MONTAG publishes curious short fiction that explores our strange future and what it will feel like when we get there. The stories are outré and atypical; they're also closer to our today than you think.

I was here, in my synthfoam chair, but I was also there at the turning of the thousandth year since the ERA, the Eve of Retinal Augmentation. I witnessed an entire millennium's worth of glorious celebrations through the eyes of my kin without moving an inch from my position. Aerial pyrotechnics flew through the sky all over the State, bursting with joy, and it seemed like the entire planet celebrated for us lucky few. Explosions studded the atmosphere with rhinestones, and I saw the orb of our bedazzled planet, simultaneously the size of a glittering bauble in front of me and then exceeding my field of vision, the sky-scale projection somehow even larger than I remembered the sky itself. The faces of the Visionaries, blinding us with smiles and eyes twinkling with hope for the future, wreathed in gold, silver, and platinum stars, filled the sky and blessed us with music and light, raining wishes of health, wealth, and happiness upon us. We are one people, because they gave us the gift to see through each other’s eyes.

I was here, couched in synthfoam, far from harm, but I was also there. I saw through the eyes of my kin, as they were discovered and subsequently persecuted by some who felt threatened by our existence. When other States realized that we all could see through the eyes of one, they sought to destroy us. They feared that we were spies, and began to capture and torture us, trying to figure out how to debilitate our sight. During the first of these incidents, it was the only thing beamed on the Retinal News Network for an entire day and night. I remember “LIVE” in neon green scrolled across the bottom of my field of vision for the entirety of the stream, a testament to our will to survive. We grew more secretive, separated from the other States, and advanced as one people in the shadows of their civilization.

I was here, in the same place, but I was also there when my child was born. I saw through the eyes and the hands of the medical assistant robot who assisted my spouse in the birthing center. My spouse was not there. Her retinal implants were buzzing with static, a sign that she was receiving brain stimulation directly through her optic nerve allowing her to dissociate completely from her body and feel no pain. Her status, hovering in the right corner of my vision, was set to “Away.” I took control of the hands of the medical assistant robot after it lifted my son free from her body, and activated the process of severing his umbilical cord. My son, crying with eyes screwed up tight, could not yet witness the full beauty of this world, unaugmented as he was, and as he drew gasping, crying breaths to deeply fill his new lungs with air, he slowly blinked open milky blue eyes. I let the medical assistant’s autocontrols take over as another bot wheeled my partner to a recovery bay. Through the eyes of the medical assistant bot, I watched it carry my son to the natal initiation center, issue his identification chip, and then shine red lasers into his sightless, staring eyes. A stream of nanomachines swam down each beam of light to take residence atop the retina, assembling themselves into a microscopic viewer and connecting to the Network. The red laser changed to green, signaling a successful implantation, and I released a breath of relief. I received a notification in the top right corner of my vision that Harold would be delivered to our habitat in one hour by State Transport Of Retinabled Kin, and another notification followed immediately: I could now see through the eyes of my child. As the medical assistants continued to perform the final tests of health and wellness, I connected, passed genetic authorization, and was allowed access to his feed. The world seemed brighter through new eyes.