The shock is better than the cell. The doctors said that. The parole officer too. Must be an ad slogan for the experiment. I elected to give it a try. Maybe it will fix my mind, maybe not. But I was plain bored sitting in those four padded walls, reading the same trash detective novels again and again. I had to get out. Feel the weather, get cold again.

The list of rules was long, longer than any man could reasonably read. The kind of document that is all small print. Do not raise your voice, do not make eye contact, do not go faster than a walking pace, do not purchase anything sharp, it goes on and on and on. I skimmed the list, and signed each page of the endless document.

The procedure was quick and painless. It left a single scar from temple to jaw bone.

And now, I’m on my own. Not in my old home of course. In a new city. The program wouldn’t work if I ran into people I knew, and had to swap pleasantries. Too many shocks.

The small shocks wear on me, like constantly fighting off mosquitoes. The medium ones take a few minutes and several deep breaths to recover from. The large ones are incapacitating. An instant onset migraine, starting in the jaw and quickly spreading through the entire head. When those come on, all I can do is curl up on the ground. I only get up again once the small and medium shocks start to occur. I know that rule well, do not cause a scene.

I keep count. It’s something to do. Yesterday I received 83 small shocks, 4 medium, and zero large. You’d think I’d be better than that by now. But honestly, it’s hard to learn all of the rules.

They said the procedure will let them see what I see, hear what I hear, and think what I think. I know they lied about the last one. You should see the rules I break in mind, when I’m alone, or dreaming.

The rules honestly aren’t that bad. If I keep to myself, and lower my eyes, I can usually get through a trip to the supermarket without a single shock. I wear headphones with no music playing so no one talks to me. I wear dark sunglasses so no one tries to catch my eye. It’s the uncertainty that gets to me. Some of the shocks are instant and obvious. If I take a step out of my allowed geographic area I know I’ll receive a quick small shock.

Other times, the shocks can take seconds or minutes. They say my experience gets sent to a central office for Consequence Analysis. Large shocks usually take a few minutes from action to repercussion. Honestly, once the pain sets in, I lose all memory of the context and the cause of the shock. They say this doesn’t matter, that my subconscious will learn. That feels like bullshit. I’m anxious all of the time.

Nothing good comes from uncertainty any more. And the only certainty I have is in my one room apartment. I stay there most of the time. On my bed, reading trashy detective novels.

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