Luminex

            Background: while conducting research into rhetorical figuration, mainly based on the work by Jeanne Fahnestock, the idea was formed to apply the epitomized argumentation of figures to fictional world-building. While Fahnestock demonstrates figuration underlining scientific argumentation, it has a comparable power to create fictional worlds. Instead of searching for evidence in existent fiction, it was more curious to exercise research in the opposite direction: to invent fiction based on the known uses of figuration. Recommended reading for an introduction into this research: Rhetorical Figures in Science by Jeanne Fahnestock, and Rhetorical Style: The Uses of Language in Persuasion by Jeanne Fahnestock.  

            Marcus sat on the park bench, a dull ache etched into the back of his head. Today, the feeling was like hands pulling tendons of stretched rubber, the strain holding together until the inevitable snapping point. He closed his eyes, and as the afternoon sunlight brightened the space behind his eyelids, he forgot, for a moment, why he was there.

            When he opened his eyes again, the large billboard above the treetops was still visible, stapled to the side of the crumbling brick building. The colors did not look faded, but aged and sickly: white molded into sun-stained yellow. This must have been one of the first, and no one thought, or bothered, to take it down. The new digital ones were everywhere in the city now, and this older relic remained as a fossilized record of an earlier iteration, a dead branch in the advertising evolution.

            Luminex. The smiling faces on the billboard were still frozen in the haunted stillness of their unchanging happiness. It will change your life, the writing underneath would have informed you, if the letters were not cracked, broken, and illegible. The digital versions were better now at dramatizing a changing life; it would be a compelling story montage, never advertising anything specific, certainly nothing so pedestrian as a product, but merely a typified assortment of values to let the audience make the correct, and necessary associations. This billboard froze an emotion in time, like it was already a photo in the album of your happier life. And then there it was in bold letters: Luminex.

            That is how it was originally advertised, like it was for a dreamy vacation. A picturesque beach in the background – without any seaweed washed up onto the unraked sand, no outgoing tide of sweating bodies, no garbage swept up by the breeze, no cawing and vulturous birds – only a bright sun, impossibly clear water, and unfettered contentment. It was an undiscovered paradise to be found away from the dreary disease of everyday life. In some ways, it was a vacation.

            He got up from the bench, the headache beginning to subside. He had read stories of people that had become addicted to Luminex. They were rare cases: marginal opinion pieces in the news, issuing grave and ominous warnings issued from people likely to give the same grave and ominous warning on all new technologies.

            The addicts were better explained by some other underlying condition, as many people had attested to the fact. They did not gather much attention: celebrity-like overdoses, more a curiosity than a cause for sympathy. Besides, it was a niche group that could afford Luminex, let alone relive its addiction. And with wealth, sympathy was rare. It was a spectacle to watch money burn.

            They must have had sad lives, he thought. He was on Fifth street now, walking, nearing the skyrise of his apartment. He avoided the walls of advertising, nearly the size of buildings, a maze of walk-through cinemas. He reached his building, and took the soulless elevator flight to his floor.

            He checked his message log, and then checked it again. It was empty, and he sat down in the corner of the long L-shaped sofa.

            He should call someone, make an effort. He looked through his log, and chose an old colleague, a friend – they had been close once, he remembered. The call connected.

            The voice on the other end was momentarily surprised, but when Marcus started asking questions, ordinary questions, the tone turned clipped, impatient, exasperated even. The call ended quickly, and Marcus sat listless and confused in the corner of his couch.

            He knew what the problem was, it was clear even though he attempted to think around it, attempted to avoid its gravitating presence. Perhaps he had been waiting for someone to talk him out of it, not to try it. He believed that was why he read up on the rare cases, the failures, the car wrecks – he wanted to convince himself that even the worst cases were not that bad, that they were beneath his concern. He knew he had been considering Luminex.

            Marcus had even read their terms, their caveats, their warnings, their admissions of possible harm and their attempt at exculpation in transparency; he felt like he had them memorized. The third-party warnings used the same language, borrowed and worn, from other forms of addiction. Luminex would distort the brain’s chemistry, beyond repair – emotions would never be felt in the same degree again. Each time would be chasing the next impossible re-creation of the first, each time would be with diminishing results. He believed the concerns to be overstated. There was nothing inherently addictive about it, nothing so sinister; for that matter, Luminex had been brought to court before, in the early days. In the days of the billboard. Now it was a refined science, clinical, precise. Risks were low.

            He knew he was talking himself up, but what were the true risks? He looked around the dark gloom of the spacious apartment. He had forgotten to turn the lights on when he came in; or, had left them deliberately off.

            Repeat users were warned about the potential after-effects, that much was part of the expected recovery. It did not need to be a concern, for it was stated clearly. It affected memory. The experience was an overload, and users felt disorientated afterwards, voids of memory becoming more prominent. But the experience itself was truly a revolution. Every first-time user claimed that it changed their life, that they never experienced anything quite the same, but in a way that did not diminish their lives. The addicts were rare.

            He was curious, that’s all it came down to. The growing unease of his life had reached a critical point, and besides, the money had never been a concern. He drifted into a restless sleep, dreams of another life.

            The next morning, he woke up with the decision solidified into his thoughts, permeated through. He would try it; he would see what Luminex was truly like.

            He called his regular driver and when the car rolled up, he said the location. His driver looked at him for a long moment, but then shrugged and drove. Marcus ignored him. He was feeling elevated, finally, a decision had been made. He was free from the eternal hedging that plagued him; he would put all his research aside, all the second-hand testimonials. He smiled, for what felt like the first time in days.

            Marcus sat on the park bench, a dull ache etched into the back of his head. Today, the feeling was like hands pulling tendons of stretched rubber, the strain holding together until the inevitable snapping point. He closed his eyes, and as the afternoon sunlight brightened the space behind his eyelids, he forgot, for a moment, why he was there.

END.