the camps was astronomical. To most, a conviction meant a death sentence.

Your assigned labour function was dependant on your crime. The worse your crime; the worse your task.

You ever wonder who scrapes the shit off the inside of sewer walls? Who mines for ore and minerals so deep in the earth that you need an oxygen tank strapped to your back.

Not the brain-fiddlers that’s for sure.

But let me get back to me.

My trouble started when I became the leader of the Lancaster Bombers; a street gang that peddled everything and anything illegal under the sun. The risks were huge but so were the rewards. Guns, drugs and skin, you know the story.

A business rival called Kurt Carpenter decided that the North of England wasn’t big enough for the both of us and paid me a visit.

I could tell by the meat cleaver that he carried it wasn’t a social call.

Carpenter was what is known in the trade as ‘a big fucker’. Six-foot five with a head so big it had its own postcode.

He came through my front door like it was made of balsa wood. Screaming about all the mutilation he was about to inflict.

The first shot from my pump-action took off his left foot just above the ankle. I’d shot a guy with a pistol before but the mess the twelve gauge made shocked even me.

Carpenter transformed into a spastic break-dancer. He tumbled through a strange version of a cartwheel, blood streaking the walls as he turned mid air.

In the movies people usually fall down dead and quiet after a gun shot, but let me tell you; that’s not what Carpenter did. He screamed and squirmed at full volume. He kept trying to stand up as if he could magically re-grow his amputated foot. That wasn’t happening…but ten out of ten for effort. Splinters of bone and ruined flesh protruded from the top of his Gucci loafer. In between scuttling around on his arse and one good leg, he tried a feeble swipe or two with the butcher’s blade. I shook my head in disappointment. I’d expected more from him.

I shucked the action on my Ithaca. The next blast of lead pellets detached his cleaver hand. Hells bells, it was like a grenade exploded. Maybe it was because the cleaver’s handle redirected the pellets in unexpected directions but his fingers flew off into the four corners of the room.

Now he was doing a fair impression of a goldfish out of water. His eyes showed only disbelief. He was taking long rending gasps of air; sounding like someone had sucker punched him in the gut and winded him.

The third shot I placed to the back of his neck. This all but decapitated him. Fight over.

Ding-ding, another bum!

I high tailed it out of the house and never looked back.

My life was sunshine and Chablis until I got pulled over by the police six weeks later for speeding. The hailed me into the station…yep, you guessed it; the fuckers scanned my memory.

Three hours wired into the C-Dig and my arse was in more hot water than a lobster at lunchtime.

I was charged with seventeen crimes in all. I won’t bore you with the full list. The judge was having way too much fun with his gavel for my liking.

Six weeks later I was cargo-shipped to an ungodly hole in the ground in sunny Somalia. My new place of abode was a seven by seven concrete box. The powers that be had built an entire city sized penal colony underground.

After a rudimentary medical at the penal hospital which left me unconscious, I was attached to work group 2-Peter-2:4.

I awoke to find some lumbering prison guard kicking me and screaming to get up. I stumbled to my feet. A short handled shovel was thrust at me.

“Dig!” barked the guard.

I cast a look around at the skeletal shapes scraping at chopping at the stone walls.

I decided to show him I wasn’t one of these bony little fuckers he was accustomed to. I cupped my crotch, “How about I dig this up your arse?”

A blinding flash of pain erupted behind my eyes. It was like someone had let off a firework inside my head. I fell to the ground and vomited the remains of my last meal into the dirt. My limbs shook involuntarily as if possessed.

“Dig,” ordered the Guard.

I picked up the shovel and wound up like a baseball player.

Another mind numbing spasm sent me face down into the dust one more. The convulsions were so severe that I lost one of my shoes.

Another prisoner helped me to my feet. “You just arrived?”

“Yeah,” drool dripped from my chin.

“I figured as much. I guess they didn’t tell you about the chip?” the old guy looked like Smeagol’s uglier brother.


“You’ve been implanted with a C-Dig behaviour control chip. We all have. If you refuse an order or try any violence the chip electrocutes your brain from the inside. You’ll only try it a couple of times,”

“So how do you get it out?”

“You don’t.”

“So what do we do now?” I asked.


I started to protest but felt a strange tingling begin deep inside my head. I reconsidered. The tingling stopped.

Hot tears seemed to burn my skin as I picked up the shovel.

“Dig!” warned the guard.

With my chin and bottom lip trembling I scraped at the wall next to Smeagol.

My tears made tiny Rorschach patterns in the dirt as I began to dig.

James Hilton is a writer of horror, crime and dark fiction and is currently working on his first thriller novel. He has work appearing at TKnC, Pulp Metal Magazine and at


  1. "the old guy looked like Smeagol’s uglier brother."

    Classic line. Great piece!

  2. "He kept trying to stand up as if he could magically re-grow his amputated foot. That wasn’t happening… but ten out of ten for effort." Ha! that made me laugh out loud.

    Good one. Gripping writing and despite the humour, a chilling potential for the future.

  3. Tight story telling and plenty of top lines.

  4. Like it! Esp. the comment : 'Every dirty secret you had was downloaded into the thousands of super-computers scattered around the globe' - so, who else was wincing at that thought?

    ...and I see you're at it with the biblical references again, James! Nice tie-in!

  5. Hi Sue H,
    yeah I do like my biblicals!

    It's scary that I could base this on real 'emerging technology'!

    Give it twenty years or so and 1984 will seem like a utopia!

  6. James, Great stuff! It was like a cross between William Gibson and Mick Farren, who've seen the future and... No, really good. More!