18: List Owens

List Owens is one of those people whose age is impossible to guess, but he can tell you how long he’s been alive down to the microsecond. His pale skin is stretched over an angular skull with a thin layer of downy, platinum hair on top like a baby’s. His eyes are tiny, sinking into chiseled divots in his skull like they’re trying to examine his brain. Or what’s left of his brain. Most of the storage capacity of List Owens’ brain has been replaced with a solid state hard drive and an optimized search function. He now has perfect access to every moment of his past.

List Owens has been alive for thirty-eight years, six months, twelve days, etc. He got the surgery right when it became commercially available, back before FDA regulations and government scrutiny. The hard drive cooks the inside of his skull. It’s changed the color of his hair and he sees snakes everywhere. And there were some things he would rather not remember, now that he remembers them. He can relive embarrassing moments from highschool in real time, with all the accompanying emotions. He remembers the time his insane grandfather vomited a cascade of Lithium onto his chest as he held him in his arms. He remembers his lesbian babysitter who stalked his mom and put him in a scissor lock whenever they were alone together. Sometimes he opens his eyes and realizes he’s been living in a realtime memory for over three days. Then he drags himself into the kitchen, eats everything on the bottom shelf of his refrigerator, and then passes out in the shower.

He was part of an online community of “grinders,” people who pushed the limits of what it meant to be human. They implanted chips under their skin, plastered walls with QR codes, hacked together bionic legs and heads up displays. When the hard drives went public, it was a natural progression. Perfect recall, the prospect of camera attachments, RFID scanners, the crucible of the whole transhuman movement located in the center of his skull. He was the test case for the technology, and gladly so. Now they pay victims of violent crimes to get the upgrade, half the police department has it, and most of the US Bureacracy can hardly even be called human anymore. But List has discovered a different application.

List was a DJ before he got the upgrade, and he’s still a DJ now. He plays pretty regular gigs at warehouse clubs all over Los Angeles, and he sets his brain to automatically bounce a folder of his latest recordings to the venue on the day of his performance in case he loses himself in memories. He doesn’t have to immerse himself in the contents of his mind like this. The technology provides or a summary-type view of his experiences. He can peruse them at his leisure. But List is a DJ, and to him, a true DJ knows his source material from beginning to end. His songs are not cobbled together from milk crates full of old records, or monumental torrent files. His music is distilled from the sum total of his life experience. A song he rocked out to when he was sixteen forms the backbone of a scratched-together dialogue between his heroin-addicted ex and the girl she was when he fell in love with her. A gypsy folk song he heard on the radio during a hitch-hiking trip haunts the corridors between slamming doors, screaming punks, hare krishnas and his grandfather’s socialist diatribes. His head is a recording studio, his ears are ambient mics. His experience is his art, with no intermediary but himself. He does the mixing on a synthesized deck native to his internal hard drive. Nothing really bothers List Owens anymore, because the louder things get, the sicker his basslines.

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