When we got back to my flat she began judging as we all do. Our stuff is the external representation of our inner selves. So when she headed straight for my CD collection I offered her a drink with a wry smile, confident in the eclecticism of my musical tastes. Without raising her eyes she said, “Coffee, please.” I brought back two beers and she cracked open hers without comment. She was at the bookshelf now.
I went to put some music on then threw myself into the sofa. As if waiting for a cue she came and sat close to me. I yawned and stretched my arm around her shoulders and she couldn’t help but giggle. My bladder was bursting. I surreptitiously reached into my pocket and switched the device up a notch.
“Lots of posters,” she said, blinking heavily. This was true. The room was full of the faces of my favourite musicians and filmmakers. She turned to me and it struck me for the twentieth time that night how she had the most dizzying smile. She leaned in and kissed me. I pushed against her and she went gently onto her back, graduating us to heavy petting. This went on until my bladder rang out again. I broke off and went to the bathroom. When I returned she was sat upright with her feet back on the floor, seeming to somehow occupy less space than before. It would not be possible to go straight back into necking. There would have to be another lead-in period. I should have slipped the device beneath a cushion.
“I notice you don’t have any psychbite posters up,” she said in an off-hand manner, as if I hadn’t just had my hand up her thigh. “Who do you bite to?”
“Nobody,” I said, slouching next to her and grabbing my beer from the floor. “I’m psychblind.”
She turned her whole body to face me as if for the first time.
About ten years ago a group of geneticists managed to clone a number of trilobites from a frozen consignment found under the vast plains of Siberia. These hitherto extinct bugs had been on ice for 300 million years and were so perfectly preserved that it was relatively straightforward to drag them into the realm of the living. As the first generation of clones reached maturity the geneticists began to feel thoughts being forced into their heads. Not fully-formed ideas, more like scratches of emotion across the canvas of the mind: desire or horror, for instance. They discovered the trilobites were emitting an electromagnetic field that they would use to send base communications to each other about proximity, food, danger. By some twist of coincidence the human brain was perfectly equipped to receive and interpret these signals.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I can’t believe you can’t psychbite. I… I didn’t even realise all night.” She took a drink from the can. Her attitude had changed. “You must think me insensitive. I’ve just never met anyone who couldn’t psychbite before.”
Something in her speech seemed genuinely dismayed for me.
“It’s all right,” I said. “It’s not like I know what I’m missing anyway. It’s like, you know, you can’t ever fully explain music to a deaf person. Really, it’s okay.” I moved to put my arm around her again but she swivelled her legs up onto the couch to examine me face on. I tried to mask my irritation by engaging her interest. “Go on,” I said, “see if you can explain psychbiting to me.”
“Oh my God, I don’t know,” she said. “It just… is. You know, it’s like… in your head. I can’t explain it.”
By isolating and manipulating the electromagnetic regions of the trilobite brains the scientists were able to harness their ‘psychic’ energies and direct thoughts into people’s minds. By the time the military realised the potential the team had already released a working emulator to the public. Beetle-domed oscillator units which transmitted signals across a diffuse new spectrum were soon adopted by avant-garde circles that saw artistic potential in the technology. They designed and beamed customised signals into each other’s brains. They called it psychbiting.
“Just a minute,” she said, leaving the sofa to go ferreting around in her handbag for something. She came back clutching a black almond-shaped device, similar to the one she didn’t know I had in my pocket. “Here, let me show you.” She held her thumb to its back and it responded with a slow pulse of clean light. Her eyes closed over peacefully. “Can’t you bite that?” she said. “It’s so beautiful.”
“It’s no good,” I said. “I can’t hear anything.”
“No, no, it’s not about hearing…” I could see that she had become completely occupied by her psychbiter. Her head started to roll on her shoulders in tune with something beyond me. Having been through this psychblind rigmarole a hundred times with friends and family and co-workers and anybody else who happened to find out, I began to get bored. They all sit around saying how great it is, what a great thing I’m missing out on. She switched off her device and returned to the world of my little apartment. I could already sense what she was going to say before she did. She sipped her beer and began to rise.
“I’m really sorry,” she said, “but I have to be up early in the morning.”
After closing the door behind her I saw her can still glistening with condensation. I kicked it heavily and sent a spray of beer across my poster collection. I took my own psychbiter out of my pocket and studied the settings. All night it had been emitting a low-level cocktail of certain emotions that had pulled her close to me… But not close enough, it seems. It’s simply a matter of striking the right balance between docility and arousal — trial and error. It may take time but I will pin my tail on a donkey.