There was a cheap repair place in the northern suburbs of Buffalo that promised overnight service. We combined a quick cross-the-border shopping trip with a brain upgrade.
That night, I received a call on the ancient bedside phone in our hotel room. It probably dated back to the time of Alexander Graham himself. The phone, that is. The hotel was old too, but possibly a bit newer.
“Mr, uh,” said the kid from the brain place. “Mr Bailey. There’s been a bit of a problem, see.”
“With my brain?” I asked, not seeing.
“Yeah, so,” said the voice.
“Who am I talking to?” I asked.
“Isaac,” he said. Not Newton.
“Well, Isaac,” I said. “Would you mind starting at the beginning?”
“Sure,” he said. “Absolutely. One of the repair people was carrying your brain over to his bench, and there was a bucket full of nano–”
“Nanotech,” said Isaac. “We keep it in buckets so we can just dip items in it. With tongs, of course. Don’t want to touch that with your skin.”
“Okay,” I said. “Repair person. Bucket with nano. Tongs.”
“He’s a bit clumsy though,” said Isaac. “He dropped your brain in the nano.”
“He did what, now?”
“Usually that wouldn’t be a problem,” said Isaac, quickly. “But your brain grew itself a pair of wings, and it flew off in all of the confusion.”
I moved the phone away from my ear and looked at it, suspiciously. “Is this a prank call,” I asked. “Better not be.”
“No, no,” said Isaac, his voice sounding tinny from six inches away. “Nano is designed so that it can form into pretty much anything we need it to be. We just aren’t sure how your brain did that without the tools we usually use.”
“I don’t care about all that,” I said. “Where is my brain now? Can you track it?”
“We’re not sure,” said Isaac. “There’s a small community of escaped brains that nest in a park in Canalside.”
“I’m only here overnight,” I said. “I have to get back to Toronto tomorrow. How am I even going to drive home without my brain?”
“You could just get a new one,” Isaac said, trying to placate me. “They’re not expensive these days, and possibly your insurance will cover it.”
“I don’t want a new brain,” I said, loudly. “I like my brain. It’s set up exactly the way I want it. I don’t have to think about anything, it’s all just there.”
“I’m not sure what we can do by tomorrow,” said Isaac. “We could try to get somebody with a net to watch over in that park, but even if they catch it, how will they know they got the right brain?”
“My wife will have to drive us home,” I said, sullenly. “At least she was smart enough not to try a cheap brain upgrade. I could kick myself.”
I fumed on the way back up to Niagara. I steamed as we waited at the border. I seethed with ineffectual rage as we threaded through the infinite flow of trucks on the QEW. I stewed as we crawled north on the gridlocked Gardiner Expressway, a sea of taillights glowing red in the deepening twilight.
Then I simmered down.
That image of an entire flock of runaway brains: tiny nanotech wings aflutter, flying around in the night, flapping from tree to tree in a Buffalo park, their delicate oblong screens glowing lambently in the moonlight.
I think I’ll just leave my brain down there forever, so it can do whatever it is that brains do when their people aren’t using them.